How Santa Claus saved us from an evening of utterly dire television

Chums Trina and John are great cooks, big drinkers, tremendously appreciative and staggeringly generous. Trina (known usually as Latrine) bought Jon the complete set of ‘2012’* DVDs. Without this, we would’ve spent Christmas Day evening staring at the walls, reading books, talking about the meaning of life, and all the other useless things one did as a student.

The telly listings for Christmas evening 2012 were perhaps the best example so far in human history of how more TV channels inexorably mean less quality…or lower quality for the pedants, or good old fashioned plain crap for the reality-lovers among us. Whoever the sad f**ks were responsible for putting these ‘competitive’ schedules together, my God but they should hold their heads in something. As they have no shame, I would suggest boiling oil as the perfect medium. Read the ‘choice’ at this link, and weep with joy or chagrin depending on whether you do or don’t like Eastenders, Coronation Street, Downton Abbey, Alan Carr or Eddie Stobart. Eddie Stobart is, on the other hand, dead……..which made him perfect casting given the company he was in.

Would you want to spend a year with Military Wives (8.45 pm BBC2, a reprise), and hour with Paul O’Grady talking about dogs (6.00 pm ITV1) or even a minute watching Eddie Stobart delivering reindeer for a Christmas parade (7.00 pm Channel 5, another repeat)? Well if you wouldn’t, there was always QI (a repeat) Blackadder (a repeat) Greatest Christmas Moments (a repeat) and Rude Tube on Channel Four (unrepeatable) . As for the films on offer, none of us had the slightest desire to watch Lord of the Rings (5.40 pm Channel 4), which was a shame as it was by far the best movie to be seen – all things being relative: Shrek the Halls, Kung Fu Panda, Carry on Cruising, Carry on Cleo, Carry on Don’t lose your Head, Final Destination 3, and Grease.

Television labouring under the usual ROI, shareholder returns, maximum adspace for minimal expenditure model is a vicious cycle heading inexorably down towards a place where bland copycat lifestyle bollocks and fifth-rate soaps meet ancient B-movies and robotic news. It is the area in commerce above all others where the private sector fails miserably, because it has no interest at all in creative risk, real art, edgy reporting and great drama. Public service television – under pressure from the barbarians – feels forced to chase the same ratings that spell success…and the same formats that become a winning formula. But the trouble with this frenetic search for the instant winning formula is that it only ever leads to the formulaic.

Those who incessantly bash the BBC seem to have little or no foresight about what its destruction would mean, and no recall of just how good it was before half-baked, superficially educated morons went into politics and started bullying it. Over all seven of my decades, it has added immeasurably to my enjoyment and appreciation of worthwhile things. The last decent law passed by Parliament was the Clean Air Act in 1957: fifty-five years of waste, strategic muddle, short-termism, hypocrisy and content-free drivel later, those in Government feel able to criticise an institution that leaves them as intellectual pygmies in its wake. I wonder how they have the gall to do it, but politicians never let their inferiority give them a complex to match. And as long as Britain is full of knee-jerkers gagging to get rid of the Beeb, they will continue on their insouciant, vandalising progress towards the destruction of civilisation.

* ‘2012’ was a BBC2 satire-cum-parody about the largely braindead marketing communications people preparing for the London Olympic Games. The people who were actually doing the preparation at the time frequently said the reality was far, far worse than the parody. Anyway, it was and remains wonderful television.