Christmas Dinner Movie Menu

As we dance and prance towards Christmas day and the break from work and the usual rat race it provides, I know that many of you will be filling your hours with festive traditions. One of the more modern traditions that has taken hold is the watching of Christmas Movies, usually the same few that tap into family appreciation and nostalgia.

We’re no different in my household, I love Christmas movies. Every year my wife marks the start of the festive season by watching ‘Love Actually’. We watch ‘it’s a wonderful life’, ‘Four Christmases’ and ‘Home Alone’ 1 &2 together at some point in the first few weeks of December. My daughter is starting to find her own favourites in ‘Elf’ and ‘Frosty the Snowman’, which we sit and watch with her.

These are all sweet, fun and fill you with the warmth of happiness and the potential of the season. They are great but they all have a Ying to their Yang. I love the sweet but I love savoury as well, like ‘Gremlins’, ‘Batman Returns’ and

So, to celebrate the season I have created a Christmas Day menu of sweet and Savoury Movie treats.

Ladies and Gentleman, what would you like for Dinner?

 

~ Starters ~

Option 1: A small bowl of spicy Gremlins, accompanied by fresh A Nightmare Before Christmas

Option 2: A Home Alone melt with a New York style sequel for dipping

~ Main Meal ~

*Option 1: Several large slices of The Santa Clause, with roasted Grinch and a baked Bad Santa

*Option 2: Poached Krampus, with a cheeky portion of A Miracle on 34th street and matured National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

*both served with generous servings of It’s a wonderful life gravy.

~ Dessert ~

Option 1: A scoop of A Muppets Christmas Carol topped with lashings of Elf

Option 2: A slice of Scrooged drizzled with rich dark Batman Returns

~ Coffee ~

Option 1: A smooth cup of Die Hard with a sprinkling of Jingle all the way

Option 2: A hot pot of The Holiday with a choice of creamy computer generated Christmas Carol or a selection of Four Christmases

~ Wine ~

Red: A dark and full bodied Black Christmas

White: A fruity and light White Christmas

~ Beers & Ciders ~

Cider: A dry but fruity bottle of chilled Lethal Weapon

Beer: A Belgian import, a tall glass of In Bruges

My top 5 episodes of Yes Minister and Red Dwarf

The last two podcasts have been a history of Yes Minister and Red Dwarf. As well as going into detail about why I love the shows so much. I really enjoy the shows but there are episodes that always stand out. So I challenged myself to list out my top 5 episodes for each show.

Top 5 episodes: Yes, Minister / Prime Minister

§  Series 2 (YM), EP 3: The Death List – It’s easy to take the moral high ground when you aren’t the target. However, what happens when you are the target? Jim has to consider his position on surveillance spending when his name is found on a terrorist death list. Are politicians live expendable for the greater good and economic savings?

§  Series 3 (YM), EP 3: The Skeleton in the closet – We’ve all make mistakes when we are young but I am sure these mistakes won’t cost the Government £40 Million. Should a certain senior civil servant lose his job over signing the wrong document 30 years ago?

§  Series 3 (YM), EP 4: The Moral dimension – How corrupt is the government when trying to win an international contract? Is it corruption or miscellaneous spending and management overheads? The question is how moral do you have to be to enjoy a sneaky drink in a dry Islamic country?

§  Series 1 (YPM), EP 1: The Grand Design – Want an introduction on our 80’s cold war nuclear position, then this episode is a good place to start. There are some excellent discussions about the use of defence / offence weaponry but at no point does it get heavy or depressing, a great example of how good the writing is.

§  Series 1 (YPM), EP 3: The key – After 3 and a half series the relationship between Jim Hacker and Humphrey Appleby runs like a well oiled machine. This episode takes that dynamic and really pushes it to its limit as they each make power plays to keep the upper hand over the introduction of a new member of Jim’s team.

Top 5 episodes: Red Dwarf

§  Series 3, Ep 3: Polymorph – Is everyone just a bundle of emotions held together by a situation? What happens if you start to take some of them out? Anger, Guilt, Fear or vanity – who would you be without these? Well the boys get to find out when they are attacked by the genetic life-form the emotion eating Polymorph. What can they do but get out there and twat it!

§  Series 4, Ep 3: Justice – There is so much to love about the episode. The concept of the Justice Zone is brilliant and I would love to see it or something similar used elsewhere. I like the fact that this also deals with the idea of dealing with guilt and responsibility, a deep theme that culminates in a court scene defending Rimmer on the basis of being incompetent and self important, rather than guilty. One of the best scenes in the series.

§  Series 4, Ep 6: Meltdown – War is hell, especially when you are being led by Arnold Rimmer, against Hitler, Caligula and Rasputin. The boys land on a planet of wax work replicant robots locked in a battle for good and evil. It has been going on for millennia and finally they are going to have the help of the boys from Red Dwarf. How else could this end than in victory, but for whom?

§  Series 5, Ep 2: Inquisitor – Have you lived a life that could be considered worthy? What would you say to convince a time travelling droid that could wipe your existence from reality? It might be easier for you and me but it isn’t that easy for a space bum, a cowardly hologram, a neurotic android and a narcissistic cat. Someone isn’t going to get out of this existence alive.

§  Series 5, Ep 6: Back to Reality – Not sure what it says about me that there are three episodes in this list about alternate versions of the characters. Anyway, how would you feel if you found out that the reality you know is actually just an immersive computer game? The boys used this game to escape their ‘real’ lives. However we find the crew’s worst fears are played out in this alternate world, driving them to despair. Also, who doesn’t love Dwayne Dibbley? 

