Family For Christmas

25 Days of Christmas Movies: #14 — Family for Christmas – The Main Damie

Another day, another Lacey Christmas movie. Family For Christmas surprised me. It takes a turn I wasn’t expecting, and it is directed by Samantha Carter herself (Amanda Tapping). It’s still very much in that Hallmark space, but there’s a little touch of extra quality, and enough silly humour I hadn’t planned for that I found myself laughing along.

As is par for the course, Lacey Chabert stars as a successful career woman who faces a challenge at Christmas. When the film opens, she is a young woman just setting off to the big city and leaving her boyfriend behind, promising she’ll think of him every day and that their relationship is built to last. Flashforward ten years and all thoughts of her boyfriend and suburban upbringing are gone. She is now a hard-hitting, award winning reporter, entirely career driven and not particularly keen on Christmas, kids, romance, or family. She’s not a Scrooge or a Grinch – she simply has her own goals and priorities. At her office Christmas party, she is briefly reminded of her old boyfriend and wonders what he’s up to. Enter a strange and mystic-speak Santa who offers some cryptic pleasantries for her to ponder on. The next morning, she wakes up only to find herself in a new bed, in a new house, with a ring on her finger, a husband, two kids, and a list of soccer mom tasks to complete. WTF?

There is an odd tradition of Christmas movies and stories flipping into other dimensions and possible timelines from A Christmas Carol to It’s A Wonderful Life to Groundhog Day. We follow in this vein, as Lacey finds herself trying to figure out why she is now married to her old flame, why her old job has been taken by one of her subordinates, why none of her colleagues recognize her, and how to figure out a housewife’s schedule. There’s a lot of gentle, mocking humour as Lacey struggles to get her bearings, make small talk with neighbours she is supposed to be besties with, and love children she didn’t know existed the day before. This being Hallmark, it’s not done in a cynical matter (you can choose to read between the lines about what the story may or may not be saying about a woman’s place in the world) and you know it’s all going to work out in the end. For Lacey’s character though, just as she is getting comfortable with her new life and understanding what love and family can be like, she is switched back to her original life with her husband and kids and sweet picket fence life potentially wiped from existence. She has a choice to make.

If I have any real issue with the film it’s that it doesn’t really give valid reasons along the way for the choices Lacey’s character makes. There’s no valid reason given for Hannah suddenly forgetting this person she supposedly loves, though I concede this was on purpose. There’s no valid reason given for why she would, after ten years of working, realize after a couple of days that she wants a family – beyond the simple interactions with a loving husband and cute kids. I got the impression that, if something else came along she might just as easily abandon her family and hop on the new bandwagon. That’s nowhere near the intent of the film, but I found some of the inspiration and thought behind character choices unconvincing. These aren’t films to usually discuss script or directing, but it’s easily a step above the normal Hallmark fare in terms of story, and Amanda Tapping does a confident, non-flashy job.

It’s another sweet Hallmark movie, with the caveat being that you may actually remember this one. I expect plenty of people will be put off by the apparent message that a woman’s place is at home – not that I fully buy that this is what the film is saying – but for a simple family oriented Christmas movie you could do much much worse.

Britain’s Favourite 50 Songs of the 1980s

The Dolly Dolls 19080s #TBT (With images) | Worst album covers, Greatest  album covers, Album cover art

The 1980s – I’ve talked about them before, do ya kennit? It’s when I was born, it’s when you were born – and even if you weren’t, with the amount of retro mewling and nostalgia surrounding the era these days, you probably feel like you were.

Christmas Telly in 2020 was a bit of a shambles – the days of big movie premieres on Terrestrial TV are long gone thanks to the convenience and availability of Streaming Services, but generally there are a few good shows held back specifically for the holidays by the big British Corporations. My only genuine British TV viewing this Christmas were the fantastic Waterhole: Africa’s Animal Oasis – which saw Chris Packham and Ella Al-Shamahi following the design and aftermath of a human-made Waterhole in Africa, and keeping tabs on the different species turning up to use it – and Channel 4’s Jungle Mystery – Lost Kingdoms Of The Amazon, which followed Ella (again) travelling the Amazon to investigate new proof of the ancient civilizations spread down the river with numbers presumed to be in the millions, and how descendants of these tribes are struggling to survive today.

One mainstay of End Of Year programming is the C-List Celeb pandering ‘Nation’s Favourite’ lists. Every year, most channels will have a Favourite Christmas Songs or Favourite Movie show to eat up a two hour block while the engorged viewer sweats the last leg of turkey out from their pits, but we do get the more curious ventures such as Britain’s Favourite Toy or Britain’s Favourite Biscuit. This year as I was channel hopping I stumbled upon the final fifteen minutes or so of Channel 5’s Britain’s Favourite 80s Song. Now, I’ve no idea who voted for this – presumably some random 1000 idiots were selected (based on the top ten selection), but generally lists of these type cater to the audience the Channel markets to. An NME list of best 80s song would feature a lot more Indie artists than a more populist magazine. Channel 5 has largely given up its more controversial leanings and is now a semi-populist version of Channel 4. Therefore, you’ll expect mostly big hits and Number 1 singles, lots of one hit wonders, with the odd interesting selection.

Lets take a look at the top 50 songs as voted for by Britain, and weep.

50. Relax – Frankie Goes To Hollywood

To its credit, the show is presented by Craig Charles (who makes everything better), but you know there’s going to be a heavy reliance on pop over Indie or Metal, and a lot of British synth artists I absolutely despise who get an unusual amount of credit for apparently creating a new genre. I’ve always argued that synth is an instrument (shock) not a genre – and that the Synth-Wave, New Wave artists were fairly inept creatively, relying on this new fangled instrument (which had been around in previous decades) to bolster average or boring pop songs. The only real legacy or influence that the artists prevalent in this generation have is a legion of even shittier pop and dance acts, and a further dumbing down of Chart Music. Relax is a prime example – it’s an ordinary song – crap vocals, decent melodies, it only stands out because of its synth. It’s not a favourite of mine, but it’s absolutely massive and is always going to appear on a list such as this.

49. You Spin Me Round – Dead Or Alive

You can have all the androgyny you want, that’s great, but your song is shit. Repetitive dog crap, horribly sung like so many British male vocalists of the 80s. I don’t think I ever heard this song in the 80s – it somehow passed me by until it inexplicably took on a second life in the 2000s, and now you can’t escape the thing. A turgid heap of toilet run-off.

48. Vienna – Ultravox

The first song I didn’t really know. Unsurprisingly it’s another synth number, it’s another deep, low vocal – at least until the chorus. It’s slow and melancholy, but at it’s core it is fairly boring. Apparently it was held off Number 1 by Shut Up A Your Face, which is clearly the superior song. I always go for melody and emotion over production or instrumentation – if the core of your song is so hollow that it is only memorable for its use of an instrument, then it’s just surface bullshit. Sure I can enjoy it, but in most cases not. Mix your melody and emotion with production and then we’re talking.

47. Kids In America – Kim Wilde

It’s another synth based pop song, but this one actually nails the melody portion. It’s a silly, pandering lyric, but it’s throwaway fun with a very catchy chorus.

46. The Final Countdown – Europe

An all time classic. Of CHEESE! We have the usually likeable Lucy Porter mixing up Metal bands with whatever the fuck Europe was supposed to be, because you can’t have a musical countdown list without some idiot attempting to mock a genre they clearly don’t understand. It’s a song about nothing, but it’s easily one of the most recognisable songs ever written and is ludicrously catchy. When I was DJing on New Year’s Eves – this was always the song before Midnight.

45. The Tide Is High – Blondie

One of Blondie’s most poppy moments, this cover song is almost as gorgeous as 1980 Debbie Harry. She doesn’t sing it very well or anything, but it’s such a sweet melody that it’s always going to be a winner. And even if it’s not, I’m too busy being mesmerized by Debbie’s face to care.

44. Money For Nothing – Dire Straits

The biggest song from one of my Favourite 80s Albums, Money For Nothing is far from my favourite song on said album, but again there’s no escaping that huge riff. Knopfler is such an underrated guitarist, but not the greatest singer in the world. Outside of the riff, the song is a tad on the meh side.

43. Never Gonna Give You Up – Rick Astley

The Eddie Munster of the Pop World, Rick Astley, meets with the Bin Laden/Hussain/Pinochet of the Pop World – Stock, Aiken, Waterman. This trio generated so much unforgiveable copycat crap in the 80s that it beggars belief. And yet, many of their songs – well, a few of their songs were undoubtedly catchy. One of the main problems I have with their stuff is that they are such cut and paste jobs – you hear one of their songs and you know instantly that it’s them – same instruments, same beat, same rhythm, same production, same soulless smiles – and the videos are almost identical too – bad dances, same camera movements, same colours. It’s ridiculous and cannot in any way be taken seriously as something to purchase or respect. As much as pop metal bands like Europe can be ridiculed, Stock, Aiken, and Waterman songs are so much more ripe for arse-ripping. As for this song… everyone knows it, big chorus, could have been sung by anyone. A darker, slower, not shitty pop version of this song could be interesting.

42. Walking On Sunshine – Katrina & The Waves.

I’m not sure what this is doing on the list – it’s a happy bouncy song forever used in Holiday adverts, but nothing special. The only special comment I can make on the song is that I always enjoy pissing off Iggy Pop fans by saying the intro to Lust For Life and this are identical.

41. China In Your Hand – T’Pau

I’ve always liked this one – no big story behind it, no real reason for me to like or dislike it. It’s just a decent little song which has always been there.

There’s a break in the countdown to talk about MTV and a couple of random other songs – maybe to fill up time, maybe because the Producer of the show was upset their favourite songs were missed out. In retrospect, MTV may have been one of the worst things to ever happen to music, leading to a reliance on visuals and looks over sound and song, a reliance which remains to this day, and has perhaps become the most important facet of creating a hit.

40A. Wild Boys – Duran Duran

Duran Duran were very much style over substance in their biggest songs and videos, and if there’s a single takeaway from the decade as a whole, as it pertains to chart music, it’s style over substance. There are a lot of Duran Duran songs I love – this isn’t one of them – and beyond the bombastic shouting of Wild Boys, there’s not a lot to it.

40B. Thunder In The Mountains – Toyah Wilcox

I don’t believe I’ve ever heard this one, which makes me wonder why it’s on a list like this or who the hell voted for it. Just an excuse to get Toyah in to the show as a commentator.

40. Don’t Leave Me This Way – Communards

Another cover, another terrible synth dance track. A shocking, truly shockingly awful video, with Mr Jimmy Sommerville being possibly my least favourite artist ever thanks to him appearing in no less than four acts I despise – this bunch, Bronski Beat, Fine Young Cannibals, and his solo work. I’m sure he’s a lovely bloke, but his music is the antithesis of everything I enjoy.

39. Purple Rain – Prince

Prince… everybody goes on about him as this chameleon figure, changing genres, having so much variety…. I haven’t heard this at all (in the admittedly small handful of songs from him that I know). I’m in no way versed in the dude’s music, but essentially everything I’ve heard from him is very similar – pop funk. And I don’t like much of it. I’ve wanted to delve into his back catalogue for some time, but I’ve held off by the fact that I don’t really like his biggest tracks, such as this. If I don’t like his best stuff, how the hell would I fare with everything else.

38. Dancing In The Dark – Bruce Springsteen

Out of all the good Springsteen songs they could have picked, they went for this. It’s… fine. Boring, repetitive, not the best vocal, okay melody, okay lyrics, terrible video. Whatever.

37. Chain Reaction – Diana Ross

Yeah, I love this song. It’s cheesy as the in-betweens of a tramp’s toes, but it’s pure sweet golden melody goodness. For some reason, they spend most of the time on this entry talking about Ross being a Diva (like this is in some way a good thing) and her clothes and the video. Keep it to the song, guys, especially when it’s a good song.

