When I was a child, we always watched the Queen’s Speech at around 3pm on Christmas Day and then the Morecambe and Wise Show in the evening with usually a Beatles film thrown in. In those days, audiences often numbered more than 20 million, especially for people considered to be national institutions.
Well, the Beatles disbanded long ago, Morecambe and Wise are both dead and not so many people watch the Queen’s Speech any more. Nevertheless, there is always a host of televisual delights at this time of year. And with the dreadful British weather in December, the best thing to do is stay by the fire and turn on the box.
Many popular series will broadcast Christmas specials. This year, there will be two episodes of Dr Who – the final ones with David Tennant. I think those are the shows that will pull in the greatest audiences and I can’t wait to see them especially as John Simm will be back as The Master.
Plus there will be a second dose of David Tennant as BBC2 shows him reprising his stage role for a television version of Hamlet. Also starring Patrick Stewart and Juliet Stevenson, this will be must-see TV.
Also high up there in the popularity stakes will the two Christmas specials of the wonderful series Cranford, taken from the books by Elizabeth Gaskell. With Judi Dench, Imelda Staunton and Francesca Annis, we’ll all enjoy the nostalgia and escapism of a tight-knit community in rural 1840s England.
I love a good ghost story at Christmas and last year we had the fantastic Crooked House from writer Mark Gatiss. This year, it’s Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw and it’s certain to raise the hairs on the back of the neck. This adaptation stars Michelle Dockery and Sue Johnston.
For comedy, Catherine Tate is the current favourite (she was also Dr Who’s former assistant) and this year she does a turn as Scrooge. However, I will most be looking forward to the Christmas special of Outnumbered, the improvised show about a middle class family with three young children. It’s laugh-out-loud funny with captivating performances by the children.
We all remember Are You Being Served, that camp comedy in the best tradition of British pantomime. Sadly, Wendy Richard, (Miss Brahms), Mollie Sugden (Mrs Slocombe) and John Inman (Mr Humpries) have all died but Frank Thornton (Captain Peacock) and Trevor Bannister (Mr Lucas) are both still with us and have reunited for a tribute night to be broadcast on New Year’s Day. Obviously, we’ll be free to watch it!
John Hurt made the role of playing famous gay icon Quentin Crisp his own in seminal drama The Naked Civil Servant shown back in 1975. He will reprise that role in An Englishman In New York depicting the time Crisp, aged 72, went to live in the Big Apple and enjoy the so-called champagne and peanuts circuit. An odd and brave thing to do at such an advanced age, Hurt will want to recreate the man who was such a mix of intelligence, humour and courage.
Let’s finish with another national institution – Agatha Christie’s Poirot. The Christmas special Appointment with Death was filmed outside the city of Casablanca and, of course, stars David Suchet who has been playing the Belgian detective for 20 years. Also starring Tim Curry and John Hannah, we know there will be comfort and joy sitting down to a little old-time murder for the festive season.