29 December 2020 838 Views

A Tour of Christmas TV in Britain

by James Murphy

It is not a pretty sight..Though ‘Corrie’ still kinda works..and Gemma Arterton is still lovely..

..I am asked by my 103 friends why I watch terrible television. Truth is, I do not ‘watch’ it, at all. I have it on, passively, whilst doing other stuff and only intermittently, at that. Know your enemy, all the same.

Watching (bad) television in the UK is kind of a must, akin to reading a tabloid newspaper (itself now indistinguishable from broadsheet counterparts on occasion). Keep roughly aware of the trends and thereby get pulse of the country.

This Christmas? Television in Britain sank further into an abyss that makes one long for a solely streaming culture. Not just BBC, mind. ITV just as bad. I have watched, so you do not have to..

 

    • EASTENDERS and EMMERDALE: One incited /attempted murder. One actual murder. Often Set to Carols/intercut with Love Actually style edits. Delivery driver (real world heroes of the pandemic): attacked, with baseball bat. Consequence free. Yes, we need drama, tension etc. Sure, there are indeed some fun moments in villainy (Reece Dinsdale is great as a gambler: scary, pathetic, wily, brilliant; Phil Mitchell is always funny when he threatens Ian Beale in Albert Square). But there are limits. This is all darkness for its own sake, without hope of redemption.

  • MRS BROWN’S BOYS: As funny as an intrusive dental procedure. This outlived its laugh quota in 2013. But fear not, they fill it with vibrator jokes and a last minute montage of schmaltz about da pandemic. We needed that. Yep.

 

  • Tributes to Billy Connolly and David Jason:

Fine. Except both men are still ALIVE. Yes, no more Fools and Horses for Jason (it’s been 20 years, anyway). No cold cases for his Inspector Frost? But he is still a good working actor. Keeps things very professional. No need for sentimental retrospectives, surely?

As for Billy Connolly? I concede the man has talents in abundance and a distinctive musical/comedic fusion. But a lot of his routines just seemed rather loud and nasty to me; adopted as ‘deeply funny and moving’, usually by pseuds in the media class bracket who picked up the Scots’ performer’s work via chat shows?

Billy is a good actor, though. He was especially important when you could not afford Sean Connery (they were buddies, Billy once denounced Sean’s successors in the Bond role as ‘limp wristed’: haahahaha?).

Connolly is nonetheless still ALIVE and, however sad his decline might be, stage managing it on television is PRECISELY the kind of thing he would have sent up, mercilessly, just a few year previously. Each to their own.

And I did laugh, frequently, at his skit depicting a fan approaching him at an airport. ‘I did not like you in such and such’.
‘Well FUCK OFF with ye, then!’
The fan then comes back up ‘sorry i meant i did not like you in x but loved you in Y’
‘WHY SAY THAT, THEN? Why not just say ‘loved you in that’? FUCK OFF!’ One sympathises..

 

  • Meanwhile? Coronation Street has celebrated its 60th.

The soap opera remains nominally on top of the television institutions. Its trick is to confront dark events and evil characters, without making the mistake of integrating them to the ongoing narrative.

The outsider villain is a dragon to be slain by the cobble-stoned community, led by Ken Barlow. This was demonstrated recently. The amazing Ian Bartholomew played a coercive bully for over a year. Yes, it was a painful thing to watch. But WHAT a performance: pure evil, tempered by tragic irony and even the occasional panto baddie black humoured laugh. That actor belongs in Hollywood.

Corrie is already the poorer without him and indeed, faces its own struggle to avoid the Emmerdale/Eastenders trap of fixating on crime and darkness over ‘drama’ whilst leaving a string of supporting characters to play exaggerated, contrived comedy. Be careful! The piece is now held together by its adorable women: Sally DynevorSamia Longchambon, Sally Ann Matthews, Sally Carman and Alexandra Mardell. They should get their own spin-off!

Speaking of which: Torchwood. It’s not been on TV for ten years, right? Yet DOCTOR WHO is betting the house on JOHN BARROWMAN coming back to repair ratings /good-will etc. Alas, it will not work. Those who know and love John’s Captain Jack Harkness do so from the Eccleston/Tennant years. Reintroducing the guy now? Desperation. Especially if you do not give him a new spin-off to match. It still feels weird to deny us a Christmas special of Doctor Who whilst rehashing old dalek motifs for a redundant new year outing. Please rest and reboot, soon.

Finally, for now. And yes. I know. Relief! Breathe! Black Narcissus is great, no doubt.  Gemma Arterton is in it,. innit. THE most spectacularly beautiful woman I have ever seen, ever. Seriously. Saw her in person at a premiere years ago. I was struck dumb..dumbstruck..I was quiet for at least two seconds. 🙂

I just have a suspicion they made this current Nuns on mountains in the dark at Christmas coz last year had lots of nuns and mountains in Dracula. Plus you cannot beat Powell/Pressburger, right?

I have high hopes for next year: it will be the best Christmas ever 😉



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