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50 Christmas crackers you won’t want to miss! The TV highlights over the festive season

Specials from Strictly, Call The Midwife and Bake Off, the life of Billy Connolly, new Doctor Who and Ghosts – and a long lost Morecambe & Wise!

Sunday, December 19 

1. BBC Sports Personality Of The Year 

Tom Daley, Tyson Fury and Adam Peaty are on the list, but it would be a brave punter who bet against odds-on favourite Emma Raducanu. The young tennis star’s US Open triumph was one of the year’s sporting highlights. BBC1, 6.45pm 

Emma Raducanu (above), whose win at the US Open was one of the year’s sporting highlights, is the odds-on favourite to win BBC Sports Personality Of The Year

 

2. The Royal Variety Performance 

Alan Carr hosts and the stars include Bill Bailey, Judi Love, James Blunt, Rod Stewart, Ed Sheeran and Elvis Costello, watched by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

ITV, 7.20pm

  

3. The Girl Before

In a salutary four-part psychological thriller for our property-obsessed era, Jane (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) believes she’s found her dream home. 

But will she be able to abide by the strange rules demanded by its architect, Edward (David Oyelowo)? BBC1, 9pm 

 

4. Beauty And The Beast: A Pantomime For Comic Relief

Lily James stars as Rose, the Beauty, in a comic tale about a cursed beast, played by Oliver Chris. With cameos from Miranda Hart, Lenny Henry and David Tennant.

BBC2, 9pm 

 

 

Monday, December 20

5. Mary Berry’s Festive Feasts

Mary teaches three novice cooks how to rustle up a surprise seasonal spread for their mums. BBC1, 7.05pm

 

6. Would I Lie To You? At Christmas

One of the funniest shows on TV, with Rose Matafeo, Ardal O’Hanlon, Angela Rippon and Jim Broadbent joining host Rob Brydon and regulars Lee Mack and David Mitchell. BBC1, 8.30pm

 

7. Two Doors Down Christmas Special

Festive edition of the sitcom about bonkers neighbours in suburban Glasgow sees Michelle and Alan hosting Christmas drinks for everyone. As ever, things get a bit tense. Stars Arabella Weir, Alex Norton and Doon Mackichan. BBC2, 9.30pm

 

 

Tuesday, December 21 

8. Celebrity Masterchef Christmas Cook-Off

Oti Mabuse, Joey Essex, Judi Love, Neil Ruddock and Su Pollard show off their culinary prowess. They have to cook a Christmas dish using surprise ingredients found in an advent calendar. BBC1, 8.30pm and Thursday

 

9. Philip: Prince, Husband, Father

One of the most powerful images of the year was of the Queen, forced to sit alone in St George’s Chapel at Windsor at the funeral in April of her husband of 73 years, the Duke of Edinburgh. 

This tribute features rare footage of his astonishing life. ITV, 9pm 

 

Wednesday, December 22

10. The Great British Sewing Bee: Celebrity Christmas Special

Sara Pascoe hosts two editions over the festive season. Wielding the needles are the Rev. Kate Bottley, Antony Cotton, Kiell Smith-Bynoe and Anneka Rice. 

They have to make a Christmas jumper and a fancy dress outfit before the judges unpick their stitches. BBC1, 8pm and Thursday 30th 

 

11. The Hairy Bikers Go North For Christmas

It’s all right there in the title. Dave Myers and Si King are making Christmas dinner using ‘the very best that the North of England has to offer’, which apparently includes that most Yorkshire of beverages… rum. BBC2, 8pm

 

 

Thursday, December 23 

12. Blackburn Sings Christmas With Gareth Malone

Amateurs from Blackburn and staff from the Royal Blackburn Hospital work with choirmaster Gareth. BBC2, 8pm 

Amateurs from Blackburn and staff from the Royal Blackburn Hospital work with choirmaster Gareth Malone (above)

Amateurs from Blackburn and staff from the Royal Blackburn Hospital work with choirmaster Gareth Malone (above)

 

13. Hansel & Gretel: After Ever After

Hansel & Gretel get the David Walliams After Ever After treatment, showing what happened after the fairy story we all already know ended. Sky Showcase, 8pm 

 

14. Ghosts

Jennifer Saunders guests in a special episode of the hit supernatural sitcom as the overbearing mother of Lady Fanny Button, the house’s resident Edwardian ghost.

BBC1, 8.30pm 

 

15. Not Going Out

Jason Donovan joins the regular cast for a pantomime-themed special of the sitcom. Lee Mack is on stage as Buttons in Cinderella, and he hates panto, especially when he finds out who Prince Charming is. BBC1, 10pm  

 

 

Christmas Eve

16. Shaun The Sheep: The Flight Before Christmas

It’s Christmas Eve at Mossy Bottom Farm and Shaun and all the sheep are very excited until Shaun’s cousin, young Timmy, accidentally gets taken off to a market.

