Sunday Herald Life - - TELEVISION & RADIO -

THANKS to the com­mer­cial in­stincts of our Amer­i­can cousins, Hal­loween is big­ger than ever. It feels as if it goes on for about a month now, so that, like a tired and fat goth Christ­mas, by the time the night it­self ar­rives, all you want is to clear a quiet space amid your plas­tic pump­kins and doze.

It’s weird, then, that, ev­ery year, Bri­tish TV seems to make less ef­fort to do any­thing creepy or spe­cial on All Hal­low’s Eve. Last Tues­day was look­ing pretty much like any other Tues­day night, in­clud­ing the Mid­somer Mur­ders re­peat. But it turned out there were two tasty lit­tle sur­prises in store af­ter all. The first was Pru Leith’s goose­bumpy de­ci­sion on Hal­loween morn­ing to go com­pletely rogue berserk and re­veal the win­ner of the Bake Off a good 12 hours be­fore the fi­nale was broad­cast. You have to ad­mire the cut of her jib. In one ter­ri­fy­ing tweet, she com­bined sug­ary treats with the most be­wil­der­ingly malev­o­lent trick imag­in­able, plac­ing the sour, blood­red cherry on the cake mark­ing the end of Chan­nel 4’s hith­erto suc­cess­ful first year in charge of the pro­gramme.

The other sur­prise was more en­cour­ag­ing: the ar­rival on CBBC of a new drama, Creeped Out. Scary para­bles for young view­ers, the se­ries has some as­pects, and a lot of mu­sic, that we could do with­out. But in places it works won­der­fully as a kind of Ham­mer House Of Hor­ror for kids, and gets away with more than you might ex­pect.

The first story, set in a run-down sea­side town, was a warn­ing to the frus­trated, about long­ing for greener grass. Jess, fed up with her em­bar­rass­ing par­ents, en­tered a pact with Mr Black­teeth, a malev­o­lent pup­pet from a Punch And Judy tent.

(Voiced bril­liantly by gen­uine Punch And Judy man Robert Styles, Black­teeth, with his tiny pin­stripe suit and spats, and his sil­very thatch of ec­cen­tric hair, sug­gested a night­mar­ish lit­tle wooden UKIP ho­muncu­lus.)

In­evitably, this proved not such a good idea. But, more un­ex­pect­edly, amid the moral­is­ing, the story was al­lowed to end on a down­beat note, with some psy­chic slav­ery, and a young girl left hunt­ing off-sea­son Bri­tain’s de­serted beach­fronts for an­other vic­tim. Like the old Ham­mer TV se­ries, the story set su­per­nat­u­ral ac­tiv­ity shiv­er­ing against drab, fa­mil­iar Bri­tish land­scapes, catch­ing a blank, hum­drum strange­ness. Some­thing sim­i­lar hap­pens in this week’s tale (Tues­day, 7pm, CBBC), set in a sub­ur­ban street, where un­folds a tiny tale that mixes Rear Win­dow, a lit­tle Bodys­natch­ers and a lot of cat­food, and the most ter­ri­fy­ing thing in sight is the old wo­man in the cardi­gan across the road.

The se­ries is a co-pro­duc­tion with Cana­dian TV, which is nice in many ways, but un­for­tu­nate in oth­ers. There are, nat­u­rally, 13 episodes, and of the three I’ve seen, the Canada-set one was the dis­ap­point­ment, sud­denly all malls and im­mac­u­late den­tistry. Give me black­teeth any day.

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