36. Don’t Stand So Close To Me – The Police

It’s an odd one… yeah, the subject matter is plenty icky, but like many Police songs it tows the line dangerously between white boy reggae rubbish, and goodness. The song shifts between minor and major in quite a jarring way – I’d have preferred it to go in a different direction for the chorus, but the verses are good. Some bin-lid comments that the song is like a precursor to #Metoo – no… it’s simply good morals and not being a repulsive shitbag – such notions did exist prior to Twitter. Mostly a nothing song I forget as soon as it ends.

35. Eternal Flame – The Bangles

Well, one of my favourite all time songs by one of my all time favourite bands, sung by one of my all time favourite singers. It’s perfect. I can’t quantify what it is about Susannah Hoffs’ voice that I love… but I will never tire of it.

34. Addicted To Love – Robert Palmer

Part of me really hates this song. It’s not good. But there’s still something about it. Bit of a one hit wonder.

33. I Just Called To Say I Love You – Stevie Wonder

This one gets ridiculed quite a lot. Yeah, it’s another cheese gobbler, but it’s sincere. I could of course lose all the little twee bleepy blop sounds – but once again – the sign of a truly good song is when you strip the production away, sing it solo or with minimal backing and it has the same impact. It’s rather lovely.

32. What’s Love Got To Do With It – Tina Turner

Yeah, good song – she had a few of them in the 80s.

31. Karma Chameleon – Culture Club

It’s androgyny done right, hint hint Dead Or Alive. Cheese? Check. Cheekbones? Check. Fun song great melodies? Check. It’s pure 80s silly fun.

30. Tainted Love – Soft Cell

Nope, hate this song. More synth junk. Take away the crap (in other words, listen to the original) and it’s… a little better. For such an average song it has been covered hundreds of times – but there’s not a good version of it to be found.

29. Africa – Toto

I really don’t get why this is a thing – not then, and certainly not now. Sure the 80s were a weird time when any old novelty shite should become successful… I guess that mirrors today’s meme-led world. It’s not terrible… I just don’t understand its success or how it has lasted so long. Once more, it’s the production which takes the song to the next level, beyond its fairly ordinary roots. If I heard it once I’d like it but forget it. For whatever reason it has persisted. Yet another one hit wonder.

28. 500 Miles – The Proclaimers

It’s another novelty song, which wasn’t intended to be one, and another which has inexplicably stayed with us long past its Use By Date. Featuring one more dismal video, it’s a catchy throwaway song which was a hit because everyone was on Coke, and now everyone remembers it in some semi-ironic way. It has been played at every wedding I’ve ever attended. Apart from my own. But seriously, what the hell is up with their mouths?

27. Everywhere – Fleetwood Mac

I always forget this is Fleetwood Mac. I’m surprised it’s on the list at all – I didn’t think people liked it. I still don’t think they do, given that it only receives about 30 seconds of coverage compared to every other song on the list so far. Again, fine, throwaway, don’t dislike, don’t care.

26. Do They Know It’s Christmas – Band Aid

Yep, thought it may have been higher. I guess it deserves to be there for its cultural importance. It’s a good song too.

25. Red Red Wine – UB40

Probably my host despised band ever. Everything these fuckers have done should be confined to The Great Void.

24. Come On Eileen – Dexy’s Midnight Runners

Another one hit wonder, another wedding song, another novelty song. I still like it though.

23. Total Eclipse Of The Heart – Bonnie Tyler

Yep, love it. Like it? I don’t know, I certainly have sung it enough times over the years. 

22. Careless Whisper – Wham!

I’ve never understood it myself, but George Michael and Wham! were huge. Sure, there are a couple of songs I enjoy but the vast majority of his solo, and the group’s material is sugary pop guff. Rather than spend a couple of minutes talking about the song, they launch into a 5 minute segment showing a whole bunch of Wham! hits. This song is one I like when it’s on, but only to a certain degree – the saxophone sounds ridiculous, the verses are bland, pre-chorus is good. It’s the sax that everyone remembers, I tend to forget everything else about it.

21. I’m Still Standing – Elton John

I feel the exact same way about Elton as I do about George. Wildly overrated in my opinion, but this is a good enough song. Certainly would never make my personal top 50 1980s songs, but I don’t have anything negative to say about it. Once again, they spend most of their time speaking about the video and choreography. 

Again, we take a break in the chart to talk of the video and its cost rather than the song. They main feature here is Duran Duran’s Rio, with a bit about how White Artists had money thrown at their videos over Black artists. It’s a decent song, kind of always sounds like a Bond song. Not one I ever think about it, but like any number of 80s songs it has always been part of my life. 

20. Take On Me – A Ha

The Duran Duran bit was obviously a precursor for this. It was only a matter of time before this showed up. I like it. It’s hard not to. It’s not amazing or anything, but again there is no escaping it if you grew up in Britain in the 80s and 90s.

19. I Wanna Dance With Somebody – Whitney Houston

Whitney – what a talent. Then it all went a bit wrong. You’d be hard pushed to find a more perfect 80s pop song, or pop song of any generation, than this. It’s unnecessarily stretched out towards the end, but no doubt a great song.

18. The Winner Takes It All – ABBA

Yeah, I must do an ABBA walkthrough on the blog. This is an endlessly beautiful, sad song. There you go – melody, emotion, instrumentation, all perfect. Just a shame the band is heralded as this big Camp thing rather than the genuinely great songwriters they were. Not that I’ve heard any of their albums in full… actually, we had Voulez Vous in the house when I was growing up so I probably did listen to the full thing.

17. Everybody Wants To Rule The World – Tears For Fears

I didn’t think this was as popular as it seems to be, but fair enough. It’s a decent song but I have no specific thoughts on it. 

16. Uptown Girl – Billy Joel

Novelty song, but one by someone prolific. Prolific, but I know barely any of his stuff. It’s silly, but catchy, like the best novelty songs.

There’s another break to talk about fashion – I always love when people go on about how ridiculous the hair and the outfits were back then, without looking at the absolute state of what they’re currently wearing and which will no doubt be a similar source of ridicule in a few years time. There of course needs to be a bit about Duran Duran versus Spandau Ballet. Still not a single mention of any of the genuinely good musical movements of the 80s, but there you go. 

15. Do You Really Want To Hurt Me – Culture Club

I prefer Karma Chameleon. This is fine.

14. Don’t You Forget About Me – Simple Minds

Fair enough. I’ve never been the biggest fan of this one, and Simple Minds are another one of those groups I’m subtly advised to listen to. I haven’t heard anything to push me in their direction, beyond bands I do like citing them as an influence. 

13. Lets Dance – David Bowie

This is somewhat surprising. I guess they had to get Bowie in there somewhere, far from his best song, far from my favourite from him. 

12. Billie Jean – Michael Jackson

Finally. I wasn’t sure if there would be anything from Michael given the latest accusations towards him after his death. It’s difficult to separate all of that stuff from his music and from your feelings about him, but jeebus his music is still so effing good. I’ve never been that fussed on the video, which of course they spend too long talking about, but the song is an all time classic. 

11. In The Air Tonight – Phil Collins

I’ve never understood the love this guy gets either, or the success. A handful of fairly good songs. I think this song has been drastically overrated over time (HE SUDDENLY PLAYS THE DRUMS) but I appreciate the downbeat nature of the song. This is one of his good ones, but I’m not a super fan. 

10. Super Trouper – ABBA

Interesting. I never thought much of this one – it does suffer somewhat from sounding like just another ABBA song and gets lots amongst all the other hits for me. I’m baffled it’s as high as it is, higher than The Winner Takes It All and Billie Jean!

9. Eye Of The Tiger – Survivor

Another novelty song and essentially a one hit wonder, littered with cheese crumbs. But you wouldn’t change a single thing about it. A perfect example of the pop rock song, and one which never fails do get middle aged men pumped up.

There’s a break to talk about technology and synth, as if we haven’t had enough of that already. They start with I Just Can’t Get Enough. See, it’s songs like this which push me back from ever listening to Depeche Mode. Again, some of my favourite bands cite them as influences, but there hasn’t been a single song of theirs which has given me the kick in the spine big enough for me to care. To me this just seems like another repetitive pop song too reliant on the novelty new instrument, and made worse by the bland droning vocals.

Oh look, it’s another one – Enola Gay by OMO. Bleepy synth? Check. Droning male vocal? Check. Awful video? Check. One hit wonder? Check. This may as well be Depeche Mode or any of the other synth artists on the list. Was it influential? Don’t care. 

8. Don’t You Want Me – The Human League

See above comment. Except this is a little better.

7. Sweet Child Of Mine – Guns N Roses

About f’ck’n time. An antidote to every other piece of crap on the list, though admittedly as overplayed as everything else here.

6. Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This – Eurythemics

Inevitable. It’s certainly memorable, as one note as it is.

There’s a shocking revelation about Madonna – not a single Madonna song makes the countdown, which honestly is truly bizarre. Regardless of how you feel about her music, she was one of the most successful artists of the decade so to not have a song on this list is nonsensical. I call shenanigans. 

5. Girls Just Wanna Have Fun – Cyndi Lauper

Yep, great song. Love Cyndi, doesn’t get the credit she deserves. 

4. Livin On A Prayer – Bon Jovi

It was bound to happen – I’m surprised they only have one song on the list (not surprised it’s this one) and I’m surprised it’s this high. 

3. Radio Gaga – Queen

See above.

2. Every Breath You Take – The Police

Yeah, I’ll take that. I’m not a fan of Sting or The Police, but this is their undoubted masterpiece. 

  1. Last Christmas – Wham!

I’m surprised it’s top, but maybe it’s because it’s that time of year. No doubt it’s a great song, but best song of the 198os? Nah, mate, nah. 

There you have it. No room for Madonna. No room for U2. A single Michael Jackson song… if we think purely about biggest selling artists there was also no AC/DC, Jennifer Rush, Kylie Minogue, John Lennon, and if we think about other genres there’s no New Order, Iron Maiden, Metallica, no Sinead O Connor, New Kids On The Block, BROS, no Public Enemy, Beastie Boys, or MC Hammer, no Kenny Rogers, The Cure, The Pixies, or Kate Bush. Of course, you can’t fit everyone in. 

What are your thoughts on this list? Which songs would you have liked or expected to see on here? Let us know in the comments!

My Blog – December 2019

Well would you believe it? Another year is almost over and… AND I managed to do this regular post for the whole year. I’m not big on routine and consistency, so that’s quite an achievement for me, however hollow and meaningless it may be. I hope the lustre of moonlight is gleaming off the newly formed snow on your lawn, I hope that Santa will be slopping his obese love handles down your smoke chute soon, and I hope that all your dreams for the festive period are realized in wondrous beauty. What is on your Christmas List this year? I don’t mean any of that World Peace malarkey or seeing those damn liberals/republicans/brexiters/remainers/others get what’s coming to them – I mean, what stuff do you want to find under the tree for you on the big day? I find as the years go on, my list gets smaller. A lot of this is to do with time and space, but a large chunk of it is because of streaming – physical media is fading and although I’m a fairly large collector, I just can’t be arsed buying or asking for something anymore unless I really really want it. And in terms of movies, music, games etc, there’s few that I really really want now. Nevertheless, my list is mostly made up of games, music, and movies… TV and books too. And maybe whiskey and rum.

I’m still a big kid. Christmas is still my favourite time of the year and no matter how cynical you get about the commercial side of it, no matter how guilty you feel about the waste, excess, and those worse off, I still get sucked in by the magic. I want to get sucked in by it all. I want the miracles Hollywood has sold us to come true, and I want my kids, my family, my friends, to all create memories to last a life time.

So what is your Christmas routine? Mine now, at thirty six years old, isn’t much different from how it was at six years old. In the run up to the day I make sure to buy that TV mag and circle all the shit I’m going to watch and record. When I was at home I would plan to wake up early, switch on my TV and catch whatever cartoons or movie was on before I was allowed to go downstairs and play with my big ones. Ahem. We would have our stockings filled and hung on our bedrooms doors at night, so in the morning that kept us busy before the excitement was too much and we launched ourselves down those stairs. My younger sister would hear me waking up and bring her stocking into my room to see what she got and to compare – chocolate coins, an orange, a toothbrush, a pound, whatever sweets were on offer in Tesco etc. My elder brother would usually appear afterwards before we kicked down mum and dad’s door and demanded that it was time to get up. Nowadays we let our girls wake up whenever they want and they come running into our bedroom to look through their stockings together. Of course, I still get my own and fill one for Mrs Nightman.

