Crocodile Dundee beats Del Boy for biggest Xmas TV audience of all time

Paul Hogan' in Crocodile Dundee.
Paul Hogan' in Crocodile Dundee.
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Some of Britain’s best-loved TV faces, including David Jason and the Two Ronnies, have been beaten by a reptile-wrestler from Australia in a new survey of the all-time most-watched Christmas television.

Crocodile Dundee, the 1980s comedy smash hit starring Paul Hogan, is the surprise record-holder of the UK’s biggest Christmas Day TV audience.

Some 21.8 million viewers tuned in for the film’s UK premiere on 25 December 1989 – a figure that no single TV broadcast has managed to beat since current records began.

Second place in the chart with 21.3 million viewers is the episode of Only Fools And Horses shown on Christmas Day 2001, which saw the Trotters lose their fortune and Del Boy attempt to win it back on a game show.

In total there are seven episodes of Only Fools And Horses in the top 20, along with editions of comedy classics Just Good Friends, Bread and One Foot In The Grave.

But EastEnders appears only twice, Coronation Street just once, and there is nothing from the past 16 years.

The chart, which has been compiled by the Press Association, reflects the traditional domination of Christmas TV by the BBC, with 17 of the top 20 having been shown on BBC One.

Soap operas – a permanent fixture on 25 December for decades – barely appear, suggesting they are not quite as popular on Christmas Day as TV executives assume.

The two episodes of EastEnders in the chart are from 1986, when Den Watts famously surprised his wife Angie with divorce papers hidden inside a Christmas cracker.

Coronation Street is represented by the episode in 1987 that saw veteran resident Hilda Ogden leave Weatherfield for a new life in Derbyshire.

Missing from the top 20 entirely are Morecambe and Wise, because their star-studded Christmas specials date from before the modern system of compiling ratings began in 1981.The pair’s 1977 Christmas show is sometimes mentioned as having been watched by as many as 28 million people, but this figure was publicised by the BBC based on its own audience surveys, and is not comparable with the current system.