Bad Santas: Review

Bad Santas

Monday 17 December, 9pm, Channel 4

Channel 4 shatters all my illusions about Santa in part one of their new documentary Bad Santas. Luckily, for children still wanting to believe that Santa is real and does in fact take time out of his busy schedule to visit them in a toy shop, the programme is being shown after the watershed.

Phew. For the rest of us though, we get answers to that age old question – just where do Santas come from?

James Lovell is the very enthusiastic managing director of the Ministry of Fun, or the MoF which sounds way more badass. The MoF trains and hires out Santa Clauses over the Christmas season through their famous Santa School. We follow James and some new recruits as they get trained up as possible Father Christmases. However, these aren’t your usual jolly rotund fellows, but a bunch of second chance Santas that each has a serious history of being on the naughty list.

A good one to watch if you’re feeling slightly cynical about Christmas – you can laugh at James and his professional Santas attempting to instil some Christmas spirit into a hardened bunch of ragamuffins who reminded me of the evil Santa in Miracle on 34th Street.

Also, considering the subject matter, the sob stories in this one could have been atrocious, but mushiness is thankfully kept to a minimum with only a few “I’m doing this for my kidsâ€? thrown in.

Aside from the odd pun here and there, it was mainly the complete randomness of this programme that had me laughing. Watching elves skip merrily about town is one thing, but who knew that watching 30 people dressed as Santa Claus hohohoing and shaking their bellies would be so funny. Cringe moments also had me squirm-laughing as they tried to teach the bad Santas how to act, and then had them role playing with the impartial elf judges in a slightly creepy fashion.

The love child of Thelma’s Gypsy Girls (C4) and The Santa Clause, it is perhaps not the slickest of documentaries, but it has a sense of fun and silly seriousness that made it endearing, watchable, and perfect for the season.

Highlights include: Santa secretly drinking during Santa School lunch time and then unconvincingly lying about it; James’ awesome Santa tie; the classic learning-to-be-Santa montage; and Santa Johnny Sausage showing us his cigarette sandwich.