2 January 2006 | noralee
A Refreshingly British Take on Holiday TV Films
Until a tear-jerker plot twist, "Christmas Lights" is refreshingly different British made for TV holiday themed movie than the usual U.S. TV fare.
First, it doesn't take place in either a deprived inner city (what Brit shows I think usually refer to as "estates") or an exurbia of McMansions, but more of a working-class inner-ring (one character's wife specifically rejects living further out away from their friends in "the close" I haven't heard that argument since "Lucy Ricardo" and "Molly Goldberg" had to give in).
Second, economic issues are central to the plot. While this isn't as grim as the Thatcherite horror stories in "Billy Elliot" or "The Full Monty," the men are truck drivers facing a restructuring company (though it is a bit of a stretch to believe that the BBC's dramatic utility infielder Robson Green is a working class stiff). Invariably in such U.S. TV movies, the characters are usually middle class and are employed in advertising or TV or publishing or other media relatives. There are also discussions of labor/management issues that haven't been discussed on U.S. TV since "The Honeymooners."
Third, one wife isn't childless because she's an executive shrew, as is typically portrayed on U.S. TV.
Fourth, the families are linked by both friendship and marriage, as we usually only see on a few sitcoms like "Everybody Loves Raymond." Most U.S. TV shows assume that real family lives far away and the work place colleagues are the replacement family.
Fifth, the central holiday decoration competition seems pretty modest by U.S. standards (even here in parts of Queens) until the climax, though there's a joke about that comparison.
Even as sentiment threatens to reign towards the end, there is still room for jaunty jocularity instead of more typical sodden saccharine U.S. approaches for just a sweet warm-hearted conclusion.
There is one jarring bit of British film stereotyping as the family Margolis, Jewish purveyors of electronics, are shown as Hassids with long side locks and prayer strings. There's always an annual story in the New York City press that the largest dealers of Christmas decorations are Jewish and just the name would suffice for this humor interest element.
The version I viewed was 90 minutes long with commercials on BBC America cable channel