Category Archives: ‘Still Open All Hours’

‘Still Open All Hours’ (BBC1) Review

When it was announced earlier this year that 70s sitcom favourite Open All Hours was to make a return in the form of a one-off Christmas special – forty years after it originally aired and eight years after its star’s death – I felt compelled to write an article on this blog rubbishing the idea, pointing out the flaws and generally voicing my objections.

I said that the whole premise of Granville’s (David Jason) character would have gone. In the original series, he was imprisoned in that corner shop (metaphorically speaking, of course), desperate, just like the best sitcom characters, to escape from the situation in which he found himself. With his miserly uncle, Arkwright having gone, however, it seemed quite inconceivable to me that he would have stayed in the shop. Surely he would have taken his golden opportunity to break free from the shackles of the business and chase his dream of being a cool Jack-the-lad – successfully or otherwise.

In a way, that problem still stood, but was never addressed. Of course, it’s quite possible that Arkwright only died a few years ago, so it was just too late for Granville to try to bring his dream to fruition. Or it could be that Roy Clarke was so desperate to fill the Last of the Summer Wine-shaped hole in his work life that he had to skirt around the slight implausibility of Granville not fleeing Lister Avenue while he could. We may never know.

So, for all I was prepared to watch Still Open All Hours through my fingers, scared that the show’s  legacy would be tarnished over a quarter of a century after the credits rolled on the last episode, I actually didn’t think it was too bad. Not near the standard that we’d expect from either a primetime Christmas comedy or Roy Clarke but it was ok – and dripping with the non-offensive, at a push cheeky, humour with which the writer is so synonymous.

 

It seems that in every interview with David Jason over the past few years there has been some sort of call on his part for a return to ‘family-friendly’ comedy, shows in which innuendo was the order of the day, as opposed to smut, and there was simply a smattering of ‘bloodies’ and ‘arses’, rather than a constant stream of F-words. What I think he’s trying to say is that he despises Mrs Brown’s Boys. If it really is a return to cheeky, traditional comedy that Sir David has yearned for for years then it appears that his wish has been granted in Still Open All Hours, where the most boundary-pushing line is ‘You do spin people some fanny’.

Ooh, matron!

What this show sometimes fell into the trap of doing, though, was mistaking ‘gentile’ for ‘gag-free’, with Roy Clarke often appearing to assume that repeating old jokes or returning to previous set-ups  would suffice. They didn’t always. In order to work they had to not only remind viewers of the original series but be funny in their own right. Of course, there were some great moments of nostalgia throughout the show: Granville’s uncertainty about his own parentage and apparently ‘loose’ mother were reflected in his son Leroy’s worries, the till (and tin atop it) was as brilliantly ferocious as ever, Nurse Gladys still had her Morris Minor, there was a picture in the back room of a snarling Arkwright, etc. For really observant fans, in the third scene there was even a nod to the episode in which Granville decided to sport an open shirt, medallion (in fact a cocoa tin lid) and shades in order  to look ‘cool’, with Leroy doing similar in this instance. That wasn’t always enough to carry the episode, though. In fact, such moments often simply punctuated the thirty minutes, rather than bringing laughs to them.

 

The cast for Still Open All Hours was, however, a very good one, with many comedy favourites popping up, such as Mark Williams, Nina Wadia, Johnny Vegas, Sally Lindsay and, somewhat inexplicably, Barry Chuckle. I know, I was baffled too.

That’s not to mention the returning cast, of course. Alongside David Jason there was Lynda Baron as Nurse Gladys (pictured), Maggie Ollerenshaw as Mavis and Stephanie Cole as Mrs Featherstone. However, as lovely as it was to see some of the original stars come back, there seemed to be a change with these characters – and an unwelcome one at that: Mavis was no longer loveably indecisive; Mrs Featherstone had gone from being a stern, hard-nosed widow to a rampant, purring, wannabe cougar; and as for Lynda Baron, well it was hardly worth her taking the trek to Doncaster! For someone who was such an integral part of the original series (being the only character, other than Arkwright and Granville, to appear in all 26 episodes), Roy Clarke left her woefully underwritten in this episode. Both the character and Lynda Baron herself deserved more screen time than that!

Former Emmerdale star James Baxter was a treat to watch as Leroy, though – if we overlook the character having mysteriously developed a Mackem accent, despite living in Yorkshire all his life.

