We’ve taken our glittery pen to the pages of this year’s festive TV Listings guide to circle a selection of shows that might tickle your Christmas fancy.
Supplement your festive box-set viewing with appearances from the Doctor and Clara, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, Dame Judi Dench, Professor Danielle George, the work of Roald Dahl, Charlie Brooker, David Attenborough, the much-missed Rik Mayall, and many more…
Doctor Who: Last Christmas
The tenth annual Doctor Who Christmas Special since the show’s 2005 return, and Peter Capaldi’s first real festive TARDIS adventure. Nick Frost, Michael Troughton, Dan Starkey and Nathan McMullen all co-star in this Father Christmas North Pole caper, alongside Capaldi and Jenna Coleman. Watch the latest trailer, here.
When’s it on? 6.15pm on Christmas Day, BBC 1.
Black Mirror: White Christmas
A ninety minute Christmas-themed episode of Charlie Brooker’s dystopian tech anthology series starring Mad Men’s Jon Hamm, Rafe Spall and Oona Chaplin. White Christmas is billed as “three interwoven stories of yuletide techno-paranoia”, and you can see the first trailer here. This one’s unmissable as far as we’re concerned. (And for our chums stateside, the previous six episodes of Black Mirror are now available on US Netflix.)
When’s it on? 9pm on Tuesday the 16th of December, Channel 4.
Good Omens (Radio)
The first ever adaptation of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s 1990 comic apocalypse novel, Good Omens. With a wide cast of characters including angels, demons, witches, witch finders, Satanic nuns, the horsemen of the apocalypse, and a gang of eleven year olds with a secret at their heart, this one is perfect for radio. The voice cast looks terrific, too, and includes Mark Heap, Peter Serafinowicz, Colin Morgan, Paterson Joseph, Josie Lawrence, Charlotte Ritchie and Louise Brealey.
When’s it on? The six-part series starts at 11pm on Monday 22nd and continues daily until Saturday 27th of December, BBC Radio 4.
The second run of Adrian Hodges’ Dumas-inspired adventure series kicks off with a tale of political intrigue and a generous portion of derring-do. Luke Pasqualino is back as D’Artagnan, with Tom Burke, Howard Charles and Santiago Cabrera as his Musketeer buds. There’s no moustache-twirling Peter Capaldi around this time, but the series, which really found its feet last year, is looking good.
When’s it on? 9pm BBC 1 Friday 2nd January
The Haunting Of Radcliffe House
Like mince pies and Quality Street, you have to have a ghost story at Christmas, it’s a law of tradition. Last year, the BBC brought us Mark Gatiss’ icy adaptation of M.R. James’ The Tractate Middoth, and this year, it’s Channel 5’s turn with The Haunting Of Radcliffe House. Matthew Modine, Olivia Williams, Antonia Clarke and Steve Oram feature in the tale of demonic rituals, murder and ghosts.
When’s it on? 9.35pm on Sat 27th Dec, Channel 5.
Four-part Swedish crime drama Wallander: Faceless Killers may be twenty years old, but BBC Four is showing it for the first time in the UK, starting this Boxing Day at 9.55pm. One for Scandi noir completists.
Kiefer Sutherland united with Stephen Fry on this year’s 24: Live Another Day mini-series, and here’s a chance to see the pair in a role reversal of sorts. A one-off drama in the Sky Arts Playhouse Presents strand, Marked tells the story of a hapless man (Sutherland) tasked with assassinating a mysterious neighbour who bears an uncanny resemblance to Father Christmas (Fry). Catch it at 10pm on Thursday the 18th of December on Sky Arts.
House Of Fools
This Christmas Special is here to tide us over before a new six-episode House Of Fools series airs later in 2015. Bob, Vic, Beef and Julie (Bob Mortimer, Vic Reeves, Matt Berry and Morgana Robinson) are all back and attempting a festive heist from the home of Phil Collins. Exactly the sort of silliness Christmas needs.
When’s it on? 10pm on Sunday 28th December, BBC Two.
Rik Mayall: Lord Of Misrule
A clips and talking heads show wouldn’t usually be a top choice on this site, but BBC Two’s salute to the much-missed Rik Mayall is a well-deserved tribute to one of UK comedy’s greats. Expect to hear from Alexei Sayle, Ben Elton, Lenny Henry, Michael Palin, Tim McInnerny and Ruby Wax on Lord Of Misrule, which is followed up by the 1982 The Young Ones episode, Interesting.
When’s it on? 10.05pm on Saturday 20th December on BBC Two.
The Wrong Mans
Mathew Baynton and James Corden’s comedy thriller returns for its second series with two new episodes airing on consecutive nights. Titular Wrong Mans Sam and Phil are back in trouble, this time in sunny Texas. Expect proper jokes, proper explosions and general fun.
When’s it on? 9pm on Sunday the 21st December on BBC Two (with the next episode airing at 9pm on Monday 22nd December).
Cabin Pressure: Zurich (Radio)
This two-part episode airing on consecutive nights concludes John Finnemore’s terrific long-running Radio 4 sitcom featuring Roger Allam, Stephanie Cole, Benedict Cumberbatch, Anthony Head and more.
When’s it on? 6.30pm, Tuesday 23rd and Wednesday 24th December, Radio 4.
If none of that takes your fancy, there’s your usual BBC One Christmas fare: a QI festive special featuring Carrie Fisher, a Miranda two-part finale, Not Going Out, Still Open All Hours, and er, Mrs Brown’s Boys. Failing that? The ace Transparent is on Netflix.
