Tag Archives: Christmas Radio Times

The Radio Times IS Christmas

You can forget your John Lewis adverts, your X Factor and Strictly closing stages, even the Boots catalogue with its multitude of 3 for 2s, the sign that Christmas is almost upon us is simple – the double issue of the  Radio Times.

TV Quick and the free pullout in The Daily Mail are merely pretenders to the TV listings throne.

It’s the one issue of the year that I’m certain to buy, even in this scrolling, series linked day and age there is nothing quite like sitting down with the weighty issue, a cuppa and a highlighter.

When I was at Uni it always caused a bit I an issue as the regional variations – which always seemed to be far more significant than they are these days – were o no use whatsoever when I got back to my mum and dads. It never diminished the joy of circling or putting a line or question mark against programming though.

You know that you won’t end up recording or even watching most of the items that you strike off, but that almost isn’t the point, it’s just fun going through spotting old favourites and seeing what film big guns the channels are unleashing on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

We’ve probably all seen them umpteen times, or even own them, but  for some reason it matters not, seeing them introduced preceded by a spinning globe etc with those words “and now on BBC One…” just adds something special.

Of course ‘back in the day’ it used to mean buying both the Radio Times and TV Times and cross referencing everything, not to mention whether it was going to be recorded on the front or back of a video tape and did I have enough space on tapes before getting a new pack of E240s on Christmas morning?

Unwrapping new VHS tapes was also a joy, not only did they have an almost impenetrable outer layer but then each tape was also individually wrapped – it was one extreme to another though so was either that or you’d try taping on a tape that had its tab removed (shock horror, quick somebody find some Sellotape!)

If you’ve still got any old VHS knocking about then invariably you’ll have the tail end of the previous programme, listings for the rest if the evening/following day (“and with Jim Davidson’s Big Break at 615, that’s your Saturday night entertainment on BBC One”) or John Ketley giving you a late weather update.

Back to the Radio Times, it hasn’t changed that much and there’s still the traditional how many pages of holidays are there remark annoyingly smack bang in the middle of the listings for Christmas Day.

Like any good and regularly leafed through edition its cover will perish and become detached well before the fortnight is out from being thrown across the room, shoved down the side of the sofa and having numerous drink tested and splashed over it…but most of all it will be loved as much this year as it was the last.

The ghost of Christmas Radio Times past

Walking through the doors of Tesco ,there it was, the Christmas double edition of the Radio Times.

My heart momentarily skipped a beat, it’s like my annual willy wonka golden ticket. I approached it like Indiana Jones does with the golden idol at the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark…although there was no boulder (which reminds me if that old Chocolate Orange advert) or Paul Freeman waiting outside the store to swipe it from my grasp.

Santa has made a welcome return to the cover this year, pleasingly along with the Snowdog. And we all love the Snowdog.

Once the cover is opened it the usual regime of a quick flick through and annoyance at the hefty holiday section smack bang in the middle of the films section (this year it sits right in the middle of Christmas Day).

Then after that initial reconasence it’s out with the highlighters and pens ticking off everything that looks interesting…worrying about clashes later (back in the day it was of course timing issues with setting up the video recorder – one year I even remember biking it up to my Nana’s to set the tape going for something.

Film wise, there’s usually the film noir season or the Hitchcock season at ungodly hours, this year it seems to be the turn of some Hammer horror films.

Of course it all used to be so different, we’d probably not seen the big Christmas Day film and a movie premiere back then really meant something, after all we’d not already bought it or seen it on Sky etc.

If memory serves ITV premiered The Empire Strikes Back one year with the BBC headlining Back To The Future, we taped one and watched the other on the ‘portable’ (it weighed a ton) upstairs.

Of course the other thing that is different now is that you used to have to buy both the festive edition of the Radio Times and the TV Times, which would mean me being splayed out on the floor comparing and contrasting the two publications taking careful note of the dreaded programmes overlapping one another…crucial if you were setting it going a few minutes before.

This is what makes looking back at old VHS recordings such a thrill, it’s like a time warp and means that the interesting thing isn’t necerarly the original programme you tape but the end of the weather with Michael Fish et al you’ve just caught or the really dated sales/holiday adverts ITV.

Having said that you don’t miss the dash to open the plastic of a new video tape…only to find another layer to open, as I race against the spinning globe of BBC 1 and the continuity announcer as he introduces the TV programme or film I was looking at taping.

Still, this year much of the fun is in the reminiscent marking of the Radio Times as we probably won’t get time to catch up on half of what we have marked up for recording. No matter, the fun is still there in creating that initial televisual wish list.

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The Snowman and the Snowdog

The-Snowman-and-The-Snowdog[1]It took over a year to make and included over 200,000 sheets of paper, with each cel painstakingly hand drawn, and is the sequel to a Christmas favourite, but does The Snowman and the Snowdog bark up the right tree?

