When you look at the list of television shows and movies for Christmas, do you get a sense of disappointment and déjà vu? But, a closer look at he less glitzy offerings will give us a better feeling. Watch out for BBC1 Ballet Shoes about three orphans, featuring Victoria Wood, marc Warren, Emma Watson (from Harry Potter) and Richard Griffiths. BBC1 also have a new Sense And Sensibility with David Morrissey, Claire Skinner and Mark Gatiss. They will also show a five-part Oliver Twist adapted by EastEnders scripter Sarah Phelps. Timothy Spall will play Fagin, with Sarah Lancashire, Rob Brydon, Gregor Fisher and Anna Massey. UTV are not to be outdone as they have costumed up Derek Jacobi, Zoe Wanamaker, martin Freeman, Bradley Walsh and Gina McKee for The Old Curiosity Shop.
BBC1 have two old favourites in Christmas Specials – My Family and after 26 years, Penelope Keith and Peter Bowles return to Grantleigh Manor in To The Manor Reborn.
Well, despite the boasting of executives at ITV about improving the drama mix, they had a flop of ginormous proportions with Who Gets The Dog. Even wit two top stars in Kevin Whately and Alison Steadman, the stupid marital bust-up was a train-wreck on a Sunday night when the BBC were on a roll, if not a rollercoaster, with Cranford. Don’t know what the dog in the title was about and care less as this was worse than a turkey, or a dog with fleas – it was CAT! Then there were two solicitors who are to comedy what soaps are to Shakespeare. Oh yes, there was a dog in some early parts of the drama and he was named Bounder. Now, if the female lawyer had eaten a hamster it might have been funny, but it was just drama daydreams.
The local celebrity chef Tony Barry says that the Iranian comic, Omid Djalili, is funny. So do the BBC, as they have launched a new comedy show, The Omid Djalili Show. Yes he is likeable and funny and you can’t help thinking that if he wasn’t Iranian, we wouldn’t be watching him. He mocks prejudice while at the same time setting it up by feeding the old stereotypes. But he is funnier than the Graham Norton Show, cut or uncut or half-cut.
So, Caroline Quentin is back as the mother of four, in series four, of Blue Murder and once again on UTV it’s the ordinariness of the drama that keeps it up in the ratings (an average of 6 Million). She treats her sidekicks as children – there’s the fat one, the skinny one, one who’s bitter and the black girl who’s bright and the older hair-slicked-back geezer who gets a kick in the footballs and she knows it’s a cancer scare. For a horrible moment, post-watershed, you’d think she was going to think she was going to kiss it better. The opening episode was a football story of murder, life penalties and mistaken identity. Such was the ordinariness, DCI Lewis had time to detect her daughter’s fraud and her sons football ambitions. It’s family business really.
So, the long wait (4 months at least) for Heroes to conclude on BBC2 has arrived and like Lost, it lost a lot of viewers along the way. Anyhow, the cheerleader was saved and the guy who was to be the atomic bomb that did or didn’t destroy New York just lost his glow. Hire (the Hero) was left almost with a magic sword that was broken. (In all, this superb gadget universe, the world hung on the fate of a busted magic sword – Ah come on!). Then, if you were still watching, he took the sword to a Yellow Pages local repair-shop. (Yellow pages for a Japanese here – Ah come on!). At least they didn’t do a cliffhanger like Lost or Desperate Housewives. Puzzle is how are they going to hold an audience for the second series. Go on, Google Heroes and find out . . .
Jennifer Ellison has signed to BBC3 for Liverpool Nativity, a sixty minute seasonal show to be broadcast, Sunday 16th December. With a public cast of about 300 and 150 technicians, she will play an Angel and Geoffrey Hughes will be the angel Gabriel, with cathy Tyson as Herodia. It will move from location to location in Liverpool and feature music from Beatles and The Las.
BBC have expanded their seasonal programmes for the four Sunday mornings of Advent in Christmas Voices, with Lesley Garret as presenter and singer.
All Or Nothing is the new ITV programme to be hosted by Vernon Kay, modelled on Don’t Forget Your Tootbrush, made famous by the ginger-genius Chris Evans in the mid-nineties. It will feature a ferret in a tube to select contestants and will include a Subbuteo style game as well.
Grange Hill is to get a Hollyoaks style makeover for BBC and it will ditch almost two-thirds of its current cast to move the show away from gritty roots to reach younger viewers.
Al Murray, the comedian, famous since 1994 for his Pub Landlord character and shows, is to mothball the pint-puller and launch a series of new characters like: a gentleman thief, a stag-party maestro called The Ledge, a prurient dad and an old style politically uncorrect flamboyant Nazi, Otto Schwul.