Cult TV's Christmas Picks

Sunday, 13 December 2009 21:43

To launch our Festive celebrations, in the first of what will be a new series of online interviews, Alex J Geairns went into the heart of London to track down and speak with the Channel Controller of five, Richard Woolfe.

This short interview reveals some of the programming to look for over Christmas, and Richard explains why the humdinger of a reimagining of Crusoe, starring fan favourite Philip Winchester as the title character, is getting an almost-daily lunchtime debut airing on the channel over the festive season.

 

There’s news for fans of Flash Forward and The Mentalist, and details of why you’re going to be seeing a lot more of Justin Lee Collins on five.

Watch out before Christmas for our revelations of who has won what in this year’s Cult TV Awards.  In the meantime, here’s our selection of TV picks of the day for you, proving there is some good stuff out there if you dig hard enough …


Monday 14 December

Storyville – The Age of Stupid

10.00pm – 11.30pm, BBC4

Pete Postlethwaite stars as a man living in the post-apocalyptic world of 2055, in the première of this drama documentary which was released in cinemas in March 2009. Postlethwaite plays the founder of The Global Archive, a storage facility located in the Arctic, preserving humanity's achievements in the hope that the planet might become habitable again. Pulling together clips of ‘archive’ news from 1950 onwards, he focuses on contrasting human stories across the globe. These include palaeontologist Alvin Du Vernay helping find more oil off the coast of New Orleans. In India, Jeh Wadia aims to start up a low-cost airline with the aim of getting millions of Indians flying. Layefa Malemi lives in poverty in a small village in Nigeria from which millions of dollars of oil re extracted every week, and Piers Guy is a wind farm developer fighting the ‘Nimbys’ of middle England.

 

Tuesday 15 December

Jamie’s Family Christmas – Parts 1 & 2

8.30pm – 9.30pm, Channel 4 / 4 HD

In a new five-part series, Jamie Oliver shares his secrets for a stress-free family Christmas.  As well as his fool-proof recipes, it's about getting as much done beforehand, and getting everyone to muck in, so no one's stuck slaving over a hot stove, while everyone else is enjoying themselves. In the first episode, Jamie shows you everything you need for the perfect turkey. It's the whole package from the bird to the gravy, simple stuffing, roasting with festive butter, how to make carving simple and the best way to use your leftover turkey. The second segment follows immediately, looking at snacks, brunches and lunches.  Part 3 is on 16 December at 8.00pm (Roast potatoes and Christmas Vegetables), part 4 on 17 December at 8.00pm (alternative Christmas desserts), and the finale on 18 December at 8.00pm (DIY party combos, shots and mulled cider).

 

Wednesday 16 December

True Blood

10.00pm, Channel 4 / C4HD

Vampirical American drama based on the Sookie Stackhouse Mystery novels by author Charlaine Harris. This is brought to the screen by the makers of Six Feet Under. Bill (Stephen Moyer) is remorseful when he buries Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) but is surprised by her transformation; Jason (Ryan Kwanten) helps clean up the mess made by Amy (Lizzy Caplan), worrying about their future but unable to break away. Tara (Rutina Wesley) is angry over Lettie Mae (Adina Porter), and her refusal to bail her out of prison is tempered when a wealthy social worker, Maryann Forrester (Star Trek TNG’s Michelle Forbes), comes to her rescue. Meanwhile, in Bill's absence, a vulnerable Sookie (Anna Paquin) finds comfort in Sam (Sam Trammell). This all leads into the first season finale on 23 December at 10.00pm

 

Thursday 17 December

The Big Bang Theory / How I Met Your Mother

9.00pm – 10.00pm, E4

Start of the third series of Big Bang, about two brilliant physicists who come to realise that their knowledge of the everyday world is severely lacking. In the opening episode, Sheldon (Jim Parsons) goes back to Texas in disgrace when he learns that his friends tampered with his Arctic expedition data, as his quest for a breakthrough was becoming unbearable to live with. His friends are forced to follow him. Meanwhile, Leonard (Johnny Gelecki) is peeved that his attempts to woo Penny (Kaley Cuoco) are being constantly interrupted.

And then we’re on to the fourth season premiere of How I Met Your Mother.  The story is told from the angle of children being informed of their parents’ early years in their relationship, with the action set in the present day. Neil Patrick Harris, ex Doogie Howser MD, steals the show as freewheeling neighbour Barney. The season opens with Ted (Josh Mosby) in a panic when he inadvertently nearly kills Stella (Sarah Chalke) by putting peanuts in her dinner - she has an allergy and this makes him realise he still knows very little about her. Meanwhile, Lily (Buffy’s Alyson Hannigan) helps Barney impress Robin (Cobie Smalders) after he confides that he loves her. It sounds definitively naff on paper, but works incredibly well in the show.

