THE FESTIVE period is a time for celebrating and joining together with family, but if that gets tiresome then there is plenty of great TV on offer over Christmas and New Year.
Christmas Day wouldn’t be the same without the return of some of our favourite dramas, and 2013 is no different. Matt Smith’s final outing as Doctor Who is the BBC’s main event, with The Time Of The Doctor (25 Dec, 7:30pm) seeing the Time Lord follow a mysterious message into the space with the help of his companion Clara.
On ITV, Downton Abbey (8:30pm) comes back onto our screens in a two-hour special packed with the parties and balls of high society. The chance to see the Crawleys’ London home, Grantham House, is sure to be worth fighting off the urge to sleep off Christmas dinner dinner.
Christmas Day ends with The Tractate Middoth (9:30pm), a ghost story from League of Gentlemen star Mark Gatiss. A quiet library falls prey to a mysterious Hebrew book, and the intentions of its reader come into question. Expect to take a few second glances at your new cookbook before going to bed after watching this spooky drama.
New Year’s Day also features the return of a major drama, with Gatiss’ version of Sherlock returning to BBC One in a feature-length story entitled The Empty Hearse (9pm). Sherlock Holmes is about to rise from the grave, but you’ll have to wait and see how Watson reacts to the news.
DOCUMENTARIES AND FACTUAL
Christmas is a time for giving, celebrating and relaxing, but the TV schedules also give you the chance to learn a thing or two.
The Tudor Monastery Farm Christmas Special (31 Dec, 9pm) shows how Christmas was celebrated under King Henry VII (if anything, it was even more raucous), while the festive pursuits of the traveller community are explored in My Big Fat Gypsy Christmas on Channel 4 (20 Dec, 9pm)
Gordon Ramsay gives his tips for great holiday breakfasts, lunches and dinners in Gordon Ramsay’s Festive Home Cooking (20 Dec, 8pm), while Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood share their Christmas baking tips in the Great British Bake-Off’s seasonal special (17 Dec, 8pm).
Alex Norton goes on ‘Scottish accent safari’ in Dream Me Up Scotty! (23 Dec) to find some of the best and worst Scottish accents committed to film, and Jeremy Clarkson tells the dramatic story of the Arctic Convoys of World War Two in PQ17: An Arctic Convoy Disaster (2 Jan, 8pm).
And for those keen to learn about learning, Channel 4’s acclaimed documentary series Educating Yorkshire returns to the Thornhill Community Academy to catch up with the pupils and teachers of the school (19 Dec).
First thing’s first - there are two Mrs Brown’s Boys specials, one at Christmas (25 Dec, 9:30pm) and one at New Year (30 Dec, 9:30pm).
Neither is likely to match the subversive and anarchic joy of Limmy’s Show (22 Dec), which returns to screens for a final Christmas special. Expect the usual mix of dark humour and absurd sketches, as Brian Limond’s Scottish BAFTA-winning show signs off.
From one cult Scottish comedy to another, with the return of Rab C Nesbitt to BBC Two on 2 Jan. In the brand-new Christmas special, Rab becomes a Robin Hood figure, coming to the aid of the downtrodden and attracting attention from far and wide.
On Channel 4, Graham Linehan’s sitcom The IT Crowd makes a final bow with an evening of programmes on 28 Dec, including a new documentary featuring interviews with the cast and some of the show’s most famous fans.
‘Mel Smith: I’ve Sort Of Done Things’ (24 Dec, 9:45pm) sees the late comedian’s friends and colleagues pay tribute to the Not the Nine O’Clock News star in a brand new documentary, which follows Smith’s life throughout his education and career, and features rarely-seen archive material.
The BBC’s Christmas film lineup will keep the kids occupied for those in need of respite, with Disney Pixar’s Cars 2 and Dreamworks’ Kung Fu Panda: The Kaboom of Doom both on offer, as well as the brilliant and surprisingly grown-up Toy Story 3.
Channel 4’s film slate is a lot more varied - the usual suspects like White Christmas, It’s A Wonderful Life, and A Muppet Christmas Carol all get a showing, while Ben Wheatley’s dark and psychedelic new film A Field in England provides a bit of balance.
Film 4 showings of Norwegian fantasy horror Troll Hunter are on hand to remind anyone pining for a snowy Christmas of the dangers which (legend has it) lurk in the white stuff.
Over on Sky, a dedicated Christmas channel pumps out a litany of festive classics such as The Nightmare Before Christmas, Elf, and the bizarre Arnold Schwarzenegger Christmas vehicle Jingle All the Way, while premieres of superhero adventure Iron Man 3 and Disney animation Wreck-It Ralph head up the main schedule.
NEW YEAR’S EVE
For those who can’t - or won’t - head out into the night on New Year’s Eve, schedulers have done their best to approximate the experience for you in the comfort of your own home. There’s the traditional option - Jackie Bird leading BBC Scotland’s annual charge with Hogmanay Live!, ably abetted by the likes of Deacon Blue.
There’s Alan Carr’s New Year’s Eve Specstacular, bringing a host of top-flight guests and entertainment to the New Year festivities on Channel 4. Or there’s the annual Hootenannny, with Jools Holland joined by Ray Davies of the Kinks, Gap Band singer Charlie Wilson, soul singer Laura Mvula, US rockers HAIM and Leith’s own Proclaimers bringing in the New Year (in a studio in mid-December).
• What are you looking forward to seeing on the box this Christmas? Let us know in the comments below