Christmas Television and Festive Fare

22/12/2014  -  10.26am

Dorothy Hobson, senior lecturer and course leader in Contemporary Media.

Christmas is a major time for all television channels. From the beginning of the autumn season the television schedules build up to the crescendo of Christmas Day and Boxing Day. The competition for the winning programme is intense.  

By 21st December we have learned the winner of the X Factor, Ben Haenow tonight announced as having the Christmas No 1 record.  We know that Caroline Flack has won Strictly Come Dancing and the build up to the Festive schedules continues as all the serious news programmes take time off for their break until the first week in January.  

While programmes hold us in anticipation, the advertisements have been in full force throughout December,  encouraging viewers to either go out and purchase  their Christmas food, drink and presents or to log on to their computers and order all their needs on line.   These advertisements are integral to the Christmas media experience.   

The competition between stores is intense and the launching of the Christmas ads begins as December dawns. From then on it is ‘Ads Infinitum!’  This year John Lewis chose a continuation of their theme of the British love for animals.  Last year the delicate animation of the bear that needed an alarm clock so that he did not oversleep while hibernating, won the hearts of viewers helped along by the dulcet tones of Lily Allen.  This year John Lewis chose to have a young boy who has decided to buy a mate for his toy penguin.   Clever filming leads us to believe that this is a real penguin until Christmas morning when the toy penguin meets his toy female mate and the parents share the joy of having bought the right present for their son.

You may like the two mischievous fairies from Marks and Spencer who have adopted a more traditional advertisement which just shows you the food made to look so delicious it is hard to resist. Equally, Marks and Spencer appear in an advertisement from the newly dominant cheaper supermarket Aldi, who have produced an advert where their supposed guests are served food which is so delicious they would never think this is available from Aldi.   The conversation includes one woman asking ‘Is it Marks & Spencer?’ implying that it is so good it can only be their top quality products. But, to their surprise ‘It’s Aldi.’   

The most controversial advertisement has been the one from Sainsbury’s who have produced a version of the Football match played in the truce in the First World War, between the English and German soldiers.  While the soldiers meet and the futility of the war is shown the English soldier gives Otto his German opponent, a bar of chocolate.   Made in conjunction with the Royal British Legion, the advert commemorates the moment of sense and humanity in the war. Criticised by many as linking commercialism with the sentiments of war, it is nevertheless a sensitive depiction of a moment which is already part of the cultural positivity of the human actions in the futility of war.  

There is no need for delayed gratification for the offerings of the food advertisements, you can shop and eat as much as you want before the actual holiday. However, waiting for the seasonal offerings of the television companies is something which viewers have to endure.  This year there was a campaign to whet the appetite for the Christmas edition of the Radio Times and twitter had considerable traffic with people tweeting that they had their edition and were marking up all their planned viewing.  

All the most popular programmes have Christmas special editions.   Dr. Who, Call the Midwife, Downton Abbey and MrsBrown’s Boys will all vie for number one position. However, they will have the soap operas to contend with and the climax to the story of Linda’s rape promises to provide the usual explosive and heart-breaking episode in EastEnders.   

I will write about the Christmas soap operas in early January.  

A Happy Christmas!