BBC1, 6pm

 

17. Carols From King’s, plus Royal Carols: Together At Christmas

The carol service from the candlelit chapel of King’s College, Cambridge, signals the beginning of Christmas for many. There is also a carol service hosted by the Duchess of Cambridge at Westminster Abbey. BBC2, 6.15pm and ITV, 7.30pm 

18. The Amazing Mr Blunden

Tamsin Greig, Mark Gatiss and Simon Callow star in a new adaptation of the spooky 1972 movie. Two teenagers move to an old country mansion: are they alone? Sky Showcase, 7pm 

Mark Gatiss, Simon Callow and Tamsin Greig (above) star in a new adaptation of the spooky 1972 movie The Amazing Mr Blunden

Mark Gatiss, Simon Callow and Tamsin Greig (above) star in a new adaptation of the spooky 1972 movie The Amazing Mr Blunden

 

19. The Greatest Snowman

Sue Perkins hosts the challenge show in which Johnny Vegas, Dani Dyer, Liam Charles, Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen and Cherry Healey have to create works of art from frozen water. Channel 4, 8pm

 

20. Top Gear: Driving Home For Christmas

The team play ‘car secret Santa’ in which they choose vehicles for each other to drive. Then they take a road trip… like in every other episode. BBC1, 8.30pm 

 

21. All Creatures Great And Small Special

Yorkshire vets drama, this week centring on pampered Pekingese, Tricki Woo, played as ever by canine actor Derek. C5, 9pm

All Creatures Great And Small (above), the Yorkshrie vets drama, this week centres on pampered Pekingese, Tricki Woo, played as ever by canine actor Derek

All Creatures Great And Small (above), the Yorkshrie vets drama, this week centres on pampered Pekingese, Tricki Woo, played as ever by canine actor Derek

 

22. Spitting Image: Christmas Special

Sketches include a skit of the John Lewis Christmas ad. ITV, 10pm

 

23. A Ghost Story For Christmas: The Mezzotint 

Christmas wouldn’t be the same without a creepy adaptation of an M. R. James ghost story. Rory Kinnear is a museum caretaker who spots a sinister figure…

BBC2, 10.30pm

 

 

Christmas Day

24. Superworm

The latest animated adaptation of a Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler book, Superworm is the charming story of a ‘superlong’ and ‘super-strong’ earthworm and his battle with the Wizard Lizard. BBC1, 2.30pm

 

25. Film: Mary Poppins Returns

As great as the 1964 original? Maybe not but this sequel is still delightful.

Emily Blunt (above) is the imperious, slightly scary supernatural nanny and the apparently immortal Dick Van Dyke also stars

Emily Blunt (above) is the imperious, slightly scary supernatural nanny and the apparently immortal Dick Van Dyke also stars

Emily Blunt is the imperious, slightly scary supernatural nanny. The apparently immortal Dick Van Dyke also stars. BBC1, 3.10pm

 

26. Quentin Blake: The Drawing Of My Life

The veteran artist (he turned 89 this year) tells the story of his life in words and pictures. And what a life – Blake has contributed to more than 500 books, not least many of the works of Roald Dahl. BBC2, 4.10pm

 

27. Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special

A tinsel-strewn spin around the dance floor, with Moira Stewart, Mel Giedroyc, Adrian Chiles and Jay Blades from The Repair Shop. BBC1, 5.10pm 

  

28. Morecambe & Wise Show 70: The Lost Tape

A festival of Eric & Ernie-themed crackers awaits. 

The 1971 Christmas Show is a familiar treat (it’s the classic with Glenda Jackson and André Previn) but it’s followed by a real gem – a restored and revamped lost recording (only discovered last year) that is getting its first outing since it was originally broadcast in 1970.

BBC2, 7.45pm, plus the 1971 Christmas Show, BBC2, 7pm and Behind The Scenes, BBC4, 8.35pm

 

29. Call The Midwife

Christmas TV weddings rarely go without a hitch (though often it’s the hitching itself that’s the problem) so don’t expect midwife Lucille’s union with Cyril to be a problemfree affair. Especially after her hen do leaves her battered and bruised… 

Expect drama and tears, but above all expect something heartwarming. BBC1, 8pm 

 

30. The Great Christmas Bake Off 2021

The cast of the hit drama It’s A Sin enter the tent for the first of this year’s two specials (a second follows on New Year’s Day).

