It's 100+ degrees, let's talk December


As we move closer to our 20th day in a row of temperatures in excess of 100 degrees, the word on the street is that we might top out at 97 degrees next Wednesday. So, with December just on the horizon, it seemed like a great time to explore a long-running tradition in the UK and that’s the Christmas Day scheduling of television programs on the BBC. Sadly, on this side of the pond, American television broadcasters have, for years, treated this as one of the most throwaway days of the year yielding to the knowledge that, rightfully, it’s one of the least viewed days of the year from a television standpoint, second only to Thanksgiving Thursday. But is it the least viewed because there is nothing worth watching or nothing worth watching because it’s the least viewed?

However, it’s a different story on “the other side of the pond”. For years, the BBC has looked upon Christmas Day as being one of the most important television scheduling and viewing days of the year. George Dixon, Head of Scheduling for BBC Vision, oversees the Christmas Day scheduling duties. As he writes on the BBC blog, this is not a responsibility he takes lightly. Based on his own childhood expectations and the knowledge that current audience feedback dictates this hasn’t changed over the years, Dixon comments that “…the mindset for viewing at Christmas can be contradictory. We enjoy seeking out new programmes, but at the same time many viewers say they’re unwilling to ‘take risks’ when choosing programmes.” That’s why viewers last year saw a carefully crafted schedule that included the likes of classic comedy, vintage film and the premiere of David Tennant’s last run as the Doctor in “The End of Time” and a brilliant performance in Hamlet.

What’s in store for 2010

According to Dixon, he’s already begun not only thinking about 2010, but also the soliciting for 2010 feedback which began shortly after the 2009 schedule was but a recent memory. A definite for this year will be the traditional Doctor Who Christmas Special with Matt Smith as the Doctor. Fans of Harry Potter will delight in seeing the greatness of Michael Gambon in an episode tentatively titled, “Father Who“. According to head writer, Steven Moffat, Gambon is “brilliant”. Haven’t heard much else of what’s happening for Christmas Day on the BBC, but if you know, would love to hear. For those in the UK, would love to hear any childhood (or adult) memories you might have of Christmas Day television viewing. Also, what do you want to see this year?

I often wondered when scheduling programs for KERA why there were numerous programs with some favorite series such as Keeping Up AppearancesAre You Being Served, etc. that had “Christmas Special” in the title and they had nothing to do with Christmas. I then learned of “the Christmas Day television scheduling tradition”. It all makes perfect sense now.

Good luck with your 2010 plans, George.


  • I get sad when I can’t watch my favorite Britcom holiday episodes on Christmas Eve here in DFW. That is often a bright spot in my holiday season. And as a child I always looked forward to PBS re-airing Peter, Paul & Mary’s holiday concert. I don’t think they’ve done it for years, but it was always a bright spot on the TV schedule for my family and the concert album remains one of my favorite sources for Christmas music.

    • Jessica: Can’t promise PP&M this year, but stay tuned for a good Britcom holiday line-up this year.

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