7pm Sunday 23rd December, ITV1
If you only know Adrian Edmondson from his appearances in The Young Ones and Bottom playing foul-mouthed, violent psychopaths, you might be a bit disappointed by Ade’s Christmas Crackers. When out of character, Edmonson couldn’t be further away from these brilliant characters. In real life, he’s a bit… well, boring. He’s not famous for being a presenter, and the reason is obvious from the start.
Fortunately, despite the title, the show isn’t about Ade, it’s about Christmas TV through the ages, with Edmondson occasionally popping up throughout, gesturing in front of a greenscreen and giving brief introductions to all the clips.
Don’t expect anything revolutionary from Ade’s Christmas Crackers, it’s just a festive clip show – a favourite for schedulers everywhere who want something cheap and quick that can pad out a Christmas schedule in between the more important shows.
Watching stuff like this is the TV equivalent of absent-mindedly eating a huge bag of pistachio nuts â it occupies you, and it’s mildly satisfying while you do it. But if you’re looking for anything nutritious, you’re going to be sorely disappointed, and you’ll wonder what you’ve done with the last hour when it’s all over.
Then again, maybe I’m being too harsh. The clips are a bit hit and miss, but some of them give us a very interesting insight into the TV of yesteryear, all the way from light entertainment to cooking shows. What’s most interesting is how our entertainment tastes have changed in the past few decades.
There’s clips of the horrifyingly recent Black and White Minstrel Show, in which white performers blacked up and sang showtunes in faux-Cajun accents. Interestingly, it was one of the first shows broadcast in colour, presumably so the audience could see the singers’ matte-brown faces and curly black wigs in glorious technicolour.
Similarly, there’s clips of televised circuses that were apparently very popular around Christmastime for years, featuring incredibly cruel performances by wild elephants, trained horses, and chimps smoking cigarettes. Seriously.
Ade’s Christmas Crackers could have been a fascinating look back at British entertainment through the years, because there’s tons of great clips in there that I’d never seen before. However, it’s let down by lacklustre presentation and a greatly varying quality of the clips.
In a segment about the advent of commercial television being used to sell toys, Ade tells us about the rise of plastic, which gave the world toys that were âcheap and easy to churn out in enormous quantitiesâ?. You can’t help but feel that the same applies to shows like this.
Still, if you’re looking for something to watch during that strange purgatory of the few days before Christmas, Ade’s Christmas Crackers might do the job. Although if you manage to make it through the full hour, you deserve a medal for perseverance.