Last night's viewing - Bad Santas, Channel 4; The Fabulous Baker Brothers Do Christmas, More4

 

There are times when I wonder if repeated exposure to television has done some kind of permanent damage to my sensibility.

Just as workers in the chemical industry find that accumulating toxins can leave them with numbed fingers and bleared sight, I think it's possible that dose after dose of reality formats has impaired my ability to distinguish between good and... well... maybe evil is over-stating it, but something less than admirable anyway. I was an awful long way into Channel 4's Bad Santas, for example, before the dubious ethics of the enterprise first struck me.

"I know," someone had said, thrashing around for a new twist on the My Fair Lady transformations television loves so much. "Why don't we offer the unemployed and borderline unemployable the chance to work as a Christmas Santa?" Notionally, this idea belonged to James Lovell, who runs a company called Ministry of Fun, which specialises in promotions and PR stunts and also supplies Santas for the seasonal market. "We have the best Santas that money can buy," said James, proposing the interesting concept of a mercenary version of a famously unmercenary figure. And notionally all this was about charity.

James himself had been at a low ebb in his acting career when a short-term hire as a supporting elf turned his life round and pointed him in a new direction. Now, he said, he wanted to reach out a white-gloved hand of succour to others facing difficulties. So, with the wary agreement of his business partner Matt ("It must be wonderful being that optimistic... But he's insane"), James planned to audition a number of men with less than glowing CVs to help fill the Christmas grotto order books. "I don't normally enjoy Christmas a lot," said one sepulchral candidate. Another, a former time-share salesman called Steve, who now struggles by on disability benefits, hoped to reconnect with his family. And Johnny looked as if he was prepared to do pretty much anything to fund the next bottle of Bacardi.

To bring them up to speed for the challenge, the men were sent to a Father Christmas boot camp for tuition in ho-ho-hoing, went off to Toys R Us to get a sense of the current toy market (Santa must be careful not to promise something that it's beyond the power of parents to deliver) and took part in a grotto simulation exercise at Santa school. It didn't go entirely smoothly. "We haven't got a letterbox," said one pretend brat, after it had been explained that the absence of a chimney wouldn't be a problem. "Then you're fucked," the wannabe Santa replied.

Does the Santa school really exist, though? Or had James just obligingly put it together for the film cameras? He's in the business of laying on stunts after all. And even if it hadn't been, isn't there something tasteless about making the long-term unemployed leap over a holly-decked set of hurdles like this? The upside might be real – and you can bet your life it will be heavily flagged up in the edit – but the downside involved beaten and troubled men taking their latest disappointment in public. Not sure what we've done to deserve stuff like this, but I think we must have been very naughty.

If a friend pitches up at your door with a misshapen Christmas cracker made out of filo pastry and turkey mince mixed with Cointreau-soaked cranberries, then blame the Fabulous Baker Brothers, who implausibly suggested that this would make the "perfect edible gift" in their Christmas special. Also mooted as "perfect" gifts were nut brittle with added chilli and rosemary, a gingerbread house and a large slab of fish. "What could be nicer," a Baker Brother asked, "than to give away as a present a side of salmon you've smoked yourself?" I fear that my answer to that question was not the one the Baker Brothers were fishing for.

Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Healy of The 1975 performing on the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival, at Worthy Farm in Somerset

music
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe Withnail and I creator, has a new theory about killer's identity
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tvDick Clement and Ian La Frenais are back for the first time in a decade
Arts and Entertainment
The Clangers: 1969-1974
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly in the film, which was criticised by Monaco’s royal family

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emilia Clarke could have been Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey but passed it up because of the nude scenes

film
Arts and Entertainment
A$AP Rocky and Rita Ora pictured together in 2012

music
Arts and Entertainment
A case for Mulder and Scully? David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in ‘The X-Files’

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Impressions of the Creative Community Courtyard within d3. The development is designed to 'inspire emerging designers and artists, and attract visitors'

architecture
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific