Christmas TV Guide 2022: New UK Festive Drama, Comedy & Films

There's no Doctor Who Christmas Special this year, but there are new festive episodes of Ghosts, Detectorists and more. Here's our guide to British Christmas TV in 2022.

Xmas TV 2022 UK header
Photo: BBC, Channel 4, Sky, CBBC

It’s the most wonderful tiiiiime of the yeeeeear! Wherever you fall on a festive scale of Scrooge to Elf, it’s certainly the best time of year for good telly: Christmas TV is every channel and streaming service’s time to shine, as they adorn their listings with sparkly specials and festive films. 2022 is no different, with everything from Christmas comedy offerings from Inside No. 9, to Ghosts and Detectorists, a new animated family film from the team behind The Gruffalo, and brand-new soppy festive rom-coms (Christmances, if you will).

There’s also a growing selection box of Christmas dramas including the last ever episode of Doc Martin which is just as well considering this will be the first holiday season without a special Doctor Who episode since the show relaunched back in 2005.

We’ll keep this list updated with announcements and release dates as the Christmas TV schedules are confirmed, but for now stock up on the Celebrations and cheese straws because there’s plenty of TV treats to keep you entertained all the way through to New Year.

DRAMA

I Hate Suzie Too (Sky)

Following up 2020’s excellent genre-spanning drama I Hate Suzie from Lucy Prebble and Billie Piper, Hate Suzie Too is being billed as a three-part “anti-Christmas Christmas special”. It picks up the story of singer-actor Suzie, whose intimate photo hack exploded her life in the first series, and finds her attempting to rebuild her reputation on reality TV show ‘Dance Crazee’. As the synopsis puts it, “Having lost everyone that matters to her, Suzie returns to her first love – the public.” It starts on the 20th of December on Sky Atlantic and NOW.

Ad – content continues below

His Dark Materials (BBC One, 18th December)

As we heard at NYC Comic Con, The Amber Spyglass, the third and final instalment of the His Dark Materials trilogy, sees Lord Asriel building his army, gathering the greatest warriors from every world, ready to try to take down the Authority. Lyra is back with her mother Mrs Coulter, and is still on the run from the Magisterium, and we’ll see her and Will take a treacherous journey to the Land of the Dead to find Roger and Will’s father. Prepare for a moving farewell to this epic fantasy drama. The final season starts on HBO on Monday the 5th of December with a weekly double-bill until the finale on the 26th of December, while in the UK, all episodes will be available on BBC iPlayer from Sunday the 18th of December, as well as airing weekly on BBC One.

A Ghost Story For Christmas: Count Magnus (BBC Two)

Mark Gatiss is back to his ghostly festive tricks with another M.R. James short story adaptation coming to the BBC. Following on from The Mezzotint, Martin’s Close, The Dead Room, The Tractate Middoth and Crooked House comes Count Magus (w/t). Set in 1863, it’s the story of the legend surrounding a long-dead aristocrat who once made a mysterious journey to the Holy Land. It stars Jason Watkins, MyAnna Buring and more.

Doc Martin (ITV)

After ten series and almost two decades, the final ever episode of this cosy Cornish drama will air this Christmas, as ITV says goodbye to Martin Clunes as the grumpy Doctor Martin Ellingham. The festive farewell will feature all the regular inhabitants of the fictional seaside town of Portwen, including Caroline Catz (DCI Banks) as Martin’s wife Louisa, Ian McNeice (Doctor Who) as Bert Large, and Eastenders’ Joe Absolom as his son Al. 

Death in Paradise (BBC One)

The long-running Caribbean crime drama is back for its second Christmas special in 2022, with Ralf Little (The Royle Family) returning as DI Neville Parker. The festive episode takes a spooky turn as an old case of Selwyn (Don Warrington, Rising Damp) comes back to haunt him following the death of a true crime podcaster who had been investigating a missing child. Marlon (Tahj Miles, Small Axe) spends a night in a haunted house, and we may see some festive romance for Neville too.

Christmas Carole (Sky and NOW)

Vigil‘s Suranne Jones stars in this quirky modern-day reimagining of the Dickens novel, playing a heartless internet entrepeneur who is visited by some Christmas ghosts who look rather different to the ones we’re used to. Christmas Past will be represented by Morecambe and Wise (played by impersonators Jonty Stephens and Ian Ashpitel), while comedians Jo Brand and Nish Kumar play the ghosts of Christmas Present and Future.

