The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television -

Mon­day, 7.30pm, ABC1 With his pic­ture on bill­boards all over the place as Bilbo Bag­gins in Peter Jack­son’s The Hob­bit, Martin Free­man may seem the man of the moment. If you can look past a lack­lus­tre ap­pear­ance on The Gra­ham Nor­ton Show last week, Free­man has distin­guished roles in the The Of­fice and in the films Love Ac­tu­ally and The Hitch­hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy to his credit. He also ap­pears as the star of this fea­ture-length Christ­mas tele­vi­sion ex­trav­a­ganza, which first ap­peared in 2009. Free­man plays Paul Mad­dens, a frus­trated, un­der-achiev­ing pri­mary school teacher who once had am­bi­tions of be­ing suc­cess­ful as an ac­tor, pro­ducer or di­rec­tor. We first meet him, his long-time ad­ver­sary Gor­don Shake­speare (Ja­son Watkins) and his girl­friend Jen­nifer (Ash­ley Jensen, Ugly Betty, Ex­tras) back in their fi­nal act­ing days to­gether, per­form­ing as elves in some soul-de­stroy­ing Christ­mas panto. This is where the dis­il­lu­sion­ment that led the men to be­come teach­ers and Jen­nifer to move to Hol­ly­wood (on the day Paul had de­ter­mined to pro­pose to her) set in. Back in the present, Paul has swapped his ac­tor’s togs for life as a pri­mary school teacher. Ev­ery year his school com­petes with a lo­cal pri­vate school to see who can pro­duce the best na­tiv­ity play. Nat­u­rally his old pal Gor­don teaches at the other school, and ev­ery year Gor­don and his brats score the five-star re­view from huffy critic Pa­trick Burns, a role cus­tom made for Chatty Man Alan Carr. Through some bo­gus brag­ging gone wrong and over­heard, there is talk of Paul’s lousy na­tiv­ity play be­ing made into a Hol­ly­wood film by Jen­nifer, who has be­come a suc­cess­ful pro­ducer in Amer­ica. A good-na­tured Christ­mas-themed 90-minute romp.

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