Colin Montgomery: My fantasy Christmas TV line-up revealed

Morecambe & Wise with guest star Glenda Jackson in the iconic duo's 1972 Christmas Special. Picture: BBC
Morecambe & Wise with guest star Glenda Jackson in the iconic duo's 1972 Christmas Special. Picture: BBC
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So it’s Joe and Katya as Strictly champs! I was going to do a wee dance around the living room in celebration.

Then I realised I wasn’t in my living room. And that dancing round a restaurant would be frowned on perhaps – unless it was a ritual integral to the consumption/appreciation of some achingly pretentious amuse bouche (and it wasnae that kind of place to be honest). And most damning of all, that I couldn’t give a monkey’s. That’s not to lord it over those who do.

Katya Jones and Joe McFadden claim the Strictly crown. Picture: PA

Katya Jones and Joe McFadden claim the Strictly crown. Picture: PA

It’s just not my kind of thing to be honest. But in its defence, at least Strictly has some kind of mass appeal, sashaying its way across class, gender and geographical boundaries.

Such communal TV moments will still be with us when everything else in the UK is atomised into oblivion. You know the NHS, public services, roads, the police, tax . . . that kind of thing. Never fear though, just as the Generation Game united us when we scoffed at a gran from Lancashire making a right old mess of spinning a pot, I reckon we’ll still be able to tut together at an overly stiff tango or swoon in synch at a perfectly executed foxtrot.

Clodhopper attempts at satire aside, the success of Strictly on the box takes me back to the bygone days of telly. No TV on demand. No box sets to speak of – except the boxy thing in the corner that took a small crane to lift.

Just three channels, testcards and/or a picture of a kitten of a morning, because watching TV before noon was indecent. I even remember the excitement of a new telly from Radio Rentals (yes, we hired our telly) complete with a remote control. We felt like gods.

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Nights spent at my grandparents were defined by what was on the box. Sure my brother and I had copies of Nutty and Victor to sustain us. But that couldn’t compete with a snatch of Celebrity Squares, a liberal helping of Larry Grayson (and Isla St Clair) and, of course, The Two Ronnies.

When the Professionals came on, it was time for bed, although we were allowed to watch the opening titles. That car smashing through a plate glass window . . . it still gets me to this very day.

And at the heart of this telly-centric universe, one of such narrow parameters admittedly, was the Christmas line-up.

We were genuinely excited by what was going to be on telly at Christmas. Writing those words now seems so quaint as to be a small village in Worcestershire. I mean who on Earth gets excited about terrestrial TV listings these days? You can have it all, at the touch of a button, when you want it, rewind it, pause it, beam it into space and back, and pipe it directly into your frontal lobe with some kind of smartphone app if you fancy.

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To be compelled to sit down and watch some telly according to a timetable seems practically North Korean in comparison. But it worked.

Pretty much half the UK guffawed their way through Morecambe & Wise’s Christmas Special during the late-70s. It was a centrepiece of the Christmas telly buffet.

Although there were treats to tempt you elsewhere – invariably some kind of Christmas variant of a sitcom (Are You Being Served maybe or Citizen Smith if you were “political”), a variety show (this meant magic, a singer and maybe a circus act), and to kick it all off in the morning, some kids’ Christmas Special fronted by Noel Edmonds and Cheggers sporting ‘hilarious’ Christmas jumpers. Ah dear Cheggers, so sad you’ve popped off.

And then there were the films, things like The Great Escape – on every Christmas – and the obligatory Carry On movie.

Not forgetting the Queen’s Speech at 3pm. It meant nothing to us, but the sound of old Brenda droning on about “my family and I” acted as a soothing balm.

A lot of it probably was guff by today’s standards . . . but then again, was it? In a world of cold clinical programming formulas, celebs and endless competition-based shows, it would be nice to settle down as one to renew our collective memory of Christmas Day viewing. Here’s my fantasy line up:

9.00: A Walk with Shep – doggie cam footage of John Noakes’ famous mutt out for a stroll round the block. We could blur out the ablutions.

11.00: World of Sport Christmas Special – four hours of off-piste luging live from the Carpathians. And wrestling in between.

16.00: It Ain’t Half Cold Mum – seasonal remake of the jungle wartime sitcom, starring a cryogenically frozen Don Estelle.

18.00: Reporting Scotland with Mary Marquis – she wouldn’t have to say anything. We could just gawp at her. That hair. The make-up. Those nylon neck scarves…

20.00: Bill Forsyth’s Comfort and Joy – possibly the best anti-Christmas film ever made.

22.00: Parkinson – the one with Connolly and the spacesuit joke. If that doesn’t cheer you up for Christmas, nothing will.

Close: And Merry Christmas.