By rights Halloween should compete with Christmas as the top TV occasion of the year. It falls at a time when sensible people prefer to cosy up indoors and - though it’s rarely intentional - no one does creepy and unnerving quite like TV’s 'shiny floor show' institutions.
Yet, with some broadcasters limiting their themed scheduling to a midnight horror movie, finding something seasonal to watch can be a challenge. So to ensure your viewing is more adept than your apple-bobbing, here’s a helpful Halloween guide...
Kick the evening off with that episode of The Big Bang Theory where the gang attend a costume party (E4, 6.30pm), followed by a quick look in at kids’ classic Hocus Pocus (Film4, 7.05pm). Once you’re satisfied that ghosts really do exist, it’s time for the reliably gothic Jonathan Creek (Drama, 9pm) followed by Goth at the BBC (BBC4, 10pm) - although only viewers old enough to remember the Eighties will find a live performance from Siouxsie and the Banshees terrifying.
Saturday night is more hair-raising thanks to the Halloween specials of both the big live talent shows. Scary Stevi Ritchie has already warned us he’s planning something spooktacular on The X Factor (be afraid) and Strictly should involve at least one take on the ‘Monster Mash’. The pick of the weekend, however is Doctor Who (BBC1, 8.15pm). Peter Capaldi has always been a ‘dark’ Doctor, but in part one of this two-part finale he cleverly taps into everyone's most primal fear: Death.
Partners in grime tell it like it is
Art lovers in this country are well served by those BBC4 docs fronted by the redoubtable yet risqué likes of Andrew Graham-Dixon, Jonathan Meades and Matthew Collings, and God knows we're grateful. But what about that culture which passes below the media establishment’s notice? What about grime and bassline and bhangra and the humble indie disco?
The second series of Channel 4's excellent Music Nation starts at midnight this Wednesday and it’s a friendly flick on the forehead to anyone who assumed overlooked movements don’t justify deeper analysis. ‘Open Mic’, Ewan Spencer’s film about the origins and evolution of Grime has no presenter and no narration, instead allowing the innovators (and their music) speak for themselves. Sparky interviews with Dizzee Rascal, Kano and JME, fizz off in so many different directions - pirate radio, Operation Trident, bedroom production and Government cuts - it’s clear there’s material enough here to justify a whole series of films.
Music Nation also does an elegant job of reiterating what should already be obvious: this kind of art is as organically British as Romantic poetry, the YBAs or morris dancing. As grime artist Ghetts says, “We never sounded American, we had our own slang, it sounded cool, all we knew was what we done.”
A very Jerry Christmas
It’s a bit early to be putting together your Christmas wish list, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t gently nudge TV fans towards the November 3rd release of a new Seinfeld DVD boxset. This 25th anniversary edition of the series includes 33 discs featuring 180 episodes and untold exclusive extras and your copy is currently sitting unloved in an Amazon warehouse somewhere, waiting to find a good home.
You don’t need it, of course, but isn’t there something supremely comforting about knowing you could, if you so chose, watch the entire 66 hours of Seinfeld in one (very long) sitting. You probably won’t, because that would involve taking a three days off work and getting sofa sores...but you could.
The Missing, BBC iPlayer
You must watch The Missing, a mystery thriller which demonstrates all the BBC has learned from Nordic Noir imports like The Bridge. A cast of excellent French actors are given equal screen time with British TV favourite James Nesbitt, who is brilliantly on-edge as Tony Hughes, a father whose five-year-old son went missing on a family holiday to France eight years ago.
Baby P: The Untold Story, BBC iPlayer
This forensically detailed documentary offered insight into not only the 2007 death of 17-month-old called Peter Connelly, but also the functioning of the entire country. Through exclusive interviews with children’s services head Sharon Shoesmith and then Secretary of State for Children Ed Balls it became clear that some agencies (the police, the Government) are simply more adept at covering their backs than others.
Life is Toff, BBC iPlayer
The sweary aristocrats are back in this follow up to 2004’s The F**king Fulfords. Francis Fulford Esq is still on a mission to save Great Fulford Manor, but this time he’s helped and hindered by his lazy, barely literate offspring. The Fulfords don’t offer a very flattering portrait of England’s upper classes, but at least they’re a useful counterbalance to Benefits Street.
Detectorists, BBC iPlayer
The Office’s Mackenzie Crook wrote and directed this series about a society of amateur treasure hunters in rural Essex and he should be proud; it’s an understated triumph. Crook stars as lovelorn Andy, but it’s his mate Lance (Toby Jones) whose the real star. Like him this sun-dappled and serene series saves its sparkliest treasures for those who stick around to earn them.