These are the Christmas TV picks to start getting excited about

While the TV may be awash with festive specials and re-runs, we’re here to tell you that there’s some pretty amazing television to catch over the festive period. Here’s a roundup of some of our favourites to see you through Christmas and into the new year.

Christmas TV can generally be a mixed bag of nostalgic movies, re-runs of old sitcoms or festive one-off specials. This year’s lineup is the perfect mix of drama, joy and general Christmas-related fun. 

Including the run-up to the big day itself – and, of course, that lull period that’s usually filled with reworking Christmas dinner leftovers, board games and little more – we’ve rounded up some of the best television to get stuck into from before 25 December, right through to after New Year’s Day.

As well as the yearly Great British Bake Off Christmas special, there are some great dramas like BBC One’s Call The Midwife and Netflix’s Stay Close. Here’s some of the best telly to get stuck into – alongside your chocolate selection box of choice, of course…

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BBC

Call The Midwife Christmas Special

Miriam Margolyes’s Mother Mildred is back for this year’s Call The Midwife Christmas special.

The hit drama is back for its annual Christmas special and this time round, Call The Midwife is welcoming back one of its beloved characters: Miriam Margolyes’s Mother Mildred. Following her absence from the tenth series, she’ll be joining the special alongside Helen George as nurse Trixie Franklin and Leonie Elliott as Lucille Anderson.

Not many details are currently released about the special but judging from the first look images, it looks to be a festive, feel-good affair.

The Christmas special comes after its shortened 10th series, which began airing in March due to a Covid-related delay. However, Call the Midwife season 11 will follow soon after its Christmas special, as a brand new batch of episodes is rumoured to land in January 2022.

Call The Midwife’s Christmas Special will air on BBC One, date TBC but will likely air on 25 December.

BBC Sports Personality Of The Year

Emma Raducanu’s historic triumphs this year will be highlighted at the BBC Sports Personality Of The Year Awards.

BBC Sports Personality of the Year award ceremony will be held at Salford’s MediaCity on 19 December and broadcast on BBC One on the same date. The 68th award ceremony will be presented by Gary Lineker, Clare Balding, Gabby Logan and Stylist cover star Alex Scott in front of a studio audience.

The show will be a hit among any sports fans and with the incredible sporting action we’ve seen in the last 12 months, including the Olympics and Paralympics, there will be a lot to celebrate.

BBC director of sport Barbara Slater said: “With sporting events getting back to some normality and our teams and athletes achieving great things, this year has been one of the most memorable for many reasons.

“The awards ceremony in Salford will have a lot to reflect on and it’s something the whole BBC Sport team are looking forward to delivering.”

BBC Sports Personality of the Year will air on BBC One on 19 December.

A Very British Scandal

A Very British Scandal: Claire Foy will portray Margaret, Duchess of Argyll.

BBC’s hotly anticipated historical drama is likely to air sometime over the Christmas period and with Claire Foy taking a central role, we can guarantee this three-episode series will be the perfect show to get stuck into over the festive period. 

Written by Sarah Phelps (Dublin Murders), A Very British Scandal focuses on the divorce of the Duke and Duchess of Argyll, played by Foy and WandaVision actor Paul Bettany, which was one of the most notorious and brutal legal cases of the 20th century.

The official synopsis reads: “Famed for her charisma, beauty and style, Margaret, Duchess of Argyll, dominated the front pages as a divorce featuring accusations of forgery, theft, violence, drug-taking, secret recording, bribery and an explicit polaroid picture all played out in the white-hot glare of the 1960s media.

A Very British Scandal turns this scandal inside out in order to explore the social and political climate of post-war Britain, looking at attitudes towards women, and asking whether institutional misogyny was widespread at the time.”

A Very British Scandal will air on BBC One, date TBC.

Doctor Who Christmas Special

With the latest series of Doctor Who having just launched on BBC One, fans are eagerly awaiting its Christmas special already. Titled Flux, the new series marks the end of an era for Jodie Whittaker, as she recently announced her exit from the series.

Christmas is usually signposted by a Doctor Who special and last year saw Whittaker’s Doctor come up against some familiar foes in Revolution Of The Daleks. This year, the schedule is slightly different with the Doctor Who special being rumoured to air on New Year’s Day instead of Christmas this year.

