First, important information for many of you: The Queen’s Christmas Message airs on Tuesday, Christmas Day, at 10 a.m., on CBC News Network, noon on CBC TV and is repeated on CBC NN, at 3 p.m. You may now be seated.
In the same vein, if matters Royal are your go-to entertainment at this time of the year, The Royal Variety Performance 2018 (Wednesday, CBC 8 p.m.) has actor and comedian Greg Davies hosting “in the presence of senior members of the Royal family,” from the London Palladium Theatre. Entertainment includes Take That, the West End cast of the musical Hamilton, George Ezra, Clean Bandit, Andrea Bocelli and his son Matteo, Cirque du Soleil and many more. I looked it up and Clean Bandit is a slightly risqué combo that does a song mainly involving the incantation, “Baby ooooooooooh baby ooooooooooh." If this tickles you, behave yourselves – there are Royals present.
Now, then – much of this weekend and the coming holiday week’s diversions on TV and streaming services involve new and old moves with a holiday theme. You knew that already.
But if you’re searching for something recent and joyous about us, I heartily recommend you go on-demand to see You Are Here: A Come From Away Story (CTV, Dec. 28, 8 p.m. and on-demand anytime on Crave), a lovely, moving and very wise film about the real people behind the story told in the hit musical Come From Away. That is, the airline passengers stranded in Gander, N.L., on Sept. 11, 2001, and the locals who took care of them. It is utter magic, this one; funny and truthful about who we are and what is worth celebrating.
In other special diversions, I heartily recommend Derry Girls (streaming on Netflix from Friday, Dec. 21). Listen, it’s not just me: The Guardian called it “daft, profane and absolutely brilliant.” It’s a comedy series set in Derry in Northern Ireland (sometimes called Londonderry by eccentrics) during the 1990s. The Troubles are continuing but seem to intrude little into the lives of the teenage schoolgirls who are the main characters. A testament to the wit and bawdy humour of the locals in the face of epic upheaval, it’s a little masterpiece of impropriety and dry, deadpan humour. Think Father Ted with a lot of teen humour and nineties nostalgia. You might find the accents a bit impenetrable for a while but you’ll get used to it and, besides, you should be tolerant at this time of the year.
On Christmas Day, Netflix, in a co-production with the BBC, will begin streaming a much-anticipated new animated version of Watership Down, the 1972 Richard Adams novel. It’s the much-loved story of rabbits forced to flee and survive as their cranny is invaded by developers, and features the voices of almost every major actor in Britain. James McAvoy is Hazel, the reluctant leader, the one who believes the apocalyptic dreams of his little brother, Fiver (Nicholas Hoult).
Leaping ahead, there will be many local TV celebrations on New Year’s Eve. CBC has the big national one, Canada’s New Year’s Eve: Countdown to 2019 (CBC, Dec. 31, 11 p.m.). The host is Gerry Dee, fresh from the series finale of Mr. D, and comes from Niagara Falls, Ont. (I was in Niagara Falls last year on New Year’s Eve and it was stunningly cold, but lots of fun.) The all-Canadian lineup features Burton Cummings, The Sheepdogs and Walk off the Earth and from various venues around this great country: The Jerry Cans in Iqaluit, NWT; Joel Plaskett Emergency and Reeny Smith in Charlottetown, PEI; Hubert Lenoir and Afrikana Soul Sister in Montreal, The Reklaws in Canmore, Alta.: and Delhi 2 Dublin out of Grouse Mountain, B.C. Also, there will be fireworks. Does the Queen’s Christmas Message give fireworks? Like, no.
And with that I leave you until Jan. 10 or thereabouts. I must be away. Happy Holidays, be good to each other and enjoy everything you consume.