Christmas is upon us. At the time of writing, I have still to do most of my shopping, all of my wrapping, I’ve not sent a single card, and most alarmingly of all, I’ve not ordered the prosecco. Perfect timing, then, for a bumper look at the best TV coming up over the next fortnight. If my kids are given an un-wrapped orange and my wife gets some flowers from a garage forecourt on Christmas Day, I want you to know that it’s your fault! That I was slaving away at my keyboard when I should have been buying X-Boxes and mobile phones.
Right. Having started things off in a suitably cheery and festive fashion, let’s get cracking. Settle down, everyone, with a remote in one hand, a glass in the other, a box of chocolates nearby and a lateral flow test within reach at all times, we can still have a glorious Christmas, thanks to this selection box of televisual delights. Oh, and don’t forget to talk to each other in the ad breaks.
Royal Carols: Together at Christmas, 7:30pm, ITV: The Duchess of Cambridge hosts a carol service from Westminster Abbey. Should be just the thing to get the Christmas spirit in full working order!
Top Gear: Driving Home for Christmas, 8:30pm, BBC One: Christmas high-jinx from Paddy McGuinness, Freddie Flintoff and Chris Harris, including making delivery of a very large Christmas tree, and a round of Secret Santa with a difference.
Superworm, 2:30pm, BBC One: The latest in the annual adaptations of the wonderful children’s books by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler is the tale of a heroic worm who gets into a spot of bother. Voices include Matt Smith and Olivia Colman.
The Queen, 3pm, BBC One: The monarch gives her annual address, looking back over what has been a difficult year for her personally, and for the nation as a whole.
Strictly Come Dancing, 5:10pm, BBC One: A one-off Christmas special of the dance extravaganza features a great list of competitors: Adrian Chiles, Moira Stuart, Fred Sirieix, Jay Blades, Anne-Marie, and Mel Giedroyc. More cha cha cha than ho ho ho.
Call the Midwife, 8pm, BBC One: Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without our regular trip down Poplar way to catch up on all the goings on at Nonnatus House. This year, Lucille is getting married, which should all be straightforward enough. I mean, it’s not as if things ever go wrong in TV drama nuptials, right?
The Great Christmas Bake Off 2021, 8pm, Channel 4: The cast of fabulous AIDS miniseries It’s a Sin reunite for a special episode inside the Bake Off Tent, with soggy bottoms and Hollywood Handshakes all round.
The Larkins, 9pm, ITV: Expect tables groaning with food and houses filled with festive cheer in ITV’s feelgood drama. A burglar is causing chaos in the village, the nativity play is having problems, and power cuts are rife, but you can guarantee all will end well in the Larkin household.
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Around the World in 80 Days, 5:50pm, BBC One: David Tennant, complete with uncharacteristic moustache, stars as Phileas Fogg in this new eight-part retelling of the classic Jules Verne tale. Episode two follows at 6:40pm.
All Star Musicals, 8pm, ITV: Six celebrities, including Gyles Brandreth, Anita Rani and Ben Miller perform musical classics in this one-off entertainment spectacular hosted by John Barrowman.
A Very British Scandal, 9pm, BBC One: This three-part drama, showing on consecutive nights, tells the story of the Duke and Duchess of Argyll, whose scandalous divorce in 1963 shocked a nation. Featuring atop-notch cast, led by Claire Foy and Paul Bettany, this promises to be a period treat.
Mortimer and Whitehouse: Gone Fishing, 9pm, BBC Two: This extended, hour-long Christmas special sees our dynamic duo fishing in Cumbria and Northumberland in search of the elusive English salmon, a fish Paul has never caught. There’s also a splendid ‘awards ceremony’ to round things off. Bliss!
Billy Connolly: My Absolute Pleasure, 9:30pm, ITV: It seems that, in recent years, the Big Yin has had more career retrospectives made about him than would be appropriate for anyone else. But when you’re this good, why ration it? In this one-off, he looks back over his career, and selects some of his favourite routines.
Monday 27th December
Travel man: 96 Hours in Iceland, 8pm, Channel 4: Joe Lycett takes up the reins from Richard Ayoade in Channel 4’s amiable travel show. Tonight, he travels to Iceland with Bill Bailey, in search of sledding, northern lights, and a punk museum in a disused toilet. As you do.
