What is on TV this Christmas?

From Doctor Who to McMafia, Bake Off to French & Saunders, here's our selection of the festive highlights from BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky

Christmas TV, SL

It’s nearly Christmas time! Which means one thing: nope, not turkey. TELEVISION! Lots and lots of it as various channels vie for our attention over the festive period.

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So, what’s in store? Read on for a channel-by-channel breakdown of the best of the schedules this Christmas.

BBC

Little Women (starting 26th December at 8pm on BBC1)

Little Women first look MAIN Pic

Call the Midwife creator Heidi Thomas is the woman behind this adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel. She’s enlisted the likes of Angela Lansbury, Michael Gambon and Emily Watson to star in the tale of the March family, set against the backdrop of the American Civil War.

Doctor Who Christmas special (25th December at 5:30pm on BBC1)

Peter Capaldi bids farewell to the Tardis in what is sure to be an emotional finale for his Thirteenth Doctor as he regenerates into Jodie Whittaker – the first female incarnation. Christmas will also see showrunner Steven Moffat hand over to Chris Chibnall, with the Broadchurch creator expected to pen Whittaker’s opening lines. What will they be? We’ve been speculating.

The Miniaturist (starting on 26th December at 9pm on BBC1)

The Miniaturist, BBC Pictures, SL
The Miniaturist, BBC Pictures, SL

The Miniaturist fills the shoes of Agatha Christie as this year’s big BBC festive drama, adapted from Jessie Burton’s bestselling novel. The two-parter is set in Amsterdam in 1686 and follows Nella Oortman (Anya Taylor Joy) as she begins a new life as the wife of a wealthy Dutch merchant. Romola Garai also stars.

EastEnders (full schedule here)

The Brannings find themselves at the centre of Christmas in Walford thanks to an increasingly unhinged Max who has murder on the mind as he seeks revenge on Ian and Phil. With the exits of his on-screen daughters Lauren and Abi already confirmed, the festive season promises Max’s “ultimate downfall in an apocalyptic scale that will destroy the Branning family forever”. Merry Christmas!

McMafia (starts on New Year’s Day at 9pm on BBC1)

McMafia, BBC Pictures, SL
McMafia, BBC Pictures, SL

A new eight-part thriller kicks off this Christmas, with James Norton playing Alex Goldman – the English-raised son of Russian exiles whose criminal past comes back to haunt their offspring. Described as “glamorous and gritty” this series looks primed to be the Beeb’s next Night Manager.

The Highway Rat (25th December at 4:45pm on BBC1)

Young fans of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s picture books get another festive treat in the form of The Highway Rat, voiced by a stellar cast headed up by David Tennant and Rob Brydon. The eponymous rat craves buns, biscuits and all sweet things – but will his sweet tooth lead him to a sticky end?

300 Years of French & Saunders (25th December at 10:35pm on BBC1)

French and Saunders, BBC Pictures, SL
French and Saunders, BBC Pictures, SL

Yes, it really has been three decades since national treasures Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders first teamed up – and to celebrate they’ve filmed some brand new material for a special 300th (sorry, 30th) anniversary clip show that will also feature greatest hits and never-before-seen footage. Expect a special appearance from Saunders’ Ab Fab co-star Joanna Lumley.

Sports Personality of the Year (17th December at 6:45pm on BBC1)

No Andy Murray on this year’s shortlist but instead we get to vote for the likes of Mo Farah, Anthony Joshua, Lewis Hamilton, Johanna Konta, Chris Froome and sprinter-turned-Strictly star Jonnie Peacock. The ceremony will be broadcast live from the Echo Arena in Liverpool on Sunday 17th December.

Call the Midwife Christmas special (25th December at 7:40pm on BBC1)

Call the Midwife Christmas special, BBC Pictures, SL
Call the Midwife Christmas special, BBC Pictures, SL

Last year took the midwives to South Africa but the 2017 festive special is an altogether chillier affair, showing the sisters in the thick of 1963’s Big Freeze – one of the coldest winters on record. EastEnders legend Anita Dobson guest stars as the adverse weather causes major disruption across Poplar.

Joanna & Jennifer: Absolutely Champers (21st December at 9pm on BBC2)

Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Saunders’ Ab Fab characters Patsy and Eddy are rarely seen without a glass of Champagne in hand so the actresses and comedians have decamped to France to tour the picturesque Champagne province and learn all about their favourite tipple – as well as one another.

Mary, Mel & Sue’s Big Christmas Thank You (24th December at 7pm on BBC1)

Mary, Mel and Sue, BBC Pictures, SL
Mary, Mel and Sue, BBC Pictures, SL

For the first time in over a year, former Bake Off stars Mary Berry, Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins will unite for a festive feast as they descend on south Wales to sprinkle some Christmas joy on an area which has come through tough times. The trio will put on a magnificent party at the local community centre complete with all the usual trimmings.

