What to watch this Christmas: TV highlights
- Brian Donaldson
- 13 December 2011
Little Crackers, Great Expectations, Hacks and True Stories: Sarah Palin among the top TV Xmas picks
When it comes to Christmas television traditions, you could rely on a Morecambe & Wise special, The Great Escape on Boxing Day and trying to guess who would fall asleep first at HM’s shrill message-sending. It may have some way to go to be considered a yuletide staple, but now in its second year, Little Crackers (Sky One, Sun 18–Fri 23 Dec, 9pm) looks like it might have some staying power.
For those who missed them last December, a comedian and/or actor scripts a heart-warming tale which usually involves writing about themselves as kids and appearing on screen as an adult (occasionally playing their own parent which must be a little creepy). Those of you (OK, us) who found the John Lewis advert a tear-jerker for at least the first 15 times have got no chance here. Among those involved are Jane Horrocks, Johnny Vegas, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Jack Whitehall, Sheridan Smith and Harry Hill.
Horrocks, meanwhile, reprises her most famous role (unless you’re a stout devotee of Fifi and the Flowertots) as ditzy Bubble in Absolutely Fabulous (BBC One, Sun 25 Dec, 10pm), now returning for three episodes. While the champers-hippie PR schtick of Edina and Patsy will never appeal to anyone who couldn’t be bothered with it first time around, the first episode strikes gold thanks to an unexpected plot development and a rather wonderful sequence referencing the BBC’s sleeper hit of 2010.
The Dickens onslaught for his bicentenary won’t leave many muttering ‘I want some more’ by the end of 2012, but Great Expectations (BBC One, Tue 27–Thu 29 Dec, 9pm) is a genuine feast for the eyes. Shot through with a Scandic-crime grey and populated by tormented zombies and ogres (see Gillian Anderson’s Miss Havisham for the former and Ray Winstone’s Magwitch as the latter), it might not quite match the Beeb’s 1999 version by Tony Marchant and Julian Jarrold, but it’s still absolutely fabulous.
Unfortunately, Santa could only bring us six minutes of a teaser clip for Hacks (Channel 4, Sun 1 Jan, 9pm), the first comedy-drama to be made about the phone-tapping scandal that brought down the News of the World (renamed here as the Sunday Comet). From the 360 seconds available, it looks like writer Guy Jenkin has revisited his Jeffrey Archer: The Truth from 2002 for its tone, with some over-exaggerated characterisations of real figures (remember the flirtatious Margaret Thatcher? Yuck). So, we have a tactless Aussie press baron, his American son and Chinese-US wife, a ruthless Rebekah Wade type played by Claire Foy and a wannabe PM called David Bullingdon. Subtle it is not.
Throughout his career Nick Broomfield has not always shown a light hand on the documentary-making tiller by bashing around with huge headphones around his ears and bulky boom clutched in his hand. He’s off to snowy old Alaska to chase his latest prey in True Stories: Sarah Palin – You Betcha! (More4, Tue 27 Dec, 10pm) which involves a lot of slipping, sliding and skating on thin ice. Quite a metaphor that, as Palin comes across as a politician who cannot be trusted, even by those individuals who have built up a relationship with her over decades. At first Broomfield’s film comes across like a Tea Party recruitment ad as he gently probes those still within her circle (including mom and pop) but soon we hear all about her bigoted, dumbed-down ‘pitbull with lipstick’ ways. It might seem like shooting fish in a really cold barrel but Broomfield is difficult to take your ears and eyes off especially when you know he might fall over at any second.