Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

TV WATCH; A Perfect Antidote to This Season's Festive Fisticuffs

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

TV WATCH; A Perfect Antidote to This Season's Festive Fisticuffs

Article excerpt

Byline: PETE CLARK

The Worst Christmas of My Life BBC1

AS WE are constantly reminded by composers of cheerless statistics, Christmas is the most volatile time of year. The volatility stems from the bizarre impulse of human beings to spend the purportedly festive period cloistered with people they do not particularly like, but are bound up with through family and marital ties.

This poisonous claustrophobia is rendered utterly noxious by the vast quantities of alcohol that are deemed necessary for survival. It is a known fact that someone who is full of mince pies and sweet liqueurs is likely to get tooled up with the sharpest knife in the drawer and exhibit a craving for carving long after the turkey carcass has been disposed of.

This is the thinking that informs The Worst Christmas of My Life (BBC1), a comedy that shamelessly exposes the flipside of the Yuletide idyll.

We have met Howard and Mel before.

They are the couple to whom terrible things happen in the ordinary course of life because Howard has the most unfailing instinct outside of Ben Stiller for locating catastrophe in the most unlikely places.

At the beginning of the first of three episodes, Howard is observed at his office Christmas party. Over the years, the office party has been enshrined in the popular imagination as the place where all normal standards of civilised behaviour are abandoned, and attendees are compelled to make a visual record of their posteriors with help from the photocopying machine.

Eschewing the obvious vulgarities, Howard finds himself compromised by a chaste kiss under the mistletoe while on the mobile to the wife, who does not understand the form, being one of those posh folk who have evidently not attended such an event.

That chaste kiss is but a saucy taster for what is to come, a veritable smorgasbord of karaoke, electrocution, gay sex, vomit, marriage breakdowns and too much information about exactly how many nipples the average woman might sport.

Howard, having scarcely drunk a drop in a knowing wink to convention, finds himself stark naked in the house of a woman who is not his wife, all in the cause of trying to do the right thing. If there is a message here, it is this: whatever you do, don't act the Good Samaritan at the office party.

It will get you noticed and get you into trouble. Just drink as much punch as the next fellow, fall over and become part of the scenery.

Unfortunately for Howard, his modesty now precariously preserved by an artfully knotted bin-bag, his ultimate destination is the house of his in-laws, where his reputation preceded him a very long time ago and was not put up in lights.

In what must count as one of the most subversive images to be seen on British television, Howard manages to relieve himself all over the goose which has been lovingly prepared for the big day. …

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