Happy 2016 everyone! As we stumble outside and face the grey drizzly dawn of another new year let’s enjoy a round-up of the best and worst telly from the past two weeks. If we concentrate really hard maybe we can still pretend we’re comatose on the sofa in a Batman onesie surrounded by Quality Street wrappers and fighting about whose turn it is to put the kettle on. Ah, happier times.
So in no particular order…
We’re Doomed! The Dad’s Army Story (BBC2)
Lovely looking comedy drama – very swinging 60s, very yeah baby – but I was expecting to learn a lot more about the beloved show. The focus was almost entirely on the bromantic writing process, like they ran out of time to discuss the actors, their relationships or how the show developed during filming. If they’d had an extra 30 minutes this could have been great, like BBC4 did for Monty Python in Holy Flying Circus. Watching the theme tune being recorded by a total geezer with such confidence in one take was lovely.
It seems no one liked this, apart from me. It was messy, frantic and confused (I’m not sure Sherlock should be allowed to borrow the Tardis again), but despite this I loved it. The cleverness and the silliness, the bizarre deus ex machina and the strange, sometimes strained, relationship between Sherlock and Dr Watson is all there in the original books. I’ve no idea who thought making the KKK (who were the baddies in The Five Orange Pips that this was very loosley based on) into feminists would be a good idea. Even the much derided Steven Moffat would have paused for thought on this one, right? Never mind. Still good.
It seems everyone liked this, apart from me. A brave and clever adaptation from former Eastenders scriptwriter Tony Jordan. When you think about it a regular serial with a large and varied cast living as near neighbours in London is a Venn diagram that Eastenders and Dickens fits into nicely. I’ve only read two Dickens novels (A Christmas Carol and Bleak House, in case you were wondering) so I couldn’t play character spotting (that satisfied ‘a-ha!’ when you work out who someone is) or place them in any context. So I wasn’t entertained by seeing them out of context. And I know Dickens famously goes on a bit, but 20 episodes?! That’s too much for me.
Stick Man (BBC1)
Julia Donaldson’s most terrifying picture book (The Gruffalo is a walk in the park by comparison) adapted for tv, and for your nightmares. I had no idea picture books were this scary. Martin Freeman’s Stick Man is separated from his family for a full year, and survives seemingly endless horrors on his long and distressing journey to be reunited with them. It was like an animated version of 12 months in the life of a Syrian refugee. Absolutely horrific!
A Grand Night In: The Story of Aardman (BBC1)
This is more like it. A really interesting documentary celebrating 40 years of Bristol’s Aardman Animation studios from their early beginnings in 1976 with Morph, through the Oscar winning successes of Nick Park’s Wallace and Gromit, and the forays off into big-budget Hollywood films with Chicken Run and The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! It was a gentle and kindly look at a great British institution filled with proper adorable eccentrics, devoted to their pain-staking jobs. Turns out it’s not the clay models who are the real superstars.
A Gert Lush Christmas (BBC2)
Russell Howard is a long way from my favourite stand-up comedian, but he does a great job with well-polished satire on BBC3. A lot of comics make the leap from stand-up to their own series, so I was interested enough to give his family Christmas in the West Country a try. But it didn’t make me laugh once in the first 15 minutes so I turned it off. This was despite Russell’s real sister – the magnificent Kerry Howard from Him & Her – turning up as his screen sister, and Neil Morrissey as his Dad. If they couldn’t help it work, no one can. Unwatchable.
Downton Abbey (ITV)
Downton’s finale did feel very Christmassy – the family and staff reunited and patching over their long-standing grudges, while the viewer tries to guess which one will die in a car accident this time. So festive! Especially because the unexpected twist was no one died! Lord Grantham didn’t cough up blood all over the turkey. Bates and Anna finally had a baby. And even Lady Forgettable-Middle-Sister found a happy ending with a guy who seemed to be a very dull version of Bertie Worcester. I’ve been a loyal viewer for so long (so very, very long) that it was with squishy, weepy and slightly mixed emotions that I finally said goodbye. But the overriding feeling was that of relief that finally it’s all over.
So that’s it. Normal service has been resumed. Take the decorations down and shove them in a box ready for next year. But before you go, can you manage one more teeeny leetle chocolate?