When my little sister was born, she got to be the first to enter the living room to see what Santa had left. We had two sets of presents – Santa’s stuff, and the family stuff, with Santa’s presents rarely being wrapped and the family stuff being under the tree. We would sit together and tear into the Santa stuff first before Dad would head out to feed the birds or do some gardening or do whatever weird stuff it is that dads do and Mum would start thinking about lunch. Now, Mrs Nightman is usually first up because she has to head to the garage to bring in the turkey and start pre-heating the oven. I go into the living room to make sure Santa has been and gone, and to grab the camcorder to record the excited faces coming in and reacting. The main tradition Mrs Nightman brings is Santa Sacks – all of Santa’s presents are stored within giant sacks – when I was growing up the presents were just sitting unwrapped in three piles.

I used to hate going to relations on Christmas Day – most of my huuuge extended family lives ages away (in Northern Ireland and hour’s drive ins considered ‘ages’) and thankfully as we got older we did this less and less. That’s something I’m clear on now – people can come to us on Christmas Day, but I ain’t going nowhere – I have too many toys to play with. After a few hours, Mrs Nightman’s family show up for lunch and to open the presents under the tree while she freaks out in the kitchen that the turkey is too big/small/burnt/not cooked/her feet are sore/that her mum won’t just leave her to do it all herself/that no-one is helping/that I’m just arsing about and not doing anything constructive. All true of course. Then on Boxing Day, or some other day during the period we drive down to my parents and do it all again – though this probably won’t happen this year with Mrs Nightman being very pregnant and the car journey won’t be the most comfortable, given that my lot live ‘ages’ away.

There’s usually Champagne and Crackers, the usual turkey and ham and roast potatoes and absolutely no sprouts or green crap for me. Shloer, sweets, and the same stories about how the various dogs no longer with us also loved Christmas and could unwrap their own presents/leap over a wall/grab a leg or turkey when no-one was looking. Mrs Nightman’s mum will disappear as soon as she can and shortly after it’ll be just us again, with everyone seeing what’s on TV and wondering where the hell all the new stuff is going to live. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

So what about you? What is your Christmas routine? Do you build up to the 25th by watching classic Christmas movies and shows? Will Alexa be blasting Christmas songs from December 1st so that you hate them by the 8th? Do you stay in or go out, do you have a home-cooked meal or find a fancy restaurant? Let us know in the comments. Next year, I’ll try to continue this monthly series and till then I’ll be on the look out for blogging ideas to try – if you have anything you want me to try or write about or share, stick those in the comments to and I’ll see what I can do. For now – Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!

Reminder on blog links:

A-Z Reviews: This category is a single post with links to all my movie, music, and book reviews. It’s the best place to start and you can check it via THIS LINK. I try to update it regularly.

Amazon Vine: I’m a member of Amazon Vine, a program where Amazon’s best reviewers are provided with free products for reviewing purposes in order to drum up publicity before the product is released to the general public. You can find links to the Products I have received here.

Book Reviews: Something I don’t really do anymore, even though I still read plenty. I need to get back into this, but movies are so much easier to review. Maybe I’ll come up with a different format.

Blogging: A new category! This is where I’m going to put this exact post, and the others like it to follow.

Changing The Past: This category is where I go back through every Oscars since 1960 and pick my winners from almost every category. I pick my winners from the official choices, and then I add my own personal list of who I feel should have been nominated. It’s based on personal preference, but it’s also not based on any of the usual Academy political nonsense and I bypass most of their archaic rules. It’s not quite me just picking my favourite films, but it’s close.

DVD Reviews: I should probably just change this to Movie Reviews. It’s what you would expect – reviews of the movies I’ve watched. I’m not a big fan of reviewing every new film which comes out – there are a billion other blogs out there all doing the same thing. I don’t often watch new movies as they release, unless they’re streaming, so instead you’ll be getting reviews of those films a few years later, once I get around to them. Here you will find horror, actions, classics, foreign, indie, sci-fi, comedy, drama – everything. A word of warning – I frequently post reviews that I wrote almost twenty years ago when I didn’t have a clue – they’re crap, but I add them here in all of their badly written glory.

Essential Movies: I’ve only published an intro post for this category, but I have written some other posts for the future. I’m basically questioning what actually makes a film Essential, because it cannot be a definitive statement. What’s essential for you, may not be for me, so I’ve broken down the definition into a few generic user types, then gone through some lists of the best movies of each year to see which ones are essential for each viewer. It’s pretty boring, and I already regret starting it, but that’s me.

Foreign Cinema Introduction: This category hasn’t been published yet, but once again it exists and I’ve written a bunch of posts for the future. The idea came from my many years of hearing people I know IRL or on the internet dismissing anything not mass-produced by Hollywood. If you only watch movies made in the USA – you’re not a movie fan, it’s as simple as that. I follow a few Facebook fan pages and blogs on WordPress which completely dismiss foreign movies – it’s ridiculous as you are missing out on many of the best films ever made. More than that, you are missing out on films which I know for a fact you will adore. So, this is me breaking down all that bullshit about subtitles, about foreign stuff being boring and every other excuse you’ve ever heard, while giving some very basic thoughts and introductions of the various countries of the world from a film perspective.

Lists: Here I post lists – some with comments, some without. All sorts of lists – from monthly previews of the year’s upcoming movies, to my favourite movies by actor or director, to best horror anthologies, best Christmas songs and TV shows, best movies for Halloween, my favourite episodes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, my ranking of Bond movies, songs, and girls, my favourite albums by decade, my favourite songs by artist, bands I’ve seen live etc. I love lists.

Manic Street Preachers Song By Song: One of the first reasons I started this blog was to try to spread the Gospel of my favourite band, especially as they are not well known outside of Britain. Defo not in the US. Then I found out there were other blogs doing it too. Ah well. These are my thoughts on each song. Don’t know them? They are a Welsh rock band who have been around since the late 80s, early 90s. They are highly political and intelligent, on the left wing, and they are probably the finest lyricists in the world. Their main lyricist suffered from various addictions and mental health issues and disappeared in 1995 – although there have been sightings, nobody has ever confirmed they have seen him and no body has ever been found, though the band, fans, and family are still looking. After three albums with him, they suddenly became commercially successful after his disappearance. If you like rock music… if you like music in general, please give them a try.

Music Reviews: This is the same as movies, except for music. Reviews of albums I’ve always loved, as reviews of albums as I’m listening as a virgin. I take a look at the Top Ten UK Charts from a random month in each year and review each song, while giving my own alternative ten songs from the same year, I am reviewing albums that I’ve never heard by artists I am familiar with – filling the gaps in those discographies. I’m listening to spin-offs of my favourite bands, I’m reviewing the Disney soundtracks. I was a metal and grunge kid, but also had a love for the best in 80 pop when I was young, so I like to listen to anything though since around the mid-noughties chart music has gone from extremely bad to entirely worthless.

The Nightman Scoring System ©: This is something I truly love, but something which nobody really pays attention to. You’ll notice in my reviews I don’t give a score. I just talk about the thing I’m reviewing. Scores are arbitrary and when given, people jump to the score and form a conclusion and a bias. If they read the content of the review, there will be a better discussion. That made me think, in a very unprofessional, semi-scientific, ill-examined way, to come up with a fair, universal scoring system which tries to avoid personal and systematic bias as much as possible. If you look at sites like Rotten Tomatoes which are stupidly becoming reference points for quality or to convince you to watch something, or used by advertisers, it’s a completely flawed system. Anyone can post whatever they like, and drag down or push up an average. The same used to happen on IMDb. There are a lot of posts online recently about the disparity between Critical and Audience consensus on RT and it leads to more worthless arguments, because if there’s something the world needs more of these days, it’s people fighting online about pointless stuff.

I devised two scoring systems – one for movies and one for music. To use it, you have to follow the guidelines and be honest. If you’re not honest, it will be obvious, and your review won’t be valid. For both music and and movies, I break down the scoring into twenty different categories of equal weighting – out of five, for a total out of 100. Categories include acting, directing, sales; or for music – charts, influence, musical ability etc. Say you hate the Marvel movies or The Beatles. You can’t score them a 1 out of five in the Sales category because both of those were factually monster hits – they can really only be 5 out of five. In other words, some of what is opinion and bias is removed from the equation. In the same vein, the disparity between critics and audiences is reduced – typically you may think that a movie or music critic care more about how arty or original or influential something is, while the audience might care how many boobs are seen or how catchy the melody is. I’m making sweeping assumptions – but you get the idea – each category is equally weighted so that influence is only worth five points, chart performance is only worth five points, directing, advertising, whatever – each is five points. I’d love to see people use this, and I’d love to run an experiment where a group of people each use the system to score the same thing, and see how similar or different the results are. I’m positive the average would be a more true reflection than anything on RT or IMDB or anywhere else. The only issue with it is, it’s more suited to scoring once something has been out there for a while rather than a pre-release or first week review.

Nightman’s Favourite Films By Year: Self-explanatory. I list my favourite ten films from every year since 1950, with no comment. Then I give a list of my top films from each decade once I’ve done each year, but this time share some comments. There’s also some stats in there, such as how many films I picked which were nominated for the Best Picture Oscar, which were top ten grossing movies etc.

Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: A journalist called Colin Larkin made several of those popular ‘Top 1000 Albums Ever’ books. I grabbed one of them, I removed the ones I had already heard, and in this series I go through the ones that I haven’t heard, give my virgin thoughts, and whether I think it deserves to be called one of the best ever. I want to sync up my Nightman Scoring System © with these. Just one word of warning – I don’t plan or put any thought into these ‘reviews’. I literally listen and type at the same time. Not the best way to give thoughts I know, but that’s the format.

The Shrine: People die. Famous people die. But they live on, in our hearts and minds and in the work they left behind. Here I offer the chance to remember and offer thanks.

The Spac Hole: Each Monday I post a random lyric from a random song. Every so often I write something which doesn’t fit in any other category. Usually it’s weird. That stuff all goes here. There are more semi-regular pieces like those posts where I use Google translate to change the lyrics of (s)hit songs or dreadful imaginings like what I would do if I owned my own Cinema.

The Spac Reviews: Carlos Nightman is my alter ego. Derek Carpet is his alter ego. He is an idiot. He likes movies. These are his reviews. They are…. different.

TV Reviews: I sometimes review TV too. I talk about my current shows and my all time favourites.

Unpublished Screenplays: Derek Carpet sometimes likes to pretend he’s a writer too. Here are some of his original works, based on other movies and TV shows.

Videogame Reviews: I do these sometimes too. Usually retro. Usually with a humourous bent.

Walk Of Fame: Hollywood has a Walk Of Fame. I have one too. Mine’s better, except I don’t update it anymore. Not only do my inductees get a star, but they get a statue too! And, in each post one lucky soul gets a special building concerning their work or life dedicated to them!

My Blog – November 2019 (Horrorathon Round-up)

Well, Halloween came and went as it usually seems to, and it’s now the run in to Christmas. Here at The Spac Hole we don’t care about Thanksgiving or New Year’s, so we’ll just gloss right on over those. I saw my very first Christmas advert on the first of November and the local shops have already cleared away the gruesome for the garish, with Chocolate Santas and feline Advent Calendars already lining the aisles. That’s the way we roll nowadays, from Holiday to Holiday with all the accoutrements to get us there in style and for a fraction of the price.

