Ten great TV shows to watch this Christmas
PUBLISHED: 11:15 21 December 2018 | UPDATED: 11:29 21 December 2018
‘Tis the season to watch telly…now is the time to reserve your place on the sofa and start looking forward to the festive treats coming to a small screen near you this Christmas. Here are 10 top highlights this Christmas.
1 Les Misérables, December 30, BBC1, 9pm: My colleague and I can – and sometimes do – sing the entire score from LM at the drop of a hat. It is one of my favourite musicals of all time. I love it with a passion deeper than the deepest ocean and therefore I felt slightly conned that the BBC’s new version of Victor Hugo’s classic won’t include Susan Boyle belting out I Dreamed a Dream. Swiz. Still, I suppose Hugo didn’t write his epic novel imagining how Simon Cowell would feel about it. This lavish new adaptation will be brought to the screens by brilliant bodice-buster Andrew Davies and promises to take the story back to its roots. There’s a stellar cast that includes Dominic West as Jean Valjean, David Oyelowo as Javert and Lily Collins as Fantine, alongside Adeel Akhtar and Olivia Colman as Monsieur and Madame Thénardier. When can I watch it? December 30, 9pm, BBC
2 The Dead Room, Christmas Eve, BBC4, 10pm: Mark Gatiss revives the BBC tradition of a ghost story at Christmas to bring us this spooky tale of a veteran radio presenter haunted by his past. Simon Callow plays the presenter, Aubrey Judd, another fan of the classic old-fashioned spooky tale, who finds himself all alone in the peace and quiet of the deserted radio studio. Or is he? The half-hour story is set at the BBC’s Maida Vale studios and the name of the programme is a play on words: dead rooms are, in radio terms at least, soundproofed rooms. Judd has returned to present a long-running horror series – will he unwittingly become the star of one of his own dramas?
3 Luther, New Year’s Day, BBC1, 9pm: Luther is the maverick cop’s maverick cop, a cop that could out-maverick the band The Mavericks before beating the Hertfordshire Mavericks at netball. The last series went out with (several) bangs, plus a murder, an abduction, three attempted murders and a shoot-out. Not to mention the ‘hand in the blender’ incident, the dangling of a loan shark from the balcony of high rise flats, the psychopath hiding under the bed, the psychopath hiding under plastic sheeting in the attic and the corpse dressed like Siouxsie Sioux of Banshee fame – and that was just in episode one. Idris Elba’s Luther is back to investigate a series of (very) dark and depraved crimes which have been rocking London and which lead to a seemingly untouchable corruption. Luther’s new sidekick is played by Wunmi Mosaku while Ruth Wilson may be making a return as everyone’s favourite psychopath, Alice. Fingers crossed!
4 Torvill and Dean, Christmas Day, ITV, 9.15pm: Stepping into the big skates of Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean are Poppy Lee Friar and Will Tudor who star in this feature-length biopic about the Olympic champion figure skaters. The drama will look back at the pair’s early years and, according to ITV, “the creative impetus that finally drove them to become ice dancing royalty”. We meet the pair at the very beginning of their skating career and learn how Chris channeled his feelings about his parents’ divorce into skating while Jayne struggled to conquer her nerves to take her place on the ice. Find out the truth behind the blades and the Lycra.
5 The ABC Murders, Boxing Day, 9pm: This Christmas, the next instalment in the collection of Agatha Christie stories adapted for the BBC by the supremely-talented Sarah Phelps, is The ABC Murders. John Malkovich leads the cast as Hercule Poirot alongside Rupert Grint as Inspector Crome, Andrew Buchan as Franklin Clarke, Eamon Farren as Cust, Tara Fitzgerald as Lady Hermione Clarke, Shirley Henderson as Rose Marbury, Jack Farthing as Donald Fraser, Bronwyn James in the role of Megan and Freya Mavor as Thora Grey. It’s 1933 and a killer travels the length and breadth of Britain via the railway network. The killer uses the alias ABC, and strikes in a methodical pattern, leaving a copy of the ABC railway guide at the scene of each of murder. As Poirot attempts to investigate, he is thwarted on every front. If he is to match his most cunning nemesis, everything about him will be called into question: his authority, his integrity, his identity, his obsession with arranging books in height order (maybe not the last one).