Call The Midwife (BBC One)

The Call The Midwife Christmas special has become a festive tradition, and Nancy, Trixie and Lucille are back with another heartwarming Christmas episode in 2022. The official Twitter account posted a sneak peek including a photo of a snowball fight, and show creator Heidi Thomas has confirmed the festive special will see ‘something rather wonderful’ happening to Trixie, while ‘Lucille has to contend with a reasonable amount of sadness’. It’s not all doom and gloom, though: there will also be a story of a single mum who has recently left prison finding a community at Christmas just when she needs it most.

Ad – content continues below

Slow Horses (Apple TV, December 2nd)

The second series of this award-winning spy drama is back, starring Gary Oldman as Jackson Lamb, head of a team of dysfunctional MI5 agents who have been exiled from the service. This time, after a former agent is found dead, the team discovers that Russian sleeper agents have been reactivated, and the slow horses have to fight against the clock to stop a major attack on civilians.

Happy Valley (BBC One, New Year’s Day)

The BAFTA-winning crime drama returns for its third and final series at the start of 2023, with Sarah Lancashire resuming her role as Sergeant Catherine Cawood, whose investigation of a gangland murder takes her right back to where her story began.

Mark Gatiss in A Christmas Carol (BBC Four)

Gatiss has fashioned his own retelling of Dickens’ classic Christmas ghost story in this live stage production, in which he stars as Jacob Marley alongside Nicholas Farrell (The Crown) as Scrooge.

COMEDY

Inside No. 9 (BBC Two)

They’re back, because The Devil of Christmas just wasn’t enough to send yuletide shivers down our spines. Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton’s brilliant anthology series will welcome its second Christmas special with ‘The Bones of St Nicholas’, co-starring Simon Callow and Shobna Gulati. The half-hour special sees a Dr spend the night in a haunted church with an uninvited guest…

Ghosts (BBC One, Christmas Day)

After an unexpectedly poignant series four, thank goodness we’ve got a festive instalment of our favourite spooks to lighten the mood, as Ghosts returns for its third Christmas special in 2022. The episode will feature a festive trip down memory lane that causes Pat Butcher (Jim Howick) to question his very identity, while the ghosts also rustle up a surprise present for Alison after her Christmas lunch plans go awry. It’s airing on Christmas Day on BBC One.

Ad – content continues below

Detectorists (BBC Four)

Five years after this BAFTA-winning comedy finished airing, fans are being treated to a special, feature-length episode of Detectorists for Christmas 2022. The 75-minute episode will reunite Andy (Mackenzie Crook, Pirates of the Caribbean), Lance (Toby Jones, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) and the Danesbury Metal Detecting Club.

The Cleaner (BBC One, 23rd December)

Crime scene cleaner Wicky (Greg Davies) is back for The Cleaner‘s first Christmas special after the sitcom debuted earlier in 2022, and the only thing keeping him from winning a horse (!) in the local Christmas raffle is a blood-soaked ice cream parlour that needs cleaning up and a determined customer in search of the perfect peach melba ice cream.

Two Doors Down (BBC Two, 23rd December)

Popular Scottish sitcom Two Doors Down features suburban couple Beth (Arabella Weir, The Fast Show) and Eric (Alex Norton, Hatton Garden) and their quirky fellow residents of Latimer Close. The festive special was announced along with the sixth series of the show, and will see the neighbours test their friendships to the limit.

Shakespeare and Hathaway: Private Investigators (BBC One)

Oddball detectives Frank Hathaway (Mark Benton, Waterloo Road) and Luella Shakespeare (Jo Joyner, EastEnders) are back for a Christmas special of this comedy crime drama on the BBC. Their festive case sees Frank and Lu searching to unmask the ‘voice in the dark’ who threatens to destroy Wintermas. 

Bad Education (BBC Three)

A decade after the BBC Three sitcom first aired, Bad Education is back for a fourth series, starting with a Christmas special. Comedian (and Bad Education co-creator) Jack Whitehall returns as Abbey Grove teacher Alfie Wicks for the festive episode, as does Gavin and Stacey’s Mathew Horne as the school’s ex-headteacher, and former pupils Stephen (Layton Williams, The Cleaner) and Mitchell (Charlie Wernham, Hollyoaks) will now be stepping up as teachers. 

Motherland: Last Christmas (BBC One, 23rd December)

It’s the second Christmas special for this sitcom about middle-class motherhood, starring Anna Maxwell Martin (Line of Duty) as frazzled mum Julia, as she and her fellow mum friends (and Dad Kevin) deal with the mayhem of a full house over the Christmas holidays. As ever, chaos ensues, making this a cathartic watch for parents everywhere.

