What have you been watching this Christmas 2010?

John Hurt in Whistle and I'll Come To You

Christmas has come, Christmas has gone. But most people probably spent at least a bit of watching tele. Since we live in the fabulous world of Internet catch-up services like the iPlayer and Hulu, why not tell your fellow readers what you’ve seen so they can see the good stuff they might have missed?

I’ve got a load to catch up on – Upstairs Downstairs, the original Swedish Wallanders, The Goodies repeats, Shooting Stars and Agatha Christie’s Marple – but after the jump, Doctor Who, Peep Show, Strictly Come Dancing, Whistle and I’ll Come To You and Zen at least. I’m sure I watched more than that. It’ll come to me.

Doctor Who (iPlayer)
Hmm. Well, obviously it was brilliantly written and brilliantly acted. It looked beautiful etc. There were some really good touches for the kids (the ‘Facespider’? Jesus… You sure know how to frighten them, Strevie). However, way too little Amy/Karen Gillan, way too much Rory, and the first 20 minutes or so plodded. More importantly, the Doctor’s failure to notice the girl in white’s problem, the countdown on the front of her booth and his failure to even see if he could fix that problem all seemed like an attempt to create too much clever plotting without respect for the characters. One thing that I’ve finally (after 20+ years – aren’t I the bright spark?) noticed about Steven Moffat’s writing is that he’s never actually created a truly plausible main character – all his characters are larger than life and big, rather than people you’d actually ever meet.

But many great moments, some big laughs, when Amy was around, she was used well – overall, a glittering Christmas jewel. I’m just not sure that within a few weeks we’re all going to be remembering the episode fondly or much at all.

Peep Show (4oD)
Went off the Christmas boil – and unfortunately, we turned it off when Christmas turned out to be poorly organised, the worst crime possible in my wife’s book. Will try to catch the final episode soon.

Strictly Come Dancing (iPlayer)
So John Barrowman, famous West End musical star, won. Well who saw that coming? At least Vince Cable (noted politician and, ooh, ballroom dancer) gave him a run for his money, but that was the most predictable result ever. Surprisingly, Bruce Forsyth made me laugh at one point.

Whistle and I’ll Come To You (iPlayer)
Thank goodness. A Christmas ghost story that’s actually frightening, and one adapted by the creator of Luther, surprisingly. Adapted once before from the MR James short story by Jonathan Miller and starring Sir Michael Horden, this version stretched to an entire hour and featured the likes of John Hurt, Leslie Sharp and Sophie Thompson. It pretty much follows the plot of the original short story as well as the Miller adaptation but with considerable embellishment. And you know what? I thought it was brilliant. Easily the best thing I saw over Christmas.

Resisting the temptation to go over the top with special effects, this was very much a mood piece, alternating between terrifying quietness and terrifying noise, with the “pursuing creature” incredibly well handled – no longer the strange possessor of bedsheets, but something altogether more frightening. Stylistically, you could see nods to The Ring and Paranormal Activity in the excellent direction, and the plot embellishments not only gave the story some real depth and sadness, it actually gave the story a kind of explanation. I’m not entirely sure I understand the implications of the final few seconds, but wonderful stuff that actually puts to shame the decent adaptations that BBC4 was doing before its controller jumped ship – to BBC2.

Zen (iPlayer)
Watched the first 20 minutes of it and despite the presence of Rufus Sewell, was bored rigid by it. Seemingly inspired by Kenneth Branagh’s Wallander, it involved Sewell as an Italian police detective and was filmed entirely in Italy, yet virtually everyone is British, speaks English and has a British accent. Indeed, it actually becomes odd when an Italian actor turns up with Italian accent speaking English.

In common with Branagh’s Wallander, though, this had about as much to do with police work as The Bell Jar, being more about Zen’s pick-up skills and being blackmailed into covering up a crime (as far as I could work out). So not for me, I’m afraid.


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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