Ahh Christmas. For most people it is a time for family fun and love to all men. For me it is a tumultuous trudge from one pint of Guinness to the next as I struggle with ongoing weight issues, shitloads of Christmas films and desperately trying not to ruin the festive season for my loved ones. Thank God there is some respite in the form of the wonderful Christmas TV schedule. Here is the best Christmas TV of 2016.
Inside No. 9 – The Devil of Christmas (BBC)
Surprisingly, I have never had the opportunity to write about messrs Shearsmith and Pemberton but I have loved everything they have done from The League of Gentlemen to Psychoville and culminating in Inside No 9.
For the uninitiated, Inside No 9 features different self contained stories that all take place in different houses that share the number 9. They range from the hilarious to the grotesque to the downright bizarre but the one guarantee is a seal of quality.
The Devil of Christmas was no different, featuring a beautiful vintage look, excellent performances and a trademark Inside No 9 twist. If you are looking for something different to the usual festive viewing then brush aside the cobwebs, take a deep breath and open the door to The Devil of Christmas.
Ethel and Ernest (BBC)
Christmas TV is always awash with trite sentimentality but there are gems to be unearthed beneath the John Lewis adverts and shit Christmas songs. Ethel and Ernest is based on the graphic novel penned by Raymond Briggs; creator of The Snowman and it shares the family feel of that Christmas classic.
This love letter to Briggs’ parents paints a detailed picture of a lifelong relationship that withstands death, war and art college. Briggs has reproduced his childhood in such an effective way that it will resonate with anyone who has grown up in Britain. I bawled my eyes out. Essential viewing.
To Walk Invisible (BBC)
Sally Wainwright’s portrayal of The Brontë Sisters rise to fame and acclaim was perfectly timed for me as I had just finished reading Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. Wainwright is obviously an authority on the Brontë family and it is refreshing to see a period drama showing intelligent, young women speaking in the Northern accent that a barely middle class family from West Yorkshire would have used.
Aside from the writing, the acting is absolutely wonderful, with Chloe Pirrie giving one of the year’s best performances as Emily Brontë. That is not to say the rest of her on screen brood are misrepresented however. Finn Atkins is almost as good as Charlotte and the rest of the family are brought to life beautifully as well.
To Walk Invisible is perhaps not for everyone but I would recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in The Brontë family.
The Last Dragonslayer (SKY)
An original Sky 1 production is not normally something that I would bother with as they are often, for want of a better word, shit. The Last Dragonslayer piqued my interest however and I wasn’t disappointed.
An impressive cast featuring Ricky Tomlinson, Matt Berry and Andrew Buchan among others, bring to life a popular fantasy book that is unique in combining dragons and magic with modern day distractions such as PR and marketing.
In terms of solid, family entertainment you can’t go far wrong with The Last Dragonslayer.
Charlie Brooker’s Yearly Wipe (BBC)
Charlie Brooker has had a busy year what with Black Mirror making the transition to Netflix but luckily the human race has gone absolutely fucking mental so he had no shortage of material for his annual take down of politics and current events.
The 2016 wipe might just be the best yet and fair play to Brooker for managing to squeeze some humour out of a terrible year. For further Charlie Brooker related Christmas fun, seek out Cunk on Christmas. A moment of wonder indeed.
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt (C4)
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt comes from the makers of that other festive barrel of laughs The Snowman and like that beloved children’s tale, it is a bleak, existentialist commentary on alienation, pain and loss. Hold me.
It’s so middle class that I expected the bear hunt to emerge into Waitrose at one point but the animation is beautiful and anything featuring Olivia Colman is surely worth watching. Just don’t expect to feel anything other than a shuddering emptiness as the credits roll…
And that is that. I also quite enjoyed the return of Sherlock and I haven’t got round to Bruce Springsteen: In His Own Words yet, so this isn’t totally comprehensive, but I am only one man. Although I ate the portions of at least three other men over the Christmas period.