Tuesday 28th December
Worzel Gummidge, 7:15pm, BBC One: One of the delights of recent years on TV has been Mackenzie Crook’s charming reimagining of the classic children’s tale of a sentient scarecrow. This good-natured show, long on humour and bucolic charm, is back with two new tales (the second is tomorrow night). Tonight, the farmer invests in a new, high-tech Scare-o-matic 5000 scarecrow. What role will Worzel play now?
Extraordinary Escapes with Sandi Toksvig, 8pm, Channel 4: The pint-sized comedian returns with her delightful travel show, this time visiting Norway with partners in crime Deborah Meaden, Fay Ripley, and scientist Maggie Aderin-Pocock.
Wednesday 29th December
Britain’s Most Expensive Houses 1/4, 9pm, Channel 4: Pretty much nothing is as satisfying as a good bit of high-end property porn, and this show’s got it in spades. On the trail of UK Sotheby’s International Realty department, the houses featured tonight include a £30m home in Windsor, set in 40 acres, and a Grade I listed Welsh mansion.
Thursday 30th December
Attenborough and the Mammoth Graveyard, 8pm, BBC One: The big DA joins archaeologists and palaeontologists excavating a quarry near Swindon that has already unearthed some remarkable finds.
Wogan: Now You’re Talking, 9pm, Channel 5: A fascinating 90-minute retrospective of Sir Terry’s career, charting his extraordinary journey from a Dublin bank clerk to one of the broadcasting greats of the last 50 years.
New Year’s Eve
The Last Leg of the Year, 9pm, Channel 4: Adam Hills and the gang kick off the evening’s entertainment with their irreverent take on what has been a year of those twin imposters of triumph and disaster. Guests include Aisling Bea, Joe Wilkinson, Ivo graham, Nish Kumar and Vick Hope.
The Graham Norton Show, 10:30pm, BBC One: Our Graham returns with his winning chat, with a star-studded line-up including Jessica Chastain, Claire Foy, Peter Dinklage, Cush Jumbo and Joe Lycett.
Jools’ Annual Hootenanny, 11:25pm, BBC Two: See the New Year in with Jools and his line up of musical luminaries, including Lulu, Gregory Porter, and the one and only Ed Sheeran.
New Year’s Day
Doctor Who, 7pm, BBC One: It’s New Year’s Eve. Sarah (Aisling Bea) is working. Again. And she only has one customer, Nick (Adjani Salmon). Again. But why is the Execution Dalek after them? Family fun, starring Jodie Whittaker.
The Masked Singer, 7pm, ITV: 2022 gets off to a magnificently surreal start in the absurd-yet-riveting show which sees famous people hide their identity as they perform songs each week dressed in ridiculous costumes. The judges – and viewers – must guess who is inside the enormous latex sausage, or whatever it happens to be. Much better than it sounds.
The Great New Year Bake Off, 7:40pm, Channel 4: Some of the most popular bakers from recent series return to do their doughy thing in the famous tent, including Kim Joy, Jon, Hermione and Rowan, in this one-off New Year spectacular.
The Tourist 1/6, 9pm, BBC One: Fraternal writing duo Harry and Jack Williams (The Missing, Liar) are behind this drama about a man who wakes up in hospital in the Australian outback with no memory. So why are figures from his past pursuing him? Starring Jamie Dornan, the series continues tomorrow night.
This is Joan Collins, 9pm, BBC Two: Joan Collins narrates this documentary charting her career over seven decades in showbiz, as she looks back at her most celebrated roles, and shares some extraordinary archive home footage.
Taskmaster’s New Year Treat, 9pm, Channel 4: The brilliantly absurd comedy gameshow returns for a one-off episode featuring Adrian Chiles, Claudia Winkleman, Jonnie Peacock, Lady Leshurr and Baroness Warsi, taking on tasks involving eggs, vinegar, and an inordinately long poll. As ever, Greg Davies and Alex Horne oversee proceedings with enormous charm.
Sunday 2nd January
Ski Sunday, 8pm, BBC Two: With the Winter Olympics just around the corner, Chemmy Alcott and Ed Leigh present the men’s downhill from Bormio, in Italy. Oh, and there’s pretty much the best theme music on TV.
