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A TV Eggstravaganza?

Robert Weedon | Television | Thursday 1st April 2010

Although Christmas is the biggest television date in the calendar, as many of those programmes are seen through a post-prandial haze (derived from eating meals so rich that they could easily become Conservative Party donors), they often end up being somewhat sacherine affairs, universally sprinkled with seasonal references; snow, goodwill to all men (unless you happen to live in Albert Square), holly, pointy trees, presents and Father Christmas. Who can resist it? The fact that Christmas is a religious festival can be easily missed these days.

Easter doesn't quite suffer from this malaise yet, largely because it's all a bit more serious in tone. The event it celebrates is more theologically complicated, and other than perhaps the associated lambs, chicks and rabbits, not as easy to depict. Indeed, other than the enormous market for Easter eggs, despite the best efforts of marketers, this traditional holiday has remained largely uncommercialised - attempts to sell "Easter cards", for example, are usually laughed off the aisles of greedy card shops, and any suggestion of the "Easter Bunny" being as big-a celebrity as Santa Claus are met with the same reaction.

As a result, Easter is traditionally TV's second bite of the cherry, although its overall 'theme' is perhaps less certain than its big Christmassy cousin. However, this means that it doesn't get bogged down in having to be specifically about the season (unless sitcom audiences these days particularly want to see a crucifixion scene). So what have we got to look forward to this year over the Easter bank holiday?

Good Friday
Traditionally the most sombre day of the festival, television keeps a low profile on Good Friday, largely mirroring their normal schedules for most of the day, with an occasional popular film thrown in for good measure. This year is no exception, although BBC1 are at least having a go at providing some context to the day with a new religious documentary, The Day Jesus Died, hidden away at 9am in the morning just before Homes Under the Hammer.

Indeed, it's quite surprising that, given a large proportion of the population are off work, all TV can offer for most of the day are programmes of the calibre of Cash in the Attic, Diagnosis Murder and Loose Women, many probably being witnessed for the first time by unsuspecting 9-5 workers. At least at Christmas BBC2 usually fish out some Michael Palin travel programmes from the archive, but obviously not for Easter.

Mercifully, BBC1's afternoon schedule is taken up with the ever-popular film The Sound of Music. ITV and Channel 4, meanwhile, offer very little, although there is the chance to watch the first episode of A Touch of Frost, which provides a nice introduction to Sunday's primetime viewing.

In terms of new or special programmes, the battle doesn't really start until 9pm, when in the red corner, BBC1 begins the new series of 1980s-set cop show Ashes to Ashes. Squaring up in the yellow corner, ITV1 is premiering The Door, a new idiot-magnet game show "in which six celebrities face their worst fears". I'm hoping the winner is the one who states their worst fear is ending up on a crap reality game show presented by Chris Tarrant.

Saturday
Saturday is when Easter television really gets going, and this year, following the old chestnut of The Boat Race, (part 2 of the annual "Oxbridge proliferation conspiracy"), we have another helping of Cambridge University-related television via Easter from King's (BBC2), which, to put it crudely, is essentially an Easter-themed spin-off of Carols from Kings. It'll be interesting to see if this becomes a yearly fixture in the same vein as its Christmas cousin. However, with its promise of Easter anthems and hymns all sung to an excellent standard, interspersed with suitable texts, this could be one to watch.

Unfortunately, due to bad scheduling, it's up against the most anticipated programme of the holiday, the new series of Doctor Who (BBC1). Now under the control of Stephen Moffat, whose track record suggests Matt Smith will play a less sentimental, more serious interpretation of the Doctor, the new series promises much, and not just to the makers of tweed jackets.

Elsewhere is a tribute to sports presenter and boxing commentator Harry Carpenter on BBC2, and a potentially interesting CGI reconstruction of the London Blitz on Channel 4.

Easter Sunday
Starting the day off, of course, are the usual trips to Canterbury and Rome, interspersed with Formula 1 racing. After this, anything goes and there are plenty of things to watch, but nothing of any real note.

Until 8pm that is, when, in quite possibly the most stupid bit of rival scheduling I've ever seen, we have the final episode of ITV's consistently brilliant detective series A Touch of Frost up against a brand new episode of the BBC's enjoyable detective/mystery series Jonathan Creek. So, two brand new episodes of programmes that both appeal to the same audiences, on at the same time.

I can never understand the logic of this - it's almost as if the BBC are trying to get their own back at ITV over the final episode of another David Renwick series. Of course, TV executives think of this as a ratings battle. However, rather like the outcome of Aliens vs Predators, whoever wins, we lose.

But which is worth watching live? Of the two, A Touch of Frost is probably the best bet, as it's the first of two parts (concluding on Monday evening), and, ultimately, is the finale of one of ITV's best drama programmes. Let's hope it lives up to expectations and that it's not the 'end of an era' of quality ITV drama series. Jonathan, meanwhile, promises to be a good yarn, but can wait for the recorder or iPlayer...

Easter Monday
The last bank holiday of the Easter season, and another disappointing night. In fact, other than part 2 of A Touch of Frost, there's very little to commend on Easter Monday. Particularly suffering this year are film premieres, or to be more accurate, lack of any. There also appears to be a void of comedy, other than a compilation of the last QI series. However, if you are a fan of Ricky Gervais, there is An Extras Night In on BBC2, showing the complete first series back to back. Good if you like the series, although one does feel this sort of programming essentially turns a channel into a DVD 'play all' button.

Elsewhere, there are also occasional flashes of interest hidden away, such as the poignant-sounding Orphans Who Survived the Concentration Camps late on BBC1, or another chance to see Slumdog Millionaire on Film4 at 9.

In summary, though, it looks like the Easter Bunny has failed to deliver.

RW



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