There is always a good buzz on the telly before Christmas. You get the best of the best of the past, a drift of Santa movies, a Bond or three, a battery of Sherlock Holmes and some beautiful oddities that got made but stayed on the shelf too long, like The Fattest Man In Britain, which was a comedy, not a documentary. Even Val Falvey TD seemed funny, mainly thanks to Owen Roe more than Ardal O’Hanlon.
First up on the biggies list of treats was a brilliant bonnets and bows return of a two-part Cranford, with Judi Dench as Miss Matty, brought back from the dead almost, to be the centre piece of the four gossipy, moral majority, of the village resisting at first the arrival of the railway. The scenes of the first First Class trip ranged from high comedy, girlish excitement and orgasm. What clever filming. And what a cast of busy-bodies. It must have been great fun for this stellar cast who would sneer at the cult of celebrity to be involved in such work for BBC1.
A double-header after midnight on C4, about one of the founders of Hollywood – Cecil B De Mille – was such a blast from the past. He spanned the silent era, went bust, couldn’t get a job and came back to become one of the greatest directors ever. Even Spielberg and Scorsese spoke lovingly of his epic style of movie making. I have such a memory of my late mother taking my brother and me to the then posh and plush Regina cinema to see The Ten Commandments with its epic and amazing parting of the Red Sea. It had a lasting impact on me and my love of spectacle and to see how it was done was a late night, let-down, a disappointment.
But why did C4 put it on at such a dead hour? No doubt it tells you something about the profile of tv audiences these days.
Three cheers for TV3, bringing Tatiana Ouliankiwa back to the box, since Fair City cruelly killed off her luminous sultry attractive part as Lana Borodin, who married Dowling of the taxis. She lit up the screen as the mysterious temptress in a very contrived Belonging To Laura. She oozed across the carpet and added much to an over-edged supposed take on Oscar Wilde’s, Lady Windermere’s Fan, but that was a pretentious stretch of the imagination, like the feelgood ending with sprinkled flowers, golden corn and morning light, as we were led to believe that love survives and trust never dies. Yerra Boy but Tatianna lives and that’s for sure.
RTE1 had a cracker of a pre-Christmas programme with a great look behind-the-scenes on an All Ireland Day. Croke Park Lives could have been expanded into a series, if it followed up on specific characters it only briefly introduced. Apparently it needs 2,200 people to staff and control the venue for these 80,000 seater events and even the catering logistics would make a great eye on the wall programme. The behind-the-scenes shows are very popular in UK and RTE could commission more o these real life stories. These shots of early morning mass, the garda-briefings, the colourful grounds staff, the banter and the pageantry of the rival fans and teams arriving, was excellent.
The big attraction for Christmas Day was three hours of soaps and not that many surprises as the tabloids seem to leak the plotlines in advance. Fair City, despite snow and romance between Dean and Tracy, turned out to be the badly done turkey with some of the most contrived plot excuses to get Kylie engaged to Dean with a ring in a cracker. At least the child used to set it up redeemed herself by giving Dean the ring back. But the meal at Christy’s with Bob flopped into a mafia hamper. Pity but there was kiss and start out again by Dean and Tracy in the snow.
Corrie had the best of the bad dysfunctional bunch with an unconvincing Kevin trying to tell Sally he’s leaving and she rocks him to his pressure socks with – I’ve got breast cancer. Then it switched to the Platts for more dysfunctional guff and the only happy note was the Butcher getting the promise of conjugals with his wife as they dashed off for just desserts. Did you know that DESSERTS is STRESSED spelled backwards?
EastEnders was like the BBC in a Hamlet mood as they dragged out the tension of who was going to kill Archie but, like Lost, you could figure they’re making it up as they go along. Ricky proposed to Bianca after she asked him and who cares?
Biggest RTE disappointment sadly turned out to be a galf-hour Pat Shortt’s Mattie, about an accident-prone detective at the mercy of his bedridden mother. In one sense it was too slight for Christmas night entertainment. It was too short to develop on the night and too fragmented to attract attention. Killinaskully has us spoilt rotten, unfortunately.