Christmas is coming, in case you haven’t noticed. And whilst that means big fat turkey dinners, shredded wrapping paper by the skip load and carol singers knocking on your front door, begging for scraps with their angelic voices, it also means its time for hours upon hours of televisual entertainment to enthral and enrapture you this holiday season. So with our Christmas Radio Times in hand and big ‘ol mug of mulled wine cooling on the table, join THN as we rundown the TV highlights this Christmas season.
First on our to-watch list is THE TRACTATE MIDDOTH (BBC Two, Christmas Day at 9.30pm), as the BBC resurrects a classic Christmas tradition of the Christmas Ghost story. An adaptation of M.R. James’ short story about ghostly goings-on in a spooky library, the half-hour film is written and directed by Mark Gatiss (SHERLOCK, DOCTOR WHO) and stars Sacha Dhawan (LAST TANGO IN HALIFAX), John Castle (I, CLAUDIS) Louise Jameson (DOCTOR WHO) and Una Stubbs (SHERLOCK). It promises to be a thrilling and terrifying piece of television, and is followed by an insightful documentary into the life and work of M.R. James, presented by Gatiss himself.
If horror’s not your thing, then head over to ITV for the now traditional DOWNTON ABBEY Christmas special (ITV, Christmas Day, 8.30pm), which sees the debut of Paul Giamatti as Harold Levinson, as the Crawley’s venture to good ‘ol London town.
Those of you out there who love watching countless babies being pushed out of a 1950s lady shouldn’t dare to miss the CALL THE MIDWIFE Christmas special (BBC One, Christmas Day, 6.15pm), whilst fans of both murder and Jane Austen novels will lap up DEATH COMES TO PEMBERLY (BBC One, Boxing Day at 8.15pm), an engrossing adaptation of PD James’ sequel novel to PRIDE AND PREJUDICE which follows Elizabeth and Darcy six years on and finds them embroiled in a murder mystery. Anna Maxwell-Martin (BLEAK HOUSE), Jenna Coleman (DOCTOR WHO), Trevor Eve (WAKING THE DEAD) and Matthew Rhys (BROTHERS AND SISTERS) star.
And lest we forget DOCTOR WHO (Christmas Day, BBC One at 7.30pm), which promises laughs, tears and nudity this year as Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor faces a terrifying final showdown with an assortment of old enemies. Regeneration is just around the corner. If Capaldi doesn’t nut a Dalek and call him a ‘f***ing gay s***e’ in his first moments as the Twelfth Doctor, we’ll throw our mince pies at the telly in anger and disappointment.
Movie buffs and those with children should prepare the Sky+ as BBC One & ITV go head to head with TOY STORY 3 and TANGLED on Christmas Day. Meanwhile ITV rolls out HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 1 on Boxing Day, whilst ITV2 show good taste for once with a screening of HOT FUZZ (hardly festive but deliciously fun, just as Boxing Day telly fare should be). Other films over the Christmas period include CARS 2, FINDING NEMO, SPIDER-MAN 3, WATCHMEN, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES, DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 2, SHREK FOREVER AFTER and KUNG-FU PANDA 2.
Tune in to BBC One Boxing Day at 7.45pm though for STILL OPEN ALL HOURS, featuring the return of David Jason to one of his best known comedy roles, as Granville inherits Arkwright’s grocery store. Boasting a script from original series writer Roy Clarke and the return of several original cast-members, it promises to be both funny and enjoyably nostalgic. A full series is due to follow later in 2014.
Oh, but then again, SHERLOCK returns to BBC One on New Year’s Day at 9pm. So basically all other TV this Christmas might as well go home…