There have been TV shows other than Christmas University Challenge on during the holiday season - though there's no doubt about which show I've really been glued to! - and I've enjoyed several of them. all too often 'Christmas specials' are a let-down, but Motherland was as sharp as usual, albeit with a very dark and sad storyline. The quality of writing is consistently high.
The same is definitely true of Ghosts, a much gentler show, which has a 'feelgood' style that doesn't seem forced, but flows naturally from the well-drawn characters. Great fun. I've written before about my enthusiasm for Inside No. 9 and this year's special gave a nod to the concept of 'ghost stories for Christmas', but with a characteristic twist. It certainly wasn't the best episode of this brilliant series but Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith are always good to watch. They were actually the answer to a question in Christmas University Challenge this week, but alas Reece's name eluded the poor chap who buzzed in, even though he's a TV and film director. An example of what can happen under the pressure of a TV quiz!
Michael Sheen is an actor I admire and he was one of the stars in Vardy v. Rooney, as the barrister representing the defendant in a headline-grabbing libel case. This was faithfully adapted for TV and I'm sure that millions of people were left, like me, wondering why the claim was ever brought. It was the legal equivalent of a footballer scoring an own goal from the half-way line. Bizarre but watchable.
Bill Nighy is always engaging and he played Inspector Kildare in The Limehouse Golem, a 2016 film adapted from Peter Ackroyd's novel and shown on the BBC. The cast was brilliant, the story interesting, the script rather variable in quality. This was one of those historical mysteries in which the suspects include famous figures from real life - Karl Marx and George Gissing, of all people - and although the ingredients were mostly excellent, the whole didn't quite match the sum of the individual parts.