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Feast your eyes on the best festive TV and films on offer

In most people’s most secret thoughts, at least half the magic of Christmas has to be the moment you sit down with a box of chocolates close at hand and settle in for some truly great TV. This year there are some excellent specials of favourite shows as well as premieres of movies that were only in cinemas last month. We’ve selected our highlights from the Christmas week, with something for all ages.

Christmas Eve

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse (BBC1, 4.55pm)

  • Charlie Mackery’s blockbusting book has been turned into an animated treat. It’s a traditionally hand-drawn project focusing on the heartwarming friendship that develops between the characters as they travel together in search of a place the boy can call home.
The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse Picture: BBC
The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse Picture: BBC

Carols from King’s (BBC Two, 6.55pm)

  • Enjoy the traditional celebration of Christmas with music and readings, recorded in the candlelit Chapel of King’s College, Cambridge, with its world-renowned choir under director Daniel Hyde. The music this year includes Warlock’s setting of Adam Lay Ybounden, Errollyn Wallen’s Peace on Earth and Vaughan Williams’s Fantasia on Christmas Carols – marking the composer’s 150th anniversary. Members of the college read from the King James Bible and from poems by Denise Levertov and UA Fanthorpe. Congregational carols include O Come All Ye Faithful and Hark! the Herald Angels Sing. The service is led by the dean, the Rev Dr Stephen Cherry.

Royal Carols: Together at Christmas (ITV, 7pm)

  • The Princess of Wales recognises the selfless efforts of individuals, families and communities across the UK during a special carol concert at Westminster Abbey, which combines traditional and modern elements and is designed to appeal to people of all faiths and none. The ceremony also pays tribute to the late Queen Elizabeth II by championing the values of empathy and compassion. Taking part in the proceedings are the Abbey Choir, plus invited guests.
Carols from King’s Picture: Geoff Robinson Photography
Carols from King’s Picture: Geoff Robinson Photography

The Great Christmas Bake Off 2022 (C4, 8.25pm)

  • The title may suggest that this is only a Christmas edition, but according to its makers, it’s doubling up as a celebration of Channel 4’s 40th anniversary – which is why it features competitors who have appeared in some of the broadcaster’s most iconic shows. Time Team’s Tony Robinson, The Big Breakfast’s Gaby Roslin, Claire Sweeney, who had a stint in Brookside, Popworld host Miquita Oliver and Terry Christian of The Word take part, all of them hoping to be named Star Baker. There’s also a performance by the English National Ballet to enjoy.

Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Christmas Fishing 2022 (BBC2, 8.40pm)

  • In Norway, it’s said that cod is God, so Bob Mortimer thinks it’s about time he and Paul Whitehouse headed north to visit the country for a festive fishing treat. They head for the Lofoten Islands, located 1,000 miles from Oslo in the Arctic Circle. They provide a stunning – if freezing – setting for the boys’ first taste of angling abroad. Paul dreams of catching species he’s never fished before. Bob, meanwhile, finds some incredible places for their overnight stays and even rustles up intriguing dishes for them to try, including a Christmas variation on porridge.
Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing Christmas Special Picture: Owl TV/Marianne Wie/BBC
Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing Christmas Special Picture: Owl TV/Marianne Wie/BBC

Christmas Day

The Smeds and the Smoos (BBC One, 2.30pm and BBC iPlayer)

  • The BBC adaptations of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s children’s books has become a tradition since The Gruffalo was turned into an animation. This time it’s The Smeds and the Smoos, which follows the family rivalry between the red Smeds and the blue Smoos. When young smed Janet and smoo Bill escape together, the two families have to come together to find their children.

The Canterville Ghost (Channel 5, 3.10pm)

  • Oscar Wilde’s amusing short story is brought into the 21st century by a new two-part adaptation, which concludes on Boxing Day. Sir Simon de Canterville’s ghost has been haunting his ancestral home in the English countryside for centuries, happily going about his spooky business – until the loud, brash family of American tech billionaire Hiram Otis moves in. He plans a ‘welcome’ for the clan involving his scariest stunt, but is left crestfallen when he fails to frighten anybody. Meanwhile, the youngest members of the Otis family make new friends and set out to find Sir Simon’s long-lost remains.
Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special Picture: Guy Levy/BBC
Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special Picture: Guy Levy/BBC

Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special (BBC1, 5.10pm)

  • Six new celebrities are taking to the floor – actor and presenter George Webster, former Girls Aloud member and Masked Singer winner Nicola Roberts, Gavin & Stacey’s Larry Lamb, DJ Rickie Haywood-Williams, ex-Coronation Street star Alexandra Mardell podcaster and author Rosie Ramsey, whose husband, comedian Chris, made it to the semi-finals in 2019. There’s also an appearance from Strictly’s own Ghost of Christmas Past, former judge Bruno Tonioli.