 

So Still Open All Hours wasn’t quite the car crash I anticipated but neither was it the triumphant return to form that I think Roy Clarke and David Jason imagined it to be. Would this show have been able to stand its own (and possibly even be commissioned) without its predecessor? Almost certainly not. I might even go so far as to say that, under different circumstances, it may have been seen as another Royal Bodyguard or Big Top. As a tribute to (officially) the nation’s eighth favourite sitcom, though? It wasn’t bad. It might be able to sustain another special. If Roy Clarke sorts out the problem of scenes not flowing and the programme appearing to be a string of separate vignettes, I might also go so far as to suggest a series of six episodes. There’d have to be more originality, though, and less reliance on forty-years-old gags and set-ups – however much-loved they may be.

Image credits: Thanks to Matt Squire and Gary Moyes, ©BBC

What did you think of Still Open All Hours? Do you agree or disagree with my review? Please comment below or tweet me – @UKTVReviewer.

You can also see what’s coming up on TV in the coming week on this blog, published every Saturday at midnight.

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This Christmas in TV – 21st December 2013 – 3rd January 2014

I don’t know about you, but I often find that the Christmas schedules are filled with great comedies, dramas and family shows up until about 27th December – and then it all dies down. We just get whatever’s left over. It’s like going to the tin of Quality Street a few days after Christmas and having to make do with the toffee pennies that get stuck in your teeth for four hours.

This year, though, I think it’s different. There are some great shows spread across the festive fortnight and I think there’s only one day in the whole of that time that I’ve been hard pushed to find something that I can write a few paragraphs about. Let’s see what you think, though. Here’s what we all have to look forward to on the telly this Christmas…

Saturday 21st December

The Illusionists

ITV, 9:10pm

Dynamo, Ben Earl, Tricked, Derren Brown… There seems to be a particular demand in this country  at the minute for magicians and illusionists. I don’t quite'The Illusionists' - ITV, 9:10pm know why, but suddenly TV channels are crying out for performers and their tricks – the riskier the better. And that’s handy, because this show features a lot of ‘risky’ stunts.

As part of their sell-out world tour, a team of six illusionists arrive at the Hammersmith Apollo and, with Stephen Mulhern overseeing proceedings, perform some large-scale illusions, death-defying stunts and comedy magic for a star-studded audience.

As you can imagine, there are some pretty impressive tricks in here – never to be tried at home, of course. Well, unless you happen to own a large transparent water tank and handcuffs – in which case, that’s your own affair.

Also today: Liz McClarnon, Sherrie Hewson, Russell Grant and Des O’Connor compete in The Chase: Celebrity Special (ITV, 5:30pm); the winner of Strictly Come Dancing 2013 is announced (BBC1, 6:30pm & 8:40pm); ITV’s Harry Potter series continues with The Order of the Phoenix (6:30pm); Caroline Flack and Matt Richardson narrate The X Factor Winner’s Story (ITV2, 8:00pm); and BBC2 finishes its The Wrong Mans re-run with the final three episodes from 11:30pm.

The only new Christmas special today is Pointless Celebrities (BBC1, 5:40pm), which features the Chuckle Brothers, Keith Harris and Orville, Linda Lusardi and Sam Kane, and Roy Wood and Santa Claus himself!

Sunday 22nd December

The Sarah Millican Television Programme

BBC2, 10:00pm

The South Shields-born comedienne returns with a Christmas special of her fabulous chat/stand-up'The Sarah Millican Television Programme' - BBC2, 10:00pm show.

Sarah’s had a brilliant year: two series of her show have been made and broadcast, she was nominated for two British Comedy Awards last week and has gone off on her third tour, Home Bird. And now she’s topping it off with this Christmas special, which sees her chat to Call the Midwife stars Judy Parfitt (Sister Monica Joan) and Helen George (Trixie), as well as her teenage crush (her bedroom walls were plastered with posters): Phillip Schofield.

If you’re a fan of The Sarah Millican Television Programme, it might not be too late to ask for the best of series one and two on DVD for Christmas! Click here to find out how to order it.

Hebburn

BBC2, 10:30pm

Yes, I couldn’t resist writing about both of BBC2’s north-eastern, Christmas comedy specials.