Actors Olly Alexander (above), Lydia West, Nathaniel Curtis and Shaun Dooley are hoping for a Hollywood handshake in this festive special

Actors Olly Alexander (above), Lydia West, Nathaniel Curtis and Shaun Dooley are hoping for a Hollywood handshake in this festive special

Actors Olly Alexander, Lydia West, Nathaniel Curtis and Shaun Dooley are the quartet hoping for a Hollywood handshake as they jostle for the title of Christmas Star Baker.

Channel 4, 8pm

 

31. The Larkins At Christmas

Can Bradley Walsh’s Pop Larkin keep everything ‘perfick’ in his rural idyll this Christmas? 

It’s going to be tough as the raffish patriarch not only contends with a power cut, the arrival of Charlie’s uptight parents and a disastrous nativity play, but also has to try and track down the burglar causing chaos in the village… ITV, 9pm

 

32. Mrs Brown’s Boys

Love it or hate it, but Christmas doesn’t seem quite complete without a visit to the Irish mammy and her over-the-top sitcom family and friends.

The big news this year is that Agnes is desperate to secure herself a place on the church choir. After all, what could possibly go wrong? BBC1, 10.20pm

 

Boxing Day

33. Around The World In 80 Days

David Tennant is the perfect choice to don Phileas Fogg’s top hat in this spirited reworking of Jules Verne’s tale.

David Tennant (above) is the perfect choice to don Phileas Fogg’s top hat in this spirited reworking of Jules Verne’s tale

David Tennant (above) is the perfect choice to don Phileas Fogg’s top hat in this spirited reworking of Jules Verne’s tale

The eight episodes kick off with a double bill here which sees the indomitable English gentleman setting off to loop the globe with only his trusty manservant and an intrepid female reporter for company. BBC1, 5.50pm and 6.40pm

 

34. Death In Paradise Christmas Special

Ralf Little gets another Caribbean break on the Beeb’s dime as he stars as DI Neville Parker in a new mystery.

He’s not the only Brit actor getting a trip to the island of Saint-Marie, though: look out for Juliet Stevenson and Matthew Baynton too as the case of a murdered magnate at a Christmas party develops. BBC1, 7.30pm

 

35. A Very British Scandal

Paul Bettany and Claire Foy star as the Duke and Duchess of Argyle in this account of the real-life 1963 divorce case that rocked Britain’s aristocracy.

Shot through with accusations of forgery, theft, drugs, bribery, and violence, it’s a dark tale that unfolds in three parts over three nights. BBC1, 9pm

 

36. Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Christmas Fishing

One of the most welcome Christmas catches sees Paul Whitehouse and Bob Mortimer unpacking their fishing rods for an hour-long special.

One of the most welcome Christmas catches sees Paul Whitehouse and Bob Mortimer (above) unpacking their fishing rods for an hour-long special

One of the most welcome Christmas catches sees Paul Whitehouse and Bob Mortimer (above) unpacking their fishing rods for an hour-long special

The pair (along with guest star Paul Gascoigne) set off to the North of England for a stay in a stately home while they try to fulfil Paul’s lifelong dream of catching a salmon. BBC2, 9pm

 

37. Billy Connolly: My Absolute Pleasure

Scotland’s finest comedy export looks back on his life and career from the comfort of his Florida home.

Scotland’s finest comedy export Billy Connolly (above) looks back on his life and career from the comfort of his Florida home

Scotland’s finest comedy export Billy Connolly (above) looks back on his life and career from the comfort of his Florida home

It’s a bittersweet show (Connolly suffers from Parkinson’s Disease) but The Big Yin’s trademark sense of mischief is still strong. ITV, 9.30pm

 

 

Monday, December 27 

38. The Voice Kids

The Spice Girls’ Mel C joins the cast of judges as the talent show returns for three junior editions airing on consecutive nights.

The contestants may be little (they range in age from seven to 14), but their vocal talents certainly aren’t, with convincing renditions of songs by everyone from Elton John to Frankie Valli stunning the judges. ITV, 6.30pm

 

 

Tuesday, December 28

39. Worzel Gummidge: Twitchers

Mackenzie Crook makes a welcome return as the scarecrow in the first of two new adventures.

Mackenzie Crook (above) makes a welcome return as the scarecrow Worzel Gummidge in the first of two new adventures

Mackenzie Crook (above) makes a welcome return as the scarecrow Worzel Gummidge in the first of two new adventures

Tonight he has a chance to scare away some rare birds, but will he be able to do it without the crowds of birdwatchers pursuing him and spotting him in motion? BBC1, 7.15pm and Wed 29, 7.15pm  

 

40. Extraordinary Escapes At Christmas With Sandi Toksvig

The diminutive presenter heads north with a trio of famous female faces to enjoy all that Norway has to offer.

