Remote Control - TV round-up
Brian Donaldson finds some wonderful political comedy, searing social drama and a man's face down in some broken glass. Just for your festive pleasure.
It may well be set in the Big Smoke and had a working title of ‘London’, but Dominic Savage’s Born Equal (BBC1, Sun 17 Dec, 9pm) explores such universal and painful truths that it would be wrong for it to have been fully metropolised. With Robert Carlyle, Colin Firth and Anne Marie-Duff on excellent form, this tells of a city (world) divided into rich and poor with aspiration pitted against hopelessness. No matter where you are perched on the social ladder, one quirk of fate can render status meaningless, and we are all ultimately headed in the same direction.
With the uncertainty over Chris Langham’s future, it’s unclear quite what direction Armando Iannucci’s The Thick of It (BBC4, Tue 2 Jan, 10.30pm) is headed. But for this one-hour special, they have got round the problem by having Hugh Abbot jet off for a barely-earned break in Oz, leaving even more chaos in his wake. What remains constant is Peter Capaldi getting the best lines while he crops up in calmer mode for the gently comic Haunted Hogmanay (BBC1, Sun 31 Dec, 5.25pm), an animated ghost tale set in the dungeons and vaults of spooky Edinburgh with Taggart’s Alex Norton the voice of a sceptic who gets a rather rude awakening.
Fresh amid a sea of repeated drama spectaculars for the kids are a speechless yet thoroughly Slavic Peter and the Wolf (Channel 4, Sun 24 Dec, 4.30pm) and a barnstorming Wind in the Willows (BBC1, Mon 1 Jan, 6.20pm) with Matt Lucas especially great as a car-obsessed Toad. For the bigger kids, Hopeless Pictures (ITV4, Sun 17 Dec, 12.20am) might remind you in style and tone of Duckman, with its flawed hero a movie producer with nothing but dross spewing from his failed company. It’s surely the only show of the year to have the phrase: ‘Stanley Kubrick was not in a persistent vegetative state.’
Channel 4 might not worry too much about making dramas or animations at this time of year, but it simply adores its modern operas. Man on the Moon (Channel 4, Tue 26 Dec, 3.20pm) is in the same vein as the Diana piece When She Died and the Achille Lauro drama The Death of Klinghoffer, and takes on a similar epochal moment, the lunar space landing. Told from the point of view of Edward ‘Buzz’ Aldrin, it focuses on the detrimental effect the historic project had on the second man on the moon’s life.
Derren Brown: Something Wicked This Way Comes (Channel 4, Fri 29 Dec, 10pm) features the psychological illusionist on cracking form at the Old Vic as he walks on glass before lying down in it (as a volunteer presses Brown’s face into the many shards), sticking a long nail deep into his nose passage and performing feats of mental agility and mass persuasion that leave you gasping for air. He’s the finest show-off in town.
Dracula Marc Warren dons the cape and fangs in this wholly toothless adaptation with a role which is a cross (ha) between Gary Oldman’s Nosferatu and Michael Jackson. A kind of
Wacko Dracko, possibly. BBC1, Thu 28 Dec, 9pm.
Heseltine on Trees Tarzan tackles trunks. Timber!!! Five, Thu 28 Dec, 8pm.
The Worst Christmas of My Life This three-part sitcom probably has the most apt title of the festive period. BBC1, Tue 19, Thu 21, Fri 22 Dec, 9.30pm.
Hogfather There’s a very good reason why filmmakers have baulked at delving into Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. Because they would turn out something like the big fat mess here. And poor Marc Warren is in this, too, doing a Depp Willy Wonka thing while playing a mean assassin. Sky One, Sun 17 & Mon 18 Dec, 8pm.
Hogmanay It’s never really very good, is it? Across the board.