Friday, 25 January 2013

DEREK: The latest project from Ricky Gervais

This article was originally published in The Scotsman on 24th January 2013.


A pseudo-documentary based in an old people's home, Ricky Gervais' Derek caused something of a stir when the pilot aired last year.

Following on the heels of a much-criticised incident where he used the word “mong” on Twitter and denied all knowledge of it being a disablist term, the controversy was compounded by his new project, in which he appeared to be playing a man with learning difficulties. Gervais, of course, stubbornly denied that he was.

To be fair to his creator, the shambling Derek – a voluntary carer – is never presented as an object of ridicule. Indeed, he's innocent and kind to a fault. Gervais says he wishes more people were like him.

But Derek's physical appearance - jaw permanently jutted, hair flattened over his forehead - is practically identical to the face Gervais pulls in the countless pictures he Tweets of himself to cruelly mock the supposedly idiotic fans of Susan Boyle and Britain's Got Talent. Coincidentally, they're also two of Derek's favourite things. So what's he trying to say here? I don't think even he knows.

Make no mistake, Derek – a series written and directed by Gervais alone - is one of the most embarrassingly inept concoctions you're ever likely to see. Indeed, I actually feel quite sorry for the befuddled auteur. He's a thin-skinned, insecure superstar who wants to be seen as a great artist and deep thinker. And his heart appears to be in the right place with Derek. In theory at least, it's a (painfully) sincere attempt to say something meaningful about human kindness and the way society marginalises the elderly.

But Gervais' efforts are so horribly forced and heavy-handed. It feels more like a cynical exercise in emotional manipulation than the heart-warming – and potentially award-winning - piece he's aiming for. The pathos in his only great work,The Office, felt relatively effortless, but here it's delivered with a sledgehammer.

The soundtrack drowns in overbearing “FEEL SAD NOW” piano, as Gervais pits his merry band of outsiders against crudely-rendered men in grey. And despite good performances from his core cast – including regular sidekick Karl Pilkington – Gervais is still problematic in the lead role. You never believe in Derek as a consistent character. It's just millionaire comedian Ricky Gervais shuffling about in a cardigan and pulling a face.

As a comedy-drama, it's almost fascinatingly dull, repetitive, shallow and unsubtle. The dramatic elements are overdone and the comedy barely existent. A tonal train-wreck, its abject failings are crystallised in the hilariously ill-conceived montage that closes episode two. Scored to Radiohead's tenderly triumphant Bones (clumsy literalism ahoy!), images of happily dreaming elderly residents are spliced with grainy footage of them supposedly in their youth. It's truly jaw-dropping in its deranged efforts to yank the heartstrings.

If that wasn't jarring enough, it's immediately preceded by a scene in which Derek vomits into a toilet, an old man soils himself, and another character emits an explosive fart. It's like someone earnestly lecturing you on the poetry of existence while throwing bricks through your window. Time and time again you'll ask yourself: “What the hell were you thinking, man?!”

Quoted in the official press release, Gervais actually says – of his own creation – that he's never seen anything quite like it. Fair dues, Ricky, I'm with you on that.

DEREK airs from Wednesday 30th January on Channel 4 at 10pm.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

TV PREVIEW: The Following, Louie, Bob Servant, Call the Midwife

This article was originally published in The Scotsman on 19th January 2013.

Tuesday, Sky Atlantic, 10pm

Tuesday, FOX, 9pm

Wednesday, BBC4, 10pm

Sunday, BBC1, 8pm

Paul Whitelaw

Serial killers are such overweening nuisances, aren't they? So tiresomely theatrical, and the mess they leave! Thank goodness, then, that the likes of mobile network hawker Kevin Bacon are on hand to clean up after them.

In Sky's latest US import, THE FOLLOWING, the six-degrees-of-himself icon plays Ryan Hardy, a former FBI agent and world-weary alcoholic who's hoisted back into service as an expert consultant when his arch nemesis, Professor Joe Carroll, escapes from prison. A flamboyant serial killer obsessed with Edgar Allan Poe – aren't they all? - this smirking lunatic regards his crimes as a poetic work in progress, which comes in incredibly handy when one is tasked with piecing together his helpfully scattered clues.

