Every Christmas, from a very early age, the most exciting thing for me during the Yuletide holiday has been, a couple of weeks before Jesus’ birthday, getting the TV Guide and seeing what films were on. To this day I still do it, and, although my tastes have changed away from treats such as a premiere of The Flintstones movie with John Goodman or The Brave Little Toaster, I still study the guide to see what gems I can unearth. Since I was younger a lot has changed in the digital world with a much sooner wait for movies and on demand features, so, therefore, to give a traditional spin on the holiday season, join me this year as I search for the best films, on terrestrial television, I will be enjoying this Christmas.
The 22nd is when all the Christmas films are in full swing, especially on Channel Five with a huge marathon of festive fare, including Dear Santa and Miracle in Manhattan. However, my terrestrial recommendations don’t come in the form of the traditional Christmas movies, with the legendary, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, on ITV at 10.45pm taking on Die Hard 2, on Four, at 10.40pm. It’s the battle of the super sequels so take your pick.
Channel Five continues to dish out the holiday themed entertainment. But, turning to BBC One at 2.55pm sees Cool Runnings showing for the umpteenth time. Despite its ubiquitousness on TV, it can always withstand the repeat viewings. On Five, at 9pm is the hilarious, dark Bad Santa with a great performance from Billy Bob Thornton as a mall Santa on the verge of a complete breakdown. There are also very funny moments from Tony Cox as his elf assistant and the late, great Bernie Mac. If you’ve still got room for more dark humour, Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges is on Four at 11pm, correlating with the release of the directors newest offering Seven Psychopaths. One of the funniest films of the last decade, Superbad, competes on Five at the same time.
All of the usual suspects appear today including Muppets Christmas Carol (Channel 4, 11am), The Santa Claus (BBC One, 12.25am) and The Nightmare Before Christmas (BBC Two, 9.10am). The schedule is mostly dominated by TV afterwards but I’d recommend the Robert Zemeckis’ version of A Christmas Carol, starring a motion captured Jim Carrey, before getting an early night.
Unfortunately, this is perhaps not the most exciting Christmas Day film schedule in recent memory. The battle of the premieres after the Queens speech sees the lacklustre Shrek Forever After on BBC One take on the so so Tangled on ITV. Looking elsewhere, however, there are some sure-fire classics including Singing in the Rain (BBC Two, 1.35pm) and a late night showing of Airplane (Channel 4, 1.05am). However, go for Couples Retreat (ITV, 10.45pm) at your own risk. It’s as unfunny as it is predictable and unless you want your Christmas sullied, stay away. Channel Four are also showing the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy over the next week starting with The Fellowship of the Ring (Channel Four, 5.40pm) tonight, so if you can deal with the adverts and the fact it’s not the extended cut, knock yourself out in and watch them all before The Hobbit!
BBC One is the place to be in the morning with Pixar’s Cars (BBC One, 10.25) kicking off proceedings before a marathon of three films as great as the last starting with Happy Feet (1.40pm), Enchanted (3.20pm) and How To Train Your Dragon (5.00pm) which is probably the most underrated computer generated film in recent years. You can then either choose to garner your fantasy fix from Tim Burton’s kooky take on Alice in Wonderland (BBC One, 6.50pm) or The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (Channel Four, 6.55pm). However, look out later for Joe Wright’s fantastic Ian McEwan adaptation of Atonement (ITV, 11.15pm) and the premiere of the original Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Channel Four, 10.30pm), adapted from Steig Larsson’s iconic Millennium novels.
The kids’ films continue dominating the schedules on all fronts. My pick from these are the live-action 101 Dalmatians (BBC One, 11am) where Glenn Close steals the show as Cruella De Vil and the always touching and brilliant, Babe (ITV, 2.50pm). Elsewhere sees the high octance thriller Point Break (BBC One, 11.55pm) and the classic Hollywood melodrama, Sunset Boulevard (Channel Four, 3.50am) if you’re planning a late one or just coming back from a party.
BBC Two are having an Alfred Hitchock marathon to mark the great man, with The Lady Vanishes (11.05am) The 39 Steps (12.40pm) and Notorious (2.05pm) so, no better excuse to stay in. Elsewhere is the Christmas classic Gremlins (ITV, 10.15pm) and if you feel like expressing your patriotism in an imperialist and nationalist manner, Channel Four are showing Zulu at 12.45pm.
There are slim pickings in the day with the likes of Flubber (BBC Two, 1.40), Space Chimps (Channel Four, 8.55am) and Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties (Channel Four, 10.40am) clogging up the schedules like all that Christmas feasting cholesterol. However, there’s a silver lining later in the day with The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Channel Four, 7.20pm) proving it isn’t a complete write off for terrestrial television movies today.
We start today on Channel Four with the original, and superior, Clash of the Titans at 12.40pm. This is followed by Burton’s Edward Scissorhands. Later on BBC Two we are treated to two modern classics of science fiction cinema. First Duncan Jones’ genius, innovative piece of film making Moon (10pm), complete with breath taking performance from Sam Rockwell, before Ridley Scott’s final cut version of Blade Runner (11.30pm). Then, we can all come together after a few eggnogs and debate whether Harrison Ford is man or replicant.
New Year’s Eve
A few classics open proceedings today with Muppet Treasure Island (BBC One, 9am) and WarGames (ITV, 10.25am) worth getting up a bit earlier for. Highlights then include The Sound of Music (BBC One, 3.10pm) which you can never watch too many times and Catch me if you Can (BBC Two, 7.00pm) with the unbeatable triumvirate of Spielberg, Di Caprio and Hanks. You can then see in the New Year and if you’re really feeling drunk and desperate at 1.25am you can watch Scary Movie 4 on BBC One, although it might leave an even worse taste in your mouth come morning.
New Year’s Day
There are plenty of great films to see in the New Year and quell that hangover. Starting at 9.25am on ITV with Dragonheart starring Sean Connery as the voice of everybody’s favourite Scottish Dragon. Kevin Costner’s Oscar winning Dances With Wolves (BBC Two, 12.25pm) is always worth braving its long running time to watch, a great piece of film. The charming story of Up (BBC One, 6.30) is unmissable, especially the first ten minute sequence before finishing off the day with Russell Crowe as Robin Hood on Channel Four at 9pm. You can debate what accent he’s doing, but make sure Crowe doesn’t hear you.
So there we go, a look at the terrestrial TV film schedules over the Christmas period. Some great films and some not so great but with so many coming thick and fast it’s always a good chance to watch as many as possible and immerse yourself in new and old films alike.
Merry Christmas Everyone.