Doctor Who’s Christmas special will air on BBC One and will likely be released on New Year’s Day.

Channel 4

Joe Lycett: Mummy’s Big Christmas Do! 

Joe Lycett will be hosting his very own “big queer Christmas house party” on Channel 4 this year.

Joe Lycett, the British comedian many of us love from 8 Out Of 10 Cats and BBC Two’s The Great British Sewing Bee, is throwing a yuletide party of epic proportions. Coming to Channel 4 for the festive season, Lycett is hosting “a big queer Christmas house party – live from his Birmingham hometown”.

The live 90-minute show will see the comedian celebrate the return of Christmas. With his trademark wit, lots of tinsel, special guests, musical performances and stand-up comedy, Lycett will be bringing us a brilliant Birmingham-based celebration of “all things queer”.

The fun doesn’t stop there though as the official synopsis also states: “The specially invited audience will be the real stars of the show – made up of LGBTQ+ icons, allies of the LGBTQ+ community, and local heroes in addition to some people who may well be in for some devilish surprises from Joe.”

Joe Lycett: Mummy’s Big Christmas Do! will air on Channel 4, date TBC.

The Great Christmas Bake Off 

Never have we been so excited to see two Channel 4 shows collide as we were when the It’s A Sin cast was announced to be joining The Great British Bake Off’s festive special.

After being one of the standout dramas of the year, It’s A Sin’s Olly Alexander, Lydia West, Nathaniel Curtis and Shaun Dooley will all be vying for the title of Star Baker this Christmas. Of course, regular hosts Noel Fielding and Matt Lucas will be featuring alongside judges Prue Leith and Paul Hollywood. We wonder which star will get the enviable handshake and which one will be left shaken by the technical challenge?

All we do know is that this is guaranteed to be a dose of lighthearted fun to tune into if the Christmas stress proves a little too much.

The Great Christmas Bake Off will air on Channel 4, date TBC.

Terry Pratchett’s The Abominable Snow Baby 

Julie Walters will be starring in Channel 4’s upcoming adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s The Abominable Snow Baby.

Channel 4 is renowned for its animated Christmas offerings, and this year, Terry Pratchett fans are in luck. Joining the likes of past commissioned animations including The Snowman, The Tiger Who Came To Tea and Quentin Blake’s Clown, this year will see one of Pratchett’s short stories being adapted with an all-star cast.

Based on the story of the same name, The Abominable Snow Baby follows the titular 14ft tall monster who arrives in a small English town and is immediately shunned by the local residents.

In true Christmas-time spirit, a grandmother (Julie Walters) and her grandson Albert (voiced by Downton Abbey A New Era’s Hugh Dancy) decide to rescue the Snow Baby, “showering her new pet with love and affection, changing the town’s perception and helping the community overcome their initial prejudices”, according to the synopsis.

It seems like a heartfelt watch with an overarching positive message – what more could you want from a Christmas animation?

Terry Pratchett’s The Abominable Snow Baby will be available to watch on Channel 4, date TBC. 

Emily In Paris season two

With the new official trailer having just dropped, Emily In Paris is set to be the binge-worthy Netflix drama we all need to lose ourselves in at the end of the year. Coming to the streaming platform on 22 December, the second series promises complicated romances for Emily and could be the perfect antidote to any post-Christmas blues.

Emily In Paris season two will be available to stream on Netflix on 22 December.

Don’t Look Up 

Don’t Look Up already boasts an incredible cast of familiar faces and is due to land on the streaming platform on Christmas Eve. The movie “tells the story of two low-level astronomers who must go on a giant media tour to warn mankind of an approaching comet that will destroy planet earth”, according to the official Netflix synopsis.

The two astronomers, played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence, struggle to convince everyone of the magnitude of the situation and trying to mention it to the president (played by Meryl Streep) seems to be an insurmountable task. This looks like a hilarious (and very realistic) take on misinformation and expert knowledge.

Don’t Look Up will be available to stream on Netflix on 24 December.

Stay Close 

The Good Wife’s Cush Jumbo will star in Netflix’s latest thriller drama, Stay Close.

