The advent frown

Thursday, December 20, 2007 by

Everyone must have a piece of Christmas television that’s become a tradition in their house - The SnowmanThe QueenTop of the Pops. For me, it’s always been the Christmas edition of Blue Peter.

Even if you haven’t watched Blue Peter for decades, you’ll know the format of the traditional Christmas show - lighting the final candle on the advent crown, cards from viewers, presents for the pets (although the tradition of giving the presenters presents too seemed to die out sometime in the ’70, soon after Peter Purves received some Whistle Testcassettes), a last-minute make, the Christmas crib and the unforgettable climax with the team joined by hundreds of kids and the Chalk Farm band of the Salvation Army to croon a carol. Predictable, maybe, but always delivered with such affection and sparkle that – certainly for me – it’s a top piece of life-affirming family telly to really kick off the festive season.

This was especially the case during the show’s imperial phase earlier this decade, and was testament to Blue Peter‘s ability to stick with the show’s traditions but make them relevant and enjoyable for new generations.

There’s been a lot of changes to the programme this year, some of them for obvious reasons, but also due to a CBBC policy to aim purely at the under-12s with teenagers directed towards the new BBC Switch. The relaunch in September was a rather radical affair which certainly in the first few weeks had some teething problems, but with familiar staples such as the expedition and the appeal remaining in place, I’d assumed, and hoped, the Christmas show, which went out yesterday, would remain broadly similar.

But no. In fact, all the familiar Christmas traditions were junked to make way for a new format. The edition instead was a Christmas party for some of the young carers the appeal would be helping. It wasn’t a bad show by any means – it was nice to see BP on a large scale in TV Centre Studio 1 again after months of squatting on a tiny fixed set, the kids seemed to enjoy it, and it helped promote the appeal further – but it wasn’t the Christmas show. Hence, to round it off, rather than the Salvation Army, the musical item was Santa Claus is Coming to Town performed by… Booty Luv.

Before the Daily Mail gets wind of this, the reason for the change was not “political correctness”, as with cracker-pulling contests and Konnie visiting a Christmas tree farm, it was packed with Christmassy stuff. But not the traditional Christmas fare, and I find that hugely disappointing. Of course they have to move with the times, but to completely abandon a much-loved format after nearly 50 years seems rather unnecessary, as it was still massively enjoyable. 

Biddy Baxter famously demanded the programme be “a rock” in viewers’ lives, always familiar during turbulent times, so I don’t know how children react to these bewildering and, really, largely pointless changes.

To use a crap analogy, I wouldn’t like it if you gave me pizza for Christmas dinner rather than turkey. Christmas has been officially ruined.


Comments are closed.