Due to a lack of new programmes for grown ups I was forced into the TV land of ‘family entertainment’ this Christmas. It was all very strange, but frankly – I think I might have got a better deal here than with the programmes that should have been more to my taste! Especially given the dire lack of new programmes more to my taste…
I started with a film. Normally I avoid anything involving small children, especially those that do ‘cute’ and are used shamelessly to draw a tear or six from the sherry soaked watchers. However, Nativity had good reviews, good director, good cast and I’d done with Xmas prep and needed a feet up treat.
Adding to the pleasure was Jason Watkins, a favourite actor, who provided a great contrasting character to Martin Freeman’s inept, depressive primary teacher who was – of course – redeemed through children’s cuteness and the prospect of regaining a long-lost love (yes I’m a such a cynic…) JW’s Gordon Shakespeare was nasty, clever, just a touch camp and with the addition of a glimpse of green tights and the ability to walk on his hands… well, what’s not to like? (OK. It might have been a double but leave me some illusions) (I do mean the handstand not the tights by the way…)
Mind you, school Nativity plays weren’t like that in my day! Where were the tea towel head dresses and the costumes made entirely out of crepe paper with a touch of tinfoil? The wonky tinsel and wire coat hanger halos? My disbelief was suspended almost as high as the death slide Gabriel. And did no one actually miss the two random children dragged off to Hollywood to do Brit-cuteness in the sunshine?
It all ended happily, weeping abounded (the next show may need to be Noah and his Ark) and the cute-o-meter in my living room flew off the warning scale and hasn’t been the same since. Reluctantly I admit I enjoyed it although I used the child-heavy bits to nip out and make several stiff drinks!
I did rather like the look of Herod – the musical. Would have fancied a part in that myself when I was at school…
An interesting one this one. Starred Eddie Izzard, produced by CBBC so what to expect? Complicated concepts or child friendly exposition? Well, both actually. Huge amount of potential and some interesting ideas but it seemed to be both very simple and very complicate at the same time. Confused? Yes me too.
Eddie Izzard is usually wonderful at being enigmatic and he went some way to that here but somehow for me it just missed. Not by much and maybe I’m just being fussy. Lost Christmas was certainly bleak for a family/kids show but maybe would have worked better if it had been allowed to be darker. It cheerfully pulled at all the heartstrings it could find and dragged us through 90 minutes of what-if tragedy before neatly wrapping it up in the requisite happy (if a touch predictable) ending.
And guess what – more Jason Watkins who popped up as a dodgy antique dealer/fence. Beautifully nasty and with a much sharper suit than anything he got to wear in Nativity… He’s been a busy boy this Christmas.
Despite a few niggles (including some over powering music) I liked Lost Christmas, I always find Eddie Izzard worth watching and it’s good to see him stretching his acting muscles, and they are developing nicely. (Let’s not talk about Day of the Triffids…) I would have liked to see what this story could have done if it had been targeted at an older audience and allowed to be as dark as it seemed to want to be.
OK – I’m getting worried about myself now… What next in the cute kids/tearful ending front?
The BBC’s new version of The Borrowers is relentlessly up to date. That’s clear from the first appearance of action-man Pod in the form of the rather lovely Christopher Eccleston. That massive Eccleston grin, after surviving a near miss, does make me come over all unnecessary. I’m not sure that’s even allowed at a kids show?! Oh well – never mind…
So – forget what came before and just go along with the ride and what you got was a decent show. I really liked the laptop cinema – some of the updating was really well done and let’s be honest the BBC does do these sort of imaginative settings pretty well. The ball pool style Quality Street tin was a treat!
Some of the detail was shifted in order to appeal to a slightly older audience and that put Arrietty into troubled teen territory and Pod and Homily were therefore less worried about her getting caught than worried about her getting… well, caught. It also lead to the morphing of Spiller into an urban motorbike-riding wide boy and much – slightly awkward – flirting.
The Beans were all well cast – Shaun Dooley played the desperate dad, only wanting the best for his family, in an understated way that worked well. Victoria Wood is always more than adequate but I didn’t get why Granny suddenly switched from Borrower-beating nasty to cuddly and understanding with no explanation. (Except that it was in the script.) I’m not a huge fan of Stephen Fry but he did OK here, a relatively undemanding task to play what seems to be a slightly nastier version of himself while wearing a lab coat.
What I didn’t understand was, with all the new technology lovingly used in the setting why did no one take photos of the Borrowers? Or film them?? Surely everyone snaps everything on their iPhones nowadays?
It was a satisfying adaptation overall, although I’d probably have dropped the Arrietty/Spiller flirting as it seemed forced and left her younger but then I’m not writing TV drama for any age group so what do I know!?
So three family shows down and now I need to search out something rather more adult before I succumb to going ‘ahhhhh’ and needing a hankie at happy endings.
And that will never do!