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Dek's Christmas Crackers

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So you’ve taken a cursory glance at the Christmas TV guide that you got free with your tabloid and have decided there’s nothing to watch at Christmas, but what are you going to do if Santa doesn’t bring you the DVDs you were hoping would ease you through the festive season?

Fear not, for I’m on hand to trawl through the festive schedules and attempt to sort the crackers from the turkeys.


Christmas Eve

If you fancy traditional Christmas fare to get you into the Yuletide mood, you can’t beat a bit of Dickens. Channel 4 comes up trumps with fair version of A Christmas Carol featuring Patrick Stewart as Scrooge. This is not as good as the classic Alistair Sim effort but at least, as it’s in colour, it’ll keep the kids amused. Mr. Stewart manages to get through the whole thing without making you think of Captain Picard once.

Micawber
Want a bit of Dickens but find Scrooge too much of a Christmas cliché? Try ITV3 where they are showing the first two episodes of John Sullivan’s adaptation of Micawber back-to-back. Seasonal favourite David Jason gamely takes on the title role. If you prefer the more familiar pairing of Jason and Sullivan, UKTV Gold is the place to be for Only Fools and Horses.

Should seemingly ad infinitum episodes of Corrie or the My Family Christmas Special (Lord help us) not be to your taste, BBC Two comes up trumps with the movie Chocolat, an underrated piece featuring Johnny Depp and Juliette Binoche which only missed out on a clutch of Oscars by being up against Gladiator.

For those of you who spend the evening running around making last minute preparations, a clip show you can just dip in and out of may be more to your taste. Channel 4 oblige with The 100 Greatest Christmas Moments. Jimmy Carr will present effectively all the best bits from Christmas Telly Past so expect Morecambe & Wise, the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl, Blackadder, John and Yoko and of course Slade. It really wouldn’t Christmas without Noddy giving it his all.

No doubt you’ll get Noel Edmonds in a hideous sweater too but hey, you can always go and warm the mince pies when that bit comes on.

The big premiere on Sky Movies is Peter Pan featuring Jason Isaacs as a more scary than usual Captain Hook. Apparently, Isaacs had to shoot some scenes standing on a box as Jeremy Sumpter, playing the title role, did the unthinkable given his role and, er, grew up!

ITV and BBC offer midnight church services or alternatively E4 provides Father Ted’s Christmas Special. Some repeats are worth it.


Christmas Day

It’s always nice to have a movie to fall asleep in front of after Christmas dinner. This year ITV1 offers Martin Clunes in Goodbye Mr. Chips while over on BBC One 102 Dalmations is one that might keep the nippers quiet for a hour or so. Those uninspired by the mainstream choices could do worse than tune to Disney where Finding Nemo is cracking entertainment.

If you want your Christmas full of death and despondency then ITV1 seems to be the place to be with the tedious Steve-Tracy-Karen thing coming to a head on the roof of the knicker factory in Coronation Street which seems to have more stunts these days than your average episode of Casualty. They follow this with a special Midsomer Murders. I know life expectancy in Somerset has not been what it was since Bergerac moved in but you’d think they’d get some respite over the holidays.

Vicar of Dibley
It takes BBC One and French and Saunders to lighten the mood. The Vicar of Dibley returns after a five year gap. If the prospect of the villagers taking part in the God-O-Vision song contest doesn’t have you reaching to set the video, the prospect of an appearance by Rachel Hunter in very skimpy underwear just might. This is followed by Ab Fab as Edina redecorates her kitchen.

Angus Deayton’s regular Before They Were Famous show has been relegated to a late-night spot but is worth staying up for. Look out for an early sighting of Wayne Rooney.

I’m not sure that BBC2’s Arena : Painting the Clouds – A Portrait of Dennis Potter is ideal festive entertainment but I’ll certainly be recording it for later viewing. If you’ve never seen Potter’s Blue Remembered Hills then I’d advise you to give that a look on BBC4. Colin Welland and Helen Mirren star.

Five offer a cracking late movie in The Manchurian Candidate featuring one of Frank Sinatra’s finest acting performances, while the big one on Sky Movies is Richard Curtis’s Love Actually which I must admit was too schmaltzy for my taste. For Curtis fans that are worried about a clash with Dibley, the movie is available on multistart.

Friends fans can enjoy the final season in it’s entirety on E4 while The 4400 reaches it’s climax on Sky One.

