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And now over to our Christmas correspondent

19th-25th December 2015

Merry Creamguide!


Hello <<First Name>> and welcome to the sixteenth Christmas Creamguide! People say Christmas telly is no good anymore but given we started this in the era of Changing Rooms and Bargain Hunt on Christmas Day we can't agree with that. There's some excellent stuff on over the next fortnight which we'll bring to you over these two giant emails, including a full film guide. So let’s step into Christmas...

SATURDAY

19th DECEMBER

BBC2


12.45 The Bishop's Wife
And it's the films where we begin. Every year we turn to the Radio Times in the sure knowledge that interesting cinematic titbits scheduled at insane hours will be even less numerous and exciting than last year, but something, somewhere always turns up to keep our faith. Which is where this vaguely ecumenical Cary Grant/David Niven feelgooder comes in, rather neatly.
14.30 Splash
A change of pace, as Robert Robinson would say, particularly if (and here older readers will detect the laborious dusting off of the first of many long-standing Filmguide obsessions) they do what ITV sporadically used to do and forget to snip out John Candy's twelve-inch Swedish penis.
17.00 Dad's Army (the film)
This film ends on a downbeat note, with Mainwaring and chums speculating on the ever-closer threat of a Nazi tunnel invasion. Which is pretty much how we feel about next year's film version, to be honest. We'll bet Toby Jones and Daniel Mays will be a pretty decent Mainwaring and Walker respectively, and Bill Nighy will be a note-perfect Bill Nighy, and fair enough on the cameos for Lavender and Frank Williams, but the thought of this taking off at the box office fills us with dread over future possibilities. What next? Rhys Ifans's sergeant major berating a sweaty Alan Carr in Hot, Mum? Peter Kay fending off all comers for the right to incarnate Ted Bovis Mk II? Ken Stott reprising his Hancock impersonation as Mr Lucas in AYBS? We'd really rather not.
18.35 The Perfect Morecambe and Wise Christmas Special
20.05 Porridge

All the regular comedy favourites are present and correct this Christmas, though as far as Eric and Ern are concerned - on the BBC anyway - we've only got another outing for this, which we had last year and is only half an hour long, when you could fill up most of the evening with the greatest hits. The latter is an excellent way to pass the intermission in the Strictly final.

ITV


11.30 The Mirror Crack'd
The first (and, as it turned out, only) of the Lansbury Marples, with Ange pitching it young and groovy, smoking fags like there's no tomorrow, alongside Charles Gray, Tony Curtis, Edward Fox, Rock Hudson, Kim Novak, Elizabeth Taylor, Dinah Sheridan, Nigel Stock, Pierce Brosnan, Bill 'Harry Cross' Dean, Sam Kydd (of course) and Allan 'Tarquin off of Terry and June' Cuthbertson.

CHANNEL 4


22.30 Watchmen
Hey, kids! Remember being fifteen and reading Alan Moore's big fat deadly earnest comic book and thinking how great it would be made into a big fat deadly earnest film, only your tiny fifteen-year-old imagination could only stretch to a panel-for-panel translation of the sumptuous Dave Gibbons original? Of course, the world doesn't work like that - what fool would stump up the necessary hundreds of millions to satisfy such a questionable teenage whim? Well, thanks to Zack Snyder, the Blue Peter competition winner of Hollywood auteurs, you can revel in those callow embarrassments for real... and for THREE SODDING HOURS. All your favourite tiny details are there, faithfully transferred from the original pages for no good reason at all, right down to the four-legged chicken in the restaurant. Revel in the pointless profligacy! Express mild weariness at the way everything looks like it's made of polythene! Worry that one day people will actually admit to themselves that this film got made, with terrible existential consequences for all! Panic at the thought of the "special version" that actually includes all those pirate comic cutaway scenes that were a big enough pain in the original... for the best part of FOUR SODDING HOURS! Or imitate Alan Moore himself and naff off down the pub while it's on instead. Having said all that, we'll be first in the queue next spring when the panto rights for Jerusalem come up for auction.

CHANNEL 5


22.30 Britain's Favourite Abba Songs
Some odd scheduling on Channel 5 over the holidays, although this late slot is thanks to 2015's greatest programming folly, the idea that Football League highlights are perfect primetime viewing. We've already had this concept on ITV (who are offering up an even less edifying Abba-related oddity later this week), but that didn't offer us the views of Peter Duncan, so this is clearly better.

ITV3


11.50 Swallows and Amazons
Adapted from the sort of wholesome, outdoorsy children's adventure story that adults always try and push onto kids with the best of intentions, with the frequent result that said kids are put right off the thing, regardless of whether they might actually have liked it on its own terms or not. Anyway, this features Brenda Bruce, stalwart of "dotty old dear" TV roles from the animal-mad woman in The Mad Death to the definitive Aunt Dahlia in Jeeves and Wooster. This time she's married to Randall off of Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), but does that put a kink in her chops? No sir.
14.50 The Queen
Impossible for us to watch this terribly tasteful Lizography without recalling that its writer, Peter Morgan, was hitherto best known as – and here we put the word ALLEGEDLY in as big a typeface as raw text will allow – the crack-'n'-Rohypnol buddy of Henry Root author Willie Donaldson. "Pete the Schnoz", Willie called him, presaging a torrent of anecdotes concerning the Kensington underworld, and how Pete used to get off his face in Bangkok, black out, then wake up two days later tied to a bed surrounded by Polaroids of himself in various uncompromising situations downtown. Of course we approve of none of this and don't doubt that it's all a big fib from the literary world's least reliable narrator, but it's something to ponder on when Queenie Mirren comes across that noble stag in the woods and pauses and then goes, "no, I won't shoot you, because I am good and that".

Sky Arts


15.15 Filmed in Supermarionation
Does a Network DVD count as a film if it's billed as such in the Radio Times? Anyway, this is all good stuff, a serviceable trot through the Anderson puppet empire from Twizzle to Joe 90, with cast and crew reunions, restaging of vintage effects and much lovingly restored footage. That said, it's a bit of a wrench to learn how toppo qualitylode Stanley Unwin vehicle The Secret Service came close to bankrupting the company, as we bloody love it.

Christmas Gold


17.15 Wayne's World
You know, it seems like a lifetime ago when we first raised an incredulous eyebrow at the rise of these daft, unwanted 'seasonal' channels. Now, of course, they're a cable package unto themselves. And we won't even mention the Star Wars Channel. Brr.

Horror


22.55 Asylum
00.45 I Spit On Your Grave

First off, we're not entirely sure whether the latter is the original, or the recent remake with the star of Flu Bird Horror, but let's coyly assume it's the Bright/Anderton/Whitehouse-irking tape of yore, and speculate just what the twelve-year-old us would have made of such a double bill airing on British television. Of course, the upright, adult us would be quick to remind them that ...Grave, along with SS Experiment Camp and Nightmares in a Damaged Brain, is very much the Wrong Kind of Nasty, unlike The Burning and Killer Nun, which are sensitively handled romps by caparison. But both incarnations would agree on the worth of the old Geoffrey Bayldon/Herbert Lom portmanteau, with its comically overdramatic "getting out of a car" opening, its Findus Crispy Sylvia Syms, its Barry Morse doing a "suit you" number on Peter Cushing, even, damn it, its rather boring Ekland/Rampling "psychological" interlude, all the way up to the silly voodoo toy robots. And nobody, but nobody, can laugh slightly too loud and for far too long quite like our Geoffrey B.

Sky Movies Comedy


06.10 Revenge of the Pink Panther
This is the stuff. Sellers's last proper Clouseau shown at stupid o'clock in the morning, just the Christmas ticket. And it's properly Christmassy, as this was the one which gave Denis Norden the material for his festive Alright On the Nights. "Now, we've got a special treat for you. It concerns one Peter Sellers... in a lift..."
16.35 Three Amigos!
The film Spielberg turned down in favour of ET! No taste, that boy.