Ad – content continues below

FAMILY/CHILDREN’S

The Boy The Fox The Mole and the Horse

The Boy The Mole The Fox and the Horse (BBC One)

Charlie Mackesy’s internationally bestselling illustrated book will be brought to life in a short animated film, telling the poignant story of a boy making unlikely animal friendships as he tries to find his way home. The voice cast includes Tom Hollander (Rev) and Luther’s Idris Elba.

The Smeds and the Smoos (BBC One)

The Gruffalo’s Julia Donaldson will once again provide us with a festive family animation, as the BBC adapts the book she wrote with Alex Scheffler, The Smeds and the Smoos. The red Smeds and the blue Smoos must overcome their differences as they search for young Janet and Bill, who have escaped together. Starring comedian Bill Bailey as Grandfather Smed alongside his sworn enemy, Grandmother Smoo (Bridgerton’s Adjoa Andoh), the voice cast also includes Rob Brydon (Gavin and Stacey), Paddington’s Sally Hawkins and Meera Syal (The Devil’s Hour).

Malory Towers (CBBC)

This boarding school drama based on the Enid Blyton novels is back with a two-part special which will see Darrell Rivers and her friends welcome Great Granny Mary and Ron’s younger brother Fred to Malory Towers.

Dodger (CBBC)

CBBC’s hit comedy drama telling the ‘prequel’ to the events of Dickens’ Oliver Twist returns for three specials, including a Christmas episode featuring EastEnders legend Anita Dobson, in which Dodger and his boys gatecrash a party at 10 Downing Street. Doctor Who’s Christopher Eccleston and Alex Kingston also star, with Eccleston playing Fagin.

Christmas Panto: Dick Whittington (CBeebies)

The CBeebies Christmas Panto is back for 2022, this time with the classic story of Dick Whittington and his Cat, starring many of CBeebies’ best-loved performers. It’s been filmed in front of a live theatre audience, so get ready to join in with lots of fun audience participation from the comfort of your sofa. It’s behiiiiiind you!

Ad – content continues below

QUIZZES

Richard Osman in House of Games

Big Fat Quiz of the Year (Channel 4, Boxing Day)

Jimmy Carr will be back to quiz three teams of comedians on all the biggest events of 2022. Considering all that’s gone on, this could be a very long episode indeed.

Richard Osman’s Christmas House of Games (BBC One)

The festive special of Richard Osman’s celebrity quiz will feature Anneka Rice, Phil Wang, Clare Balding, Ugo Monye and more in a bid to win the House of Games Festive Trophy.

Ant & Dec’s Limitless Win (ITV)

After the first series aired earlier in the year, this entertainment quiz show is back for a celebrity Christmas special featuring David Walliams and Rylan.

The Hit List (BBC One)

The 2022 festive celebrity special of this music quiz presented by Marvin and Rochelle Humes features radio presenters Richie Anderson and Gary Davies, and Mrs Brown’s Boys stars Fiona and Eilish O’Carroll.

Christmas University Challenge (BBC Two)

Distinguished alumni taking on Paxman’s questions in this year’s festive specials include newsreader Reeta Chakrabarti, author Emma Dabiri and YouTuber Tom Scott.

Never Mind The Buzzcocks (Sky)

Greg Davies is back to host the Christmas special of this offbeat music quiz, with celebrity panellists include comedian Tom Allen, Claire from Steps and Pete Doherty.

Ad – content continues below

Pointless Celebrities (BBC One)

BBC have confirmed there’ll be a Christmas special of the celeb version of Pointless, but the line-up remains under wraps for now. Richard Osman is back alongside host Alexander Armstrong.

Michael McIntyre’s Christmas Wheel (BBC One)

Like last year, we’ll see three celebrity contestants – this time Bear Grylls, Alesha Dixon and Gino D’Acampo – trying to win money for charity in the Christmas special of The Wheel. They’ll be helped by an expert panel of famous faces including comedians Rosie Jones and Bill Bailey, singers Fleur East and Michael Ball, presenter AJ Odudu and chef Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall.

ENTERTAINMENT

Taskmaster Greg Davies Alex Horne

Taskmaster’s New Year Treat (Channel 4)

The festive Taskmaster special is back once again and will see five celebrities compete in a one-off episode of sublime silliness. It’s airing at 9pm on January the 1st and the line-up includes: Carol Vorderman, Greg James, Amelia Demoldenberg, Sir Mo Farah and Rebecca Lucy Taylor (aka pop act Self Esteem).

