MEDIA: CHRISTMAS TV SCHEDULES - AN EXPERT'S VIEW. Tune your television to BBC1 on Christmas Eve and leave it that way, Ross Wightman suggests
By ROSS WIGHTMAN, senior broadcast analyst at PHD, is the opposite of Scrooge. He's managed to gatecrash every Christmas lunch at PHD, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 13 December 2002 12:00AM
Last year's Only Fools and Horses attracted a monumental 21 million turkey-filled viewers. Therefore, it's not going to be hard to predict the top-rating show of this Christmas season: Only Fools and Horses on Christmas Day - a surefire banker.
Besides an outing from our trusted friends from Peckham, what's in store this coming Yule? ITV's favourite word at the moment is "celebrity", so it's reinventing Christmas by putting the word celebrity in front of it. Look forward to celebrity editions of Blind Date, Stars In Their Eyes and Millionaire.
Not to be outdone, BBC1 is offering celebrity editions of The Weakest Link and a special featuring Jack Dee being sent to Siberia (preferable to being sent to the Big Brother house again).
Looking at the schedules across the three key festive days I cannot see how Christmas is not going to belong to BBC1. Christmas Eve will be reasonably close, with A Touch of Frost repeat against the premiere of The Mummy block booking the 8pm to 10pm timeslot. The Mummy will inherit nicely from EastEnders. No Corrie to provide such favours for ITV.
Both BBC1 and ITV's schedules on Christmas Day look like fairly standard fare - two EastEnders, two Celebrity Blind Dates, an hour of both Emmerdale and Corrie. A festive edition of My Family could well beat Emmerdale.
Ground Force Goes Festive will not mean plain sailing for Corrie although the perennial soap will clinch it. In the evening, it will be all BBC1 with EastEnders into OF&H laying waste to Celeb Blind Date and Celeb Millionaire.
And so to Boxing Day, the day the holiday and sale ads start. The centrepieces of both BBC1 and ITV schedules are remakes of TV classics. BBC1 will offer The Hound of the Baskervilles with a genuinely star-studded cast (Richard Roxburgh, Ian Hart, Richard E Grant, et al).
In competition, ITV has remade Goodbye Mr Chips starring Martin Clunes.
Again, capturing the viewer early in the evening is key. EastEnders into Holby City, prior to Baskervilles, is a strong line-up. Mary Poppins into Emmerdale, prior to Mr Chips, looks less appetising. The strong schedule and powerful cast should ensure a win for Baskervilles.
Commercially, the run-up to Christmas is more important to ITV than the festive period itself. In the good old days, when ITV had already won the annual ratings battle, it could take its foot off the pedal. The BBC takes Christmas very seriously, ploughing sack loads of cash into the season and making life tough for the other broadcasters. These days, ITV needs to be seen to at least look like it is trying and piling out celebrity-fronted formats is a decent enough strategy.
This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk
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