The best children’s shows on TV this Christmas

From Grandpa's Great Escape, to The Highway Rat and Ratburger: here are the best telly treats for kids this Christmas

BBC, Youtube screenshot Olaf, Getty, Sky pics, TL


Christmas Eve, Sunday 24th December,  6.00pm Sky1

Ratburger First Look David Walliams as Bert © Sky UK Limited (Sky, BA)

Here’s a filthy — but funny — story from the mind of David Walliams. It features beastly, crisp-scoffing stepmum Sheila (Sheridan Smith), Burt (Walliams), a shifty burger seller with dodgy hygiene, bullied schoolgirl Zoe (Talia Barnett), a soppy dad (Mark Benton) and of course a rat. Except this rodent can really bust some moves. Zoe wants to enter him into the school’s talent show but Burt has other plans — involving a mincer.

It’s an enjoyable, rather silly romp, and there’s an impressive roster of guest stars, too, including Nigel Planer, Sarah Hadland and Sophie Thompson.

Review by Jane Rackham

The Highway Rat

Christmas Day, Monday 25th December, 4.45pm BBC1

David Tennant stars in Christmas 2017 special The Highway Rat (BBC/Getty, JG)
David Tennant stars in Christmas 2017 special The Highway Rat 

“Give me your pastries and puddings! Give me your chocolate and cake!” demands the sugar-obsessed Rat of the Highway of every creature he meets in this swashbuckling animation based on Julia Donaldson’s book. This greedy rodent takes what he wants and even what he doesn’t. Until, that is, he challenges a rather clever duck and is forced to see the error of his ways. So there’s a nice moral sting in this tale.

Narrated by Rob Brydon, it’s charmingly realised and features the voices of David Tennant, Tom Hollander, Nina Sosanya and Frances de la Tour.

Review by Jane Rackham

Olaf’s Frozen Adventure 

Christmas day, Monday 25th December,  from 6am (21 minutes long) Sky Cinema Premiere

Frozen’s Anna and Elsa don’t have any Christmas traditions – but in this short film, charming snowman Olaf is determined to make their holiday season memorable by adopting everyone else’s ideas.

That includes homemade candy canes, the “corpses” of Christmas trees hung with decorations and strangers breaking into kids’ homes to bring them presents.

Doctor Who

Christmas Day, Monday 25th December, 5.30pm BBC1

It’s the end of days for Peter Capaldi and for showrunner Steven Moffat, and they’re giving fans a final treat by hooking up the 12th Doctor with his very first incarnation, now embodied, with oodles of magic, by David Bradley. (Original Doctor Who William Hartnell died in 1975.) “When Doctors meet, it’s a laugh,” Moffat tells RT.

Capaldi’s Doctor is mortified by his earlier self’s old-fashioned (hilarious) attitudes, while Bradley’s Doctor is unimpressed by his successor’s sonic sunglasses and sepulchral Tardis (his own is re-created in its gleaming-white 1960s glory).

Twice upon a Time plays some sombre notes, too. Mark Gatiss is top-hole and rather touching as a British captain lifted out of a bomb crater in the Great War. Glass avatars from the future oblige the doddery Doctors to contemplate mortality and what it means to be good and evil.

Smartly, there are no real bad guys in this absorbing adventure. Best of all, Moffat has written Capaldi a beautiful valedictory speech underlining his philosophy for the programme they’ve both adored for 50 years. It places the mystery of the Doctor back in the hearts of children, celebrates the Time Lord’s past and reaches to the future. Watch those sad eyes as they burn and melt into Jodie Whittaker’s.

Review by Patrick Mulkern

CBeebies Bedtime Story with Eddie Redmayne

Christmas DayMonday 25th December, 6.50pm CBeebies

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 15: (EDITORS NOTE: This image was processed using digital filters) Actor Eddie Redmayne attends the 20th Annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards at the Hollywood Palladium on January 15, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images for BFCA) Getty, TL

The Fantastic Beast star follows in the footsteps of Tom Hardy and Chris Evans with a tale at bedtime.