But matters are complicated somewhat by Hardy's damaged disposition. Saddled with a pacemaker after being stabbed in the heart, he then went on to muddy the waters by becoming romantically involved with Carroll's wife. Dammit, Hardy, don't you know you should never make things personal? He's also haunted by guilt, hence his frenzied determination to protect the endangered women who escaped Carroll's previous attacks.

Created by Kevin Williamson (Scream; Dawson's Creek), The Following's sole original hook is that Carroll has accrued a devoted fan-base eager to do his bidding. If you were feeling charitable, you could argue that, in its entirely ham-fisted way, it's trying to say something meaningful about society's unhealthy obsession with serial killers. And what better way to make that point than with a knuckle-headed drama feeding into that very obsession?

Generic to a fault – it's essentially Charlie Brooker's cop show spoof A Touch of Cloth played straight – this gratuitously nasty tumult of hokum gobbles up the dregs of every post-Hannibal Lecter serial killer thriller and vomits them violently across the wall. Waterlogged with cheap jump-scares, borrowed visuals and clunky exposition, it's a slick, silly mess. What's most baffling is that Williamson, who famously subverted the tropes of the horror genre in Scream, has gone on to create a TV show almost entirely composed of clichés.

Sticking with Murdoch's evil empire for a moment, we come to the belated UK début of LOUIE. This sitcom starring the comedian's comedian Louis CK first aired in the US three years ago, but it's been more than worth the wait.

One of the few stand-ups who can drive me into hysterics – indeed, I'd place him up there with the sainted likes of Richard Pryor – CK is a devastating craftsman whose unique combination of brutal frankness, casual charm and acute intelligence is given free reign in this self-penned and directed vehicle.

The melancholy misadventures of a balding, overweight, middle-aged divorcee with two young daughters, Louie takes the brazenly autobiographical strains of his stand-up routines and harnesses them into a loose series of vignettes. Vaguely redolent of an indie cinema Curb Your Enthusiasm, albeit more understated and with flashes of surrealism, it benefits from being an authored piece from an artist with the inner confidence to move at his own sweet, uncompromising pace.

If you're unfamiliar with CK's work, then his winning brand of cheerful, filthy fatalism might take a bit of getting used to. But if and when he clicks, you may find you have a new hero. Personally, I could happily wallow in his uncomfortable world for hours.

From New York to Broughty Ferry, the picturesque suburb of Dundee that BOB SERVANT, INDEPENDENT calls home. The TV début of a character previously established in a BBC Radio Scotland series and a popular range of books, this likeable and amusing sitcom stars Brian Cox as a vain, deluded, self-serving businessman who decides to stand in a local by-election. The only drawbacks are his political ignorance, his egregious personality, and his exceedingly dim view of the electorate.

Having previously played Servant on radio, Cox is clearly having a whale of a time in the role, and his relish is infectious. An idiotic, roaring blow-hard, Servant is a welcome addition to our rich history of sitcom monsters. He may even do for Dundee what Alan Partridge did for Norwich. Please don't ask me if that's a good thing or not.

It may have been one of the biggest TV hits of 2012, but simpering period drama CALL THE MIDWIFE leaves me colder than a bucket of stale gruel. Back for a second series, it strikes me as incredibly contrived and cynical in the way it dutifully embodies all the requirements of a mums-and-grannies-focused Sunday night drama.

Not that its curious recipe of cloying sentimentality and screaming misery isn't distinctive. I certainly can't think of another TV equivalent of a blood-smeared Hallmark greeting card. But while it doesn't shy away from the harsh realities of its era – indeed, it almost revels in them - it also can't hide its underlying sense of idealised nostalgia.

It also doesn't help that it's rigidly formulaic. The latest episode is the usual dreary hodgepodge of glacial calamity, as everyone gets used to the introduction of anaesthetic gas, and the monumentally bland lead comes to the aid of a battered wife. But it all turns out fine in the end, you'll be pleased to hear.  

Monday, 14 January 2013

Scotsman interview with STEVEN MOFFAT

This article was originally published in The Scotsman on 20th December 2011.

As tireless overseer of the multi-award-winning Doctor Who and Sherlock, two of Britain's biggest – and in the case of the former, most globally successful – TV dramas, Steven Moffat's pre-eminent position within the cultural firmament is at once impressive and unenviable. “I never find any time to relax,” he sighs. “At this very moment I'm supposed to be at a big lovely, boozy lunch that I had to call off because I haven't finished this Doctor Who script that I'm very late on.”

