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TV review: The King’s Christmas Broadcast, Charles III: The Coronation year, Agatha Christie’s Murder is Easy, and Seaside Hotel

05 January 2024

Alamy

The King’s Christmas Broadcast (ITV and BBC1, Christmas Day) celebrated all those who serve one another

The King’s Christmas Broadcast (ITV and BBC1, Christmas Day) celebrated all those who serve one another

APART from televised worship, the most explicit Christian proclamation was found in The King’s Christmas Broadcast (ITV and BBC1, Christmas Day). He has certainly not rowed back on his late mother’s increasing religious expressions; he is, perhaps, even more confident — returning again and again to the Christmas story — to embrace other faith traditions as he celebrated all who serve one another, and who protect the natural world. In a fitting climax, the multicultural Bexley Music Primary Choir seemed entirely at home singing “While shepherds watched” in the grandeur of Buckingham Palace.

Preparations and rehearsals are frequently more interesting than the actual performance, and there were a few backstage nuggets to cherish in Charles III: The Coronation year (BBC1, Boxing Day). Getting ready for the Coronation itself must have struck chords with all those who put on public worship — making sure the kit is in proper condition, that everyone knows when to move and where to stand — although admittedly on a somewhat grander scale, and involving more precious objects; and seeing the Archbishop fluff a blessing might encourage nervous clergy.

The documentary covered a range of the King’s engagements: perhaps closest to his heart was a visit to a nature reserve in Norfolk, where, poignantly, he released a gorgeous but rare and fragile butterfly into a freedom that the King will never know.

The Vicar is poisoned twice in Agatha Christie’s Murder is Easy (BBC1, Wednesday and Thursday of last week), presumably because he wants to be absolutely certain that he has escaped from this appalling over-hyped dog’s dinner: a car crash of murder-mystery tropes.

Based on a novel of 1939, it is updated to the 1950s, which makes nonsense of the original themes of class deference and aristo privilege. Today’s concerns with race prejudice, anti-imperialism and post-colonial guilt, and feminism — all excellent in themselves — are here bolted on, creating terminal incoherence. Presumably intended for the international market for English period productions, as hyper-polished vintage cars and immaculate Savile Row suits take precedence over worthwhile characterisation and half-believable plot, it even falls at this initial hurdle — because all the locations are immediately recognisable as lowland Scotland, utterly different from the Loamshire idyll that Christie’s art so deliberately undermined.

Escape from such perversions by wallowing was found in Seaside Hotel (All4.com and iOS), first broadcast years ago, but recent news to me. In remote 1930s Jutland, put-upon servants provide wealthy guests with an extended summer getaway. All the dramas familiar to the period’s upstairs-downstairs genre are dutifully played out, but with an underlying generosity and forgiveness as beguiling as the fresh clear sunlight diffusing the action.

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