Christmas TV Highlights

Toast, the story of Nigel Slater, was so full of ideas it grew too big for the small screen. It reminded me of one of those pan-European movies that explore dark psychological themes, except that it was the conservative BBC. In Toast’s case, food, a rich but dysfunctional father, the death of his inept but functional mother and the arrival of a manipulative step-mother might have occupied Kieslowski for ten three hour epics. As it was the Beeb decided to wheel out its twentieth century wardrobe — mud coloured tank tops and Brylcreem —and they serendipitously made a masterpiece.  It was impossible to tell whether it was 1935 or 1975, but then the Beeb think we all dress like that in the provinces now. Toast was fantastic. Compulsive Christmas viewing despite the Wallace and Gromit aspect of Slater as Gromit, his father as Wallace, and Helena Bonham Carter playing the penguin. The politics of food is hot stuff. This story might make the big screen yet. I hope so.

The Royle family, Joe’s Crackers. The Christmas special once again reminded me of The Dead by Joyce, the successful soon to be married son, the sentimental old fool who sings, the burdened dinner table,  the claustrophobic setting, and ultimately a sense that the past is dominating the future, which is limited anyway. Anti-Romantic but not modernist. Sentimental but not mawkish. Sad but oh so true. “Tough job being a nurse. When someone’s going to die, do you tell them or leave it as a surprise?”

Bottom of the pile was the dreadful Come Fly With Me which was ill-conceived rubbish. I can only imagine they didn’t have two male married pilots flying for the airline because the beeb grew fearful of offending conservatives on Christmas Day, but it would have lightened the payload tremendously. No such fears prevented Matt Lucas blacking up and presenting the most ghastly stereotypical character I’ve ever seen since The Black and White Minstrel show was ended. It was a shocker. Didn’t leave the runway, etc…

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