Sky Movies Disney


23.45 Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo
Third of the four Volkswagen films, with stolen jewels and Herbie "fancying" a saucy blue sports car with winky headlights. Oh Disney, you will insist on dragging sex into everything, won't you? Anyway, Herbie Goes Bananas is the most Christmassy one, we think. In fact, here are our Christmas Disney live action films, in descending order of festivity - The Black Hole, One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing, Pete's Dragon, Freaky Friday, The Cat From Outer Space. No arguments, our decision is final. And, from the looks of things, entirely academic.

TCM


09.20 The House of the Seven Hawks
11.10 Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

"Sorry I'm late, headmaster, I've been wrestling with Plato." "What you do in your own time, padre, is written on the wall of the vestry." A spot of Sesame Street scheduling going on here, but we'll forgive TCM, which remains the last bastion of proper mad old films in an ever harsher world. In a moment, Howard Keel compares women to cattle – but in a good way – but first, a so-so adventure with Robert Taylor boating after treasure before being picked up by unlikely Dutchman Donald 'John Willy' Wolfit, in a Coronado production masterminded by David E Rose, who would later put together the ineffable Play It Cool, a Billy Fury vehicle directed by Michael Winner which brought together Shane Fenton, Helen Shapiro and Bernie Winters, and features the most apt screen credit ever - Richard Wattis as 'Nervous Man'.
13.05 The Story of Mankind
Now, this is what Christmas TV film scheduling is all about! It's an early piece of Irwin Allen trumpery, which shows that, rather than building up to his majestic Poseidon/Inferno phase, he pretty much started right at the peak of ambition and made a long, slow descent to The Swarm. Brilliantly, it's a drama extracted from a history book, making it a kind of cinematic Churchill's People. Only the book in question is a massive work for children by one Hendrik van Loon, narrated in that antiquated "kindly uncle" manner last seen in Once Upon a Time... Man, and tricked out with some heroically cursory ink sketches, by the author, of pyramids and the sacking of Rome. It's the kind of book to which only the National Theatre of Brent could do justice, but it remains something of a cult in the States, with updated editions coming out to this day. Oh, and it's prefaced with that tale about a bird sharpening its beak on a mile-high mountain, so what better tribute than the cinematic equivalent of headbutting a diamond wall for a hundred minutes? In essence, Allen (inexplicably aided by the usually any good Charles "Night of the Demon" Bennett) thinks he's George Bernard Shaw or something, setting up a heavenly tribunal in which Vincent Price (the Devil) and Ronald Colman (a carefully non-denominational "Spirit of Man") argue the toss as to whether mankind (which has just invented a "super H-bomb" which would be fine, apparently, only they've done it "sixty years before it was scheduled") should be allowed to get on with the business of blowing itself up. This is done via a series of historical vignettes ranging from caveman to Hitler, in which the considerable expense of a different star cameo for each period is offset by liberal use of stock footage from earlier, better pictures. This film delivers from the very opening credits: there's a Brass Eye quality about the Big Names thudding against the screen, one after the other, with doomy orchestral accompaniment, for a solid minute. Then we're straight into a rip-off of the beginning of It's a Wonderful Life, as if to make it clear that we're dealing exclusively in second-hand goods. But as Allen would say, "ah, but look at the patches!" Each cameoing star did roughly one day's duty on set, and it shows, their roughly-recited speeches delivered in endless, agonising long shots in front of cheap studio flats, often framed with the feet cut off, presumably to avoid having to dress the studio floor properly. This film is most often cited by Marx Brothers nuts, as it's the last picture to feature the three main O-Boys, but they're all in separate scenes, and Chico does nothing except tell Columbus he's full of it, Harpo as Isaac Newton shakes his fist at an apple, and Groucho, while actually having a proper sketch to perform, looks more tired than anything else. For the main players, it's a trade-off: Colman is lumbered with big, pompous speeches about the need for "group living and mutual assistance", while Price gets to chuckle wryly at the mention of rape. Also on the list: one very drugged lion; "Aristotle" working away with authentic Pyrex lab equipment; Shakespeare comprehensively bested with a condensed Antony and Cleopatra ("Here, why did your boat bugger off?" "Whatevs." "D'oh!"); exotic decadence signified by bongo accompaniment whatever the historical period; Hedy Lamarr as Joan of Arc hearing the voice of St Michael in the manner of Patricia Routledge unsure if the doorbell's just gone downstairs, then, after some flim-flam ("Get on with the burning!") ending up tied to a stake with the handy sign "Relapsed heretic" nailed above her; Agnes Moorehead as Queen Liz being told "your little country flaunts us at every turn"; Edward Everett Horton reducing Sir Walter Raleigh to a ten-second slapstick quickie; Dennis Hopper suggesting Napoleon's burning ambition with a tempting blend of sotto voce, staring into the middle distance and periodically grasping the sideboard for support; and the eleventh hour appearance of "the Great Clock of Outer Space". Early publicity heralded this film with the brazenly tortuous tagline, "never so vast an undertaking!" Clearly lawyers, or perhaps quantity surveyors, were consulted at some point, as later posters merely exclaimed, "rarely so vast an undertaking!" Oh, and if you don't want to know the court's final verdict, look away now: "Takes all sorts, don't it?"

TCM


15.00 Annie Get Your Gun
17.05 Tarzan and the Mermaids
18.25 They Were Expendable
21.00 Pale Rider

Well, nothing could follow that, not even the massed guns of Eastwood, Wayne and Keel (slight return). The Tarzan flick, incidentally, was Weismuller's last, before he regenerated into "cosmic hobo" Lex Barker. Or something. It's your standard Scooby Doo 'false God enslaving local populace' chestnut, with The Boy Johnny replaced by Benji, a sort of Spanish Singing Postman. "Tiene usted un encendedor, chico?"

Talking Pictures TV


12.45 Runaround
This channel seems to be turning out some interested Cream-related business, but we haven't got it and haven't got any listings for it, so our coverage will be somewhat patchy. However we've been alerted to the fact that the other day they broadcast the 1979 Christmas edition of Runaround, and here they are showing it again. OK, so perhaps not as exciting as the following year's Runaround On Ice, but it's an episode of Runaround on television in 2015. And they're showing The Glitterball, of Christmas Day 1983 "fame", tomorrow as well!

BBC Radio 2


13.00 Pick of the Pops
1984 is the second year, and though TOTP2 this year didn't offer up any surprises we always enjoy seeing the Band Aid performance again, for the little bits like Francis Rossi and Jim Diamond sharing a joke, Marilyn blowing a kiss to Glenn Gregory's amusement, Black Lace sneaking onto the end of the line and the other Boomtown Rats showing up for a millisecond on screen. None of those visual splendours here, just the record, and before that 1971.

BBC Radio 4


20.00 The Selling of Sinatra
Been plenty of Sinatra over the past few weeks to mark what would have been his centenary, but now we've all had our fun here's Kurt Elling to pour cold water on the celebrations by pondering just why he became so famous and influential compared to his peers, examining the heavy marketing and management that went out to ensure he stayed the funtime Frankie we all knew and loved, in front of the camera at least.

SUNDAY

20th DECEMBER

BBC2


13.00 Hi-De-Hi!
16.30 Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em
18.25 The Good Life
19.20 To The Manor Born

So, from the top, from 1982 when it didn't go out on Boxing Day but instead the now archaic Christmas Sunday, which it used to be called when you couldn't go to the shops or the football or the panto on a Sunday. Then it's 1974 where Frank and Betty were the stand-ins for Eric and Ern who didn't have a proper show that year, thus adding extra disappointment to a weak festive schedule which was already "greatly amended for economic reasons". The Ooh Aah Bird follows and then alas it's the 2007 special which isn't very good because it's even more obvious than in the original that Audrey isn't a very nice person.

