Remote Control: Saturday 04 January 2014

Never Mind the Baubles, Christmas Day in Huddersfield in 1977
Never Mind the Baubles, Christmas Day in Huddersfield in 1977
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There’s No Future in England’s screening

This December I was visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past.

A haunting ethereal vision, through swirling plumes of cinnamon incense, of me plotting the festive viewing with military zeal across the listings.

Circling films in red, highlighting what to video in fluorescent green and belligerently scrawling through period dramas and the queen’s speech to warn anyone else under my roof that these weren’t being broadcast in my home.

This was a flashback to the days of four/five channels, no on demand, iplayer or watch it over a late-night brandy buttons.

To almost prove my point, BBC2’s biggest drawcard even this year proved to be the film Dad’s Army, adapted from the TV series.

Fast forward.

The Ghost of Christmas Present was, well, dictated by the, erm, Christmas presents.

An iPad for the lad, new headphones for wifey and a cheaper Hudl tablet for the little one.

There they were, all watching different apps/games/videos as if we were sitting on a plane – which makes me the air stewardess, being left to ferry in drinks and snacks.




No, far from it.

I almost yearned for the days of all sitting down to watch a Porridge Christmas special, sharing the Roses and passing wind in tandem as a family.

And now I’m worried sick about Christmas Future.

What happens if instead of having no schedules, Christmas becomes a televisual free-for-all.

As in, there’s no 8pm on Christmas Day night.

It’s whatever time you want it to be.

And why stop with the listings?

Some marketeer may freestyle the actual dates of Christmas to maximise the length of the season.

Anyway what was on?

The 1981 teen-angst flick Gregory’s Girl (Christmas Day, ITV 3) retains its charm.

The first 15 minutes of Up (BBC 1, 28/12/13 6.50pm) are the zenith of any paeon to romance, covering infatuation, devotion, infertility, childlessness, old age and death in a remarkable timescale. All wrapped up in a 
cartoon adventure with a ‘talking’ dog.

And Mark Walliams’ Gangsta Granny (Boxing Day, 6.05pm BBC 1) was a family delight.

But the most astonishing telly of the period was undoubtedly Never Mind the Baubles (Boxing Day, BBC 4 10pm) Julien Temple’s unique insight of the Sex Pistols’ last UK concert with Sid Vicious, for the children of striking firemen in Huddersfield staged on Christmas Day 1977.

And that’s the Ghost of Christmas Future from the past.

Cameron’s Big Society in action, he’d claim.

The desolate being offered a brief respite from poverty by society’s underbelly.

The song Bodies was sanitised (ie they took out the swearwords), Johnny Rotten was smothered in cake, 
Vicious even smiled and the kids got Never Mind the Bollocks T-shirts.

All put into place in the Winter of Discontent, 
power cuts and a TV show asking whether “Punk Rock was as big a threat to Western Way of Life as Russian Communism.”

No the biggest threat to the Western Way of Life, I’ll declare, is a different red button, one that means the demise of sit-down-together Christmas Day telly.

Alan Burrows