The short answer is happily a yes. The original version of The Snowman, based on the Raymond Briggs classic book, is part of our Christmas DNA. It’s up there with Bond, Eric and Ernie and Del Boy as a Christmas perennial.

We know each beat, each pencil stroke almost, and still take that small leap with the boy and the Snowman when they leave the confines of the garden to those, quite literally, soaring chords.

The Snowman and the SnowdogIt’s a relationship we’ve had for 30 years so to return to something so well-known and so beloved was always going to be a challenge, at least you can’t call it a quick cash-in! Now, there is a new Snowman on the block…one Snowman and his Snowdog to be precise.

As much as The Snowman was part of my childhood, I was seven when it was first broadcast, I’m hoping this new Snowman will be as much a part of Isabelle’s.

Like most sequels it is bigger in scope, rather than flying over Brighton and the surrounding area, this time we have London and the OXO Tower, Big Ben and the London Eye.

pagebanner_dog[1]The moving sketchy pencil drawn backgrounds had an air of welcome familiarity about them as soon as it started, almost as if CGI had never happened. It was almost like a time machine and it was nice to have that look and retro feel of the original that allowed us to believe that the tale unfolding before us inhabited the same universe as the original.

Like the original it wasn’t without its heartache. I knew as soon as I saw the old dog lifted from the moving lorry coupled with lingering shots that we would soon be saying farewell to it in the back garden. I’m not sure what young kids made of this but being a dog owner this was harrowing enough for me on Christmas Eve (it was also repeated on Christmas Day).

After having moved into the house a young boy finds the original Snowman’s hat and scarf under the floorboards, passing on the baton to the next generation. Soon enough it is snowing and we find ourselves at the snowman building scene where we first meet the two characters of the title.

snowman[1]2012 may have been the Chinese year of the Dragon but when it came to film and TV it was certainly the year of the dog with Uggie at the Oscars and BAFTAs after his star turn in The Artist, Pudsey on Britain’s Got Talent and now, the Snowdog, prestigious cover star of the Christmas Radio Times no less (AKA the Christmas Bible).

Who could not help but fall in love with him and his ears made of socks. Nevermind flying through the air, he’ll be flying off shelves when his soft toy version arrives (and yes, I have been looking). It isn’t here yet but the question ‘where can I buy a Snowdog’ was ranking high on a Google search.

And, yes, as in the original it was exhilarating to see all three characters take flight. For me this is the stand out moment of the film and the animation is perfect, it gets me everytime. You can see the ‘take off’ moment here in the trailer.

Of course ‘Walking in the Air’ has become synonymous with the original flight sequence, it almost a character in its own right. The original was recorded by St Paul’s Cathedral choirboy Peter Auty and not Aled Jones, that was later for a Gas advert.

To try and emulate it (as they did of sorts with a young Charlotte Church with the animation of another Raymond Briggs piece, The Bear) would be wrong but they had to get it right as in the original that is the signature moment of the whole film.

For me, what accompanied The Snowman and the Snowdog taking flight captured the whole sequence perfectly. ‘Light the Night’ by former Razorlight drummer Andy Burrows is an instant classic and I don’t quite know what it is but I have to compose myself when hearing it or seeing that sequence to hold my emotions in check. I’ve found myself taking in a sharp breath several times when it starts, with its tinkling introduction, as it’s just so full of a whole myriad of feeling and rather melancholy. It just all  fits and captures the moment wonderfully with an ever-building crescendo and leaves it, deservedly, racing round your head.

Bringing back some traditional Christmas spirit in the music, to both ‘Light the Night’ and the rest of the film’s music is composer Ilan Eshkeri, who did an equally amazing string-heavy score for Stardust, both fantasies of course, and the score for this very much emulates that in its epic and soaring feel.

The original was nominated for an Oscar, the sequel may have been too light to gain anomination this year, but Academy Award nod or not it is already a winner in the eyes of my two-year old daughter. She must have seen it about ten times already and it was the very first thing she asked for after being away for New Year, the first think we did was ‘K’ it on our Sky +, deleting it in error at our peril!

The Snowman and the Snowdog has certainly melted this little girl’s heart, and her mum and dad’s along with it too. I think secretly we are quite pleased when she says she wants to watch it again.

Of course, like the original, there has to be a somewhat downbeat ending (I won’t give it away for anyone that hasn’t seen it yet) but perhaps the saddest ending of all is the dedication in the credits to Producer, John Coates. He Produced the original and was instrumental in getting The Snowman and the Snowdog (quite literally) off the ground but sadly passed away before completion.

His legacy will live on each and every Christmas though…or throughout the whole year in our house if Isabelle continues watching it at her current rate of knots..

xmas12640[1]For me The Snowman and the Snowdog echoes the original whilst leaving its own set of paw prints to produce a successful and pleasing continuation of a classic. Isabelle was transfixed by it and it really filled her with a sense of awe and wonder. It was nice to have something new yet felt traditional at the same time. It’s an instant Christmas classic.