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Christmas: drama and documentary

Christmas: drama and documentary

Here are the best programmes to watch on TV this Christmas. You’ll probably need until at least the middle of January 2021 to watch them all…

 

Doctor Who: Revolution Of The Daleks


That’s right – the Daleks are back with a vengeance! But how can you fight the Daleks without the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker)? She’s locked up in a high-security alien prison, leaving Yaz (Mandip Gill), Ryan (Tosin Cole) and Graham (Bradley Walsh) on Earth to fend for themselves. John Barrowman also makes a very welcome return as Captain Jack Harkness!
 

When can I watch it and on what channel?
Doctor Who: Revolution Of The Daleks will air on BBC One HD (CH 101/108) on New Year’s Day at 6.45pm.
 

Call The Midwife


We join the midwives in December 1965, with Sister Monica Joan (Judy Parfitt) being rushed to hospital and Trixie (Helen George) receiving a subscription to a Marriage Bureau as a Christmas gift (groan). Ex-Doctor Who star Peter Davison guest stars as the ringmaster of a circus that arrives in Poplar.

 

When can I watch it and on what channel?
Call the Midwife will air on BBC One HD (CH 101/108) on Christmas Day at 7.40pm.
 

All Creatures Great And Small

On Christmas Eve, Helen Aldereson (Rachel Shenton) and Hugh Hulton (Matthew Lewis) are preparing for their wedding the following day. James Herriot (Nicholas Ralph) attempts to hide his heartbreak and has invited his new girlfriend to the annual Skeldale Christmas party, which is interrupted when James receives a call to help a dog give birth.
 

When can I watch it and on what channel?
All Creatures Great And Small will air on Channel 5 HD (CH 105) on Tuesday 22 December at 9pm.
 

EastEnders, Holby City, Coronation Street, Emmerdale and Hollyoaks


The soaps never disappoint at Christmas – whether it’s a massive family bust-up, a tragedy or an educational plot point, there will be action and drama planned for the festivities. One of the reasons we love ’em is they make our own family gatherings look like a walk in the park in comparison!

 

Coronation Street, the world’s longest-running soap, which has aired more than 10,000 episodes, celebrates a very special birthday this year, the big 6-0. Writer Tony Warren’s creation debuted on ITV on December 9, 1960, and audiences have been hooked ever since (on average, seven million people in the UK tune in per episode). 

 

When can I watch them and on what channel?


EastEnders
 will air on BBC One HD (CH 101/108) throughout December.
 

Holby City will air on BBC One HD (CH 101/108) throughout December.
 

Coronation Street will air on ITV HD (CH 103/113) throughout December.
 

Emmerdale will air on ITV HD (CH 103/113) throughout December.

 

Hollyoaks will air on Channel 4 HD (CH 104/141) throughout December.
 

His Dark Materials


The epic finale of the second series kicks off this Christmas. Based on Phillip Pullman’s book The Subtle Knife, the storyline follows Lyra Belacqua (Dafne Keen) as she explores the world of Dust, while accompanied by her new travel buddy Will Parry (Amir Wilson, The Letter For The King). Revisit our series 1 interviews here


When can I watch it and on what channel?

His Dark Materials will air on BBC One HD (CH 101/108) on Sunday 20 December at 7.10pm.
 

Black Narcissus


In 1934, young nun Sister Clodagh (Gemma Arterton, Quantum Of Solace) leads a mission to a remote part of the Himalayas. A palace there called the House of Women holds terrible memories, with more set to be made.
 

When can I watch it and on what channel?

Black Narcissus will air on BBC One HD (CH 101/108) on Sunday 27 December at 9pm.
 

The Serpent

Inspired by real events, the eight-part drama tells the story of how Charles Sobhraj (Tahar Rahim) was captured. He was the chief suspect in the unsolved murders of young Western travellers across India, Thailand and Nepal’s “Hippie Trail” in 1975 and 1976. Jenna Coleman (The Cry), Billy Howle (On Chesil Beach) and Ellie Bamber (Nocturnal Animals) also star.

When can I watch it and on what channel?

