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There's always something perverse about advertising on Christmas day - the purchasing's all done, no-one's likely to suddenly dash out for an emergency Old Spice gift set or tin of Quality Street (cue drum majorettes and exploding "all the fun of the share" tin) but it's a prestigious space anyway. A deft tactic is to sum up all the ads you've done over the year, like the notorious 1980 Country Life buttermen 'greatest hits' compilation which took up an entire ad break. It's not long, however, before the post-Xmas cheapo slots start to intrude - Hoseasons holidays, Allied Carpets boxing day sale, Tom Champagne and the Reader's Digest Prize Draw envelope etc., signalling that Christmas is drawing to a close. All rather depressing, really. So thank God for the great big fuck off Woolworths ads. They'd usually kick off with a massive introductory star-encrusted spectacular in mid-November, usually taking up - gasp! - an entire ad break. Then for the next six weeks no break would be complete without one of a range of shorter ads, usually concentrating on toys or records or something. Examples?

Woolies 1981
Can't get more 1981 than this - Super Trooper rip-off soundtrack and a Lady Di doppelganger. Fronted by Anita Harris with Bill Oddie and Tim Brooke-Taylor - maybe Graeme Garden was contracted to BHS or something - with cameo roles for Windsor Davies and Don Estelle. Plus a load of Oriental women and cossack dancers. Hmm. Top quality bargains include Chevron Cassettes at £1.25, the Denim Gift Range, Matchbox Race & Chase and the Bontempi B225 organ.

Woolies 1982
Same tune one year on, but with a Christmas Wonderland hue, starring John Inman as the March Hare. Look out for Windsor Davies demonstrating the Bostik Glue Gun, Clegg and Compo off Summer Wine playing Connect Four, not to mention rhythm pal Kid Jensen shilling for Sony blank tapes.

Woolies 1983
It's the latest, greatest, ever more spectacular Woolworths Christmas show! Fronted by ringmaster Joe Brown, for reasons which remain unclear. As does the rationale of getting Lennie Bennett to extol the virtues of Old Spice and Frogger. Leslie Crowther shows up for the second year running, but Peter Powell's shoved out the Kid. We like the Burlington Shirts conga.

Woolies 1983 Music
Genesis by Genesis! The Eurythmics! Second ad from 1983, this time featuring Blitz-price albums - ahh! Note the rather over-enthusiastic way Joe says "Seven And The Ragged Tiger! Duran Duran!" Big fan, Joe?


If Christmas telly meant one thing other than game show specials with celebrities dressed as pantomime characters, that thing was great lorry loads of films. In your Christmas double issue TV Times and Radio Times there were to be found pages and pages and pages of movies to peruse and no thrill ever quite matched up to the fevered flicking to find what that big Christmas Day film was going to be.

Of course, each of the channels had their own ideas of what made for a fitting film at Xmas: BBC1 and ITV could be trusted to land the big fish for the holidays whereas BBC2 and Channel 4 could be relied upon to trawl up a cornucopia of rather smaller tiddlers for more acquired tastes.

On the day itself then, there came films in three blocks, usually: the morning kick-off, the post-dinnertime feature to accompany the sprout-laden torpor and the late night closedown special. Following this formula on BBC1 and ITV in the morning you’d have your Disney live action-fest - DARBY O’GILL AND THE LITTLE PEOPLE, THE GNOME MOBILE, any number of HERBIEs - or sub-Disney take-offs - JACK THE GIANT KILLER, WILLIE WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY or the like.

Early on, BBC2 would be chucking out the latest instalment of their Laurel and Hardy series or A CHRISTMAS CAROL; the Reginald Owen version, mind you. Channel 4 on the other hand would have dusted off THE SNOWMAN…again. God knows what they used to show before they had this, though.

Other features may have followed to fill in the odd gaps here and there - on BBC2 possibly another version of The Nutcracker Suite which everyone turned off when 1) The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy finished and 2) the animated nutcrackers and heavily made up dancers started to make the small children cry - but then would come the Big Picture and something many of us had waited all year for in our junior pre-video days. ITV would sometimes trot out another Bond film (see below) but usually it was down to the big two to produce the goods, premier wise: CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND or SUPERMAN for example, or a Disney they had let out of the box such as CINDERELLA or SLEEPING BEAUTY. Of course, sometimes BBC1 missed the point entirely and would manage to transmit a happy-go-lucky carefree number like TERMS OF ENDEARMENT or JAGGED EDGE to the chocolate and brandy addled masses to no end of consternation. Meanwhile, the minority channels would offer for your delectation something along the lines of Dickens on BBC2 - DAVID COPPERFIELD or NICHOLAS NICKELBY - whilst Channel 4 would proffer something quirkily off-topic like IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD or THE MOUSE THAT ROARED.

Late on, whilst gaining that second wind for stuffing sandwiches and chocolate oranges, one could rely on either a CARRY ON - though not top drawer usually; …GIRLS, …LOVING, …ENGLAND - feature length sitcom - PORRIDGE if you were lucky, RISING DAMP if you weren’t - or NO SEX PLEASE, WE’RE BRITISH on BBC1. ITV would be on the John Wayne films - one of the big ‘uns, THE SONS OF KATIE ELDER or TRUE GRIT - there would be something gloriously inappropriate on BBC2 - THE PARALLAX VIEW or ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN. In between all this and across the fortnight there would be a liberal sprinkling of musicals - MY FAIR LADY, THE KING AND I (natch), HALF A SIXPENCE - adventure films for the mornings - 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA, JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH, THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT - and some welcome late additions to the canon of regular Christmas films, FLASH GORDON, DRAGONSLAYER, TIME BANDITS et al.

