What is on TV this Christmas?

selects 10 highlights from the Christmas TV Schedules

We’re Doomed: The Making of Dad’s Army

Image: Endemol

Image: Endemol

Despite finishing forty years ago, Dad’s Army remains one of the most-watched comedy shows on TV. This special comedy drama tells the behind-the-scenes story of how a ‘60s script based on old men in the Second World War came to become a classic. Beginning with Jimmy Perry’s original idea, it follows the BBC’s sceptical attitude to whether it would ever work right through to the episode recordings. A real treat for fans and casual viewers alike.

BBC2. Tuesday 22 December, 9pm

Paul O’Grady: For the Love of Dogs at Christmas

Image: ITV

Image: ITV

Admittedly this choice may look like a desperate attempt to ensure there was more than one ITV selection in the list (trust me, there’s not much to choose from), but For the Love of Dogs at Christmas is perhaps the perfect Christmas afternoon programme. Set in Battersea Dogs Home, Paul O’Grady is a witty host and keeps the show running, without ever forgetting that the dogs in search of a new home are the real stars. Just don’t be tempted yourself – I imagine few landlords would be happy with new furry additions to their student houses.

ITV. Friday 25th December, 5pm.

Downton Abbey

Image: BBC

Image: BBC

ITV’s warhorse of a drama concludes after fifty-one episodes. It may have lost its way in recent years, but mainly due to a cast who can make every mundane scene bearable (especially Penelope Wilton and Maggie Smith), it will be missed. Now that all the Anna/Bates prison stuff is out of the way, we can but hope that all the remaining sub-plots will be tied up more satisfactorily. Fortunately, producers have promised a heart-warming ending to one of TV’s most popular dramas. Fingers crossed!

ITV. Friday 25th December, 8.45pm.

Mrs Brown’s Boys

Image: BBC

Image: BBC

It divides opinion like few other shows, yet Brendan O’Carroll’s brash sitcom is regularly the highest-watched Christmas show. O’Carroll finds it hard to explain the incredible appeal of Mrs Brown’s Boys, but the broad, almost pantomime, style of comedy has resonated with viewers in a way unlike other comedy shows. It exists in a safe world, where you know what you’re getting and is simply a joyful watch. The mix of regular belly laughs with the sense of a real heart behind the show makes it a must-see programme this Christmas, even if you just want to see what the fuss is about.

BBC1. Friday 25th December, 9.45pm./Friday 1st January, 10.30pm.

Shaun the Sheep: The Farmer’s Llamas

Image: BBC / Aardman Studios

Image: BBC / Aardman Studios

Hot off the heels of their acclaimed movie, Aardman Studios (Wallace & Gromit, Chicken Run) return to the BBC for a seasonal special of Shaun the Sheep. Whilst principally aiming at family audiences, Aardman have a great reputation for making sure their films appeal to everyone, and don’t let us down with their latest stop-motion short film. As the title suggests, the farmer inadvertently buys a herd of destructive llamas and soon wreak havoc on the farmyard. Warm-hearted fun for everyone.

BBC1. Saturday 26th December, 6.10pm.

Still Open All Hours

Image: BBC/Des Willie

Image: BBC/Des Willie

Nothing says British Christmas TV more than a festive sitcom special. For some reason, extra tinsel and fake snow adds a bit of magic to proceedings. Still Open All Hours continues this fine tradition with the opening episode to its second series. Granville’s (David Jason) cheap Christmas tree soon makes him regret his thrift, although – as usual- it’s the ladies (Stephanie Cole, Lynda Baron and Maggie Ollerenshaw) who steal the show with their caustic one-liners.

BBC1. Saturday 26th December, 8pm.

And Then There Were None

Image: BBC

Image: BBC

Three-part Agatha Christie adaptation by Sarah Phelps (Oliver Twist, Great Expectations) with an all-star cast, including Aidan Turner (Poldark), Miranda Richardson (An Inspector Calls) and Charles Dance. Set in the 1930s, it involves a group of strangers who are invited to a remote Soldier Island; except their hosts fail to appear. Then, in accordance to a fabled poem – ‘Ten Little Soldiers’ – their numbers begin to dwindle and they gradually realise that they are stranded with a killer…

BBC1. Saturday 26thMonday 28th December, 9pm.

Gypsy: Live at the Savoy Theatre

Image: BBC

Image: BBC

Don’t miss this chance to see a career-defining performance by Imelda Staunton as Momma Rose in Stephen Sondhiem (West Side Story) and Jule Styne’s musical. Focusing on the fall of American Vaudeville and the rise of burlesque star Gypsy Rose Lee, it follows mother’s desperate drive to see her children succeed; a feat they can only manage without her. Gypsy features a tour de force performance by Staunton and able support from Peter Davison (Doctor Who) and Lara Pulver (Sherlock). Due to its remarkable mix of comedy, tuneful music and dramatic pathos, it gained critical acclaim during its West End season and is essential viewing this Christmas; the final scene will stay with you for days afterwards.

BBC4. Sunday 27th December, 9pm.

Nan

Image: BBC

Image: BBC

Catherine Tate’s loudmouth Nan returns in two episodes, following the successful one-off episode last year. Featuring the usual format of Nan raging against the rest of the world (targets this series include the police, a therapist and some dodgy developers), it may be an acquired taste. But devotees of Nan – the 21st century Alf Garnett- will find much to entertain them.

BBC1. Sunday 27th and Wednesday 30th December, 10.25pm.

Sherlock

Image: BBC

Image: BBC

In perhaps the most anticipated programme over festive season, Sherlock takes in intriguing twist: to 1895. Holmes, Watson and their friends must use all their cunning to combat an enemy seemingly from beyond the grave…

Taking a successful format and reverting it to another time period now seems a massive risk, but it’s easy to forget that many said the same when they first heard of Steven Moffat and Mark Gattis’ plans for a “modern” Sherlock Holmes. Traditionalists will delight in the sections that pay homage to the peerless Jeremy Brett ITV version (still the greatest Holmes in my opinion), alongside the period hansom cabs, steam trains and funny hats. While modern fans will no doubt appreciate the frantic pacing from previous series.

Although, as with most of Moffat and Gattis’ work – expect the unexpected…

BBC1. Friday 1st January, 9pm.

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