The Serpent will air on BBC One HD (CH 101/108) on New Year’s Day at 9pm.
 

Uncle Vanya

Uncle Vanya, starring Toby Jones, Richard Armitage, Roger Allam and Rosalind Eleazar, opened to five-star reviews in January 2020, but performances had to be halted in March due to the pandemic. In this special version of the stage show, produced during lockdown and filmed without an audience, you can enjoy the magic from home. With a storyline that follows a family living together on an isolated estate, this adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s work couldn’t be more timely.

When can I watch it and on what channel?

Uncle Vanya will air on BBC Four HD (CH 107) on Wednesday 30 December at 10pm.

National Theatre Live: Twelfth Night and Jane Eyre

Enjoy two productions from the National Theatre, including Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, featuring Tamsin Greig as Malvolia, a female version of Malvolio; and Jane Eyre, a brilliant rendition of Charlotte Brontë’s novel.
 

When can I watch them and on what channel?
 

Twelfth Night will air on Sky Arts HD (CH 156) on Monday 21 December at 9pm.
 

Jane Eyre will air on Sky Arts HD (CH 156) on Monday 28 December at 9pm.
 

 

 

Winter’s Hidden Wonders

Discover the impact of plummeting temperatures on wildlife across Europe, Asia and America as they adapt to low temperatures in unforgiving landscapes. It features some very furry animals, who rely on their coats for warmth.
 

When can I watch it and on what channel?
Winter’s Hidden Wonders will air on National Geographic WILD HD (CH 265) on Sunday 20 December at 6pm. 
 

A Baby Reindeer’s First Christmas

Did you know that the UK’s only reindeer herd is located in the Cairngorms mountain range in Scotland? Meet the herders, who prepare a young group of reindeer for their first Christmas events.
 

When can I watch it and on what channel?

A Baby Reindeer’s First Christmas will air on Channel 4 HD (CH 104/141) on Christmas Eve at 6.40pm.
 

The Last Woman On Earth With Sara Pascoe

Each week, the comedian and writer travels to a different country to meet the last people doing dying crafts and jobs. They include a polyphonic singer, a forest cleaner and a cigar factory reader. Nope, we don’t entirely know what they mean either, which is why you have to tune in!
 

When can I watch it and on what channel?

The Last Woman On Earth With Sara Pascoe will air on BBC Two HD (CH 102) on Sunday 27 December at 9pm.
 

Stephen Fry’s 21st Century Firsts

As this century approaches its 21st birthday, join Stephen Fry as he looks back on the advances we’ve seen for the first time since the start of the millennium. These include technological developments, cultural and political events, and, of course, the social media revolution.
 

When can I watch it and on what channel?
Stephen Fry’s 21st Century Firsts will air on ITV HD (CH 103/113) on Wednesday 30 December at 8.30pm.
 

The Story Of SM:TV Live

Ant and Dec and Cat Deeley take a trip down memory lane as they reunite and reminisce about the Saturday morning kids show.
 

When can I watch it and on what channel?
The Story Of SM:TV Live will air on ITV HD (CH 103/113) on Boxing Day at 9.25am.
 

The Christmas Misadventures Of Romesh Ranganathan


Romesh Ranganathan heads to the Hebrides and spends a week visiting the Scottish Islands of Skye, Harris and Lewis, with local man Donald MacSween as his guide.
 

When can I watch it and on what channel?

The Christmas Misadventures Of Romesh Ranganathan will air on BBC Two HD (CH 102) on Thursday 17 December at 11.30pm.
 

Marcus Rashford: Feeding Britain’s Children

The 23-year-old England and Manchester United striker campaigns to raise awareness of the effects of child food poverty in the UK. He recently encouraged the government to announce their £400m winter grant scheme to support around 1.4 million children in England. In this intimate documentary, learn about his own experiences of going without food as a child and hear from those close to him, including his mum and brothers, as well as families affected by the issue.
 

When can I watch it and on what channel?

Marcus Rashford: Feeding Britain’s Children will air on BBC One HD (CH 101/108) on Monday 21 December at 7pm.
 