Not that he's necessarily complaining, you understand. Like his predecessor on Doctor Who, Russell T. Davies, the Paisley-born writer has been a devoted fan of the series since childhood, so it's little wonder that his slight edge of weariness pales in comparison to his evident enjoyment of the job.

Although he admits there are days when he wants to run screaming from the room, he claims it's not because of the programmes themselves as such. “All the stuff that surrounds it can be... not so much bad as relentless. I have one of those jobs that a lot of people have, where I check my emails in the morning with trepidation. You know, is there a bomb in here, what am I unwrapping today? But in the main I wouldn't be here if I didn't love it.”

Although Moffat can often come across as rather prickly in interviews, the man I speak to makes for amusing and avuncular company. At the risk of sinking into armchair psychology mode, he exhibits that not uncommon combination – at least among creative types - of shyness, self-deprecation and bolshy confidence. The latter is hardly surprising, given that he's one of the most feted screenwriters of his generation, renowned for his sly wit, quicksilver dialogue, vibrant imagination and ingenious plotting.

But it was that very audacity which led several of your actual adult critics to complain that the most recent series of Doctor Who – Moffat's second in the showrunner chair – was far too complicated for children. Unsurprisingly, he's having none of it.

When you say 'adult critics', there's about three,” he chuckles (he chuckles a lot). “The truth is we don't have any audience feedback about it being desperately hard to follow. All the kids got who River Song was, all the kids knew that the little girl regenerating would turn out to be River. It really isn't that hard to follow. Because it was momentarily more arc-based they decide to say it's too complicated. Because Russell was gay they had to say it was all far too gay. No it wasn't! If anything, I think Russell should be credited as the man who made the Doctor definitively heterosexual. But it's just finding something to say about it, they'll do it every year and you never know what it's going to be.”

There has been some confusion lately surrounding the scheduling of the next series, with conflicting reports suggesting that not all of the 14 episodes will be shown in 2012. Can he clarify? “I can clarify that we start shooting in mid-February, but literally I can't tell you what the schedule is. What headlines are you planning for that time of year? I've only just found out what the transmission schedule is for Sherlock, and I've finished making that. I've barely started writing Doctor Who. Loads of things about that are in flux, all for good reasons actually.”

He can confirm, however, that it's part of his grand-plan to remove Doctor Who from its usual Spring/Summer slot and back to the Wintry habitat it enjoyed when he was growing up. “It's done very well in the Summer, it's not like we've ever suffered from it, but it's almost like an aesthetic thing. If you're having to close the curtains so you can see the screen, that's not a good time to be watching a show that's largely about tunnels and torches. Somehow I think it's a show you watch in the dark.”

As for the 50th anniversary in 2013, Moffat has already promised an appropriately special episode, although when pressed he teasingly replies, “Why talk in the singular? Again, genuinely, the plans are at an early stage, but we have some very clear ideas about some of the things we're doing, and I think Doctor Who fans and kids will think it's the best thing ever. We've got a load of very big plans – the mere fact that we're talking about this two years before the event should tell you how seriously we're taking it.”

Fans are obviously clamouring for an anniversary special featuring current incumbent Matt Smith alongside many of the previous Doctors.

Apparently,” he shrugs, and chuckles again, with absolutely nothing more to say on the matter.

Extracting new information about the revived Doctor Who has never been easy. A magnet for rumour and misinformation, the series attracted confusion again recently when Harry Potter director David Yates claimed he was making a rebooted movie version with an entirely different cast and mythology.

It's completely inaccurate!” hoots Moffat, “there's nothing there! I mean it would be lovely, yes. If anything, the only good bit about this is that it might actually focus our minds on thinking that we actually should do [a film]. But to state the bleeding obvious, it's not going to be a different version of Doctor Who with two different Doctors at the same time. Of course not, we're not that silly. That would be no way to run a franchise, would it? I'd love it to happen, but that version you heard was just a guy getting cornered on the red carpet and not really being on-message.”

When asked what it is that attracts him to such flamboyant characters as the Doctor and Sherlock Holmes, he unequivocally cites their mutual brainpower and thirst for knowledge. That's perhaps hardly surprising coming from a former schoolteacher.