CHANNEL 5


17.05 Pinocchio
The original, proper Disney one, and not, as you might have guessed from the Channel, some later knock-off like that unpleasant Japanese version, or the creepy, CSO-drenched rough hewn BBC adaptation by Barry Letts. Maybe next year, eh?

BBC4


23.00 Bruce Springsteen - The Ties That Bind
23.55 Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band - Live From The River Tour 1980

We're sorry to report that Santa Claus Is Coming To Town by Bruce Springsteen is our least favourite Christmas record of all. As someone once said, the way Bruce bellows it, it sounds more like a threat than a promise, and then there's all his ad-libs, which have started to get a bit less amusing after the millionth hearing, and the fact he corpses through most of it, pissing himself laughing at something we can't see. Plus it gets relentlessly overplayed because it's The Boss and therefore treated with absolute reverence, mostly by the same people who relentlessly use The Frog Chorus as a stick to beat Macca with. Anyway, it's not on his LP The River, so it's all the better for that, and here's a documentary on its making and then a concert from Phoenix which has never been on this channel before. Hopefully not filmed in December.

5 Star


13.45 WarGames
How are you meant to pronounce this channel? Like the Pearson-infused pop group, we suppose, but then again... The RT actually has a star symbol up there, but we're blowed if we're hunting through our word processor's list of "special characters" just for a repeat of this Screen Test chestnut. You might as well ask us how to get the computer to play itself at noughts and crosses.

Horror


16.55 Quatermass and the Pit
Better than the TV original we're saying, fortuitously falling alien insects aside, as Andrew 'Lady Miss' Kier digs up the Devil on the Tube. A good service is operating on all other lines.

Movies4Men


13.25 The Body Stealers
18.55 The Mother Lode

Horrible name and concept for a film channel, but we take sustenance where we find it. First up, "a masterpiece of suspicion and suspense". Or, conversely, the very depths of Tigon Films' never brilliant output, with Patrick Allen investigating disappearing sky-divers at the behest of Allan 'Tarquin off of Terry and June' Cuthbertson, and uncovering a saucy lady alien invasion. Also features a moustachioed Neil 'Brother of Sean, so if you half-close your eyes it could almost be him at points, and that's about it' Connery, most famous for starring in OK Connery (aka Operation Kid Brother), the most brazen of all the sixties Bond knock-offs. Then something slightly more wholesome, as Kim Basinger and the creepy artist bloke off of Wild Palms go looking for gold in the Yukon, but Charlton Heston wants it all to himself.

TCM


22.45 24 Hour Party People
Many can't stand this film, and we can quite see why, but we think it deserves a place in the rock biopic hall of infamy for celebrating one of pop's most significant but least admitted traits, its essential prattishness. And who better to knowingly embody all that is gauche than Tony Wilson? This is the high point of Michael Winterbottom's self-critiquing pomo style - a sort of "Do you see me seeing what I did there, there?" conceit, with Coogan as Partridge as Wilson setting up clever analogies and pointing them out in advance for the slower members of the audience, and best of all rewinding the blink-and-miss "Mark E Smith as himself" cameo for our delectation. But the chief pleasure in all these sorts of things lies in seeing absurdly recent pop culture players brought to life either just-slightly-off (and this, for all his efforts, includes the Coog's Anthony H WhichWayNowHelpline) or completely wrong in every sense (the "Happy Mondays" here would be more at home in a remake of The Robonic Stooges with Shed Seven). And of course it works as a straight roll call of fabled events - hang-gliding on Granada Reports, the world and his mother at the Free Trade Hall, applying Tanfastic to A Certain Ratio's legs, Martin Hannett making Stephen Morris dismantle his drum kit to locate phantom rattles, the expensive and unfit-for-purpose boardroom table, everyone mucking in to paste up the loss-making Blue Monday sleeves, etc etc. In less happy news, this film is nearly fourteen years old. It's as old hat now as Cocktail was when it came out. We're of a ripe enough age to be mostly immune these days to those "This'll make you feel old: Tots TV was some time ago!" memes, but still, every once in a while... brr.

BBC Radio 4


19.15 June Whitfield - 90 Not Out
"No, that was the year I did my first sitcom with Junie Whitfield!" Surely June's greatest ever achievement was coming out of what's often considered one of television's worst ever sitcoms with dignity very much intact, and certainly her performance alongside Terry was never less than immaculate. Unlike many of her peers she's always been quick to move with the times and her role in Ab Fab saw her enjoy perhaps the greatest success of her career. It also reinvented Joanna Lumley as well and here's the two of them round at June's for cake and a chat.

MONDAY

21st DECEMBER

BBC1


13.45 Raiders of the Lost Ark
The Beeb are stripping the trilogy (and we call it a trilogy as it comprises three films, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise) at this time across the next three days, which counts as considerate film scheduling compared with the prevailing policy of "just bung them all on one after the other and hope the poor sods fall asleep".
19.00 Cue The Queen - Celebrating The Christmas Speech
As every schoolboy knows, the first ever festive broadcast from the Monarch was back in 1932, a year when the Radio Times announced that "if there is any news, it will be broadcast at 9pm". Liz has been doing it for so long that her first was completely live and in sound only, then when it moved to telly it became a fully-fledged outside broadcast with huge trucks parked at Buckingham Palace and roadies roaming the corridors. An altogether more dignified affair now, as Kirsty Young will illustrate.

BBC2


09.35 Flight of the Navigator
There's a mini-theme in today's films of "dated digital effects", with the flawlessly silvery carcass of the spaceship in this chestnut sticking out like a sore thumb today, though naturally at the time it was pushing just about every technical boundary that existed, along with a few more of its own invention.
13.00 Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em
1975 was not a happy year for the Beeb for the most part as they'd totally run out of money and had to make swingeing cuts, but they certainly managed to find a few pennies for Christmas because we reckon it's surely the ultimate telly Christmas, serving up hit after hit. Start on the 22nd and carry on through Disney Time with Bing Crosby, two massive movie premieres on Christmas Day, two shows we'll see again this Christmas for the first time in forty years and almost every classic comedy show, including this.
15.45 Perry and Croft - Made in Britain
Christmas falling at the end of the week means the schedules get off to a bit of a slow start as many people are still in work, though it does allow for a few series to be stripped through the week to make it seem a bit festive. Every day until Christmas Eve it's another showing for the series which examines two of our finest writers through the various recurring themes in their work. More of Jim and Dave tomorrow.

CHANNEL 4


11.50 White Christmas
Named after as well as featuring the song that makes Kate Bush "feel nice". Of course, Bing first sang it in the earlier and very similar film Holiday Inn, which gave its name to the chain of corporate hotels, and thus paints entirely the wrong image these days by association, so we're not surprised they rarely show it. "If a girl starts acting up/Then you take her friend/Ba-ba-ba-boo..."
00.55 Airplane II: the Sequel
About half as funny as the first, with too many "old favourite" gags repeated, nothing approaching the genius of Lloyd Bridges's original introduction, and Stephen Stucker criminally underused. Still well worth a punt if you're up, though. "How about a game show like Hollywood Squares, but with kids? Gary Coleman could host!"

