Here's What Is On Television This Christmas
A special edition of “Worth Watching”
Welcome to your Worth Watching email.
We’re in the early days of the biggest month of the year for television and streaming. Why? Because of Christmas!
However, we’re at the quieter end of the month when there are less shows to shout about. So in a Worth Watching special, here’s what you have got to look forward on all of the major broadcasters and streamers between now and the end of the year.
If you find this email useful and you fancy it fresh in your inbox each and every week, subscribe to the newsletter below by simply on clicking on the link below. The newsletter is usually £3.50 a month (or £35 a year) but for the next few weeks you can subscribe for 20% off.
Sarah Phelps, the mastermind behind those dark Agatha Christie television adaptations usually on between Christmas and New Year, is penning A Very British Scandal. The drama, starring Claire Foy (above), explores the divorce between the Duke and Duchess of Argyll and its subsequent media frenzy.
Recognise the name? It is the next in the Scandal anthology, the first of which was A Very English Scandal in 2018. That one was written by Russell T Davies and starred both Hugh Grant and Ben Whishaw.
Ghosts, the sitcom by the Horrible Histories lot, is also coming back for another Christmas Special. Their last special was one of Xmas highlights of 2020.
For the little ones … on Christmas Day there’s Superworm, the latest adaptation of the Julia Donaldson books. There are also two new episodes of Worzel Gummidge. Paddington 2 is also being shown again, along with the linear television debut of Mary Poppins Returns.
Plus, a new Shaun the Sheep by those people at Aardman. You may have already seen Shaun and his friends pop up in the new BBC One Christmas idents.
As for Christmas Day, it’s a very traditional schedule, very much in keeping with previous years. There’s a Strictly special (featuring Moira Stuart and Mel from Mel and Sue). It is then an episode of Michael McIntyre’s The Wheel, followed by Blankety Blank, Call the Midwife, EastEnders and Mrs Brown’s Boys.
On Boxing Day David Tennant, Ibrahim Koma and Leonie Benesch star in a new adaptation of Around the World in 80 Days. Episodes are airing in double bills. Usually, double bills in the schedules suggests that the channel doesn’t have much confidence in it and want it out of the way (but I haven’t been able to see a preview copy yet, so I won’t be able to tell if that is the case.)
Other drama highlights include David Oyelowo, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Jessica Plummer in a psychological thriller The Girl Before (22nd December) and The Tourist starring Jamie Dornan, the latter which continues into the New Year. There’s also a special of Death in Paradise.
Plus… Sewing Bee and The Repair Shop are back for specials, Romesh Ranganathan presents his first episodes of The Weakest Link and there’s two celebrity MasterChef specials. There’s also two Attenborough films about the natural world.
Relax. Both University Challenge and Only Connect are coming back with festive specials. There’s ten University Challenge specials and four Only Connect specials, one of which is a ‘Champion of Champion’ specials.
There’s also Mortimer and Whitehouse: Gone Fishing (above) on Boxing Day. A lost tape of The Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show 1970 will be shown on Christmas Day, alongside a profile of the illustrator Quentin Blake.
Mark Gatiss has also adapted the spooky M.R. James short story The Mezzotint, airing on Christmas Eve. There’s also a Comic Relief Pantomine, a special QI and a special of the Scottish comedy Two Doors Down.
Plus, there’s three Gardeners’ World specials over the Christmas period too.
Billy Connolly: An Absolute Pleasure, airing on Boxing Day, will provide an exploration of his remarkable career. There’s also The Larkins and something called The Masked Singer Singalong (personally, this show sounds like hell.)
There’s Christmas Day editions of GMB, Lorraine and This Morning.
There’s a lot of emphasis on family friendly quiz shows throughout the primetime schedule, as well as a new primetime kids series of The Voice.
ITV have announced that for the first time, you’ll be able to watch many of the shows that are airing later that day on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day from the morning on the ITV Hub. (The only issue is that you’ll have to use the ITV Hub on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.)
Channel 4 have a competitive snow building show called The Greatest Snowman (yes, really). It will air on Christmas Eve at 8pm.
The cast of It’s A Sin (minus Colin) will be in a Xmas Bake Off special. The people competing are Olly Alexander (Ritchie in the Russell T. Davies drama), Nathaniel Curtis (Ash), Shaun Dooley (Clive) and Lydia West (Jill).
There’s also going to be a traditional Festive Bake Off episode too, featuring ex-contestants. It’ll feature Kim-Joy and Jon from series nine, as well as Hermine and Rowan from series eleven (If you can remember, Rowan was the one who managed to down a whole mug of tea at the start of a technical challenge.)
Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York will be shown on Channel 4. There’s also Gogglebox (obviously), Last Leg, an animated version of a creation by Terry Pratchett called The Abominable Snow Baby.
Joe Lycett is involved in a festive show celebrating the very best of LGBTQ+ culture. He’s also presenting his first Travel Man episode, taking over from Richard Ayoade. The first episode will be in Iceland.
If nothing else is tempting you, you could head to All 4. They have the streaming rights of every episode of Frasier right now. Previously you could only watch in the mornings on Channel 4 or for £1.89 an episode on Amazon.
Here is how the Channel 4 schedule is shaping up for Christmas Day! (Note – The Snowman is airing on Christmas Eve as well as Christmas Day, in case you are worried that it isn’t airing in its traditional Christmas Eve slot.)
Oh and Jon Snow is standing down as presenter of Channel 4 News on the 23rd December, so expect a tribute or two. I bet he knows nothing about them.
Channel 5 and other channels:
All Creatures Great and Small is airing on Christmas Eve. My Mum is happy. There’s also Christmas Cruising with Susan Calman.
Meanwhile, BBC Four is doing a tribute to Stephen Sondheim with a whole night of special programme, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam is presenting the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures this year. The channel has also come up with this *genius* bit of scheduling.
BBC Four is also airing a look back on previous Christmas telly offerings in What We Were Watching on the 20th December.
What about on Netflix etc?
A new Aardman film, called Robin Robin is already available to watch on Netflix. It starts Richard E Grant as a bird and Gillian Anderson as a cat.
On Netflix Emily in Paris season two debuts on the 22nd December. They also have an all-star apocalyptic film called Don’t Look Up debuting on Christmas Eve.
A new Harlan Coben adaptation, Stay Close, debuts on the 31st December, along with a new Charlie Brooker Death to 2021 special.
On Disney+ there’s the new Star Wars series The Book of Boba Fett, which is out from the 29th December.
And listen on Must Watch:
We’ll be on every Monday throughout the Christmas period, with reviews of many of these programme featured in this newsletter. We’ll also be ranking out favourite shows of 2021 (you can read some of my picks in the latest Sight and Sound magazine).
Two Must Watch episodes have been out since the last edition of the newsletter. We had Kevin McCloud on to talk about his Homes of the Year show and Jack Throne and Katie Player came on to talk about improving disability representation and accessibility on television.
[Note to subscribers: future editions of this newsletter will include listings of when some of your favourite shows are on this Christmas.]
Thanks for reading,
Scotty / @scottygb