December doesn’t always bode well for diehard television lovers. It’s that time of year when TV listings invariably become a little thin on the regular series we love. That frustrating winter hiatus is combined with reruns that stretch across every channel and plenty of those achingly long count-down lists of the best children’s toys, sitcoms, royal variety performances etc etc. But Christmas also brings with it a delightful schedule of festive treats to be enjoyed by all – from jam-packed movie listings to one-off specials. This year there’s plenty of tantalising TV to be enjoyed with a mince pie and a tipple. Here’s our pick of 12 of the best things on television over Christmas.
On Angel’s Wings – Christmas Eve (4.15PM, BBC1)
With all the sparkle and presents, it’s sometimes easy to forget what Christmas is really about. Helping us remember why we celebrate the 25th December is On Angel Wings, an animation based on Michael Morpurgo’s reworked Nativity. With a voice cast that includes Michael Gambon and Juliet Stevenson, this is bound to be a magical way to start your Christmas.
The Snowman and the Snowdog – Christmas Eve (7.55PM, Channel 4)
If there’s one repeat you should watch this Christmas, it’s The Snowman and the Snowdog. The sequel to Raymond Briggs’ ever so charming The Snowman, this children’s animation had its debut in 2012, so whether you’re catching it for the first time or giving it a second viewing, this is a sweet and heart-warming tale perfect for all the family.
Doctor Who – Christmas Day (6.15PM, BBC1)
Following a successful 8th series, The Doctor is returning for a “scary, tense and claustrophobic adventure” in the words of writer and producer Stephen Moffat. Peter Capaldi was predictably brilliant as the Twelfth Doctor and he’s back for a snow-covered special titled ‘Last Christmas’. Nick Frost is also appearing as Father Christmas, what more could you want?
Call The Midwife – Christmas Day (7.50PM, BBC1)
Miranda Hart and her fellow midwives are back for a Christmas special of Call the Midwife on BBC1. Expect lots of babies, snow and festive traditions with this feature length episode. Fans of Chummy can combine this with an episode of Miranda (7.15PM on BBC1) for that ultimate Miranda Hart Christmas experience.
Frozen at Christmas – Christmas Day (8PM, Channel 4)
If you’re feeling stuffed after a big Christmas meal and haven’t got the attention span to focus on any of the festive specials, Frozen at Christmas might be a nice alternative to the dramas and sitcoms. An hour-long programme surrounding the cultural sensation that is Disney’s Frozen, it will feature interviews with the film’s creators as well as a look at the fans that worship Elsa and Co.
Downton Abbey – Christmas Day (9PM, ITV)
Downton Abbey Christmas specials aren’t always a happy affair, just look at the car-crash (ahem…) that was 2012’s ‘A Journey to the Highlands’. Last year’s Christmas episode was a glitzy London event, while this year’s two-hour long special promises shooting and scandal in Northumberland. A must-see for dedicated Downton fans.
Bear’s Wild Weekend With Ben Stiller – Boxing Day (8PM, Channel 4)
Ben Stiller joins Bear Grylls for a wild weekend…there’s definitely a joke in there somewhere. This is your opportunity to watch the Hollywood actor tackle Scotland for a 48-hour trek with survivalist and all-round tough guy Bear Grylls. It’s always nice to see celebrities out of their comfort zone, so let’s hope Stiller is as enjoyable to watch as the likes of Stephen Fry before him.
Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death – Boxing Day (8.30PM, Sky1)
Was there ever a better name for a crime-drama? Murder and pastries don’t usually go together but they do when Agatha Raisin is involved. Ugly Betty’s Ashley Jensen stars in this quirky new show based on M C Beaton’s novel series. It also stars Hermione Norris and Mathew Horne, and will no doubt keep you entertained as you snuggle down post-Christmas.
That Day We Sang – Boxing Day (9PM, BBC2)
Delores Umbridge Imelda Staunton joins Michael Ball for a TV adaptation of Victoria Wood’s Manchester-set musical, That Day We Sang. Expect a pretty selection of songs and even a little bit of dancing in this tale of love, missed opportunities and second chances. Victoria Wood never disappoints and this won’t either.
The Haunting of Radcliffe House – Saturday 27 (9.35PM, Channel 5)
Not in any way affiliated with the Daniel variety (sorry Potter fans), The Haunting of Radcliffe House is a supernatural drama exclusive to Channel 5. It follows Alec Hamilton and his family who move to a remote estate that, you guessed it, happens to be haunted. It’s unlikely to be truly terrifying but might produce a good jump or two on a cold Saturday night in.
Roald Dahl’s Esio Trot – New Year’s Day (6.30PM, BBC1)
A hangover is inevitable come New Year’s Day and what better way to chase away that headache than with Roald Dahl’s Esio Trot, a romantic comedy based on the 1990 children’s novel. Starring national treasure Judi Dench and Dustin Hoffman, Esio Trot proves that you’re never too old to fall in love. This dramatization will warm your heart and send you into the New Year with a smile on your face.
The Musketeers – Friday 2nd January (9PM, BBC1)
Come the 2nd of January, Christmas is formally over but it also means that The Musketeers is officially back on our screens. Athos, Aramis, Porthos and d’Artagnan are back for a new series of swashbuckling adventures and if you loved the first series, you won’t want to miss this. Get ready for more of the same, and then some.
If film is more your thing and you’re so full that you couldn’t possibly move from the sofa to the cinema, then there are plenty of movies on over the festive period to keep you occupied. Our picks will take you all the way from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day. You’re welcome!
Toy Story (Christmas Eve, 6.25PM BBC1)
Puss In Boots (Christmas Day, 3.10PM BBC1)
Monsters Inc (Boxing Day, 3.15PM BBC1)
How To Train Your Dragon (Saturday 27, 3.10PM BBC1)
ET (Sunday 28, 3.20PM ITV)
The Muppets (Monday 29, 6.20PM BBC1)
Ratatouille (New Year’s Eve, 1.20PM BBC1)
The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (New Year’s Day, 4.25PM BBC1)
Little Women (Christmas Eve, 2.35PM BBC2)
White Christmas (Christmas Day, 6.15PM More 4)
Singin’ In The Rain (Boxing Day, 1.50PM BBC2)
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (Saturday 27, 4.35PM Channel 5)
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Tuesday 30, 1.35PM Channel 5)
Goldfinger (New Year’s Eve, 3.25PM ITV)
The Wizard Of Oz (New Year’s Day, 4.10PM Channel 4)
Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Friday 2, 10.10AM More 4)
Skyfall (Christmas Eve, 8PM ITV)
Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Christmas Day, 9PM Film4)
Marvel Avengers Assemble (Boxing Day, 8.30PM BBC1)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt1 (Saturday 27, 7PM ITV)
The Dark Knight (New Year’s Day, 9PM ITV)
Best of the Rest:
The Cabin In The Woods (Christmas Eve, 9PM 5*)
Back To The Future (Christmas Day, 10.55AM ITV)
Cool Runnings (Boxing Day, 11.30AM BBC1)
Back To The Future Part 3 (Saturday 27, 2.30PM ITV)
Jurassic Park (Sunday 28, 12.25PM ITV2)
Atonement (Monday 29, 10.15PM ITV)
American Gangster (Tuesday 30, 11.15PM ITV)
The Help (New Year’s Eve. 8.30PM BBC2)
Quartet (New Year’s Day, 9PM BBC2)
Forrest Gump (Friday 2, 9PM Channel 5)
Merry Christmas one and all!