At the arse end of September I posted about my futile desire to complete one of those ‘watch x number of movies in a month’ dealies that us bloggers are always keen to espouse. Look at me, we scream, I have no other responsibilities and value everyone else so little that I can plough through 50 movies a month to the extent that I now hate all film! Settle down there, son, it’s not that bad. There was never any change of me getting through 1 film every day for a month what with 3 hours travel 5 days a week and crap train wifi, to having a family in desperate need of whatever it is I’m supposed to provide them with. I actually didn’t do too badly and of course had a lot of fun doing it. Here is the list of movies I originally hoped to watch, with those in red being the ones I got to see. Of course, I watched some others that I hadn’t posted about originally, so I’ve added those in blue, and there were non-horror movies too which I didn’t include.

At some point I’ll put up reviews of each, but for now here are my hilarious mini-thoughts:

Ghost Stories: Why aren’t The League Of Gentlemen in this?

Freehold          Aaron’s Blood          The Laplace’s Demon

The House With A Clock In Its Walls          Take Shelter          Poltergeist Remake

Thirteen Ghosts: I lost count

Halloween (Original): You know it

Halloween 2018: It’s Halloween Jim, but not as you know it

Deadtime Stories        Body Count       They Remain          Ghost Ship

The Phoenix Tapes 97          Ouija        Love           Would You Rather

The Perfection: I saw vomit like that once

The Purge: Also known as Belfast: The Movie

It Comes At Night: Can it come a little quicker – I’m getting hungry

Trick R Treat: It’s still lovely

The Girl With All The Gifts: I wish she had the gift of abstinence – from human flesh.

The Divide: Michael Biehn, in a bunker, with a pile of dicks.

Silent House Remake            House            Cube Zero                The Love Witch

Pet                Crawl                 Goosebumps 2

Bordello Of Blood: An Oscar worthy script.

Inferno: I’ve seen this several times and still don’t know what the fuck is going on. Ania Pieroni though.                

It Chapter 2: More of the same. Which I liked.

Dead Of Night (both): Two anthologies, related in name only, one old, one older, both good.    

Hell Fest: A slasher for the (whatever this generation is) generation. More movies in theme parks please.

Children Of The Corn: Sarah Conner before she grew a pair.

Creepshow 2: One good segment. Yes, that one.

The Dead Room (Short): Why aren’t The League Of Gentlemen in this?

Jaws: Made my kids watch it. They ‘didn’t like the blood’.

Doctor Sleep: Mike Flanagan is the best Horror Director in the world right now.

The Stuff: Larry Cohen tells us not to buy stuff while Michael Moriarty does Michael Moriarty stuff.         

The Lair Of The White Worm: Ken Russell likes boobs.

The Purge 2: Also known as USA: The Movie

Did you attempt one of these dreadful challenges? How did you get on? I won’t be doing anything so exhausting in November, but I will be posting some more bits about music and movies. Coming up will be some of the aforementioned horror movie reviews, a series about why lyrics are so crap in pop music these days, more of my favourite songs will get the adoration they deserve, and of course more lists and Oscars posts. Won’t that be fun?

Reminder on blog links:

A-Z Reviews: This category is a single post with links to all my movie, music, and book reviews. It’s the best place to start and you can check it via THIS LINK. I try to update it regularly.

Amazon Vine: I’m a member of Amazon Vine, a program where Amazon’s best reviewers are provided with free products for reviewing purposes in order to drum up publicity before the product is released to the general public. You can find links to the Products I have received here.

Book Reviews: Something I don’t really do anymore, even though I still read plenty. I need to get back into this, but movies are so much easier to review. Maybe I’ll come up with a different format.

Blogging: A new category! This is where I’m going to put this exact post, and the others like it to follow.

Changing The Past: This category is where I go back through every Oscars since 1960 and pick my winners from almost every category. I pick my winners from the official choices, and then I add my own personal list of who I feel should have been nominated. It’s based on personal preference, but it’s also not based on any of the usual Academy political nonsense and I bypass most of their archaic rules. It’s not quite me just picking my favourite films, but it’s close.

DVD Reviews: I should probably just change this to Movie Reviews. It’s what you would expect – reviews of the movies I’ve watched. I’m not a big fan of reviewing every new film which comes out – there are a billion other blogs out there all doing the same thing. I don’t often watch new movies as they release, unless they’re streaming, so instead you’ll be getting reviews of those films a few years later, once I get around to them. Here you will find horror, actions, classics, foreign, indie, sci-fi, comedy, drama – everything. A word of warning – I frequently post reviews that I wrote almost twenty years ago when I didn’t have a clue – they’re crap, but I add them here in all of their badly written glory.

Essential Movies: I’ve only published an intro post for this category, but I have written some other posts for the future. I’m basically questioning what actually makes a film Essential, because it cannot be a definitive statement. What’s essential for you, may not be for me, so I’ve broken down the definition into a few generic user types, then gone through some lists of the best movies of each year to see which ones are essential for each viewer. It’s pretty boring, and I already regret starting it, but that’s me.

Foreign Cinema Introduction: This category hasn’t been published yet, but once again it exists and I’ve written a bunch of posts for the future. The idea came from my many years of hearing people I know IRL or on the internet dismissing anything not mass-produced by Hollywood. If you only watch movies made in the USA – you’re not a movie fan, it’s as simple as that. I follow a few Facebook fan pages and blogs on WordPress which completely dismiss foreign movies – it’s ridiculous as you are missing out on many of the best films ever made. More than that, you are missing out on films which I know for a fact you will adore. So, this is me breaking down all that bullshit about subtitles, about foreign stuff being boring and every other excuse you’ve ever heard, while giving some very basic thoughts and introductions of the various countries of the world from a film perspective.

Lists: Here I post lists – some with comments, some without. All sorts of lists – from monthly previews of the year’s upcoming movies, to my favourite movies by actor or director, to best horror anthologies, best Christmas songs and TV shows, best movies for Halloween, my favourite episodes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, my ranking of Bond movies, songs, and girls, my favourite albums by decade, my favourite songs by artist, bands I’ve seen live etc. I love lists.

Manic Street Preachers Song By Song: One of the first reasons I started this blog was to try to spread the Gospel of my favourite band, especially as they are not well known outside of Britain. Defo not in the US. Then I found out there were other blogs doing it too. Ah well. These are my thoughts on each song. Don’t know them? They are a Welsh rock band who have been around since the late 80s, early 90s. They are highly political and intelligent, on the left wing, and they are probably the finest lyricists in the world. Their main lyricist suffered from various addictions and mental health issues and disappeared in 1995 – although there have been sightings, nobody has ever confirmed they have seen him and no body has ever been found, though the band, fans, and family are still looking. After three albums with him, they suddenly became commercially successful after his disappearance. If you like rock music… if you like music in general, please give them a try.

Music Reviews: This is the same as movies, except for music. Reviews of albums I’ve always loved, as reviews of albums as I’m listening as a virgin. I take a look at the Top Ten UK Charts from a random month in each year and review each song, while giving my own alternative ten songs from the same year, I am reviewing albums that I’ve never heard by artists I am familiar with – filling the gaps in those discographies. I’m listening to spin-offs of my favourite bands, I’m reviewing the Disney soundtracks. I was a metal and grunge kid, but also had a love for the best in 80 pop when I was young, so I like to listen to anything though since around the mid-noughties chart music has gone from extremely bad to entirely worthless.

The Nightman Scoring System ©: This is something I truly love, but something which nobody really pays attention to. You’ll notice in my reviews I don’t give a score. I just talk about the thing I’m reviewing. Scores are arbitrary and when given, people jump to the score and form a conclusion and a bias. If they read the content of the review, there will be a better discussion. That made me think, in a very unprofessional, semi-scientific, ill-examined way, to come up with a fair, universal scoring system which tries to avoid personal and systematic bias as much as possible. If you look at sites like Rotten Tomatoes which are stupidly becoming reference points for quality or to convince you to watch something, or used by advertisers, it’s a completely flawed system. Anyone can post whatever they like, and drag down or push up an average. The same used to happen on IMDb. There are a lot of posts online recently about the disparity between Critical and Audience consensus on RT and it leads to more worthless arguments, because if there’s something the world needs more of these days, it’s people fighting online about pointless stuff.

I devised two scoring systems – one for movies and one for music. To use it, you have to follow the guidelines and be honest. If you’re not honest, it will be obvious, and your review won’t be valid. For both music and and movies, I break down the scoring into twenty different categories of equal weighting – out of five, for a total out of 100. Categories include acting, directing, sales; or for music – charts, influence, musical ability etc. Say you hate the Marvel movies or The Beatles. You can’t score them a 1 out of five in the Sales category because both of those were factually monster hits – they can really only be 5 out of five. In other words, some of what is opinion and bias is removed from the equation. In the same vein, the disparity between critics and audiences is reduced – typically you may think that a movie or music critic care more about how arty or original or influential something is, while the audience might care how many boobs are seen or how catchy the melody is. I’m making sweeping assumptions – but you get the idea – each category is equally weighted so that influence is only worth five points, chart performance is only worth five points, directing, advertising, whatever – each is five points. I’d love to see people use this, and I’d love to run an experiment where a group of people each use the system to score the same thing, and see how similar or different the results are. I’m positive the average would be a more true reflection than anything on RT or IMDB or anywhere else. The only issue with it is, it’s more suited to scoring once something has been out there for a while rather than a pre-release or first week review.

Nightman’s Favourite Films By Year: Self-explanatory. I list my favourite ten films from every year since 1950, with no comment. Then I give a list of my top films from each decade once I’ve done each year, but this time share some comments. There’s also some stats in there, such as how many films I picked which were nominated for the Best Picture Oscar, which were top ten grossing movies etc.

Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: A journalist called Colin Larkin made several of those popular ‘Top 1000 Albums Ever’ books. I grabbed one of them, I removed the ones I had already heard, and in this series I go through the ones that I haven’t heard, give my virgin thoughts, and whether I think it deserves to be called one of the best ever. I want to sync up my Nightman Scoring System © with these. Just one word of warning – I don’t plan or put any thought into these ‘reviews’. I literally listen and type at the same time. Not the best way to give thoughts I know, but that’s the format.

The Shrine: People die. Famous people die. But they live on, in our hearts and minds and in the work they left behind. Here I offer the chance to remember and offer thanks.

The Spac Hole: Each Monday I post a random lyric from a random song. Every so often I write something which doesn’t fit in any other category. Usually it’s weird. That stuff all goes here. There are more semi-regular pieces like those posts where I use Google translate to change the lyrics of (s)hit songs or dreadful imaginings like what I would do if I owned my own Cinema.

The Spac Reviews: Carlos Nightman is my alter ego. Derek Carpet is his alter ego. He is an idiot. He likes movies. These are his reviews. They are…. different.

TV Reviews: I sometimes review TV too. I talk about my current shows and my all time favourites.

Unpublished Screenplays: Derek Carpet sometimes likes to pretend he’s a writer too. Here are some of his original works, based on other movies and TV shows.

Videogame Reviews: I do these sometimes too. Usually retro. Usually with a humourous bent.

Walk Of Fame: Hollywood has a Walk Of Fame. I have one too. Mine’s better, except I don’t update it anymore. Not only do my inductees get a star, but they get a statue too! And, in each post one lucky soul gets a special building concerning their work or life dedicated to them!

The Ghosts Of Christmas

Christmas, eh? Everyone loves it – the food, the presents, the laughing at tramps who don’t get anything, the good will, and of course the music. I actually pity you poor yanks and your crappy Christmas music – everyone knows the UK owns the Christmas Song, although since our peak in the 70s and 80s there hasn’t been much to sing about. No surprise then that the Manics stepped up out of nowhere in 2007 with this slice of nostalgic perfection.

Musically, it has all the hallmarks you want, jolly, woozy, party music with big brass, jingle bells, and cheery chorus, and hooks as addictive as cocktail sausages. Lyrically wonderful it is too, each line marvelous at evoking universal memories – or universal for Britain. Footballs, Scalextric, drunken joy, Morcambe And Wise – this is a song which should be played alongside all of the other British favourites and deserves airplay every December on all of those terrible Top 50 Christmas song shows which take over the music channels on TV each year.

Misheard Lyrics: Sulu’s on the malteaser (?)

