Magazine article The Spectator

What a Lot of Rubbish

Magazine article The Spectator

What a Lot of Rubbish

Article excerpt

My resolution this year is to be much more careful about how I whore myself. In future, I shall try to make all the pieces I write as totally me as possible a) because it's easier and b) because whenever I catch myself trying to do the sort of diligent, generic journalism that I think commissioning editors are after I hate myself and want to die. (But obviously I'm still open to offers, Sunday Times and Associated Newspapers, if you pay me Martin Amis rates.)

Now I did have a few nasty moments over Christmas as I tried to be a diligent, generic journalist and watch a few preview tapes of programmes that were actually on this week. But the ones I got were too boring or rubbishy or hadn't yet had their proper voice-over added and suddenly I realised, `What the hell am I doing? It's quite monstrous that I should be working at all at this time of year, let alone for the Third World Nike worker wages the Speccer pays its contributors. I'll just talk about whatever I want.'

What I want to talk about, mainly, is just how amazingly crap Christmas TV is. Why I should be surprised by this I don't know. But every year, like the Irishman who loses L50 on the Grand National and then another L100 on the action replay, I manage to talk myself into thinking that this time it's going to be different.

It never is though, as I was reminded by The Royle Family At Christmas (BBC 1, Christmas Day). It seems a virtually inviolable rule of TV comedy, this: for the rest of the year you can be as subtle and brilliant as you like; but come Christmas you must be sure to explain every joke and to be as heavy-handed, cloyingly sentimental and crassly unfunny as possible.

Nor was I less underwhelmed by BBC 2's The Count Of Monte Cristo which managed to make possibly the greatest plot ever seem weary, stilted and dull. Partly, I blame Gerard Depardieu, who just emailed in his performance. Mainly I blame the French, who seem to think TV is just an extension of the theatre.

Then, of course, there was Titanic (Christmas Day, BBC 1). I know that, at the time, there was a minor furore over its historical inaccuracies - as the actual ship went down monocled English officers in black tie didn't really go round with Purdeys shooting anyone whom they suspected of having an Irish accent, for example - but I still don't feel that any of us was sufficiently warned as to what imperial bollocks the film is.

What I particularly enjoyed was the way Hollywood had decided that the true story of a huge unsinkable ship hitting an iceberg and going down, amid scenes of great stoicism, with hundreds and hundreds of lives was just too boring. …

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