Now, I have a confession to make. I watched all of the first series of Hebburn last year, and actually wasn’t as impressed by it as I made out. Everyone seemed to love it, though, so I just went along'Hebburn' - BBC2, 10:30pm with the hype, despite just finding it a quite funny, likeable show. The fact that I only live about twenty minutes away from Hebburn itself probably helped. I genuinely have loved this series, though – this and Last Tango in Halifax have helped bring gentle humour and pathos to Tuesday nights. And Jim Moir and Patt Dunn are simply brilliant together as Joe and his mum, Dot.

In this Christmas special, and the last episode in the series, Sarah and Jack return to Hebburn from Switzerland, just in time for Christmas Eve. However, Sarah’s mum, dad and nan have also turned up, and the latter begins immediately sparring with Jack’s gran, Dot. Plus, a theft means that the families – Jack’s and Sarah’s – must stay in the house, which leads to unlikely friendships being formed and more than a few enemies being made.

Also today: Big Sing: The UK’s Top 10 Carols (BBC1, 4:35pm); The Muppets and Lady Gaga at Christmas (Channel 5, 5:25pm); the obligatory showing of The Snowman (Channel 4, 6:25pm); Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (Channel 4, 6:55pm); The Fir Tree (BBC4, 8:30pm) tells the story of the journey of the Christmas tree; there’s one-off drama The Whale (BBC1, 9:00pm), about the apparent inspiration for Herman Melville’s Moby Dick; Matt Edmondson presents Utterly Outrageous Reality TV Moments 2013 (ITV2, 10:00pm); and, with his musical Stephen Ward having recently opened in the West End, Andrew Lloyd Webber explores the Porfumo Affair in Sex, Lies and a Very British Scapegoat (BBC1, 10:30pm).

Monday 23rd December

John Bishop’s Christmas Show

BBC1, 9:00pm

Liverpudlian comedian John Bishop will be joined by a host of celebrity guests for a night of festive'John Bishop's Christmas Show' - BBC1, 9:00pm fun.

Fresh from his stint as host of the Royal Variety Performance, and filmed at London’s Lyceum Theatre, John will welcome comedians including Nina Conti, Tim Vine, Lee Nelson, David O’Doherty and Jason Manford to perform sets, as well as delivering a few routines himself.

So join John and some of his favourite comics for a night of festive laughs as he brings his witty observations and hilarious anecdotes to the audience both in the theatre and at home.

Also today: BBC1’s three days of Toy Story starts at 3:15pm; a new series of Celebrity Mastermind begins (BBC1, 7:00pm); Gary Barlow: Journey to Afghanistan (ITV, 9:00pm) sees the X Factor judge perform for the troops at Camp Bastion; Most Shocking Celebrity Moments 2013 (Channel 5, 9:00pm); the third series of Fresh Meat comes to an end (Channel 4, 10:00pm); and Caitlin Moran’s sitcom pilot Raised by Wolves is on Channel 4 at 10:50pm.

Christmas specials include: A Question of Sport (BBC1, 7:30pm); The Gadget Show (Channel 5, 8:00pm); Would I Lie to You? (BBC1, 8:30pm); Peter Andre: My Life (ITV2, 9:00pm); and Bluestone 42 (BBC3, 10:00pm), which sees Harry Potter star Matthew Lewis join the cast.

Christmas Eve

The IT Crowd Night

Channel 4, 9:00pm

Channel 4 has dedicated a whole night to celebrating one of its most successful sitcoms of the century: The IT Crowd.

The evening begins with a repeat of September’s unofficial'The IT Crowd' Night - Channel 4, 9:00pm finale to the series, The Internet is  Coming at 9:00pm and then continues with The IT Crowd Manual at 10:00pm – a special documentary narrated by Stephen Mangan and featuring classic clips from the series. The show’s stars, Chris O’Dowd, Katherine Parkinson, Richard Ayoade, Matt Berry and Noel Fielding, and its creator, Graham Linehan, will also be revealing some behind-the-scenes secrets.

Then, there’ll be The Fans’ Favourite Episode (you can vote here) and, rounding it off, The Writer’s Favourite Episode. I’ve already cast my vote for the best episode: The Work Outing, in which the trio go to see – as Roy puts it – ‘a gay musical called Gay’. As with the best IT Crowd episodes, it has a complex plot and some fantastic one-liners. All of them are great though – it should be interesting to find out which one will be voted top.

