Tuesday, 30 November 2010

First Day of Advent

- December 1st -

In 1969, while the Carry On film series was at the height of its popularity, Thames Television invited Carry On creators Peter Rogers and Gerald Thomas to bring their comedy franchise to British TV screens for the first of what they hoped would eventually become a Christmas viewing tradition.

Although only four would be recorded and screened over the following five years (1969-73) they would all prove immensely popular with the British public, pulling in an audience of between 17 - 20 million viewers (with the 1969 special even being the most-watched programme of the entire Christmas week).

I first discovered these Carry On Christmas specials when a couple of them eventually found there way onto VHS in the mid 1990s. Although I’ve always been a huge fan of the Carry On film series since I was a child I’d never actually seen any of the TV Christmas specials as none of them had been repeated on British television until after the videos were released.

Cinema Club released both the 1972 (Carry On Stuffing) and 1973 (Carry On Christmas) specials in their budget range in late 1996, completely ignoring the first two entries in the series. I only managed to add the 1969 special to my collection when it was repeated on BBC2 in the late 90s and I was able to record it.

As with Eric & Ernie, or Messrs Corbett & Barker, the Carry On Christmas specials have become an essential part of my traditional comedy festive viewing, and since the entire collection were released on DVD in 2005 I have now managed to add the ’missing’ 1970 special to that list.

It’s always difficult choosing a single favourite moment from a series or collection that you love, particularly when there’s so much to choose from; not to mention the fact that one of the specials is based on Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and guest stars Frankie Howerd - probably the finest solo comedian Britain has ever produced.

Yet, despite this, the clip I have chosen is without doubt my favourite sketch of the lot - probably the single best thing the Carry On team has ever produced.

It’s Christmas Eve 1917 on the front line and as the snow falls silently onto the British trenches a sudden and unexpected truce falls between the British and German soldiers…

Carry On Christmas (1973)

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