Strictly Come Dancing final and Christmas special (25th December at 6:30pm on BBC1)

The remaining four Strictly stars will battle it out for the coveted Glitterball in a bid to succeed Ore Oduba as Strictly champion. Plus, stars of Strictly past – including former Radio Times columnists Judy Murray and Jeremy Vine – will compete in a festive special.

The League of Gentlemen Anniversary Specials (starting on 18th December at 10pm on BBC2)

League of Gentlemen, BBC Pictures, SL
League of Gentlemen, BBC Pictures, SL

Mark Gatiss, Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton come together to celebrate the League of Gentleman’s 20th anniversary with three specials, reprising their veritable host of bizarre and darkly comic characters based in the fictional northern town of Royston Vasey.

Mrs Brown’s Boys – Christmas and New Year’s Special (25th December and 1st January – both at 10pm on BBC1)

Mammy’s back for her now-traditional December specials. Among this year’s hilarities are Agnes’ special Christmas tree, Cathy’s new internet date, Father Damien’s Neighbourhood Watch and Rory’s plastic surgery (presumably to explain away the exit of series star Rory Cowan).

Grandpa’s Great Escape (New Year’s Day at 6:55pm on BBC1)

Grandpa's Great Escape, BBC Pictures, SL
Grandpa’s Great Escape, BBC Pictures, SL

Another year, another David Walliams children’s book adapted for TV. This time we’ll see WWII flying ace Grandpa (Tom Courtenay) moved into an old people’s home when his family can no longer cope with his Alzheimer’s. But Twilight Towers is run by Miss Dandy (Jennifer Saunders) for her own ulterior motives and grandson Jack (Kit Connor) is soon enlisted to facilitate a ‘Great Escape’.

A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong (30th December at 7:10pm on BBC1)

The geniuses behind The Play That Goes Wrong, The Comedy About the Bank Robbery and last year’s Peter Pan Goes Wrong are back with their own unique take on Dickens’ Christmas classic. Blacklisted by the BBC after ruining Peter Pan, the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society are hijacking this jewel in the broadcaster’s Christmas schedule. Expect plenty of laughs.

Judi Dench: A Passion for Trees (20th December at 8pm on BBC1)

Judi Dench, BBC Pictures, SL
Judi Dench, BBC Pictures, SL

Did you know that one of Judi Dench’s greatest passions in life is trees? Nope, neither did we. The Oscar-winning actress goes on a “magical journey” using cutting edge scientific technology to uncover their mysteries.

Sue Perkins and the Chimp Sanctuary (New Year’s Day, 9pm, BBC2)

Animal lover Sue Perkins travelled to America to make this hour-long film which introduces a group of newly-retired female chimpanzees to a US national chimpanzee sanctuary after making the 800-mile journey from a New Mexico laboratory to rural Louisiana. After a lifetime used in medical research, they will now live out their days in beautiful forested surroundings – but will anything atone for the trauma they have gone through?

Eric, Ernie & Me (29th December at 9pm on BBC4)

Eric, Ernie & Me, BBC Pictures, SL
Eric, Ernie & Me, BBC Pictures, SL

This BBC4 drama celebrates Eddie Braben – the man behind Morecambe and Wise’s greatest successes – played by Stephen Tompkinson (centre), with Mark Bonnar (right) as Eric and Neil Maskell (left) as Ernie. Fans of the iconic comedy duo can also catch a selection of the pair’s own films in Eric & Ernie’s Home Movies on BBC2.

Alan Partridge: Why, When, Where, How and Whom? (27th December at 9pm on BBC2)

It’s been 25 years since little-known sports reporter Alan Partridge was given his own radio chat show. In the quarter of a century that has followed, Steve Coogan has appeared in two radio series, five TV series, four specials, two books and one movie, and now he’s back on the BBC with a new series set to air next year. But first, this retrospective documentary will look back at his journey to stardom.

Death in Paradise (4th January at 9pm on BBC1)

Death in Paradise, BBC Pictures, SL
Death in Paradise, BBC Pictures, SL

We’re back in tropical Saint Marie as Death in Paradise returns for a seventh series – the first full run with new star Ardal O’Hanlon who reprises his role as DI Jack Mooney. Who doesn’t love a dose of Caribbean sunshine as we face the prospect of a drizzly January?

Saturday Night Fever – The Real Story (22nd December at 9pm on BBC2)

Strictly’s Bruno Tonioli celebrates the 40th anniversary of the release of this blockbuster, telling the story of how a small-budget film changed popular culture forever. Featuring insight from some of those closest to the production itself.

Snow Bears (26th December at 6:30pm on BBC1)

Snow Bears, BBC Pictures, SL
Snow Bears, BBC Pictures, SL

Remember when Kate Winslet’s dulcet tones narrated the BBC’s adorable 2015 documentary Snow Chicks? Well, this year we get Snow Bears. Different animal, same recipe – and guaranteed to have us awww’ing round the telly once again.

