Of all the irritations of Christmas TV scheduling, the lazy clip-compilation show grates the most. This year, there'was The Best of the Royal Variety, Britain's Favourite Christmas Songs, Greatest Ever Christmas Movies and many more, but we'll make an exception for Al Murray's Great British Spy Movies (BBC4).
Although clips did feature, this was more of a cinema-set discussion show bringing together some esteemed panellists, including the novelist and former director of MI5, Stella Rimington. Murray introduced her with an incredulous chuckle as though he could hardly believe his luck in persuading her to appear on the programme.
This was not Al Murray in his Pub Landlord guise, unfortunately, although that fierce nationalist would certainly approve of the list being limited to home-grown classics. Instead, it was up to comedian Matt Forde, to deliver the every-bloke confession that a film like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) is "a little too subtle for my tastes". Film expert Matthew Sweet was on hand for a more in-depth appreciation of classics The Spy Who Came In from the Cold (1965) and Our Man in Havana (1959), but really you just wanted to repeatedly ask Rimington: "So, is it really like that then?"
Gratifyingly, Murray did just that more than once. Rimington's insights included the controversial observation that the nation's favourite 007 isn't actually a spy at all: "James Bond is a licensed killer… when you think about, it he does no spying… And, by the way, nobody in British intelligence is licensed to kill."Reuse content