December’s TV offerings are the perfect delicious nibbles before the Christmas feast. Telly buff Julia Raeside can’t wait to tuck in.
James Corden and Matthew Baynton star as Sam and Phil in series two of BBC 2’s jaw-dropping comic adventure The Wrong Mans
We are just getting warmed up for Christmas but let’s not open all of our presents at once. Consider this column as your end-of-bed stocking, before you bounce downstairs to open the enormous presents tied with silken ribbon like you see under Christmas trees in American films. (For the record, I never had a stocking as a kid. Not even so much as a pillow case. No, it’s OK, I’ll be fine.) And it’s no use shaking the whoppers either, I’ll tell you about them in another exciting installment of this column, closer to Christmas.
The December schedules throb and bulge with good things to watch before you even get to Yule-mas, so let’s start with my most anticipated thing of the year, The Wrong Mans on BBC Two. This jaw-dropping comic adventure handbrake-turned onto our screens last year and stars James Corden and Mathew Baynton as Sam and Phil, two unassuming chaps working for a dull company who suddenly find themselves swept up in a high octane adventure, peril flying at them from every angle. Each half hour episode looked like a Hollywood film and the gags flew as fast as the punches. It was startling in its boldness and completely loveable to boot. For the second series the superlative Sarah Solemani, Dawn French and Rebecca Front are all back playing respectively ex-girlfriend, mother and head of MI5. And Sam and Phil’s adventure takes on a more international flavour as the wrong men (mans) find themselves in a whole new world of trouble abroad. I couldn’t be more excited.
Meanwhile, you can’t have failed to notice that Mad Men’s John Hamm is starring in Charlie Brooker’s latest festive edition of Black Mirror on Channel 4 this month. In a nod to the season, this feature-length episode will contain three separate stories of techno doom rather than just one, sort of like a horrible chocolate selection box with unsettling fillings all wrapped up in a thick, creamy layer of unease. Alongside Oona Chaplin and Rafe Spall, Hamm will mess with our heads thanks to another dystopian Brooker flight-of-fancy which is bound to leave you feeling about as Christmassy as a paper hat trodden into a puddle of sick. But also ridiculously invigorated by the sheer inventiveness of the plots.
Finally, the brilliant Miranda Richardson is back on your television (she should never be off it) as one half of Mapp & Lucia (BBC One) in Steve Pemberton’s new adaptation of the EF Benson novels about a pair of social rivals in the fictional 1920s south coast town of Tilling. Her sparring partner is the roaringly good Anna Chancellor and the two of them clearly relish every morsel of Pemberton’s tasty dialogue. Comedy stalwarts Mark Gatiss, Pemberton himself, Pippa Haywood, Frances Barber and Felicity Montagu provide sterling back-up to their verbal cut and thrust and the Sussex town of Rye (standing in for Tilling) looks quite ravishing. It is the complete package for anyone requiring their entertainment laced with wit and heart.
So have that to be going on with and I’ll see you back here in a couple of weeks when you’ve got the decorations up and you’re the wrong side of three Lidl stollens.
Julia loves TV and writes about it for the Guardian and other people. She also enjoys talking on the radio which she mostly does for the BBC.