(Images courtesy of Radio Times)
With the growing interest in online entertainment content it’s sometimes easy to forget the power that television can have in getting the whole country talking. However, at Christmas it still seems the norm for families to gather around their set top boxes to watch an installment of unmissable TV. Although there is no doubt we’ll ever see 28 million people sitting down to watch the Morecambe and Wise show again, there still remains a strong appetite for Christmas entertainment which the whole family can enjoy. After The Two Ronnies came to an end in 1987, it fell to another comedy art to continue the Christmas legacy. By this time, Britain had gone through a successful era for situation comedy and so over the next few years we were treated to a plethora of sitcom specials from: Bread, Birds Of a Feather, Just Good Friends and of course Only Fools and Horses.
From then until now, sitcom and Christmas have gone together like figgy pudding and brandy butter and this year is no exception. Brendan O’Carroll’s heavyweight sitcom Mrs Brown’s Boys returns as BBC One’s linchpin of Christmas night. Admittedly it’s not to my personal taste but it still maintains sitcom’s dominance within the Christmas TV listings which can only be a good thing. I just feel that in the year when we’ve lost so many comedy giants, it’s just a shame that there can’t be a Christmas sitcom to tickle everyone’s funny bone.
On a lighter note, I have been enjoying BBC2’s tribute nights to Lenny Henry and the late Victoria Wood. Obviously more poignant for Victoria Wood fans in light of her passing earlier this year. But I guess it’s very easy to make comparisons between the two: both northerners who found fame on early attempts at reality television. Still, the comparison fails to end there because this was still the 1970’s: Variety still dominated the television schedules and shows such as The Black and White Minstrels were still immensely popular irrespective of the blatant racial undertones. Yet suddenly, it seemed out of nowhere came comics like Billy Connolly, Victoria Wood, Jasper Carrot and Lenny Henry who had a new outlook on comedy and therefore took it in a completely different direction.
In terms of the history of British comedy, it’s easy for experts to label this as the beginnings of Alternative Comedy which developed momentum during the early 1980’s. But somehow I think this period is much more pivotal by the very way in which these comedians changed the course of comedy forever and although I personally would never put this generation on par with the Monkhouses and Milligans of this world, they most certainly made their mark. It sounds utterly absurd to think that Henry, Connolly, Wood and Carrot occasionally shared the comedy limelight with the likes of Little and Large, Cannon and Ball etc. Something that would perhaps never happen today.
So, I hope you had a very happy Christmas and whatever you sat down to watch I’m sure you did your bit to preserve Christmas entertainment for many years to come. Roll on new year!