Thursday, December 26, 2019

CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews Christmas TV: Nurse Trixie's top trick!

CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews Christmas TV: Nurse Trixie’s top trick? Using her silk stockings as a lasso!

Call The Midwife

Rating:

The Snail And The Whale

Rating:

Convent-issue thermals on, everyone. Call The Midwife (BBC1) was heading to the frozen north, where it was bucketing with rain and blowing a Force Ten gale. Much like the whole of this year, really.

It took more than beige long-johns to cramp Nurse Trixie’s style, though. The midwifes and nuns trekked by train and ferry to the Outer Hebrides, and Trixie (Helen George) apparently lugged an entire wardrobe all the way.

When the mission from Nonnatus House first set foot among the benighted Scots, who had no medical facilities within four hours, Trixie was wearing Santa Claus red, trimmed with fur and set off by a jaunty blue-checked trilby.

Five minutes later she’d changed into an outfit with a white fur hat, a stole as long as Doctor Who’s scarf and a muff like a snowman’s head . . . all in mink.

Call The Midwife nurses Valerie (Jennifer Kirby), Trixie (Helen George), and Lucille (Leonie Elliott)

At least, I assume it was mink. Perhaps she’d shot a polar bear.

Later, Trixie used her silk stockings to lasso a calf, before sweeping along the headlands in knee-length boots and a purple sheepskin that would make DelBoy blush with envy.

Even Melania Trump probably doesn’t travel with so many clothes. The Christmas special of Call The Midwife is as much a tradition as the Queen’s speech, but unlike the royals this is the first time the nuns’n’nurses have visited Scotland.

For any viewers who tuned in late and wondered where we were, the theme tune was played on the bagpipes. Or perhaps that was just the sound of a mother in labour.

There was less drama and poignancy than in previous years. At its best, this show can be heartbreaking: think of the Christmas story that ended with orphans being shipped off to a life of hardship in the colonies, or the year we had the first intimations of the thalidomide scandal.

This episode lacked that urgency. A teenage girl drank half a pint of whisky and fell asleep on a moorland road, while the lighthouse keeper’s wife had a baby and her appendix out simultaneously.

But there was lashings of nostalgia to make up for it. Cliff Parisi, recently escaped from the jungle on I’m A Celeb, fed handfuls of sixpences into a coinbox to make a long distance phone call that lasted barely 30 seconds.

Doof-doofs of the season:

Ructions in Albert Square are as Christmassy as crackers, and the hour-long edition of EastEnders (BBC1) didn’t disappoint. Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden) has been building up to this for weeks and when he blows his top, it stays blown.

 

This was 1965: the electricity kept going out, and Nurse Crane fought off flu with syrup and onions. That’s the sort of thing Mr Wilson meant when he talked of the ‘white heat of technology’. Technology made The Snail And The Whale (BBC1) a wonder for grown-ups to enjoy, as well as a delightful tale for children.

Adaptations of the books by poet Julia Donaldson and illustrator Axel Scheffler have become a Christmas staple since the success of The Gruffalo ten years ago, but none has featured quite such detailed computer graphics before.

Many of the shots appeared to be modelled on iconic imagery from Sir David Attenborough’s Blue Planet films, in particular high aerial views of the humpback whale tracing a rollercoaster path over and under the vast ocean currents, and of penguins cavorting among the ice floes.

This painstakingly natural look was hugely impressive, something to be enjoyed even if you weren’t watching with little ones entranced by the rhyming story of a ‘snail with an itchy foot’ who sets off to see the world.

 

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