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So much for the ‘good old days’ …

Gerald Ingolby wonders if he always wore rose-tinted spectacles

I’m spending a few days with my ancient father, which necessarily means, as regards the television schedules, that old favourites are more of a priority than what might be termed ‘the shock of the new’.

I see today that Mrs Brown’s Boys, which I find hilarious, has come out top of the Christmas ratings (with 9.4 million viewers, beating DowntonDoctor WhoCoronation Street and Strictly Come Dancing). Sadly, although my father is no stranger to naval language, I fear that Mrs Brown’s zany, surreal, irreverent craziness would totally pass him by.

However, although virtually all the classic light entertainment ‘Christmas’ artistes of the past are available somewhere at some time or another on satellite and cable channels – never mind the main terrestrial ones – I have been greatly disappointed by what I have seen this year.

RonniesFor example, on Christmas Day evening, weary after a great deal of travelling and in need of relaxation, we strapped ourselves in for a repeat of the 1987 Christmas Two Ronnies on BBC2 at 7.40pm.

It was standard Barker and Corbett fare: bookends for the programme from their quick-fire gag newsreader set-up; them as country yokels; two Christmassy comedy musical offerings, one with Barker in drag and Corbett as some sort of page boy, the other set in a Wild West saloon; and sundry other short sketches.

Frankly, viewing it from nearly four decades later, the whole was repetitive, tired and deeply unfunny. It also seemed to me that some of the more risqué jokes were far nearer the knuckle than would be usual – and possibly even allowed – in 2013.

Yesterday (Boxing Day), with my father wishing to watch something, and not without trepidation I suggested we watch the Dad’s Army movie (BBC2, 6.15pm).

DadsI say that because, historically, movie versions of successful television series tend not to ‘work’.

This one certainly didn’t – and not just because something designed for a half-hour slot so rarely benefits from being stretched to something three times that length, despite the greater budget plainly expended.

The standard ‘in’ jokes (Corporal Jones’ “Don’t panic!” and “They don’t like it up ‘em!”, Sgt Wilson’s embarrassment over his liaison with Pike’s mother, Private Walker’s black marketeering, Godfrey being ‘caught short’ and Private Fraser’s “We’re doomed!”) were all there in spades, but swiftly became tedious.

My guess is that this movie version was made early within Dad’s Army’s fame, only because James Beck – the actor who played Private Walker – died in 1973.

For this viewer, it was hard-going – probably in part because, being a movie, there was no audience reaction (canned or otherwise) to help things along.

Hey ho …

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About Gerald Ingolby

Formerly a consumer journalist on radio and television, in 2002 Gerald published a thriller novel featuring a campaigning editor who was wrongly accused and jailed for fraud. He now runs a website devoted to consumer news. More Posts