EastEnders/Coronation Street (Monday – Friday, BBC1/ITV1)
Ah, it’s that pre Christmas slump in Soapland when nobody can really be bothered and all the big stories are gearing to play out over Christmas – much like the rest of the television schedules.
Down Walford way, the Wicks/Fox extended family head off on one of those tedious little holidays to separate them from the rest of the cast who are getting on with double banking episodes so everybody can have a nice Chrimbo holiday. The big news here is the arrival of former Bad Girl Linda Henry as Shirley, the ex-wife of Kevin Wicks. Great casting, and Kevin’s reaction is not what Shirley was hoping for, especially when Kev keeps her from getting to the kids – who don’t know who their mother is. With luck, we’ll be seeing more of Shirley Wicks in the New Year.
Meanwhile, in Weatherfield, it’s much the same story as everybody makes a dash for the Christmas finish line. Is Danny Baldwin dead? What is Tracy Barlow up to? And is the sight of Audrey Roberts puckering up with Bill Webster the single most disturbing image in soap since Pat and Patrick got down to it in EastEnders? Shudder.
Jackanory (Monday/Wednesday/Friday 4.30pm, BBC1)
It’s just brilliant to have this touchstone of children’s television back again, and this second slice of the rejuvenated Jackanory features Sir Ben Kingsley reading the darkly satisfying tome The Magician of Samarkand (pictured). It’s amazing to think that Jackanory was originally cancelled because it was looking a bit naff – this just looks fab. It must only be a matter of time before we have Steven Fry reading a Harry Potter book…
Tsunami: the Aftermath (Tuesday 9PM, BBC2)
Despite misgivings earlier in the year, the first part of Tsunami: the Aftermath turned out to be quite an effective piece of drama that kept the attention across its run time. The questions still remain as to whether it was right to broadcast it, and doubtless those questions will remain for some time to come. This second instalment is a little fragmented, and the thrust of this 90 minutes is the investigation into more hotel developments along the affected coastline.
Nigella’s Christmas Kitchen (Wednesday 8pm, BBC2)
A pre Christmas cooking show wouldn’t usually be under the gaze of TV Today, but Nigella’s Christmas Kitchen is noteworthy as it marks the divine Ms Lawson’s first venture for the BBC. And as these things go, it’s very slick. If you’re the nominated Christmas Day chef in your family, you could be well advised to tune in.
The State Within (Thursday 9pm, BBC1)
It’s denser than a London peasouper, but The State Within has kept its nerve throughout six tense episodes, and if you’ve been around since episode one, the pay off is actually quite satisfying. Will the steely Mark Brydon (Jason Isaacs at his dashing best) be able to prevent Lynne Warner from marching her troops into Tyrgyztan, and will he discover the real Mr Big behind the conspiracy? Actually, do we even care? This is so entertaining, the resolution hardly seems to matter!
Pulling (Thursday 10.30pm, BBC3)
I can’t tell whether Pulling is an acutely observed, slick comedy about modern women, or a load of thinly disguised man-hating propaganda. I’m favouring the former, if only that the other option would show me up as ever so slightly insecure (which I’m not, okay!?). There is some funny stuff here, admittedly, and this week one of the girls inadvertently becomes addicted to Internet porn while looking for a birthday present online.