My Top Five Christmas Films and TV

I'm doing a slight Christmas blitz in the few days' run-up to the festive season as I haven't really done any Christmas posts this year, mainly because I haven't got that into it. I think it's been quite weird re-acclimatising to a cold Christmas, as well as having a really busy early December at work, and so I haven't been as excited about Christmas as I normally am. But I have now bought and wrapped all my presents, been for two Christmas dinners (one with work and with N's family), sent out my Christmas cards and packed for going up north, I finally feel in the festive mood! So in the few days leading up to the big day itself I'm doing a couple of 'top five' posts about my favourite Christmas films, TV and songs, and as it's the weekend I thought I'd start with the movies and telly. These are the things I watch (in no particular order) when I'm wrapping my presents and swigging hot chocolate - are any of them on your list?

5. 'Blackadder's Christmas Carol'

For those of you who haven't seen Blackadder, it's a historical sitcom following several characters named Edmund Blackadder (all descended from the previous incarnation) through various periods of history. As the centuries progress each Blackadder becomes increasingly cynical, self-serving and manipulative, yet remains charming and intelligent. One of the main exceptions is Ebeneezer Blackadder, the central character of 'Blackadder's Christmas Carol', who starts off being the nicest man in England, but things take a very different turn after a visit from the Spirit of Christmas...

I am a huge Blackadder fan so I was always going to love this, but equally the idea of turning A Christmas Carol on its head and making a good Scrooge turn bad is ripe for comedy, and this delivers in spades. It can be odd to say the least (there's a very surreal sequence with two alternative visions of the distant future), but it is very, very funny and contains some of the most brilliantly witty putdowns on TV. Plus it's very much a 'spot the British comedy star'-fest, with Stephen Fry, Robbie Coltrane, Hugh Laurie, Jim Broadbent, Miriam Margolyes and Miranda Richardson all making appearances.

4. 'A Christmassy Ted'

Another festive comedy on the list, and this is Father Ted, a series about three priests exiled to Craggy Island. The Christmas episode, 'A Christmassy Ted', opens with Ted winning a Golden Cleric award - the highest accolade in the priesthood - and then becomes a series of brilliant comedy sequences, including the priests having to escape from Ireland's largest lingerie section which becomes an awesome parody of a Vietnam film, and a particularly chucklesome encounter between the priests' housekeeper Mrs Doyle and a tea-making machine salesman. It does peter out a bit about three-quarters of the way through but up until then it's incredibly funny.

3. The Muppet Christmas Carol

Another take on A Christmas Carol, and this time it's from the Muppets. Michael Caine stars as Scrooge, supported by a pitch-perfect cast of Muppets including Kermit as Bob Crachitt, Gonzo as the Narrator and Statler and Waldorf as the Marley brothers. A more traditional version of the story than Blackadder, but with a brilliant comedy double act from Gonzo and Rizzo the Rat, wonderfully catchy songs with a great Christmas message about the importance of friends and family, and some genuinely scary moments. If you don't love this movie then you have a heart of stone.

2. It's a Wonderful Life

'It's A Wonderful Life' stars James Stewart as George Bailey, a man who gave up his dreams for his family and always looks out for others, but when fate takes a cruel turn he's shown what his hometown would be like if he'd never been born. This is one of very few films that makes me cry; the opening, where the whole of Bedford Falls is praying for George, has me in absolute bits, but equally the ending where everyone bands together to help him out is so uplifting I can't help but get a bit sniffly at their goodness. Plus it also has one of my favourite quotes ever - 'No man is a failure who has friends' - and wonderful performances from all the cast, but particularly James Stewart, who covers a brilliant dramatic range and is completely mesmerising. There's a reason this is a Christmas classic.

1. Bernard and the Genie

I have cheated slightly here because Bernard and the Genie is a bit of an obscure one, but for my family it is an absolute Christmas staple. It's the story of Bernard Bottle (a very young Alan Cumming), an art dealer who gets fired and dumped on the same day just before Christmas. Finding an old lamp in his otherwise empty flat, he rubs it to be greeted by a flamboyant 2,000-year-old genie named Josephus, played by Lenny Henry, and hilarity ensues. It has dated a lot (put it this way, Gary Lineker was still playing football when it was made) but it's still very funny and charming, particularly the scenes where Josephus is discovering the wonders of 90s living. If you can hold of it I'd definitely recommend watching it over the Christmas period.

So that's what I'll be watching over the festive season - are any of those on your list? And do you have any other favourite Christmas films or TV specials?

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