Christmas TV is a challenging affair. Firstly, the schedules are all out of whack, meaning the purchase of a TV guide and some highlighters are essential if you want to stay on top of the soaps, the news or any other regular TV event that gets shunted round. Then there is the odd balance of repeats of previous years’ Christmas specials with new, costly specials or one-off dramas. It does feel as if both the BBC and ITV spend the entirety of their Christmas budget on just 2 or 3 baubles and fill the rest of the airtime with any tapes from times gone by that still work.

Still, there are always things to look forward to – Doctor Who, Downton Abbey and Call the Midwife all give their audiences what they want, although there will be a Downton­-shaped gap next year. I hope ITV have something good up their sleeve, or Christmas Day night is going to feel very long.

Personally, my favourite Christmas TV event is Channel 4’s knockabout The Big Fat Quiz of the Year. The format is deliberately simple; Jimmy Carr presides and asks six comedians/celebrities questions of the year’s events. Nothing too serious – think David Cameron putting his genitals in a pig rather than ordering air strikes on Syria.

Of course, so much is dependent on the guests. Mel B did her best to kill the mood last year, while in 2012, Jack Whitehall and James Corden went almost too far in their humour. The best duo ever has been Russell Brand and Noel Fielding as ‘The Goth Detectives’, although frankly both have been strong without the other when teamed up with others.

This year saw a good balance. Rob Brydon provided a strong first half running joke of trying to take over the show from Carr and launching a pseudo-political revolution. As that joke reached its crescendo and ebbed away, Greg Davis and Richard Ayoade started their own long running joke of answering everything with ‘Bad Dong’. Claudia Winkleman brought a more genteel pace, and was paired nicely with David Mitchell.

Mitchell and Ayoade are always good bookings for anything like this. Both have a geeky obsessiveness, with Mitchell having a nice line in biting satire and Ayoade a surrealism that slowly builds throughout the show. Strangely, the weak link seemed to be Jo Brand, who I normally love. Maybe the mood wasn’t right for her to be at her best. She has never been one to compete to be heard, and increasingly looks more comfortable on shows where she is in the driving seat and playing individually.

Still, the mood was still jovial and refreshingly lacking in cruelty. Perhaps as the show has been on for more than a decade it is starting to grow up. But hopefully not too much. It still needs its silly, absurd edges. In an increasingly serious world, it is nice to end it with a smile on your face.

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