Christmas 2013 TV to look forward to

Odd List Louisa Mellor
19 Dec 2013 - 07:00

We’ve scanned the UK TV schedules over the next fortnight and circled a few new Christmas programmes you may enjoy…

Despite this being the time of year when television repeats aren't just tolerated, but welcome (if at no point in the next fortnight does Dermot Morgan get lost in a department store underwear aisle, or a snowman ride a motorbike through a Sussex field, then it just won't feel like Christmas), we've gone for brand new shows in the list below.

There's a selection of new drama, comedy and a few other bits and pieces you may wish to circle in your festive TV listings magazine... Merry Christmas.


Doctor Who: The Time of the Doctor

What is it? It's Doctor Who. Do you need to know anything else?

What’s this one about? This one-hour special is Matt Smith's farewell episode as the Doctor, and will see him hand over the role to Peter Capaldi. If you've been keeping up with the trailers, you'll know that the Doctor is up against all manner of foe this Christmas in an adventure that promises to wrap up a number of loose ends from series six.

If you're still reeling from Smith's departure a couple of days after that, then Watch has scheduled a clip show entitled Doctor Who: The Best Of Matt Smith at 7.20pm on Friday the 27th of December. That sounds like perfect shout-at-your-telly/frothy TV.

When’s it on? Wednesday the 25th of December at 7.30pm on BBC One.


The Tractate Middoth

What is it? A 36-minute Mark Gatiss adapted and directed version of a 1911 M.R James short story, filmed as part of BBC Four's sporadic revival of the 1970s A Ghost Story For Christmas series. It's followed by Gatiss' documentary on the celebrated writer.

What’s this one about? A young librarian (Sacha Dhawan, whom you may have seen playing Waris Hussein in An Adventure In Space And Time) is tasked with retrieving a mysterious book. Spookiness, as you can imagine, ensues.

Doctor Who's Leela herself (Louise Jameson) numbers amongst the cast, which also features a cameo from Sherlock's Una Stubbs.

When’s it on? Wednesday the 25th of December at 9.30pm on BBC 2


Death Comes To Pemberley

What is it? BBC One's three-part adaptation of P.D James' Gothic murder mystery continuing the story of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, starring Anna Maxwell Martin, Matthew Rhys and, the wonderful Jenna Coleman.

What’s this one about? A few years after Pride and Prejudice concludes, James' story revisits the Darcys at their family seat, Pemberley, an old house with ghost stories of its own. More classy fanfic than a sequel to the Austen novel, P.D. James knows how to spin a good Gothic yarn, and this adapatation does a fine job of translating it to the screen.

When’s it on? Thursday the 26th, Friday the 27th and Saturday the 28th of December at 8.15pm, 9pm and 9pm on BBC One.



What is it? Sky One's shiny two-part family drama for Christmas, adapted from J. Meade Falkner's late-nineteenth century adventure story. Ray Winstone and Aneurin Barnard star as a smuggler and his apprentice of sorts who become involved in a search for a legendary diamond.

What’s this one about? It's being billed as a proper old-fashioned family adventure this, and that's exactly what it is. Ray Winstone is on fine growling form as Elzevir Block, smuggler at large, and Aneurin Barnard (The White Queen) is winsome as orphan John Trenchard. Ben Chaplin does steal the first episode as villainous lawman, Mohune, though. There's plenty of uncomplicated swashbuckling fun to be had here.

When’s it on? Saturday 28th and Sunday the 29th of December at 8pm on Sky One.


The Thirteenth Tale

What is it? Another Gothic drama adaptation from the BBC, this time of Diane Setterfield's 2006 novel of the same name.

What’s this one about? The omnipresent (but never unwelcome) Olivia Colman plays a biographer tasked with recording the life story of celebrated novelist Vida Winter (Vanessa Redgrave). It's by no means cheery subject matter, but the calibre of all involved in this ninety-minute adaptation suggest this may well be worth your time. 

Marchlands and The White Queen's James Kent directs an adaptation by Dangerous Liaisons and Atonement's Christopher Hampton.

When’s it on? Monday the 30th of December at 9.30pm on BBC 2.


Sherlock: The Empty Hearse

What is it? You certainly don't need us to tell you, but if you do, it's Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss' modern-day adaptation of the Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. 

What’s this one about? Sherlock lives, as the trailer informs us. The Empty Hearse will provide an answer to the question of how the consulting detective survived his rooftop fall, but the crux of this ninety-minute episode is Sherlock's reunion with John Watson. There's also a terrorist threat, some interesting cameos, a race against time (or two), and a great deal of comedy. Read our entirely spoiler-free review, here.

When’s it on? Wednesday the 1st January at 9pm on BBC One, with the second episode following on Sunday the 5th of January, and the third concluding on Sunday the 12th.


The Musketeers

What is it? A ten-part BBC adventure series based on characters from Alexander Dumas' The Three Musketeers

What’s this one about? Swordplay, vengeance, lost love, more swordplay... It's an action-heavy period retelling of a classic tale, with Skins and Blood & Chrome's Luke Pasqualino leading the young cast as D'Artagnan. Peter Capaldi oozes evil ambition as Cardinal Richelieu, and is to be joined over the course of the series by a raft of British guest stars. 

When’s it on? This one’s a bit of a cheat, as the air date hasn’t been confirmed yet, but we’ve been promised an early 2014 debut.



