A BBC Christmas

Well it's almost "Another year over and a new one just begun" time and the Beeb has announced its bumper festive treats. Every year, Auntie Beeb offers up an alternative to boxsets, family rows and hypothermia and we gratefully accept it in the sure and certain hope that it won't be as good as when Morecambe and Wise were around (younger readers may need to wikipedia that).

Now this year, we have a BBC in straightened times. A BBC with huge savings to make, no new home drama on BBC4 and plenty of unpleasant stories about celebrities still to navigate through. Yet after the success of the Dr Who 50th celebrations, we can hold onto some confidence that good stuff is coming our way. However, a quick scan of the holiday day listings didn't fill me with hope. Last Tango in Halifax, Outnumbered, Not Going Out, Strictly, Call the Midwife and worst of all worlds...Len Goodman's Perfect Christmas. If you have young children or are of a nervous disposition, please look away now.
Uncle Len in a cardie telling you about the past, what were they thinking. But beware he also gets a documentary on BBC 4 called "Dance Band Days" which sounds suspiciously like it is Uncle Len telling you about the past (no news on the cardie). Now I am sure most of us have elderly relatives that can fulfil that service on an amateur basis, so it does make you wonder why what's left of the license fee, once we've paid Alan Hansen green fees, is being used for that here.

I suspect though we all know the truth about modern Xmas telly watching. All the best movies are on cable, satellite or download, and we can have them any day of the year. Most of the best programmes are made in America and not shown here, and all the terrestrial channels are scared witless of challenging drama so they'll give us the likes of A Call Centre Christmas instead - which lets face it is every bit as fictional as Toy Story 3 but without the merchandising potential. Or we'll get fiction for all the family like Gangsta Granny which makes David Walliams a richer man whilst warming the cockles of all generations. Or not. Warning: the following image contains David Walliams and is not considered suitable for adults of all ages.imageBut I here you cry, what about all those extra channels, surely there's something on. Well BBC4 gives you lectures on biology, Ballooning over Everest, Simon Sebag Montefiore (who is less fun than his name suggests) and, slightly more interesting, The Fir Tree - a story of a Christmas tree from the tree itself. BBC3 isn't even trying with "specials" for Snog Marry Avoid, Bluestone 42 and Bad Education - can't we all just agree that Jack Whitehall was a mistake, forget him and get on with our lives?

Back to the truth about Xmas telly, it is generally uninspiring and to find the good stuff you need to hunt it out. What is that good stuff? Well, here's our five picks of the BBC's programmes this coming holiday:

1. Doctor Who: The Time of the Doctor - the only crown jewel worth buffing in the BBC's Christmas day schedule. The end of Matt, the end of regenerations and the beginning of the end of....

2. No shit it's Sherlock. Mark Gatiss is charged with resurrecting our favourite consulting detective and kick-starting 2013. We believe in you Mark.

3. Actually, we really believe in you, Mark, as you are in charge of The Tractate Middoth as well. What with your MR James documentary and this time honoured festive adaptation, most of the BBC's success rests on your shoulders.

4. And this time of year wouldn't be right without cynicism about all the merriment and the annual institution that is Charlie Brooker's 2013 Wipe.

5. So is it an updated Roy Clarke comedy, is it a Jane Austen sequel or Mrs Brown's Boys. Oh Lord no, it's The Thirteenth Tale. Christopher Hampton (Dangerous Liaisons, A Dangerous Method) adapts the Gothic novel and Olivia Colman and Vanessa Redgrave star with hopefully spooks aplenty.

There's more to enjoy before Christmas with Chris Chibnall's Great Train Robbery two-parter, but basically that's your lot other than repeats and rubbish. Enjoy.

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