Actual Lyrics: Zulu’s on, the Milk Tray’s out

The Ghosts Of Christmas: 4/Great

Amazon Vine Freebies – October 2017

Arghh, children! Children banging my door and asking for treats!

For Your Teacher

The Influential Classics Collection: The Prince and The Republic

For Your Gran

Bomb Cosmetics Holly Soaks Set

For Your Nan

Bomb Cosmetics Creature Comforts

For Your Snowflake

WeRChristmas Pre-Lit Snowflake

For Your Pussy

Animology Feline Fresh Wipes

For Your Kids

WeRChristmas Pre-Lit Nativity Scene Advent Calendar

For Your Daughter

Disney Frozen Northern Lights Anna

For Your Neighbours

Festive Productions 20L Multicolour Silver Wire Lights

For Your Other Teacher

Bomb Cosmetics Christmas Wishes

For Your Secret Santa

Bomb Cosmetics Christmas Ballotin

For Your Wife

Philips PowerLife Steam Iron

For Your Other Wife

Vax Power Stretch Total Home Vacuum

For Your True Match

L’Oreal Paris True Match Minerals Foundation

For Your Aunt

Vax Air Stretch Total Home Vacuum

For Your Da

Lynx Trio Men’s Gift Set

For Your Sister

Maybelline Sweet Cheeks Gift Set

For Yer Ma

Kitchen Craft We Love Christmas Serving Platter

For Your Arse

WeR Christmas Round Santa Christmas Cushion

For Your Bitch

Treat! Dogs Catching Treats!

For Your Other Bitch

Dove Beauty Collection Washbag

Running Out Of Puns

Festive Productions 100L LED

Running Out Of Curls

Tresemme 7 Day Smooth Gift Set

For Your Lips

L’Oreal Read My Lips Christmas Cracker

For Your Brow

Rimmel Brow Pomade

Get These Hands

WWE Top Trumps Quiz Game

Liu Kang

Fei Liu Fine Jewellery Charm Bracelet

Lou R’eal

L’Oreal Paris True Match Minerals Foundation Vanilla Rose

Lou Reed

Nivea Men Prepared Gift Set

Lurid

WeRChristmas Santa With Colour Changing LED Body

Le Sacconejoly

The Sacconejolys And The Great Cat Nap

L’Ord Vader

Mitre Star Wars Football

Le Ooh La La

WeRChristmas Checked Santa Design Tree Skirt

Le Carie Dentaire

Swizzels Retro Sweet Hamper

L’oover

Hoover Sprint Lightweight Cordless Vacuum

Now THAT’S what I call a month of freebies.

TTT – Top Twenty Five Christmas Specials/TV Episodes

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Greetings, Glancers! I’m back again to lovingly twist tinsel around your throats and tug until your baubles burst – in other words – to make you read these words about Christmas. If you liked my Christmas songs post, you should seek counsel with your local priest or GP promptly, but while you wait, why not make things considerably worse for yourself by browsing this post too? What’s the worst that could happen?

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Ah.. yes…

In case you didn’t know by now- I love Christmas. I love the TV, I love the atmosphere, I love the presents. I may be in my thirties, but some childhood traditions never go away – I still get the Christmas TV times and highlight all the TV shows and movies I want to watch or record. One of the things I loved most when younger was getting off school in the run up to the big day, and planning out my day of watching – waking up to catch a few 7.00 am cartoons, then seeing which movie I could watch in bed before breakfast. Even on Christmas Day, I would switch on the TV in my room while going through my stocking – Channel 4 always had the best stuff.

As much as the internet is populated with all the classic American TV specials – The Grinch, Charlie Brown etc – those never entered my Northern Ireland childhood in any real sense. I saw them, but they seemed too cutesy or foreign and as such were not deemed required annual viewing. Much of my list consists of shows which were force fed by my family or which I found myself returning to each year by myself once I gained such critical faculties. Don’t worry US readers – there’s a lot more American content here than there was in my TTT Christmas songs list.

I was too young for a lot of the more traditional British Christmas specials – Morecambe and Wise, The Two Ronnies etc, and I won’t be including any soaps, even if Eastenders and Coronation Street have both had their fair share of memorable one-offs. Remember that time when Bradley fell off the roof, or when Archie was done in by Queen Victoria? No, neither do I. No, old soap episodes aren’t the sort of thing you watch each year as they are ever replaced by new episodes, the Langoliers munching up all that has come before. No game shows or compilation clips shows either, both stalwarts of December viewing – sorry QI and It’ll Be Alright On The Night. Also, The Office will not appear in any guise. Because Ricky Gervais is a dick. Finally (finally!) there’s no ranking because I can’t be arsed.

Alan Partridge – Knowing Me, Knowing Yule

For whatever reason, I never saw much, or any of Alan Partridge in my formative years. It was around the age of 18 that I started watching the odd episode here and there before blasting through it all a few years later. In this episode, Alan is hosting his very own special festive edition of his show and invites guests including a devout Christian lady, a Carry On style innuendo spouter, and the disappointed and increasingly angry Chief Commissioner of the BBC, setting up nicely for the following Partridge series. The format is essentially the same as the others – Alan awkwardly interviewing increasingly ridiculous guests and trading insults, but with a nice Christmas backdrop and theme, and a slightly longer running time.

Beavis And Butt-head

Beavis And Butt-head had the occasional special episode during their run, and while many of the entries on my list are satires on British culture, this one is of course US aimed. That’s not to say it isn’t universal, or at least understandable in Western White culture. There’s A Very Special Christmas With Beavis And Butt-head – the name itself a send up, which sees the useless pair watch a bunch of Christmas songs on TV. It isn’t that exciting an episode, but as always their reactions are amusing and they do get to sing along near the end. Due to those pesky copyright laws, this one is very difficult to find in its original form.

The second episode(s) is Beavis And Butt-head Do Christmas. It’s split into the usual two separate episodes, this time linked with a festive theme. Huh Huh Humbug is another version of A Christmas Carol – but don’t worry, there is absolutely no moral here. Beavis falls asleep while his boss lectures him, and dreams that he is in fact the boss. While trying to watch Porn, he is visited by Ghost Butt-head and a bunch of other familiar faces who show him his past, present, and future – the past being particularly funny. The plot doesn’t go anywhere, but they never do. The second one is It’s A Miserable Life and it has a little more story, with Butt-head being visited by his guardian angel who shows him how wonderful life in town would be without Butt-head messing it up. Again it’s funny seeing the little twists within the world – Stuart and Beavis are now best friends and it seems like Beavis has sunk to Stuart’s level by wearing a Winger shirt – the horror. These ones always take me back to my pre-teen and early teen years and still get a chuckle.

Bottom – Holy

Bottom is one of my favourite sitcoms of all time, with two performers and writers at the top of their game, bringing the unfocused anarchy of their 80s work into the self-referential 90s. Aside from being about getting drunk, ‘doing it’, and slapstick ultra violence, the show has always skewered everything from British traditions to the sitcom format itself.

While Bottom also features a fantastic Halloween themed episode, it’s Holy which really gets the juices going, literally at times. Richie and Eddie, the Hammersmith Hardmen, are trying to celebrate Christmas with Richie in usual jubilant, devoutly English form and Eddie simply wanting to get pissed and watch Goldfinger. We have the unwrapping and sharing of presents, hope and disappointment in unequal measure, charades, Christmas Dinner mishaps (including the hilarious loss of a finger and even more hilarious fixing of said finger),  and even a Christmas miracle. It’s one of the finest British comedy episodes of all time and it’s the one which is most quoted by me in the run up to, and on the big day itself. Has heeeee been?

Buffy The Vampire Slayer – Amends

I talked about this episode in my Season Three Buffy Review so I won’t go into details here other than to say that this isn’t your traditional, drop in and watch, episode. There’s a lot of back story going on, as well as plenty of foreshadowing, but if you’ve seen the whole show a few times then you’ll be fine. The story follows Angel still trying to readjust to life on Earth once more, while being tormented by visions of The First Evil, showing his past brutality and encouraging him to kill himself, or kill Buffy. Buffy, meanwhile is trying to host a normal, family Christmas dinner and invites Faith along. If you’re not a Buffy fan it won’t mean a lot to you, but it’s a nice change of pace from the centrally comic or horror themed episodes.

Friends

Being (one of) the biggest show(s) of the decade, Friends was obliged to have a variety of Holiday Specials – Halloween, Thanksgiving, New Years, Christmas are all covered. There are a few Christmas episodes, as well as other which were filmed around that time of the year and feature New York in all its snowy glory, so you have a few to choose from. In The One With Phoebe’s Dad, the gang are off doing different Christmasy things – Joey and Chandler leave their shopping too late, Monica is on selfish baking mode, Ross and Rachel fight while the heating is off, and Phoebe drives to meet her father. In The One Where Rachel Quits, Rachel quits, Joey gets a job selling Christmas trees, Phoebe witnesses a tree massacre, and Ross helps a scout after breaking her leg. In The One With The Girl From Poughkeepsie Ross is dating two women at the same time and ends up falling asleep on the train and going to Canada, Phoebe is writing a Christmas song, and Monika a Joey scheme to earn respect and money. The one With The Rockin’ New Year’s Eve features some Christmas fun while The Holiday Armadillo is the most famous Christmas episode and features Ross trying to teach his son about Jewish traditions as well as Christmas. Finally, we have The One With The Creepy Holiday Card which sees Ross and Mona’s relationship at breaking point, and The One With Christmas In Tulsa where Chandler is forced to work on Christmas Eve. Watched together, the amount of laughs, nostalgia, and Christmas tone will definitely get you in a festive mood.

Harry Enfield

I could be wrong on this, but I think there were two Christmas episodes in the 90s for Harry Enfield And Chums – it’s difficult given the show hasn’t been released on DVD and it changed its name at least once. These are quite difficult to track down, though you can find it them on Youtube. The shows were sketch based, featuring a wide array of classic characters in various scrapes. The Christmas episodes were extensions of these, with most of the sketches featuring a (mostly very sleight) festive slant both simple characters and those with some sort of progression. Along with this, there was usually a sing-song or longer section such as the characters singing ‘Perfect Day’ or parodying Titanic. There’s were repeated every so often on BBC and now on UK Gold, so catch them to remember a simpler time and some of the based character catchphrases ever.

Inside Number 9

Inside Number 9 is undoubtedly one of the finest TV shows of recent years – an ode to film-making, a love-letter to the creative craft. I know quite a few glancers of this blog are massive movie and TV fans, but may not be as exposed to British Television as those over here. I implore you all to watch this show – if you love horror, comedy, film in general, then this will be a new favourite for you, with the show ranging from gut-wrenching emotional episodes, to horror homages, all down with the typical sadistic wit, love of language, and sinister twists that you would expect from Reece Sheersmith and Steve Pemberton.

For those who don’t know, Inside Number 9 is an anthology programme – each episode featuring a new cast of characters and a new self-contained story, generally set in a single room or location. While the absolutely wonderful The 12 Days Of Christine features Christmas in some key scenes and is referenced in its name, it’s the Series 3 premier The Devil Of Christmas which should be a future viewing tradition. It’s a retro piece, set in the late 70s, and follows a family on a Christmas holiday where one of the locals explains the legend of Krampus. The episode, aside from being a faithful attempt at recalling 70s anthology horror and TV, is very funny, and very dark, and should not be missed. Black Mirror made it big – this should be just as big.