The Incredible Adventures Of Professor Branestawm
Harry Hill stars in Charlie Higson’s adaptation of Norman Hunter’s series of absent-minded professor children’s books alongside Miranda Richardson, David Mitchell, Simon Day and Ben Miller. This hour-long Special sees Branestawm (Hill) fighting off an officious local councillor determined to expel him from Great Pagwell. With a great cast and fun source material, this one looks ace.
When’s it on? 8.30pm Christmas Eve, BBC 1.
The Boy In The Dress
One of the most recent Christmas TV traditions is BBC One’s annual David Walliams adaptation, which began in 2012 with the excellent Mr Stink, continued last year with Gangsta Granny, and returns with The Boy In The Dress. It’s a story of divorce, fathers and sons, and boyhood cross-dressing featuring a cast including Jennifer Saunders, Tim McInnerny, Meera Syal, James Buckley and more.
When’s it on? 6.55pm Boxing Day BBC 1.
Elf: Buddy’s Musical Christmas
Elf, starring Will Ferrell, entered the Christmas film pantheon from the moment it arrived in 2003, a winning story of Buddy (Ferrell), a human raised by elves in the North Pole who comes to New York to meet his estranged father (James Caan). Ferrell famously refused big bucks to make a sequel, but that didn’t stop a Broadway musical version arriving in 2010. This animated Special features the voice of Jim Parsons and songs from the musical.
When’s it on? 4.20pm, Christmas Day, ITV.
Roald Dahl’s Esio Trot
Dustin Hoffman and Judi Dench lead the cast of this heart-warming Roald Dahl adaptation by Richard Curtis and Paul Mayhew-Archer. Not one for bah-humbug types, this tale of pensioner romance is sweet as they come.
When’s it on? 6.30pm, New Year’s Day, BBC One.
On Angel Wings
Here’s one for younger children. This half-hour animated version of Michael Morpurgo’s retelling of the Nativity story features the voices of Michael Gambon, Juliet Stevenson, Dominic Cooper and more.
When’s it on? Christmas Eve on BBC One at 4.15pm
Charlie Brooker’s 2014 Wipe
Charlie Brooker’s satirical retrospective of the year’s current and cultural events regularly skews the worst of media and public behaviour, with interludes from a selection of very special cultural commentators. It’s a sardonic look-back at 2014 and an unmissable annual event for old grumps like us.
When’s it on? 10pm on Tuesday 30th December, BBC Two
Doctor Who: The Lost Episodes (Radio)
This documentary tracks the well-publicised (in certain forums anyway) story of the search for Doctor Who’s missing episodes, a clutch of which were discovered last year in what was a thrilling discovery for Who fans.
When’s it on? 8am and 3pm on Saturday 27th of December, BBC Radio 4 Extra.
The Infinite Monkey Cage Christmas Special (Radio)
What could be more festive than Brian Blessed’s booming voice debating the science behind the Christmas story with Professor Brian Cox, comedian Robin Ince and Rev Richard Coles? Stick it on while you’re washing up the turkey tin or assembling your new Scalextric track.
When’s it on? 11pm, Christmas Day, BBC Radio 4.
David Attenborough’s Conquest Of The Skies
Attenborough turns his attention to flying creatures in this glossy new Sky series, which is being shown in 3D for those with fancy tellies. Expect plenty of expensive-looking swooping.
When’s it on? 7pm on New Year’s Day on Sky One.
Royal Institution Christmas Lectures
Another fine tradition, this. Kids and those of us who failed to stop messing around with the Bunsen burners and pay attention in science can learn from some of the best scientific communicators around in this annual series of lectures. This year’s speaker is Professor of Radio Frequency Engineering Danielle George, who will be taking the audience through the leaps in electrical engineering and more that led to the gadgets our homes are filled with over the course of three lectures.
When’s it on? 8pm, Monday the 29th to Wednesday the 31st of December, BBC Four.
Quiz fans can enjoy a whole ten-episode run of Christmas University Challenge airing on consecutive nights from Saturday the 20th of December. If you’ve been missing Paxo on Newsnight, then here’s your fix. The Chronicles Of Narnia readers might like to check out BBC Four documentary Narnia’s Lost Poet about the life of CS Lewis at 9pm on Tuesday the 29th of December, while art enthusiasts may enjoy Tales Of Winter: The Art Of Snow And Ice on BBC Four on Sunday the 21st of December.
At 7am on Christmas Day, you could do a lot worse than tune in to BBC Radio 4’s The Reunion while your turkey’s going in the oven, to hear from the creators of Wallace And Gromit. Finally, if Conquest Of The Skies isn’t enough Attenborough for you, then BBC 1 is showing a compilation of all the best bits from his recently concluded series Life Story at 11.40am on New Year’s Day on BBC One.
There are too many to count, as ever, but here are a few TV and radio repeat picks:
Sky Atlantic is repeating three or four Game Of Thrones episodes a night for twelve days starting on Saturday the 20th of December and running all the way up to the season four finale on New Year’s Eve.
In preparation for series 2, ITV Encore is repeating Broadchurch, starting at 9pm on Monday 29th December.
BBC Radio Four Extra is repeating 2011 serial The History Of Titus Groan, adapted from Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast series, at 10am and 3pm starting on Friday the 2nd of January.
Still on BBC Radio 4, you can listen again to spoken-word modern comedy classic, David Sedaris: The Santaland Diaries at 11.30am on Christmas Eve.
As well as that are new chances to catch The IT Crowd one-off Special, The Internet Is Coming (Sunday the 21st of December at 11pm), Blackadder’s Christmas Carol (8.30pm, Christmas Day, BBC Two), that great Kate Bush documentary (Sunday the 28th of December), as well as plenty of Sherlock and Doctor Who repeats on BBC Three and Watch.
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