Can Sitcoms be catogoriesed?

The term ‘sitcom’ was created in the 1950’s to cover a new type of comedy. ‘I love Lucy’ is considered the first show to meet the full criteria but the first show considered to have created the format is ‘Pinwright’s progress’ which ran for 10 episodes in 1946 – 47.

Since the format has been created it has been used in so many different situations, work places, homes or places of leisure. They have all been covered but as I have been watching sitcoms over the years and more recently for these few shows, I have noticed that sitcoms primarily fall into one of seven categories. While they may contain elements of several categories they all fit into a primary category.

 

The Buffoon – These shows revolve around a single individual whose antics are the source of the comedy. These can be of two kinds, an individual who is aware of their foolishness or someone who is so convinced of their ability while everyone around them sees the foolishness. This is one of the most popular categories, some shows have even changed direction to fit into this character, it’s the Homer Simpson affect. These are a chance to laugh at the arrogant pompous prat that you know and can’t believe has gotten to a certain position in work or life. Examples are: The Brittas Empire, Keeping up appearances, Citizen Kahn, Some Mother’s do have them, Fawlty Towers

The sensible person – These shows are the counter to “The Buffoon” shows. In these the main character is the lone sensible individual stuck in a situation surrounded by idiots and trouble makers. The comedy coming from either the individual suffering through the antics of the idiots around them or getting out of trouble usually caused by said idiots. These shows reflect the frustration we have all felt at one time or another, when we have been exasperated by the incompetence of others, believing that we are trapped in a world in which only ‘I’ seem to know how to get things done. Examples are: Blackadder, Allo Allo, Porridge, The Vicar of Dibley

The grotesques – When shows move away from single main characters you have to consider the group. The first of these groups is the exaggerated and twisted versions of reality that are the grotesques. The comedy and jokes are created by the unbelievable and sometime vile antics of the group. These may push the bounds of reality and taste at time but they can also be incredibly funny, in a twisted and very British way. These are the shows that have a hyper stylised slap stick version of the world, almost ‘Looney Toon’ in the levels of violence and comedy. It’s easy to laugh at these but there is an underlying acknowledgement that the viewer knows someone, or a group of people, that are reflected in the grotesques of the show. Examples are: Bottom, Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie, The young ones, The league of Gentlemen

The Circus – A less exaggerated version of the group sitcoms are the circus. Shows that portray a group of people of differing statuses. The easy option for this category is a group of buffoons; this will either be all of them acting in their own interest or this group of Buffoons against the world. A more complex and in many cases a more satisfying version of this is having competent people at odds with one another while trying to manage the circus around them. The comedy comes from the group’s interactions and them dealing with the larger world. Examples are: Benidorm, Bread, The thin blue line, My Family, Yes Minister (Prime Minister)

The Underdogs – These are the down trodden and underrepresented. These are the shows that, when done well, usual have the most heart. These are the losers that we love to see make good but we are also happy to laugh when they fall on their arse. Examples are: Steptoe and Son, Red Dwarf, Inbetweeners, Only fools and Horses, Dad’s Army, Last of the Summer Wine.

Just us – The groups in the previous categories are usually thrown together in a situation and vary in size. This category could be considered an off shoot of the previous group categories but I think there are enough shows for it to get its own category. The shows in this category focus in small groups of 2 to 4 people. The comedy derives from the situations and the interactions within that small group. These smaller groups can be of varying status and success however the key to these shows is the sincerity of the relationship between the principle characters. Examples are: Just Good Friends, Men Behaving Badly, The likely lads, Waiting for God

Awkward! – This is a relatively new form of sitcom that has become popular in the last 10 years or so. These shows will have a focus on characters and the comedy comes from the reaction to an act or situation rather than the typical set up and punch line. It seems to me that these shows are aiming to make the viewer feel uncomfortable as well as laugh, I equal measure. Raising a question in the viewer of whether they should actually be finding this character or situation funny. Examples are: The Office, Gavin and Stacey

As I mentioned previously, the majority of sitcoms will cross two, maybe even three of the above categories. However, they will always fit into a primary category that forms the crux of the show. For Example, “Steptoe and Son” could easily be slotted into “Just Us” as the show focuses on the relationship between a Father and Son. However, I contend that while this relationship is important to the show, the bigger key to both the heart and comedy of the show is the fact they are ‘Rag and Bone men’ (add in link). They are at the bottom of the social ladder with aspirations and desires of doing better. Therefore the show fits primarily into the “Underdogs” category. If they were wealthy the relationship between the two would change and the source of comedy would have to change. The same case can be made for “Only Fools and Horses”.

The point I should make is that some shows will shift as they evolve. “Blackadder” series 1 is very firmly in the Buffoon category and actually suffers for it. The writers understood this pretty quickly and from series 2 onwards the character of “Blackadder” changed to become the ‘only sensible person’, thus changing the drive and comedy of the show. It also becomes a lot better.

Looking back at the categories above it is easy to apply them to British sitcoms. I am not so sure, however, that they could be applied to sitcoms from other countries. For example, where would Friends fit in? I would suggest it would most likely be “The Circus” but it is this its primary crux? It makes me wonder then, as with so many other art forms, can we see a fiction telling a greater truth? In this case what it means to be British. I am sure that everyone, at one point or another has said “my life could be a sitcom” but which category do you, or others, see your life in?

What do you think of the above categories? Do you agree or disagree with them? Do you think that there are different categories for American sitcoms? Let me know what you think via email or social media