TV blog: Christmas and New Year specials

Benjie Goodhart / 12 December 2019

Our round-up of the must-watch TV over Christmas and New Year, including new adaptations of A Christmas Carol and Dracula, and Christmas specials for favourites Great British Bake Off, Mrs Brown's Boys and more.

There is too much telly.

Obviously that’s absurd. There is no such thing as too much telly. The very idea is laughable. It would be like having “too much happiness” or being “too good looking” (that’s my cross to bear). But, for the purposes of covering what’s coming up over the festive period, there’s just too gosh-darned much of it. As a result, I am dispensing with the usual reams of otiose waffle this week, and concentrating instead on informative, concise, useful content. Just don’t expect it to last.

Right, here’s what you can watch over the next few weeks, in between wrapping the sprouts and boiling the socks. No… hang on…

Saturday 14th December

Strictly Come Dancing: The Final, 7:05pm, BBC One: They CLAIM this is live, but I have actually already watched the final, and can reveal here, in a shock twist, that the result is a tie between Ann Widdecombe and John Sergeant. Bet you didn’t see THAT coming!

Rod Stewart: Reel Stories, 9:10pm, BBC Two: Documentary about the gravelly-mullet himself, Scotland’s finest export since whisky and golf. This look at the great man is followed by a repeated documentary, and then a recording of a concert, so Rod fans, fill yer boots!

Britain’s Favourite Christmas Adverts, 9:10pm, Channel 5: John Lewis Penguin advert. Makes me well up just thinking about it. Next!

Sunday 15th December

Sports Personality of the Year, 7pm, BBC One: They CLAIM this is live as well, but I’ve seen this already, too. Weirdly, it was a tie between Ann Widdecombe and John Sergeant.

Inside the Mind of Agatha Christie, 8pm, Channel 5: Documentary looking at the possible reasons for Christie’s enduring success and popularity. Followed by a TV movie, Agatha and the Curse of Ishtar, wherein Agatha Christie uncovers a series of murders while on an archaeological dig in Iraq.

Monday 16th December

Meet the Street at Christmas, 9:15am, BBC One: Mark De-Lisser goes into communities around Wales and creates choirs that will benefit people who feel isolated such as stay-at-home parents, retirees, those who are cut off by transport links, and people with mobility issues. This promises to be an important and moving watch.

World’s Strongest Man 2019, 7pm, Channel 5: Nothing says Christmas like a collection of 24-stone Scandinavian human-gorilla-hybrids pulling 747s with their tongues. Which is why Channel 5 are showing this nightly for the next two weeks. Marvellous!

A Berry Royal Christmas, 8:30pm, BBC One: Mary Berry accompanies the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on various charitable visits, before the three of them team up to throw a memorable Christmas party for the charity volunteers. The Kate British Bake Off, if you will.

Sticks and Stones 1/3, 9pm, ITV: Psychological thriller, starring Ken Nwosu as sales associate Thomas Benson, who faints during a crucial presentation pitch. His life starts to spiral out of control when he feels his colleagues are now out to get him and his work and home life are threatened. Continues tomorrow.

Tuesday 17th December

The Brexit Storm Continues: Laura Kuenssberg’s Inside Story, 9pm, BBC Two: Oh God. Make it stop. Won’t somebody please make it stop. CAN WE JUST HAVE CHRISTMAS OFF, PLEASE????

Wednesday 18th December

The Apprentice – programming from 8pm: The final of the most unpleasant, mercenary, cut-throat show on TV is preceded by an hour-long special: The Apprentice: Why I Fired them. Then, after the final (which is at 9pm) there is a chat with the winners in The Apprentice: Your Hired. Weirdly, the winners are actually Ann Widdecombe and John S… oh, hang on, I think this may all have been a weird dream.

Thursday 19th December

The Big Soap Quiz: Coronation Street v Emmerdale, 9pm, ITV: I, for one, will not be able to sleep this Christmas until I know which random selection of cast members knows more about the soap in which they appear. Thank you for this vital public service, ITV.

Freddie Mercury: A Christmas Story, 9pm, Channel 5: A documentary about Freddie Mercury and Queen, featuring interviews and archive footage, that has just about the most tenuous link to the festive theme imaginable: Apparently Mercury really liked Christmas.

The Cure, 9pm, Channel 4: Drama based on a true story, starring Sian Brooke and Sue Johnston. In 2007, Julie Bailey's elderly mum Bella was admitted to Stafford Hospital with a treatable hernia condition. Eight weeks later she was dead. Happy Christmas, everyone!!!

Friday 20th December

Coronation Street at Christmas, 8:30pm, ITV: Former Corrie star Sue Johnston narrates this look at Christmases past on the street.

A Merry Tudor Christmas with Lucy Worsley, 9pm: The historian recreates Christmas from Henry VIII’s era, where they probably all ate starlings baked in mead and killed a few peasants before settling down for the Bond film in the afternoon.

Ball and Boe: A Very Merry Christmas, 9:30pm, ITV: Michael and Alfie do their thing. Expect a few winning ballads belted out, and some banter so cheesy you could boil it up and call it a fondue.

Saturday 21st December

Britain’s Favourite Christmas Carol, 6:50pm, Channel 5: If it’s not O Come All Ye Faithful, I demand a recount.

Sunday 22nd December

A Christmas Carol 1/3, 9pm, BBC One: An original take on Dickens’s iconic ghost story by Steven Knight (Taboo, Peaky Blinders). A Christmas Carol is a spine-tingling immersion into Scrooge’s dark night of the soul, starring Guy Pearce, Stephen Graham and Andy Serkis.