The Savoy At Christmas


The illustrious hotel opens its doors for the busiest time of the year. It’s fully booked and The Savoy Grill’s executive head chef Ben is expected to serve up 4,500 dishes on Christmas Day. Take a behind-the-scenes look at the bustling inner workings of the luxury establishment.
 

When can I watch it and on what channel?
The Savoy At Christmas will air on ITV HD (CH 103/113) on Thursday 17 December at 9pm.
 

The Nine Lives Of Ozzy Osbourne

The Nine Lives Of Ozzy Osbourne follows the rock ’n’ roll icon’s journey, from his poor upbringing and time spent in prison, to fronting metal band Black Sabbath and his successful solo career. Hear from Ozzy’s fans, as well as from the man himself, who, like a cat, seems to have nine lives and is constantly reinventing himself.
 

When can I watch it and on what channel?

The Nine Lives Of Ozzy Osbourne will air on BBC Two HD (CH 102) on Wednesday 30 December at 10pm.
 

Celebrity: A 21st Century Story

Hear from actual celebrities and the people pulling the strings behind the scenes in the fame game in this four-part history series. There’s no denying celebrity culture has exploded over the last two decades and that the public’s obsession with it impacts what we read and watch, and even who we vote for.
 

When can I watch it and on what channel?

Celebrity: A 21st Century Story will air on BBC Two HD (CH 102) on Tuesday 29 December at 9pm.
 

Gordon, Gino And Fred: Desperately Seeking Santa


Gordon Ramsay, Gino D'Acampo and Fred Sirieix go road tripping in an RV to Lapland, where they meet Father Christmas and eat (children, look away now)… reindeer meat. As well as the culinary delights on offer, the trio also try out ice swimming, saunas and snowmobiles!
 

When can I watch it and on what channel?
Gordon, Gino And Fred: Desperately Seeking Santa will air on ITV HD (CH 103/113) on Wednesday 16 December at 9pm.
 

Remarkable Places To Eat

We like the sound of this already! Add First Dates’ Fred Sirieix into the mix and we’re sold! Fred visits Bristol to meet his old friend and former boss Michel Roux Junior. Bristol packs a big bite as Michel shows what it has to offer, including an award-winning restaurant attached to one of Britain’s oldest lidos.
 

When can I watch it and on what channel?

Remarkable Places To Eat will air on BBC Two HD (CH 102) on Christmas Eve at 6.45pm.
 

The Magical World Of Julia Donaldson

Celebrate the life and work of one of Britain’s best-selling children’s authors, with animated illustrations from her long-term illustrator Axel Scheffler and contributions from her well-known admirers and collaborators. This Christmas on the BBC, you can also check out the animated adaptation of her book Zog And The Flying Doctors.
 

When can I watch it and on what channel?

The Magical World Of Julia Donaldson will air on BBC Two HD (CH 102) on Wednesday 23 December at 7.30pm.
 

Billy Connolly: It’s Been A Pleasure

As Sir Billy Connolly has announced his retirement from live stand-up, this hour-long special looks back at his comedy career over the years. Enjoy never-before-seen footage and hear from some of Connolly’s biggest celebrity fans, including Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Elton John, Sir Lenny Henry, Whoopi Goldberg and Sheridan Smith.
 

When can I watch it and on what channel?
Billy Connolly: It’s Been A Pleasure will air on ITV HD (CH 103/113) on Monday 28 December at 9.30pm.

 

Secrets Of The Apollo

Celebrate 16 years of Live At The Apollo with stand-up stars who have played at the iconic Hammersmith Apollo venue. They reveal the tricks of the trade, from how they choose their material, to how they decide what to wear.
 

When can I watch it and on what channel?

Secrets Of The Apollo will air on BBC Two HD (CH 102) on Monday 28 December at 10.20pm.
 

Michael Palin’s Himalaya: Journey Of A Lifetime

Michael Palin, who is known for going around the world in 80 days, reflects on the adventures and excursions we’ve loved living vicariously through. He revisits one of his most incredible and challenging journeys – his six-month trip around the Himalaya mountain range in 2004.
 

