The best Christmas TV for 2020 – your guide to what to watch

It's been a turbulent year – but we can always rely on some great festive telly!

Yaz Graham Ryan

For obvious reasons, Christmas might not be exactly the same as usual this year – but if there’s one thing we can always bank on around the festive period it’s lots of great telly.

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As ever we can look forward to Christmas specials for our most beloved shows, one-off animations to be enjoyed by the whole family and much more this year – and we’ve picked out a few highlights.

So far, only ITV has announced its Christmas slate in full, but we’ll keep this page updated when the rest of the major channels follow suit, and we’re sure there will be some major treats in store.

Read on for all the must-watch festive TV…

Call the Midwife Christmas Special – BBC One

Call the Midwife Peter Davison
ITV

Airs: Christmas Day, time TBC

It wouldn’t be Christmas without a festive episode of Heidi Thomas’s beloved period drama Call the Midwife, and this year’s special looks to be another real treat for fans of the show.

The episode is set in December 1965, with everyone at Nonnatus House looking forward to traditional celebrations with all the trimmings – but things go a bit awry. Sister Monica Joan is rushed to hospital, Trixie is incensed to receive a subscription to a Marriage Bureau as a Christmas gift and  a surprise reunion for Shelagh involves her in a deeply moving birth. And there’s also a guest appearance by Peter Davison as the ringmaster of a circus which arrives in Poplar!

Thomas has spoken of the importance of getting the episode finished in time for Christmas, to add a bit of normality to a turbulent time, and it’s sure to be a highlight for many telly fans.

Doctor Who: Revolution of the Daleks – BBC One

Jodie Whittaker Doctor Who
Jodie Whittaker as The Doctor in Revolution of the Daleks (BBC)
BBC

Airs: TBC

Christmas is always better when there’s a Doctor Who special to look forward to, and luckily for Whovians Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor and co. are returning for a festive episode.

The hotly-anticipated Revolution of the Daleks begins with the Doctor locked away in a high-security alien prison after the events of series 12, while Yaz, Ryan and Graham have to pick up their lives without her.

They soon get reeled back in to adventures in time and space however, when they discover a disturbing plan forming which involves a Dalek…

Strictly: The Christmas Countdown – BBC One

Strictly Come Dancing judges

Airs:  TBC

Unfortunately there won’t be a normal Strictly Christmas special this year as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic – but fans will still be able to get a dose of the ballroom extravaganza over the festive period with this special.

Strictly: The Christmas Countdown will reveal the 25 most memorable dances of all time voted for by the viewers, from the perfect 40’s, the trophy-winning routines, dances that have made us laugh, and perhaps some that are remembered for other reasons…

EastEnders Christmas Special – BBC One

Airs: Christmas Day, time TBC 

Christmas is always an especially dramatic time in Walford and it looks like that will be no different in 2020, with a few details already hinted at by the soap’s stars and creative team.

According to executive producer Kate Oates, there will be a “huge” festive story that sees the return of a well-known character – although the identity of that character remains under wraps for now.

Britain’s Got Talent at Christmas – ITV

BGT Christmas

Airs: Christmas Day, time TBC

This special Christmas edition of the popular talent contest will see Ant and Dec welcome back some of the most memorable acts from the show’s 14 year history, with a judging panel comprised of Amanda Holden, Alesha Dixon, David Walliams and Ashley Banjo.

Dancing on Thin Ice with Torvill and Dean – ITV

Torvill and Dean
ITV

Airs: TBC

Until now, Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean have never skated in the great outdoors – but in this 90-minute special they put that right by travelling to Alaska.

In the process, they discover firsthand the dramatic effects of climate change as they are forced to travel into the remote wilderness to hunt for wild ice, skating wherever they can, as they seek to find the perfect place to dance a special Bolero.

Billy Connolly: It’s Been a Pleasure – ITV

Billy Connolly
ITV

Airs: TBC

Iconic stand-up comedian Billy Connolly announced his retirement earlier this year, and this documentary special looks back on the many highlights of his astonishing career.

Built around brand new filming with Billy at his home in the Florida Keys, the tribute takes a look back at his illustrious comedy career, featuring his greatest stand-up moments, unseen performance footage and exclusive chats with some of Billy’s biggest famous fans.

The Story of SM:TV Live – ITV

SM_TV Live
ITV

Airs: TBC

For viewers of a certain age, SM:TV Live was a huge part of childhood – and many telly fans first encounter with Ant and Dec, who co-hosted the series alongside Cat Deeley.

This special takes a look back at the first three years of the show from 1999 to 2001, with brand new interviews with Ant & Dec and Cat in a recreation of the SM:TV set and a look through archival footage – including Challenge Ant, Wonky Donkey, the Postbag dance, Pokemon Rap, Dec’s crush on Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Friends parody, Chums

Birds of a Feather Christmas Special – ITV

Birds of a Feather
ITV

Airs: TBC

Classic sitcom Birds of a Feather returns for a one-off special, joining the characters three years after we last saw them. in the interim they’ve gone through a few changes – Tracey and Dorien have been getting right on each others’ thruppennies, while Sharon has escaped to the other side of the world and is stuck on a COVID-cruise.

Linda Robson and Lesley Joseph will reprise their roles as Tracey Stubbs and Dorien Green for the episode, but usual star Pauline Quirke will not be involved as she’s stepping back from acting to focus on her 200 nationwide performing arts academies.

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Looking for something else to watch? Check out our TV Guide.