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
“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.
That includes homemade candy canes, the “corpses” of Christmas trees hung with decorations and strangers breaking into kids’ homes to bring them presents.
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.
The Fantastic Beast star follows in the footsteps of Tom Hardy and Chris Evans with a tale at bedtime.
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.
Boxing Day, Tuesday 26th December, 6.30pm BBC1
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
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…
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
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
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).