Christmas TV, radio and film: the Radio Times daily guide

Catch the best festive treats with this day-by-day guide to essential TV and radio programmes and movies

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It’s the best fortnight of the year for telly, radio and film. If your head is swimming over the choices, if you just don’t have much time or if your PVR is nearly full, this is what you need – the one TV programme, the one radio show and the one film you must catch each day.

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THURSDAY 5 JANUARY

TV:

  Eternal Law, 9:00pm, ITV1/ITV1 HD

From the makers of Life on Mars comes a new crime series as angels descend to Earth. With Samuel West, Ukweli Roach and Orla Brady.

Film: Tightrope, 10:35pm, ITV1/ITV1 HD
Clint Eastwood is a detective who fears he may have the same sexual tastes as the serial killer he’s been pursuing.

Radio: Nitin Sawnhey Spins the Globe, 11:00pm, BBC Radio 2

First in a four-part series exploring music from all cultures and traditions.

FRIDAY 6 JANUARY

TV: Great Barrier Reef, 7:00pm, BBC2, BBC HD

A simply gorgeous documentary exploring Australia’s underwater ecosystem with marine biologist Monty Halls.

Film: The Infidel, 11:30pm, BBC1/BBC1 HD

First showing for David Baddiel’s comedy starring Omid Djalili as a London-born Muslim who learns he’s really Jewish.

Radio: The Internet Millionaires’ Club, 11:00am, BBC Radio 4

Jolyon Jenkins offers an insight into the lives of people trying to become rich through internet marketing.

 

PREVIOUS DAYS’ CHOICES

SATURDAY 17 DECEMBER

TV: Strictly Come Dancing, 7:00pm, BBC1/BBC1 HD
It’s the finale of what’s been one of the best ever Strictly series – and there’ll be no waiting overnight for the results show: that’s airing tonight at 9:05pm.

Film:
Die Hard 4.0, 9:00pm, E4/E4 HD
Cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) may be older, balder and crankier, but he’s still the right man for the job when America is threatened by cyber-terrorists.

Radio: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, 6:00pm, BBC Radio 4 Extra
Harry Potter fans will love Judith French’s dramatisation of Goethe’s poem, with its wizards’ convention, spells, and talking cats.

SUNDAY 18 DECEMBER

TV: Young James Herriot, 9:00pm, BBC1/BBC1 HD
Iain de Caestecker stars as young James in this “prequel” to Herriot’s years as a trainee vet.

Film: Brüno, 10:00pm, Channel 4/C4 HD
What can you say? Sacha Baron Cohen provides a hit-and-miss mockumentary.

Radio: Desert Island Discs, 11:15am, BBC Radio 4

Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes selects his Desert Island Discs and talks to Kirsty Young.

MONDAY 19 DECEMBER

TV: The Bleak Old Shop of Stuff, 8:30pm, BBC2/BBC HD
Utterly silly TV version of the utterly silly BBC Radio 4 hit, Bleak Expectations. With Robert Webb, Stephen Fry and Katherine Parkinson.

Film: Step Brothers, 9:00pm, Channel 5
Cheerfully silly slapstick comedy starring Will Ferrell and John C Reilly as feuding new siblings.

Radio: Super Troupers, 10:00pm, BBC Radio 2

Arlene Phillips looks back on the numerous dance groups that strutted their stuff from the mid-1960s onwards.

TUESDAY 20 DECEMBER

TV:Rev, 9:30pm, BBC2/BBC HD
A sweetly seasonal episode in which the well-meaning vicar has a very public Christmas meltdown.

Film: The Bourne Supremacy, 10:35pm, ITV1/ITV1 HD
On its own, a superb thriller (the Waterloo Station sequence will leave you breathless), but if you’ve seen the previous two movies, it’s an unparalleled conclusion, too.

Radio: Mark Crossley, 8:00pm, Absolute

Dave Gorman presents an intimate performance by 21-year-old singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran.

WEDNESDAY 21 DECEMBER

TV: Ruth Jones’s Christmas Cracker, 10:00pm, BBC2/BBC HD
Seasonal chat with comic Micky Flanagan, Strictly star Lulu and Ruth’s old writing partner, James Corden.

