Telly steers clear of turkeys

If you get sick of rich pickings this Christmas, Oliver Bennett tells you where to find a little relief on TV

The Christmas diet of television is, as ever, rich to the point of indigestion. But for the replete designer with a remote control to hand, there’s a host of TV offerings to interest the creative in all of us.

First, the Absolutely Fabulous Christmas Special features Jennifer Saunders as an interior designer, having left PR behind (10.30pm, BBC1, Christmas Day). But the big one is Shrek (6.40pm, BBC1, Christmas Eve). While everyone else is laughing away at the gags, the connoisseur of animation will be chin-stroking over the marvels of Shrek’s computer animation, for which PDI/DreamWorks’ Fluid Animation System won an Academy Award for Technical Achievement in 1999, and which introduced a new complexity to animated characters. Old hat now, of course, but a feather in the cap for DreamWorks’ partner Jeffrey Katzenberg – and a snub to Disney.

The next crowd pleaser is The Simpsons Christmas message on (3pm, Channel 4, Christmas Day). I have already played Springfield Monopoly this year, and fully intend to watch Matt Groening’s preposterously successful animated – and warmly dysfunctional – family.

Indeed, animation fans are well catered for this Christmas. There’s Finding Nemo (4pm, Disney, Sunday 19 December), the Pixar-Disney collaboration that set the current box-office record for biggest debut for an animated film. More of an elevated taste is Spirited Away (8pm, Sky Cinema 1, Wednesday 29 December), the Hayao Miyazaki adventure that bought Japanese anime to the Western mainstream. Then there’s Animal Farm (12.05pm, C4, New Year’s Eve), the animated version of the George Orwell political allegory by the late British animators John Halas and Joy Batchelor. Made in 1954 – nine years after George Orwell’s book was published – it is an historic attempt to make serious animation for adults. Elsewhere, you can even catch a triple bill of Fungus the Bogeyman on CBBC this weekend, 18 and 19 December.

From the old school comes Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (12.50pm, ITV1, Christmas Eve) with set designs by the celebrated production designer Ken Adam (watch for those Quality Street pop-Edwardian graphics). If you’re sick of animation, try Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (12.35pm, ITV1, New Year’s Eve), The Wicker Man (11pm, ITV1, New Year’s Eve) or Louis Buñuel’s arty classic Un Chien Andalou (1.35am, FilmFour, Monday 20 December).

I’ll also be tuning into Pride (6.35pm, BBC1, Monday 27 December), scripted by Simon Nye and written and shot by nature documentary maker John Downer on ‘boulder-cam’: unsurprisingly, a camera disguised as a rock. The aim is to improve on nature, and it uses blue-screen technology to mix subject and background, while Jim Henson’s Creature Shop adds ‘speaking faces’ on to the beasts. Finally, The Real Face of Santa promises screams a plenty, as a pathologist creates a facial reconstruction of St Nick (8.30pm, BBC2, Tuesday 18 December). If you’re not sick after that, you’re a Christmas hero.

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