So, here we are, December.

Very soon we'll start hearing that wretched Snoopy's Christmas every eight minutes and of course the ad breaks on television will expand into a commercial Santa's wonderland.

I laugh at the ones where they insist the great present for dad is some power tool worth a couple of hundred bucks and that the kids would love a $300 water slide.

Whatever would the three wise men think.


Turning up with some incense and myrrh would today be greeted with derision ... although the gold would work.

So anyway, the countdown is on, although the television schedulers have not yet begun scouring the archives and digital libraries looking for Christmas films just yet.

The ads have started but the festive programming is pretty well still in hiding, although a couple of early portents of things to some are emerging.

What we will see, and on Prime tomorrow night the first of them is unwrapped, will be the Christmas culinary shows.

This is where the restaurateurs and leading chefs who have now morphed into celebrity show hosts step forward to offer up ideas for what might work on the Christmas table.

Jamie Oliver will be one of them, and I don't mind him at all.

He's a chirpy sort of a bod who has a foot in two camps -- careful nutrition for kids as well as the occasional sizzling hot plate or decorous pudding.

I met him once when he stopped here for a day and he was fine company.


Very agreeable to a pic and happy to extol the virtue of good ol' Kiwi pies.

I told him I'd pretty well mastered the art of making a potato and chicken frittata and he simply replied, with a slight smile, "well that's a good start".

He recently hosted a show about Belgian beers and how well they worked when it came to finding the right food to serve them with ... you can't go past mussels, chips and mayonnaise matey.

He parades not only food and ideas but colourful people, also the philosophy of Rick Stein, another chap I make time for as his efforts are part food insights and part travelogues ... with an endless supply of characters emerging along the path.

There are no aprons or funny hats or judges in the wings stuff -- just tasty entertainment where you actually get to meet people who are, most the time, as interesting as the food they reveal.

And it's Rick who sets the Christmas tucker ball rolling, but of course it's not your standard average television menu.

He heads for Spain so rule out the standard stuffed turkey, roast veg and fruit pies.

Just what the Spaniards prepare for Christmas dinner is an unknown for me, despite the fact I carry a small trace of Spanish heritage.

I would assume wine has some input however ... and possibly beef which carries the marks from a matador's sword?

The thing that appeals to Rick about the way the Spanish approach Christmas is the fact they celebrate it for a fortnight and the diversity of what they serve up is rather startling.

Chicken and saffron, pine nuts, caramel, clams and serrano ham with oloroso sherry, lamb stuffed aubergines with spices ... you get the picture.

So it's certainly a point of difference when lined up alongside the traditional Kiwi lunches, barbecues and dinners and you never know, you may just spot something worth having a lick at.

This will be the first course of what will become a television mealtime pathway to Christmas.

* Highway Patrol Specials, TV2 at 7.30pm Thursday:

In last week's outing I watched the most patient man in the world deal with one of the most stupid and obnoxious men in the world. The traffic chap stopped a car as it had one red brake light lens missing. The lunatic driver went ape.

He would not shut up and his partner joined in too. The traffic lad smiled and wrote the ticket and suggested they both shut up and drive off. But it went on, and his patience was absolutely extraordinary.

Want to see some reasons why the traffic teams are so essential? Check this episode out and see the countdown of the worst 10 men and women who should not be on the roads.

* New Tricks, Prime at 7.30pm Saturday:

I assume the title of this reliably well-scripted British series was taken from "teaching old dogs new tricks" which explained the original trio of Denis Waterman, James Bolam and Alun Armstrong who weren't exactly spring chickens. But in this series the cast is fresher of face with Waterman joined by Nicholas Lyndhurst and Denis Lawson.

As Waterman said in an interview, it just wasn't the same as the old days, and he departed at the end of this season. But it's still a good watch, although I'm always expecting Waterman to turn to Lyndhurst and say "Rodders you plonker!"

* Dara and Ed's Pan-American Road Trip, Choice TV at 7.30pm Sunday:

Two Irishmen walk into a bar in Guatemala. Okay, so it's no joke although when Dara O'Briain and Ed Byrne are involved there is almost certainly going to be humour involved. The pair undertook a more than 7000km journey from Arizona down to Panama based on a journey taken by a chap called Sullivan Richardson back in the 1940s. It is an entertaining as well as enlightening diversion for an hour as the chatty lads taste different cultures and experience some remarkable situations. Not all of them entirely pleasant.