ROUND-UP Christmas Comedy

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Insanity Claus: Harry Hill

Christmas vauldn't be the same Without the hassles last-ditch present-buying and card-sending, deciding who should be in charge of the stuffing and praying that relatives become more distant as the days become longer and patience gets shorter. Christ knows, we all need a giggle and, fortunately, Yuletide telly prowdes seasonal sniggering.

Offering opportunities to choke on the chipolatas is celebrity interrogator Ali (3 who Will baffle the nation With Da Best Of (Channel 4, Tue 21 Dec, 10.35pm) before delivering his A/ternative Christmas Message (Channel 4, Christmas Day, 3pm). Harry Hi/l’s Christmas Memory Lane Of Laughter (Channel 4, Thu 23 Dec, 10.30pm) shows that, even while you

ROUND-UP Christmas Films

Festive viewing kicks off With a bang as Brian De Palma sends Tom Cruise On a hi-tech spy caper in Mission: /mpossib/e (BBCl, Christmas Eve, 9.25pm), based on the cult TV show. Later on, things get darker in more ways than one With the original Cape Fear (BBCZ, Christmas Eve, 12.10am), where Robert Mitchum's psychotic ex-con stalks Gregory Peck's straight-laced lawyer Christmas wouldn’t be complete Without James Stewart. ln Harvey (BBCZ, Christmas Day, 6.30am) he’s a small town looney (or is he?) whose best pal is the eponymous six foot tall ihViSible rabbit. It's a whimSical wonder. And what better way to finish off the day than With the greatest film ever made, Citizen Kane (BBC2, Christmas Day, 11.55pm). Boxmg Day's choices trawl thrOugh high society decadence: the 18th century French royal court in Ridicule (Channel 4, 10.55pm) and 19605 Rome in Federico Fellini's classic

are celebrat ng the orrth of Jesus. youte go: to have a system

SNOW Graham "iOrton Chasne 4. Christmas Eve, lO 35pm is a camp as Christmas chat show while Paul Zenon’s Tricky Christmas (Channel 4, Thu 30 Dec, ‘zOpmi sees the magical one performing iilusiOhs on the streets of Dublin, LOndOh and Blackpool Putting the .‘un back ihto dysfunctional are The ROy/e Fami/y Christmas Specia/ lBBCl, Christmas Day, lO 30pm and Harry Enfie/d Presents Kevin ’5 Guide To Being A Teenager i’BBCl, Mon 27 Dec, 9 40pm;

TV cOmedy repeats are usually more entertaining than trifle indigestion and The Morecambe And Wise Show (Scottish, Wed 29 Dec, 10 30pm) is a traditional must-see Among the superstars colluding in their own humiliation are Alec Guinness, Peter Cushing and Leonard Rossiter The Father Ted Christmas Spec/a/ (Channel 4, Hogmanay, 9pm) sees the priestly ones getting lost in a lingerie department while Mrs Doyle spends the episode finding ever more inventive ways to fall from a ledge.

Unusually for this time of year, a brand new comedy series is launched vvith Dark Ages (Scottish, starts Mon 20 Dec, lOpm) starring Phill Jupitus, Alistair McGowan and Pauline McLynn, We’ve had Sitcom and slackercom, and now the country's first Vikingcom is upon us. Festive funnybones at the ready. (Brian Donaldson)


Chained reaction: Steven Spielberg‘s Amistad

La Do/ce Vita (BBCZ, 11.30pm).

The cyberpunk sci-fi of Strange Days (BBCZ, Tue 28 Dec, 10.55pm) offers an apocalyptic Vision of the next century, so if you prefer a dose of reality, tune into Steven Spielberg's anti-American slavery epic, Ami‘stad (Sky Premier, Tue 28 Dec, 12.05am). The sweeping Western grandeur of The Big Country (BBCZ, Wed 29 Dec, 2.25pm) continues the Gregory Peck season; jUSI as grand is Alan Parker‘s verSion of Evita (BBCl, Wed 29 Dec, 9pm), where you can Sing along to Madonna. Quentin Tarantino proves himself to be more than a two- hit wonder With his cookin’ Elmore Leonard adaptation, Jackie Brown (Sky Premier, Thu 30 Dec, 11.20pm).

But the hands down Winner of the festive films is Hal Hartley's supremely inspired Book Of Life (BBCZ, Hogmanay, 1.25am). Jesus comes to New York to end the world, but the deVil’s boozing in a bar and he's got something to say about that. It might be the best film of the new millennium. (Miles Fielder)



PREVIEW Longnude Channel 4, Sun 2 & Mon 3 Jan, 9pm.

We're all preoccupied with where we are 'n :me, but we no longer questior‘

.‘ihere .-.e are " space From chi‘dhooo we trust in maps and cOmoass points, and take it for

granted that we can get where we need to go by following simple rules

LOhgitude reminds us that such knowledge does not occur Organica?iy, but :s the product of centuries o‘ toil and error The two-oar: drama, based on the book by Dava Sooel, SK:DS back and forth in :me traczng man's search fOr a means to measure longitude Over centuries of sai'ing, this gap in knowledge was the cause of cotintless deaths at sea

Sweeping in its scale and blessed with a peeriess cast headed by Michael GambOn and Jeremy Irons, this ambithuS costume epic :S unusually .ntelligent but never dry, it uses historical fact as its sprungboarcl into Questions of time, philosoohy and human relationships ‘Hani‘ah McGilx

PREVIEW Arena: Blondes

BBCZ, Christmas Eve, Boxing Day & Mon 27 Dec, 9pm.

When the phrase ‘blonde bombshell’ is uttered, the names and frames of Madonna, Emma Noble, Pamela Anderson, Melinda Messenger etcetera probably pop into mind

The roots of this sexual obsession With the fair of hair can probably be traced back to the cinematic heroines from the 1950s. In a special Arena three-parter, Hollywood, Britain and Europe’s fascination is summarised in the shapes of Jayne Mansfield, Diana Dors and Anita Ekberg.

The latter, probably best known for frolicking in the TreVi Fountain for Fellini‘s La Dc/ce l/ita is the only one of the trio Still liVing. Dors sucCumbed to cerVical cancer in 1981 while Mansfield was sliced in two after driVing her open-topped Buick into a lorry in 1967.

Watch and deCide for yOurself if, as PR guru Max Clifford believes, 'Diana Dors had more talent in her forefinger than Ekberg and Mansfield had in the whole of their bodies ' (Brian Donaldson)

Simple measures: Longitude

Having more fun: Anita Ekberg in Blondes

The Mark Thomas


Channel 4, starts Thu 6 Jan. HaVIng preViously dealt With

everything from the Church Of England's arms trade investments to getting the IndoneSian military to admit to torture, Mark Thomas is back for a fifth series of comedy pranks with a political edge. But, is there anything left to interrogate?

’You must be kidding,’ laughs Thomas. 'That's a bit like asking: “are you gang to run out of badness in the worlo?" Our ,iob only stops when we have established the anarcho-zen- vegetarian-utOpia.’

For ObVIOUS reasons the content of the new series is under wraps, but Thomas reveals the first show concerns the Official Secrets Act, MIS and spies. ’The satisfaction comes from making people accOuntable who should be accountable, but aren’t,’ says Thomas. ’These peOple very rarely get into a situation they aren't in control of. Our attitude is "we’ll fuck yOu off" '

(Miles Fielder)

Pranks a million: Mark Thomas

‘6 Dec 1999—6 ia» 200: THE usr 107