Aww, Christmas adverts. Snowmen and buying your loved on a woolly jumper and gorging yourself all the way to Type-II Diabetes. At a time when John Carpenter's iconic 80s sci-fi/action film They Live! is gaining traction as a meme I'm here to remind you that Christmas adverts are there to convince you to consume more, conform more, buy more - and burn the whole fucking planet in the meantime.
You know the score. No cooing from me. No gurgling at the latest John Lewis mood music. Send me the ghosts of Victor Kiam, PG Tips chimps and Barry Scott - there'll no no Christmas spirit for me where Christmas ads are concerned.
They're not harmless and they're not just a bit of fun. They're just one of the nicer-looking cogs in the system everyone apparently despises. It's one of the prevailing modern mysteries that people rail against experts, elites and the European Union while adverts for massive multinational companies get a free pass, because LOL.
I don't hate Christmas. But I'm not fond of Christmas adverts. These are the ones that caught my eye this time around: the best, the worst, the most sickeningly awful. You can vote for your favourite below.
2016 Christmas Adverts
Argos Christmas Advert
Bonus points for the soundtrack - but a load of multicoloured skating yeti? It's pretty striking I guess but, as ever with Argos adverts, it can't help but say 'expensive' and 'cheap' at the same time.
Aldi Christmas Advert
The preponderance of all-CGI adverts these days doesn't do a lot for me - they just conjure up an image of a speccy 3D animator sitting in a windowless room in front of three massive iMac screens. Good old Kevin The Carrot.
Asda Christmas Advert
Nothing encapsulates to stupid wastefulness of the modern Christmas more than the buying of crapulous Christmas jumpers to be worn for one day and then discarded. Needless to say they're not all made by elves in Lapland either: a recent report found that plenty of high-street knitwear was made by people in third-world countries who were regularly 'beaten, threatened, stripped of their rights and imprisoned on false charges'. Merry Christmas!
If your modus operandi is 'we sell cheap shit' then I guess it stands to reason your advert reeks of it.
Boots Christmas Advert
Boots have been doing Christmas adverts pretty well for a few years now, ducking the sad/happy, snow'n'food clusterfucks and focusing on real people and doing something nice for them. Set against the food-and-stuff orgies Christmas is often presented as, it can't help but come across well.
Currys PC World
Yeah, OK, I'll buy this. Unlike a not-dissimilar Littlewoods advert from a few years ago I think this is sending itself up. 'Just so you know' is a nice little pay-off too. The idea of stepping foot into a Currys PC World store at any time of the year makes me nauseous, mind.
Debenhams Christmas Advert
Jennifer Saunders, Ewan McGregor, Billie Piper, Bruno Tonioli (?) and Mel Giedroyc join forces to lend their voices to a heartening story of buying stuff. I quite like these Debenhams spots and they look and sound lovely - but the execution is just slightly off somehow. Still, it sounds so lovely by the end of it I nearly had a stalk-on.
DFS Christmas advert
Nothing says 'Christmas is over; now it's five days dreading going back to work and loathing yourself over how much you've eaten and drunk' like a trip to a slushy sofa warehouse on an industrial estate to see if there are any cheap suites. Hence this adverts, I guess, which uses some lovely Aardman animation to make something almost quite nice. But I just can't buy into it: I don't think I've ever had a delivery of anything that hasn't been a ballache and I'd list 'buying a sofa' somewhere between 'trying to claim disability allowance' and 'clearing out drains' in my list of things I'd like to do.
Ebay Christmas Advert
Jesus, just look at the shite they're advertising here. Still this ploughs a winning Inbetweeners furrow and is pleasingly cynical. The 'Christmas disco' angle is pretty oddly specific but this feels like a more honest advert that has a good chance of connecting with its target audience. No CGI animals in sight either.
House of Fraser Christmas Advert
This is fucking horrible.
John Lewis Christmas Advert Christmas Advert
John Lewis kills Santa, with help from a CGI dog ripped off from the internet.
Littlewoods Christmas Advert
Littlewoods seems to have gone out its way in recent years to make the most offensively consumerist adverts of all. It's still at it here with a montage of a family tooling up with the shit they've bought each other (on 0% credit, of course). But it's inoffensive enough - at least compared to previous efforts - and doesn't feature piano-bothering Tory harpy Myleene Klass. So it can't be all bad.
Marks & Spencer Christmas Advert
Dear Christ, how much money was spunked on this? There are porn stars who have been spunked on less than this.