BBC4


19.00 Children Talking
Harold Williamson was a big star as journalists went in the sixties because of his noted ability to interview children with the utmost seriousness, never patronising them as he let them expand on their daft theories and opinions. These interviews formed the basis of many shows on radio and TV - though Gerald Harrison did some of the latter as well - and we recall John Mundy introducing highlights of them on daytime TV in the eighties. Now they've been dug out again for three new compilations at this time for the next three nights, but interesting though this is, it's a bit overshadowed tonight by surely one of the greatest evenings of telly we've ever billed. As you can see given we start with...
19.35 Play School
From October 1976! There is a reason for this, which we'll come to in a moment, but in the meantime we get an hour and a half of vintage kids telly, and the interest this sparked when we tweeted about it - and we don't doubt Twitter will go mad again when it's being transmitted - surely illustrates that some channel must surely do this as a regular thing. To kick us off, this should be great fun, although perhaps oddly we haven’t got any of the big guns presenting, like Cant, Benjamin, Griffiths or Harris, but instead Lionel Morton and Carol Leader. Still, we liked them both when we were in the target audience, and it'll be a treat to see Carol's spectacular mid-seventies blow wave again.
20.00 John Craven's Newsround
Actually Newsround is quite well represented in the archives by the standards of seventies kids shows - and indeed seventies shows in general - because Edward "Cravat" Barnes asked them to keep the tape running after Blue Peter, so quite a lot exist, albeit almost all from Mondays and Thursdays. This one's a Thursday from December 1973, when the show was only eighteen months old and still running just a few days a week and not all year round, so it'll be fascinating to see.
20.10 Blue Peter
Alas, this is the most disappointing bit of the evening because while this episode is from the John, Pete and Les Golden Age in 1974, it's the same episode they showed three years ago as part of BBC4's TV Centre celebrations (probably the best night's telly BBC4 showed before tonight). Perhaps would have been nice to have a Christmas one, but it is still ace and they can show it a million times as far as we're concerned.
20.35 Grange Hill
We move on a generation to 1986, surely with this show at the height of its powers. The synopsis tells us "Zammo tries to borrow money from Roly at the arcade", which is certainly true, but it rather undersells the episode given it includes probably the most famous scene, and most famous storyline in this show's history. Apart from Harriet the Donkey.
21.00 From Andy Pandy to Zebedee - The Golden Age of Children's TV
And this is why we've got all that, this brand spanking new documentary. We would have had no hesitation in recommending it anyway because it's a production of Caroline Wright whose shows are always fabulous, but it's essential viewing as the likes of Derek Griffiths, Clive Doig and Johnny Ball are contributing, the latter announcing that Thora Hird never missed an episode of Think of a Number. And with the 1979 Christmas Pops to follow, that is a cracking evening's entertainment.

ITV3


15.45 Death Becomes Her
Back to the Digital Effects Story. Part Two: Sub-Surface Scattering Ahoy! Skin texturing's the kiddo for this Streep-Hawn maim-in, and though it still looks a bit tissue-papery in places, this film counts as a milestone in terms of getting effects out of the sci-fi ghetto and into just about every corner of entertainment, though looking at the stuff Robert Zemeckis has turned out in the last few years, you might think he was engaged in a one-man mission to drive CGI back into that ghetto out of sheer embarrassment.

More4


10.30 Escape to Athena
Films involving Second World War Germany and priceless art are a mini-genre in themselves, the most often shown being Burt Lancaster's pseudo-psychic pompathon Castle Keep. Here, Roger Moore is a sort of Nazi Oliver Smallbridge, Telly Savalas is a Chico Marx-ish monk, Elliot Gould and Stefanie Powers distract everyone with cabaret turns, David Niven swans about like a smartarse, and Michael Sheard does what Michael Sheard always did. You can see him do it again on BBC1, Wednesday at 13.45.

Sky Arts


21.00 Abba: the Movie
Weird little Australian curio, basically a concert film wrapped up in a meandering non-story about a DJ (played by Robert Hughes, but most definitely not that Robert Hughes) shadowing them on their Australian tour. The songs are nicely done, but the "plot" bits are unfathomable, and they're played in a fragmentary, awkward style that's either an attempt to go all-out for documentary realism, or they just haven't bothered rehearsing. Still, Lou Carpenter pops up in various guises along the way, so all is not lost.

Sky Movies Disney


02.55 The Last Flight of Noah's Ark
Truly rotten live actioner from the depths of Disney's thoroughly deserved unpopular seventies/eighties period, as Elliot Gould ships a load of animals across the Pacific in the floating husk of a B-29 flying fortress. Features cute kids, cute animals and cute Japanese soldiers who think the Second World War is still going on. We think this scheduling is still a wee bit too accessible, all things considered. If they really must dig up their own barrel-scrapings, then whither The Magnificent Magical Magnet of Santa Mesa? Or even The Spaceman and King Arthur? At least that had Rodney Bewes.

TUESDAY

22nd DECEMBER

BBC1


13.45 Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Round two, and things are looking rough. Dear old Philip French thought this was "a thin, arch, graceless affair," and time has more or less borne him out on that. Every time the "Club Obi Wan" comes on screen, we want to give Spiely and Lucas a big slap across their silly old lumberjack-shirted muzzles.
19.00 Celebrity Mastermind
Once more this show has amazingly managed to convince forty celebrities to traipse up to Salford and potentially look stupid, and we do enjoy it a lot, though disappointingly most of the series is over the fortnight so we don't get it running well into January when we can pretend it's still Christmas for longer. Anyway, away we go with Ricky Hatton on Only Fools and Horses and Ardal O'Hanlon on The Velvet Underground.

BBC2


09.20 Tintin and the Mystery of the Golden Fleece
You can tell we're getting properly into the holiday period now, as bizarre film choices are even surfacing on the terrestrial channels. For anyone who thinks the recent Tintin and the Uncanny Valley film was as off-puttingly weird-looking as you could get, this early sixties French film should be an eye-opener. Entirely live action, but with the main characters (Haddock, Calculus, the Thompsons and the lad himself) made-up with orange skin and putty noses to look half-cartoonish, it's one long queasy headache, a cross between The Flashing Blade and Robert Altman's Popeye. Doubtless there was a French equivalent of Joe Cornish toiling thanklessly away on script rewrites and convincing himself that this was an inherently more noble vocation than farting about with the early '60s equivalent of Star Wars figures. Now, as confirmed Asterix fans, we're obliged to argue that the Depardieu-clad-in-barrage-balloon live action versions of those books are inherently superior, or at least a fraction less appalling. And no, we haven't had a look at those new volumes, Julian Assange caricatures and all. Some things are just irreparably wrong to our jaded eyes. Well, by "some", we mean "most".
13.00 Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em
Like in 1974, this show was pressed into service as the highlight of Christmas Day in 1978 in the absence of Morecambe and Wise, though this year that was a permanent, rather than a temporary absence. It turned out to be the last ever episode, though the final run was a bit self-indulgent, and worse still they stuck a tuba in the theme tune to try and make it sound funnier. Dumbing down!
21.00 We're Doomed! The Dad's Army Story
We've already mentioned the upcoming Dad's Army film, and now here's another set of contemporary character actors taking on familiar roles, although in this case they're not playing Captain Mainwaring and Sergeant Wilson but, notably, Arthur Lowe and John Le Mesurier, as this new drama tells the story of how the series began, very much in the vein of An Adventure In Time And Space. A decent cast as well, including John Sessions as Arthur Lowe and Mark Heap as Clive Dunn, but the main focus is on Perry and Croft and how they actually managed to get the thing made.

CHANNEL 4


01.30 Shakespeare in Love
Which brings us to the BBC Television Shakespeare, now available as a box set than can break your arm, and, we're saying, well overdue a rehabilitation. It's not all great - and the rejection of James Earl Jones for Othello in favour of Anthony "I brought me own dubbin!" Hopkins continues to clunk shamefully down the decades - but the comedies are, surprisingly, a highlight. Michael Kitchen slapping Roger Daltrey on the head, like he was some kind of trout farming Jackie Wright, in Comedy of Errors is good value (and his permanently pissed off Antipholus is a youthful, time-travelling incarnation of Brian Pern's manager to the life). John Cleese's permanently distracted pompous pillock is only the most obvious highlight in a Taming of the Shrew where everyone is clearly having the time of their life, mucking about with gestural bits of business, from Frank Thornton and Susan Penhaligon right down to a non-speaking Leslie 'Jollity Farm/Don't Be Cruel to a Vegetabuel' Sarony. Anyway, this film has precious little to do with any of that, being a slab of 'Richard Curtis with a BTEC' stuff, mostly ripped off an old book which Ned Sherrin lent to Tom Stoppard and never got back.