A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story (BBC Four, 7pm)

  • Mark Gatiss stars as Jacob Marley in his own stage adaptation of Dickens’ classic winter ghost story. It’s a cold Christmas Eve and mean-spirited miser Ebenezer Scrooge (Nicholas Farrell) has an unexpected visit from the spirit of his former business partner Marley. Bound in chains as punishment for a lifetime of greed, the unearthly figure explains it isn’t too late for Scrooge to escape the same fate, but first he’ll have to face more eerie encounters.
A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story Picture: Manuel Harlan
A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story Picture: Manuel Harlan

Ghosts Christmas Special (BBC1, 7.25pm)

  • As regular viewers of this delightfully silly sitcom know, Alison has a lot to put up with courtesy of her ghostly housemates. Luckily, it seems they do appreciate her, as in this festive episode they are so touched by her generosity, they decide to give her a special Christmas present. However, their plan is pretty ambitious, and they don’t have long to pull it together – and that’s if Alison gets back to Button House at all after she and Mike are forced to rethink their Christmas schedule.

Call the Midwife (BBC1, 7.55pm)

  • The period drama may have only been on our screens since 2012, but the Call the Midwife Christmas special has become something of a festive TV tradition. This year is no exception, as we return to Poplar in December, 1967, where life is starting to return to normal following the train crash. However, Fred (Cliff Parisi) wants to raise money for the families that continue to struggle and decides to arrange a talent show. Meanwhile, Trixie (Helen George) arrives back from Portofino, and the midwives move into new premises. One of the first patients through the doors is Rhoda Mullocks (Liz White), who is heavily pregnant, and nervous after her baby was born with limbs affected by thalidomide.
Doc Martin Christmas Special Picture: ITVX/ITV Studios
Doc Martin Christmas Special Picture: ITVX/ITV Studios

Doc Martin Christmas Special (ITV, 9.05pm)

  • Earlier this year, the 10th and final series of the much-loved comedy drama came to a conclusion as Dr Martin Ellingham (Martin Clunes) decided to put his family before his career and turned down a prestigious job in London to stay in Portwenn. So, that means they are still in Cornwall for this Christmas special, and the village is full of festive cheer – until Martin closes down the grotto because he fears Santa, aka Leonard (Ron Cook), has a contagious illness. The row is witnessed by James, who decides that if his dad is going to keep Santa away from Portwenn, he’ll just have to run away to the North Pole…

Boxing Day

The Repair Shop Christmas Special (BBC1, 8pm)

  • Hankies at the ready – the programme inspires involuntary weeping at the best of times, but during Christmas, it can get rather out of hand due to heightened emotions about people long gone. Jay Blades looks on as the experts tackle four items that mean the world to their owners. Steve Fletcher and Kirsten Ramsay team up to breathe new life into a bedraggled Christmas tree, Will Kirk and Dominic Chinea hope they can make a dilapidated home bar fit for purpose, an old film projector is given some TLC by Mark Stuckey and, last but not least, a trombone is restored.
The Repair Shop Christmas Special Picture: Sarah Weal / BBC
The Repair Shop Christmas Special Picture: Sarah Weal / BBC

Detectorists Special (BBC2, 9pm)

  • We have bad and good news for fans of Mackenzie Crook’s much-loved sitcom. The bad is that it isn’t returning for a new series; the good is that he and Toby Jones have reteamed for a 75-minute special instead. Once again they play Andy and Lance, metal detecting enthusiasts whose hobby dominates their entire lives. Unfortunately, when we meet up with them, five years after the end of the last series, their beloved Danebury Metal Detecting Club is in jeopardy – developers have set their sights on the Scout hall where they meet, and if they’re to save it, the members must come up with a pot of cash fast. Lance secures them the right to search 10 acres of land, but breaking protocol after unearthing a major find could ruin all their hard work.

