BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2015
There’s not much I can tell you about SPOTY that you don’t already know. The England Rugby Union XV will not win Team of the Year. Everyone will go and make a cup of tea when the snooker bit happens. And there’s every chance that tennis will secure a clean sweep this year, with the Davis Cup Team, coach Leon Smith and Andy Murray all in line for awards.
Anyway, in light of the fact that I have nothing else on the matter to say, I thought, instead, I’d run the rule over the 12 contenders for the main award, and their chances.
Lizzie Armistead: World Road Race Champion (cycling).
Why she’ll win it: A thrilling and historic victory, by a wheel length, after a 130km race in Virginia, USA.
Why she won’t: Women’s cycling is not accorded the respect it deserves.
Lucy Bronze: Manchester City and England right-back.
Why she’ll win it: One of the players of the tournament at the World Cup, chipping in with two goals, as England finished third.
Why she won’t: Women’s football is not accorded the respect it deserves (could there be a theme here?)
Jessica Ennis-Hill: World heptathlon champion.
Why she might win it: Won the world title in Beijing after having a baby only 13 months previously.
Why she won’t win it: The time difference in Beijing meant few people watched her win.
Mo Farrah: Double World Champion.
Why he’ll win it: First man to do the triple double (three double global titles in a row).
Why he won’t: Has his lustre been tarnished by his coach’s fall from grace this year?
Chris Froome: Tour de France Champion.
Why he’ll win it: Two-time Tour winner Froome simply dominated the race from start to finish.
Why he won’t: A Brit wins the Tour de France, is that news?
Tyson Fury: World Heavyweight Champion.
Why he’ll win it: Engineered one of boxing’s great upsets in defeating Wladimir Klitschko for the first time in 11 years.
Why he won’t: Upset more people outside the ring than in it.
Lewis Hamilton: Formula One World Champion
Why he’ll win it: Became only the second Brit to win three F1 titles.
Why he won’t: He won it last year, it’s someone else’s turn.
Andy Murray: World Tennis No. 2
Why he’ll win it: As well as rising to No. 2 in the world, he led Britain to their first Davis Cup win in 79 years, winning all 11 of his matches.
Why he won’t: Bafflingly, people haven’t taken Murray to their hearts, in spite of him being dry, understated and brilliant.
Adam Peaty: Triple world swimming champion.
Why he’ll win it: Became the first man to do the 50/100m breaststroke double at the world champs. Also won relay medley gold in a world record time.
Why he won’t: It’s swimming.
Greg Rutherford: World Long Jump Champion.
Why he’ll win it: Added a world title to his Commonwealth, European and Olympic titles, only the fifth Briton to do so.
Why he won’t: People in this country think jumping’s a bit silly.
Kevin Sinfield: Rugby League treble winner.
Why he’ll win it: Won the treble with Leeds Rhinos in his last season, becoming only the fourth Rugby League player to pass 4000 career points in the process.
Why he won’t: Rugby League has a profile akin to Vietnamese Clog Dancing in this country.
Max Whitlock: World Champion gymnast.
Why he’ll win it: Became the first ever British male to win a World Gymnastics Gold, along with two silvers.
Why he won’t: Nobody takes the pommel horse seriously.
BAFTA Celebrates Downton Abbey, Monday 21st December, 9pm, ITV
Generally speaking, my wife approves of this blog. It keeps me out of her hair, keeps her in shoes, and proves a constructive outlet for my adoration of all things televisual. But every now and again, she flies into a rage that brings to mind Kathy Bates in Misery, and I find myself metaphorically tied to a bed with my legs being broken with hammers. (So far it’s only been metaphorically, at least…) This generally happens when I’ve had to watch, in advance, a programme that she would like us to watch together – last week’s Luther being a case in point.
Related: Read Benjie's review of Luther
Suffice to say, if you were hoping to see a preview of the last ever Downton Abbey, a feature-length special taking place on Christmas Day – then you’re in for a disappointment. My dedication to this blog, considerable as it is, does not stretch to it costing me my marriage.
Instead, I watched this tribute to the show from BAFTA, on the basis that it was probably a fairly lightweight, self-congratulatory load of old hogwash anyway. And I was pretty much right.
It all takes place in some big, glitzy theatre, where the stalls are filled with the show’s cast and crew. Jonathan Ross hosts proceedings, which consist of brief interviews with cast members, a funny sketch with Maggie Smith and Hugh Bonneville, some mildly excruciating on-stage links with other cast members, a couple of songs, a speech from creator and writer Julian Fellowes, and a behind-the-scenes look at the series filming.
