Bill Murray, Dudley Moore, John Lithgow, Michael Caine, The Muppets - Remotely Interested’s Christmas Viewing Essentials

Mark Grainger 23/12/2010

As you know this little corner of GIITTV's little corner of the of the internet is devoted to the shows provided to us by the nice people at the major channel's commissioning desks, and to be honest I was quite looking forward to covering this years Christmas programming with a glass of sherry and a turkey sandwich balanced precariously on my distended, 'fat- bastard' stomach. Sadly though one look at the latest Radio Times makes it painfully apparent that you'd have to be living the plot of Memento to enjoy this year's festive schedule, made up as it is of an astonishing amount of repeats. For example, last year's charming Gruffalo animation is back on at Christmas, albeit at a slightly different time.

In fact the only decent new programs on this year, smuggled alongside the usual list shows and home reality TV specials are two new Top Gears and Doctor Who, both of which defy reviewing (Top Gear because you'll either love it or hate it regardless and Doctor Who because I'm nowhere near important enough for a preview and writing a whole month's review about an hours programme seems a bit silly.)

Christmas telly for me is never about the actual shows anyway, being as they are either standalone specials of normal shows which will usually err on the side of sentimentality or enjoyable festive treats which are always destined to be repeated the same time next year, a bit like mince pies, or sprouts.

No, for me Christmas is all about the old films. the magic of digging out and dusting off crackly old VHS tape or rushing home from the shops to catch a festive favourite never really wore off, and now with DVD and Blu-Ray its easier than ever to create “tradition” viewing events. So in the spirit of Christmas, I present you with the Remotely Interested Childhood Christmas Viewing Essentials. You're welcome.

It's A Wonderful Life: an obvious choice yes but also a classic. Possibly the film that kick started the theme of slightly depressing Christmas works with a touches of redemption being
far better than any shiny, cheese-wrapped-in tinsel affair (seeing someone come back from the brink into a world of love is much more affecting than an assumed perfect world). In simple terms, It's A Wonderful Life is the story of a man whose bad fortune drives him to consider suicide, only to be shown how his life has affected the lives of others for the better by a short, bald angel. Its not as mental as it sounds, but it is more heart-warming than all the sherry and mulled wine you can drink.

Scrooged: Oh Bill Murray, could you put a single foot wrong in the eighties? A year before he'd reunite with the rest of the Ghostbusters to return to the roles which made them household names, Murray was busy struggling with some different spectres: the ghosts of Christmas present, past and future. Scrooged succeeds because of it's deliciously dark sense of humour and the fact that it manages to be both a contemporary re-telling of Dickens' classic and a period piece looking at 80's greed and the television industry on a whole.

Santa Claus The Movie: Okay so its cornier than the Green Giant factory but to people of a certain age this Dudley Moore fronted precursor to Elf (also about an elf leaving the north pole for the bright lights of New York) is essential viewing. Not only is it incredibly sweet but it features John Lithgow (recently seen as a serial killer on Dexter) chewing the scenery in fine Christopher Walken tradition whilst Santa is generally lovely and the little orphan kid.

The Muppet Christmas Carol: Saving the best for last, its The Muppet Christmas Carol. The best Christmas film for a number of reasons, not least because it features Michael Caine as Scrooge, doing a merry/awkward little jig with the ghost of Christmas Present. The Muppet Christmas Carol succeeds on so many levels that its hard to pin down just what makes it so magical. It has Gonzo as Charles Dickens narrating actual dialogue and breaking the fourth wall whilst also seguing off into little skits with his partner, Rizzo, it has catchy songs and so much going on in each scene that you can watch it every year and still notice something new each time. The best thing about the Muppet's imagining of Dickens though is that despite the appearance of taking frogs, horses and cabbages, the message and humanity of the story shines so impossibly bright that its impossible not to feel Christmassy after watching it, and I've never met a single person who hasn't loved every second of it.

So there you go boys and girls, a nice selection to get stuck into before Santa comes down the chimney. I hope he's good to you. Merry Christmas!