TV UK, 23 December
The spirit of 'Christmas Specials'.
The BBC’s major Christmas ‘event’ is The Big Cracker. Viewers are invited to send in their favourite Christmas cracker jokes by email or text message, and these will be read out between programmes by children dressed as elves.
The BBC hopes the exercise will bring the nation together in a traditional British Christmas groan. A spokesperson explains: ‘Bad jokes are quintessentially British, and we think that it’s about time we celebrated that. Some of the elves will be played by the children of asylum seekers.’ The Big Cracker is an extension of The Big Read, and has been praised by literacy campaigners.
Other festive BBC programmes include a Christmas Special of This Week, with Andrew Neil dressed as Santa Claus and Diane Abbot and Michael Portillo ‘snuggling’ under the mistletoe. This is good news: This Week has been one of the most entertaining programmes of the year, except for a lean period when Diane and Michael were replaced by Ann Widdecombe and Clare Short, who just didn’t get the whole sofa thing and sat six feet apart. The Christmas Special will focus on the asylum issue as a tie-in with The Big Cracker.
ITV1 is combining Christmas Specials of Pop Idol and The Premiership. Super Ally, Big Ron, Robbie Earle and Some Other Guy will be guest judges on a special issue of Pop Idol (in which some of the contestants will be asylum seekers), while Simon Cowell and co will discuss the highs and lows of the Christmas football fixtures.
The idea is to create a unique family viewing experience and to stop fights over the remote control. The programmes are sponsored by Relate. A spokesperson explains: ‘By getting celebrities to talk about something they know nothing about, we hope to get people across the country talking to each other about nothing in particular. That’s what Christmas is all about, isn’t it? …Well, isn’t it?’
In Celebrity Spiderhole Christmas (Channel 4), six celebrities agree to spend the festive season evading the US military by growing beards and hiding down a hole in their home towns. Whoever lasts the longest will be rewarded with their own reality show in which they will rule a small Middle Eastern country peopled by 18- to 35-year-old volunteers with showbiz aspirations. Celebrities who are caught will be given a choice between going to Guantanamo Bay and appearing on the Christmas Special of So Graham Norton.
Channel 5 meanwhile is continuing its commitment to wildly different niche markets by showing a documentary about the sacred and the profane in representations of Christmas in medieval German art, followed by an erotic thriller set in a strip club called Lap Land.
All right, I made some of these programmes up, but I’m not saying which. As usual there are some decent films on over the holiday, but anything described as a Christmas Special is to be avoided like the plague. For all its efforts to bring the nation together in festive goodwill, TV is not real people. Get a life.
Dolan Cummings is publications editor at the Institute of Ideas, and editor of Culture Wars. He is also the editor of Reality TV: How Real Is Real?, Hodder Murray, 2002 (buy this book from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA)).
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