Film: Bad Santa, 9:00pm, Channel 5
Billy Bob Thornton’s soused, abusive, thieving department store Santa in a gleefully black and bitter seasonal comedy.

Radio: Tiger Feet, 10:00pm, BBC Radio 2
Riverdance on the radio? We may not see that footwork, but the music and the tale of a Eurovision interval act that wouldn’t stop is compelling.

 

THURSDAY 22 DECEMBER

TV: BBC Sports Personality of the Year, 8:00pm, BBC1/BBC1 HD
Join our sporting greats – or at least the male ones – to review the past year and pick the people’s champ of 2011.

Film: The Young Victoria, 9:00pm, BBC2/BBC HD
An elegant historical drama in which Emily Blunt shines as the strong-willed princess.

Radio: Radio 2 in Concert, 8:00pm, BBC Radio 2

Michael Bublé swings his way through a festive repertoire, with a few classic hits thrown in.

FRIDAY 23 DECEMBER

TV: The Many Lovers of Miss Jane Austen, 9:00pm, BBC2/BBC HD

Amanda Vickery on the enduring popularity of Jane Austen. It might be something to do with how great her books are. Just a guess there, Sherlock.

Film: Tamara Drewe, 10:30pm, BBC2/BBC HD
Gemma Arterton stars in Stephen Frears’s playful British comedy drama set in a sleepy Dorset village.

Radio: Jon and Miranda’s Secret Santa, 12 noon, BBC Radio 2
A comedy theme show about what to give, what you’d most like to get, and the ideal Secret Santa presents for celebrities.

CHRISTMAS EVE

TV: Outnumbered, 9:20pm, BBC1/BBC1 HD
If you’re dreading Christmas Day, try spending it tonight with the Brockmans.

Film: Hairspray, 7:15pm, Channel 4/C4 HD
Vibrant satirical musical comedy set in the 1960s featuring John Travolta as an overweight housewife.

Radio: Behind the Fairytale, 10:00pm, BBC Radio 2
Dermot O’Leary presents an intelligent and entertaining examination of the Pogues’ Christmas hit, Fairytale of New York.

CHRISTMAS DAY

TV: Doctor Who, 7:00pm, BBC1/BBC1 HD

A very British special blending sci-fi and 1940s wartime spirit.

Film: Ratatouille, 4:50pm, BBC1/BBC1 HD
The delicious story of a rat who dreams of becoming a chef. Peter O’Toole is a hoot as the voice of a food critic.

Radio: David Jason’s Comedy Christmas, 6:00pm, BBC Radio 2
The Only Fools and Horses star presents archive Christmas clips from hit TV sitcoms and radio shows.

BOXING DAY

TV: The Borrowers, 7:30pm, BBC1/BBC1 HD
Mary Norton’s story has a stellar cast, including Christopher Eccleston and Stephen Fry.

Film: Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, 6:10pm, BBC1/BBC1 HD
The zoo animals voiced by the likes of Ben Stiller and Chris Rock get even more out of their depth than in the first film.

Radio: Afternoon Play: A Tale of Two Cities, 2:15pm, BBC Radio 4
The ambitious five-part dramatisation, a trail-blazing addition to the BBC Dickens season, begins.

BANK HOLIDAY: TUESDAY 27 DECEMBER

TV: Great Expectations, 9:00pm, BBC1 (10:00pm, BBC HD)
Smashing three-part dramatisation of the Dickens classic, with Douglas Booth as Pip and a luminous Gillian Anderson as Miss Havisham.

Film: Tropic Thunder, 10:45pm, BBC1/BBC1 HD
Robert Downey Jr steals the show in Ben Stiller’s very funny war-movie spoof, playing a deluded film star who takes method acting way, way too far.

Radio: Beatles Christmas, 11:30am, BBC Radio 4
The Fab Four never attempted a Christmas single per se, but their influence was festive: Alexei Sayle reflects on their contribution to Christmas.

WEDNESDAY 28 DECEMBER

TV: Felix and Murdo, 10:35pm, Channel 4/C4 HD
Imagine an Armstrong and Miller sketch about sexist Edwardian toffs, just extended superbly into a very funny sitcom by Simon Nye.

