CBeebies: The Ultimate Christmas Collection Review
"Christmas! Christmas!" Gary Glitter doesn't get much of a place on Christmas compilations these days - I wonder why? - but his call to a Rock'n'Roll Christmas complete with the chime of sleigh bells is as sure a sign as any that Christmas is on its way, moreso even than the advertisements playing for Tia Maria on the television, the near-constant December drizzle and bad-tempered shoppers hauling themselves through the Christmas rush. 'tis a time to be jolly. 'tis a time of goodwill to all men. 'tis the time to sit with a tumbler of whiskey, a mince pie and It's A Wonderful Life. Baubles, The Box Of Delights and early to bed. Mistletoe, merriment and The Muppet Christmas Carol. Wrapping paper, a roaring fire and Olive, The Other Reindeer. I'm getting that warm, Christmas feeling just thinking about it!
And now, CBeebies hope, Christmas will mean Balamory, Charlie And Lola and Big Cook Little Cook in a brand-new themed compilation for 2007. A lot of these episodes have been seen before, usually on individual discs. Lazytown Secret Santa, for example, is already available on DVD but familiarity does not breed any contempt for an episode that sees in Robbie Rotten planning to knock Sportacus into next week with a giant snowball! Christmas being the season of goodwill, even Robbie is made welcome at the Lazytown Christmas dinner, finding that even he has been left a gift under the Lazytown Christmas tree. But with the snowball sitting inside a giant cannon, a trap that Robbie has forgotten to reset, this Christmas party may end with a bang more spectacular than anyone had expected. Balamory Panto is next, a special seasonal episode in which PC Plum is called upon to direct the annual pantomime and treads carefully as he tries not to upset anyone. Romance is there for all to see as Plum hands Miss Hoolie the role of Cinderella and with Archie, glams himself up as an ugly sister. With the cast in place - it turns out that neither Edie McCredie nor Josie Jump wanted to play Cinders - and Suzie and Penny doubling up as the Fairy Godmothers, PC Plum turns impresario as he brings his opus to the Balamory village hall. With, as it won't surprise anyone, great success.
Elsewhere, some of the shorter offerings are Big Cook Ben and Little Cook Small welcoming Father Christmas to their cafe and making him a Meringue Snowman, Boogie Beebies sing and dance in I Wish It Would Snow - children balancing a tin of Roses on their tummies will have to be careful - while a special festive episode of The Fimbles find a jingly tune in Fimble valley, which sounds very familiar. Meanwhile, their friend Roly Mo is making hot milk for Little Bo, who's so very cold in Fimble valley. Lunar Jim struggles with fluffies in Too Many Fluffies when the lunar winter arrives early, leaving Moona Luna looking for a warm place to go...not to mention somewhere with less cute little creatures while Tamba learns the story of the Nativity in a Tikkabilla Christmas special. The Tweenies also get a festive special, White Christmas in which Jake falls in on Christmas morning. Now that's no fun...but then all of his friends visit Jake to cheer him up.
Much better comes with Charlie And Lola - everything is better with Charlie And Lola! - and Snow Is My Favourite And My Best. Lola is thrilled at the thought of snow falling and can't sleep, finally settling when she sees the first snowfall of winter. Getting up the next morning, Charlie and Lola take their sledge to the park, where they have snow races and make snow angels and see that snow is just the very best thing ever...until it melts. A very sad Lola heads for home but how can Charlie make his little sister realise just how special snow really is? "A teeny, weeny snowman who lives in the freezer!" That's how!
While the Summer and Party Collections worked well, this is probably the best CBeebies anthology to date. What is shares with the other releases is that the most well-liked shows on CBeebies contribute the best episodes. In the case of this DVD, these are the Lazytown, Balamory and Charlie And Lola episodes but the Tweenies and Lunar Jim will be well-liked by younger viewers. But why this disc works so well is in its being like a day of good programming on CBeebies without the more irritating shows like Step Inside, Bits And Bob and Gordon the Garden Gnome. With the seasonal theme, it's a nice little series of episodes to dip in and out of, getting the kids excited about Christmas while teaching them about the nicer side of the festive period. All it's missing is a life-lesson about staying in bed on Christmas morning until at least six-thirty and letting their parents enjoy a peaceful, easy rest after the we-forgot-the-batteries! panic of the night before.
Being so very similar to The Ultimate Party Collection from earlier this year, this section is largely a reprint of what was written then. With everything here anamorphically presented in 1.78:1 widescreen, the quality of these shows can vary. Charlie And Lola, offering the most basic but most imaginative animation, is amongst the better-looking shows while Lazytown suffers the most. However, most of these shows look fairly reasonable on DVD. Balamory is let down by the scale of its production - there's only so far that you can go to make a small church hall look gorgeous, with Archie and Plum in drag not helping matters! - while Lunar Jim is a crisp little animation that, with its bright colours and chunky figures, ought to capture the eyes of even the youngest ones. However, on the other hand, Tikkabilla is a rather plain show but deliberately so. Everything about the DD2.0 audio tracks is well handled, not least that they sound clean and without any obvious problems with background noise or audio effects. Once again, the BBC are to be congratulated for included English subtitles on each episode included in this set.
The only extras are a set of colouring-in pictures on the DVD that can be printed off from a PC.
Granted, CBeebies Christmas wouldn't be on my Christmas list but then I'm a thirty-six-year-old man and I'm hoping for The Heroes Of Telemark, the cartoon series of Dungeons And Dragons, some books by Haruki Murakami and recordings of masses by John Taverner. But were I four, this would keep me very happy indeed. Roadtested on my own children, for whom Christmas came slightly early with the watching of this DVD, it was an enjoyable watch but perhaps not quite the match of the genuine Christmas specials like Olive, the Other Reindeer, The Snowman or Father Christmas.