The World’s Most Expensive Toys, Thursday 22nd December, 9pm, Channel 4
What are you planning on buying the little people in your life this Christmas? Some Lego? A subscription to a comic? Maybe a board game? They’re all perfectly good ideas, but how about doing something a little leftfield this Christmas? Because nothing says “I love you” like a £98,000 rocking horse covered in 82,000 Swarovski crystals? Actually, it may not say that. It may just say “I have a colossal amount of money, very little sense, absolutely no taste, and a complete inability to discern what is and isn’t an appropriate amount to spend on a child’s Christmas present.” Either way, it makes a statement.
The bejewelled filly is the brainchild of Rebecca and Nuno, former ballroom dancers who were inspired by the crystals, rhinestones and sequins of their trade to set up a business making high-end crystal products. They have cashed in savings, sold their dance business and borrowed money off relatives, and this is their first product. I fear they may be backing the wrong horse.
Mind you, if it’s vulgar you’re after, there’s no short supply on evidence here. There is the incredibly ornate dolls house, complete with working chandeliers and real marble floors. And a family inside, including a businessman, his trophy wife, kids, and a nanny who’s “not too attractive”. (I’ll be honest, the trophy mum didn’t set my heart racing either, on account of, you know, being a three-inch-tall toy figurine). Yours for £22.5k.
Or how about a luxury electric car for your little treasures? It does 20mph, has a wealth of extras, and can be acquired for the trifling mater of £30,000. It seems a fair whack, but the guy who makes them has sold 15 in the last few years. Or maybe a massive, bespoke, landscaped Scalextric-style car track, built to your exact specifications? After all, what’s $75,000 between friends?
Unsurprisingly, this programme is a paean to bad taste, and it is oddly satisfying to gawp at the insanely expensive stuff people clutter up their lives with. But the film merely goes from one toy to another (and the people who made them) without offering any insight into who buys this stuff, or why? The real interest would be to meet the families, and go in to the homes, where these toys end up. What is the parental reasoning? What are the children like? (You can probably hazard a guess at the latter).
This feels like an opportunity missed. Although if you’re still on the lookout for Christmas inspiration…
Sports Personality of the Year, Sunday 18th December, 6:40pm, BBC One
2016 hasn’t been a vintage year. Britain seems a nation divided. America makes Britain look like a friendly consensus. Food prices are rising. Cultural icons are dying. Even Len Goodman is retiring. But come on people, pick yourselves up off the floor. It’s not been all bad. Sainsbury’s have installed contactless card payment. And there was sport. So much wonderful, wonderful sport to cheer us from our torpor. Why, just after Brexit, the nation came together in triumph as England’s football tea... no, okay, let’s not go there.
It has been an extraordinary year for British sport, though. Andy Murray won Wimbledon. Leicester City won the Premier League. Danny Willets won the Masters. Leicester City won the Premier League: I know I’ve mentioned this already, but I don’t want people in the future to think this was a misprint. (Yes, I do expect my works to be studied widely and with great reverence in the future).
And then there were the Olympics. What a festival of brilliance. What a stunning display of courage, determination, willpower and stamina (I’m referring to my staying up until 2am every night for three weeks).
All of which means that Sports Personality if the Year 2016 should make for particularly happy viewing, provided you’re not an England footballer. Of the 16 nominations, ten were part of the Olympic team. And encouragingly, three more were part of the Paralympic team, which proves that para-sport is now starting to receive the recognition it both craves and deserves.
It is an indication of what a remarkable year it has been that candidates who could reasonably expect to win in any normal year (Jason Kenny, Laura Kenny (nee Trott), Alistair Brownlee, Mo Farah, Adam Peaty, Max Whitlock and Kadeena Cox) will come up short this time around. Because – let’s face it – there is only going to be one winner this year. And it’s the same winner as last year. And 2013. Andy Murray will make history by becoming the first three-time winner of SPOTY, or I’m a mahogany cheeseboard manufactured in Cleethorpes. He’s had an astonishing year, winning Wimbledon, Olympic Gold, the ATP Tour Finals, and becoming World Number One.