Also today: It’s a Wonderful Life (Channel 4, 1:10pm); Toy Story 2 (BBC1, 3:40pm); a repeat of heartwarming drama Fast Freddie, the Widow and Me (ITV, 3:45pm); The Nation’s Favourite Christmas Song (ITV, 5:15pm); Carols From King’s (BBC2, 6:15pm); festive animations Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas (Channel 4, 7:05pm) and The Snowman and the Snowdog (Channel 4, 7:30pm); Midsomer Murders (ITV, 8:00pm); the marvellous Last Tango in Halifax finishes its second series (BBC1, 9:00pm); Greatest Ever Christmas Movies (Channel 5, 9:10pm); and BBC2 celebrates the late Mel Smith in I’ve Sort of Done Things (9:45pm) and Comedy Connections (10:45pm).

Christmas specials include: Trollied (Sky1 HD, 9:00pm); Not Going Out (BBC1, 10:00pm); and last year’s Outnumbered (BBC1, 10:45pm).

Christmas Day

Downton Abbey

ITV, 8:30pm

As you can imagine, there was a lot of deliberation over which show to write about today. I have, of course, chosen Downton, though. And just like last year’s, the two hour-long episode is rather  disappointingly set in the summer.

As part of Rose’s ‘coming out’ (not in a Tom Daley way: in'Downton Abbey' - ITV, 8:30pm a ‘coming of age’ way), the Crawleys and Granthams travel to London for her debutante ball at Buckingham Palace. However, not one to miss out on a party, Cora’s mother, the outspoken Martha Levinson (Shirley MacLaine), and her son, the equally outspoken and morally questionable Harold, are also in tow, and make quite an impression amongst London’s high society.

Elsewhere, Carson treats the downstairs staff to a rare day out and the Crawleys become embroiled in a huge scandal which threatens to besmirch the names of the Granthams and the Royal Family, so Robert has to do all he can in order to keep the controversy at bay.

Also today: Fearne Cotton and Reggie Yates host Top of the Pops Christmas (BBC1, 2:00pm); Toy Story 3 (BBC1, 3:20pm); Bear Gryll’s Wild Weekend With Stephen Fry (Channel 4, 8:30pm); the TV premiere of Michael Jackson’s This is It (Channel 5, 9:30pm); Michael McIntyre‘s 2012 stand-up show, Showtime (BBC1, 10:05pm); and Love, Actually (ITV, 10:45pm).

And there aren’t many Christmas specials – just Strictly (BBC1, 5:00pm); Paul O’Grady’s For the Love of Dogs (ITV, 5:15pm); Call the Midwife (BBC1, 6:15pm); Emmerdale (ITV, 6:15pm); Doctor Who (BBC1, 7:30pm); Coronation Street (ITV, 7:30pm); Christmas Night With the Two Ronnies (BBC2, 7:40pm); EastEnders (BBC1, 8:30pm); Mrs Brown’s Boys (BBC1, 9:30pm); Chatty Man (Channel 4, 9:30pm); Man Down (Channel 4, 10:35pm); and the infamous lingerie department episode of Father Ted (Channel 4, 11:05pm). Like I said, not many specials…

Boxing Day

Gangsta Granny

BBC1, 6:05pm

Following the success of Mr Stink last year, the BBC has this year commissioned another TV'Gangsta Granny' - BBC1, 6:05pm adaptation of one of David Walliams’s bestselling children’s novels.

Gangsta Granny tells the story of eleven-year-old Ben, who loathes having to stay with his granny every Friday night when his Strictly-mad parents go to see a dancing show. He hates her company: she feeds him cabbage, subjects him to games of Scrabble and her telly doesn’t work. However, one night his granny discloses the she is an international jewel thief, known as The Black Cat – and suddenly staying with her is not such a bad prospect…

As well as David himself, Gangsta Granny stars Julia McKenzie, Miranda Hart, Joanna Lumley, Rob Brydon, Robbie Williams and Jocelyn Jee Esien, along with newcomer Reece Buttery as Ben.

