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Saturday, 27 December 2008

Noel’s Christmas Presents, Sky1

Did we like it?
A show that perniciously straddles the threshold between moving heartbreak TV and employing unfortunates to act as dumb pity magnets to draw in a hoard of viewers while expressing the same amorality as a travelling freak show.

What was good about it?
• You would have to have a heart of granite carved into the scowling face of the Wicked Witch of the West not to feel sympathy for the people whose lives were made that little bit more bearable by Noel’s gifts (and they were from Noel and nobody else, as he made the whole carnival sound as if the kindness had seeped from his ego like a godly amber nectar to cheer those receiving presents).
• “My first gift…” Noel began, as though inciting us to disbelieve the end credits that listed people other than he, went to the admirable Cameron Small. Cameron has a blood disorder, and has raised thousands of pounds for charity. He was awarded with a trip to Florida.
• Meanwhile, Mark has survived cancer three times, and his son Joseph has just recovered from the same illness. They got to go to an England rugby match at Twickenham and a trip to Lillehammer in Norway.
• Noel also organised a party (and we’re sure he did it all by himself) for children who had been left temporarily homeless by flooding, and a holiday to South Africa for an animal lover who has a heart condition.
• And finally, there was the luckless Theresa. She had helped nurse her father back to health after a brain haemorrhage, while caring for her frail mother and her terminally ill husband. They were given a Mediterranean cruise.

What was bad about it?
• Despite evidence of the indefatigable human spirit in the people receiving the presents, the show is as mechanical and cynical as a factory producing cyanide.
• Noel’s insistence that he seems to be single-handedly dishing out joy to people in the grip of corrosive misery instead of making him appear an altruistic benefactor makes him seem like a pompous lord sprinkling happiness on the great unwashed to attract the attention of those responsible for knighthoods. But sporadically he does elicit a shred of genuine warmth towards people.
• Shows in which unfortunate people are given gifts have devolved so much to the point that they now have a single hard currency – tears. Even in a show which actually seeks to educate the benefactor, such as Secret Millionaire, the pay off always comes in the form of tears as a universal, wordless expression of gratitude that penetrates to the very core of human instinct.
• And in Noel’s Christmas Presents, this process has been adapted into a clinical procedure reminiscent of King Richard laying siege to the gates of Jerusalem. Each unfortunate will be battered with an incessant barrage of gifts, while Noel whispers in their ear how unlucky they’ve been in their lives to wed that misery with the unexpected and novel ecstatic revelation that someone cares.
• This inverted form of bullying will eventually overwhelm them, and they will ultimately weep, supplying Noel with the ostensibly desired outcome.
• And speaking of ‘desired outcomes’, we wonder why Noel didn’t simply educate the unfortunates on the wonders of cosmic ordering so that they could wish away their unhappiness with a single brainwave into the inky blackness of the universe. Or perhaps this is because it’s a festering philosophy endorsed by delusional hypocrites who use it as a tool to ‘prove’ how superior they are to the rest of the human race employing a process that possesses less veracity than the existence of the Loch Ness Monster.
• Moments of uplifting happiness for the unfortunates were ruined by an abysmal choice of music. Westlife enriches the soul as much as influenza, while Leona Lewis’s version of Snow Patrol’s Run exemplified that while she might be able to perfect each note, she carries the song along with all the perfunctory empathy of a grizzly bear dragging a large salmon back to its lair to devour before it turns in for hibernation.

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