ITV3


06.35 The Secret of My Success
10.30 The Best of Benny Hill

Michael J in his pants in a lift, then lots of ladies in their pants in the park – or rather not so much, as this direct-from-VT-to-film sketch compilation predates the triple-speed 1980s specials which have come to define the man by a good few years, so we get to see Ben's proper clowning skills, and those of the sainted Henry McGee of course, less encumbered by the T&A trappings. Although, one 1982 special did feature an excellent, and doubtless technically mind-boggling, silent sketch in which Hill did a striptease down to his skeleton, with the help of CSO and lashings of black velvet, which we keep hoping will surface on YouTube. (Incidentally, if anyone's got a cultural studies thesis that needs bulking out over the holiday period, that sketch's set-up is almost exactly the same as the one in Jean Tardieu's 1966 absurdist play La Serrure. You can have that one for nothing.)

BT Sport 1


22.00 Danny Baker's Players' Lounge
Been a great year for Danny Baker - his sitcom was a big, big hit, he got the all-clear after his recent health problems and of course he started following and replying to TV Cream on Twitter. The only sad news was the axing of his series on BT Sport which was really good, but the relationship isn't completely over as he's back for this football-themed one-off, joined by mates including David Baddiel and a host of soccer stars, which is well worth a watch because Dan is the only person who is prepared to ask what it's actually like to be a footballer, always fascinated to learn what time you have to turn up for training or if there's much paperwork involved.

Movies4Men


17.25 Moontrap
Here's an object lesson in how quickly the look of films changed in the 1990s. This cheapo sci-fi romp, an uneasy mixture of Alien, Xtro and Saturn 3, with a side-order of Tetsuo, starring Chekhov off Star Trek and Ash off of Evil Dead, was made in 1989 for peanuts but looks for all the world a good eight years older than that. The reason being: it's 100% old school effects, from the wobbly pneumatic animatronics to the in-camera undercranking and reverse-motion to the hand-traced rotoscoping and fuzzy physical compositing. And badly done analogue effects look very... er, "vintage" indeed. Within a few short years cheap sci-fi just looked digitally underweight across the board, with insufficient shadowing, uncanny weightlessness and mismatching backgrounds, which of course is not nearly as much fun. If we did this sort of thing for a living, we'd have to come up with a name for this featherweight theory. Let's see... "The Death of Gubbins"? Ach, the day job's not so bad, really.
02.20 The Brain
Not, alas, the David Niven Euro-pudding crime caper, but a neat enough sci-fi tale from Raymond Stross, erstwhile purveyor of classy sauce, on the well-worn "scientists keep millionaire's brain alive in fish tank" lines. Freddie Francis, in his first proper directing credit, does lots of good noirish compositional stuff on a budget that can't be much more than the square root of half a sixpence. Lots of tightly framed faces in close-up against deep shadow, silhouettes askew in doorways, that sort of thing. Basic, but effective, with only the odd wrong move, like a weird little crash-zoom into a Watney's-branded pub ashtray for no discernible reason. The script’s nothing brilliant, but it's interesting as being an early Philip 'Naked Civil Servant' Mackie product. Elsewhere Miles Malleson is a sherry-bibbing GP, Jack 'Wonderwall' MacGowran turns up like a bad penny with a faraway stare, George A 'Donkey, Mrs McCluskey? What Donkey?' Cooper is a redundant chauffeur with a bad shave, John Junkin, Patsy Rowlands and Allan 'Tarquin off of Terry and June' Cuthbertson scoot by in the background (it's turning into a very Allan 'Tarquin off of Terry and June' Cuthbertson Christmas, isn't it?), and Kenneth Kendall reads the news before being immediately switched off, as tends to occur in these sorts of dramas.

Sky Movies Greats


20.00 Grease
22.00 The Rocky Horror Picture Show
23.45 The Little Shop of Horrors

Well, this makes sense as a triumvirate, though for our meagre money Shock Treatment is a far better film than Rocky Horror. Mind you, we first encountered RH through its  - cough - "fandom", ie. some nitwits at the school end-of-term show dressed up in suspenders and mimed – mimed, not sang – to the LP version of Timewarp, complete with confusing out-of-context interruptions from Charles Gray, the kid in the sound booth knocking the turntable and playing it at the wrong speed while they stood about on stage gormlessly giggling, and so on. We were never going to go for it after that sort of initiation.

Sky Movies Select


10.40 The Godfather
13.40 The Godfather Part II
17.00 The Godfather Part III

Right idea, wrong timing, placing the best film in "after-dinner nap" territory and the rotten final instalment, complete with Sofia 'Point camera at Bill Murray's face and naff off down the pub' Coppola, in the crumpets-on-the-trolley slot. Have a word, Select.

BBC Radio 4


11.30 Soul Music
Sadly Fairytale of New York isn't a particular favourite around the Creamguide turntable, not least because people seem to denigrate Always On My Mind by the Pet Shop Boys for getting to number one ahead of it, when that is an ace version of an ace song. Still, it's clear that a lot of people have a lot of time for it and find great meaning in it, not least Mr Kirsty McColl, fifteen years on from her untimely death, as this programme will explain.

WEDNESDAY

23rd DECEMBER

BBC1


13.45 Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
"Far better than it could have been" seems to be the consensus for this one, although that trompe l'oeil "leap of faith" trick would never fool anyone with two working eyes and the ability to move their head from side to side, would it?
19.00 Celebrity Mastermind
Going to be a worrying Christmas for some BBC3 regulars as they wonder what the future holds, so here's Stacey Dooley getting a bit of BBC1 exposure as she answers questions on Girls - the TV show, not the type of human. We've also got Cheryl Fergison on Elton John and Kellie Maloney on boxing.

BBC2


09.25 Short Circuit
Ally Sheedy was always the best of the Brat Packers for our money. Naturally The Breakfast Club would be the key text to show here, but we'll have to make do with this iffy robo-comedy. The main robot prop was, of course, a fantastic feat of engineering at the time, and as such helps to offset a) the rather unfortunate "Indianing-up" of the lead actor, b) the club-footed funk workout that El Debarge turned in for the theme song and c) the worrying realisation that the Brat Pack are further in the past now than the Rat Pack were when the Brat Pack first surfaced. Remember when we said we were immune to "wanna feel old" facts like that? Ah, those were the days.
13.00 Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads?
This is on BBC4 tomorrow night as well, at eleven o'clock, but you may find it easier to get in front of the telly for this screening. Actually this was billed as simply The Likely Lads at the time, and was also the last ever episode, neither of which facts have any kind of bearing on the show's quality.

CHANNEL 4


03.15 The War Wagon
Nothingy Kirk Douglas-John Wayne western which was released in the UK in the same week as Cool Hand Luke and Belle De Jour, but still somehow got decent notices, and indeed any notices at all. We know we're unusually blind to the charms of the western genre, but when Penelope Mortimer lets slip that she thinks The War Wagon is worth seeing "just for Wayne throwing his horse's reins over a fence", we really do begin to wonder what everyone's been drinking. Then again, "Wayne and Douglas score off each other with a camaraderie that nearly smacks of sex play." Bloody yikes.