The thing that unites both those shows is that they absolutely fetishise intelligence. It's about being clever, and that being clever is a good thing. In the Clarkson-isation of television I think it's rather good that we have two very popular drama series that expect the audience to be intelligent, and are right in that expectation. The only superpower those two heroes have is the fact that they're smarter than anybody else in the room. It says you don't have to be the fastest, the best-looking, the sexiest, you can just be smart. You don't often get the message, especially in American movies, that smart is good, that smart doesn't have to be geeky and silly, it can actually be amazing and powerful. And particularly in the case of the Doctor, he's such a moral man, he's a good, clever man, that's all he is. I think that's about as positive a message as you could possibly give.”

The Doctor and Holmes aside, Moffat also previously reinvented the tale of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde for the BBC, and recently wrote the Tintin movie for Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson. Are there any other iconic fictional characters he'd like to get his hands on?

When Mark [Gatiss, co-creator of Sherlock] and I get together we discuss Doctor Who, Sherlock Holmes and James Bond, and I keep saying, 'Oh we can't do James Bond, because there has to be something left that's still fiction for us!' I love those films, but I think I shouldn't write that because then I'll ruin James Bond for myself.”

It's probably just as well, as he wouldn't have the time. Nevertheless, it looks as though he'll be steering the adventures of the Time Lord for at least a while yet.

I genuinely haven't got a plan,” he claims, “except I'll probably have to stop at some point or I'll die. And dying would be bad. But my main concern is not so much how long I do it, but that I absolutely, definitely am going to be handing it on to somebody else. I want it to be in great shape, and some day I want somebody else to come in and knock my socks off with what they do with it. You don't want to be the last person in the relay race, do you?”

Saturday, 5 January 2013


This article was originally published in The Scotsman on 5th January 2013.

Wednesday, BBC4, 9pm

Today, BBC4, 9pm

Paul Whitelaw

It's probably fair to say that, unless you're terminally befuddled, SPIES OF WARSAW isn't a title that implies a great deal of ambiguity. It's a drama about spies, set in Warsaw. Of course it is.

That this blunt, say-what-you-see title hovers over a work penned by legendary comedy partnership Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais is perhaps surprising. After all, Porridge never traded under the name of 'Prison Men'. Auf Wiedersehen, Pet wasn't called 'Geordie Builders in Germany' for good reason. The Likely Lads wouldn't be so fondly remembered if it was called 'Actors Speaking Comedy'. I could go on.

But Spies of Warsaw is an inherited title, taken from a novel by Alan Furst, who specialises in atmospheric, detailed evocations of Second World War espionage in Eastern Europe. Shown over two feature-length parts, this unyieldingly dramatic piece also doesn't contain a shred of the wit that Clement and La Frenais are renowned for, although you could argue that its sense of slightly heightened realism is a droll joke in itself. Because make no mistake, this is a spy drama that's seen lots of other spy dramas.

Set in the late 1930s, with Hitler's invasion of Poland hovering malignantly on the horizon, it contains all the elements you'd expect: furtive conversations at lavish embassy balls; pinch-faced Nazis brandishing barking wolfhounds; tense border-checks with barbed-wire trimmings; glamorous women smoking cigarettes seductively; solemn spies drinking reflective brandies; drunken Russian poet dissidents railing against the system; ominous knocks on the door at midnight; and impressively choreographed covert missions. At one point there's even a leather-gloved Gestapo officer stroking a cat (I kid you not).

But these familiar motifs actually add up to a fairly absorbing whole, with David Tennant on taciturn form as an impressively decorated war hero working as a military attaché/undercover spy. Whenever he isn't floating through polite diplomatic functions, he spends most of his time spying on Nazis – they're up to no good in the Black Forest - and trying to protect his various informants.

Something of a cold fish, he's nevertheless honourable and ethical, at one point refusing to murder a teenage Nazi assailant because war has yet to be officially declared. Yes, he's a damn good oeuf. But as a character he isn't especially fascinating, so although, as a tale of heroism and intrigue, Spies of Warsaw gradually exerts its grip, one never feels particularly engaged with Tennant's underlying heartbreak – his beloved wife dies of consumption before the action gets underway – nor his burgeoning romance with a beautiful, brittle Parisian lawyer.

You may also have to get used to the curious spectacle of a Scottish actor adopting an English accent to play a Frenchman, although perhaps we should be thankful that he didn't opt for the full Clouseau. Few things are more distracting than actors earnestly intoning dialogue of the “ah wuz pizzing on mah boocycle” variety.

