Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Christmas Soaps

Did your household's Christmas festivities get brought to a shuddering halt by that scourge of the modern British family Christmas, the Christmas holiday soaps?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against Christmas TV on principle. It can help to fill the quiet periods or keep the children out of mischief. For those unfortunate enough to be on their own, it can be an invaluable public service.

A spot of light entertainment? Fine. You can even have it on in the background, if you must, whilst normal family life continues around it. A high profile film? Excellent idea. If it happens to hit a lull in the proceedings then the family can settle down to watch it together. If the party is in full swing, you can just let it go in the certain knowledge that it will be on again before too long. If you’re really keen you can always record it or rent it when the family have finally gone their separate ways.

Not so the soap. For those following any particular series, every episode is mandatory viewing lest some vital event be missed. The chances of anyone else wringing a crumb of entertainment from it are minimal. The witty one liners lose their sting, and the significance of those knowing looks evaporates, when you don’t even know who the characters are, who hates who (everyone hates someone in soap land) and what circumstances led to their current crises.

You can be assured, too, that every soap dweller's situation is one of perpetual crisis. Even during the supposedly happy festive season, practically everyone in soap land is thoroughly miserable. Perhaps this is supposed to make us ordinary folk feel more contented with our lot but, for the most part, it’s just plain depressing.

Recording the soaps isn’t an option because the episodes have to be watched in the correct order and in most cases there’s another one due along tomorrow. Once you start the recording game you’re into an ever increasing spiral of debt, like a painter on the Forth Bridge, desperately trying to catch up. Also, if it's for granny's benefit, you can bet your bottom dollar that she won't be able to play back whatever format of recording you use at home so you're committed to screening the lot before she leaves.

So, at the appointed hour, the TV has to go on and all other distractions must cease.

This Christmas Day was pretty typical, with back to back soaps monopolising many a living room from 6pm until 9:30 with just one, brief, half hour break. By the time that lot was all over, the magic must have evaporated in many households. "Quiet kids, Granny is trying to hear Coronation Street" is hardly conducive to the spirit of Christmas.

Most years I end up forced out of my own living room to do the washing up - an activity marginally more entertaining than Emmerdale. Come on ITV, don’t let the ratings war blind you to your obligations to British family life. BBC, we rely upon you to do what is right rather than what is commercial. Do you think we could possibly make next year a "soap-free" Christmas?

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