It’s getting harder and harder to mock those who see Armageddon as imminent, given the disturbing state of the world.And yet, we owe it to ourselves to try, because even when doomsday doesn’t seem all that farfetched, doomsday preppers remain pretty stupid. Frankly, if it’s a choice between perishing in the looming collapse of civilisation as we know it, or staying alive by taking to the forest and living off roadkill and canned soup, I’m comfortable with letting the apocalypse take me. Of course, the chances of the preppers actually surviving the downfall of society are limited anyway, since they’re mostly more concerned with shooting big guns and finding the right fatigues to match their eyes than anything particularly useful. But as unintentional comedy, they serve a valuable purpose indeed.
Inside Aldi at Christmas
This British production answers the question burning within all our breasts: how come Aldi is so great? Is it the fantastic products at rock-bottom prices?Well, let’s not jump to any conclusions, we’ll have to wait until the show completes its forensic investigation. Herein we become privy to such eye-opening revelations as: Aldi is German; Aldi is cheap; Aldi sells weird stuff sometimes; everyone should shop at Aldi! It’s a heartwarming celebration of traditional Christmas materialism, and an inspiring example to any youngsters who hope to one day grow up to be German supermarket moguls.
Carols in the Domain
There is no greater Aussie Christmas tradition than Carols in the Domain, apart from Carols by Candlelight, which is on Nine the following night and much much more popular. Still, the Sydney version is always notable for the sheer volume of cross-promotion of Seven personalities they manage to cram in, as well as the laudable dedication of the hosts to saying the sponsor’s name up to 18 times a minute throughout the broadcast. That sponsor is of course Woolworths, and it just wouldn’t be Christmas without the supermarket giant punching us in the face repeatedly with relentless plugging. Also, some people will sing some songs, but if they ever rise above the skill level of the average primary school talent show you can count yourself lucky. Just remember: it’s only one sleep till the real Carols.
Would I Lie To You Christmas Special
ABC Comedy, 9.20pm
The greatest-ever comedy panel show by some distance, this now-venerable British institution has only gotten better with age, as over the years all involved have realised the strength of the format is not in the competition, but the wide scope it provides for a variety of witty and winning talking heads to tell outlandish stories and trade zingers. In particular, host Rob Brydon and team captains David Mitchell and Lee Mack bounce off each other with practised ease, their complementary styles meshing like the gears of a mighty comedy machine. It’d be a pretty great show if it was just Brydon,Mack and Mitchell bantering about whatever popped into their heads for half an hour. The flailing about as the teams attempt to deceive each other is just the icing.Assistance with the japes comes from Stephen Merchant, Sharon Osbourne, Ranj Singh and Liz Bonnin, who discuss such diverse topics as house fires, honking horns, and Stephen’s ridiculous hat.
QI Christmas Special
For a Christmas special, you expect a particularly high calibre of guest, and this year’s festive QI does OK, particularly in the unpredictable genius of Johnny Vegas, the northern comic whose physical resemblance to a homeless mound of mashed potato conceals one of the world’s finest comic minds. His shambling brilliance is offset by the boyish charm of Josh Widdicombe, the wide-eyed enthusiasm of Sara Pascoe, and of course the long-established laconic wit of Alan Davies, who has made as long a career out of pretending to be an idiot on QI as he has pretending to be a genius on Jonathan Creek. These days – the series is up to “Q”, which means Season 17 – proceedings are overseen by Sandi Toksvig (pictured), who is as diminutive as former host Stephen Fry was statuesque and brings to the show a refreshing air of a jolly 1950s headmistress. Some find the show smug, but if you enjoy the odd fascinating fact and a cosy atmosphere of seasonal jocularity, QI still can’t be beat.
Weekend Breaks with Gregg Wallace
SBS Food, 7.30pm
Vienna is one of the most Christmassy cities in the world – it sparkles in December like nowhere else with the magic of history, tradition, and the deep picturesque European winter that even in our sweltering December we instinctively recognise as what Christmas is really about. Gregg Wallace – the one off UK Masterchef who looks and sounds like he roughs up deadbeats for someone called ‘Ard ‘Arry – prances through the great city tasting delicious festive foods, warming himself with potent festive drinks, and generally earning good money for doing things most of us wish we could afford to pay for.
Carols by Candlelight
This is the proper stuff. Cheesy, oversentimental, frequently cringeworthy in the faux-sincerity of many of its stars, this extravaganza is nevertheless one of the most cherished events of the year for millions of us, and at the end of a year like 2020, the warm, sappy embrace of the Carols is needed more than ever. There’ll be no audience on site at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl due to COVID19, which just means the rest of us are going to have to provide an extra kick of Christmas spirit from our living rooms. Some of it will be silly, some of it will be irritating, some of it will be bafflingly unconnected to Christmas. But when living treasure DenisWalter steps out on stage and lets rip with that booming rich mahogany voice, there’ll surely be a tear in every eye and a magical star shining in the sky.
Royal Variety Performance
The inaugural Royal Command Performance was held in 1912, with King George V and Queen Mary rocking up for a charitable benefit that was not without controversy: music-hall star Marie Lloyd was reportedly not invited because her act was considered risque and she’d been married three times. This year’s event, hosted by Jason Manford, had to contend with somewhat different issues. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Blackpool Opera House was full of television monitors, providing a virtual audience for the pre-recorded performances. Those facing the sea of screens include Take That’s Gary Barlow, robotic pop act Steps, and West End star Samantha Barks, although the real showstopper may be centenarian Sir Thomas Moore, the World War II veteran whose lockdown garden walks for charity raised necessary millions for Britain’s National Health Service.
Boxing Day: Australia v India
Here’s one way to cover the test cricket series between Australia and India for the Border Gavaskar Trophy: hire one of the legends it’s named for as a commentator. Indian batting great Sunil Gavaskar (pictured with Adam Gilchist in 2010), who’s enjoyed a long – and sometimes controversial – second career in the commentary box, is now part of Seven’s summer team (Allan Border remains with Fox Sports). The addition of Gavaskar and West Indies champion Brian Lara gives Seven’s line-up, which is headlined by former Australian captain Ricky Ponting, a much more cosmopolitan feel than Nine’s former lineage of Australian greats. How this expansive line-up, which also includes the always welcome Tim Lane and the unpredictable Damien Fleming, fares remains to be seen, but they will have unique circumstances to work with. The Melbourne Cricket Ground may be re-opening for the traditional December 26 fixture, but the crowd size is capped at 30,000 patrons each day. Atmosphere might be an issue.
Now this is a quality addition to any streaming service. This 2011 BBC series, which originally aired here on the ABC, is a succinct and compelling historic drama set in 1956 London, where the BBC is launching – to considerable scepticism – its first television current affairs show. Moving at a cracking pace over a concise six episodes, Abi Morgan’s show ties an impressive trio of leads – Romola Garai’s driven producer, Ben Whishaw’s ambitious reporter, and Dominic West’s patrician presenter – to a scandal that starts with a murder and soon extends to the possibility of Soviet spying during the Suez Crisis. It has a vigour and timeliness that has not decreased in the slightest since it debuted.