Christmas Comedy

You might not believe it but Britain is unique. In countries like Australia and America networks don’t believe there’s an audience plonked in front of their TV’s over the festive period so the schedules don’t ever change over Christmas. So as you flipped through your Christmas telly magazines over Christmas tutting at all the repeats or lack of innovative programming think again. Of course this year’s unbelievable weather made us all more of a captive audience than normal.

For me, it was the comedy that made Christmas this year. It’s likely you missed the first ever Christmassy special of Channel 4’s Peep Show as the rating figures showed there was a surprising lack of interest. The first half of this seventh series has been below par and disappointing for any true Peep Show fan but the most recent fifth episode which saw Jermey and Mark spend Christmas with Mark’s family for me redeemed the entire series. The episode’s only flaw was that it finished too soon and I longed to stay and see what happened after Mark’s father had left to cook some “traditional Christmas cauliflower”. The episode was so wonderfully awkard and uncomfortable which we don’t see enough on the box at Christmas. Channel 4 have recently ordered two more series so I hope for more Christmas lunches with Jez and Mark in the future.

Thanks to the sheer silliness of its last two Christmas outings I had lowered my expectations considerably for the latest episode of The Royle Family. What was once an all to real down to earth comedy about a normal family slomped in front of their TV had more recently become a caricature of its former self with characters sharing baths with frozen turkeys in 2008’s The New Sofa and an all too vivid image of Jim Royle on a cramped toilet in a caravan in last year’s Golden Eggcup. The series had seemed to have lost the realism and down to earth humour that I’d come to expect from the Royles so when the newest special began on Christmas night was more than cautious about what might happen next. However right from the first scene with Jim’s swollen toe perched carefully on a tin of Cadbury’s Roses I could tell this episode was different. The programme had returned to its roots. The Royles were back where they belong at home in front of the TV! Perhaps the low expectations helped but I can honestly say I was thoroughly immersed in the episodes and loved virtually every second. Just like Peep Show this festive romp made up for 2 specials that let me down as a long time fan and just like Peep Show I didn’t want it to end.

It had seemed like writers Caroline Aherne, Craig Cash and Phil Mealey had struggled to remember who the characters were and had lost the essence of what made the original series so unmissable in the previous specials but here everyone was present and correct. It was simple, uncomplicated humour reminding me of the series in its hayday and like Peep Show the show has once again proved how brilliant it can be. The scene where the ashes of next-door neighbour Mary ended up in Barbara’s new Dyson was wonderful and it made me laugh out loud consistently. Of course a comedy should make you laugh out loud but its becoming more and more rare these days that you actually get passed raising a smile at a comedy. The BBC have yet to announce whether they will order another festive visit to the Royles but I for one can’t wait if they can keep up that standard I’d be happy to wait 365 days for my next installment.

Check in Girls at work.

This could be sacrilege but I never really got into Little Britain. I could see the appeal but never really raised anymore than a titter. It was full of catchphrases and the audience always knew what to expect. It was one of those TV phenomenon’s that refused to sweep me up. That being said I have great respect for Matt Lucas and David Walliams and what they’ve managed to achieve so I was interested in and slightly looking forward to their new spoof series Come Fly With Me. The start was promising every ingredient you’d expect from a spoof airport series where there by which I mean the narrator, people forgetting (and finding) their passports and people being unnecessarily patted down by a security worker who happily cupped the testicles of unsuspecting and surprisingly unbothered passengers. The Thing was though that I couldn’t help but think this was an outdated idea. Its been nearly six years since Airport finished on the Beeb and perhaps if this had been on there I’d find have found it funnier. Sadly though I felt I’d seen it before. The spoof documentary format has been done to death but if its done well like in The Office or the underrated BBC2 series “People Like Us” then it work brilliantly but in the case of Come Fly with Me nothing was innovative or interesting and although it won’t be a chore to stick with the series for the remaining episodes I’m not expecting big things. I must however stick up for Lucas and Walliams who have had some stick in the press about the series being racist. What! That is ridiculous its not even close to the possible offeenisve level of Little Britain so get off your high horses folks and stuff your face with another turkey sandwich!

The most unlikely of moving specials.

There were some Christmas comedies that passed me by such as Ronnie Corbett’s first solo special and despite hearing great things about the first ever misfits Christmas special I’ve yet to see that either. The last Christmas special I did was set in a very sunny place. ITV’s only real comedy Benidorm returned this Christmas and although the series is nearly always slated by the critics I’ve always found it quite enjoyable. Its no classic but its funny and I like it so there! The premise was a really stretched this time (I never really believed that our familiar faces would return to the holiday destnaition for the festive season but hey ho) but a dark cloud loomed over this special before the opening titles rolled. Earlier this year the cast lost veteran actor Geoffrey Hutchings who was a huge part of series 3 so how was Derren Litten going to work this lost into the story? As it turned out it managed to be the one thing you’d never expect or even imagine about the series.. It managed to be surprisingly moving. Mel was taken ill whilst on a business trip and died away from his family so when the phone call came alongside a surprise appearance from Roy Wood I was surprisingly upset. The story before that wasn’t exactly comedy gold but by that time of the evening on Boxing Day I was so full of turkey, stuffing and copious amounts of After eights and chocolate coins I would’ve struggled to laugh anyway. The guest appearance from Su Pollard was entertaining enough but the appearance from Christmas elf Louis Spence was completely unnecessary and served only to annoy me.

It was a good Christmas for comedy so much so that I’ve already pre-ordered the latest Royle episode on DVD and it does show that comedy can still be funny. I’ll stick with Come Fly with me though I’m not expecting much and I’ll perhaps have to see whether the One Ronnie can make me laugh but on the whole I had a Merry comedy Christmas.

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