It seems as though Harlan Coben and Netflix know exactly when to pair up and drop a winter-worthy TV thriller for us all to get stuck into. Like The Stranger and Safe, this eight-episode series will see trademark thrills, suspense and secrets rise to the surface.

According to the synopsis:

Stay Close questions how much you really know someone. Four people each conceal dark secrets from those closest to them: Megan (Cush Jumbo) a working mother of three; Ray (Richard Armitage), a once-promising documentary photographer; Broome (James Nesbitt) a detective unable to let go of a missing person’s cold case; and Lorraine (Sarah Parish), an old friend of Megan’s. As the past comes back to haunt them, threatening to ruin their lives and the lives of those around them, what will be their next move?”

Stay Close will be available to stream on Netflix on 31 December.

Lost Daughter 

The Lost Daughter is Maggie Gyllenhaal’s upcoming directorial debut and has already been awarded Best Screenplay at this year’s Venice Film Festival. The movie, which stars Olivia Colman, Dakota Johnson, Paul Mescal and Jessie Buckley, follows a woman (Colman) on an idyllic beach vacation that soon takes a dark turn.

Her obsession with a young mother forces her to confront the secrets of her past, and from the look of the trailer, it is suitably tense.

The Lost Daughter will be available to watch on Netflix on 7 January.

Queer Eye season six

The Fab Five are back for season six and we couldn’t be happier to see them back on our screens. This time round, the Emmy award-winning bunch are going to Austin, Texas, where they’ll be working their magic, and from the look of their fabulous Netflix date announcement (see above), it’ll be nothing but good vibes.

Queer Eye season six will be available to stream on Netflix on 31 December.

ITV

The Downton Abbey movie

Downton Abbey: Lady Edith (Laura Cormichael) and Cora Crawley (Elizabeth McGovern) return to the screen.

For fans of Downton Abbey, there’s great news: the first movie will be premiering on ITV over the Christmas period. If you missed it in the cinemas last year or just want a refresh in time for the upcoming release of Downton Abbey: A New Era, you’re in luck.

Mostly filmed in Hampshire at Highclere Castle, ITV’s Downton Abbey was a show to get excited about during the festive period; five Christmas specials aired on Christmas Day between 2011 and 2015. Hopefully, the TV premiere of the movie will fill the Downton-shaped hole in our Christmas TV viewing this year.

The Downton Abbey movie will air on ITV One, date TBC.

Sky

Last Train To Christmas 

Michael Sheen (The Twilight Saga, The Queen) and Nathalie Emmanuel (Game of Thrones, Fast & Furious 7) have joined forces in the brand new Sky Original film, Last Train To Christmas. The time travel Christmas-themed film looks like a fun take on the traditional festive movie and we’re here for it.

According to the synopsis: “Tony Towers (Sheen) is about to take the trip of a lifetime. It’s 1985 and he’s a successful nightclub manager, a local celebrity and engaged to a much younger woman, Sue (Emmanuel). Things are going great. But when he embarks upon the 3:17 to Nottingham for a Christmas family reunion, things get a little strange. Moving up a carriage to the buffet car lands him in 1995, where he finds his clubs have failed and his life has fallen apart. 

“Tony discovers that by moving up and down this fateful train, he can transport himself forward and backward to various stages of his life. Not only that, but the actions he takes in one carriage directly affect his life in the next. The question is, can Tony change his life – and the lives of the people he loves – for the better, or will he just make things worse?”

Last Train To Christmas will be available to watch on Sky Cinema and NOW from 18 December.

Apple TV+

Swan Song

This beautifully, emotive film is already drumming up Oscar award buzz due to Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris’ superb acting.

According to Apple TV+’s official synopsis, the film is:

“Set in the near future, Swan Song is a powerful, emotional journey told through the eyes of Cameron (Ali), a loving husband and father diagnosed with a terminal illness, who is presented with an alternative solution by his doctor (Glenn Close) to shield his family from grief. As Cam grapples with whether or not to alter his family’s fate, he learns more about life and love than he ever imagined.

Swan Song explores how far we will go, and how much we’re willing to sacrifice, to make a happier life for the people we love.”

Swan Song will be available to watch on Apple TV+ on 17 December.

Image: Channel 4

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