I wanted Scrooge. I got man love. So much for the jolly season.

December 24, 2009

I’d already left home to explore the great, wide world when cablevision finally made its way to my parents’ house, situated as it was a fair distance down a dead-end road. The arrival of that technology was just as significant to the household as the birth of the Internet would be some 20 years later.

Before cable, you could watch all of four channels on our cabinet TV, the reception provided by a set of rabbit ears. CBC, of course, because it served up Hockey Night in Canada, a Saturday night ritual as sacrosanct to our household as Sunday morning Mass. If memory serves, there were two other Canadian stations broadcasting from somewhere in British Columbia.

The other station, KVOS, originated from Bellingham, Wash. This signal was the weak sister of the bunch — to see anything other than a snowstorm of static, you had to hold the rabbit ears just so while standing over here, with your tongue protruding from one side of your mouth. Let’s just say it was a strain, both on your patience and your eyes.

But it was also the channel that, every December, broadcast my favourite Christmas movie, the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol, starring Alastair Sim.

I watched that movie religiously each year, no matter how old I was, no matter that the rest of the family, complaining of crossed eyes, drifted away from the fuzzy images flickering sporadically across the screen. The picture quality was crap, the sound wasn’t much better, but it was my personal tradition and I sat there until the very last “God bless us, everyone.”

Cue the passing of several decades, to the point where I’m now living in New Zealand and, even though our TV only receives four channels (hello, deja vu), they are delivered through the satellite perched like a spherical gargoyle on our roof and so the reception is crystal-clear.

In other words, I am now in the perfect position to see every twitch of Ebenezer Scrooge’s greedy eyebrows, hear every word uttered in Jacob Marley’s dying breath.

Except . . .  well, those rocket scientists who program the free-to-air channels in this country have decided not to serve up one of the great Noel delights.

I have no idea why Scrooge is nowhere to be found on my dial. Nor, for that matter, is Ralphie Parker and his Red Ryder BB gun and all the other delicious fun of A Christmas Story (1983), which sits at No. 2 on my Christmas movie list.

Maybe it’s the weather — it is, after all, summer in the Southern Hemisphere — or maybe those people in charge of the signal really do think Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause is cinema of the highest degree, but the movies slotted in to replace the usual sitcoms and dramas during the holiday season are not exactly inspiring me to roast my chestnuts. Even on the barbie.

The Shawshank Redemption? Because nothing heralds the birth of Baby Jesus or announces the imminent arrival of Santa Claus more than watching men gang-rape each other in dank prison cells.

A Knight’s Tale? Well, I suppose ramming your lance down an opponent’s throat does bear a slight resemblance to ramming bread crumbs up a turkey’s arse.

Mrs. Doubtfire? Man loses children in nasty divorce. Man dresses up as woman to spend time with children. Man sets himself on fire. Pass the gay apparel.

Bridget Jones’s Diary? “Dear self. Just drank 30 glasses of eggnog and ate an entire plate of pickled herring. Why can’t I find a man?”

Phantom of the Opera? “A disfigured genius terrorises the Paris Opera House.” Hope this doesn’t make me spew the shortbread cookies.

The Nativity Story would seem to fit the season perfectly. Except for that one small hiccup where, while doing press for a movie about the virgin birth, its teenage star, NZ-born Keisha Castle-Hughes, announced she was pregnant. “An angel did it,” only works once, sweetheart.

So you can see why I’m not exactly in a Christmasy mood today. I’ve never really adjusted to wearing sunscreen and sunglasses on Dec. 25, but I’d feel better about it if I could watch Scrooge stumble back to his abode while being buffeted by a wind as frigid as his heart.

The bad news is New Year’s Eve isn’t shaping up to be any better of a TV night. Gladiator? So our final memory of 2009 can be of men in leather skirts being dismembered by giant cats?

But, actually, when you consider that 2010 is the Year of the Tiger, maybe that was a wise programming choice after all. Just try not to splatter any blood in my popcorn.

NOTE: Viking Woman’s children have since contacted me to relate how, when they were little, after the presents were open and the eggnog served, she would gather them in front of the TV and the VCR for a little family-film time. The title she chose each year? Better Off Dead, the 1985 John Cusack movie about teen suicide.

Because sometimes even sugarplum fairies have dark thoughts.

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