The misanthrope’s advent calendar – day 5

by Pseud O'Nym

One of the things I hate about Christmas – and there are many – is the way in which television over the Christmas period has become so unutterably bad, it’s almost as if the commercial broadcasters have given up. It was never like this when I was a boy; I’d flick through the Christmas Radio Times, marker pen expectantly hovering over the page to circle things I’d want to watch. Everyone in my family did, knowing even as we did so, we’d never watch most of them. The main thing was to optimistically imagine that you might, until unexpected visitors and dutiful visits got in the way. Even now I can fondly recall buying packs of three-hour blank videotapes because there was just so much good stuff on. It was as if they’d been holding back the good stuff – rather like a host serving cheap wine until the liggers and relatives they never see have gone and then gets the good stuff out. And quite often BBC2 would show a season of films, over consecutive nights featuring a body of work by an actor or director. One year they did a season of Basil Rathbone’s ‘Sherlock Holmes’ films, another they did a season of Billy Wilder films. And let us not forget the Christmas specials!

But that, alas was long ago in my youth, when the christmas Radio Times was thinner on account of there being only four channels. That was when we had the Christmas edition of ‘Top of the Pops on at 2pm on BBC1 on christmas day, before a Bond film at 3.10 over on ITV!

That was before satellite television and the opening up of the market, to give us, the viewer, even more choice. My annual christmas ITV rant, is I like to think – but those who hear it may not agree – a considered yet restrained critique of ITV and other broadcasters who lay in the pages beyond the listings for big four (and Channel 5). One of my themes is that as advertising revenues have become so diffused – many more get a slice of a shrinking pie – less money is spent on original programming. Look at ITV’s line up for Christmas day. It’s almost as if they’re in cahoots with Amazon Prime, Netflix, and oh dear, don’t get me started…!