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Thursday, 20 December, 2001, 10:56 GMT
Christmas TV: Crackers and turkeys
David Jason in Micawber
David Jason appears as Micawber for ITV1
BBC News Online's TV critic William Gallagher picks over the Christmas TV offerings.

A number of questions occur to me as I ponder this year's festive TV offering.

Why is ITV1 running The Great Escape instead of the latest Bond film? Why is it showing multiple episodes of Coronation Street instead of its Shipman drama?

This is Christmas week and you would expect the biggest guns to be brought out for the ratings battle.

True, it is always a pain when there is something good on more than one channel but that is a nuisance we are sometimes lucky to get.

But instead ITV1 is bumping David Jason series Micawber to Boxing Day from its expected Christmas Day slot - where it could have run up against Jason's other show, Only Fools and Horses.

Only Fools and Horses
Favourite comedy Only Fools returns after five years
The return after five years of one of the BBC's favourite comedies finds brothers Del Boy and Rodney Trotter living it up in Monte Carlo after they made a windfall 6.2m at Sotheby's in the last show.

In costume drama Micawber, Jason takes on a totally different guise as the former lawyer Wilkins Micawber from Charles Dickens' novel David Copperfield.

ITV1 makes some great dramas. Going up against guaranteed ratings-grabber Only Fools would be a risky move, but ITV1 chief David Liddiment speaks often of taking risks.

And Only Fools might just be toppled - it is the return of a series that we thought had gone for good. Much as we all enjoy seeing old favourites return, sometimes shows do end for a reason.

Favourite

No preview tapes were available at time of writing, as it is being filmed and edited too close to transmission.

So there is no way of knowing beforehand whether the Only Fools show is an improvement on the original or one step too far.

Jonathan Creek
Jonathan Creek is without his usual sidekick
And Only Fools could falter. ITV1's Micawber looks stronger - so could win more viewers in comparison.

Jonathan Creek, the outside favourite to "win" Christmas night, is also being finished while the rest of us are basting the turkey.

This edition of the supernatural comedy detective drama series sees Creek, played by Alan Davies, investigating the mysterious death of an actress on the set of her latest movie.

As good as this show has always been, this is a strangely incomplete return after a long gap.

We get Davies back as Creek, but not co-star Caroline Quentin as Madeline Magellan - so there is just an even chance that the show could be okay.

If Jonathan Creek may not be brilliant, the BBC wants us to think The Lost World is.

The Lost World:
The Lost World: "Wonderful" Christmas drama

The Lost World, which begins on Christmas Day on BBC One, is a star-studded dramatisation of a classic novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle about a group of British explorers searching for dinosaurs on a mysterious Amazon plateau.

The series stars Bob Hoskins, Peter Falk, Mathew Rhys and James Fox.

It looks absolutely wonderful and is an example of television cinematography at its very best.

Whether you find the dinosaurs believable depends entirely on just how much you enjoyed Walking with Dinosaurs, as these are the same critters.

See also:

24 Dec 01 | TV and Radio
In Pictures: Only Fools and Horses
29 Jul 99 | Entertainment
Fools creator joins ITV
08 Aug 01 | Showbiz
Only Fools And Horses to return
21 Aug 01 | TV and Radio
Drama leads ITV1 autumn line-up
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