CHANNEL 5


14.30 The Glenn Miller Story
To be honest, the only Glenn Miller we're familiar with is the ramshackle, unsyncopated version of Little Brown Jug played at the town hall dance in The Cars That Ate Paris, so you'll have to go elsewhere for info on this biopic's verisimilitude and whatnot. We can tell you, though, that this film does start going a bit weird half an hour in, when a Harlem nightclub scene is "jazzed up" by the unsteady application of coloured gels over the lens. The intended effect is kaleidoscopic abandon, but the way the gels seem to get stuck every half-turn or so gives it an unintentionally funny appearance no amount of aw-shucks mouth-breathing from Jimmy Stewart can cure. And it's always weird seeing Colonel Potter from M*A*S*H as a young man, mainly because he already looks halfway like an old man.
16.50 Clash of the Titans
So what did Philip French think of this one when it came out? "Earthbound, remote, banal, insecure" - all fair enough so far, but then - "its actors as stiff as the monsters the special effects man, Ray Harryhausen, has created for them to fight." Now, we know people do tend to give the sainted RH something of a sentimental free pass these days, especially if they're out to rubbish the latest CGI spectacular, but we're not having that. And from what we've seen of Wrath of the Titans – big showy CGI effects interspersed with a bunch of bearded nonentities looking anxiously at the sky – the personality that could only be put into the original's effects by dint of having one man run the whole show by himself, in a cupboard for fifteen months on end, can't be overvalued. Besides, if Mr French had wanted to slag off a misguided special effects film released that week, he could have singled out Michelangelo Antonioni's The Oberwald Mystery, a bog-standard period drama "jazzed up" by being shot on VT, then having the colours electronically farted about before transferring to film. Now, since every film these days is colour-corrected to within a footlambert of its orange-and-teal life as a matter of course, this (and, indeed, The Glenn Miller Story) counts as something of a pioneering landmark, but seeing shots of jerkins and corsetry suddenly erupt into a fizz of acid green or a fog of midnight blue just looks distracting and odd. You keep expecting Hot Gossip to come on and start feeling each other up. Anyway, we appear to have strayed somewhat from the subject at hand, so we'll just say: come for Laurence Olivier, stay for Pat Roach.

BBC4


19.30 The Lady Vanishes
While everyone's going goofy over the festive Sherlock, we're still holding out for a Charters and Caldicott reboot. One thing we never realised until now was that Naunton Wayne and Basil Radford's cricket-mad chaps (making their debut here) didn't just appear in four films but, under various other guises, technically turned up to bumble through the background of a further eight pictures - although, like Mark E Smith and your granny on bongos, the rule seems to be: if Wayne and Radford share the screen for even one second, it's a Charters and Caldicott gig. The most famous of these C&C mitherers is probably the golfing segment of Dead of Night. And possibly the least famous is Stop Press Girl, in which Sally Ann Howes gains the superpower of stopping machinery, and which was one of the few films made in the would-be revolutionary "independent frame" process, which among other things involved replacing 90% of sets with back projections, the idea being to turn a film around in a few weeks as opposed to months. The unions, naturally, weren't too happy, and the idea was abandoned, but not before it gave birth to the most benighted entry in the Charters and Caldicott Cinematic Universe. Indeed, Stop Press Girl was considered so shite the studio sat on it for several years. This film, fortunately, remains exquisite.

Movies4Men


06.00 Holiday Affair
07.45 The Sword of Monte Cristo
09.25 A Woman's Secret

We'll admit we just panicked in case this channel has anything to do with those Lad Bible idiots, but its turns out it doesn't. (And of course, ever since the late 1990s, 'lad' has meant a nice middle-class boy trying to impress the girls by acting in what he assumes to be a slightly rough and hard way – think Christopher Strauli wearing a cap-sleeve T-shirt with 20 Rothmans tucked under the sleeve.) So, with the coast fully clear, from left to right, bog-standard seasonal romance which we're guessing qualifies as a "4Men" film solely due to the presence of Robert Mitchum; bog-standard Dumas spin-off notable for a) being the first film shot in Supercinecolor, giving it an otherworldly, queasily radioactive look, especially when anything that's meant to be green comes into frame, and b) dispatching big baddie William 'Cannon' Conrad with a massive fall, and instead of cutting away to sickened watching faces, actually showing him smashing into the ground; and bog-standard detective noir in which Maureen O'Hara shoots Gloria Grahame for not singing. Hmm.
13.00 Gunga Din
15.20 The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe
17.10 Long John Silver

The first film no doubt suits this channel fine, with three British sergeants having a fine old time slaughtering Indians, until Douglas Fairbanks wants to spoil it all by marrying Joan Fontaine. Women! This film caused riots in India when it came out, but it's all perfectly fine now, for some reason. Just be thankful Cannon Films never got round to their planned remake, with Connery, Moore and Caine as the sergeants and, in the title role, who else but Bendhi Kingsley? Thank God the money ran out. Next up, a Bunuel film on a lad's channel! Obviously, it's the one film he did entirely for the cash, and it's a fair if routine retelling of the tale of the man with the knackered parasol – better than the version made by schools' programme Watch (their Crusoe was "all alone/And all on his own," you'll remember) but nowhere near as good as the French summer holiday filler with the easy-whistlin' theme tune. Surreal Bunuelisms don't exactly abound, though there's a weird early dream sequence in which Robinson's dad turns up, laughing and washing a pig, before promptly drowning. Then Robert Newton hops up onto the inverted broom handle one more time to do his celebrated Tony Hancock impression. A month later he was declared bankrupt. There's a lesson there.
21.00 The Anderson Tapes
The first Hollywood A-list picture to have its world première in Scotland, fact fans. This posh-block-of-flats-heist drama is terrific fun of course, with everyone on song from Connery down to Martin Balsam as the token 'camp' bloke these films all somehow decided they needed to have in the cast. Anyway, when George Melly reviewed it, he thought Balsam's "every gesture is a limp-wristed joy", so there you go. In fact, that week's films (the last lot before Christmas 1971) were a rum selection indeed, also comprising Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (Melly: "a Disney set whose designers have inadvertently taken LSD" - is this the earliest appearance of the "like X on acid" cliché? Bet there were earlier ones); Carry On at Your Convenience (Melly abhored the union-bashing but loved the horse-tipping budgie subplot); 200 Motels ("strangles itself in its own hip") and Up the Chastity Belt ("no film including a character called Sir Grumble de Grunt can be all bad in my book").

Sky Movies Greats


06.00 Dog Day Afternoon
08.10 Ocean's Eleven

Not at all sure about the appropriateness of the former for such an early hour, and even though Ocean's Eleven is the original, not the Clooneyfied caper, it's hardly mid-morning material. "That poxy scheduling crew have gone and naused up the running order, naused it right up!"
14.15 The Italian Job
16.00 The Italian Job

The original, see, followed by the rotten remake. Someone give that scheduler a bun. Anyway, let's delve once more into the Charters and Caldicott Cinematic Universe (you'll all be doing it come Boxing Day) and consider Helter Skelter, a truly bizarre concoction from the stable of Ralph 'Doctor in Clover' Thomas, in which Carol Marsh, in between conducting a love-hate courtship with David Tomlinson, gets the hiccups and tries various methods to cure them, paving the way for a series of shamelessly unconnected vignettes. Terry-Thomas does his "technical hitch" sketch, playing a DJ who breaks all his records then has to impersonate the singers, from Paul Robeson to Yma Sumac. Then Jimmy Edwards appears as a psychiatrist ("Split personalities mended, seventh veils removed, frying Friday") who tries to make her laugh by showing her one of his old silent comedy sketches – rather a good one, as it happens, set on the old London Underground, with lots of business running up and down stairwells to catch the lift, climbing out of the tube carriage window just as it goes into the tunnel, etc. All this and Jon P'Twee as Charles II! What more do you want, a plot?

