A chestnut roasting on the plasma screen
AT 8.30pm on Christmas night, one would have thought most people would have better things to do than settle down in front of the telly.
The Panel , which has been dormant for some time, rarely succeeded in being more than moderately amusing. The banter was never as crass as the variant frequently encountered on the ABC’s The Glass House; as a result, it rarely elicited belly laughs. Nor did the repartee sparkle sufficiently for the show to claim its place on a higher intellectual plane.
Its redeeming feature was the personalities. Even if you aren’t crazy about the gang on account of their complicity in the highly entertaining Frontline series and the charming film The Castle , Tom Gleisner, Rob Sitch, Santo Cilauro, Kate Langbroek and Glenn Robbins are hard to dislike unless your disposition is positively Scrooge- like.
Their generosity of spirit is borne out by the fact that this is the fifth successive Christmas on which they are abandoning home and hearth to be with you, should you be inclined towards the pleasure of their company. It’s a decent gesture, not least because, as the show’s publicity material points out, ‘‘ For many Australians, Christmas is not a time of joy but a day in which feelings of isolation and loneliness are brought into sharp relief.’’ Gleisner offers another explanation for the show’s provenance: it is intended, he says, ‘‘ to stop the network screening A Very Brady Christmas for the 22nd time’’.
Whichever way you look at it, unwanted solitude is not the only reason you may want to tune in. If you’re stuck with rellies you haven’t seen all year, and by the time it gets dark you’ve remembered there’s a good reason for the absence of contact, you can earn yourself a break by pretending you’re addicted to this show: for 90 blissful minutes, the Christmas Wrap offers a way out of the Christmas trap.
Apart from the inevitable small talk and a light- hearted look back at the year, there’s the promise of a Christmas panto, plus special guests and performances from Sneaky Sound System and Thirsty Merc, which would probably appeal to a considerably younger demographic than the average Panel tragic. On top of all that, there’s a good- cause element: ‘‘ Thanks to some incredibly supportive and trusting sponsors,’’ Gleisner says, ‘‘ we also get to raise a fair bit of money for charity by doing live reads. Think of it as cash for comment, but with a social conscience.’’
Should 90 minutes of The Panel not suffice, you can start a half- hour earlier, if you can bear the thought of sitting through Merry Christmas, Mr Bean ( 8pm, ABC) one more time.
Yo, ho, ho: Rob Sitch, Santo Cilauro, Tom Gleisner and Kate Langbroek