116. Christmas

Tapehead no 116

Ho, ho, ho everybody. ‘Tis the season to be jolly, with a stocking full of Christmas crackers on telly this year. 

There’s a double dose of Rory Bremner; Craig Charles’s own series; a brand new Stanley Baxter show; Gaby Roslin; Parky; Lenny Henry in Chef; Phil Collins Unplugged; Robin Williams in Toys; Sting Live in Oslo; My Left Foot; The Best Of TFI Friday (using an innovative one-minute long format); and best of all, a Vicar Of Dibley Christmas Special. 

Merry F***ing Christmas. You’ll be going out a lot.

Sad to say, political pressure from above has deprived us of the consolation of some traditional Christmas carnage in the Yuletide episode of Casualty.

True, we are forced to sit through the slow, grim death of one senile OAP/parent, and there is an almost total absence of anything approaching Christmas cheer going on, but it is not like the old days.

“Throat problems” are not the sort of ailment Casualty used to deliver at Christmas. Where are the young handicapped children choking on a turkey bone, or the lovely old supermarket Santa having a heart attack ? 

Even worse, the staff’s Christmas part requires all the characters to give us their best Sean Connery impression. (All better than Rory Bremner’s.)

According to Channel 4, “the success of last year’s Rave Christmas Special” necessitated this year’s treat God In the House, six programmes on six styles of “rave churches.”

Watching all of them, Tapehead waited expectantly to be brainwashed into taking Ecstasy, having orgies and preaching the word of the Lord. It was working took until the music started.

“We’re going to welcome God here tonight,” says one awful Christian DJ as if he was introducing some junglist DJ on stage to tear the place up.

“DJ Jesus in the house tonight. Gonna big up The Big Man In The Sky tonight, y’all. Nuff respect for the MC JC and his crew The Disciples. For real.”

In Boxing Day’s programme World Of Wonder (which sounds more like a furniture store in Croydon), the cutting-edge church conceives the strange idea of converting the youth of today using dreadful rock music, namely Delirious, an appalling Britpop version of The Waterboys fronted by Captain Sensible.

The special MC here is Peter Greig, one of those creepy contemporary Christians who pulls gullible young Christian girls with the cunning ploy of trying to look like Jesus – long, wavy brown hair and beard, Technicolour shirt, shades up on his head, and so on.

“Jesus,” he tells the crowd with a grin that makes Tony Blair look sincere, “invented sex. He invented relationships. He invented the killer whale and the mouse.” Not to mention LSD.

“Jesus,” he confides with a forced attempt at laddishness, also “turned water into beer, into Stella Artois – reassuringly expensive,” he beams.

You really couldn’t make Peter up. 

At Interface, we’re faced with a live band who run on stage shouting, “Let’s encounter God tonight, yeah,” instead of the more traditional, “It’s great to be back in Tolworth, yeah.”

Interface is big on cathartic screaming, cries of “Go on, God, do the business !” and banging of dustbins (“And lo ! He did bang the dustbin. And it was good.”)

Far from their self-proclaimed contemporary approach, it’s all perfectly stereotyped, full of insipid Julia Fordham types, and blokes looking more like Robert Powell than The Happy Mondays.

You can’t help thinking people like Peter Greig would have more influence dressing up like modern-day Christ figure Michael Stipe (REM: Road Movie) – shaving his head, wearing a skirt, and putting on too much mascara. 

Stipe looks variously like a) the skinhead from Diva, b) Nosferatu, and c) a sort of depressed version of Divine.

He may sing Losing My Religion, but he still knows how to get his flock of followers straight to the big question, by asking immediately, “What’s The Frequency Kenneth ?”

Amen to that.

The rest of REM seemingly have even worse haircuts than the Christian ravers, worse than Supertramp actually, chugging out the most appalling pub rock this side of Tapehead’s local, The Bitter Bastard.

The temptation to take the turkey out of the oven and just climb in and take its place instead will be truly torturous.


Casualty: Sat, 8.10pm, BBC1

God in The House: Tue 24-Mon 30, 12.30pm, C4

REM: Road Movie: Sat, 12.50am, BBC2