get a smattering of dry wit from the Ce/ehrity Big Brother winner. although the quips quickly disappear when Dee realises what he's let himself in for.
After a week's training, the comedian is left to Survive in a snowy tundra of nothingness. several hours' flight east of nowhere in Siberia. Although no great life- changing moments occur. and the whole thing seems somewhat light on meaning. watching Dee chew miserably on a reindeer leg and fail to pitch a tent in a blizzard makes for passable schadenfreude from a warm sofa.
DRAMA BIRTHDAY GIRL Scottish, Sun 22 Dec, 9pm 00.
Why do TV companies persist on hanging their dramas around utterly insipid ‘stars'? Neither Sarah Lancashire nor Ross Kemp has ever reclaimed the iconic heights of their soap days despite the money and airtime that's been thrown their way. Instead both hide like timorous beasties for months On end before landing with all the grace of a flying pig slap bang in prime time.
In Birthday Girl. Lancashire plays Rachel Jones. a thirtysomething teacher recovering from Leukaemia who discovers that her illness has returned. She's already arranged her birthday party. and a fit Irish bloke lCiaran McMenamini is coming, so she elects to keep her bad news secret.
Unfortunately, her friends take the bash as an opportunity to behave exceedingly badly. and are soon slapping each other. pulling the hotel staff and talking loudly about sex over dinner. Birthday Girl is a well-acted ensemble drama, but it
never grips quite as much as it should given its tragic subject matter. (James Smarti
DRAMA INQUISITION Five, Sun 22 Dec, 9pm
Five have been shouting abOut ll7(]tllS/ll()/l from their rooftops lately. being proud to announce it as their first major historical drama. They needn't have got so het up. While Tony Marchant and John Simm breathed ecstatic life into Dostoevsky through Crime and Punishment earlier this year, this story adapted from The Brothers
aramazov strangles the last croak from it.
Set in the dark. dark ages of the Spanish Inquisition circa 1680. Derek Jacobi RADAs it up as the grand inquisitor as he comes face to face with a blasphemer who looks a bit like Christ.
Strangely for Five. there is little in the way of exploitative violence on show. asides from the Jesus figure's bloody mouth. How you begin to long for the rack to be wheeled out. some flesh to be torn and bones to be snapped. Ultimately. the only pain is that of the Viewer. lBrian Donaldsoni
ALSO ON AT XMAS
The British Comedy Awards (Scottish, Sat 74 Dec. 9pm) Jonathan Ross hosts this gala extravaganza of the last year's telly mirth.
Virgin Mary rBBCl, Sun 22 Dec. 8pm) Sue Johnston explores the myth and truth behind the birth of JC. Alternative Christmas Message (Channel 4. Christmas Day. 3.00pm» Sharon Osbourne gives us another reason to switch off the queen. Robbie the Reindeer (BBC1, Christmas Day. 3. 10pm; The Legend of the Lost Tribe includes voices from Ricky Genrais. DaVid Attenborough. the League of Gentlemen and Jeff Goldblum. See
Insider. page 8.
John Osbourne: Angry Man (Channel 4, Christmas Dav. 8.30pm; The former lefty i)lay\.'-./i'iglit who turned into a raging Tory is analysed in this iii-depth doc.
COMEDY ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS
8801, Fri 27 Dec, 9pm
When did it happen? One moment /'ll)so/iite/},/ Fabulous lived up to its very title. the kind of comedy you'd go out of your way to see. the
next minute it was wallpaper. Just another show. And it's hard to pin the blame on anyone on the basis of this Yuletide special: the performances are as luscioust over the top as ever and the characters as distinct. there's a great cameo from Whoopi Goldberg. Deborah Harry joins in on the soundtrack and the whole thing is built on a cheerful romp in Nev-r York.
But is it funny? Well. no. Maybe it's that the times have changed. maybe that the iokes have all been told before. but the programme has lost the edge it once created by the cruel lambasting of a deserving target. Patsy and Edina have gone from figures of sharp satire to onr'eable cartoons. And they jtlSl don't matter. iMark Fisheri
THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES BBC1, Boxing Day, 9pm 0000
DRAMA DINOTOPIA Channel 4, Sun 29 Dec, 6pm 00
Had Dinotopia been dreamed up a decade ago. then this would have been an original extrz.i\.iz.igaii/a which all the family would have been mugs to miss this Christmas. As it is. dinosaurs have already been walking around Jurassic Park and discovered in The Lost
Level footing on the muddy
When it comes to judging a Sherlock Holmes screen mystery, much store is placed on the quality of your deerstalking, opium-addicted hero. Basil Rathbone remains many critics’ choice as the archetypal Baker Street crime-solver, though many thought him a little too pompous and overly dismissive of the galoot that was Nigel Bruce’s Watson.
In this new one, Richard Roxburgh (the moustache-twirling Moulin
Rouge cad) as Holmes and Ian Hart’s Watson appear to be on level footing,
each as wise and rigorous as the other. When Watson berates Holmes for
lying to him, Roxburgh looks suitably chaste. Likewise, Watson is seen to
be the strong-willed one, Holmes collapsing in public toilets to jack up. Opening with the gashed, shocked corpse of Sir Charles Baskerville, the
mystery of the ghostly pooch is only deepened if you haven’t read the novel
or seen the classic fog-drenched original movie. This version neatly Charlestons round it by leaving the last half-hour with the question of how the dastardly killer will be trapped. A blank Liza Tarbuck, a beardy, barely recognisable John Nettles and a goggle-eyed Richard E Grant add to the fun. But the real joy is in the Holmes/Watson dynamic and the eerie surroundings. If you go up on the moor tonight . . . (Brian Donaldson)
World. making Dinotopia old. prehistoric hat. The only novelty left is for the dinos to talk in received pronunciation and they do so here to ridiculous eﬁect
Having lost their dad in a light aircraft disaster. two step-brothers find themselves swimming onto dry. weird land. The society they enc0unter is one of ultra-equality where a Stegosaurus may mingle in the library With humanoids.
DaVid Thewlis proves once and for all that the magic has definitely abandoned him with a flat performance as the eccentric archaeologist who first introduces the boys into the strange ways of DinotOpia. The effects are as impressive as yOu'd expect but the acting and dialogue leave gaps wider than a T-Rex's smirk. iBrian DonaldSOnl
ALSO ON AT NEW YEAR
Who was Jacqueline du Pre? (Five. Boxing Day. 7.35pm) The iconic cellist is thoroughly dissected.
Billy Connolly: A BAFTA Tribute (BBCI. Fri 27 Dec. 9.55pm) Dame Judi. Sir Bob. Parky and Raquel give praise to the Glasgow legend.
Peter Cook: At a Slight Angle to the Universe (BBCZ Sat 28 Dec. 9pm) The first of two tributes to the laconic genius.
The Fight (BBC2. Sun 25) Dec. 9pm; Ricky Gervais takes on Mr Anthea Turner aka Grant Bovey in the ring.
Sex and the City Night Channel 4, New Year Day. Open The filthy dames are back for a final series. plus some revealing <loctimentaries. See feature. page 18.
3 Jar: 380:3 THE LIST 123