 

Friday 18 December

Heston’s Christmas Feast

9.00pm, Channel 4 / 4 HD

Blumenthal returns to create another Christmas menu inspired by the most incredible festive dishes of the past. He starts with an appetiser loved by King Charles II, made from whale vomit! There is also a favoured snack of Roman Emperors - edible dormouse; a venison dish fit for a medieval king; and flavoured snow. Not sure how many of these dishes are sustainable in the 21st Century! The feast is served to ‘celebrity’ diners including Charlie Higson, Mariella Frostrup, James Purefoy, Arabella Weir, ex- rugby player Matt Dawson and journalist Kate Spicer. Repeated on 22 December, 9.00pm on More, and 24 December at 8.00pm on C4.

 

Saturday 19 December

CSI: Grissom’s Greatest

7.40pm – 11.40pm, five

Flying star William Petersen over to the UK to celebrate his departure from the forensic CSI franchise after nine seasons on-air, five select 20 episodes to represent some of the very best of the series. It has so far spawned two spin-off shows, as well as marching on itself, minus centrepiece Grissom. Four episodes back-to-back begin the onslaught tonight – watch out for more episode bonanzas on 22, 26, and 28 December, with a final hurrah on New Year’s Day.

 

Sunday 20 December

Crusoe

11.50am – 1.40pm, five

Double episode premiere of the new drama series based on the classic novel by Daniel Defoe, starring Philip Winchester (Scott Tracy in the “Thunderbirds” 2004 movie) as the hero. Shipwreck survivor Robinson Crusoe and his trusty companion, Friday (Tongai Arnold Chirisa), find their lives in danger when a group of British privateers, and the Spaniards pursuing them, arrive on their island in search of treasure. In the second episode, Crusoe and Friday defend themselves against the British privateers who have arrived on the island. Look out for both Sam Neill and Sean Bean in supporting roles. The shyness of five to give the show a decent weekly timeslot does not reflect on the high quality of this 13 episode series. You can watch the rest of it at various middle-of-the-day times from 21 – 25 December inclusive, then 28 December to 2 January inclusive.

 

Monday 21 December

Defying Gravity

11.25pm – 12.50am, BBC2 / BBC HD

Four women and four men hurtle through space with nothing to do for six years and eight billion miles, except maybe solve a powerful and awesome mystery. This is a provocative thriller set in the very near future against the backdrop of our solar system, in which the eight astronauts from five countries undertake a mysterious six-year international space mission on the spaceship Antares. They can't run from karma, however, as their past actions reveal intimate and interconnected relationships that have a strange effect on the present. As the astronauts travel towards Venus, we travel into their past with flashbacks to earlier years from the gruelling selection and training process. What could have happened? Auntie Beeb has lost faith in the show, hence the late night slot to conclude, with a double serving of episodes 12 and 13.

 

Tuesday 22 December

Oliver Postgate – A Life in Small Films

8.00pm – 9.00pm, BBC4

A genuine hero to generations of children from the 1950s to the 1970s and, from then on via almost-constant repeats, we all owe this icon big-time. Postgate (along with collaborator Peter Firmin) were responsible for delightful shows such as The Clangers, Ivor The Engine and Bagpuss. This documentary drops the veil on the small but perfectly formed cottage industry that ignited young as well as mature imaginations all over Britain.

 

Wednesday 23 December

Spooks

9.00pm, BBC1

Series finale featuring the exploits of MI5, with a high turnover of cast members, who are constantly caught in the revolving doors of death, or those of departure and return. With India and Pakistan on the brink of war, emergency talks are set up in an exclusive London hotel. Section D faces its biggest challenge yet, as the team tries to avert the first nuclear confrontation since World War Two. When the Indian delegation abandons the talks, it looks like the mysterious Nightingale's sinister plan will succeed. Lucas (Richard Armitage) and Ros (Hermione Norris) place themselves in grave danger in a final attempt to defeat Nightingale, but will they make it out alive?

 

Thursday 24 December

A Christmas Carol

7.05pm – 9.00pm, five

Ten years ago, Patrick Stewart took on the role of Scrooge for the screen, after having done his own one-man theatrical adaption of the story.  Richard E Grant is in support as Bob Cratchitt, with Dominic West (who went on to play McNulty in The Wire) featuring as Fred Bowley, Scrooge’s nephew. This is one of the best traditional tellings of the piece, just right for setting you into the Christmas groove. Repeated Christmas Day and 27 December, both at 4.00pm on Five USA.

 

Friday 25 December

Doctor Who – The End of Time, Part 1

6.00pm – 7.00pm, BBC1 / BBC HD

Bernard Cribbins again finds himself in Doctor Who on Christmas Day, playing Wilf, the Grandfather of Catherine Tate’s Donna, the former companion. She’s now subject to a brainwipe that has removed all mention of her times with the Time Lord. The description of this episode suggests huge slabs of melancholy as the series winds down to David Tennant’s forthcoming regeneration. Let’s hope that it’s not too maudlin, as they really will want people to be tuning in to the grand finale on New Year’s Day.  Mind you, John Simm’s interpretation of villain The Master is back, so this may well be a ‘blue touch paper’ episode … Repeated 27 December, 7.00pm on BBC3, and New Year’s Day, 12.55pm on BBC1. Meanwhile, the penultimate Doctor Who Confidential can be seen a 7.00pm on BBC3, or 8.00pm on BBC HD.