A co-production with BBC America, it's clear that little expense has been spared here. The whole thing gleams with a richly textured, cinematic hue. And the soundtrack – swathed in mournful brass, woodwind and plucked piano strings – is an almost too fitting accompaniment to the prevailing mood of paranoia, contempt and fear.

Oh, and for no good reason – other than, I suppose, to show off his character's war wounds – Tennant removes his shirt quite frequently, which will doubtless curry favour with fans who enjoy his work in “that way”. And that, I think, is one of the most important pieces of information I've ever imparted in a preview. No need to thank me for it.

If you're mourning the loss of the recently departed Forbrydelsen (aka The Killing), then you may be comforted by the return of Danish political drama BORGEN, especially as the actor who played the troubled Prime Minister in the most recent series crops up as a grieving car salesman. Oh, there's literally seconds of fun to be had imagining he's playing the same character, after deciding to leave politics for a quiet life in the motor trade.

It begins with female PM Birgitte Nyborg – the sort of principled, liberal, uncorrupted and sympathetic politician who only really exists in fiction – visiting Danish troops in Afghanistan. Forced to flee following a Taliban attack, she returns home to a frosty reception from all sides when an unprecedented number of soldiers are killed in one day.

Meanwhile, her ambitious spin doctor Kasper is on the verge of moving in with his new partner, following the breakdown of his relationship with principled, liberal, uncorrupted and sympathetic journalist Katrine. The latter is used – quite effectively – as a device to explore media ethics with regards to dealing with the bereaved during times of tragedy, while Nyborg's conflict over whether to withdraw from Afghanistan is handled with the thoughtful nuance typical of this series.

Sure, some of the exposition is a tad heavy-handed – those explanatory news reports are awfully handy, are they not? - but this is so much more than merely a Danish version of The West Wing. It's mercifully lacking in suffocating piety and schmaltz, for a start. And don't worry if you missed series one, as it more or less starts afresh. Tak!

Thursday, 3 January 2013

The Best and Worst of Christmas TV

This article was originally published in The Scotsman on 24th December 2012.

It's Christmas time, and there's no need to be afraid. Not my words, but the words of Messrs Geldof and “Ure”, who evidently didn't have the Celebrity Juice Christmas special in mind when they spoke so rashly back in 1984. No, they were thinking about famine in Africa. And Celebrity Juice wouldn't be invented – or rather, torn from the bowels of Hell - for another 24 years. But the point still stands.

I love Christmas. I also love TV. You don't have to be Einstein or Daphne from Eggheads to arrive at the implied conclusion of that statement. But Christmas TV is often about as much fun as an armed tax audit. Then again, it can often be wonderful. Would you like me to scratch my brains to present a few examples of both? Oh, all right then. Seeing as it's Christmas.


The key things to remember when making Christmas specials are A) Please don't make one if your show is appalling at the best of times, B) For our Lord Baby Jesus' sake, don't forget to set it at Christmas, and C) When in doubt, give Dickens a shout.

Chaz's immortal A Christmas Carol has weathered so many adaptations and wacky permutations, you'd think it'd be as knackered as Marley's ghost by now. But unless it's placed into the hands of a maniac, I honestly think you can't go wrong with a lively variation on the story of Scrooge. Just ask Bill Murray, Doctor Who and The Muppets. And spare a kindly thought for Richard Curtis and Ben Elton, who in 1988 hit upon the inspired idea of subverting A Christmas Carol and their notoriously foul-hearted Blackadder character.

The conceit is simple yet delightful: unlike every other member of his lineage, Victorian moustache proprietor Ebenezer Blackadder is the kindliest man in the world. So naturally, everyone he meets takes advantage of him. In an attempt to enliven Ebenezer's lonely existence, Robbie Coltrane's Spirit of Christmas tries to remind him of how wonderful he is by showing him the wretchedness of his relatives throughout history. Inevitably, however, Ebenezer gradually comes to admire their wit and cunning, and ultimately reverts to egregious type.

Then at the height of their powers, Curtis and Elton were astute enough to realise that the best comedy Christmas specials give the viewers something a little bit different and, well, special.

