Jayne Dawson: I love Christmas telly - but I really do miss the old stuff

Faye Dunaway and Paul Newman in The Towering Inferno.
Faye Dunaway and Paul Newman in The Towering Inferno.
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Here we are on the brink, all ready to dive into ..Christmas telly. At this time of year there are those of us who luxuriate in its festive offerings.

We want to snuggle down into it, as if into our comfiest pyjamas and old cardigan, with a dressing gown on top. We want it constantly by us like a lovely cup of tea, we want to cling to it like a hot water bottle on a cold night. If it was okay to hug the television at Christmas, and buy it a little token of our appreciation, we would.

My own favourites are all the little, quiet programmes, not the big blockbusters. Recently, I was captured by the great British Sewing Bee at Christmas, where clever people were doing lovely things with bits of felt and a sewing machine. Delicious.

So I’m not complaining. Christmas television is good value. And yet...and yet... inevitably times change and there are things that used to happen on television at Christmas that don’t anymore.

Like Disney Time. Who remembers the sheer joy of it? At Easter and Christmas, like clockwork, it would be Disney Time, which was always an occasion for the ultimate expression of joy - a yell around the house to alert everyone not in the room that it was on.

It wasn’t a full film, just a series of clips, and the fact that this was effectively one huge advert for the company never crossed our minds. We had no expectation of ever seeing a full Disney film. In fact, I don’t think we even realised there was such a thing as a full film. In our heads, no cartoon was ever longer than Tom and Jerry.

Like Farmhouse Kitchen. I don’t think anyone who was lucky enough to catch the festive editions of this lunchtime cooking show will ever be able to love another cooking show in quite the same way. It was presented by Grace Mulligan and listening to her lovely voice explaining how to cook the Christmas dinner was to be calmed to the point of being hypnotised. Grace made even sensible Delia look like a racy young flibbertigibbet, and I loved her for it.

Like proper Christmas Top of the Pops. Those were brilliant days, worth watching just for the audience, who were real people not just graduates of stage school. They went in their best clothes, which might also double up as an interview outfit or a wedding suit. Their idea of dressing up for the cameras was to put on a bit more blue eyeshadow and their dancing was really quite ordinary. On stage, guitarists who would have looked more at home on a rugby pitch felt obliged to clip on a pair of bauble earrings and a tinsel scarf. It looked like a proper party - in other words wonderfully naff.

Like The Big Film. The joy of the Big Christmas Day Film can never be repeated because the world has turned since then. Access to films is all around. Everyone has seen everything. But back then it was a very big moment, opening the Radio Times and reading down excitedly to find out what it would be. We didn’t really judge. A new film was a new film, so if Christmas afternoon was to be spent watching The Poseidon Adventure or Towering Inferno, then so be it. Both were disaster movies involving respectively, drowning and burning to death. But, hey, we gathered round in our millions to enjoy.

Finally, let’s not forget New Year, which is all very nice with its Jools Holland and its reviews of the year. But we all know something is missing, or rather someone. New Year has not been the same since television stopped giving us entertainer Andy Stuart and his Scottish ceilidh party. It was essentially boring, but there was always the suggestion that perhaps a drop too much whisky had been taken by some - and that made it exciting television, back then.

It’s different now, and I’m not saying festive television is anything other than great value, but I can’t pretend I don’t miss the bad old stuff.

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