Upstart Crow (Christmas Day at 8:25pm on BBC2)

Emma Thompson playing Queen Elizabeth I is a Christmas present like no other. The national treasure steps into the Virgin Queen’s shoes in the Upstart Crow Christmas special – but will Her Majesty enjoy the production of Will’s (David Mitchell) latest play? Or does Eighth Night need a bit more work?

The Apprentice final (17th December at 9pm on BBC1)

Who will Sir Alan Sugar select as his latest business partner? This year’s hopefuls make their final bid to secure their hiring.

ITV

Maigret in Montmartre (24th December at 8:30pm on ITV)

The next film in ITV’s Maigret series sees Rowan Atkinson’s titular detective venture to Montmartre where he investigates the murder of a stripper. The fourth instalment follows in the footsteps of Maigret Sets a Trap, Maigret’s Dead Man and Maigret’s Night at the Crossroads.

Victoria Christmas special (25th December at 9pm on ITV)

Victoria xmas

Seeing as the Victorians basically invented Christmas, we imagine this will be a rather delightful festive instalment featuring Victoria and Albert. “I know it’s going to be utterly brilliant and there’ll be a lot of snow in it,” Daisy Goodwin revealed at the Radio Times Television Festival earlier this year. We can’t wait.

Girlfriends (3rd January at 9pm on ITV)

Kay Mellor’s latest series stars Miranda Richardson, Zoe Wanamaker and Phyllis Logan as Linda, Sue and Gail – a trio of friends grappling with what it means to be a modern woman of a certain age.

Gordon, Gino and Fred’s Great Christmas Roast (21st December at 9pm on ITV)

Gordon Ramsay and Gino D’Acampo are going head-to-head to cook a feast of epic proportions for those who need it most, accompanied by First Dates’ Fred Sirieux who will be hosting the event and ensuring diners have a night to remember.

Channel 4

Miranda Does Christmas (27th December at 9pm on Channel 4)

Miranda Hart, Getty, SL
Miranda Hart, Getty, SL

It’s been a long while since Miranda Hart was last on our TV screens – too long, if you ask us! But make a note in your diaries – she’s back, this time on Channel 4, with what is promised to be a “raucous Christmas party with some very special guests” and tips to ensure we survive the festive period. SUCH fun.

The World’s Best Christmas Lights: from Liverpool to Bethlehem (23rd December at 8pm on Channel 4)

For the last five years, a group of Liverpudlians – known as The Christmas Decorators – have journeyed to Bethlehem on a special mission: to decorate the town’s Manger Square, known to millions as the birthplace of Jesus, in time for Christmas. This year, a film crew followed Operations Director Ged Comerford and his team of helpers as they worked against the clock to bring festive cheer to Bethlehem’s residents and visitors.

The Great British Bake Off (25th December at 7:40pm and 1st January at 7.40pm – both on Channel 4)

The Great British Bake Off Christmas Special - (Val, Paul, Becca and Selasi)
The Great British Bake Off Christmas Special – (Val, Paul, Becca and Selasi)

After a successful first series on Channel 4, Paul, Prue, Sandi and Noel are back and serving up a mouth-watering selection of former bakers for our entertainment. Among the returnees are Val, Selasi, Benjamina and Rav. Now if that’s not a Christmas treat, we don’t know what is.

Travel Man: 48 Hours in Hong Kong (26th December at 8pm on Channel 4)

Richard Ayoade’s Travel Man is always an entertaining watch but the IT Crowd star has taken it up a few notches for his trip to Hong Kong, recruiting none other than JON HAMM. Yes, the Mad Men actor and perfectly-chiselled film star who Ayoade will hobnob around the Asian hotspot with. Jealous? Us? Never.

Alan Carr: The Price is Right (30th December at 8pm on Channel 4)

The world’s longest running game show is getting a new lease of life with Alan Carr at its helm, fronting a brand new pilot – no doubt with an eye on a full series if it proves a hit with Channel 4 audiences. It promises to be a “classic Christmas entertainment extravaganza”…

Sky

Delicious (5th January at 9pm on Sky1)

Dawn French and Emilia Fox’s drama is back for a second series as the pair return to their roles as sparring hoteliers. Series one saw Fox’s Sam discover her recently deceased husband Leo (Iain Glen) had been having an affair with ex-wife Gina (French). Series two picks up a year on from his death with business booming at the Penrose. But there’s still plenty of drama thanks to a new chef and Gina’s estranged father – how long can she and Sam maintain their delicate relationship?

Ratburger (24th December at 6pm on Sky1)

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The BBC isn’t the only place you can find tales about rats and adaptations of David Walliams’ children’s books. Sky have Ratburger, following a young girl named Zoe who befriends a dancing rat called Armitage and plans to enter him in the school talent show. Can she keep him from the clutches of her stepmother (Sheridan Smith) and “shifty burger man” Burt (Walliams) who fancy a dish of rat burgers instead?

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What are YOU most looking forward to watching on TV this Christmas? 

Cast your vote for the one thing you absolutely can’t wait to watch over the festive period.