Then the great Julie Walters comes onstage to present the show with an honorary BAFTA, while some famous faces talk about their love for the show. It’s an impressive roster, including Prince William, Sharon Osbourne, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Whoopi Goldberg, and, somewhat implausibly, Sean Combs (formerly known as P Diddy/Puff Daddy).
And then we wait for Christmas Day. The end of an era. I don’t even want to think about it.
Related: The Downton Abbey Prediction game
What to watch this Christmas
Ah, Christmas. It’s a time of loving. Of giving. Of family. Of togetherness. For the first half hour, at least. After that, it can start to become a bit of a chore. Stress levels abound in the kitchen. The man of the house invariably has present shopping to finish (start?) on Christmas Eve.
The adults are frequently hungover, the children are on hallucinatory levels of sugar and adrenaline, and someone always, always wants you to put those little x’s on the bottom of the sprouts.
Fortunately, to counter everything, we have the great social lubricant of telly, allowing us all to rub along nicely together… or at least sufficiently nicely not to end up ramming each other’s faces into the turkey curry. Here’s a round-up of the biggest shows on TV over the forthcoming week.
Saturday 19th December: At 6:35pm it’s time to don your sequins and get out your dancing shoes. (Actually, come to think of it, that would be a bit odd, unless you’re taking part). It’s the Strictly Come Dancing (BBC One) final. I can’t claim to have watched much of the series, I must admit, but if my predictions are correct, then this will be a straight shoot-out between Ainsley Harriott and Jeremy Vine.
Sunday 20th December: I grew up with two elder sisters. We only had one film on VHS, The Sound of Music. Suffice to say, I know every word. But tonight’s show promises to be a little different – in a TV first, the musical will be broadcast live, with the lovely Kara Tointon as Maria von Trapp. Alternatively, at 9pm on BBC One the final of The Apprentice will reveal which one of the contestants has been sufficiently sycophantic, aggressive and unpleasant to win the honour of working alongside Lord Sugar.
Monday 21st December: You can’t have Christmas without the Queen, obviously. This year, in her speech, I expect her to refer to the new AC/DC tour and what happened on Hollyoaks in 2015. Ahead of Friday’s speech, though, there is a look back at the history of the Christmas address in Cue the Queen at 7pm on BBC One. At 9pm on BBC Two there’s a lovely documentary, Gorilla Family, because nothing says Christmas like a 300lb hairy ape in the jungle.
Tuesday 22nd December: Celebrity Mastermind (7pm, BBC One) kicks off a ten-part run this evening. If boxer Ricky Hatton wins tonight’s opener, I’ll eat Santa’s hat, bauble and all. On BBC Two at 9pm there is We’re Doomed! The Dad’s Army Story, a charming, warm and funny biopic of Jimmy Perry and David Croft, who wrote the legendary sitcom. And if you want a little cheese in your Christmas mix, at 9pm on 5 there are the unmistakably mellifluous tones of the great crooner with Michael Bublé's Christmas.
Wednesday 23rd December: The cute-ometer is turned up to 11 in the delightful Snow Chick: A Penguin’s Tale (BBC One, 8:30pm) about those gorgeous, downy, fluffy nitwits that are baby penguins. This, however, is a fairly quiet night in TV-land, so you could even use the opportunity to go out for a walk or have a conv… sorry, dunno what came over me there.
Thursday 24th December: You’ve got to have Carols from Kings (BBC Two, 5:15pm) as part of your festive calendar, surely? If not, what’s wrong with you? And then, at 8pm on Channel 4 we have My Crazy Christmas Lights, a documentary about those for whom Christmas is merely an excuse to spend an extra two grand on the leccie bill.
Friday 25th December: It’s finally here. The biggest day in the TV calendar. Why do they put all of the best telly (and Mrs Brown’s Boys, 9:45pm, BBC One) on the same day? And on a day when there really is quite a lot of other stuff going on? Anyway, BBC One pretty much clean up today, starting with Stick Man at 4:45pm, the latest wonderful Julia Childs animated adaptation. Then it’s straight into the Doctor Who Christmas special (5:15pm) rounding off what has been a spectacular and clever series (though now without my beloved Clara, sniff). At 6:15pm there’s the Strictly Christmas spesh (have you still got your sequins on? Actually, you might want to get changed, you’re starting to whiff a bit). It’s over to Poplar at 7:30pm for Call the Midwife’s 50s' brand of Christmas cheer. And then, just when you think you’re sated, that you can’t watch another moment of TV, it’s time to turn over for what may very well be the greatest single televisual event in the history of mankind – the last ever Downton Abbey. Hankies at the ready, people.
Related: Downton Abbey - the end of an era
Happy Christmas to you all. May it bring you health, happiness and beautifully square eyes.