6 Click and Collect, Christmas Eve, BBC1, 9pm: If you’re one of those people who leaves your Christmas shopping until the last minute, and then faces a mad dash to locate gifts for your loved-ones, you will have some sympathy for Stephen Merchant’s character, Andrew, in this one-off comedy. It’s Christmas Eve and Andrew has failed to buy the one present his six-year-old daughter really wants - Sparklehoof the Unicorn Princess. As it also happens to be the must-have toy of the season, he can’t track one down in London for love nor money. However, help is at hand from Andrew’s irritating neighbour Dev (Asim Chaudhry), who reveals he’s managed to track down the last one in the whole of the UK. But there’s a slight problem - it’s 300 miles away, up in Carlisle, and it’s click and collect on Dev’s credit card. Cue a chaotic Planes, Trains and Automobiles-style journey, as the mismatched duo try to pick up the gift and get it home in time for the big day.
7The Snow Wolf: A Winter’s Tale, BBC2, December 27, 9pm: Christmas is all about families, and there’s an unusual one at the heart of this programme, which the BBC is describing as a dramatised natural history special. The story takes place in Italy’s Dolomites mountain range, where an alpha female wolf and her mate have raised their cubs, turning them into powerful and formidable hunters. However, when a tragic event shatters their lives, the now pregnant female must flee the pack and find a new territory. There she gives birth to six cubs before facing the biggest challenge of her life - keeping her babies safe from humans and other predators. It’s an epic tale focusing on an exceptional mother who does what any self-respecting matriarch should do - she puts her life on the line for the sake of her offspring.
8 Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special, BBC1, Christmas Day, 5.30pm: Just what you need when you’ve just eaten enough food to sink a battleship – watching lots of athletic people gliding around looking lithe. The Silver Star Trophy is up for grabs once again and six former contestants are in the running/dancing. Jake Wood from EastEnders, TV presenter Anita Rani, cricketer Michael Vaughan, Love Island’s Caroline Flack, former MP Ann Widdecombe and former JLS star Aston Merrygold take to the dance floor to compete for glory. And while we’re talking about Christmas specials, see also Call the Midwife (Christmas Day, BBC1, 7.45pm), Mrs Brown’s Boys (someone must watch it, BBC1, Christmas Day, 10.15pm) and The Great British Bake Off Christmas Special (Channel 4, Christmas Day, 8pm).
9 The Morecambe and Wise Show: the Lost Tapes BBC2 Boxing Day, 7.50pm: What a fabulous treat! For the first time since their original broadcast in 1968, two episodes of Morecambe and Wise will be played after the original colour tapes were lost for fifty years. The two, black and white episodes were found in a derelict cinema in Sierra Leone and have been transformed back into colour by decoding colour information within the copies. Sketches in the episodes include Old Donegal, Instant Camera and Sailing Around the World, and there is also a guest appearance by Michael Aspel.
10 Take That: We’ve Come a Long Way, BBC1, December 28, 7pm: Never forget where you’ve come here from, never pretend that it’s all real…Back in 1989, music mogul Nigel Martin-Smith sought to create a British male singing group modelled on New Kids on the Block. After being introduced to Gary Barlow, Martin-Smith decided to build his new boy band around the young singer-songwriter’s abilities. Then, after hearing the auditions of Howard Donald, Jason Orange, Mark Owen and Robbie Williams, Take That (well, Kick It, initially) was born. As the record-breaking group prepare to mark their 30th anniversary, this special programme hears fans from all over the world sharing stories of how the band has touched their lives.