Go to the pictures/video shop at Christmas? What for?


Filed carefully in the TVC store cupboard are those seasonal discs that have repeatedly failed to make it onto the annually re-released rip-off NOW Christmas double LP. The absence of some is understandable: the 1940s wartime belter 'Little Jack Frost Get Lost' was never destined to make it beyond rationing, while Bobby Helms' 'Jingle Bell Rock', a big hit in the US in 1957, '58 and '60, stiffed over here thanks to it being championed by Max Bygraves. But we've retrieved them all from the footnotes of dusty record catalogues in order to start compiling our own definitive TV Cream Xmas longplayer.

Joining 'Jack Frost' and Helms would have to be Chuck Berry's 'Run Rudolph Run' (1963) notable for being one of the few Christmas singles hitting the charts whilst its singer was banged up. Then there's two from 1984: Elmo'n'Patsy's country and western tune, 'Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer' (which sadly failed to come close to matching Gene Autry's definitive take on Rudolph's story which sold eight million copies in the US alone) and the inspired Christmas indie chart-topper 'Nellie The Elephant' by The Toy Dolls. And never mind 'Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree', we prefer Brenda Lee's defiant 'I'm Gonna Lassoo Santa Claus' recorded when she was just 11.

Chet Baker's wistful version of 'Winter Wonderland', 'Christmas Night In Harlem' by Paul Whiteman and Kurtis Blow's 1979 fine 'Christmas Rappin' (of course) all make the cut, though Sugar Chile Robinson's 'Christmas Boogie' (1950) is still waiting further research. As for 'Silent Night', we go for Simon & Garfunkel's eerie Xmas-carol-meets-seven-o'clock-news montage (1968) rather than Bros (1989). Arlo Guthrie's 'The Pause Of Mr Claus', Madge's version of 'Santa Baby' for A&M's 'A Very Special Christmas' benefit album (1987), and naturally Spitting Image's mighty 'Santa Claus Is On The Dole' (1986) also win a place.

There'd have to be something from the Godfather. James Brown had plenty to say on matters festive. First he decided in 1966 that not one but two versions of 'The Christmas Song' were required; then for 1968's 'A Soulful Christmas' LP the man donned Santa garb for the cover and included titles such as 'Santa Claus Goes Straight To The Ghetto' and 'Santa Claus Gave Me A Brand New Start'. But in 1970 came a third offering, 'Hey America', which featured tracks such as 'Go Power At Christmas Time', the possibly over-optimistic 'Santa Claus Is Definitely Here To Stay' and the sadly awful 'A Lonely Little Boy And One Christmas Toy'.

Meanwhile sitting in the "pending" pile is All About Eve's rather insipid 'December' (1989), which despite Julianne Regan's protestations - "We shan't be heartbroken if nobody buys it, we truly don't care" - still went to number 34. There might be room for something from comedy bandleader Spike Jones, but there's just so many of his "hilarious" numbers to choose from: 'I Saw Mommy Screwing Santa Claus', 'Socko The Smallest Snowball' or 'I Want The South To Win The War For Christmas'? Also waiting a diplomatic decision are 'I Yust (sic) Go Nuts At Christmas' by Yogi Yogesson; 'Santa Must Be Polish' by Bobby Vinton; 'Reggae Christmas' by Bryan Adams (1985); 'Snoopy's Christmas' by The Royal Guardsman (1967); and 'Dear Santa Bring Me A Man This Christmas' by The Weather Girls (1983).

Closing the LP is problematic. Maybe George Harrison's 1974 ode 'Ding Dong', which for some reason always gets overlooked for more 'War Is Over'/'Wonderful Christmas Time' palaver. Then there's any one of The Beatles' famous fan club Christmas Records; and surely a place for any one of the thousand versions of 'Sleighride' (say, the 1976 recording by the Memphis Soul Orchestra?). Finally, for the festivities seven days later, there's always The Beach Boys a cappella croon through 'Auld Lang Syne' off their 1964 'Christmas Album' - thankfully a marked improvement on Brian Wilson's bizarre self-penned 'Santa's Beard'.


Oh, thank you Percy! But Christmas toys in the Cream era weren't all crushed ice and e-numbers...

Recall Firefox the game and the rest of Grandstand's immaculate range of handheld arcade games here. Astro Wars! Caveman! Munchman! Er, Mini Munchman!

Surly bloke in change booth optional. Never mind The Third Place, remember the Load Runner-baiting MB Vectrex here.

"And then he turned into a submarine, so I became a submarine-eating kipper. I said a kipper, not a slipper!" Covet 1979's ultra-rare Lego 928 Galaxy Explorer here.

Planet Sinclair, the only destination for anyone who spent December 25 playing Horace Goes Skiing and getting to grips with INKEY$, BEEP, FLASH and PEEK.

Pocketeers! Pocke! Pocke! Pocketeeeeeeeers! From Fruit Machine to the mighty Letterbox.

Build and play virtual Scalextric here. It's in Swedish, mind. Go, go, go!!!

From Pacman to Donkey Kong.

Robots in disguise and on the web.

Not forgetting Eagle Eyes! Action Man - or action figure, if you're Lesley Judd - lives on.

So we checked out after Freeway Fighter, but Fighting Fantasy gamebooks live on, from the Warlock Of Firetop Mountain to the exceedingly frustrating Deathtrap Dungeon.

Hours of fun! It's the virtual Rubik's Cube! Now all we need is a Flash version of Rubik's Magic and we're laughing.


They'll never work out how to play that Dr Who board game, Roy, you should've got them a book token instead - Chris Diamond, Ian Jones, Steve Williams, Chris Hughes, Martin Fenton.