Lost – The Constant

Lost, you say? Lost never had a Christmas episode! Well, you’re wrong, and not only are you wrong but you’ve forgotten the single greatest episode of the series. Not only that, but you’ve forgotten one of the best episodes of any TV show, ever. The Constant culminated in the resolution of many crossover-plots and saw, finally, the happiness of my favourite character on the show. There aren’t enough words I can give to praise this episode – the acting, the writing, the way it all comes together – this is how the series as whole should have ended in terms of quality and tone. While I still enjoyed the last episode, The Constant is the pinnacle of the show. My love for it can be stemmed all the way back to all of those 70s, 80s, 90s cartoons and shows I watched and loved, featuring a person or people trying to find their way home – think Dungeons & Dragons or Quantum Leap or Sliders or Battlestar Galactica. Taken further, it all goes back to my love of The Odyssey – a tale I have been obsessed with my entire life. Hell, lets take it further still and say it’s related to those times I got ‘lost’ as a child and didn’t know how to get home or find my parents. Lost brought this idea into the new millennium, in a time when the world became smaller and there were no more undiscovered lands to explore – The Constant wringing out emotion, drama, adventure, tension, romance, time-travel, parallel balls, and all the rest of it into a single satisfying whole.

Christmas though? Yes, because Desmond has to make the call to Penny on Christmas Eve to let her know… well, I don’t want to get into the plot. This is frankly impossible to watch unless you’ve followed the show from episode 1, closely. Even watching as a standalone when you’ve seen the series before is difficult because you’ll miss most of the intricacies and details and will likely forget many of the more minor characters and references. However, if you’re a superfan, then this makes for excellent Christmas viewing and will warm your heart and make you believe in miracles.

Merry Christmas, Mr Bean

Out of all the shows on my list, Mr Bean is the one my kids have watched most regularly at the time of writing. I try to get them to watch this around Christmas each year, but they prefer the one where ‘Mr Bean shows his bum to all the little kids’. Their words, not mine. Merry Christmas, Mr Bean has a load of iconic and hilarious moments – the most famous of which is of course that Turkey on the head scene. The episode follows Mr. Bean preparing for the big day by doing a spot of shopping. His girlfriend drops hints that she wants a ring, a proposal, leading to much hilarity later on, while Bean messes around with a Nativity scene, leads a Brass Band, raises money for charity, and steals a tree. In the second half he decorates his house, posts a card to himself (which always makes my eldest laugh), makes a hash of Christmas dinner, and designs his own cracker. Mr. Bean is one of my oldest and most most favourite series and another which never fails to warm my soul.

Only Fools And Horses

I’m not even going to bother listing the various Christmas themed episodes for Only Fools And Horses…. incidentally, for any of my US glancers – are you even aware of half these shows? What British shows did you get (before the days of downloading and streaming and Kodi etc) on your shores years ago? A lot of these probably don’t translate well, but if Monty Python gets an audience worldwide then I don’t see why others can’t. Out of all the shows on my list, this is likely the biggest British institution. There have been a whopping sixteen Christmas episodes, starting in 1981, and ending in 2003. The ones I am most familiar with are the ones in the 90s, coincidentally around the time I started watching the show, having previously dismissed it as grimy and depressing. Namely, the 1996 Christmas Trilogy which sees Del Boy and Rodney dressing up as Batman and Robin and then, finally, becoming millionaires. It’s classic British humour, but it helps to have a history with the characters before indulging.

Peppa Pig

Peppa and pals have been around for years now, and with each new generation parents get roped in to watching and end up realising that it’s actually really good. I mean, it doesn’t have the same invention as Ben And Holly but it’s more of a family show. There are now a whole host of holiday themed or one-off Peppa episodes, but the Christmas ones were among the first. Peppa’s Christmas was the first episode to run longer than five minutes, and sees Peppa having to remember what all of her friends want from Santa – then he pops in to say hello. Later on the show started doing multi-episodes where the story followed on from the previous episode – we have one where the family visits a Santa’s grotto followed by an episode where they wake up on Christmas day to see what presents they have, and later still there’s an episode where they see Mr Potato in panto. Due to the short running time you can blast through these quickly, but it’s good to supplement them with some of the snow-themed episodes, like when the family build a snowman, go to a snowy beach, and go skiing. These are great for younger kids and cuddling up to watch and get into the Christmas spirit. At time of writing there is a new Christmas episode coming – by the time I post it should have been shown in the UK.

The Simpsons

What quickly became the Daddy of the festive episode, thanks to the yearly Treehouse Of Horror episodes, and later more regular Christmas episodes. Even though the show is largely unwatchable now, you can still revisit those classics, including the very first episode – Simpsons Roasting On An Open Fire. It looks terrible now, but it still sucks you in and avoids a lot of the terrible, flat humour of Season 1 by piling on the charm. I’ll move next onto the least best episode of the classic era of the show – Gift Of The Magi. By this point in the series the scale was tipping over to having more misses than hits, this one following an evil toy company trying to unleash a new must have on citizens. It’s an okay episode, but not one I’d recommend watching every year. I’d say the same about Skinner’s Sense Of Snow except I remember less about it aside from people being trapped in school. There’s also one about Lisa becoming a Buddhist. No, stick with the good ones; Miracle On Evergreen Terrace sees Bart accidentally burning the presents and lying to the town and features the immortal ‘where is Christmas’ line, and the best of the lot, by a huge margin – Marge Be Not Proud. This one nails what it’s like being a boy at Christmas, from putting up with the lovingly bought, but terrible videogames or knock off action figures (I am Carvallo), to jealousy, to wanting to be loved, and all that other junk. This is the one to watch every year. Recent years have seen almost annual Christmas episodes, but I haven’t seen any of those that I’m aware of – I’ll get round to them eventually, but watching the show now is at once a chore, depressing, sad, and infuriating.

The Snowman

What is there to say about this – you have to watch it. Is this a thing in the USA, or anywhere else? Let me know. Like Mr Bean, it’s universal because it’s mostly silent, even though it’s inherently British. Follow it up with Father Christmas and The Snowman And The Snowdog for added points.

Wallace And Gromit

Although none of them are honestly Christmasy, the fact that they were released and are always shown at Christmas means they have become part and parcel of the whole package. You can take your pick of any of them, but you’re best watching them all over a few days – A Grand Day Out, The Wrong Trousers, A Close Shave, A Matter Of Loaf And Death – and while you’re at it, watch a few Timmy Time and Shaun The Sheeps too.

The Vicar Of Dibley

I say this is just as much of a British institution as Only Fools And Horses and any other sitcom which has lasted more than a few years. It is harmless, family oriented humour which anyone can ‘get’ which makes it great for watching with older kids. I hope my kids end up with a similar sense of humour to me, tending towards the zany side, playing with conventions, playing with language, more on the bizarre, non-sequitur side of the scale. The Vicar Of Dibley has just enough of this, mixed with traditional laughs to make it cross borders, and its Christmas episodes work well enough as standalones, though you’re better with a grounding in the characters. There are a few Christmas episodes, the one where Geraldine has to go to all the different meals on the same day, the one where Alice has her baby, the sort of double episode where it’s Geraldine’s 10th year in Dibley and the anniversary of Live Aid.

The League Of Gentlemen – Yule Never Leave

As mentioned above, my sense of humour was waiting for this show to come along. I already loved Bottom and everything Vic & Bob did, and this came along to merge both styles as well as my love of horror. The League Of Gentlemen instantly became my favourite show after its premier, but this Christmas Special is one to whip out and return to thanks to its anthology nature. Sure it means more if you know about the characters, but it’s a better choice to watch on the spur of the moment than any other episode as the series was fairly plot heavy.

I love anthology series and movies, and in this special episode, the Vicar is trying to have a bit of peace at Christmas but is disturbed by three visitors, each with their own macabre tale – the highlight of which is the Herr Lipp story. If you want to laugh your balls off this Christmas, this is the one to watch – I highly recommend you watch the series from beginning as it’s an all time great. Even better is that we’re getting new episodes this year as part of the 20th anniversary!

The Royle Family

This was grabbing all the headlines around the time The League Of Gentlemen first came out, and as such it was like Oasis Verses Blur all over again. I didn’t watch the show for quite some time, and the pieces I saw of it, all the slow panning cameras of people sitting, eating, yawning, scratching themselves, pissed me off. When I finally did watch, I began to appreciate it. I mean, I still hate all that slow panning stuff and the repetition, but I love the characters and the dialogue. The series last for three seasons, and had two Christmas episodes, but since the original run it has been brought back a number of times for specific new Christmas episodes. Again, it’s perfect for family viewing, but better suited to having teens in the house as the kids won’t understand any of it. I’m not sure I’ve even watched any of the other later Christmas episodes, but I must do that this year as we won’t be getting any more after the tragic passing of Caroline Ahern.

The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air

The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air remains, well, fresh. It’s still LOL funny today, has more one-liners, yo momma, and fat jokes than anything else, and is still a better written sitcom with more fully formed characters than most around today. It’s one of those shows which influenced me to the point that I can’t answer a simple question without including some sort of joke or sarcasm. I used to tune in to every new episode on BBC 2 and laugh my ass off, and the show still gets regular viewing by me today. The show had a bunch of Christmas episodes – all are worth revisiting in December, from Will decorating the house, to the one where they are robbed, and the one with Boys II Men, or the one where Hilary decides she wants a baby…. or does she?

The Fast Show

The Fast Show was the master of one-liner, catchphrase character based, surreal skits and sketches. It feels weird now looking back at a show which was often based around building up to a certain character saying their unique catchphrase, but the show was so much more than that, creating a world of interesting and weird characters with a wealth of humour and drama. As the name suggests, the show was quick moving, with sketches rarely lasting over a couple of minutes. Everyone had their favourites – while most loved the likes of Ted and Ralph, it was always the weirder side of the scale that I enjoyed – Johnny Nice Painter and the ‘what if you feel down a hole’ guy. Johnny Depp made an appearance, many of the characters featured in spin-offs, other shows, or ended up having their own dedicated series, and it has been brought back for various new series or specials over the years. The Christmas Episode as exactly as you’d expect it – more sketches with the usual suspects, though with a Christmas twist or backdrop. It will either be entirely bewildering to any newcomers watching now, or you’ll be sucked in and left gasping for more – for regular viewers it’s another great one to watch at Christmas for a quick collection of laughs with old favourites. SLAP. IT. IN.

The X Files

Like Lost, you may think it’s a bit strange that a show such as The X Files would contain a Christmas episode. Why not, though? WHY NOT? There are two episodes which overtly features Christmas – in Christmas Carol, the ongoing saga of what happened to Mulder’s sister is avoided and instead we look at Scully’s dead sister Melissa. Melissa had been killed off in an earlier episode, but here, during a Christmas trip with the rest of her family, Scully begins receiving phone calls from a young girl who sounds just like her sister – investigations and twists ensure. It’s not the most festive episode, and you’d need to be a longstanding fan to follow everything, but it’s still good. On the other hand, How The Ghosts Stole Christmas is a monster-of-the-week festive experiment. By this point in the series, the writers were creating more outlandish and unique episodes outside of the main arcs, and this was one of the most popular – I can remember watching this in bed in its original BBC run and chatting about it in school the next day. It’s Christmas Eve again and Mulder ropes Scully into investigating a haunted house – ghostly hijinks ensue in what is simply a good fun romp – its standalone nature makes it a strong candidate for one-off viewing.

3rd Rock From The Sun

I was a huge fan of this during its original British run, but it was one of those shows that no-one else seemed to watch. It was the right mixture of surreal and traditional, the performers were excellent, and the writing and jokes were always top notch. Jolly Old St Dick is probably the best festive episode, with Sally and Harry getting part-time Mall jobs at Christmas, leading to plenty of laughs, Dick being arrested, and Tommy again becoming frustrated with August. Happy New Dick almost qualifies but focuses more on New Year, while Gobble, Gobble, Dick, Dick is based on Thanksgiving.

The Twilight Zone

The Twilight Zone must surely rank as one of the greatest, most rewatchable, and most influential series of all time, and even it was no stranger to the Christmas episode. The Night Of The Meek deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as other Christmas Classics such as A Christmas Carol and It’s A Wonderful Life, being a hope-based story in the midst of troubling times. It centers on an alcoholic store Santa on Christmas Eve, a well-meaning character who wishes that just for one day all the beaten, downtrodden, and hopeless people he knows could be happy. This being The Twilight Zone, his wish comes true, and for a change there isn’t a stinging twist in the tale. Next up is The Changing Of The Guard in which Donald Pleasance learns on Christmas Eve that his job is going to be given to a younger man, so he contemplates suicide. Enter a guardian angel to show him that this would be a mistake. There are plenty of other episodes of the show which feature snow or moral quandaries suitable for watching at this time of the year, and as always if you’ve never seen the show, there’s no better time to start than today.