Morrisons Christmas Advert
Wreath, tree, snow, presents, wooly hats, icing sugar, decorations, mince pies, turkey, Christmas dinner, board games, paper hats. CHECK. Though I do think Morrisons have got it right with everyone's favourite comforting northern voice in the shape of Paul Copley.
Not On The High Street Christmas advert
A debut effort from 'power-to-the-people' indie champions Not On The High Street here, which plays up its 'real people make this stuff' angle by casting them as elves from around the country. I also like the battered blue Ford Trannie van.
Sainsbury's Christmas advert
Well, where to start. The first thing to notice here is that James Corden is singing - singing - this quite dreadful song. It's as if Sainsbury's were so desperate to use Corden (as must all broadcasters, by law, in 2016) they crowbarred him into voicing the song, just so they could generate a few more column inches in The Daily Mail and Sun. Corden's singing is, it must be said, pretty bad - he sounds like a man doing his best after being forced into an involuntary rendition after his first three singing lessons, operating at the limits of his vocal cords. Only one who got a million quid for his efforts.
What I dislike most about this is how depressing the whole thing is. The only way the Dad in this advert can briefly escape from his miserable existence is by replacing himself with a nodding dog, proving that he is both horribly overworked and job-insecure, but also so utterly insignificant that no-one notices he isn't there.
What a troubling parable for our time: a zero-hours, anxiety-attack, gnawing-insecurity Christmas carol for Brexiting austerity Britain. Cold comfort too, no doubt, for the Sainsbury's employees who have to be at work for 6am on Boxing Day.
Tesco Christmas Advert
You can't have your cake and eat it Tesco. As ever Miller and Jones are engaging and the script rides a fine line between kitchen-sink reality and sitcom humour, but it kinda works. I can't hate it - even if I think it's got a bloody nerve.
TK Maxx Christmas Advert
There's a nice bait-and-switch here that makes sense. TK Maxx just can't compete with the big names - and probably shouldn't even be trying. So subverting expectations and disrupting the traditional Christmas snorefests isn't a bad idea. Works pretty well too, even if the lasting feeling is vague unease.
Toys R Us Christmas Advert
I think the value in the Toys R Us jingle lies in its nostalgia value: a hefty dose of 'when I was a kid' and the fuzzy animation. Update it and it loses a lot of its charm, especially when you realise it's just not a very good piece of music. 'There's millions, says Geoffrey, all under on roof'. What? I do wish they'd include the forgotten third verse, however, if only to see the baffled faced on today's kids.
"Books Boardgames and Bikes
Teddies, Puppets and Dolls
Bats, Spaceships and Trikes..."
Very.co.uk Christmas Advert
I like the sentiment - that giving is quite a nice thing to do - but I'm not convinced that a gig-economy-fuelled online shopping service is a particularly festive notion.
Waitrose Christmas Advert
When I was a child I thought I had a new affinity with robins. Because my name is Robin. Sadly this isn't true, but I do have an affinity with wildlife. I'm in the RSPB and BTO and a lot of charitable donations of mine go towards supporting wildlife. You know who doesn't support wildlife? Supermarkets. Agriculture.
If we're not careful we'll end up in a situation where the only wild birds we see are CGI efforts on Christmas adverts. It's enough to make you weep into a Waitrose mince pie.
Vote for your favourite Christmas advert
Favourites? You tell me. I'll take is as read the answer 'none of the above' will feature.
Christmas adverts of old
Refresh your memories of the best and worst Christmas adverts – sob pitifully at advertising or enrage yourself to vein-throbbing standards – of previous years.
James Martin then. In this Asda advert. You knew it was coming, surely? No-one can get away with an advert so awkward it could only be worse if it starred Jeremy Corbyn. Not without some lunatic on the internet writing about it anyway. But the fact that it's James Martin lends an added piquancy.
I've disliked James Martin for a while now. The housewife's favourite (Martin is presumably desirable only to people whose hormones have retired to a bungalow) is a likeable enough presence when chopping up carrots or dolloping some clotted cream on a treacle tart, but he's been on my radar for a years now for something he wrote in 2009.
Martin used to write one of the those celebrity car columns for the popular press. You know the ones - 500 words of sub-Clarkson blah about how great every single car that was delivered to my house is, nary a bad word lest I annoy the PRs and editors that actually pay me for driving cars. If you read one such car column - Richard Hammond and Chris Evans write similar columns - and base your car purchase on them you might as well walk into a showroom because you saw a nice car advert and throw wads of £50 notes at salespeople.