Would I Lie To You? At Christmas (BBC One)

This year’s festive Would I Lie To You? special is a particular treat for Doctor Who fans, as the line-up includes Christopher Eccleston! The former ninth Doctor will appear alongside comedian Guz Khan, Gloria Hunniford and Sophie Willan, as well as regular team captains Lee Mack and David Mitchell. 

The Great British Bake Off Christmas Special (Channel 4, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day)

It wouldn’t be Christmas without some of Bake Off‘s most beloved past contestants returning to the tent to take on some festive baking challenges, and this year is no different.

Ad – content continues below

Mortimer and Whitehouse: Gone Christmas Fishing (BBC Two)

After the show’s fifth series finished in October, fans will be pleased to know there’s another Gone Christmas Fishing in the works, with more delightful ruminations, daft antics and bad fishing from comedians Bob Mortimer and Paul Whitehouse. For the first time they’ll be leaving the UK on a fishing trip to Norway, and attempting to catch the hard-fighting coalfish, among other pescaterian prizes.

QI (BBC Two)

Sandi Toksvig and Alan Davies return for the Christmas episode of series T, discovering all kinds of festive facts alongside panellists Gyles Brandreth, Chris McCausland and Aisling Bea. Plus they’ll be meeting the world’s most popular bear.

Strictly Come Dancing (BBC One)

By now a mainstay of the Christmas Day listings, once again six new celebrities take to the floor with a professional partner to compete to be crowned Strictly’s Christmas champion. This year’s celebs include singer Nicola Roberts, podcaster Rosie Ramsay and CBeebies presenter George Webster.

Sandi Toksvig’s Tiny Christmas Challenge (Channel 4)

Sandi Toksvig will host this one-off micro-designing competition, in which amateur crafters will turn a teeny tiny alpin cabin into a festive retreat, complete with minuscule decorations and a nano-sized Christmas feast.

Portrait Artist of the Year Christmas Special (Sky Arts)

Six celebrities will take on the festive challenge of painting one of three famous sitters: Slade’s Noddy Holder, designer Lawrence Llewelyn-Bowen and singer Mica Paris.

Blankety Blank (BBC One)

Host Bradley Walsh and a panel of six celebrities – including Taskmaster‘s Alex Horne, Guz Khan and Alison Hammond – will help lucky contestants try and win some naff festive prizes.

Ad – content continues below

The Greatest Snowman (Channel 4, Boxing Day)

After a successful debut in 2021, this celebrity snow sculpting competition is back, once again fronted by Sue Perkins, with Lawrence Llewelyn-Bowen – one of last year’s competitors – on hand to give advice. Celebrities competing this year include Gemma Collins, Joe Thomas and Melvin Odoom.

Christmas Repair Shop (BBC One)

Jay Blades and his team are back for a festive edition of The Repair Shop in 2022. They took to their Instagram stories to ask for people with specifically Christmas-themed items to apply to be on the show, so expect it to be a very festive episode.

Lego Masters Christmas Special (Channel 4, December 23rd)

Nish Kumar will present this festive episode of the lego-building competition, and this time it’s celebrities competing to become Lego Master, including comedians Alex Horne and Sophie Duker, singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor and presenter Scarlett Moffatt. Tasks will include building a Lego snowglobe with a Christmas scene.

FACTUAL/DOCUMENTARY

The Royal Institution Christmas Lectures

Royal Institution Christmas Lectures (BBC Four)

In a tradition dating back to 1825, a group of scientists will once again inspire children and adults alike with hands-on science demonstrations and mind-expanding talks. In 2022, Professor Dame Sue Black will reveal the secrets of forensic science.

The Snowman: The Film That Changed Christmas (Channel 4)

40 years since Channel 4 aired the film adaptation of Raymon Briggs’ picture book The Snowman, this documentary will interview the film’s creators, including its animators, composer and the Channel 4 Commissioning Editor at the time, exploring the challenges involved in bringing the film to life and some common misconceptions. Did you know, for instance, that the boy singing Walking In The Air is not, in fact, Aled Jones?

The Mystery of the Nativity (Sky Arts)

The nativity is one of the most famous stories ever told, and has been recreated countless times, so art critic Waldemar Januszczak takes a look at some nativity artwork through the ages and decodes its hidden meanings.

Ad – content continues below

Christmas with Mary Berry and Friends (BBC One, 19th December)

Cookery icon Mary Berry will be giving her ultimate masterclass in creating a foolproof Christmas dinner. 