When can I watch it and on what channel?

Michael Palin’s Himalaya: Journey Of A Lifetime will air on BBC Two HD (CH 102) on Sunday 20 December at 8pm.
 

Devon And Cornwall At Christmas

As tourists head home from these popular holiday spots, follow the people who live and work in Devon and Cornwall as they prepare for an idyllic Christmas.
 

When can I watch it and on what channel?

Devon And Cornwall At Christmas will air on Channel 4 HD (CH 104/141) on Sunday 20 December at 9pm.
 

Christmas At Warwick Castle

Celebrate Christmas at one of the UK’s grandest castles as it turns into a winter wonderland. Gain behind-the-scenes access to the medieval site, which was built on the order of William the Conqueror back in 1068.
 

When can I watch it and on what channel?

Christmas At Warwick Castle will air on Channel 4 HD (CH 104/141) on Tuesday 22 December at 9pm.
 

The Supervet At Christmas

Miracle-worker professor Noel Fitzpatrick and his team work incredibly hard to make sure their animal patients are home and well in time for the festivities. Stars Will Young and Yasmin Le Bon visit Fitzpatrick Referrals with their pets, hoping Noel can work his magic.
 

When can I watch it and on what channel?

The Supervet At Christmas will air on Channel 4 HD (CH 104/141) on Sunday 27 December at 8pm. 
 

The Yorkshire Vet

The chilly winter months can be difficult for farmers and their animals, as illustrated by a herd of cows struggling with pneumonia. There is a Christmas miracle, however, as Jean and Steve Green provide a home for an abandoned kitten.
 

When can I watch it and on what channel?
The Yorkshire Vet will air on Channel 5 HD (CH 105) on Tuesday 22 December at 8pm.
 

Queens Of The Street

To celebrate the soap’s 60th anniversary, this special puts a spotlight on the fierce females that are a huge part of Corrie’s framework. We expect mention of the characters Elsie Tanner, Bet Lynch, Blanche Hunt, Vera Duckworth and Liz McDonald, plus many more! Relive classic clips on the cobbles – and give a big shout-out to the incredible actors who have brought these women to life.
 

When can I watch it and on what channel?
Queens Of The Street will air on ITV HD (CH 103/113) on Wednesday 9 December at 9pm.
 

Eddie Eats Christmas

Make sure you watch this four-part series on a full stomach! Former strongest man in the world, Eddie Hall, who stands at 6ft 3in and weighs 26st, eats his way through traditional Christmas foods from various UK communities, which includes a three-kilo naan bread challenge!
 

When can I watch it and on what channel?
Eddie Eats Christmas will air on Dave/HD (CH 127/227) on Christmas Eve at 8.20am.
 

Animal Park

Ben Fogle and Kate Humble present from the Longleat Estate and Safari Park in Wiltshire, which is home to giraffes, lions, flamingos and more! Hear from the keepers and allow the aww-worthy animals to put a smile on your face.
 

When can I watch it and on what channel?
Animal Park will air on BBC One HD (CH 101/108) on Monday 14 December at 11am.
 

Jennifer Saunders’ Memory Lane

Jennifer Saunders is the latest to get in on the popular “celebrities in cars” trend with this new show. Michael Sheen joins her in the passenger seat of a classic Jaguar E-type (in a dashing red). Saunders is essentially Sheen’s chauffeur as they visit the people and places that have shaped him and his career.
 

When can I watch it and on what channel?
Jennifer Saunders’ Memory Lane will air on ITV/HD (CH 103/113) on Wednesday 23 December at 9pm.

 

Micky Flanagan: Peeping Behind The Curtain

Go behind-the-scenes on Micky Flanagan’s An’ Another Fing tour, which reached more than 600,000 people across the UK and Ireland in 2017. Learn about the man behind the mouth in this doc that explains how he went from performing in East End pubs to selling out the O2 Arena.
 

When can I watch it and on what channel?
Micky Flanagan: Peeping Behind The Curtain will air on Sky One/HD (CH 110/109) on Friday 18 December at 9pm.
 

