It’s time to fire up the festivities and turn the carols up to 11, because this year’s Christmas TV is the gift that keeps on giving
2018 Christmas Specials
You’ve had your decorations up since mid-November. The work night out is already a distant memory. You know Mariah Carey better than your own family. And your Christmas tree has been reduced to a ragged stump due to repeat maulings by your cat.
But none of that matters now, because Christmas. Is. Finally. Here! That means Santa has got his boots on, carrots are being laid out for the reindeer and TV schedules are stuffed with so much phenomenal programming you won’t need to leave the house (at least, until the food runs out).
So pull on that festive jumper and prepare to jingle all the way with these cracking Christmas TV specials over the holiday period.
Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special
Christmas Day, 5.30pm, BBC One HD (CH 101/108). Also available for 30 days in Catch Up > Channels > BBC iPlayer
Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without the Strictly glitter bauble. And if you think that pun is bad, you probably won’t find much to enjoy here. But for everyone else, Caroline Flack, Aston Merrygold, Jake Wood, Ann Widdecombe, Anita Rani and Michael Vaughan all return to the dancefloor in a bid to be crowned Christmas champion. The perfect remedy for that post-turkey bloat.
Michael McIntyre’s Big Show – Christmas Special
Christmas Day, 6.45pm, BBC One HD (CH 101/108). Also available for 30 days in Catch Up > Channels > BBC iPlayer
Cheeky chappy Michael McIntyre is back again this year for a festive special of his Big Show series. Expect surprises, lots of laughs and probably a couple of bittersweet moments to keep the whole family entertained. Filmed live at the Theatre Royal in London, this is one tasty selection box of banter you should definitely sink your teeth into.
Call The Midwife – Christmas Special
Christmas Day, 7.45pm, BBC One HD (CH 101/108). Also available for 30 days in Catch Up > Channels > BBC iPlayer
In what is fast becoming a Christmas TV tradition, the Call The Midwife crew are kicking off their new season with a Christmas special for the seventh year running. Nonnatus House is going to be full for the festive period with four orphans arriving alongside three new nuns and the return of Nurse Trixie Franklin (Helen George). It’s going to be cramped at the dinner table!
The Great Christmas Bake Off
Christmas Day, 8pm, Channel 4/HD (CH 104/141). Also available for 7 days in Catch Up > Channels > All 4
What could be better after consuming 10,000 calories than watching a TV show about all things cake? Britain’s most-loved show is back for Christmas Day and New Year Day specials (The Great New Year’s Bake Off is on New Year’s Day at 7.40pm). Plenty of your favourite bakers will return to the tent, and if you’re lucky, judge Prue Leith will have already tweeted the result by the time you read this.
Mrs Brown’s Boys
Christmas Day, 10.15pm, BBC One HD (CH 101/108). Also available for 30 days in Catch Up > Channels > BBC iPlayer
The hugely popular sitcom returns to BBC One with two specials. On Christmas Day, “Exotic Mammy” sees Agnes keen to enter a Christmas decoration contest to support the local football team, while she offers Winnie and Sharon a place to stay after their water pipes burst in “Mammy’s Motel”, showing at 10pm on New Year’s Day.
Alan Carr’s Christmas Cracker
Christmas Day, 10.15pm, Channel 4/HD (CH 104/141). Also available for 7 days in Catch Up > Channels > All 4
An Alan hosting a Christmas special in a faux lodge? Now, that sounds familiar… however the only Partridge you’ll find here will probably be plastic and sat atop a pear tree. This Christmas Day party in an Alpine-style retreat features a gaggle of big-name guests, including Channing Tatum, Lily Allen, Russell Howard and both Danny and Dani Dyer. If you think you’ve had too much bucks fizz, you’ll have nothing on this lot.
Episode 1, Saturday 22 December, 7pm + episode 2, Sunday 23 December, 7.20pm, BBC One HD (CH 101/108). Also available for 30 days in Catch Up > Channels > BBC iPlayer
If you thought David Attenborough’s latest documentary series, Dynasties, was harrowing – you clearly never saw (or have repressed the memory of seeing) the original adaptation of Watership Down. This new version of the tale, which follows a band of rabbits fleeing the destruction of their home, boasts an impressive voice cast, including John Boyega (Star Wars: The Last Jedi), Olivia Colman (The Crown) and James McAvoy (Split). Prepare to feel!
20 Years Of The Black Eyed Peas
Saturday 22 December, 10pm, ITV/HD (CH 103/113). Also available for 7 days in Catch Up > Channels > ITV Hub
Who would you choose to host a tribute to one of the best-selling music groups of all time? If you said “Joanna Lumley”, then, well… you’d be right. Yes, the Absolutely Fabulous star is a close friend of the Peas, and hosts this hour-long spectacular, which also features performances of their greatest hits. Hopefully it’ll also reveal how the actress and band came to be like peas in a pod – ahem.
The Dead Room
Christmas Eve, 10pm, BBC Four/HD (CH 107/163). Also available for 30 days in Catch Up > Channels > BBC iPlayer
There’s two things Mark Gatiss does better than anyone – pull off three-piece suits and tell ghost stories. Here he does the latter in a one-off drama starring the legendary Simon Callow as a veteran radio presenter who grows increasingly disturbed by spooky goings-on at a recording studio. If you’re done with the wholesomeness of the holiday season, this is the perfect antidote.
Christmas Day, 4.50pm, BBC One HD (CH 101/108). Also available for 30 days in Catch Up > Channels > BBC iPlayer
No, it’s not the long-lost brother of The Big Breakfast’s Zig and Zag. Zog is instead an animated adaptation of a much-loved children’s book by Julia Donaldson – the writer behind The Gruffalo. Narrated by Lenny Henry, the story follows Zog, an accident-prone (and mischief-making) dragon studying at Dragon School. A heart-warming tale, perfect for pairing with your eighth mince pie.
Torvill & Dean
Christmas Day, 9.15pm, ITV/HD (CH 103/113). Also available for 7 days in Catch Up > Channels > ITV Hub
Let’s play Word Association (well, it is Christmas): “Torvill and Dean”. You probably just yelled out “Boléro”, or maybe “ice skating”. But there’s more to their story than the bum-da-da-da-bum-bums. This one-off ITV drama explores the duo’s humble beginnings in Nottingham, their trials and tribulations, and their journey towards becoming ice-skating royalty.
The Midnight Gang
Boxing Day, 7.30pm, BBC One HD (CH 101/108). Also available for 30 days in Catch Up > Channels > BBC iPlayer
Most people know David Walliams as a TV judge and occasional sitcom star. But for anyone with children, he’s the best-selling author your wee ones are totally obsessed with. Give them another treat this Christmas with his latest book adaptation, set in the Children’s Ward at Lord Funt Hospital. Knowing Walliams (who also stars), there’ll be both laughter and tears by the bucketload.
The ABC Murders
Boxing Day, 9pm, BBC One HD (CH 101/108). Also available for 30 days in Catch Up > Channels > BBC iPlayer
Agatha Christie at Christmas is fast becoming a festive season mainstay. The next instalment sees John Malkovich star as Hercule Poirot alongside Rupert Grint as Inspector Crome. Can the detective catch a killer who travels across Britain via the railway network, leaving a copy of the ABC railway guide at the scene of each murder? Or has he finally met his match?
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.
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Catch Up TV: Catch Up TV content available for up to 7 days or up to the 30 days after broadcast, depending on content.
Image credits: Strictly Come Dancing © BBC – Photographer: Guy Levy