Martin's petrolhead credentials were also dealt a severe blow when he attempted to enter the Mille Miglia. Rather than taking on the endurance race with an actual car, Martin turned up with a pair of leather racing gloves and a poster of a Triumph Dolomite. In fact most of the accompanying BBC documentary showed the celebrity fennel-botherer looking at an Alfa Romeo Duetto and crying.
Anyway, I digress. My chief complaint with James Martin, perhaps best known for presiding over competitors to make an omelette in 27 seconds, is one such car column where he described running some cyclist off the road for a laugh:
"God, I hate those cyclists. Every last herbal tea-drinking, Harriet Harman-voting one of them. That's one of the reasons I live in the countryside, where birds tweet, horses roam, pigs grunt and Lycra-clad buttocks are miles away. But recently, there's been a disturbing development.
"Each Saturday, a big black truck appears at the bottom of my road, with bikes stuck to the roof and rear. Out of it step a bunch of City-boy ponces in fluorescent Spider-Man outfits, shades, bum bags and stupid cleated shoes, who then pedal around our narrow lanes four abreast with their private parts alarmingly apparent. Do they enjoy it? They never smile. I'm sure they just come here to wind me up.
"Twenty minutes into my test drive I pulled round a leafy bend, enjoying the birdsong – and spotted those damned Spider-Man cyclists.
"Knowing they wouldn't hear me coming, I stepped on the gas, waited until the split second before I overtook them, then gave them an almighty blast on the horn at the exact same time I passed them at speed.
"The look of sheer terror as they tottered into the hedge was the best thing I've ever seen in my rear-view mirror."
To this day I'm not sure whether he meant it or not. In all likelihood James Martin has nothing against cyclists at all. There's an even better chance that he's a nice guy and, were you to meet him, he might cut you a slice of homemade Hunstman's Pie and chat about sport. But if he didn't mean it that's even worse.
Being a cunt
Controversial opinions are very popular these days. But merely disliking cyclists is so Noughties. These days you're not even approaching controversial unless you're actually wishing death upon refugees - that's the benchmark for getting a radio show or column in a national newspaper anyway. Stewart Lee once described it as 'having controversial opinions for money', but really that's outdated too. 'Being a cunt for money' is a bit more like it.
But really these people don't even have the balls to be cunts. If James Martin had really run some cyclists off the road for a laugh - rather than pretended to in a newspaper column - then he might qualify as a genuine cunt. But I don't believe it for a minute. Just as I don't believe the biggest pretend-cunts on Twitter (Piers Morgan, Tony Parsons, Toby Young, Louise Mensch, Julia Hartley-Brewer, Dan Hodges et al) are really cunts at all. They don't have it in them to be a proper cunt like, say, Nigel Farage. They've simply realised there's gold in faux-cuntishness.
Jeremy Clarkson paved the way for pretend cunthood. I have worked with people who know Clarkson and the impression I get is that he isn't a cunt at all - his recent backing for Remain suggests that even Clarkson realised he had to row back from his professional cuntness. Perhaps a realisation overcame him that his words held power and that there was a real danger people might actually believe the dangerous things he spluttered in return for money. I've had the feeling for most of the last week that Boris Johnson has been coming to terms with the same realisation - that his own cunting had reaped some dire reward.
However in these strange times being a cunt, even a pretend cunt, isn't the career-killer it used to be. To be a cunt or appear to be a cunt is, more than likely, to have a lot of followers on the internet and - in a few lucky cases - to be able to forge a career out of cuntery. It is essentially a cross between lying to people and poking them in the eye with a stick. The bigger the stick, the more you earn.
Katie Hopkins, the biggest pretend-cunt on the planet, probably wouldn't pluck out the eyes of a crying Syrian child refugee just for the hell of it. But she'd be happy to pretend that she would, just to annoy and appal you so that the Mail On Sunday gives her some money. In a roundabout way these people attain some level of cuntdom, simply by pretending to be a cunt.
So there you have it. Much like the bloke who goes made in that episode of Colditz, simply be pretending to be mad, a pretend cunt can become a real cunt. And we're knee-deep in cunts in Great Britain at the moment. As Jarvis Cocker says, cunts are still running the world. But they seem to lurk around every corner of social media in a country still reeling from blowing its own knees off.
I'm sure James Martin isn't a cunt. But in pretending to be one, all those years ago, he demonstrated to the world the whole sorry, pathetic and grubby affair of being a cunt for money.