Meerkat: A Dynasties Special

Sir David Attenborough narrates this story that follows a young meerkat queen called Maghogho. She must survive and raise her pups in the incredibly hot and dry Makagikadi salt pans in Botswana, patiently waiting for the rain. 
 

When can I watch it and on what channel?

Meerkat: A Dynasties Special will air on BBC One HD (CH 101/108) on Monday 28 December at 7.30pm.
 

Penguins: Meet The Family


You might think you know everything about penguins, but did you know there are 18 different species? Liz Bonnin narrates as we learn all about their different habitats (from harsh deserts – yes, deserts! – to city streets), family dynamics, challenges and adaptations.
 

When can I watch it and on what channel?

Penguins: Meet The Family will air on BBC One HD (CH 101/108) on Tuesday 29 December at 6.30pm.
 

Victoria Wood: The Secret List

After Victoria Wood’s death, a list of her top 20 sketches was found in one of her notebooks. In honour of the comedian, this two-part programme counts down her personal favourite moments from her television shows. 
 

When can I watch them and on what channel?

Victoria Wood: The Secret List will air on BBC Two HD (CH 102) on Christmas Day at 9.10pm.
 

Cheetah Family & Me

Wildlife cameraman Gordon Buchanan captures a family of wild cheetahs in South Africa on camera for an intimate glimpse into their lives in the Kalahari wilderness.

When can I watch it and on what channel?

Cheetah Family & Me will air on BBC Two HD (CH 102) on Tuesday 5 January at 9pm.
 

Jealous Guy: The Assassination Of John Lennon

To commemorate the 40th anniversary of John Lennon’s death, discover the strange parallels between him and his killer Mark David Chapman and how they came to meet in 1980. Also learn about Lennon’s life, career and the powerful nature of his celebrity status.
 

When can I watch it and on what channel?

Jealous Guy: The Assassination Of John Lennon will air on Sky Documentaries HD (CH 277) on Monday 21 December at 9pm.
 

A Very Country Christmas

Cotswold farmer Ellie Harrison and broadcaster Angellica Bell celebrate North Eastern, Cornish and Highland Christmases as they experience local customs, cultures and traditions across Britain.

When can I watch it and on what channel?
A Very Country Christmas will air on BBC Two HD (CH 102) on Monday 21 December at 4.15pm.

Barenboim On Beethoven: The Lost Tapes

In 1970, to mark the 200th anniversary of Ludwig van Beethoven’s birth, conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim recorded 13 episodes about the man and his music at London’s Roundhouse Theatre. This two-hour compilation includes some of the best moments, while the full 13 episodes (which have never been broadcast in the UK before) can be viewed on More4 after the film. Barenboim plays extracts at the piano and discusses the late, great composer’s compositions.
 

When can I watch them and on what channel?
 

Barenboim On Beethoven: The Lost Tapes will air on Channel 4 HD (CH 104/141) on Saturday 19 December at 6.30pm.
 

Barenboim On Beethoven episodes 1-13 will air on More4/HD (CH 147/195) on Saturday 19 December at 8.20pm.
 

Being Bridget Jones

This year marks the 25th anniversary of our introduction to author Helen Fielding’s eternally single, eternally relatable Bridget Jones. The film explores how Bridget’s story reflects changing attitudes to women and how their stories are told. It features interviews with Fielding, the friends who inspired the original characters and celebrity fans.
 

When can I watch it and on what channel?

Being Bridget Jones will air on BBC Two HD (CH 102) on Tuesday 22 December at 9pm.
 

Britain’s Best Selling Toys

Keith Lemon presents a countdown of the most memorable Christmas must-haves, big crazes and mega-sellers from the 1970s to the modern day. Explore the heritage and design of Britain’s best-loved toys, while hearing from famous faces, social historians, psychologists, toy designers and advertising gurus.
 

When can I watch it and on what channel?

Britain’s Best Selling Toys will air on Channel 4 HD (CH 104/141) on New Year’s Eve at 7pm.
 