South Park

I’m not going to bother listing all the festive or Christmas related shows here – any or all of the Mr Hankey episodes will do nicely here, and most are delightful and hilarious send ups of various tropes and cultural norms.

Spittin’ Christmas

I freely admit that anyone not from Northern Ireland and of a certain age will have no idea what this is. It’s a bit of a cheat given that it’s not actually a TV show, but a comedy recording – I have it on cassette but you can find it on CD or online. What is it? It’s a comedy recording by one John McBlain – a wonderful impersonator from my country whose voices are second to none and whose comedy centers on British and Irish politicians. Even if you listen to it as a non NI person, you’re unlikely to understand the voices never mind the references or know who the various players are, but for me it’s a vital part of Christmas tradition. There are actually two versions of it (at least) – Christmas at Adams’ and Christmas at Paisley’s but they’re essentially the same.

For existing fans of McBlain’s Spittin series, this is a joy – you’l already be familiar with the characters (caricatures of their real life counterparts) – the ultra violent beast Ian Paisley, the cowardly pervert Gerry Fitt, the shit-stirring Adams, John Cole who tries to hold it all together, and many more – even Bill Clinton pops in. They are all getting together for Christmas dinner in one of the homes which Gerry A owns (or should I say frequents, for various reasons) and to have a bit of a chat and a party. Naturally all hell breaks loose, there’s piss in the soup, Robert craps himself, Fitt cuts down a tree and wrecks himself…. yeah, I’m laughing my head off typing this but you are likely losing the will to live. It’s packed with one-liners, hilarious gaffs, great moments, and it’s also fucking disgusting. Click the link above, but be warned, this is racist, sexist, makes jokes about the handicapped, pedophilia, and anything else you could possibly be offended by… but it’s all funs and games.

Warehouse 13

Warehouse 13 is such a wonderful show – it’s the geek show that not even geeks talk about. It’s a lighter take on something like The X Files with a great cast, interesting ideas, lots of sexy ladies and (sort of) lads, and it’s written by Jane Espenson – if you’re not sold, you’re not worth talking to. Basically, there’s a big warehouse in the middle of nowhere which houses mysterious, mystical, and powerful artifacts – items with the ability to stop time, to give super powers, to hurt people etc, and they are typically based on some historical moment or famous person. A group has been protecting these artifacts for hundreds of years, preventing them from doing harm or falling into the wrong hands. Each episode follows a different artifact, though there are larger arcs too. Oh yeah, loads of Buffy people and other famous guest stars pop up too.

Anyway, the show has a couple of Christmas episodes which are, again, best viewed if you’re already a fan but still are entertaining standalones for the uninitiated. Secret Santa sees Claudia trying to reunite Artie with his father, while Myka and Pete investigate a Christmas artifact which seems to be making Santa evil while The Greatest Gift is a little more trippy as Pete accidentally sends himself to a parallel universe where he doesn’t exist and has to convince his friends to save him and send him back. Both episodes are a lot of fun, have plenty of drama, laughs, and Christmas cheer, and are good as an early December entree.

I think that’s enough yapping for now. Even as long as this post was, I’m sure there’s a load of shows and episodes I’ve missed. Let us know in the comments what your favourites are, what your Christmas viewing routine is like, which shows you absolutely couldn’t miss when you were young, and if I don’t speak to you again before the big day – Merry Christmas!

TTT – Top Twenty-Two Christmas Songs

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Greetings, Glancers! It’s the festive season again, that most wonderful time of the year when we open our chimneys and beckon Good Old St Beardy McBuldgingsack into our homes so he can spurt joy all over our hearth. That run up to Christmas may be getting earlier each year, and as we grow older and more cynical it’s increasingly easy to aim a sneering ‘humbug’ at the whole tinsel-draped event. But ‘fie’, says I. Fie, to all the naysayers, scrooges, sadsacks, and seasonally-challenged. Fie to those who would rain on our snowy parade in a vain attempt to wash away our once a year spending spree in a moaning puddle of sleet. Who could deny the smile and wonder of the wide-eyed child when they stumble out of bed to find a Winter Wonderland frosting up their windows? Who could hold back a tear and an oh so human warmth when seeing the innocence and excitement of finding a half-munched carrot in the living room and bags upon bags of toys and treats just waiting to be discovered? Dicks, that’s who.

Growing up in the turgid 80s wasteland of Northern Ireland, where a large snowfall usually meant having to spend longer on your hands and knees checking for car-bombs each morning before heading to school, Christmas was nevertheless something unimaginably special. The lights, the music, the parties; the end of school, the Television specials and adverts, and of course the presents. Even though Christmas as depicted on screen, in such far-flung places as England and the USA looked like an impossible dream, where everything was bigger, brighter, and even more snow-packed and gift-wrapped, in our wee corner of the globe we still shared in the united glory and tradition.

A very large part of that tradition – one that has been going of course for centuries, but at least as part of modern culture, is the Christmas song. I’ll say this about the USA – as impressive as their Christmases looked, their Christmas music is wank compared to ours. This list therefore is going to be primarily British. What list? Why, this list of my favourite Christmas songs! This selection of songs never fails to bring back memories, nostalgic feelings, and the fact that they have been enjoyed for so many generations and continue to be passed from parent to child each year will ensure that even as our descendants are old and frail, they will still be taken back to a place of happiness and wonder upon hearing them. I hope you read, enjoy, and comment with your favourites, but above all I wish you a safe and happy Christmas.

22. A Winter’s Tale – David Essex

Slow. Dreary. These are things that are not reflective of Christmas, yet so many Christmas songs, particularly US ones strike me as being such. This song I feel skirts dangerously close to falling into that category, but avoids it due to the warmth and comfort of melody. The horns work, the violins hit the mark, and the sentiment ripples outwards.

Did it reach Number 1 in the UK: Nope, but it did get to number 2

Is The Video Terrible: Yes, just David meandering through various depressing snow-covered fieldsand hanging about near a shed

21. Lonely This Christmas – Mud

Firstly – this is NOT Elvis. Okay? It sounds like Elvis, but this has nothing to do with him aside from the fact that the band are deliberately trying to sound like him. I always assumed it was him when I was young, and when I saw the video I assumed Mud were covering him. It’s slow too, but it has always struck me as funny – that along with the harmonies keeps it from being dreary. It could absolutely do without the spoken section.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Yes, and it was a Christmas Number 1.

Is The Video Terrible: Of course – a live version taken from TOTP where the band sit about looking depressed in front of the world’s most 70’s Christmas tree. They are wearing gaudy suits and covered in tinsel and bauble accessories, yet rather than appearing festive they look like  four local low-grade thugs who have broken into your home and demanded a warm plate of turkey and ham – and they’re not pleased about having to wait.

20. Thank God It’s Christmas – Queen

It’s another slow one, and it has terrible 80s drums, but it does have Mr Mercury belting out the vocals – particularly the title – so it’s immediately worth hearing. It’s far from being exciting, nothing really happens, yet it somehow still works.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Nope, not even close

Is The Video Terrible: There isn’t one.

19. Stay Another Day – East 17

Many people argue that this isn’t a Christmas song. Yes, there’s very little Christmasy about it, except for the fact that the video has fake snow and the boys are wearing hoodies. There is some timpani or bells or something which gives it the edge, and the fact that is was released in December and was such a massive hit means it has become associated with the period – that’s fine with me. On a serious note, the lyrical content bears mentioning as it was written about the suicide of one of the member’s brothers. It’s unusual subject matter for a boyband, it’s unusual for a boyband member to actually have any input into a song’s creation nevermind write the whole thing, and it’s unusual that it actually ends up being pretty good.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Yes. It was apparently their only UK number 1 and it was a Christmas Number 1.

Is The Video Terrible: It’s a boy band, so obviously the video is terrible. It looks like it was put together on Media Player by a child, and it consists almost entirely of the group in various poses shooting around the screen or giant close-ups of their faces panning across. It’s doubly terrible because of how the group were portrayed as ‘bad boys’, so they have all these looks that aren’t so much smouldering or heartfelt, but rather come across as ‘I’m going to stab you and then ram your nan’. Also, did you ever notice how whenever a new boy band becomes popular, within months an alternative appears and they are ALWAYS – without exception, portrayed as bad boys? It’s hard to take any of it seriously when the songs are wafer-thin love-letters or requests for sex. Aimed at 10 year olds.

18. In Dulci Jubilo – Mike Oldfield

The only hymn on my list, the only instrumental, and the only song that’s over 500 years old. You have to hand it to Oldfield – he’s a musical beast, playing all the parts himself and using roughly 500 instruments too. It doesn’t feel like a Christmas song at all, except for the fact that it’s always played around Christmas. It’s also repetitive as hell but remains dynamic throughout thanks to the gradual building of instruments and the occasional little twist on the standard.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Nope, number 4 only.

Is The Video Terrible: Yes, it is kind of terrible, but that’s mainly due to the age and hair and fingernails and clothes, yet it apparently influenced every Youtube video ever made with it’s grid based format showing Mike playing each instrument.

17. Do They Know Its Christmas? – Everyone

The ultimate ‘get together a bunch of famous people to sing a song’ song. It has also been re-recorded and released with diminishing returns numerous times, but there’s not getting away from the original. It’s not the most complex song – it’s not supposed to be. It’s meant to be a message to the world, delivered in an earnest and easily digestible, commercial way. It worked, becomes one of the biggest selling songs of all time.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Yes, and was a Christmas Number 1.

Is The Video Terrible: Yes, given that it’s just a bunch of famous people singing into the camera or walking around in slow motion. It’s interesting now though as you try to work out who each person is and what the hell was wrong with the world in the early 80s to make some of them so famous in the first place – to be fair, each version of the song has featured mostly unremarkable artists and the odd diamond.

16. Walking In The Air – The Snowman – Peter Auty/Jones/Nightwish

I’ve no idea how popular this, or The Snowman is in the USA – let me know in the comments, I guess. Over here though it’s a must for Christmas viewing – the timeless story of a boy and his adventure one night with a snowman. In some ways I wish this hadn’t been such a choirboy vocal as those are almost always unlistenable. It works though, although I will say the Nightwish version gives some much needed oomph – I don’t think the best version of the song has yet been recorded, or if it has I haven’t heard it. I do love the quiet instrumental version which is played over the end credits – beautiful. I’ve given three links above – the original by Auty, the Aled Jones version (yes folks, it’s not him in the movie), and the Nightwish one.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Nope.

Is The Video Terrible: The Snowman is excellent – everyone should see it. The Aled video is fairly bad, unless you’re into watching Welsh boys traipse around barren mountains, while the Nightwish version was not a single and had no video.

15. Don’t Let The Bells End – The Darkness

Back in that brief period when The Darkness was a popular band, they cranked out an impressive number of hits. This is arguably their widest reaching song, aimed directly at the Christmas market and ensuring annual rotation. Good marketing, sure, but it’s also a fun, festive song with all the hallmarks of other British classics. There’s a wry sense of humour, heapings of cynicism, and plenty of double-entendres. Musically it has everything you would want from a Christmas hit – big chorus ripe for a drunken singalong, hefty verses filled with festive lyrics and traditional instruments, a choir of kids etc. It doesn’t take itself seriously, just like most of the best hits for the time of year.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Unfortunately not, just like a bunch of other better songs. It was held off the top spot by the absolute wank cover of Mad World – one of the worst songs of all time.

Is The Video Terrible: It’s fine – deliberately cheesy, it fits with the rest of the band’s visual output and humour while also harking back to a few previous Christmas videos. It’s mostly the band unwrapping presents in front of a roaring fire inside a log cabin, but done with plenty of panache and larfs.

