What to watch on TV this Christmas

Benedict Cumberbath and Martin Freeman in Sherlock. Picture: PA
Benedict Cumberbath and Martin Freeman in Sherlock. Picture: PA
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IT might not be time to deck the halls just yet, but it’s never too early to start working out your festive viewing. TV editor Susan Griffin rounds-up the top small-screen shows to tune in to

Text Santa

December 18, ITV

Who: Phillip Schofield, Holly Willoughby, Alesha Dixon, Christine Bleakley, Paddy McGuinness, Olly Murs, Caroline Flack, Amanda Holden.

ITV hosts its glitzy, fun-packed annual Text Santa appeal, now in its fifth year. Schofield kicks things off on December 1, when he ‘does his bit in a Christmas knit’ and invades every show on the ITV schedule from 6am to 10pm. Viewers will be asked to tweet #Pipknit when they see him pop up, in a TV equivalent of Where’s Wally. As for the big night, George Clooney’s cameo appearance in Downton Abbey is going to take some beating, but expect some familiar faces making fools of themselves, in the hope you’ll dig deep and support the Text Santa charities.

Doctor Who Christmas Special

Christmas Day, BBC One

The big news for this year’s special is that time traveller Professor River Song, who first appeared back in 2008, will return. It’s the first time River Song, played by Alex Kingston, has met her husband in his latest incarnation - in the form of Peter Capaldi’s Doctor. Lead writer Steven Moffat notes: “The last time the Doctor saw her, she was a ghost. The first time he met her, she died. So how can he be seeing her again? As ever, with the most complicated relationship in the universe, it’s a matter of time...”

Downton Abbey

Christmas Day, ITV

It won’t have escaped your attention that this is the last ever episode, and we’re promised there will be ‘all the love, loss, happiness and heartbreak’ we’ve come to expect from Julian Fellowes’ seminal period drama. As the characters prepare to welcome in the New Year of 1926, Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) endeavours to build bridges with her estranged sister Edith (Laura Carmichael); Harry (Matthew Goode) settles into his role as husband and stepfather, but finds his place at Downton more difficult, while downstairs, Carson (Jim Carter) faces some personal challenges.

And Then There Were None

TBC, BBC One

It was Agatha Christie’s bestselling crime novel, and now an all-star cast will bring the story to life in a new TV series. Set in 1939, with Europe teetering on the brink of war, 10 strangers are invited to Soldier Island, off the coast of Devon. Cut off from the mainland, and with their hosts absent, each guest is accused of a terrible crime, and when one of the party suddenly dies, they soon realise they might be harbouring a murderer among their number. Features Douglas Booth, Charles Dance, Miranda Richardson, Sam Neill and Toby Stephens.

Stick Man

TBC, BBC One

Based on the bestselling children’s book by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler, the half-hour animation is set to be a treat for the whole family this festive season. Produced by Magic Light Pictures, the team behind the adaptations of The Gruffalo and Room On The Broom, and voiced by the likes of Hugh Bonneville, Martin Freeman and Jennifer Saunders, it tells the story of a stick man’s attempts to make it back to his family in time for Christmas.

We’re Doomed! The Dad’s Army Story

TBC, BBC Two

Ahead of next year’s big-screen outing of Dad’s Army, starring the likes of Catherine Zeta-Jones, Bill Nighy and Michael Gambon, BBC Two will be airing a one-off 60-minute drama about the much adored comedy’s legendary creators Jimmy Perry (Paul Ritter) and David Croft (Richard Dormer). Starting with Perry’s initial idea in 1967 and running through to the transmission of the first episode in 1968, it details how the pair overcame scepticism from BBC bosses and focus groups, along with production difficulties and the personality clashes they faced.

Call The Midwife

TBC, BBC Two

Before the new series kicks off in January, fans of Call The Midwife can look forward to a one-off Christmas special. As the deprived area of Poplar readies itself for the 1960 festive season, there’s a bus trip to see the Regent Street lights and a visit from a BBC film crew, promising to make it a Christmas to remember. But it’s not all happiness and good cheer. It’s a difficult time for grieving mother Iris (Joanne Adams) and at Nonnatus House, things are tense, as Sister Monica Joan (Judy Parfitt) determines to bring in the festive spirit early, despite Sister Evangelina’s disgust. As the community pulls together to prepare for a televised carol concert, Nonnatus is rocked when one of their own goes missing.

Dickensian

TBC, BBC One

This new 20-part series is pretty ambitious, to say the least. The episodes will see the beloved characters created by Charles Dickens living next door to one another on one cobbled street. If it sounds soap-like, then that’s no coincidence - it’s written by EastEnders’ former scriptwriter Tony Jordan. Described by one journalist as ‘a beginners guide to Dickens’, expect Oliver Twist’s Mrs Bumble and Bleak House’s Inspector Bucket to bump into the likes of Martin Chuzzlewit’s Mrs Gamp and Great Expectations’ Amelia Havisham.

The Sound Of Music Live!

TBC, ITV

What: Christmas isn’t Christmas without the Sound Of Music making an appearance on the box. This year, expect a twist when a brilliant cast, led by Tointon as Maria, brings the timeless tale to life on the soundstages of London’s 3 Mills Studios, in an ambitious two-and-a-half-hour production which will be transmitted to TV-viewers live. Audiences at home can sing along to the likes of How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria, Edelweiss and Do-Re-Mi. And if singing isn’t your thing, it’ll be worth tuning in to see if they can pull it all off glitch-free.

Sherlock: The Abominable Bride

Jan 1, BBC One

Co-written by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, this one-off special sees Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman reunite for a standalone story set in London, 1895. Sherlock’s nemesis, Moriarty, might be missing from the teaser trailer, but he’s set to face new enemies in this Victorian adventure. And if it’s not enough to see your favourite detective on the small screen, pop along to the cinema; it’s set for a big-screen outing on the same night.