The Rolling Stones: Sticky Fingers Live At The Fonda Theatre

In May 2015, at the Fonda Theatre in Hollywood, California, The Rolling Stones performed the entire Sticky Fingers album for the first and only time in their entire career. Relive the magic and rock out at home.
 

When can I watch it and on what channel?
The Rolling Stones: Sticky Fingers Live At The Fonda Theatre will air on Virgin TV Ultra HD (CH 999) on New Year’s Eve at 10.30pm.

Pearl Jam: Let’s Play Two

Who said you had to choose between your favourite band and your favourite baseball team? Pearl Jam’s lead singer Eddie Vedder is from Chicago, Illinois, so performing at the Wrigley Field in Chicago, the home of the Chicago Cubs baseball team, took on an even greater significance during the band’s 2016 tour. Watch live performances, interviews with the band and clips from the Cubs’ title-winning run.
 

When can I watch it and on what channel?

Pearl Jam: Let’s Play Two will air on Virgin TV Ultra HD (CH 999) on New Year’s Eve at 8.30pm.

 

McQueen: The Lost Film

Hollywood icon Steve McQueen, who passed away when he was 50, would have been 90 in 2020. The Great Escape star featured in a film from the mid-1960s that was never completed, with all materials from it believed to have been lost or destroyed. Uncover the full behind-the-screens story in this documentary.
 

When can I watch it and on what channel?

McQueen: The Lost Film will air on Sky Documentaries HD (CH 277) on New Year’s Day at 9pm. 
 

Chitty Flies Again With David Walliams

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of musical film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, die-hard fan David Walliams will be attempting to build a real-life version of the magical car. With the help of aircraft engineer Tony Hoskins and some eight-year-old primary school children, Walliams wants to make Chitty fly! Move over Rudolph…
 

When can I watch it and on what channel?
Chitty Flies Again With David Walliams will air on Channel 4 HD (CH 104/141) on New Year’s Day at 7.30pm.
 

Back To The 80s With Lenny Henry

This Back To The… series celebrates four decades of Channel 4, examining the shows that made TV history and which ones didn’t quite hit the mark. Lenny Henry kicks things off with the 80s, when Channel 4 launched in November 1982. Across five episodes, look back on iconic shows, including The Tube, Father Ted, Big Brother, Skins, One Born Every Minute, Gogglebox, This Is England and Chewing Gum.
 

When can I watch them and on what channel?
 

Back To The 80s With Lenny Henry will air on Channel 4 HD (CH 104/141) on Sunday 27 December at 9pm.
 

Back To The 90s With Vic Reeves will air on Channel 4 HD (CH 104/141) on Monday 28 December at 9pm. 
 

Back To The Noughties With Davina McCall will air on Channel 4 HD (CH 104/141) on Tuesday 29 December at 10pm. 
 

Back To The 2010s With Jimmy Carr  will air on Channel 4 HD (CH 104/141) on Wednesday 30 December at 10pm.
 


Let’s do Christmas

Count down to Christmas with prizes to be won every day, plus all your TV listings and tips on what to watch and play!

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TV channels: Channels, content and features available depend on your chosen package. Channel line-ups and content are subject to change at any time and to regional variations.

HD: HD TV set, V HD Box, TiVo box or Virgin TV V6 connected with HDMI cables required for HD channels. Number of inclusive HD channels depends on package.

Catch Up TV: Catch Up TV content available for up to 7 days or up to 30 days after broadcast, depending on content.

ITV HD is subject to regional variation. ITV HD is not available where STV HD or UTV HD is available.

Image credits: 

Doctor Who ©  BBC / James Pardon

Call The Midwife © Nealstreet Productions / Laura Radford

His Dark Materials © Bad Wolf / Simon Ridgway

Black Narcissus © FX Productions / Pari Dukovic

The Misadventures of Romesh Ranganathan © Rumpus Media Ltd

Penguins: Meet The Family © Shutterstock / Samantha Crimmin 

A Very Country Christmas © Tern TV

Last Woman On Earth With Sara Pascoe © Talkback / Freemantle