CHRISTMAS EVE

BBC1


14.40 A Christmas Carol
It’s a Christmas miracle! As ‘The Bloody Reginald Owen One’ is replaced with ‘The Bloody Jim Carrey One’ as the cry of disappointment when you turn it on and find out it isn’t ‘The Proper One’ with Alistair Sim in the nightie.
18.40 Celebrity Mastermind
Bit of a shame there's no Blue Peter today, what with it being a Thursday, but BBC1 make up for it by inviting Radzi on here where he answers questions on The Office. This is one of primest slots this show has had for many years though it's the luck of the draw as to how star-spangled the line-up is, and it's business as usual with Damon Gough on Bruce Springsteen and Rebecca Root on Graham Greene.
19.10 Pointless Celebrities
A pretty ace night on BBC1, all told, almost up there with the legendary Christmas Eve 1981 for non-stop family fun, thanks to Professor Branestawm (in a much more suitable slot than last year's post-watershed outing) and Would I Lie To You in addition to the stuff we're billing. Panto is inevitably the theme, so that means The Krankies, Su Pollard, Jeffrey Holland and Colin Baker, plus Xander singing a duet with Kim Wilde. It's just like having The Generation Game back!
21.05 Peter Kay - 20 Years of Funny
Well, we meant massively off him in recent years, but this year Peter Kay played a major part in the success of the excellent Cradle to Grave, while Car Share was as good a mainstream sitcom as you can get, so that's made up for many fallow years. We mustn't forget, too, that round the time we started Creamguide he was by some distance our favourite comedian, thanks to The Sunday Show, Let's Get Quizzical and the brilliant That Peter Kay Thing, and his observations were really fresh and original ("The Fall Guy! After Winner Takes All and before The Gaffer!"). So we're happy to look at this in the hope of clips of those things.

BBC2


18.30 To The Manor Born
19.00 Dad's Army

They shouldn't really be showing the former, the 1979 Christmas show, after the 2007 reunion because surely that's a massive spoiler for this. Oh, you know how it ends anyway. Dad's Army has been a regular fixture on BBC2 all year so there's even more of it at Christmas. Wait until the film comes out.
23.30 Dial M for Murderousness
A ripped-off joke in the comedy billing. That’s all we’ve got.

ITV


11.25 Back to the Future II
It’s the best one – don’t argue – because it’s the middle film of a trilogy (stand down Temple of Doom, we have nothing to say to you). The proof of that maxim, not that we are troubled by trifles like ‘proof’ at the best of times, is that all the devices most associated with these things comes from this; hoverboards, we’re looking at you. And yes, self-tying trainers, we can see you there at the back. What’s particularly admirable is the, “Let’s do it all again!” sensibility in the middle though we’re not sure how ITV are going to get round plastic knockers at this time of the morning.
15.50 National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
While we realise the National Lampoon tag is as welcome these days as a ticking parcel that smells faintly of marzipan in a government building, it’s a bit much to afford only two stars to this in the RT. The squirrel deserves a star on its own.
20.30 The ABBA Christmas Party
Oh boy. This is the triumphant return of those X Mania specials that ITV filmed umpteen of and then kept on the shelf for ages about a decade ago, where stars of today perform the hits of yesteryear, though now with a Noel's House Party-esque conceit added to the mix. Nobody especially interesting perform the songs, though we are promised a contribution from Bjorn, at least keeping some dignity about himself by not being there in person.
00.00 Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure
They’re making another one of these, aren’t they? Or have we just imagined that? It would make sense, given the penchant for remakes, revivals and reboots. It seems a bit thick to complain about films only being made of comic books and TV shows when the practice has been a staple of the film industry for decades and it's sheer laziness to presume they must be rubbish. We have always championed the sitcom film as a genre of major cultural significance (Terrence Malick never made any movies which ended in a frantic chase through Teddington Studios) and in terms of adaptations from other media, you can of course go as far back as W A Darlington’s famous farce providing the plot for the epic Alf’s Button Afloat. Case closed. And if you want to whine about what other people are making, go and make a film of your own. Unless you’re Max Landis. In which case you could just shut up and fuck off.

CHANNEL 4


07.40 The Snowman
08.05 Father Christmas

The former is on a couple of times over Christmas, and the sequel as well, while the latter's only on once, even though we think it’s loads more fun.

CHANNEL 5


10.30 Gone With the Wind
Will there ever be a film version made of Les Dawson’s ‘Come Back With the Wind’? Will no-one take on a quality mini-series of ‘Well Fared, My Lovely’? We suggest Mark Rylance – the misery guts du jour – as Marlowe in both. “There was something brown and smelly on the piano stool [three minute static–faced pause for effect; breathe out; look round] It was Beethoven’s last movement.” Will there never be a rainbow?
17.20 Scrooge
Hurrah! Christmas... begin! Now that Patrick Macnee and George Cole have left us, we don’t suppose there is anyone left of the cast of The Proper One now. Ah, will we ever see their like again? Well, yes. Every Christmas. “Dennis! Polka!” It took Dickens to not write lines like that but wish he had.
19.55 Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly - Ol' Blue Eyes Is Back
20.25 Happy Holidays with Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby

Not often a show transfers from BBC4 to Channel 5 but that's what the latter has done since last year, its two screenings over the holidays making up for us not seeing it once between 1957 and last year. Not sure we've seen the former at all, but here's another dynamic duo, from 1973.
21.00 The Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show
22.00 Morecambe and Wise's Greatest TV Moments
23.00 Morecambe and Wise Live 1973

Shocking news this Christmas at Channel 5 are not showing Tommy Cooper's Christmas for the first time in at least a decade. It's like not showing the Queen's speech! Still, if you want familiarity you've got it as the Eric and Ern show here is the umpteenth screening of 1981, the one they always show, which has probably been on more times than 1977 now. After that is a programme that's apparently new, though we see from the EPG it might have been replaced by another programme completely about double acts of all stripes, possibly as they couldn't licence enough Eric and Ern for another hour. Not when they're showing the latter again, anyway.

5USA


11.50 Kelly’s Heroes
Clint ‘Crint’ Eastwood demonstrates his range by performing comedy largely after the manner of drawing a face that suggests he’s been asked to leave the room for an indiscretion.
18.25 The Ghost of Greville Lodge
Despite thinking on first glance this was a channel set up and programmed by and largely for John Tusa, you have to credit them with turning in this lovely thing with the late and aforementioned George Cole alongside Prunella Scales in a demonstration of oldie actors showing How To Do It. Do you pronounce this channel the same way as the word King Julian uses for lions in Madagascar then?

Spike


21.00 Centurion
Come a long way from Press Gang, hasn’t he? Got his own channel now and everything. Cheeky scamp. We know nothing about this film except that it stars (it says here) Michael Fassbender. You may therefore enjoy the slight amusement of listening to him move his vocal range, as in every film he does, across the full spectrum from Peter O’Toole to Frank Carson.

Syfy


21.00 Star Trek: The Motion Picture
In which Robert Wise sets up an elaborate protracted childish gag whereby he gets multiple people to say ‘wormhole’ in slow motion.

CHRISTMAS DAY

BBC1


14.00 Top of the Pops
Just recently we've had another suggestion that the Beeb are seriously considering a new pop show so this may be the last ever Christmas for this, although we seem to have said that most Christmases for the past decade, and here we are again. In fact it's been almost a decade since the weekly show was axed, so most teenagers probably don't even remember it, while Fearne and Reggie aren’t even on Radio 1 anymore. But however tenuous its existence is, we're still glad it's here and it's probably as good as it's been for several decades.
15.00 The Queen
Used to be that in recent memory the radio version of the speech, at least, used to meander all over the schedules, on Radio 1 at nine o'clock in the morning, but at some point in the nineties everyone who wanted to broadcast did so at three o'clock. Which isn't Radio 1 anymore, but you can still hear it here.
17.15 Doctor Who
Only been a couple of weeks since we saw the end of the last series, though make the most of this relentless Who because nobody seems to know when it's coming back, and we'll have to make do with that spin-off that appears to have nothing to do with Doctor Who and presumably plenty of fan fiction about Clara's Time-Travelling Diner. The last series was a bit heavy going at some points, we thought, so for a change here's one of those episodes which we delight in calling a romp.
18.15 Strictly Come Dancing
Sadly we're not getting the double dose of Brucie we'd hoped for this Christmas, as he had a mischief before recording his Hall of Fame - which we're still getting, but in the first week of January - and then decided he couldn't be doing with all the standing around to film this. But we don't doubt he'll be back better than ever in 2016, and in the meantime he's still going to make "a contribution" to this, though its exact contents remain a mystery. It had better not be a goodbye, anyway. This show is great fun anyway, and Claudia's a perfectly acceptable replacement, and it's even better now we get old contestants back and everyone gets tens because that's the kind of niceness you want on Christmas Day.
23.45 Comedy Bloopers
It's the triumphant return of Auntie's Bloomers! Well, almost, because this is a compilation of out-takes from comedy shows, but from which comedy shows we don't know, nor indeed do we know much else about it at all, so anything could turn up. Worth a look for novelty's sakes, we suppose.