 

Saturday 26 December

Hamlet

5.05pm – 8.10pm, BBC2

Much was made of David Tennant taking on the role that can make or break even the most confident of thespians, but a look at his CV should have been reassuring for all his fans. With previous Royal Shakespeare Company experience earlier in his career, this was an assured hit amongst the Stratford theatre-going contingent, as well as those lucky enough to see him in his curtailed London engagement in the role. This must have been quite ironic for Patrick Stewart, as it was the Doctor Who contingent that were lapping up over-priced tickets on eBay rather than Trekkers. Patrick plays Claudius, and it’s a double-header tour-de-force for the viewer in this television adaption.

 

Sunday 27 December

Orson Welles Over Europe

9.30pm – 10.30pm, BBC4

The concluding new element to the channel’s Orson Welles season sees Simon Callow pick up where most reviews of the life of Welles leaves off – his move to Europe from 1947 onwards. It was a time of critical apathy and financial hardship, but the anecdotes certainly didn’t dry up. The documentary is preceded by the Welles classic “The Magnificent Ambersons”, and at 11.00pm you’ll find the second part of the Arena Orson Welles documentary (part 1 was on Christmas Day at 9.00pm).

 

Monday 28 December

Day of the Triffids – part 1 of 2

9.00pm – 10.30pm, BBC1 / BBC HD

What would Christmas be without further post-apocalyptic terror and destruction? John Wyndham’s novel is given a brand new retread, courtesy of screenwriter Patrick Harbinson, who cut his teeth on the likes of Law and Order: Special Victim Unit and Wire In The Blood.  The contemporary twist is that the triffids are being grown as an alternative source of fuel, but they have begun to evolve on their own. The blinding light show in the night sky means they can seize power.  The cast is equally stellar, with the likes of Dougray Scott, Joely Richardson, Brian Cox, Vanessa Redgrave, Jason Priestley, and Eddie Izzard rubbing shoulders with the carnivorous mobile plants. Concludes Tuesday 29 December at 9.00pm.

 

Tuesday 29 December

24

8.00am – 6.00am, Sky 2

Kiefer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer character has been through a lot since he came on the scene in 2001. Even his debut was hijacked, being put back by the real events of 9/11, and a consequent need for re-editing of some scenes. Season 8 makes its debut in the New Year on Sky1, but now sister channel Sky2 takes the opportunity to run all two dozen 24 episodes of last season, back-to-back in one huge marathon screening. Federal Agent Bauer can't afford to always play by the rules. As a member of the Counter Terrorist Unit, he must stop bombs, viruses, and assassination attempts, amongst other acts of calamity. The gimmick is that each episode unfolds in real time, following a consecutive hour in what turns out to be a bad day where what can go wrong does go wrong. If ever you think the world’s against you, just put yourself in Jack’s shoes…

 

Wednesday 30 December

Micromen

9.05pm – 10.30pm, BBC4

As they say, this is “another chance to see” one of the best telefilms of the last 12 months. Alexander Armstrong plays famous British inventor Clive Sinclair. This is the tale of the pioneers of the home computer in the early 1980s, and on the other hand the method of transport best forgotten – the Sinclair C5 mini-automotive – which was probably inspired by a similar transport seen in the 1969 Gerry Anderson series UFO. Martin Freeman supports as Chris Curry, Sinclair’s one-time partner in innovation.

 

Thursday 31 December

The Greatest TV Shows of the Noughties

10.00pm – 11.45pm, C4 / 4 HD

“As voted for by the public in a nationwide poll” is the sort of statement that sends shivers of dread down the spines of those who appreciate quality in their television. However, as we get to the end of a decade, let’s hope that the choices made don’t make us shake our heads in disbelief. Wonder if we’ll see the likes of The Wire, Heroes, 24, Life On Mars, Torchwood, Lost and Desperate Housewives amongst those that step forward?  We shall see … (previously screened 27 December at 9.00pm on C4, and 29 December at 9.00pm on E4).

 

Friday 1 January

Doctor Who – The End of Time, Part 2

6.40pm – 7.55pm, BBC1 / BBC HD

The moment we long-standing fans all dread – the end that signals another regeneration of the most famous of the Time Lords. Will this be the beginning of the end, or the eve of another new, innovative renaissance? David Tennant will be a tough act to follow either way, so let’s make the best of it as we head towards an uncertain future.  The sound of drums are growing ever louder …Turn over to BBC3 at 7.55pm for the final Tennant Doctor Who Confidential, which will also be on BBC HD simultaneously.

 

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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