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The Secret Story of the BBC Christmas Tapes

  • Documentary


The story of infamous video tapes created by BBC staff for their Christmas parties, which compiled outtakes from shows, specially filmed comedy sketches, and re-edited footage - including an infamously innuendo-laden interview with Princess Anne. The programme examines the tapes' influence on mainstream television, from whole series dedicated to bloopers to the use of stock footage in sketch shows. Featuring contributions from some of the stars featured, including Angela Rippon, Bill Oddie, Sarah Greene, Phillip Schofield and Carol Chell.



Be honest, who doesn’t want to see serious thesp David “Poirot” Suchet get a pie in the face, Judi Dench swearing like a navvy, or an elephant deciding its toilet break will be during Animal Magic, not after it? BBC editors used to package together such glittering glitches as a Christmas gift to its staff. They were never intended for public consumption, but the first tape was leaked in 1978, and they became like contraband.

As former newsreader Angela Rippon puts it, “They were naughty. They used to keep all those bits and stack them away like squirrels.”

A bitty but brilliant slice of TV history, it features the stars of Doctor Who, The Two Ronnies and Blue Peter in unguarded moments. My favourite sees irate presenter Fred Harris attacking Big and Little Ted and the misbehaving toys of Play School: “I’m an artist! How am I expected to work with these amateurs?”

There are naughty out-takes from fourth Doctor Tom Baker, lambasting K•9 and being suggestive with companion Romana, and Patricia Routledge mislaying a prop down her décolletage.

One jaw-dropping entry sees the warm-up comedian of an entertainment show opening the mic to jokes from the theatre audience. Bad idea!

Soon the tapes fed into Noel Edmonds shows and Auntie’s Bloomers, and the final compilation was made in 1998, but their mischievous spirit lives on in the work of this programme’s director, Rhys Thomas – see annual rude-fest A Year in the Life of a Year on Thursday 27 December.

Roll VT!

How to watch




ContributorAngela Rippon
ContributorBill Oddie
ContributorSarah Greene
ContributorPhillip Schofield
ContributorCarol Chell
ContributorDave Rixon
ContributorChris Wadsworth
ContributorJohn Lloyd
ContributorYvonne Wootton
ContributorSamira Ahmed
ContributorMatthew Sweet


DirectorRhys Thomas
Executive producerBen Caudell
Series producerSimon Harries


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