There’s a captive audience for Christmastime telly. All your family, together in one place? Better switch on the TV and diffuse those tensions! There’s always a bumper crop of movies, but the staple of seasonal British TV viewing is the Christmas special.
Christmas specials are new episodes of TV shows that are aired during Christmas and as such aren’t part of the show’s regular season. Hence, specials. They aren’t necessarily fuzzy, feel-good stories either. Doctor Who in particular often takes joy in killing (sorry, exterminating) lots of characters in its Christmas specials, but this year might be a little different, judging by the synopsis released today:
The Doctor and Clara face their Last Christmas. Trapped on an Arctic base, under attack from terrifying creatures, who are you going to call? Santa Claus!
And if you’re part of the minuscule percentage of the population that aren’t Sherlock fans, you might’ve missed the furore yesterday over the release of a new promo picture. Aside from the temporarily missing body part, the picture is purportedly from the Sherlock Christmas special.
It’s hard enough anticipating something as big as Christmas. How hard must it be for you to want it to be over with so you can move on to the next one? But, as they love to remind us, Sherlock fans are used to waiting, so I’m sure they won’t mind waiting a little longer.
England has the best shopping in the world. Not for nothing did Napoleon call the English “a nation of shopkeepers.” Some people might put in a word for Galeries Lafayette or Macy’s but for luxury, diversity of choice, and rampant consumerism all in one immaculate package, London’s department stores are the place to be. There are even TV shows about them.
Christmas, as I’ve mentioned before, is the biggest shopping event of the year. British department stores, especially the flagship stores in London, push to extremes to have the best window displays each Christmas.
Creative Review has a look at the best department store Christmas windows. Naturally, the British stores top the list.
If you can’t get to Oxford Street between now and December 24th, here’s a taste of what you’re missing:
One of the best things about living in the UK is the comedy. As long as you’re on board with sarcasm and a certain pessimistic (or realistic, depending who you ask) outlook on things, British comedy is the best. No matter what kind of TV you like, there’s a comedy show for you, from awkward school sitcoms like Bad Education to the character-driven ridiculousness of Fawlty Towers to sci-fi/horror spoofs like Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace. Despite the huge amount of choice, most people can agree that one of the best comedy sitcoms is about three priests living on a rural island off the coast of Ireland.
Despite having first aired almost ten years ago, Father Ted is still hilarious. The eponymous Father Ted is the only relatively sane character; he lives with Father Dougal, who is incredibly dim, and Father Jack, a dirty old man who is constantly drunk on whatever he can find.
They also have a housekeeper, Mrs. Doyle, whose mission in life is to make as much tea for as many people as possible. The three priests are pretty much the worst priests anywhere, and were exiled to Craggy Island so as not to further embarrass the church. They still manage to get into scrapes, of course, and there are lots of jokes at the expense of the Catholic Church, rural living, and the British way of life.
Even if you don’t get all the cultural references, the show is definitely worth watching.
There are a lot of weird things about British TV (telly!), but one that I find particularly weird is the ubiquity of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. It seems like it’s on almost all the time, or is on at the times of day when I happen to be flipping channels. But do Brits actually watch it?
That’s from a few years ago on The Graham Norton Show, a late-night talk show. Will even came back last year and did it again, this time with his son Jaden, DJ Jazzy Jeff, and Alfonso Ribeiro. And people still know all the words.
Don’t get me wrong, I love how popular American TV shows are over here. But if I could pick one show to be on whenever I turn on the TV, the show that always makes it feel like home, it would have to be The Nanny.
I’m showing my age now. I openly love this show; it never was a guilty pleasure for me, even though a lot of people find Fran Drescher’s voice incredibly grating, and the American actor playing the butler does an unnecessarily plummy English accent. I’ve never seen it on UK TV and I don’t think I ever will, although one channel recently started airing Due South, one of the best shows of all time, from the beginning, so there’s hope. But luckily for me, I don’t have to wait. Some thoughtful soul has performed the selfless task of putting The Nanny on Youtube.
Now if I could only find decent bagels, I’d be set.
Michelle Gomez was amazing in her recent turn as the Master in the Doctor Who finale. To me, though, the best is still her character Sue White on Green Wing, the funniest hospital sitcom ever made.