Film: The Man Who Would Be King, 1:25pm, BBC2
Former soldiers Sean Connery and Michael Caine try to hoodwink Afghan tribesmen: bad idea, marvellous adventure yarn.

Radio: Dave Podmore’s Superinjunction, 11:30am, BBC Radio 4

The world-famous cricketer is out of work so his lap-dancing wife can only afford to have half her body spray-tanned.

THURSDAY 29 DECEMBER

TV: Earthflight, 8:00pm, BBC1/BBC1 HD
No sooner has Frozen Planet ended then another natural history epic comes along to amaze us. This time we’re flying with birds and it’s astonishing.

Film: Dorian Gray, 9:00pm, Channel 4/C4 HD
Ben Barnes stars in an elegant dramatisation of Oscar Wilde’s novel. But what’s that hiding in the attic?

Radio: Weird Tales, 11:00pm, BBC Radio 4
Late-night chills at Christmas, tonight from the acclaimed folk musician Lizzie Nunnery. 

FRIDAY 30 DECEMBER

TV: The Many Faces of Judi Dench, 8:00pm, BBC2
Absorbing profile of the prolific actress that reminds us of roles as diverse as Queen Victoria, Iris Murdoch and M in the Bond films.

Film: Transsiberian, 10:45pm, BBC2/BBC HD
Thriller starring Woody Harrelson and Emily Mortimer as an American couple who befriend a mysterious but charming Spaniard on a train journey across Siberia.

Radio: Strictly New Year with Russell Grant, 10:00pm, BBC Radio 2
Russell and his Strictly Come Dancing partner Flavia Cacace host an evening of their favourite music from the series.

NEW YEAR’S EVE: SATURDAY 31 DECEMBER

TV: Jools’ Annual Hootenanny, 11:15pm, BBC2
Exepct fun, laughter and cracking good music in spades as Jools bids farewell to 2011 and ushers in the New Year.

Film: The Queen, 4:05pm, ITV1
Helen Mirren gives an Oscar-winning performance as the monarch facing a constitutional crisis after Princess Diana’s fatal car crash in 1997.

Radio: Stompin’ at the Savoy, 10:30pm, BBC Radio 2
A galaxy of musical stars perform a New Year’s Eve repertoire including Stompin’ at the Savoy, (Is This the Way to) Amarillo? and That’s Life at the famous London hotel.

NEW YEAR’S DAY: SUNDAY 1 JANUARY

TV: Sherlock, 8:10pm, BBC1
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman return in the award-winning drama, with Lara Pulver (Spooks) and Mark Gatiss (The League of Gentlemen).

Film: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, 7:00pm, ITV1

The tone gets darker as Harry is charged with retrieving a vital locked memory from a former teacher of Lord Voldemort.

Radio: French and Saunders, 1:00pm, BBC Radio 2

The comedy duo are joined by broadcaster Kirsty Wark and former Cagney & Lacey star Sharon Gless, and reflect on which of their 2011 resolutions they managed to achieve.

BANK HOLIDAY: MONDAY 2 JANUARY

TV: Endeavour, 9:00pm, ITV1 

Shaun Evans steps into the shoes of John Thaw in this 1965-set prequel to Inspector Morse, playing a younger version of the cerebral detective.

Film: Revolutionary Road, 10:00pm, BBC2 

Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet star as a married couple struggling with the humdrum reality of life in 1950s suburbia in this adaptation of Richard Yates’s acclaimed novel.

Radio: Don Black on John Barry, 1:00pm, BBC Radio 2 

In a tribute to the Oscar-winning film composer who died last year, lyricist Don Black looks back at the highs and occasional lows of his career.

WEDNESDAY 4 JANUARY

TV: One Born Every Minute, 9:00pm, Channel 4/C4 HD

Forty cameras follow the births, the screaming mothers and some cursing fathers in a maternity ward for this documentary of the week.

Film: Mamma Mia!, 8:00pm, ITV1/ITV1 HD
The hits of Abba come to the big screen and into the mouths of Meryl Streep, Julie Walters and Pierce Brosnan.

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Radio: Among the Managers, 11:00am, BBC Radio 4
Robert Peston looks at whether a football manager can still be a father figure to the lads when he’s also running a multimillion-pound business.