Naomi Adam

Christmas Television Catch-up: the Crackers (and the Turkeys!).

The best of festive television still available to stream and download.

Is your new year’s resolution to watch more top-calibre telly? Then shelve the study notes (for the time being), settle down on the sofa with your favourite brew, and enjoy some well-deserved downtime. Feast your eyes but not your belly- the perfect way to circumvent the New Year’s diet regime, right?

The ABC Murders.

B.B.C. One, available on B.B.C. iPlayer.

Three-part adaptation of Christie’s murder mystery, with a sprinkling of magic courtesy of an appearance from Rupert ‘Ron Weasley’ Grint. Instead of following the spiders (or the butterflies) though, he and super-sleuth Poirot are on the trail of an elusive assassin with an alliterative bent. John Malkovitch makes an excellent debut as the detective, officially Belgium’s best export after Guylian. This is aided by the nuanced script of serial Agatha-adapter Sally Phelps, who provides a detailed backstory for Poirot not given in the book. We also feel for him as a seemingly unwelcome immigrant; prescient in this post-Brexit climate are the undertones of fascist and xenophobic attitudes in 1930s London. It is at times though, as one character aptly puts it, a little too ‘spectacularly grisly.’

4.5/ 5.  (Basteful adaptation.)

The Great Festive Bake Off.

Channel 4, available on All 4.

Judges Prue and Paul are joined by the cakily-clueless, kooky duo that is Sandi and the (aptly-named) Noel, alongside some familiar faces of Bake Off yore. These include Liam, and, more pout than sprout, the indomitable Candice. Challenges include a baked incarnation of a New Year’s resolution, prompting stress levels to rise just as much as the cakes. Ambitious feats of sponge nevertheless prove spectac-yule-ar. The cherry on top is a performance by the London Gay Men’s Choir.

4.5/ 5.  (Sweet giblets.)

Les Miserables.

B.B.C. One, available on B.B.C. iPlayer.

Can you hear the people sing, Singing the songs of angry men? Mercifully, no, for this new, lavish, six- part historical epic (of which two parts have aired thus far) is musicless, merci beaucoup. Instead, it follows more faithfully the vision of Hugo’s original novel, eschewing songs in favour of a focus on the backstories of protagonists Fantine and Jean Valjean (student no. 24601). It is clear no expense has been spared in this adaptation of the classic tale of love and loss among the French barricades of the nineteenth century. Productive screenwriter and octogenarian Andrew Davies pushes past his one hundreth production in penning the script. Lead actors Dominic West and Lily Collins transition from silver to small screen with aplomb. Sets are impressive and immersive, pacing en point– six hours finally an adequate canvas for a mammoth novel- with props and costume lavish (at least for those characters with a franc to spare). It appears, for Les Miserables, songless is strongest.

5/ 5.  (Crowning highlight.)

Strictly Come Dancing: The Christmas Special.

B.B.C. One, available on iPlayer.

Peopled by the ghosts (I mean contestants) of Strictly’s past, and presided over by a judging panel including both an authentic and a pantomime dame, this is the expected festive glitz fest. There is also a fun-spirited group routine with clever graphics, and the spectacle of host Tess Daly attempting to dance without revealing she is secretly a marionette. Quite undoubtedly, though, the highlight is seeing, in a dress and heels, Anton(ia) du Beke. Keep farcing!

[Warning: Contains more cheese than the average festive smorgasbord.]

3/ 5.  (Enturktaining.)

Travel Man: 96 Hours in Jordan.

Channel 4, available on All 4.

For the festive special, Richard Ayoade enlists David Baddiel as his comic foil on a trip to Jordan. A bumper episode, it provides ample airtime for the host’s sardonic comments and suave fedora and ’fro combo. (Although we should pity him as a man usually averse to even the 48-hour variety of mini-break.) In this minimally-longer-therefore-not-quite-as mini-break, the couple ride camels, marvel at their ability to float, and generally reconnoitre in the desert with far too many layers on. Modern wonder of the world, the desert fortress Petra, does look stunning, as the guys attest, but aside from that there is little to entice the viewer beyond the Easy Jet destination list. Worth watching, for, if nothing else, tallying up how many alliterative phrases Ayoade can cram into a single episode.

3.5/ 5.  (A must-see on the gobblebox.)

The Big Fat Quiz of the Year.

Channel 4, available on All 4.

Hosted by Jimmy Carr (or whichever ventriloquist he is being controlled by) the annual televised pub quiz also features human crow Noel Fielding, flossing a la broadcaster and Liverpool alumni Jon Snow, and topics ranging from pop to politics. Grab a pen and some mates and test your own knowledge of all things 2018. One neglected question, though: will panellist Claudia Winkleman be able to see past her fringe to answer any questions? Watch and find out…

4/ 5.  (Tur- tally anarchic.)

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