Out with the old and in with the new for this year’s TV – or rather, old formats dressed up as new ones. Among the 2004 highlights are sure to be Britain’s Best Diseases, Bowel Idol and Celebrity Death Camp. Fingers crossed, anyway. For the moment, let’s squint back at 2003…

The BBC’s The Big Read climaxed shambolically before Christmas, the obvious problem being that television is so eye-bleedingly wrong for a reading festival. Worse were the vacuous arguments of the panel of super-Pseuds – Bonnie Greer drawling inanely that Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is “a zeitgeist book” and Jerry Hall (surely more eyebrow than highbrow?) contemplating Pride and Prejudice with GCSE English “special-set” rigour. "I like the way the characters are so timeless," she guffed blondly. The programme couldn’t decide whether it was dumb or pretentious, and so it was both. Clive “pun-junky” Anderson was on poor form as compere – his hairline, yet again, upstaging him with the only real laughs.Which leads me to Christmas comedy – which, thank Christ, was superb. By this, I mean The Office. Gervais and Merchant had to give us a happy ending, but spared the saccharine without sparing the emotion. But you should know this already. One comedy you might have missed, however, was Nighty Night, which started on BBC3 last week. It’s a surreal sitcom featuring a comedy acting dream team. It’s occasionally preoccupied with sick jokes, but there were enough sublime moments to give real hope for coming episodes. It’s “cancer comedy” – so not for the faint-hearted – but much more interesting than League-clone Little Britain. Furthermore, rumours suggest it’s set to get a terrestrial slot very soon, which, for fans of twisted, Morrisian humour, is very good news.

The highlight of the vac’s TV news was the capture of one sexagenarian tyrant who tortured his people for many years. He was taken off air last week. What a Happy New Year it is.
Archive: 0th week HT 2004