BBC2


08.20 Herbie Rides Again
You know, it’s very difficult to hear ancient American thesps wax lyrical over the magnificent ornament to the stage that was Helen Hayes when she seemed largely to star in stuff like this and ropey versions of Agatha Christie yarns. Mind you, she is in Candleshoe which is fucking great. And no number of earnest stagings of Tomorrow is New Yesterday at the Cornell Theatre, Albany add up to twenty minutes of that.
13.15 The Good Life
19.30 Dad's Army
20.00 The Two Ronnies

Everything pretty much all present and correct here, though nothing you won't have seen recently, the Rons coming from 1984 and The Good Life being the royal episode, though again shorn of all actual royal content. The Queen'll probably be watching Madagascar when it's on, anyway.
00.40 The Trouble With Harry
William Goldman loves to decry Hitchcock at every turn of course and also loves to cite this as the definitive proof that big Alf had gone ‘orf in his later career. As in so very much else he is totally wrong. Totally. Wrong. In addition to which the erstwhile ‘script maestro’ (copyright mostly him) also has the most infuriating prose style. Most infuriating. Totally. Wrong. It’s like reading the experiences of a writer in Hollywood as retold by a minor character in a Roy Clarke comedy. “I like Hollywood. I used to go a lot to Hollywood. We had Hollywood in the war. Ooooooh! Hollywood.” Anyway, this is great fun in superbly garish colours. It’s not Frenzy. But then no film not directed by Bitchcock and starring Barry Foster is.

ITV


09.25 Santa Claus
Oh for fuck’s sake. This used to be stuffed into the ghetto that is Christmas Eve afternoon present-wrapping-and-peeling time; gawd knows why it’s been promoted to the Big Day. The ":The Movie" bit seems to have been dropped now. Not sure why. Okay, it is a statement of the obvious (though not as obvious as Santa Claus: The Depressing Mistake, which would have the added benefit of being apposite) but it makes you wonder who decides these things. Mind you, we also wonder who keeps on paying for the rights to show this embarrassing shitfest which remains the filmic equivalent of Grandma Walton being kept on after she’d had her stroke leaving her to dispense her worldly wisdom to the rest of the family by cracking her knuckles on the table and waving her fist in front of her face. Still less depressing than this.
22.45 Our Cilla
Surely the highest profile death of the year was Cilla's, while its announcement was surely one of the strangest moments, with rumours and stories flying around Twitter for hours before a proper respected source were able to break it. Here's a new compilation of clips and memories, though to be honest they seem to have chucked it away in the schedules a bit.

CHANNEL 4


13.45 The Muppets Christmas Carol
Whilst idly sitting through The Swarm the other night, all the while peeling our fingernails back with a rough trowel to make the experience more palatable, we came to ponder Michael ‘unusual stain’ Caine’s film career and just why it has lasted so long. This is, of course, a triumph for him and everyone else associated with it but given that the releases which bookend it are Blue Ice and On Deadly Ground, there doesn’t seem like there’s much logic at work. It was four years at this point since Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (Steve Martin and Anton Rogers! Together at last!) and another seven years after it before bafflingly successful Cider House Rules. His friends still call him Maurice, you know. It’s not what we call him.
15.45 Scrooged
It would appear that it’s mandatory to push out every version of the story this Christmas and in rapid succession (unless it’s ITV or BBC1 in which case it seems mandatory to show no films at all) but we do love it. Don’t tell us it goes all schmaltzy at the end, it’s a Christmas film fer chrissakes. Unlike his latter canon Bill Murray has to struggle to keep up with John Forsyth and Robert Mitchum, whereas now he only has to stare into the middle distance to be better than almost anyone else around him. We saw this in the pictures Back in The Day and despite it getting a little embarrassing when Murray was exhorting a hall full of people wandering out to join in the singing, it was fun then and it’s fun now. Besides, Karen Allen could probably do with the two quid royalties cheque. Bless.

CHANNEL 5


10.50 Scrooge
The Bert Finney one. Nothing says Christmas like Anton ‘two mentions in one Christmas!’ Rogers in a giant top hat.
15.10 The Wizard of Oz
Scheduled at exactly the same time as BBC1’s single daytime film offering, Brave. Five turns on the tape, drops mic and walks off like a boss.
20.50 Chas and Dave's Christmas Knees Up!
Well, this took us totally by surprise when Channel 5 showed it on Christmas Day last year, and we're even more surprised that they're showing it again - and yet again in virtually the same slot tomorrow to boot. Last year too they edited out Jim Davidson's appearance, although we note he's in the billing again, so maybe it's worth a look to see if they've put him back in. Although we don't suppose that'll be enough to convince your family to abandon Downton.

BBC4


22.05 Top of the Pops
Unfortunately for reasons you can almost certainly work out yourself, BBC4 are not showing either of 1980's Christmas Pops. So instead, it's back to 1975, shown on this channel for the first time! That dates it to just a few months before we came in on this rerun back in 2011, and given the changes in the past year or so both in the show and in pop music it's going to seem very strange going back to the pre-punk days of Noel, Tony and, of course, Pan's People. Unfortunately 1975 is probably one of pop's worst ever years, not helped by the Beeb running out of money and simulcasting Radio 1 and 2 for much of the day, so light entertainment and novelty acts dominate. It'll be fascinating to see, though, and Christmas 1979 follows immediately - and January 1981 very soon - so you can see that it all had a happy ending.

ITV3


06.35 Carry On Don’t Lose Your Head
08.30 Carry On Cruising
10.20 Carry On At Your Convenience
14.05 Carry On Cowboy
16.05 Carry On Jack
18.00 Carry On Screaming
20.00 Carry On Camping
21.50 Carry On Cleo

We deplore the absence of Gladstone Screwer.

ITV4


19.45 Cannonball Run II
They didn’t mention this in amongst all that shit about ol’ green eyes’ centenary.

Horror


00.50 Tales From the Crypt
Now this is more like it! And with the Joanie St Angelie story at the start it’s about as Christmassy as you can get. Take note you ‘modern women’: that’s someone who can look impeccable, care for her child, smoke a fag, murder her husband AND get blood out of a white shaggy rug!

Spike


20.00 The Wild Geese
There’s a pathetic dearth of Richard Burton this Christmas but if it has to be this way, it’s just as well it’s this. Morally dubious, ethically shaky, narratively demented and acted ropily it still adds up to onehelluvafilm as Burton, Harris and Roger ‘louche farmer’ Moore vie with each other to try and steal the film back from Kenneth Griffiths. They don’t, but they give it a bloody good try.

BBC Radio 2


18.00 I Write The Gags - Barry Cryer
The usual mix of pre-recorded business on Radio 2 today, including Junior Choice's annual outing, but the only real item of interest is the first of this two-part special about someone who's respected by more or less everyone in the world of comedy, testament to his determination to continually move with the times. Indeed he's probably contributed to more Christmas Day shows than virtually anyone else, so he's well worth listening to, even if Steve Wright's asking the questions.

Intermission

Well, that's it for the first week, but we've got another seven days to bring you, so get yourself some more sustenance, or possibly take a look at the TVC-affiliated 100 Clips of Christmas and we'll be with you again in a second. Bye for now!
 
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