Tuesday 24th December

The Tiger Who Came to Tea, 7:30pm, Channel 4: The universally-adored children’s story gets the Channel 4 Christmas animation treatment. Over the years, debate has raged over the allegorical meaning of the story. According author to Judith Kerr, it’s about a tiger who comes to tea. So that’s that, then.

Gareth Malone’s Christmas Concert, 9pm, BBC Two: I couldn’t find any information on this, but I think we can safely assume there will be some singing. And probably some tears.

Wednesday 25th December

Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special, 4:40pm, BBC One: The BBC is attacking Christmas Day like an angry pitbull this year. If a pitbull could make and schedule TV programmes. Things kick off with the traditional Strictly special, by now as much a part of Christmas as presents, trees and Brexit-based arguments.

Call the Midwife, 7pm, BBC One: The nuns from Nonnatus House head to the Outer Hebrides to recuperate from a nasty outbreak of influenza. Starring Jenny Agutter and the irrepressible Miriam Margolyes.

The Great Christmas Bake Off, 7:10pm, Channel 4: Hmmm. Midwife or Bake Off? It’s the one TV dilemma today, as Channel 4 returns to the tent for a festive special featuring some of your favourite former contestants. Or maybe ones you hated, I’m not a mind-reader.

Gavin and Stacey Christmas Special, 8:30pm, BBC One: For many, the most eagerly-anticipated show on over Christmas. But will it live up to the hype? Ten years on from the last episode, James Corden and Ruth Jones have written a one-hour special, featuring all of the old gang. That is what’s occurrin’.

EastEnders, 9:30pm, BBC One: Time to check in for the annual dose of melodrama and gloom in Albert Square, where Christmas almost certainly spells doom for someone. “Happy Christmas, Ange!” (My references are nothing if not up-to-date).

Mrs Brown’s Boys Christmas Special, 10:30pm: The sitcom returns for its annual Christmas outing, with a pastiche of It’s a Wonderful Life. Expect the word ‘feck’ a lot, and more falling over than is strictly necessary.

Thursday 26th December

Worzel Gummidge 1/2, 6:20pm, BBC One: Now THIS looks fun. Mackenzie Crook writes, directs and stars as the eponymous scarecrow in two one-hour specials (the second is tomorrow), co-starring Sir Michael Palin, Zoe Wanamaker, Steve Pemberton and Vicki Pepperdine.

The Many Faces of Ronnie Barker, 7pm, BBC Two: A night given over to the comedy great, including the film version of Porridge (preceding this profile documentary, at 5:30pm) and a special episode of The Two Ronnies on at 8pm. ‘Andles for forks.

Friday 27th December

A Question of Sport at 50, 8:30pm, BBC One: The iconic sports quiz has been rocking the dodgy golf jumpers and forced banter for five decades. Long may it last!

Richard Osman’s World Cup of the Decade, 9pm, Channel 4: Over recent weeks, stretched-human Richard Osman has been conducting polls on Twitter to find the nation’s favourite things from the last decade, including best TV programme, best film, best song and best celebrity. It’s an odd concept, but Richard Osman normally makes everything fun, and it should make for a diverting 90-minutes.

Sunday 29th December

The Trial of Christine Keeler 1/3, 9pm, BBC One: Sophie Cookson stars as Christine Keeler, the model who nearly brought down the government. Ben Miles stars as John Profumo, and James Norton is Stephen Ward. This is one not to miss.

Monday 30th December

Nothing!!! Have a night off.Play a board game. Chat to your friends and family. Steer clear of politics and all should be fine…

Tuesday 31st December

The Graham Norton Show: New Year’s Eve Show, 10:20pm, BBC One: There are worse ways of spending the last night of the New Year than in the company of the fabulous Mr Norton and his celeb chums. That said, I object strongly to the word “Show” appearing twice in the programme’s name. Poor.

Wednesday 1st January

Miranda: My Such Fun Celebration, 5:45pm, BBC One: 2019 is ten years since a certain someone first galloped onto our screens, and to mark this milestone, BBC One hosts a very special one off shindig featuring a host of treats and surprises as the cast reunite to look back over a decade of what I call fun.

The Great Festive Bake Off, 7:40pm, Channel 4: Another trip to the Bake Off tent, this time featuring the cast of Channel 4’s excellent sitcom Derry Girls.

Doctor Who 1/10, 6:55pm, BBC One: Jodie Whittaker returns as the Doctor for series two-squillion of the magnificently daft sci fi drama. The series opens with a two-parter, Spyfall, in which the intelligence community is under attack from a mysterious source, and the fate of the planet is at stake (isn’t it always?). Part two is on Sunday. Expect to see names including Stephen Fry, Sir Lenny Henry CBE, Robert Glenister and Goran Višnjić over the 10-part series.

Dracula 1/3, 9pm, BBC One: The makers of Sherlock bring you a brand new take on the most famous vampire of them all: the magnificent, brooding, deliciously deadly Count Dracula. The title role is played by Danish actor Claes Bang, and the script is from the brilliant creative minds of Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, so this should be fun of the darkest, most gothic variety. Three feature length episodes are showing over the next three nights.

Bancroft 1/3, 9pm, ITV: A tough slot for Kate Brooke’s excellent crime drama, up against the might oif Dracula. But this show, about a corrupt cop with a dark past, is well worth a watch, as viewers of season one will testify. Sarah Parish is brilliant as DS Bancroft, a hard-working detective, loving mother… and murderer.

Mrs Brown’s Boys New Year Special, 10:30pm, BBC One: More falling over.

Thursday 2nd January

Best Home Cook 1/8, 8pm, BBC One: Claudia Winkleman hosts the show in which ten home cooks embark on the ultimate immersive cooking competition, living together in a shared house and competing against each other. The judges are Angela Hartnett, Chris Bavin, and St Mary of Berry.

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