The Great Pottery Throwdown, 7:45pm, Channel 4: New host Ellie Taylor introduces the twelve new pottery hopefuls hoping to throw, mould, shape and sculpt their way to ceramic glory in the charming competitive format. Worth watching, just to see how many times judge Keith Brymer Jones is moved to tears in every episode. (Answer: A lot.)
Anne 1/4, 9pm, ITV: Maxine Peake plays Anne, a mother who packed her son off to watch a football match in 1989, only to never see him again after he was killed in the devastating disaster at Hillsborough. This harrowing fact-based drama is the story of one mother’s fight for justice.
Tom Hanks: Hollywood’s Mr Nice Guy, 9pm, Channel 5: 90-minute documentary about the man widely accepted to be one of the nicest in showbiz, featuring clips from his most famous roles, and anecdotes from some of those who know him best. Followed by the brilliant Saving Private Ryan.
Monday 3rd January
Attenborough’s Wonder of Song, 8pm, BBC One: The celebrated naturalist chooses seven of nature’s most remarkable animal songs, and explains what they mean.
Four Lives 1/3, 9pm, BBC One: Fact-based drama about the courageous families of four gay men killed by Stephen Port, as they fight for justice following police failings. Showing over the next three nights.
Inside Dubai: Playground of the Rich 1/3, 9pm, BBC Two: Documentary series from the team that made Inside Monaco, treading similar ground as it follows the millionaires of dubai, and the people who serve them.
Tuesday 4th January
Digging for Britain 1/6, 8pm, BBC Two: Alice Roberts presents the archaeology show that is moving from BBC Four to Two following its huge popularity. The series promises exclusive access to some of the greatest discoveries of the past decade.
The Hunt for Bible John 1/2, 9pm, BBC Two: Two-part documentary following the 1968 case that saw three women killed after a night out dancing, triggering the biggest manhunt in Scottish history.
Toast of Tinseltown, 10pm, BBC Two: Matt Berry’s superb comic creation, actor Steven Toast, returns after a six-year absence (and moves from Channel 4). In the series opener, Toast is prone to bouts of rage, and is sent on an anger management course.
Wednesday 5th January
Nothing much. Probably about time you got rid of those empties, and did some laundry.
Thursday 6th January
Dragon’s Den 1/14, 8pm, BBC One: Series 19 for the show that is part-business, part-bloodsport, as budding entrepreneurs present their ideas to a panel of millionaires, in the hope of securing an investment. They’d better have got their ruddy numbers right, though…
The Apprentice 1/12, 9pm, BBC One: The most unpleasant show on television returns, with ambitious contestants trampling over themselves and each other in their mystifying eagerness to impress the serially aggressive Lord Sugar. Tonight, they have to present marketing campaigns for a new cruise liner.
Andy Warhol’s America 1/3, 9pm, BBC Two: A look at the 20th Century history of the USA, told through the life and career of the infamous artist.
Screw 1/6, 9pm, Channel 4: This darkly comic drama is the portrait of a prison told through the embattled lives of the people who work there. The not un-marvellous Nina Sosanya stars.
Friday 7th January
Monty Don’s Adriatic Gardens, 8pm, BBC Two: The gardener and presenter travels to the Adriatic coast to visit some of the most stunning gardens in Greece, Croatia and Venice. A veritable feast for the eyes.
George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces, 8pm, Channel 4: The architect returns with the show that sees people converting small spaces into amazing, beautiful and useful places. Tonight, there’s a stargazing cabin with a twist, and a horse box put to very un-equine use, while George himself embarks on a project of his own on Skye.
Kate Humble’s Coastal Britain 1/8, 8pm, Channel 5: The presenter and all-round outdoorsy type is in her element in this new series, as she takes eight walks along some of the most historic stretches of the UK coast.
Death in Paradise, 9pm, BBC One: Series 11 of the whimsical tropical detective drama. When a kidnapping ends in murder, Neville (Ralf Little) and his team try to work out what went wrong.
New York: World’s Richest City with Kim Cattrall 1/3, 9pm, Channel 5: Well, it’s not exactly with Kim Cattrall. She narrates. Nevertheless, this should be a fun, glamorous tour of the eye-popping wealth that exists in The Big Apple.
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