What was good about it?
• Jim dunking After Eights into his mug of tea while slagging off Jamie Oliver (“Olive oil, my ass”) and failing to dredge up any festive spirit.
• Denise’s parenting skills are still eye-raisingly poor. Little David’s selection box was polished off for his parents’ tea and the kids were bundled off to Uncle Antony’s. “It’s not a day for kids, Christmas, is it?”
• Denise’s cookery skills are still gut-wretchingly poor. She has to ask her mother to write down the recipe for Oxo gravy; Christmas meal will begin with “Cup-a-Soup with a twist – it’s going to be in a bowl”; the carrots going into her signature dish, Carrot Crush, go unwashed; and a banana is tossed into the punch to make it look tropical.
• Our favourite exchange: Barbara – “He showed me a picture of his new baby on his mobile phone.” Denise – “What was it?” Barbara – “A boy.” Denise: “Not the baby, the mobile phone!”
• Jim’s meanness has not diminished. After rubbishing Barbara’s present – socks with the days of the week embroidered into them – he tells her that her present is still hanging in Matalan.
• There’s probably never been a Christmas sitcom episode without the unthawed turkey disaster. We were disappointed that the writers failed to avoid the cliché – until they played it out brilliantly. The solid bird ended up in the bubbly bath (providing a shelf for Dave’s shaving mirror), under a sun lamp, beside the fire, kicked around the lounge (“Don’t just dribble it, Dave, boot it”); and in the airing cupboard wrapped in a Manchester City shirt before being butchered by a variety of Dave’s tools in the kitchen.
• The table (“Dave’s bloody paste table!”) laid out for Christmas dinner was a work of art, with sauce bottles, a full ashtray and place names joined by Dave’s swans fashioned ineptly from napkins.
• Denise reading out the itinerary for the day: “First of all, we’re doing mingling accompanied by Tropical Punch…”
• “Come on, Jim. Go and have a recline.” Only Jim fails to be excited by the new “flame retarded” sofa which has a lever to make it go horizontal (“It reminds me of lying down”).
• Barbara’s excitement at the simplest thing makes her so lovable. Even Jim can’t dim her brightness. It was nice to see her joy when Denise revealed her plans for pudding: “I’m just going to go down the traditional Christmas route.” “Ooh,” Barbara gleefully responded. “Wall’s Viennetta.”
• Nana remembered in a Christmas tree bauble.
What was bad about it?
• The script could have been edited more tightly, getting rid of jokes such as the peas/peace confusion and cutting out some of the mundane conversations (eg the Hitler’s ball chatter and excrement in the exhaust pipe hooha).
• The laziness and lack of education displayed by Dave and Denise is funny – but it was pushed too far some of the time, beyond the point of endearing, making us feel we were laughing at the mentally ill.
• Dave’s parents, Dave Senior and Jocelyn (Tom Courtenay and Helen Fraser) didn’t have the usual Royle Family stamp of carefully drawn authenticity. Instead, they are run-of-the-mill, over-the-top sitcom characters who wouldn’t be out of place in My Family, with their middle class preoccupations (parallel parking and bowels) and ability to bore for Britain (“The soup is super. I’ve used that line at several social occasions. It always gets a laugh.). Dave Senior was unwelcome here as he would be in the real world.
• Twiggy showing up.
• There was no Antony, or Cheryl, or Mary and Joe.