Christmas Day is the single biggest day of the year for TV broadcasters, and the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and more are all serving up exciting treats in 2018.
If you’re planning your Christmas viewing in advance, check out the best shows to watch on Christmas Day below.
This is bound to be a family favourite on BBC1. In what has become a Christmas Day tradition, we’re treated to another Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler adaptation, after last year’s The Highway Rat and previous offerings including The Gruffalo and Stick Man.
This time we meet two characters who don’t quite fit into society’s expectations of princesses and dragons. The accident-prone Zog is stumbling his way through Dragon school and is more likely to make friends with his victims than capture them. He meets Princess Pearl, who would rather be a doctor than a princess any day. Max Lang directs this charming animated film narrated by Sir Lenny Henry, and with Kit Harington (Sir Gadabout) and Hugh Skinner (Zog) providing voices.
A present for Strictly fans, as some of the ghosts of Strictly past return to bring their finest dance moves. Former JLS singer Ashton Merrywood, Anita Rani, Jake ‘snake-hips’ Woods and Love Island’s Caroline Flack are all back. Ann Widdecombe returns too, with Anton Du Beke pulling out the stops to coax and cajole her across the stage. Former England cricketer Michael Vaughan also stars and says he hasn’t danced since 2012. What could go wrong? The theme this year is fairy tales… but will the judges make them come true?
Michael McIntyre’s Big Christmas Show – 6.45pm BBC1
The ever-popular puppyish comedian celebrates the holidays in a fourth seasonal special of his award-winning show. There will be sketches, guest stars and general hijinks with the audience involved throughout. Chris Kamara, former football pundit and general character, gives up his phone for McIntyre to Send to All. But it’s Paige, a 22 year old from Nottingham, who is the star of the show. “Her performance is the most Christmassy thing I’ve ever seen!” McIntyre says.
Christmas was made for Call the Midwife. This 90 minute episode hardly stops from the moment Miriam Margolyes, playing Sister Mildred, arrives at Nonnatus House with four Chinese orphans en route to new homes in England. We’ve got other new characters in Sister Hilda and Sister Frances; and with children, a nativity and (of course) a birth, there’s plenty of classic Christmas schmaltz here for all, but also balanced with powerful emotion from writer Heidi Thomas.
EastEnders, Coronation Street, Emmerdale
The soaps have it all covered tonight: a surprise wedding in Emmerdale; a festive visit behind bars in Corrie;and a baby secret that’s set to explode in EastEnders.
Because Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a little soapy misery, right?
Emmerdale – 7.15pm ITV
Coronation Street – 8.15pm ITV
EastEnders – 9.15pm BBC1
Cakes are, happily, often present at Christmas. And no more so than on Bake Off. Four previous contestants – Liam Charles, Flo Atkins, Andrew Smyth and Jane Beedle –return to the tent in Christmas jumpers in one of two Christmas specials to compete in three challenges. Paul Hollywood is cheerily not even playing his usual role of pantomime villain. There’s festive fun all around, and biscuits.
It’s a literary mash-up for the Christmas special of this farcical historical comedy. In A Christmas Carol-inspired plot, David Mitchell’s William Shakespeare is visited by a spirit who tells him of a miserly man who was cured after nighttime meetings with three ghosts. So Will tries to change the heart of Mark Heap’s delightfully bitter Robert Green, the resident Scrooge. But it doesn’t go well, even with the help of guest star Lily Cole.
Growing up in 1960s Nottingham Jayne Torvill dreams of being a figure skater and simply wants to express herself. “What have you got to express?” wonders her mum. Meanwhile, Christopher Dean is a miner’s son, destined for the pit. In this sweet biography of the legendary duo, played by Poppy Lee Friar and Will Tudor, we see their relationship flourish, on and off the ice. It’s a feel-good story from the writer of Made in Dagenham – as they go from teenagers starting out together, through to the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics and that gold medal-winning performance of Bolero.
You know what you’re getting with Brendan O’Carroll’s Mrs Brown, and every year the BBC1 comedy is a guaranteed Christmas blockbuster. In this special, Agnes is up for the Finglas Best Decorated Home Competition, but for some reason her nemesis Hilary (Susie Blake) is the judge. The world of technology also catches up with Agnes in the shape of Maggie – an Alexa-style ‘wifi-assistant’, shaped like a shamrock – a present from Dermot and Buster. There are some laughs, some double-entendres and a big sing-song. That’s what Christmas is about, though, right?