Also today: The Wizard of Oz (Channel 5, 5:15pm); Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I premieres (ITV, 7:15pm); the much-anticipated Still Open All Hours (BBC1, 7:45pm); Death Comes to Pemberley (BBC1) and Idris Elba: King of Speed (BBC2) begin at 8:15pm; Channel 4 make a risky move in inviting Jack Whitehall onto The Big Fat Quiz of the Year again (Channel 4, 9:00pm), following his headline-making appearance last year; Len Goodman’s Perfect Christmas (BBC1, 9:15pm); Ben & James Versus The Arabian Desert (BBC2, 9:15pm); and I am Britney Jean: Britney Spears in Las Vegas (ITV, 10:05pm) sees the performer begin her two year residency in Vegas.

Friday 27th December

Open All Hours: A Celebration

BBC1, 1:20pm

When the new Open All Hours episode was announced in October, I felt compelled to write an'Open All Hours: A Celebration' - BBC1, 1:20pm article on this blog. I really didn’t like the idea. Sitcom revivals are always risky anyway – and that’s without the protagonist being dead! I just didn’t think that it was plausible that Granville would carry on running the shop once his uncle died and he had the chance to escape. The fact is, though, it’s happening. And I’ve sort of got used to the idea – and even begun to look forward to the new episode!

This thirty minutes-long documentary features interviews with Open All Hours stars Sir David Jason and Lynda Barron, as well as its creator, Roy Clarke, about why they think that, forty years after it debuted, the corner shop sitcom is still hugely popular. We also go behind-the-scenes of the new episode, taking a look at the preparations and anticipation surrounding it.

I just hope that Still Open All Hours is good. Actually, I hope that it’s more than good! I hope it’s excellent! The BBC clearly seem to think it is anyway: rumour has it a brand new series is in the pipeline!

Also today: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (Channel 5, 4:10pm); the second episode of Death Comes to Pemberley (BBC1, 9:00pm); the Christmas special of Vicious (ITV, 9:00pm); The Inbetweeners Movie (Channel 4, 9:00pm); Slapstick Comedy Night on Channel 5 begins at 9:00pm with Mr Bean and continues at 10:00pm with Tommy Cooper’s Christmas; a New Year’s special of The Spa (Sky Living, 9:00pm); and Queer as Pop: From the Gay Scene to the Mainstream (Channel 4, 10:55pm) tells of how the liberation of gay men has influenced pop music over the past four decades.

Saturday 28th December

Death Comes to Pemberley

BBC1, 9:00pm

I’ve mentioned it for the past couple of days but now I’m writing about it for the final episode: Death'Death Comes to Pemberley' - BBC1, 9:00pm Comes to Pemberley is a gripping drama, adapted from PD James’s bestselling novel based on Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

At a party at Elizabeth and Darcy’s home in Pemberley, Elizabeth’s brother-in-law Wickham is murdered. Darcy immediately springs into action, launching a search party in the woods, where they find a bloodied corpse. However, the body is not that of Wickham, but of his travelling companion. All that the Darcys hold dear is immediately thrown into jeopardy as they become embroiled in the web of lies and deceit of the ensuing murder investigation.

The three-part series (the conclusion of which is tonight) stars Anna Maxwell-Martin, Matthew Rhys and Matthew Goode.

Also today: An 80s special of Pointless Celebrities (BBC1, 6:00pm); Kate Garraway and former I’m a Celebrity… stars Rebecca Adlington and Rosemary Shrager are on the last Chase: Celebrity Special of the series (ITV, 6:00pm); the finale of Atlantis (BBC1, 8:15pm); 50 Funniest Moments 2013 (Channel 4, 9:00pm); the penultimate Mad Dogs (Sky 1 HD, 9:00pm); and Charlie Brooker’s 2013 Wipe (BBC2, 10:40pm).

Christmas specials include: All Star Family Fortunes (ITV, 7:00pm), which sees Team Corrie go up against Team Dancing on Ice; The Cube Celebrity Special (ITV, 8:00pm), featuring Sherrie Hewson, Denise Welch, Lisa Maxwell and Greg Rutherford (who has never been a Loose Woman, to my knowledge); and The Jonathan Ross Show (ITV, 9:00pm), with John Bishop, Jamie Oliver, Ray Winstone, Susan Boyle and David Attenborough.

Sunday 29th December

Marple

ITV, 8:00pm

Despite the fact that it is apparently haunted, Miss Marple’s new acquaintance, the recently widowed Mike Rogers, dreams of building a new home on Gypsy Acre. However, he also has'Marple' - ITV, 8:00pm another aspiration: to woo American heiress Ellie Goldman. When he succeeds and they plan to marry, they also set about building his aforementioned dream home – but they have to contend with the threats of local gypsy, Mrs Lee.