Stick Man

Boxing Day, Tuesday 26th December, 1.45pm BBC1

Stick Man charms and delights, makes you laugh out aloud; Julia and Axel should feel mightily proud.

Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s bestselling children’s book is a brilliant festive animation. The simple story of a stick man who’s separated from his family through a series of misfortunes is given a touch of poignancy that makes the funny, charming bits so much sweeter.

With a voice cast including Martin Freeman, Hugh Bonneville and Jennifer Saunders, this is a real treat.

Snow Bears

Boxing Day, Tuesday 26th December, 6.30pm BBC1

Snow Bears (BBC, EH)

At the end of a brutal Arctic winter, a female polar bear and her two cubs must make a gruelling 400-mile journey to seal-rich waters on the edge of the North Pole. The little ones are adorable, of course, as they flump down icy hillsides having lost their footing, or cling to slippery slopes in the wake of their mother. But there is danger from a male polar bear who takes a fancy to their mother.

His exhausting, rough wooing can go on for weeks and he keeps turning up as the trio make their journey. Kate Winslet narrates in a cutesy, chucklesome way (“The mother wonders where it all went wrong while the cubs reflect on what they have done”), while the music that so many viewers complain about on natural history programmes signals every emotion and mood change.

Review by Alison Graham

The Gruffalo

Wednesday 27th December, 3.45pm BBC1

Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s modern classic picture book comes to life. When Mouse takes a stroll through the woods, he invents a terrible monster — the Gruffalo — to fend off foes. But then he meets the fearsome beast itself…

Revolting Rhymes

Thursday 28th December, 1.50pm BBC1

This bright, brilliant animated short film brings to life three of Roald Dahl’s parody fairytale poems, and features a host of famous voices, including Dominic West as the Wolf and Rose Leslie as Red.

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt

Thursday 28th December, 7.00pm C4

Animated adventure, based on the popular children’s bedtime book of the same name, by Michael Rosen. Stan, Katie, Rosie, Max and the baby, along with Rufus the dog, all embark on a quest to find some bears. Trekking through whirling snowstorms, muddy bogs and dark forests, the siblings refuse to let anything get in their way. However, when Rosie and Rufus end up getting lost, bear-hunting suddenly doesn’t seem quite so much fun after all.

Featuring the voices of Olivia Colman, Pam Ferris and Mark Williams as Mum, Grandma and Dad.

Room on the Broom

Friday 29th December, 3.50pm BBC1

Everybody’s welcome to sit on the witch’s broom — but her cat’s not happy about having to share! Gillian Anderson, Rob Brydon, David Walliams and Timothy Spall all lend their voices to Julia Donaldson’s story.

CBeebies Bedtime Story with Dolly Parton

New Year’s Eve, Sunday 31st December, 6.50pm Cbeebies

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 07:30:01 on 09/10/2017 - Programme Name: CBeebies Bedtime Stories - TX: n/a - Episode: Dolly Parton Announcement (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: **Strictly embargoed until 09/10/2017 07:30:01 ** Dolly Parton - (C) BBC - Photographer: Pete Dadds BBC TL

We’ve had Tom Hardy and his dog charming viewers across the nation. We’ve had Chris Evans’ dulcet tones calming kids and parents alike. And now singing superstar Dolly Parton will be taking on CBeebies’ Bedtime Stories. Again.

After appearing on the show in October, the country musician will return to read her second story.

Grandpa’s Great Escape

New Year’s Day, Monday 1st January, 6.55pm BBC1

Grandpa's Great Escape, BBC Pictures, SL

In what is now an annual tradition, David Walliams is back on TV this Christmas with another children’s book adaptation – this time based upon 2016’s Grandpa’s Great Escape.It follows in the footsteps of Mr Stink (which aired on the BBC in 2012), Gangsta Granny (2013), The Boy in the Dress (2014) and Billionaire Boy (2015).