A catch-up Christmas

Think Christmas, think tradition. Breaking with my own tradition, I went away for the festive period this year, but thank St Nicholas for ‘catch up’ as I’ve now done exactly that (and the following programmes will probably be on catch up for some time though, should they have passed you by).

Mary Poppins is a Christmas, and anytime, family favourite film,with innovative special effects for its day (1964) and featuring some of Robert and Richard Sherman’s most supercalifragilistic songs. Saving Mr Banks (2013, BBC1), with Emma Thompson as Mary Poppins’ abrasive creator P L Travers and Tom Hanks as a charming yet steely Walt Disney, is a tearful treat. The poignant scenes of Travers’ early upbringing suggest the reasons behind her treatment of the mighty Disney corporation in the early 60s, both periods beautifully evoked with stunning cinematography. A very well-structured piece of storytelling, and absorbing performances by the whole cast.

In the 1970s and early ‘80s (or the late ‘no catch up or video recorder period’), settling down to watch the Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show was as traditional (and satisfying) as Mum’s mince pies and a frothy Snowball. Miranda: Morecambe and Wise and Me (ITV) appears to have been compiled for those fed purely on a diet of ‘gifs’, devoid of time to appreciate the craft of two highly-skilled performers. Miranda Hart did her best as presenter and comedy lynchpin of a programme billed as ‘the top 20 greatest TV moments as voted by comedy actors and comedians’. ‘Moments’ is an apt choice of words, with short bursts of juicy comedy constantly interrupted by various ‘comedians’ declaring in cutaways that ‘this sketch is really funny’. Um, no shit, Sherlock (more of that later).

A handful of insightful comments came courtesy of Barry Cryer, Angela Rippon, Lionel Blair and Michael Grade – they knew them, they were there – but the viewer is left with a teasing glimpse of great comedy, ineptly ruined by which ever current comedy actor (and Jonathan Ross) ITV could get in front of the camera. Lovable as she is, Miranda’s predictable and painful skits between sketches serve only to rub in why her name should never have been put ahead of two of comedy’s colossal talents. I think the best sketch won in the end, but I would recommend purchasing a ‘best of’ DVD to see them all in full rather than enduring this hatchet-job.

Disappointed, I turned to the Brontës. To Walk Invisible (BBC1) highlights the turbulent and tragic story of the Brontë siblings – Charlotte, Anne, Emily and Branwell – with the three sisters’ fiery imaginations still burning bright in our literature. They and their troubled brother did not have an easy ride, however, and this drama did not shy away from the cruel side to Victorian life. Not cheerful, but brutal and brilliant.

So, to Sherlock. Since the last series ended, Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman have each trod the boards as Shakespearean kings (Hamlet, Richard III). New Year’s Day marked the return of the kings of crime detection to TV with episode 1 of series 4, ‘The Six Thatchers’ (BBC1). However, the Watson and Sherlock bromance is under strain, cries of ‘such gaping plot-holes’, ‘such increasingly absurd cliffhangers’, and ‘such hype’ surround the whole Sherlock franchise.

Every year I watch this show, determined to fathom what makes it tick. But the same thing always happens, and again in 2017: I fell asleep (this time after a new personal best of 14 minutes). There’s always catch up I suppose …

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