Once the house is built and all seems fine, tragedy suddenly strikes as Ellie dies after being thrown from her horse. When two subsequent murders occur, Miss Marple has to step in and try to get to the bottom of Gyspy’s Acre.

The question is, will she be able to?

Also today: The last in the series of Sunday Side Up (ITV, 10:30am) and Sunday Scoop (ITV, 11:30am); Speed With Guy Martin begins (Channel 4, 8:00pm); the last-ever Mad Dogs (Sky 1 HD, 9:00pm); An Audience With Bruce Forsyth, from 1997, is on Channel 5 at 9:00pm, followed by Bruce Forsyth’s Comedy Heroes at 10:05pm; and 2013: Moments in Time (BBC2, 10:30pm) and Mashed (Channel 4, 11:05pm) both take a look back at the year just gone.

Christmas specials include: The recently-axed That Puppet Gameshow (BBC1, 3:20pm); Catchphrase (ITV, 7:00pm); 8 Out of 10 Cats (Channel 4, 9:00pm); and Rude Tube (Channel 4, 10:05pm).

Monday 30th December

The Thirteenth Tale

BBC2, 9:30pm

Vanessa Redgrave and Olivia Colman star in this one-off drama based on Diane Setterfield’s novel of'The Thirteenth Tale' - BBC2, 9:30pm the same name.

When young biographer Margaret Lea visits legendary writer Vida Winter to interview her, previously undisclosed secrets are divulged. Due to the revelations of her childhood and dark past, a strong empathy is formed between Vida and her biographer, who is persuaded to confront her own skeletons in the closet.

Prepare for a dark and thrilling psychological mystery, perfect for seeing out 2013!

Also today: Family favourites The Railway Children (ITV, 11:25am) and Mary Poppins (BBC1, 4:15pm); Gok Does Panto (Channel 4, 7:05pm) goes behind-the-scenes of the fashion stylist’s stage debut at the Birmingham Hippodrome; Neil Oliver’s The Sacred Wonders of Britain begins (BBC2, 8:30pm); Agnes takes in a homeless parrot in Mrs Brown’s Boys (BBC1, 9:30pm); Jack Dee presents Twit of the Year (Channel 4, 10:00pm); Rik Edwards hosts the Made in Chelsea end of series party (E4, 10:00pm); and there’s a chance to see Jesus Christ Superstar, starring Mel C, Tim Minchin, Chris Moyles and Superstar winner, Ben Forster (Channel 5, 11:35pm).

New Year’s Eve

Two Doors Down

BBC2, 9:00pm

Starring a cast of comedy actors, including Arabella Weir, Doon Mackichan and Greg McHugh, one-'Two Doors Down' - BBC1, 9:00pm off comedy-drama Two Doors Down shows the goings-on at a New Year’s Eve party thrown by Scottish couple Eric and Beth Baird.

The party is attended by the Bairds’ erratic and often mischievous family, friends and neighbours and, as the night goes on, the drinks flow and the countdown to midnight begins in true Scottish style, the laughs become more frequent – but ructions seem increasingly likely.

Also today: Some of this year’s chart-toppers perform on Top of the Pops New Year (BBC1, 5:30pm); ITV has Mamma Mia! (8:00pm); Alan Carr presents his annual New Year Specstacular (Channel 4, 9:00pm); Channel 5 counts down the Greatest Stand-Up Comedians (9:00pm); Jason Manford presents A Funny Old Year (ITV, 10:15pm); and midnight is counted down to in Gary Barlow’s Big Ben Bash (BBC1, 11:15pm) and Jools Holland’s Hootenanny (BBC2, 11:30pm).

Specials today include: Christmas episodes of Deal or no Deal (Channel 4, 7:00pm), Tudor Monastery Farm (BBC2, 9:00pm) and Mock the Week (BBC2, 10:00pm); and a New Year’s Eve special of The Graham Norton Show (BBC1, 10:15pm), with Frank Skinner, Michael Buble, Joan and Jackie Collins, the Pythons and the stars of Anchorman 2.

