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The TV shows to watch over Christmas

It is not without reason that they call this the silly season. Program guides are tossed out the window and our pantheon of programmers hang their “gone fishing” signs up and head to the surf while the rest of us are left twiddling our dials and trying to work out which channel now owns the cricket and which channel now owns the tennis.

Back in the olden days, happy golden days of yore, when faithful friends who were dear to us, gathered near to us, once more, we could dine on the fine repast of double eggnog and chips and enjoy the Christmas specials that defined our childhoods: the great Rankin Bass specials, and the Peanuts classic, A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Won’t someone tell me the meaning of Christmas, asked Charlie Brown?

Well, to embark on this search we must swim through the smorgasbord known as Australian television’s Christmas week schedule, but plucking out the gems will need the kind of careful tweezing that only the most hirsute among us will understand.

Miracle on 34th Street (Sunday, Fox Classics, 8.30pm) is a properly nostalgic masterwork. And Elizabeth II and Princess Margaret (Christmas Eve, History Channel, 8.30pm) is a gorgeous precursor to The Queen’s Christmas Message (Christmas Day, various channels and times). Once you’ve downed that, with a little Dubbonet on the side in honour of Her Maj, it would be wrong not to knock off a season or two of The Crown (Netflix, on demand).

Which of course brings us to one of the modern day Christmas classics, The Royal Variety Performance (Christmas Day, ABC1, 7.30pm), which comes on a whiff of delay from Britain but features the current rock stars of the Windsor soap opera, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, nee Prince Harry and Markle Sparkle.

As anyone with a private stash of cabochon emeralds would know, there is a pecking order to be found in such company, which is why Harry and Meghan can be found in prime time, while last year’s Royal Variety Performance, featuring those has-beens Wills and Kate has been banished to 1.10am.

If you want something saucier, try the Tattoo Fixer’s Christmas Special (9Go, Christmas Day, 11.40pm), which would not be otherwise of any interest except that it comes with a warning that it contains “some coarse language and nudity”. And frankly, after the kind of Christmas we’re more or less on track to endure, come 11.40pm some coarse language and nudity sounds perfectly appropriate. Not soon enough, I hear you gasp.

For those looking to knit the tapestry of history, try the To The Manor Born Christmas special The First Noel (9Gem, Christmas Eve, 2.45pm), which is a rather pithy little lesson in materialism and the spirit of Christmas. Does Grantleigh need Richard’s grand new retail nativity scene or the rather crappy homemade one from Audrey? That is bookended by the Anniversary Christmas Special (9Gem, Christmas Day, 3.15pm), which picks up the story decades later.

Something more practical? You can’t go past Jabba’s School Holiday Movie Special (Christmas Eve, 7flix, 4pm). And something from Christmas past, the Call the Midwife Christmas Special (Thursday, ABC1, 7.30pm) which is all starched wimples and Nonnatus House naughty antics.

But to answer Charlie Brown’s compelling question we need to glance away from the program schedule and lean deeply into our distant memory. Or the nearest digital download. Traditionally we listened to the gentle advice of Linus van Pelt but in these perilous times perhaps Charlie Brown’s sister Sally offers us something more sensible.

“Dear Santa Claus,” Sally wrote. “How have you been? Did you have a nice summer? How is your wife? I have been extra good this year so I have a long list of presents that I want. Please note the size and colour of each item and send as many as possible. If it seems too complicated make it easy on yourself: just send money. How about tens and twenties?”

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