Gavin and Stacey rule with most-watched Christmas TV of the decade

Ruth Jones and James Corden's BBC comedy returned on Christmas Day and earned a huge TV audience

Gavin and Stacey Christmas Special 2019

Just in the nick of time, Gavin and Stacey has broken the record for the most-watched Christmas show of the decade across all channels.

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The comedy, which stars James Corden and Ruth Jones, easily won the Christmas Day ratings war with 11.6 million viewers – almost half (49.2%) of the TV audience at 8:30pm, according to overnight figures.

This makes it the most-watched show on Christmas Day, or over the entire festive period, this decade. In fact, it’s the biggest overnight audience we’ve seen on Christmas Day since 2008, when Wallace & Gromit’s A Matter of Loaf and Death smashed records with 14.3 million. That same year, more than 12 million also tuned in to EastEnders and Doctor Who.

Gavin and Stacey Christmas Special 2019

The numbers of people watching live TV on 25th December have generally declined since then in favour of catch-up.

However, families across the nation sat down to watch Gavin and Stacey as it returned after a hiatus of ten years, with Matthew Horne and Joanna Page back to play the titular couple. Audiences also caught up with Smithy (James Corden) and Nessa (Ruth Jones), but were left with a cliffhanger ending and a big question mark over the future of the show.

Fans were mainly delighted with the episode, which earned rave reviews – but there has also been controversy over the decision to use the original lyrics to Fairytale of New York, and the inclusion of an offensive homophobic slur.

Commenting on the record-breaking episode, Director of BBC Content Charlotte Moore said: “Christmas Day on BBC One brought the nation together and entertained them in their millions with the much anticipated return of Gavin and Stacey taking the top spot in 2019, and making it the biggest in a decade. We delivered something for everyone with the seven most popular programmes that cap off an incredible year for BBC One celebrating British talent and creativity.”

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The Queen’s Christmas message was the second most-watched TV of Christmas day, picking up 6.4 million viewers. Next in the list of the BBC’s top Christmas Day 2019 shows came Strictly Come Dancing, then EastEnders, then Michael McIntyre’s Big Christmas Show, then Call the Midwife, and Mrs Brown’s Boys (with 4.6 million).