New Year’s Day

Sherlock

BBC1, 9:00pm

Fans have been waiting two years for it but it’s finally here: the third series of Sherlock.'Sherlock' - BBC1, 9:00pm

As you can imagine, the BBC are giving very little away at the moment. We know, of course, that Sherlock will return – and that return will come as he is needed when London faces a terror attack. However, with Watson having moved on after two years without Holmes, and facing a safe future of domesticity, is he going to immediately aid him in saving the capital?

Well I think it’d make for an arduous ninety minutes if he didn’t…

Fans of the series may also like to note that a mini-episode in build-up to the third series will be available on Christmas Day. I’m not quite sure where or what time but it will be on Christmas Day. So look out for that!

Also today: The Sound of Music (BBC1, 2:15pm); Gnomeo and Juliet (BBC1, 6:45pm); the final Harry Potter film gets its TV premiere (ITV, 8:00pm); and David Blaine presents tricks for some big names in Real or Magic (Channel 4, 9:00pm).

Wednesday 2nd January

Birds of a Feather

ITV, 8:30pm

I genuinely cannot express the extent of my excitement about the return of Birds of a Feather. Unlike Open All Hours, this is a sitcom revival which I was ecstatic about from the start.'Birds of a Feather' - ITV, 8:30pm

That’s right, I’m a seventeen-year-old Birds of a Feather fanatic. And male. Nothing wrong with that!

Following the hit stage adaptation of the series, and rejection by the BBC, ITV decided to snap up Birds for a tenth series – the first to be broadcast on the network. I’m not particularly worried about this series of Birds not being up to scratch: the live tour was a sell-out and the creators, Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran, have come back to write a lot of the eight episodes, so everything should be fine.

So, what’s happening in the first episode? Well, in ‘Gimme Shelter’, we find Sharon living back in her council flat in Edmonton while Tracey is still in Chigwell with Travis (played by Charlie Quirke, son of Pauline) – but Dorien is nowhere to be seen. Where on earth could she have got to..? Well, it’s likely something to do with sex, isn’t it?

Also today: This Morning and Loose Women return (ITV, 10:30am and 12:30pm); Channel 5 makes us all feel a bit better about eating one too many chocolates by dedicating a whole night to Obesity and Diet from 7:00pm; The Restoration Man is back (Channel 4, 8:00pm); Dolphins: Spy in the Pod begins (BBC1, 8:00pm); Silent Witness starts a new series (BBC1, 9:00pm); we arrive at the Solana again for more Benidorm (ITV, 9:00pm); Michael Grade’s Stars of Musical Theatre is on BBC4 at 9:45pm; there’s a Christmas special (yes, a Christmas special!) of Rab C Nesbitt (BBC2, 10:00pm); and Matt Edmondson has more Fake Reaction (10:00pm).

Friday 3rd January

Celebrity Big Brother

Channel 5, 9:00pm

Yes, it seems not two minutes since Geordie Shore star and Sunderland ladette (although if'Celebrity Big Brother' - Channel 5, 9:00pm Newcastle want to claim her as theirs that’s fine by us…) was named Celebrity Big Brother champion for summer 2013 but now a new batch of vaguely recognisable faces are about to enter the house.

Obviously, no names have been released yet but rumours are rife, with Katies Hopkins and Price being the most prominent. However, other celebrities being linked with the series so far are Jim Davidson (although his name has been bandied about for the past two series) and Nancy Dell’Ollio.

Whoever goes into the house, though, it’s sure to be another cracker of a series.

Also today: A return for The Martin Lewis Money Show (ITV, 8:00pm), Robson’s Extreme Fishing Challenge (Channel 5, 8:00pm), James May’s Toy Stories (BBC1, 9:00pm), Piers Morgan’s Life Stories, with June Brown (ITV, 9:00pm), and 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown (Channel 4, 9:00pm). There’s also a new Rude Tube (Channel 4, 10:00pm); and highlights of the most recent, star-studded series of The Graham Norton Show (BBC1, 10:35pm).

So, there we are: that’s what’s coming up on your tellyboxes over Christmas and New Year. Are you particularly looking forward to any of these shows or is there something else from the world of TV which you want to have your say about? Feel free to comment below or tweet me –@UKTVReviewer.