Death in Paradise Christmas Special (BBC1, 9pm)

  • If you’ve over-indulged on Christmas Day, and simply want sit in front of the telly and be entertained by a little bit of escapism look not further than this feature-length trip to the Caribbean island of Saint Marie, which features guest appearances from Les Dennis and Siobhan McSweeney. Ralf Little is also in place as DI Neville Parker, who’s called in to investigate the murder of a true crime podcaster whose latest series was based on the hunt for a missing child. The case takes an unexpectedly spooky turn when Marlon has to spend the night in a haunted house.
Death in Paradise Christmas Special Picture: Red Planet Pictures/Denis Guyenon/BBC
Death in Paradise Christmas Special Picture: Red Planet Pictures/Denis Guyenon/BBC

The Big Fat Quiz of the Year 2022 (C4, 9pm)

  • Jimmy Carr turns the spotlight on 2022 a touch early. Not that we mind – it’s always entertaining. The programme is now almost a traditional part of festive telly, with the emphasis solely on being as amusing as possible rather than getting the questions right. As ever, Charles Dance, Jon Snow and the pupils of Mitchell Brook Primary School have a few posers for participants Stephen Merchant, Katherine Ryan, Richard Ayoade, Maisie Adam, Jonathan Ross and Rose Matafeo.

December 27

Riptide (C5, 9pm)

  • Jo Joyner (of EastEnders and Shakespeare and Hathaway: Private Investigators fame) stars in this new thriller as Alison, who appears to have the perfect life – she’s very much in love with her new, wealthy husband Sean and they have moved into a beautiful seaside property together. However, there are tensions – her daughter Hannah isn’t happy with her new home, Sean’s son Ethan thinks his stepmother is a golddigger, and Alison’s ex, Michael, still wants her back. Then one day Sean goes out surfing and never returns. The police conclude that he fell victim to the dangerous riptide, but grieving Alison can’t help thinking that there could be another explanation. It becomes clear that plenty of people around her are keeping secrets…
Detectorists Christmas Special Picture: Channel X/Kevin Baker/BBC
Detectorists Christmas Special Picture: Channel X/Kevin Baker/BBC

Jon and Lucy’s Party of the Year (C4, 9pm)

  • Jon Richardson and Lucy Beaumont are hosting a Christmas getaway for some of their closest friends. They are joined by fellow comedians Romesh Ranganathan, Judi Love and Tom Allen to eat, drink and get very merry during a night away from the post-Christmas, pre-New Year lull as they look back at the year gone by. As they enjoy a boozy festive feast guaranteed to lead to misbehaving chaos, there’ll also be a few surprises – including a Lioness doing Tik-Toks, a late-night swim for chipolatas, a sweary Santa, and Jon strapped to a giant wheel.

December 28

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (C4, 6.50pm)

  • Four teenagers discover an old video game console and are drawn into the game’s jungle setting, becoming the adult characters they chose. They discover the only way to escape the game is to survive it. And to return to the real world they will have to go on the adventure of their lives – or they will be stuck in the game forever.
Ghosts Christmas Special Christmas Picture: Monumental/Guido Mandozzi/BBC
Ghosts Christmas Special Christmas Picture: Monumental/Guido Mandozzi/BBC

Thursday, December 29

Prince Andrew: The Musical (C4, 9pm)

  • The latest season of Netflix’s The Crown came in for criticism for its treatment of the royal family, but just wait until some of those critics get a load of this musical take on the rise and fall of Prince Andrew. Kieran Hodgson takes the title role as a mix of musical numbers and archive footage chart how the prince went from 1980s war hero to being viewed as an outcast. The supporting cast includes Munya Chawawa as King Charles, Jenny Bede as Sarah Ferguson, Harry Enfield as Tony Blair, and Baga Chipz as Margaret Thatcher, while Emma Sidi plays Emily Maitlis, the journalist who conducted Andrew’s ill-advised 2019 BBC interview.

New Year’s Day

Happy Valley Season Three (9pm on BBC One and BBC iPlayer)

  • The final season of Happy Valley, by writer Sally Wainwright, premieres today on BBC One. It follows police officer Catherine (Sarah Lancashire) who is investigating a gangland murder that leads all the way to the evil Tommy Lee Royce (James Norton). Her 16-year-old grandson Ryan (Rhys Connah) is getting older and wants to know more about his father despite Catherine’s attempts to keep them apart.

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