It used to be that watching TV on Christmas day was an event. Go back over time and the channels battled it out for supremacy in a ratings war with top entertainment and first class films. Now they have pretty much all vacated the pitch, leaving the BBC alone to put forward some form of original entertainment, with the shining light of original TV in a dire array of festive fare – Dr Who.
Before I come to this, let’s quickly deal with what the Irish TV has to offer. In a word, Nothing. If all you can receive are the Irish channels, then you’d better stock up on DVD’s or break out the Trivial Pursuit – your Christmas is all set for Do it Yourself home entertainment!
We can only hope that this is the last Christmas that we Virgin (UPC) subscribers have to suffer the failed experiment of UTV Ireland. But this year, suffer we must, so there is not even the prospect of the final Downton Abbey to force us into finding the remote and changing channels in the late evening (It arrives here on 26th).
So, if you are fortunate to get it, BBC1 is the channel you will be watching pretty much all day.
Comedy used to be the highlight of the Christmas schedule. In the late 70’s twenty million plus viewers would sit down to the Morecombe and Wise Special. Crafted over months, littered with special guests, it was a TV event in the way that Xfactor finals will never be. The only comparison in the Christmas day line-up is a Mrs Brown’s Boys – not exactly glittering, but at least new!!
But for something original that will be prepared to take a few risks, Dr Who is pretty much the only beacon of light.
It is truly remarkable in this day and age that Dr Who survives in the mainstream schedule. The good news is that it is by and large in terrific health; still trying out new things and still thought provoking. For example, on a Saturday night in early December in a prime 8pm slot Dr Who gave us a 45 minute one man drama – a study in tension and fear and mystery. Dr Who has dealt with issues of race and alienation, war and reconciliation, death and grief; all in one series. In Peter Capaldi one of the finest actors of our time portrays a character of many layers and tone – he must surely be taking a moment over his Xmas break to be creating space for the many “Best Actor” awards that he will pick up next year.
The Xmas day Dr Who is expected to be, in the tradition of the programme, one of the lightest and silliest of the episodes delivered to us this year. It will, to the Who fanatic, be a slight disappointment. In all honesty, it will be a little bit crap – the Xmas episodes always are. But it will be TV that anyone from 8-80 can watch and get something from. It will have plenty of ideas and great acting.
Given what else is on offer, we should be thankful that it is there. Ironically for a show where the main theme is time travel, Dr Who takes us back to a bygone era when Xmas TV was important to the TV companies and when sitting in front of the TV could be a truly family experience. The fear is that when it goes, that will be the end of TV as I have known it.