Doctor Who BBC1, 6.50pm
The Catherine Tate Christmas Special BBC1, 10.30pm
Love, Actually ITV1, 9.30pm
Crudity at Christmas: a bit unnecessary, yes? When all ages gather round familial hearths in the spirit of communal innocence, child-like hopefulness, sharing, giving, taking, blah blah blah.
But no matter how you guard against it, unseasonal unpleasantness always lurks. Indeed, yesterday's air of yuletide calm at Belcher Towers was disturbed by one spectator's crude and sulphurous outburst - verbal - during Doctor Who. It emanated from cousin Wattie, the elderly erstwhile punk from Cardenden. "Kylie Minogue? Playing a young flibbertigibbet waitress?" cousin Wattie cruelly scoffed. "She's an old face on her nowadays - Dame Edith Evans's!
They should have cast her as a senior catering manageress." A shocked silence ensued. For all of five seconds. Then we agreed the ageing pogo'er had a point: the former pop poppet's gone matronly. Perhaps if Doctor Who had cast someone younger, like Lily Allen The eternally old George Michael proffered a jolly self-mocking cameo on The Catherine Tate Christmas Special, alongside less welcome outbreaks of crudity and stereotyping. To excited applause from the studio audience, George emerged from a curtained-off hospital bed to parody himself as a bad-tempered pop-star patient in a ward mis-managed by sex-mad, half-witted Irish nurse Bernie (to further whoops from the crowd, she snogged the face off the poor ould gay feller after they'd duetted on Fairytale of New York). Meanwhile, the ultimate demise of south-London teenage waster Lauren Cooper - drowned by her own trademark mixture of arrogance and stupidity - earned an "awww" from the audience. "I still ain't bovvered," her tombstone read.
But it was hard to be bovvered to make the one noise sketch shows are meant to inspire: laughter. Tate's regional and racial stereotypes were strangely anachronistic, redolent of that far-off and unlamented era, the seventies. How non-hilarious when foul-mouthed white Cockney Nan mispronounced the name of her daughter's new Asian boyfriend! He was called Ranjit! Nan thought it was Kwikfit! How extra-humorous Britain's many Ranjits are going to find day-to-day life now!
And isn't it curiously non-risible when crude Yorkshire folk wax suspicious about visiting their in-laws (" 'E's Greek"), only to have inflicted upon them French food for Christmas dinner ("Fillet de salmon avec potatoes dauphinoise"). Tres fatigué.
There was also tiredness to Tate's old running gag about the hateful Ulster paramilitary family who take pride in their son being gay. And her one new joke - Life on Mars set in 1951, not 1973 - lacked a punchline. Unfortunately, there was a punchline to the sketch involving Georgie, the tiresome Geordie charity fund-raiser - that sophisticated pay-off being "F*** me." And there was nothing subtle about the end of the routine about the two suburban witterers who always laugh at nothing: they were joined by an extra three suburban witterers, and all five couldn't help wetting themselves. I could.
Love, Actually is most annoying, actually. It's emerging as a new Christmas telly tradition, asserting that English emotional repression is good and natural. It did have one choice bit, though: its inapposite outburst from veteran rocker Billy Mack (Bill Nighy). During a radio interview to promote his festive single Christmas Is All Around, Billy startled the DJ with this announcement: "So if you believe in Father Christmas, children, like your Uncle Billy does, buy my festering turd of a record. And particularly enjoy the incredible crassness of the moment when we try to squeeze an extra syllable into the fourth line Come on and let it snow-oh.' Ouch."
If cousin Wattie had heard it, he would have approved. But by then he'd fallen asleep, which was just as well.
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