Christmas 2016: best TV on today, Sunday 18 December
It's time for Lord Sugar to hire his next apprentice - and will Andy Murray win Sports Personality of the Year again?
This has been a surreal season of The Apprentice. Not surreal in the sporting sense of “amazing” but in the sense of — well, a task that involved an intergalactic badger with a quiff, for instance, or the one where Dillon sang along with a pair of mermaids. Or there was Lord Sugar comparing Karthik to a trap door in a canoe. The teams haven’t yet been given lobster telephones, but it wouldn’t feel like a stretch.
In the midst of all that, we’ve seen plausible products. I’d give the gin brand Courtney came up with called “Giin” a try, for instance, though the one called “Colony” with a map of Africa on the label was less tempting. In any case, all that make-believe branding is over now, because the two finalists have to pitch their actual, real-life business plans. To help them, they choose previous firees. So former candidates get to break out and show their true colours, a bit like former hosts.
Another Olympic year, another incredible glut of British sporting success. In years gone by, Sports Personality of the Year felt like a show designed to celebrate the British love for a plucky loser. No more. With sports investment spiralling, from National Lottery funding to Premier League riches, the BBC bash shows how much we have come to expect sporting success. Laura Kenny (formerly Trott) or Alistair Brownlee, Mo Farah or Gareth Bale — all would have been clear favourites most years, but surely none of them can compete with Andy Murray? World number one, Wimbledon and Olympic champion, and a deadpan Scottish sparkle that, finally, people have caught on to. So much for nice guys finishing last.
One of the big losses of 2016 was Victoria Wood, who died of cancer in April aged just 62. Of course this was a sadness entirely personal to her family and friends, but for the countless people who adored her as a fine, clever and adept comedian, Wood left greatness behind. In a night devoted to her, BBC2 repeats some of her TV highlights. In As Seen on TV (7.40pm), Julie Walters is priceless as a battleaxe in a café queue: “Can I thrust by, I’m a diabetic.” And Best of British (8.20pm), Victoria Wood’s Midlife Christmas (9pm) and Victoria Wood: At It Again (10pm) all contain gems.
I like all the earnest, debating-society stuff in Humans. The ethical tussles about feelings and consciousness, that’s all fine and interesting, yes. But I like the horror stuff more. Particularly anything involving Hester, the torture synth with the perfect bob who sees humans as a blot on the landscape. When she gets medieval on someone the drama takes on a tragic throb; you don’t want her to get hold of anything sharp... Especially as a key character falls into her clutches in tonight’s finale.
Batten down the hatches and fill a Thermos with hot tea for a reminder of this year’s absolutely terrifying climate chaos. Jaw- dropping footage of the flash floods, super-storms, tornados and lightning strikes that battered all corners of our country is bolstered with personal stories — mainly frightening, but a few are funny. On one June day Glasgow was sweltering, Yorkshire had snow and London was deluged with rain. A couple of films are worthy of The X-Files. Strange flashes in the night sky turned out to be a meteor, but unearthly pulsating noises — called the Bristol Hum — have still not been fully explained.