It’s no great shock that there are a lot of repeats on the TV schedule. Indeed, what with the proliferation of catch-up services and +1 channels the whole notion of a TV schedule is looking rather outdated.
But there’s a lot of fuss today that the main channels’ Christmas line-ups have been generously stuffed with ‘previously loved’ telly. In the period from December 20 to January 2 BBC1 will be airing 230 shows of which 108 will have been seen before. That’s about 47 per cent recycled content.
ITV’s a shade worse with 182 repeats out of 321 shows (57%), while Channel 4’s offering 322 shows of which 232 are repeats (73%). BBC2 has the highest proportion of all with a whopping 74% of reheated leftovers on their Christmas plate.
Newspapers rolling out their annual story once again about Christmas repeats. BBC schedules full of amazing shows this Christmas.— Danny Cohen (@DannyCohen) December 3, 2014
And you might think that’s pretty poor form. Certainly many people seem to. But I’m here to ask you to look at the situation from another angle. Sure, through the rest of the year we might want high-quality drama every night and the banishment of cheap reality tat, but Christmas is special. Christmas is the exact time for repeats.
After all, let’s look at Christmas dinner. Every year some well-meaning family member suggests a change. Pheasant instead of turkey. Or, worse, some sort of ghastly trifle or pavlova instead of Christmas pudding. But Christmas is the time when we want everything to be traditional. Safe. Predictable. Christmassy. And woe betide the fool who presents us with clafoutis aux prunes.
For that matter, let us not overlook the likelihood of a small glass of fine wine taken to accompany the festive repast. One or two pumps of Value Brand Shiraz from the cardboard box on top of the fridge and you’ll be in no state to follow the plot of some new and complex art-house film from Paraguay.
What you need is an episode of Dad’s Army that you know more or less backwards so if you’re by some chance overtaken by perfectly legitimate post-prandial drowsiness halfway through you won’t be disoriented when everybody shouts “Don’t tell him, Pike!” and wakes you up.
Equally, if some misguided family member pulls out a board game mid-evening, you’re going to want to do the decent thing and play along. Even if you can barely comprehend the rules and you’re not entirely comfortable miming the title of 50 Shades Of Grey in front of an audience that contains three generations of your family and several pets.
But, if your concentration is compromised by the knowledge that there’s a cracking MR James adaptation on BBC2 you’re hardly to give a good account of yourself in the annual Pictionary tournament.
By contrast, if there’s a well-worn old warhorse like Thunderball or Where Eagles Dare on, then you will be secure in the knowledge that you will be able to switch the TV on halfway through and be in no doubt as to which members of the cast are portraying Germans, or members of SPECTRE or, as it might be, both. That way you can give of your very best at the game in hand.
There are few feelings better than reclining on the sofa, drink in hand, having just royally trounced your brother-in-law at Trivial Pursuit, and looking over a turkey-packed stomach at Richard Burton disguised as a Nazi.
So yes, from January onwards I will be standing shoulder to shoulder with you at the barricades outside the BBC’s new and expensively refurbished Broadcasting House, bellowing “What do we want? Quality drama! When do we want it? Shortly after the 9pm watershed!”
But between now and Twelfth Night I intend to wallow in the familiar. And, once you’ve had a couple of pumps of Shiraz, I reckon you’ll be happier if you join me.
Michael Moran is an author and journalist who had the sense to transfer his Morecambe & Wise Xmas specials to DVD.
This article is the opinion of Michael Moran and not necessarily that of BT.