Image credits: The Illusionists – Thanks to ITV, ©Wizard TV; The Sarah Millican Television Programme – Thanks to BBC, ©So Television; Hebburn – Thanks to BBC and Matt Squire, ©Baby Cow Manchester/Channel X North; John Bishop’s Christmas Show – Thanks to BBC, ©Lola Entertainment; The IT Crowd Night – Thanks to Channel 4, Pete Dodds and Talkback Thames; Downton Abbey – ©ITV; Gangsta Granny – Thanks to BBC and Gary Moyes, ©BBC; Open All Hours: A Celebration – Thanks to BBC and Gary Moyes, ©BBC; Death Comes to Pemberley – Thanks to BBC, Origin Pictures and Robert Viglasky, ©Origin Pictures; Marple – Thanks to ITV and Neil Genaver, ©ITV; The Thirteenth Tale – Thanks to BBC, Dayday Films and Laurence Cendrowicz, ©Dayday Films; Two Doors Down – Thanks to BBC and Mark Mainz, ©BBC; Sherlock – Thanks to BBC, Hartswood Films and Robert Viglasky, ©Hartswood Films; Birds of a Feather – ©ITV/Retort/QuirkyMedia Stuff; Celebrity Big Brother – Thanks to Five.

Is Reopening the Doors of Arkwright’s Such a Good Idea?

Which sitcom favourite would you like to see make a return? Only Fools and Horses? Gavin & Stacey? Fawlty Towers? Perhaps Blackadder?

Whatever your preference, it is unlikely to be Open All Hours. Nevertheless, the BBC have seen fit to revive the 70s classic for a Christmas special, in celebration of its fortieth anniversary.

I have to say, my first feeling when I read about this was – despite my love of the programme – one of disappointment and, if I’m honest, dread. I just think that the stakes are so high. Open All Hours is much-loved and well-remembered by many, having received a huge 67,237 votes in the 2004 Britain’s Best Sitcom poll, placing it in an impressive eighth place, and Arkwright being voted the nation’s favourite shopkeeper ever in a 2010 Which? survey. Therefore there will be a lot of pressure for this new special to live up to fans’ expectations.

But then do fans even want it to happen? I consider myself a huge fan of Open All Hours but it certainly wouldn’t be top of my list of dream sitcom revivals. I don’t think I want to see an Arkwright-less shop, being run by Granville and his son. Yes, that’s right: his son! Wasn’t part of Open All Hours‘ charm the fact that Granville was eternally dissatisfied, desperately trying to break free from his uncle’s clutches and live the life of the trendy Jack-the-lad that he yearned to be? But now he has a son! Now Arkwright isn’t there, so there’s no antagonist, no one to stop him from living his life as he sees fit. So with the freedom that came with the miserly old Arkwright’s death, we surely have to ask ourselves, really, would Granville have stayed in the shop? Or would he have grasped the opportunity to escape the business, and perhaps even South Yorkshire, to live the life he wanted?
I would be inclined to say yes, but hopefully Roy Clarke will provide a decent reason as to why he didn’t in the special. Or perhaps he did, but felt that he had to return for whatever reason to fulfil his uncle’s wishes and take ownership of the grocer’s. Whatever his reason for still being there, it needs to be explained – else Clarke will be failing before he has even started.

The trouble is we tend not to like seeing sitcom characters moving on, even in the small way that Granville apparently has. When another David Jason favourite, Only Fools and Horses, came back for a series of three Christmas specials in 2001, after a five year-long absence, many viewers were disappointed, claiming that it should have ended with Del and Rodney realising their dream and walking off into the sunset. What you have to admire John Sullivan for, though, is that he didn’t try to keep the Trotters in those millionaire lifestyles: within minutes of the 2001 special, ‘If They Could See Us Now…’, they were back in their humble old Peckham flat, coming up with new, innovative – if legally questionable – ways to make money once again. When The Vicar of Dibley made a successful return, Geraldine was still stuck with Alice and surrounded by her mad parishioners: nothing had changed, so people loved it. Ditto Ab Fab, Rab C Nesbitt, To The Manor Born, Red Dwarf, The Likely Lads…need I go on? I have a feeling that Granville’s son will be just too big an adjustment for long-term fans.

Perhaps I’m being too harsh and rubbishing this return before it has even been recorded. I suppose I’m just protective of the characters and the series, and don’t want to see its reputation muddied by a single thirty minute special. I know that I’ll be watching Still Open All Hours – the show’s new title – on Christmas Day, whatever happens, though. It could prove to be a waste of time and money, but then it could be hugely popular, find a legion of new fans and spawn a spin-off series.

We’ll just have to wait and see.