Opinion: Give us some decent Christmas TV this year

PUBLISHED: 13:17 26 November 2014 | UPDATED: 13:17 26 November 2014

Festive attractions include Roald Dahl's Esio Trot, with Dustin Hoffman and Judi Dench. Picture: BBC.

Festive attractions include Roald Dahl's Esio Trot, with Dustin Hoffman and Judi Dench. Picture: BBC.

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Auntie Beeb has announced her Christmas line-up and it’s packed with comedy, drama and plenty of festive specials you probably haven’t been waiting for. EDP TV reviewer Stacia Briggs flicks through the festive listings.

Watch it

• The Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawm: Stars Harry Hill, adapted by Charlie Higson – what could go wrong?

• Top Gear Christmas Special: Watching Jeremy Clarkson being pursued by an angry Argentinian mob? Yes please.

• Charlie Brooker’s 2014 Wipe: Charlie Brooker is a genius and the best antidote to Mrs Brown’s Boys/Michael McIntyre.

• The Boy in the Dress: Adapted from David Walliams’ great book, my Granddad would have hated this: reason in itself to watch it.

• Rik Mayall: Lord of Misrule/BBC Proms War Horse/The Snow Wolf Family and Me: I couldn’t stick to just five.

One can only assume that television executives assume that viewers will be so inebriated over the festive season they won’t realise that the vast majority of programming represents a holly-infested Groundhog Day.

Even some of the new shows feel like desperate repeats which, I suppose, does sum up Christmas quite succinctly (I have definitely suffered from desperate repeats after eating too much cheese and drinking too much booze on December 25, although none so desperate as Mrs Brown’s Boys).

One of the self-professed highlights of the BBC’s Christmas line-up is the Top Gear Christmas Special, which was filmed in Argentina and features presenters Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond driving three V8 sports cars 1,600 miles through Patagonia. Clarkson’s registration number on his Porsche is H982 FKL which is totally a coincidence and completely nothing to do with the Falklands conflict in 1982 but the locals aren’t convinced by the laws of licence plate probability and the trio are pursued by an angry mob.

It may be a spoiler, but no one wants to be disappointed at Christmas: the mob fail to catch up with Clarkson and Co. Sorry.

Switch it off

• Mrs Brown’s Boys Christmas Special (part one): I wouldn’t watch it if this was the last TV show on Earth and my survival depended on it.

• Mrs Brown’s Boys Christmas Special (part two): See above.

• Top Gear Christmas Special: On second thoughts, let’s not encourage them.

• Michael McIntyre’s Very Christmassy Christmas Show: McIntyre’s interview technique is stunningly bad. I can’t imagine how drunk I’d have to be to find him funny.

• The Choir: New Military Wives: What’s wrong with the old ones?

There is some good news, though, Miranda comes to an end this Christmas as our hapless heroine receives not one but TWO shock marriage proposals – imagine the comic consequences of THAT (sigh) and we finally get to see Mick on EastEnders (“awrrite Treacle?”) discover his real mother is granite-faced Shirley Carter while simultaneously finding out that his new brother, Dean, has sexually assaulted (and impregnated!) his wife. Merry Christmas, Walford!

Amongst the glitter balls, there are some sparklers to look out for.

On Angel Wings is a magical reworking of the nativity story based on Michael Morpurgo’s book and even a dyed-in-the-wool non-believer such as myself can’t help but look forward to being enchanted. Voiced by stars such as Michael Gambon, Juliet Stevenson, Dominic Cooper and Colin McFarlane, it follows a little shepherd boy who meets the Angel Gabriel and travels with him to Bethlehem to meet a certain baby – the tale is told through the boy’s own eyes, many years later, on Christmas night as he recalls the experience for his grandchildren. Beautiful.

Other shows to watch out for include Esio Trot, an adaptation of the Roald Dahl book starring Dustin Hoffman and Judi Dench and written by Richard “Love Actually” Curtis, The Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawm (promises to be hilarious), The Day We Sang (written and directed by comedy royalty, Victoria Wood) and Mapp and Lucia, a comedy drama that involves village warfare over garden produce, games of bridge and fetes. Top hole.

Festive specials include Strictly Come Dancing, Doctor Who (with a cameo from the perfectly-named Nick Frost and the departure of Clara), Call the Midwife, Great British Bake Off, Still Open All Hours, The Wrong Mans and Songs of Praise. The latter is, unbelievably, causing controversy with its new format – one viewer said “you have spoilt our Sundays” – so I might break the rule of a lifetime, other than the occasion I was on it with my school’s choir – and watch.

What am I looking forward to seeing most at Christmas? The warm smiles on the uplifted faces of my family – no, actually, it’s EastEnders. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without utter misery in E19.

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