“Here are BBC One’s Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day schedules,” chirped an enthusiastic Tweet unleashed on the channel’s Twitter account at the start of December. “Glad I’ll be at work for most of it,” one fairly representative reply quickly fired back. “This is the kind of scheduling that makes me want to go out for a walk,” added another. People, it seems, were not very impressed.
But then Christmas TV films have long since changed. It’s unthinkable now to imagine legions of frustrated parents setting the VCR for the BBC’s premiere of Indiana Jones and The Temple Of Doom, a huge television event back on Christmas Day 1987. Last year, even Frozen struggled to get people interested (primarily because scientists had long since proven that 98 per cent of parents had the film wired permanently to the innards of their brain).
In fairness to Auntie, there’s not a bad selection of films: Zootropolis on Christmas Eve is terrific, and The BFG on Boxing Day feels about right. But a prime slot for 1981’s Raiders Of The Lost Ark on Boxing Day seems representative of how important big movies no longer are to the BBC.
BBC Two has something a little different, though. Ben Wheatley’s new film Happy New Year, Colin Burstead is currently on a cinema tour around the UK. It’ll be getting a TV premiere over the Christmas period.
The other terrestrial channels are hardly getting their boxing gloves on either. ITV is showing the classic Gremlins on Christmas Eve, but it offsets its generosity with a 30-minute Keith Lemon and Paddy McGuinness recreation of the feature half-an-hour before. Its big movie is Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but it’s saving that for December 30. On the upside, no Keith and Paddy before that one.