There’s even plenty for sport fans to enjoy with Soccer AM having it’s now traditional Christmas Day special when fans will no doubt hope that Helen Chamberlain does her usual fire eating party trick, while Sky Sports 1 also offers live NFL as the Kansas City Chiefs take on Oakland.


Boxing Day

They must have awfully long corridors in Holby, given that the Accident and Emergency department is in Bristol and the rest of the wards are at Elstree. Now we have Nightingale Ward to take into account, though before we even get the chance to consider it’s geographical location it gets destroyed by a runaway oil tanker as Casualty @ Holby City goes all seventies disaster movie on us.

No doubt they’ll all need lots of hot strong tea to get over the shock, if they can work out where the canteen is. My guess would be Swindon.

If your not fed up with Jimmy Carr by now then The 100 Greatest TV Treats of 2004 may be to your taste. No doubt Big Brother’s Nadia will feature although I’m unsure that Rebecca Loos giving hand relief to a pig actually qualifies as treat.

Flashmob - The Opera
BBC Two offers viewers who don’t have digital the chance to see Flashmob – The Opera, an innovative piece shot entirely on Paddington station. It’s great to see a bit of culture being brought to the people in this way. If you’ve never seen an opera before, give it a whirl. It’ll challenge your preconceptions and you may even enjoy it. I did.

ITV1 and BBC One offer the battle of the classic detectives, with Rupert Everett as Sherlock Holmes or Geraldine McEwan as Miss Marple. Quite frankly I’d have preferred Peter Kay in Magnet and Steel. If Mark Thompson wants the BBC to stop being derivative he could start with Sherlock. It’s been done to death.

Thankfully more original material is available from five as Billy Connolly stars in The Man Who Sued God, a very watchable film set in Australia. Mr. Connolly may not be flavour of the month at present but don’t let that put you off Mark Joffe’s wonderful swipe at the establishment.

True family fare comes from Sci-Fi Channel with Flash Gordon which is exciting for the kiddies and so camp that the grown-ups will love it too while the daft but hugely entertaining Charlie’s Angels Full Throttle takes it’s Sky Movies debut.

For the sport aficionados, Chelsea takes on Villa on pay per view.


Holiday Monday

The Mother
Daniel Craig is rapidly becoming the next big thing in British cinema. If you like movies that challenge taboos then The Mother, airing on BBC Two is for you. Anne Reid is superbly cast as a mature, nay elderly woman who falls for a young handyman (Craig) in a sensitively handled movie from the pen of Hanif Kureshi.

Those of you looking forward to the return of Auf Wiedersehen Pet can warm up with a movie from Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais. Still Crazy features both Jimmy Nail and Tim Spall as well as top performances from Stephen Rea and Bill Nighy and boasts a witty though sometimes sentimental script.

ITV1 offer David Jason starring in and directing The Final Quest which will no doubt appeal to those of you that liked the first two.

Some people think that Christmas viewing was much better in the past so there is a massive bonus for them on five with a plethora of old shows. The highlight is The Goodies and the Beanstalk which hasn’t seen the light of day on terrestrial for years.


Holiday Tuesday

Auf Wiedersehen Pet
Although the death of Pat Roach may have a cast a shadow over it’s production, it’s good to see Auf Wiedersehen Pet being given one final outing. With locations as far flung as those in a Bond movie and the return of the delightfully evil Tatiana (Branka Katic), it promises to a memorable swansong. Steady yourselves for some poignant moments as the boys prepare to go their separate ways.

If you missed it earlier this year, UKTV Drama serves up the chance to see Tony Marchant’s gripping Passer By featuring James Nesbitt. Nesbitt’s character, Joe fails to help a woman who is being hassled by two yobs on a train and the guilt he feels at the consequences of his in action drives a marvellous thought-provoking piece.

As if the residents of Boscastle haven’t been through enough with unprecedented flooding earlier in the year, what remains of their properties faces even greater peril from Lawrence Llewelyn-Bowen and the Changing Rooms team on BBC One. To see how the community has coped in the aftermath (of the floods, Not Lawrence, give BBC Two’s A Seaside Parish a try.




So that’s my pick of the Christmas goodies. There’s hopefully something there for most tastes.

Have a cracking Christmas and look out for my new weekly column in the New Year.

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