Sunday, 13 December 2009


It occurred to me this morning, while brushing my teeth, that Christmas television is rather like Dickens' Christmas carol.
Those of us expecting a televisual feast of festive delights, are haunted each year by the ghost of Christmas TV Past. This takes the form of an indistinguishable conglomeration of all those wonderful old programmes of yore. Fading memories of Morcambe and Wise, The Two Ronnies, innumerable Christmas specials, Billy Smart's Christmas Circus, Christmas cartoons featuring Tom and Jerry, Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd. Cookery specials from Delia Smith showing us how to boil potatoes, stuff the bird, peel the sprouts and cook them in such a way as to mask their flavour. Long diatribes on the time taken to properly cook a 75lb turkey, always remembering to add a few hours to ensure the quarter ton of stuffing inside is piping hot throughout.
All of this goes to create a wonderful memory of times gone by.
We waited with bated breath as the Christmas TV and Radio times magazines (yes, we had to buy two, double sized magazines, despite only having three channels) appeared on the newsagents' shelf and couldn't wait to get our hands on them to beginning scanning their pages for all the shows we couldn't miss. When we first began to have video recorders, we would excitedly grab our pens and put marks against the programmes which we had to watch and those we had to record for our later delectation.

Coming fast upon the heels of Christmas TV Past, we are disturbed further by the Ghost of Christmas TV Present. Big, brash, loud and over-confident, this creature is, outwardly jovial and festive. It clings desperately to the vestiges of Christmas Past with repeats of those wonderful shows of yesteryear. But, just as you begin to think that Christmas TV isn't so bad after all, it creeps up and reminds you that you are but nothing in the great scheme of things. You are there, simply to pay through the nose for the now hundreds of TV channels, all mindlessly repeating the shows which you never liked the first time round and certainly are not going to waste your time by watching now.
Very occasionally, you may stumble upon a Christmas special, filmed in the middle of Summer, from a dross-filled soap, American medical series, or a desperately un-funny modern 'comedy'. Beware these impostors! They tempt you in with promises of mirth, celebrities and Christmas appeal. What they leave you with is a sense of despair and the question on your lips "what on earth did I spend the last half hour of my life watching that rubbish for?"

Lastly, we are confronted by the awful spectre of the Ghost of TV Christmases yet to come. A dark, forbidding, terrifying beast this is. We are shown visions of what it will be like if we are not too careful. The idea that, in another 30 years, we will be looking back with warm nostalgia to the the programmes of today. Longing for the sophistication of 'Big Brother' and 'I'm a Celebrity'. Desperate for the intellectual heights of 'The One Show', 'X Factor' and 'Britain's Got Talent'. Wide eyed and drooling we will have long forgotten the Two Ronnies, Dad's Army, The Good Life and To The Manor Born.
Endless, American Drivel will be pumped into us as we see the writing on the tombstone of British Christmas TV and mourn for the 'good old days'.

Is it too late? Can we be saved from this spectral nightmare of future Christmas TV? Probably not, but in the end, we will still have Dickens' A Christmas Carol, to bring us back to times gone by and send us, dewy eyed and full of e-numbers to bed on Christmas night, looking forward to how much better the TV will be..... Next Christmas. HUMBUG!

Speaking of nostalgia, here is a blast from the past to warm your cockles. Dr. Evadne Hinge and Dame Hilda Bracket celebrate the festive season at the Old Manse in Stackton Tressel. Put the kettle on, make a cup of tea, dunk a biscuit or two and enjoy the gentle humour of this BBC Radio treat.
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