EastEnders, Strictly and Dr Who made BBC top for Christmas TV

Strictly Come Dancing.
Strictly Come Dancing.

ALL the clues were there, telegraphing the misery to come in Albert Square...

The brass band was playing In The Bleak Midwinter. Shirley the permanent scowl was “full of festive cheer”, indicating something was seriously amiss.

And Danny “Mick Carter” Dyer ventured: “This is turning out to be the best Christmas yet,” having clearly never watched the show at this time of year.

You can’t go bandying about fate-tempting lines like that and expect to get away with it. Not on EastEnders.

And lo, it came to pass, that the repulsive rape storyline festering for two months exploded in a rain of fisticuffs from Mick on Dean, the nephew who he’d learned had violated his wife.

Except, in a perfect storm at the Vic, the other truth emerged that Dean isn’t in fact his nephew, with this familiar sounding line, mid-pummel, from his “sister” Shirley: “HE’S YOUR BROTHER! AND I’M YOUR MUM!”

Which in no way is a direct, imagination-free regurgitation of the 2001 “YOU AIN’T MY MOTHER!” “YES I AM!” moment between Zoe and “sister” Kat Slater.

I will give EastEnders this, though. All context aside, it was the best Christmas episode since the Max and Stacey affair DVD seven years ago.

And the Boxing Day fallout was even better, with Timothy West’s facial gestures, as Stan processed all the info, worth the entrance fee alone.

See the bigger picture, however, and it’s nothing more than the depressing culmination of months of depressing plots.

There’s no light to balance the shade, no chuckle to the (Carter) brothers.

Oh, they’ve tried. In fact they’re so desperate to inject some humour that the writers are even attempting to turn Nasty Nick into a comedy character, which truly is hitting rock bottom.

So let’s leave the whole sorry bunch to clear up Danny Dyer’s barroom mess and cast our eye at the rest of the festive telly, an occasion no longer celebrated by ITV aside from one exception this year.

With at least some of Downton Abbey’s Christmas Day episode controversially set at Christmas for once (of all the crrrrazy ideas), the channel was always going to have one undisputed highlight – the Lynda Bellingham 1984 Oxo advert during Corrie.

It raised the white flag to the BBC by abandoning the traditional 3.10pm family film in favour of Alan Titchmarsh wandering around Buckingham Palace garden pointing at bushes for an hour.

And I’m sorry, but Paul O’Grady’s dog business and You’ve Been Framed is putting in about as much effort as Channel 5’s highlight, Chas & Dave’s 1982 seasonal special.

I got more enjoyment discovering More4’s The World’s Biggest Penis on Tuesday night clashed with Jack Whitehall’s Little Cracker than I did with ITV’s entire Christmas Day output.

So, as ever, BBC1 had a free run at it, inevitably with mixed results.

Strictly Come Dancing’s festive show finally had a point, with returning contestants instead of randoms we haven’t enough time to invest in emotionally (Dave Myers next year, please).

The panto theme had Chris Hollins as Dick, Louis Smith as another one and Russell Grant the genie, from Braveheart.

Stars of the latest series entertained at a care home, killing two birds with one stone by picking up Bruce Forsyth on the way to the studio.

Yes, he was back, with the crowd reacting to his jokes like a bereavement and his song like a cathedral massacre.

And Tess Daly confirmed her place as the third most suitable Strictly host in the room, behind Brucie and Louis Smith’s pantomime cow.

Doctor Who was at its hide-behind-the-sofa scary best, with Nick Frost’s Santa stealing the best lines (“I can commit several million housebreaks in one single night dressed in a red suit with jingle bells, so of course I can get back in the infirmary”) and Peter Capaldi going full-on Tom Baker.

It would’ve been even better had the movie rip-offs not been so face-palmingly blatant, a fact acknowledged with that woman reading her December 25 itinerary of DVD viewing – Alien, The Thing, Miracle on 34th Street – on waking up.

Though the list should have also had Inception’s dream within a dream and Ring’s killer-crawling-through-the-TV horror.

The rest of the evening? An abject disappointment.

Dragging out the Miranda grand finale over two shows is like Peter Jackson squeezing 512 minutes of cinema out of The Hobbit book, although it did set a new endurance record of seven whole minutes before anyone fell over.

Mrs Brown’s Boys had belly laughs after a sluggish start but wasn’t up to last year’s brilliance.

And it’s beyond me what the Beeb was thinking allowing the scourge of modern society, the public marriage proposal, onto Michael McIntyre’s dreadful Very Christmassy Christmas Show or the host going into people’s homes looking for Jamie Oliver books (that’s entertainment, folks).

It would’ve been the cue for bed, had BBC2 not repeated the show of the year, Marvellous.

But if you thought anyone was saving some crackers for Boxing Day, you were waiting in vain.

Still Open All Hours confirmed that only the volatile till and David Jason’s Arkwright impression are half-amusing on this show.

The Boy In The Dress was the weakest of David Walliams’ three book adaptations to date, although I can’t deny it was the most uplifting comedy drama about a cross-dressing, football-mad schoolboy I’ve seen all week.

Nothing in either show topped the pregnant pause on Through The Keyhole that followed Louie Spence revealing he gets mistaken for panellist Louis Walsh but clears up the confusion by “telling them I’m the gay one”.

Then last night matters nosedived with C5’s The Haunting of Radcliffe Hall in which an artistically creative dad gets possessed by an empty hotel’s evil spirit, yet no one pointed out Stanley Kubrick had already made The Shining.

It was, nonetheless, terrifying. Almost as much as the second song on BBC1 within 48 hours by Brucie and two – TWO – by EastEnder Jessie Wallace on Bruce’s Hall of Fame.

So, in response to ITV’s You’ve Got To Love Christmas, I can say only this.

You’ve got to be joking.

Bah humbug.