BBC banks on a comic Christmas

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The Independent Online
Comedy heads the festive fare in BBC TV's pounds 42m Christmas season, with a "triple whammy" of special episodes of One Foot In The Grave, Men Behaving Badly and They Think It's All Over one after each other.

Other Christmas Day treats unveiled today are the Hollywood films The Flintstones, starring John Goodman, and The Mask, starring Jim Carrey.

Boxing Day brings The Vicar Of Dibley and Before They Were Famous II, while Teletubbyland takes on a festive air for five weekday episodes.

The ubiquitous Spice Girls pop up twice on BBC1 over the Christmas season - once on Live and Kicking and again as hosts of Top Of The Pops. Lily Savage, Mrs Merton, Shirley Bassey and Bette Midler are among the stars featured in programmes over the period.

Peter Salmon, controller of BBC1, said: "BBC1 has an irresistible line- up of comedy and entertainment."

But Christmas drama includes an adaptation of Wilkie Collins' Victorian ghost story The Woman In White, as well as visits to Ballykissangel and EastEnders.

Madame Butterfly is BBC2's Christmas Day opera offering and the actor Simon Callow once again becomes Charles Dickens in A Christmas Dickens.

Modern Times' "The Shrine" explores the public pilgrimage to Kensington Palace in the wake of Diana, Princess of Wales's death and Arena pays tribute to the banana and the cigar.

The BBC traditionally triumphs in the Christmas ratings as it pumps resources into a period when large audiences are available but advertising pickings are slim.

Last year's Only Fools And Horses trilogy won record-breaking audiences.

But there is one empty place at this year's Christmas feast - no new Wallace and Gromit adventure, as the animator Nick Park explores new projects.

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