Yonderland finale

What is it? No, it isn't a Christmas episode, but Yonderland doesn't need tinsel and baubles to be special. This is the last in the first series of the magical puppet fantasy series from the cast and creators of Horrible Histories

What’s this one about? The series finale is titled Dirty Ernie and comes written by Negatus himself, Simon Farnaby. It's wonderfully odd, perfect family sofa viewing.

When’s it on? Sunday the 22nd of December on Sky One at 6.30pm.


Limmy’s Show Christmas Special!

What is it? A festive edition of Brian Limond's celebrated Scottish comedy sketch show.

What’s this one about? If you're not already a fan, then perhaps this will encourage you to catch up. Limmy's back for a Christmas special, and it looks as though BBC Scotland viewers are in for a treat.

When’s it on? Sunday the 22nd of December at 10pm on BBC Scotland.


Fresh Meat

What is it? It's another non-Xmas episode, but this student comedy from Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong (the creators of Peep Show) is worthy of mention for featuring some of the sharpest comic writing and young comic actors around. 

What’s this one about?The third series finale sees Kingsley and Josie struggling, Vod and Oregon battling it out for presidency of the Student Union, and Howard's love life moving on.

When’s it on? Monday the 23rd of December at 10pm on Channel 4.


The IT Crowd Night

What is it? Peep Show and Father Ted have both had Christmas Eves dedicated to them on Channel 4, and now it's the turn of The IT Crowd, which is taking over the schedules between 9pm and midnight on Tuesday the 24th of December.

What’s this one about? Things kick off with this year's The IT Crowd special, The Internet Is Coming, followed by an hour-long behind-the-scenes documentary, then a viewing of the fans' favourite episode (vote here), and writer Graham Linehan's favourite episode.

When’s it on? Tuesday the 24th of December at 9pm on Channel 4.



The Muppets and Lady Gaga at Christmas

What is it? In what may be Lady Gaga's debut on the pages of Den of Geek, we couldn't not mention the UK debut of this year's Thanksgiving special featuring The Muppets.

What’s this one about? Being honest, US reviews of this special were not, on the whole, kind. Nor were its ratings spectacular. The consensus appeared to be that the ratio of Muppet to Gaga was unduly weighted in favour of the latter. All that said, you will see Muppets singing Christmas songs, and let's face it, you'll probably be on the channel anyway, as it's preceded by It's A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie at 3.25pm.

When’s it on? Sunday the 22nd of December at 5.25pm on Channel 5.


Mouse And Mole At Christmas Time

What is it? Last year, the family fuss on the TV schedules was all about Room on the Broom and The Snowman and the Snowdog. The year before that, it was The Gruffalo's Child. This year's heart-warming one-off family animation is Mouse And Mole At Christmas Time, based on the children's books by Joyce Dunbar and James Mayhew, and featuring the voices of Alan Bennett (taking over from Stephen Fry), Imelda Staunton, and the much-missed Richard Briers.

What’s this one about? Practical and cheerful Mouse (Briers), lives with the hapless Mole (Bennett) in a cottage in the countryside. There's a snowmole, a dream about a magical land and a Twelfth Night party thrown by Mouse and Mole for all their friends in this thirty-minute festive episode.

When’s it on?  Thursday the 26th of December at 9.25am on BBC 1.


Gangsta Granny

What is it? The next BBC adaptation of a David Walliams children's book, following the critical and ratings success of 2012's Mr Stink, which featured Hugh Bonneville and Sheridan Smith.

What’s this one about? A young boy who discovers his cabbage-eating Gran isn't quite what she seems...

Rob Brydon, Miranda Hart, Julia McKenzie, David Walliams, Joanna Lumley, and more appear.

When’s it on? Thursday the 26th of December at 6.05pm on BBC One.



David Attenborough’s Natural History Museum Alive


What is it? Sky's next 3D documentary collaboration with David Attenborough, this time about the creatures of the Natural History Museum.

What’s this one about? Attenborough spends a night at the museum, educating us on the biology and habits of its exhibits, which have been brought to life by some extremely clever CGI jiggery-pokery.

When’s it on? Sky 1 New Year’s Day 6.30pm.


Charlie Brooker’s 2013 Wipe

What is it? Charlie Brooker picked up the BBC's satirical mantle from Clive James' Review Of The Year in the mid-noughties, and his series of Screenwipe yearly round-ups are a reliably good pick in the festive period.

What’s this one about? News, trends, TV, film and music, your basic stuff-that-happened-this-year round-up with a sardonic twist. For when The Big Fat Quiz of the Year doesn't quite er, scratch that itch.

When’s it on? Saturday the 28th of December at 10.40pm on BBC2.


Royal Institution Christmas Special

What is it? Quite literally an institution, the RI Christmas Lectures are a stalwart of the BBC's non-mainstream festive programming. Three one-hour programmes populated by clever people teaching kids about science: consider them an antidote to the existence of Peter Andre: My Life At Christmas.

What’s this one about? Life Fantastic, Am I A Mutant? and Could I Live Forever? are the lecture titles this year, all of which sound like promising stuff. Dr Alison Woollard is this year's guest lecturer. If this is your kind of thing, then look out for The Code Of Life: Great Scientists In Their Own Words on Monday the 30th of December at 7pm on BBC 4.

When’s it on? The first part airs on Saturday the 28th of December, and continues on Sunday the 29th and Monday the 30th at 8pm on BBC 4.

There we have it. Feel free to add your own recommendations below.

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