Miriam’s Dickensian Christmas (Channel 4, 20th December)

After not celebrating Christmas for 30 years, the marvellous Miriam Margolyes will be exploring a Dickensian Christmas in her usual imitable style, with historians helping her to keep the feasting, decorations and toys true to Dickensian festive traditions.

The Unofficial Science of Home Alone (Sky Max, 19th December)

Comedians James Acaster, Guz Khan and Alex Brooker recreate some of classic Christmas film series Home Alone‘s most memorable boobytraps, such as the swinging paint can and the blowtorch to the head, and see if they can catch their own Kevin McAllister.

Antiques Roadshow Christmas Special: Toys and Childhood (BBC One)

This special episode will explore how toys have shaped our childhoods over the centuries, featuring various items including a toy dating back 4,000 years, Action Man, Subbuteo, and some concept art for The Teletubbies.

2022: The Year From Space (Channel 4, 3rd January)

This 90-minute documentary will feature incredible satellite imagery showcasing the major events that took place on Earth over the last year. It will include coverage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, summer wildfires, and the Burning Man festival in Arizona, as well as nature events like discovering unknown colonies of penguins.

FILMS

Your Christmas or Mine film

Your Christmas or Mine (Amazon Prime)

Yet again, the unreliability of the British railway service becomes the perfect plot point for a Christmas romcom, and we are very much here for it. Loved up students Hayley and James (Sex Education’s Asa Butterfield) both attempt a Christmas surprise by turning up at each other’s childhood homes for the holidays, before getting snowed in, meaning they end up having to experience each other’s family Christmas without their partner. It’s got an impressive cast including Daniel Mays (Good Omens), Harriet Walter (Killing Eve), and The Crown’s Alex Jennings. Perfect light and fluffy Christmas viewing. It arrives on Friday the 2nd of December, so could be a good accompaniment to putting up the decorations.

Ad – content continues below

The Amazing Maurice (Sky Cinema, 16th December)

There’s a stellar cast behind this animated adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s bestselling book, with Hugh Laurie voicing the streetwise cat Maurice and Emilia Clarke as bookworm Malicia, plus Hugh Bonneville, David Tennant, Gemma Arteton and Himesh Patel. 2022 is the 20th anniversary of the book’s original release.

Christmas on Mistletoe Farm (Netflix)

From the writer-director of the Nativity films Debbie Isitt, Christmas on Mistletoe Farm arrived on Netflix on the 23rd of November and stars Bridgerton ‘modiste’ Kathryn Drysdale opposite newcomer Scott Garnham, plus a host of UK names including Ashley Jensen and Celia Imrie. It’s about a widowed father who inherits a farm, and his kids’ plan to get him to stick to rural life for good. It’s already featuring among its Top 10 films streamed in the UK, proving that the public appetite for heart-warming family stories involving piglets knows no bounds.

Scrooge: A Christmas Carol (Netflix)

Charles Dickens’ famous story is retold in this Netflix musical adaptation featuring the voices of actor-musicians Jessie Buckley (Taboo, Wild Rose) and Johnny Flynn (Beast, Emma.), accompanied by Olivia Colman, Jonathan Pryce, Luke Evans, James Cosmo and more. It arrives on Netflix on Friday the 2nd of December, so well in time for a pre-Christmas cosy night in with the family.

Christmas in the Caribbean (101 films Digital Release)

Diva trio Liz Hurley, Caroline Quentin and Stephanie Beacham all holidaying on a tropical island at Christmas with access to seemingly endless cocktails? Shut up and take our money. This festive British rom-com sees a jilted bride Rachel (Liz Hurley) take her two gal pals on what should have been her Caribbean honeymoon, where she inevitably falls in love with a silver fox called Alessandro. But of course, things don’t go smoothly, and all kinds of tropical-festive shenanigans occur. A trashy delight arriving on Monday the 5th of December.

This Christmas (Sky Cinema & NOW)

Like we said, the British railway is often the unspoken star of a good Christmas romcom, and Sky’s new festive film This Christmas takes place on a train commute between the village of Langton and London. Harry Potter’s Alfred Enoch plays Adam alongside Kaya Scodelario (Pirates of the Caribbean) as Emma, and they form an unlikely friendship with their fellow commuters and decide to hold their own Christmas party. It’s an all-star carriage, also featuring the likes of Timothy Spall (Mr Turner), Joanna Scanlan (The Thick of It), Ben Miller (Death in Paradise) and Ted Lasso’s Sarah Niles. Cheerful, cosy fun.