You’ve had this anxiety dream before, but never so vividly. You come to in a brightly lit, cheerfully staffed Channel 4 pitch meeting, and everyone is looking at you for an idea. You stare down at your notepad: nothing. You check your laptop for “IDEAS_2021.docx” and find it empty. You’re sweating. There really are a lot of people here. And not just faceless executives, either: Davina’s here, urging you on; Noel Edmonds stands looming over a Deal Or No Deal box; Fred from First Dates is doing an encouraging French face at you.
“Yeah, uh … The Greatest Snowman,” you say, and there’s a pause. The guy at the front with the blazer-T-shirt combo and the Matt Hancock jeans stops, PowerPoint clicker in hand. “What’s that, then?” The sweat is jetting out of your body in an arc. “It’s, erm. Well. You’ve heard of The Greatest Showman, yeah?” You’re stalling for time. Everyone in this room can see you’re stalling for time. “Well this is The Greatest Snowman. It’s, uh … ” – hold on, you’ve got it! – “it’s a competitive … yeah, no, it’s a competitive snowman-building competition. It’s filmed in the Alps and it’s hosted by Sue Perkins.”
“Like The Great British Bake Off for snow?” Davina asks, and you take the cue. “Yeah, only it’s not weird normal baker people crying about flour. It’s celebrities.” You’re losing them again. They like Bake Off. They love Bake Off. “But one of the celebrities competing is … Liam from Bake Off!” Everyone looks at each other, amazed. It’s clicking! You’re getting away with this!
“Who else?” says Hancock Jeans, suddenly writing down notes, and you have to think of the literal four first celebrities that come into your head, so when you say them the urgency with which your brain is having thoughts makes you shout them. “CHERRY HEALEY, JOHNNY VEGAS, DANI DYER and LAURENCE LLEWELYN-BOWEN,” you yell, and Davina McCall says under her breath: “Love LLB.” You’ve done it. You just might get out of here alive, you know. They might not fire you on the spot.
“And format-wise,” Fred from First Dates is purring, “’ow do you see it? As a – ’ow to say this? – a ‘knockout competition’?” No, you say, that’s the beauty of it. Everyone spends four hours hammering at a snow block with a series of saws, scrapers and drills – and everyone is ranked from first to fifth for their efforts, with an overall winner at the end – but nobody goes home. It’s about the weird camaraderie of the celebrities doing this completely bananas thing in the snow somewhere. It’s about Liam from Bake Off and Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen in his final goth form wearing Christmas jumpers, pulling crackers and getting a bit cheeky on vermouth. There is no heartbreak and no tears. Only Dani Dyer trying to make a Barbie out of snow and it not really translating to screen because snow is white and it’s on a background of white, so basically you’re just watching Dani Dyer, exhausted, pawing away at nothing. There’s a bit where Johnny Vegas, who simply has to be hungover on gluhwein seems to have real beef with Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen about who can best make a snow arch. Davina does some athletic lunges across the room to get really close to you. She leans in. “Sounds fab,” she says.
“And the judges?” Noel Edmonds says, in that eerie Edmonds way of his. He’s scoffing (Noel Edmonds does not believe in this: Noel Edmonds does not believe in you). “Who can possibly judge a snowman competition?” Well, Noel, you say, and suddenly you’re feeling braver. Sculptors, that’s who. Snow is just cold clay, isn’t it? We’ll get Taslim Martin from the Royal Society of Sculptors and, for a Nordic twist, two slightly eerie Swedish sisters who don’t understand that to make good TV you have to be nice to people, so keep absolutely slicing Johnny Vegas for not making a realistic-enough horse out of ice. How about that, Noel? How about that, Noel Edmonds?
You’ve done it. The entirety of Channel 4 has you on their shoulders now, leading you out of the room in a parade. Davina keeps shouting: “MAKE WAY FOR THE WUNDERKIND!” even though, at your age, that title barely applies. Outside, the big Channel 4 logo is dusted with snow, and Sue Perkins is there to greet you. “Thank you for giving me the most ludicrous opportunity of my career,” she says. Behind her, it’s – it can’t be, can it? It is: the Queen, with a sword, ready to knight you. “One heard about that bananas snow idea you came up with,” she says. “Thank you for helping this country through a difficult Christmas.” The sound is your alarm, but you don’t want to hear it. Just a minute longer in here. Just a few minutes longer in here. It can wait, it can wait, it can wait.
The Greatest Snowman is on Christmas Eve, 8pm, Channel 4