Doctor Who, EastEnders,
ast night's editions of EastEnders, Coronation Street and Doctor Who - all highly publicised Christmas specials - provide an intriguing insight into the national psyche.
What does it say about us, for example, that the soap's festive editions were both full of vicious, poisonous women - one of whom stabbed herself in the stomach to keep her man - and that the supposed SF drama was sentimental mush, a sort of lightweight sci-fi Mills & Boon?
There's something seriously wrong, either with the viewing public, or the people responsible for the shows, if this is what we want to watch (or what they think we want to watch) on Christmas Day.
How is it remotely appropriate that we witness Janine Butcher (EastEnders, BBC One, 8pm), pick up a carving knife, put it in the hands of grief stricken, bipolar Stacey Slater, and plunge it into her own stomach? On Christmas Day. Before the watershed.
I could talk lovingly about EastEnders 'til the cows come home, and I usually love crazy Janine's antics as much as the next twisted, vindictive queen, but this just wasn't called for. A step too far beyond the boundaries - even if it wasn't Christmas - the scene was nasty, disturbing and exploitative.
Coronation Street wasn't much better. Just a couple of weeks after the nightmarish tram disaster, which also saw John Stape bash his bunny boiler stalker's head in with a hammer (and subsequently conceal her body at ground zero), we see Tracey Barlow rejoin the cast. She's been away in prison for bashing her boyfriend's head in with an ornament, you'll recall (a pattern, or just repetition?)
A character without any redeeming features, Tracey Barlow isn't someone you want to have around - expecially not on Christmas Day. So quite why the Coronation Street production team thought it would be a good idea to bring back this vile creature to spend Christmas with us... Oh wait! More sensationalism! More magazine covers! And so we endure an hour of screeching, brawling harridans in the Rovers Return (with fellow white trash specimen Becky, who, let's not forget, indulged in a spot of looting during the tram disaster, whilst friends and neighbours were dying around her).
Coronation Street therefore managed to trump EastEnders' stabfest, with a level of ugliness and inhumanity unheard of on British television since Katie Price was last on telly. Thank God for the brief appearance of Scary Mary and her mobile home - that's real Coronation Street.
Which brings us to Doctor Who. I really wanted to hate this latest episode of the new series. This year's season was abysmal, for numerous reasons, and expectations were rock bottom. There's showrunner Steven Moffat's familiar tedious obsessions: we must endure yet another episode in the company of a child, and there's a dreary hetero romance, opera singer Katherine Jenkins cast presumably because Moffat would like to get off with her. But on the positive side, Karen Gillan's ghastly Amy Pond is barely seen, tucked away on a crashing space liner (sadly, she's saved in the end).
It's glossy, inconsequential, and gutless. I'd be lying if I said the emotional payoff didn't have me welling up - yes, it was terribly sad, and Jenkins sounds lovely when she opens her gob and sings - but I don't watch Doctor Who to be moved to tears, which seems to have been the primary goal in recent series. Women and metrosexuals will love it, but what I'd love is for the series to have some balls, just for once.
Maybe it could learn a thing or two from EastEnders.