Redbrick’s TV Critics give their top festive telly picks to snuggle up with by the fireplace this Christmas
Doctor Who – Jess Green
After a long day of unwrapping countless presents and stuffing your face with endless roast potatoes, there is nothing you want more by the evening than to sink into the sofa and tune in to BBC1 to be amazed by the latest Doctor Who Christmas Special. And that’s precisely why we saw devastation up and down the country when it was announced earlier this year that Jodie Whittaker’s festive episode would not in fact be taking place on Christmas Day, but seeing in 2019 instead. It’s a good job, then, that Netflix has a stack of the Timelord’s older Christmas Specials to keep us ticking over until January 1st; my personal favourite being Season Six’s ‘The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe’.
A throwback to the (glorious) Matt Smith era, this Narnia-esque special follows the Doctor as he becomes the Caretaker for war-widow Madge and her two children Cyril and Lily in 1941. Everything starts going horribly wrong when Cyril goes through a portal to a sinister, snowy planet and the Doctor and Lily end up searching the alien forest for him, closely followed by a concerned Madge. Things become rather tense when it is revealed that the area is due to be drenched in acid rain sooner rather than later, and Cyril encounters some rather daunting creatures made out of wood. A welcome change from some of the darker Christmas specials though, we see the family safely reunited and returned home by the end of the episode. Madge is even able to save her husband’s life and guide him home in time for the big day. With its perfect blend of festive joy and timey -wimey stuff, this episode is a definite re-watch this Christmas.
The Office – Catrin Osbourne
Whilst the majority of Christmas T.V. paints an idyllic, snowy portrayal of life, The Office Christmas special is brilliant in its sheer realism. In keeping with the depressing humour that made the original show appealing, the two episodes act as a documentary catching up with the characters’ lives since we last saw them. From David Brent’s unbearably awkward appearances at nightclubs to Dawn Tinsley’s illegal residence in America, the first episode reflects the strangely unsatisfying vibe of Christmas.
Living up to the previous episodes, the special is filled with the awkward humour produced by the inventive ‘mockumentary’ style. Some of the The Office’s funniest sequences reside in these two episodes, such as David Brent’s excellently parodied music video for ‘If You Don’t Know Me By Now’.
However, even The Office gives a Christmas present for its viewers. Running throughout the first two series of the show, Tim and Dawn’s will-they-won’t-they relationship seemed to be nothing more than a fantasy by the end of series two. However, the Christmas special gives the viewers what they desired, finalising with Tim and Dawn’s kiss.Far from the perfect Christmas typically plastered on T.V. screens, The Office captures the disappointing aspect of the festive season whilst still leaving a smile on the viewer’s face.
Gavin and Stacey – Morgana Chess
Nothing says Christmas quite like watching Smithy drive along, belting out Band Aid’s classic ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ as it plays from his old car stereo. As goes the iconic, much-memed moment from the Christmas special of Gavin and Stacey. The episode is as hilarious and warm-hearted as is to be expected, bringing together the whole cast of lovable characters as the Welsh lot travel down to Billericay for Christmas, in Dave’s coach of course. Bryn has his mistletoe at the ready, and marvels at the wonder of mint Bailey’s. Mick prepares the turkey while Pam frets about being a fake vegetarian. And Gavin and Stacey have a big announcement to make.
One of the best moments is watching the group unwrap a solitary Celebration chocolate each as their presents from Ness and Dave; we share in the collective pity for Pam as she gets the Bounty. Things later heat up and there is an incredible argument between the Welshies and the Essex gang where Bryn pleads ‘Pam, let’s not turn this into a race issue’. The whole thing is, of course, hilarious. The episode leaves you feeling fuzzy and festive in the run-up to Christmas and is definitely worth a watch; as Nessa would say, ‘Oh Oh Oh Merry Christmas’.
Friends – Niamh Brennan
You know the one, and you’ve probably watched it many, many, MANY times before. The One With the Holiday Armadillo is one of the most iconic Friends episodes of all time, never mind the best of the Christmas episodes. Ross’ frantic attempt to introduce his son Ben to Hanukkah and to his Jewish heritage results in an evening spent with Santa, Superman and the infamous Holiday Armadillo.
It’s a hilarious reminder to viewers that whilst everyone around them may seem to be celebrating Christmas, you should never forget that not everybody does. And it does so in the most Friends way possible. When Ross can’t rent a Christmas-themed costume to reassure Ben that Santa won’t forget him this year, he instead rents an Armadillo costume and desperately attempts to make a link between the Armadillo, Hanukkah and Christmas. And he succeeds, Ben gets to celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah, whilst also getting a visit from Superman in the form of Joey trying to help out his friend with a better costume than an Armadillo.
If you’re not religious, that’s no problem. Phoebe’s ‘Holiday Skull’ reminds everyone that the Holiday Season is simply what you make it. It’s the traditions that you make and the people you spend it with that matters.
Outnumbered – Daisy Andrews
Personally, my favourite Christmas special has to be the 2009 Outnumbered episode. It being nine years old has not aged its humour one bit, opening on a shot of the house we know and love, with an outburst from Pete: “Ben. Karen. For the last time, they are not lightsabers, they are toilet brushes!”. A highlight is Pete and Sue’s (worryingly) real issue of lying to an insurance company and their attempts to convince Karen to lie for them, which adds to the ongoing bedlam caused by Ben. The young children remain the stars of the show as they manage to get their arms stuck down the back of a radiator and watch some wildly inappropriate tv. Their improvised dialogue remains witty and hilarious throughout.
No Christmas special encapsulates not only the fun but the stress that comes with Christmas like Outnumbered does. But the main reason I love this episode so much is that it confronts family struggles which are so difficult at the festive time of year. Sue’s worrying about her dad being in a care home reminded me of my grandma being in one over Christmas a couple of years ago and how hard it was for my family. Hamilton and Jenkin, directors of Outnumbered, poignantly address the joy and laughter that can be brought to people at Christmas by coming together in times of struggle.