Cue a hunt for killer whales with scientist Maggie AderinPocock, encounters with wolves with Dragons’ Den’s Deborah Meaden and a trip up a mountain with actress Fay Ripley.

Brace yourself for Cold Feet gags during the last one… Channel 4, 8pm

41. Royal Institution Christmas Lectures

Broadcast on television every year since 1966, the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures are one of the great festive telly traditions, popularising science for generation after generation of viewers of all ages.

This year the UK’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam presents the trio of talks focusing on a topic that we’re all now fascinated with: viruses. BBC4, 8pm

 

42. A Play In A Day

Can three teams of performers create an original 15 minute-long theatrical production (which will include a dance piece, a musical and a drama) with only 24 hours in which to write, cast and rehearse the things?

It’s a tricky challenge for the mixed bands of newcomers and old hands, but watching them set about it is great fun. A treat for theatre lovers as well as fans of more conventional TV challenges. Sky Arts, 9.30pm 

Wednesday, December 29

43. A Star Is Born

The plot is a bit hackneyed – this is the fourth time Hollywood has had a stab at this tale – but the performances make this version sing.

Lady Gaga is great as the aspiring singer discovered working as a waitress by Bradley Cooper’s (above, with Gaga) fading rock star

Lady Gaga is great as the aspiring singer discovered working as a waitress by Bradley Cooper’s (above, with Gaga) fading rock star

Lady Gaga is great as the aspiring singer discovered working as a waitress by Bradley Cooper’s fading rock star, and the chemistry between the pair is positively electrifying. BBC1, 9pm

 

 

Thursday, December 30

44. Attenborough And The Mammoth Graveyard

When amateur fossil hunters discovered a mammoth bone in the mud of a quarry near Swindon, they triggered a search for answers that dug deep into Britain’s prehistoric past.

David Attenborough joins the quest tonight, wondering just what the giant pachyderms, thought to have gone extinct about 4,000 years ago, were doing here and whether it’s possible that early humans killed them. BBC1, 8pm  

 

45. Judy

Renée Zellweger goes all the way over the rainbow with an Oscar-winning performance as Judy Garland in her later days, struggling with bad health, the ravages of substance abuse and her own self-destructive nature as she attempts to get her career back on track via a string of performances in London. BBC2, 9pm      

Renée Zellweger (above) goes all the way over the rainbow with an Oscar-winning performance as Judy Garland in her later days

Renée Zellweger (above) goes all the way over the rainbow with an Oscar-winning performance as Judy Garland in her later days

 

 

New Year’s Eve

46. Jools’ Annual Hootenanny

Ed Sheeran, Gregory Porter and Lulu are among the guests singing in the New Year as Jools Holland’s extravaganza marks its 28th year. Expect predictions for 2022 from Vic Reeves and lashings of boogie-woogie piano from Jools. BBC2, 11.25pm

 

New Year’s Day

47. Doctor Who

The Daleks make yet another festive reappearance. Are the Doctor and her friends (plus guest star Aisling Bea) going to be able to escape from a deadly Groundhog Day-esque time loop and avoid extermination? BBC1, 7pm

The Daleks make yet another festive reappearance, but can the Doctor (above, centre) and her friends (plus guest star Aisling Bea, above, right) avoid extermination?

The Daleks make yet another festive reappearance, but can the Doctor (above, centre) and her friends (plus guest star Aisling Bea, above, right) avoid extermination?

 

48. The Masked Singer

Rockhopper, Robobunny, Bagpipes, Traffic Cone, Poodle, Lionfish and Doughnuts are just some of the fantastical costumes concealing household names as a new series of the singing challenge begins.

Rockhopper, Robobunny, Bagpipes, Traffic Cone (above), Poodle, Lionfish and Doughnuts are just some of the fantastical costumes concealing household names

Rockhopper, Robobunny, Bagpipes, Traffic Cone (above), Poodle, Lionfish and Doughnuts are just some of the fantastical costumes concealing household names

Fans desperate for more anonymous crooning action won’t have to wait long – Episode Two follows on January 2. ITV, 7pm

 

49. Downton Abbey

After six series of upstairs and downstairs up and downs, the folk of the Yorkshire country estate returned in movie form.

With a visit from King George V and Queen Mary on the cards, can Lord Grantham and his family (and their inestimable serving staff, of course) maintain their sang froid? ITV, 7pm

 

50. The Tourist

After being run off an outback road by a giant truck, a man (played by The Fall’s Jamie Dornan) wakes up in hospital with no memory of who he is or what he’s doing in Australia.

He’d better find answers fast as shady figures begin chasing him in this opener for a sixpart thriller series… BBC1, 9pm 

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