do we know it’s christmas time at all?

by Rob Outterside 

“What is the most resilient parasite? A bacteria? A virus? … An intestinal worm?”
*Ken Watanabe glares lasers*
“An idea. Resilient, highly contagious”
“Once an idea’s taken hold in the brain it’s almost impossible to eradicate”
(Inception, 2010)

Which is complete rubbish of course since we all know the most indestructible parasite is a TV advert – persisting in the mind years after exposure. Once it’s in, nothing short of dynamite will get it out. And Christmas TV adverts can be the most hardcore of the lot.
This year (or last year even though it was only last week), we’ve had John Lewis trying (and failing) to recreate Watership Down with their ad campaign – why exactly is beyond me since Watership Down is really about as Christmassy as the battlefield surgery scene from Blackhawk Down. Thus guaranteeing it will stay with me for all the wrong reasons.

Image

Debenhams takes the gong in the “most unrealistically irritating ad guaranteed to zip into your mind” category – replete with dozens of wince inducingly good-looking people slo-mowing their way about the place, and all I could think of was the ad and the yawning chasm between it and the reality of elbowing your way past scrums of other frantic last minute shoppers because you’ve left all your present buying to the last picosecond (just like I didn’t).

Ok that’s the ads but what about the telly? – I’m not a big one for Christmas telly usually but I did catch two bits of it.

Crimbo’s in full swing at Swansea’s third biggest call centre with The Call Centre : Happy People Celebrate Christmas (BBC 3) . Tea-bot Hayley (who somehow is the walking incarnation of Geordie Shore) is organising the call centre party but not to be upstaged manager Nev sweet-talks Kieran and Kerry into performing a rendition of silent night in front of the entire team – with mixed results. Bless’em – you have to give it to them for trying. Meanwhile the business of mass producing mild annoyance by ringing people up with unsolicited boiler sales offers goes on!

Best of all is Griff, the grizzled 15 year (!) call centre veteran who’s an ongoing vexation to the management – whether he’s occupying the entire quality department single handed (they have to go Big Brother on most of his calls to make sure he’s not arsing around) or coming up with his own interpretation of flexi-time by chinning off work two hours early. Griff’s on the verge of becoming a law unto himself with his antics but since he’s one of the teams most successful sellers he’s cut a lot of slack. You can’t help but feel sorry for him since he plainly too clever to be doing such work and has just as plainly lost interest in it.

From the grind of the call centre to living as a hunter-gatherer eight millennia ago with Britain’s Stone Age Tsunami : A Time Team Special (More4) . How this made it on air when a good bit of the country (as of this writing) is hip deep in flood water is a good question – a gaff I compounded by watching the thing from beginning to end and then writing about it. Tony Robinson and the rest of the team document the latest research on the lives, tools, diets, settlements and likely religion of the doomed dung-age dwellers.

Doggerland – a landmass that joined what we now call Britain to the European continent – was likely home to a Mesolithic culture at the time. The rising level of the North Sea would already have reduced the size of it but it appears a tsunami – potentially caused by melting polar ice or an immense landslide off the coast of Norway – wiped out what remained.

Interesting recreations of their shelters and life styles – along with looks at the artefacts that have survived through the ages – enliven the whole thing ending in an unconvincing CGI tsunami sweeping the lot away and separating the British isles from mainland Europe.

Of course I’m hanging on for the next logical development of the series – Time Team : Extreme when the group are launched into space to examine the ruins of a long gone civilisation on some airless rock orbiting Epsilon Eridani III or some such. Who needs Prometheus when you’ve got this eh!

So there you have it! My festive TV experience condensed into one print off and lose article. And here’s hoping next year’s Christmas ads won’t use imagery that grates one way or another. But something’s telling me that might be asking too much!

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