It's all too easy to assume that everyone at home will be too sozzled and indulgent to notice or care about a drop in quality. Just setting the action at Christmas and chucking in a few tired cracker gags won't do. And that's why Blackadder's Christmas Carol is easily as funny as any of the more celebrated episodes – it was made by people who, in those days at least, always put quality first. It feels like a real Christmas treat, while losing none of the sharp wit that made the regular series the classic that it is.

You can enjoy it for the first or umpteenth time on Christmas Day on BBC2 at 8pm.


In a way, this defiantly old-fashioned adult panto is TV's brightest emblem of the true spirit of Christmas, seeing as the only reasoned response to watching it is a solemnly uttered “Jesus Christ.”

The argument in favour is that it appeals to an audience who've been ignored for too long, namely those overlooked millions who shriek with mirth at the very idea of a man in drag saying rude words and brandishing a vibrator. I can't argue with its popularity, but I can argue that it's a crass, depressing, lazy shriek of badly written garbage.

The only thing that could do more damage to our beloved comedy tradition of cross-dressing is if George Osborne personally demolished a trail of orphanages while dressed as Carmen Miranda.

Anyway, the BBC, in an extraordinary act of cruelty, have foisted not one but TWO Mrs Brown Christmas specials on us this year (Christmas Eve and Boxing Day, BBC1). And wouldn't you know it, they're atrocious.

I'll give Mrs Brown's limelight-hogging alter ego Brendan O'Carroll one grudging point for at least trying to make them as Christmassy as possible. So, Mrs B writes a nativity play in which she stars as the Virgin Mary. There's a bit of slapstick business with a Christmas tree, which is practically de rigueur. It's not at all funny, of course, but it's there.

Otherwise it's dismal business as usual, with every piss-weak gag painfully signposted from miles away, before the whole thing degenerates into a horribly cynical puddle of forced, fake, unearned pathos. The Christmas Eve episode actually ends with Mrs B eulogising her dead dad to the sentimental strains of a music box. And this following 25 minutes of crude slapstick and fecks-a-plenty during which she's portrayed as a thoroughly unsympathetic ratbag. It doesn't make a lick of sense, this show: they'd be better off calling it Mrs Brown's Schizoid Circus of Doom.

Fundamentally, I'd like to see Brendan O'Carroll introduce the Christmas institution of announcing your retirement from comedy.


The family sitcom is, of course, perfectly suited to a Yuletide makeover. Shows such as C4's Friday Night Dinner, which is set almost entirely within the confines of a single family home, practically demand that at least one episode be set at Christmas.

The inaugural special from Friday Night Dinner (Christmas Eve, 10:30pm) is pretty successful, in that it's consistently amusing – it too involves a bit of comic business with a Christmas tree – and revolves around an awkward extended family gathering where everything goes pudding-shaped. This is practically a staple of Christmas-themed sitcom episodes, used in everything from The Royle Family (back on Christmas Day) to Peep Show and Outnumbered.

Sadly, our sole visit to the Brockman household this year (Christmas Eve, 9:35pm) suggests that the inevitable has finally happened: the young actors who play Ben and Karen are now too mature and self-aware for the comedy to work. Ben is alarmingly deep-voiced and large, and Karen – one of Outnumbered's most vital components – has hardly any screen time at all. 

When she does appear, she comes across as petulant and aloof, rather than the deadpan sprite of yore. If you remove the maddening charm of Ben and Karen from the equation, then Outnumbered doesn't have much of a reason to exist. I suspect the fifth series next year will be the last.

Speaking of disappointing Christmases...


That Walford is at its most miserable at Christmas has become such a cliché, the most subversive thing they could do now is present a festive episode where everyone has a thoroughly lovely time and nothing bad or dramatic happens at all. Why, they could even fill it with loads of those hilarious comedy set-pieces the show is renowned for.

Every year the writers try to outdo the gloom and catastrophe of years gone by. The ultimate EastEnders Christmas would probably involve the residents of Walford being wiped out in a nuclear attack, except for lone survivor Phil Mitchell, who'd spend the entire episode wandering around the square in a charred paper hat screaming “WHY?!” while swigging from a bottle of contaminated vodka. Closing shot: Phil gently sob-singing God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen to himself while rocking back and forward on his haunches in the remains of the Queen Vic. The closing credits play out over eerie, howling silence. BBC announcer: “And now on BBC One, time for some Christmas cheer with Miranda!”

Is that what you want? Because that's what you'll get one day.