I’ve finally got over my pre-Christmas blues – and in the nick of time, too. I spent a productive day at my desk, then took the dog for his usual walk at 3, just as the light was beginning to fade. Completely forgetting as I did so that this was also the moment at which a boy chorister would be stepping into the global limelight at King’s College Chapel, and launching into the solo first verse of Once in Royal David’s City. The Service of Nine Lessons and Carols is one of those rare and precious things that has not been mucked around with in the name of “relevance” or “modernization”, and listening to it has been one of my favourite Christmas rituals for as long as I can remember. I’m really rather disappointed when I flick on the radio on our return, and realize that I’ve missed nearly all of it. At least I get the opportunity to sing along lustily to Hark! The herald angels sing. The dog gives me rather a strange look.
Channel-hopping this evening after watching ITV’s “star-studded, hilarious comedy drama” (which was by no means as bad as that billing suggests), I find myself face to face with someone I know reasonably well. It is North East TV producer Tom Gutteridge, explaining how he was entirely responsible for Grace Jones hitting Russell Harty, as he had had the brilliant idea of breaking the chat show mould by placing guests on either side of the host, rather than in a row facing him. I hardly needed to hear the story, as it had been the centrepiece of his column in The Journal this very morning, but he told it with panache.
The funny thing was that this proved to be No 22 in the chart of Channel 5’s Most Shocking Celebrity Moments of the 80s, while Number 21 was the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II. I couldn’t help feeling that this wasn’t strictly comparing like with like. The mind boggles as to what came out at No 1: a mass murder or a minor wardrobe malfunction.
Unfortunately I am unable to provide a report on this, as I decided to conclude the evening by watching the 1984 Christmas edition of Blankety Blank, to satisfy a nostalgic longing to see Les Dawson. Thanks to this, I can at least state with some authority that the belief that British television has dumbed down and become less entertaining over the last two decades is completely incorrect. The most insightful words on the programme were spoken by the late Derek Nimmo, resplendent in his Garrick Club tie, who was surely speaking from the heart when he started banging on about what a dreadful show it had become. His only error there being to omit the fact that it was really a pretty feeble one to start with.
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