Okay, so, y’know… sorry to ruin that for you, but he will win. Except that it’s a public vote, and the unpredictability of where that has led us in 2016 means that it’ll probably go to Kyle McFadzean, a centre half for Burton Albion.
Elsewhere in the programme, there is the obligatory performance from Robbie Williams (how long before he’s singing live on the Ten O’Clock news?) and a host of other awards. Team of the Year will be a head-to-head battle between the Leicester City team and the GB Olympic Team (or, if they break it down, the women’s hockey team). For sheer implausibility, I hope Leicester win it. Coach of the year will obviously go to Roy Hodgson. (Oh my sides!) Claudio Ranieri, surely? And overseas sports personality? UsainBolt? Michael Phelps? Simone Biles?
Gary Lineker, Clare Balding and Gabby Logan helm proceedings. It should be a fun night. I will, however, be making a cup of tea when the review of Euro 2016 happens. And no, I’m still not over it.
The best… and the rest
Saturday 17th December
Strictly Come Dancing, 6:40pm, BBC One: The final, not to mention good ol’ Len’s last hurrah. I’m writing this at the start of the series, but put absolutely all your money on either Tameka Empson or Will Young.
Tree of the Year with Ardal O’Hanlon, 8pm, Channel 4: It’s official. There is now a reality competition for absolutely every single thing in the known Universe. Expect this one to be won by the only thing on TV stiffer and more wooden than Ed Balls.
Sunday 18th December
Victoria Wood Night, 7:40pm, BBC Two: How sad that we have to have this wonderful night of programming at all. The self-effacing genius that was Victoria Wood is remembered in a charming and varied night of programming. 2016, you really were cruel.
Monday 19th December
Celebrity Mastermind, 7pm, BBC One: Your chosen specialised subject tonight is “Who the hell are all these people on Celebrity Mastermind, and why don’t I recognise any of them?”
Christmas University Challenge, 8pm, BBC Two: Jeremy Paxman gets into the festive spirit by dressing head-to-toe as one of Santa’s elves, getting a little tipsy, and spreading cheery bonhomie with every question. Ah, we can but dream.
Jamie’s Ultimate Christmas, 8pm, Channel 4: A cook, giving us tips and ideas for the perfect Christmas. Why has no-one thought of this before?
Last Tango in Halifax, 9pm, BBC One: First of a two-part special of the popular drama, by the brilliant Sally Wainwright, featuring Derek Jacobi and Anne Reid as septuagenarian sweethearts.
Sir Lenny Henry: A Life on Screen, 9pm, BBC Two: Sir Lenworth recalls his brilliant career, aided by interviews with friends and colleagues, and a wealth of archive footage.
Prince Harry, ITV, 9pm: Another hard-hitting ITV documentary about the royal family, asking difficult questions like “How lovely is Prince Harry?” and “What’s your favourite thing about Prince Harry?” On the basis of this documentary about his charity work in Lesotho, he is a thoroughly good egg, mind…
Alan Carr’s 12 Stars of Christmas, 10pm, Channel 4: Celebrities win prizes for an over-excited studio audience.
The Greatest Ever Christmas Adverts, 10pm, Channel 5: Julian Clary narrates, and talking heads include, um, Rustie Lee and Eric Bristow.
Tuesday 20th December
World’s Strongest Man 2016, 7pm, Channel 5: James Richardson presents all the action from Norrkoping, in the first of an 11 (ELEVEN!!!!!) part series.
Paul O’Grady’s Favourite Fairy Tales, 9pm, ITV: Paul O’Grady tells us about his favourite fairy tales. As you’d probably guessed.
Hilda Ogden’s Last Ta-ra: A Tribute to Jean Alexander, 8pm, ITV: Stars reminisce about the soap legend, who died earlier this year.
Friday 23rd December
Strictly Len Goodman, 7pm, BBC One: How can we even have Christmas, knowing Len is done with us? At least this programme is on at (altogether now) SE-VERRN!