14. Mr Hankey The Christmas Poo – South Park

Nothing says Christmas like squeezing out an enormous yuletide log of your own, and this song continues the grand tradition of animated characters recording a Christmas song. The song appears in the episode of the same name, along side other classics like Kyle’s Mom Is A Big Fat Bitch and A Lonely Jew On Christmas, but this is the winner. It’s as ridiculous as it is ridiculously catchy as well as being endearing and funny.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Of course not.

Is The Video Terrible: Of course not.

13. Wonderful Christmastime – Paul McCartney

It’s another one that reminds me of Christmas parties as a child, ones we had at home, or the more organized group ones in my town. This was always one of a number of songs which seemed to be played every day of December and therefore it’s intrinsically linked to toys, snow, and good times in my mind. The song has a lot of weird synth stuff going on meaning it doesn’t feel inherently Christmas-like, but it does have those bells and the video is festive as hell. It’s super repetitive and simplistic, but still good.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Nope, it only got as high as number 5.

Is The Video Terrible: It’s certainly dated, with a lot of weird effects and fashion, but the setting of the pub in the midst of a party is a great idea – all the locals are hammered, everyone’s dressed up in cosy garb, the booze is flowing, and Paul keeps bouncing about in every shot like he’s snorted a snowball right off Rudolph’s red nose.

12. A Spaceman Came Travelling – Chris De Burgh

The most unusual song on the list – weird considering the list includes a singing turd. De Burgh posits that the Star of Bethlehem was actually an alien spacecraft. The lyrics are interesting and the song feels both ethereal, somehow faith-driven, and otherworldly. I love the organ/keyboard.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: When it was first released in the 70s it failed to chart, but it had better success when re-released in the 80s with a more Christmas themed arrangement.

Is The Video Terrible: There wasn’t one, so I’ve linked your standard live version.

11. Hazy Shade Of Winter – The Bangles

Okay, this one isn’t necessarily very festive – it does have those jingle bells though and if you play it each Christmas it’ll soon sink in to your annual festivity. There aren’t many Christmas songs which rock as well as this one, so you should stick it in your playlist.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Nope, only number 11.

Is The Video Terrible: It has Susanna Hoffs in it, so it couldn’t possibly be terrible. It’s just the band playing with clips of Less Than Zero in the background.

10. Mistletoe And Wine – Cliff Richard

It seems weird that soon we’ll have kids (actually, we already do) growing up in a world without Cliff Richard’s music. I’m hardly a fan, but he’s nevertheless a British icon. Cliff has always been no stranger to Christmas songs, but I think this is his most well-known and best, and you can’t pass December without hearing this at least five times. Cliff took a rather sordid song and made it more religious, more Christmasy. It’s all about the kids, as Christmas should be, but hopefully it doesn’t take on a more dubious meaning given recent rumours about Cliff. Again, though I’m not a fan, it’s pretty shocking that many people don’t recognise his influence and impact. Back on topic, this is a super-happy song with lyrics about presents, Santa, hymns, fires, baby Jesus et al. It’s great.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Of course, one of the four times Cliff has had a Christmas Number 1. Speaking of Christmas Number Ones, looking at the list the last one I’ve actually heard is 2009’s Killing In The Name. Sad.

Is The Video Terrible: Depends on you really. It’s just Cliff and a bunch of extras roaming around a set filled with fake snow, singing carols and swinging their arms.

9. Merry Christmas Everyone – Shakin Stevens

We’re into the classics now – another song you’ll start to hear in shops around the middle of November. The moment you hear those opening notes you can’t help but grin like a maniac and it’s another which takes me back to my childhood with zero effort.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Does Santa shit in your chimney? Christmas Number 1. Incidentally this, along with a few others in my list re-enter the UK charts every Christmas and generally reach the top 40.

Is The Video Terrible: It’s certainly different, starting out with some kid getting a private jet trip and landing in some far-flung snowy land. From then on it’s as Ultra-Christmasy as the song itself, with snow fights, sleigh rides, presents, Santa, elves, and the rest. That dance remains terrible, as are the rolled up sleeves.

8. Fairytale Of New York – The Pogues

My wife’s personal favourite. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with this one as in the UK it’s held up as this untouchable thing – it’s not, it’s just a decent song. Out of all these songs I feel like it’s overplayed the most and it’s the one I get sick of most easily. Perhaps it’s the whole Irish thing that annoys me given my feelings about that particular brand of music. Yes the lyrics are cynical but that loses its impact after the billionth play and you begin, quickly, to remember how terrible the vocals are. Still, you can’t have Christmas without it!

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Nope, held off the top spot by The Pet Shop Boys. There’s no question it should have made Number 1 though.

Is The Video Terrible: It gets points for featuring a snarling Matt Dillon, but loses points for showing Shane Macgowan. If Shane Macgowan starred in a horror movie it would be banned. The video is mostly a lot of bored, dour, sour faces sitting in bars or walking around New York – it has become iconic, but that neither means it’s terrible nor good.

7. River – Joni Mitchell

It’s arguably the finest rip off/musical homage of all time, with Joni twisting ‘Jingle Bells’ and transforming it into something serene, heart-rending, and timeless. This is likely the finest song on this list and a haunting reminder that Christmas can be rough. It doesn’t go into some of the more important issues we should think of at this time of year – homelessness, starvation, families drifting apart etc, instead fixating on a single relationship. But who cares, it does what it does beautifully, the lyrics and music centre on Christmas, and it’s a gorgeous listen every damn time.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: It was never released as a single, so nope.

Is The Video Terrible: No video.

6. Last Christmas – Wham!

I prefer the James Dean Bradfield solo version as it cuts away most of the chaff, but this is the better of the two in terms of pure festivity. This is Christmas through and through, managing to be tragic and happy at the same time. It’s great, and again you can’t have Christmas without it.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Nope, kept off the top spot by Band Aid – the song remains the biggest selling UK single to never reach number 1.

Is The Video Terrible: It’s certainly a dated relic of the 80s, but it isn’t terrible in and of itself. There’s nothing amazing, just Wham and a bunch of extras prepping for a party and having fun up a snow covered mountain.

5. The Ghosts Of Christmas – Manic Street Preachers

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Nope, it was released free so wasn’t eligible for charts. Damn Capitalism.

Is The Video Terrible: Manics videos are rarely very exciting, and as this never had one we can assume it would have been standard fare. However, given the band’s love of nostalgia we may have had childhood clips and the usual twists on British culture. I can’t even find the song on Youtube, so you know it must be good.

4. Happy Xmas (War Is Over) – John And Yoko

An anti-Vietnam war song, became an anti-war song, became an anti-hate song, and remains a pro-Christmas song. It’s another which doesn’t feature a lot of traditional Christmas sounds or lyrics, but the sentiment is one of hope, peace, and looking towards a brighter future – things we can all support at this time of the year. Musically it’s one of the best post-Beatles pieces of work, and not even Yoko’s wailing can dampen it.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Nope, number 4 in 1971 and then number 2 in 1980, as well as other positions in other years.

Is The Video Terrible: There are a couple of different versions, but they’re both fairly similar. The original features John, Yoko, and Sean and a lot of footage from their War Is Over period, while the newer one is news footage of the aftermath of war, famine, murder etc.

3. All I Want For Christmas Is You – Mariah Carey

A frequent winner of many Best Christmas songs lists, it’s certainly one of the most fun, unashamedly buoyant, and downright joyous Christmas songs. How can you not smile or get excited when you hear this? It makes me want to live somewhere where there’s actually a guarantee of snow each December, not the same grey clouds and drizzle we get every other time of the year.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Nope, number 2, kept off by Stay Another Day.

Is The Video Terrible: No, it’s probably one of the best videos on the list. Back before Mariah was a dick, she was incredibly hot, supremely talented, and crucially – not a dick. Her frolicking about in the snow should be watched at least once during the holiday period and it makes me, again, wish I lived somewhere with actual seasons – warm summers, freezing winters, not this endless grey shite we deal with 90% of the time.

2. Merry Xmas Everybody – Slade

IT’S CHRIIIIIISSSTMAAASSS! There’s isn’t much else to say about the song – it’s great, and you need it in your life in December.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Yes, Christmas Number 1 in 1973

Is The Video Terrible: Absolutely, but it’s great too. Laughing at the hair and the fashion and the Noddy, but then remembering that whatever you are wearing, however you are dancing, is going to be ridiculed in 10 years time. Not me though – my look is timeless. It’s another live performance video so you can’t say much about it.

  1. I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day – Wizzard

My favourite, and it has mostly always been that way – all those memories I’ve mentioned before about my own childhood are most perfectly recalled by this, it’s probably the song I listen to most at the time of year, and it’s definitely the song I find myself singing or humming most. It’s perfect. I think it’s the only Wizzard song I’ve ever heard.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Nope, kept off the opt spot by Merry Xmas Everybody.

Is The Video Terrible: Well, yes. The band, in all their bizarro, glam, glory prance around in a semi-frightening manner while a bunch of kids arse about with them.

There you have it, my favourite Christmas songs. I’m sure you have plenty of your own. As I was typing the list, I remember the Gary Glitter classic – Another Rock ‘n’ Roll Christmas – a song I always kind of liked, but then… Gary Glitter. Let us know in the comments what your favourites are and if you have any fond memories of Christmas music!

Bonus – Sexy Christmas USA – yeah, best watch this one alone. Or Never.

Book Reviews – The Christmas Pocket Bible and Disney Classics SIngalong

*Note – both reviews were written a few years ago based on free copies provided by Amazon.

The Christmas Pocket Bible: Every Christmas rule of thumb at your fingertips (Pocket Bibles)

The Christmas Pocket Bible makes for a good stocking filler or pre-Christmas present; a read in the nights running up to the big day can heighten the seasonal festive feelings, while browsing through the history, the copious lists, interesting stories, and other assorted details is an ideal and relaxing way to spend the aftermath of a stomach bursting Christmas meal. The book is informative and interesting where it explains the often wacky origins of our traditions, and on the flip side it can inspire new traditions for your family, ideas for the holidays, and ways to improve or adapt your Christmas. The book is laid out in the fashion of an encyclopedia, so rather than read from front to back you can simply dip in and dip out. At the moment the book is fairly cheap- good value for the amount of information on offer here. Well written and researched it reminds me, if anything, of QI – the show and the books. There is a gentle humour and some articles seem to enjoy delving into the stranger side of our cultural past. Overall this provides a decent and leisurely way to pass some time over the holidays.
I’ll echo what most other people have said about this book and CD combo – good book, average cd. The book has solid, thick pages with vibrant artwork depicting scenes or people from 6 Disney classics. As is to be expected from Disney, the colours and characters are second to none, endlessly charming, and will spark the imagination of many a young fan. If I have any complaint about the book it’s that some are sparse, but I assume that is so that the lyrics are easier to read. Additionally, I don’t think we need the copyright info and song credits on each page – they could have been together on a final page – but that would be mere nitpicking.

Onto the CD – I have no problem that these are not instrumental versions, in fact I prefer the full vocal backing. However, the vocals are not from the movies in some cases which takes away from the experience, at least for a hardened Disney fan like myself. I imagine this wouldn’t be much of a problem for the younger listeners. My main complaint is the song collection, featuring two songs from Winnie The Pooh which I don’t think anyone has ever heard, and one from 101 Dalmatians, which is hardly known as one of the strongest musically in Disney’s catalogue. There are a wealth of songs and films to choose from, so it seems odd to pick 3 relatively weak songs when the likes of Aladdin and Beauty And The Beast are left out. Naturally this is personal preference, and again I’m sure that the kids won’t mind. There are plenty of other cd/book combos and you can always buy movie soundtracks.

So overall this is a good, cheap product which is a bit different from the usual selection of fairy tale cds. Kids and adults alike can singalong and relive some classic Disney moments like Simba’s courting and King Louie skipping over his own arms. The last time I attempted to relive that particular moment and skip over my own arms, it ended up with a quick trip to casualty, two weeks of agony, and a lifetime of embarrassment, but it was all worth it for 8 seconds of hilarity.