Merry Christmas everybody. A packed schedule today, kicking off with the Top of the Pops Christmas Party. It’s the usual rather rum mixed bag, but there’s entertainment to be found if you dig deep enough.
The second of two All Creatures Great & Small movie-length specials (which bridged the gap between the original series and the revival in 1988) is also on my list. And BBC1 dominates the rest of the evening with Hi-De-Hi!, Only Fools and Horses and The Two Ronnies. That’s quite the line-up ….
Hi-De-Hi! is an hour long special and even though we’re into the post-Fairbrother years (which means that the series has lost a little of its sparkle) it’s still well worth a watch.
The front covers of the Radio Times and TV Times made it plain that the big Christmas battle would be fought by Del Boy and Arthur Daley (both were given today’s prime 7.30 pm slot). In the event Del would win the ratings war and he’s my choice as well – not least because as he’s part of such a strong lineup it would be a shame to switch over (that was always the BBC way – especially on Saturday evenings – if you hook the viewers early then they’ll tend to stick with you).
To Hull and Back was a bit jarring at the time, thanks to the lack of a laughter track and its all-film nature, but it was the first hint that Only Fools wouldn’t always be content with remaining in a thirty minute format.
As happened a few times, The Two Ronnies show at Christmastime was part of a series rather than a one-off special but although the festive quotient is fairly low it still ticks all the boxes that you’d expect. The Two Rhanis (the Rons browned up and essaying broad Indian accents) isn’t their finest moment but the rest of the show is on firmer ground. I especially like the reworking of an earlier WW1 sketch which is a typical example of the Rons’ wordplay.
Over on ITV I’ll be taping Moonraker and Minder on the Orient Express. It’s ironic that when Only Fools & Horses began in 1981 it was compared unfavourably with Minder (especially the wheeler-dealer similarities between Arthur and Del) but five years later you have to concede that the pupil has eclipsed the master.
Minder on the Orient Express is still an excellent way to pass a few hours though – it might be a world away from the gritty tone of the early stories but if the odd outrageous coincidence doesn’t bother you, then I’d just sit back and watch the tip top guest cast do their thing.