BBC confirms Doctor Who, Strictly Christmas Countdown, new Blankety Blank and more for festive line-up

From the return of Worzel Gummidge to The Big New Year's In, it's a packed schedule across Christmas and the New Year.

Jodie Whittaker Doctor Who

The BBC has revealed its festive line-up for Christmas and the New Year and it’s packed with returning favourite and new treats.

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Call the Midwife is back, with Nonnatus House celebrating Christmas 1965, but when one of the nuns receives an unwanted gift and another is rushed to hospital, nothing goes quite to plan, while Doctor Who is also returning for the Doctor Who Christmas special, with the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) imprisoned and her three best friends forced to face the Daleks without her.

Mackenzie Crook will reprise his role as the walking, talking scarecrow in one-hour film Worzel Gummidge: Saucy Nancy (alongside Shirley Henderson as Saucy Nancy), while Gemma Arterton will star opposite the late Dame Diana Rigg in the haunting 1930s-set drama Black Narcissus, and Jenna Coleman will appear in eight-part series The Serpent, telling the extraordinary story of the capture of one of Interpol’s most wanted men, Charles Sobhraj (Tahar Rahim) in 1970s Thailand.

For younger viewers, there’s brand new animation Zog and the Flying Doctors, narrated by Lenny Henry, while soap fans will get their regular visit to Albert Square, with Ian Beale (Adam Woodyatt) targeted by a mystery assailant in EastEnders.

The drama doesn’t stop their either, with BBC Four airing a specially filmed stage version of Uncle Vanya featuring Toby Jones, Richard Armitage, Rosalind Eleazar and Aimee Lou Wood.

There are plenty of familiar faces in the Christmas comedy line-up too, with Dawn French returning for new  The Vicar of Dibley specials, Mrs Brown’s Boys back for two festive specials, as well as new outings for Ghosts, Not Going Out, King Gary, Motherland and Two Doors Down.

Dawn French in The Vicar of Dibley in Lockdown
Dawn French in The Vicar of Dibley in Lockdown
BBC

Meanwhile, Upstart Crow will explore a Lockdown Christmas in 1603, and The Goes Wrong Show will deliver a typically chaotic staging of the Nativity.

Alison Steadman will also star in a brand new comedy, Pandemonium, which follows the Jessop family as they take a a “summer holiday” during a cold December in Margate.

Though there won’t be the traditional Strictly special, Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman will instead reveal which dances viewers have voted their top 25 ever in Strictly: The Christmas Countdown, and if you’re a dance lover, you’ll want to check out BBC Two’s special recording of Matthew Bourne’s Olivier Award-winning adaptation of The Red Shoes too.

In entertainment, classic game show Blankety Blank will return for a one-off special hosted by Bradley Walsh, Miranda Hart will host her own “games night” with celebrity couples competing, the panellists from Have I Got News For You will celebrate 30 years alongside some of the guests from the past three decades, and there’ll be a special festive editions of Would I Lie To You?, Michael McIntyre‘s The Wheel, The Hit List, The Wall vs Celebrities and Richard Osman’s House of Games.

Alongside special episodes of University Challenge, Frankie Boyle’s New World Order, Only Connect and QI, The Great British Sewing Bee will return for two festive celebrity specials, and Jay Blades and the team of experts will return for The Repair Shop at Christmas.

The Repair Shop

There’s a whole heap of festive factual programming too: in a seasonal follow-up to last year’s Our Dementia Choir, Vicky McClure tells the story of the choir through lockdown, Michael Palin revisits his trip to the Himalayas in new Travels of a Lifetime, Romesh heads to the Hebrides in The Misadventures of Romesh Ranganathan and Sara Pascoe discovering the most endangered jobs in the world in Last Woman on Earth.

The acclaimed Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Christmas Fishing will be back for an hour-long special, while Nigella will also be back with a Cook, Eat Repeat Christmas episode.

The late Victoria Wood has inspired Victoria Wood: The Secret List – featuring 20 sketches chosen by Victoria herself in a notebook discovered after her death – and documentary The Nine Lives of Ozzy Osbourne will explore the life of the Black Sabbath frontman.

One of Britain’s best-selling children’s authors will be celebrated in the The Gruffalo and Me: The Magical World of Julia Donaldson, while Being Bridget is set to back on the legacy of Bridget Jones, 25 years after she made her first appearance.

Nature programming on the BBC over the period will include Meerkat: A Dynasties Special (narrated by Sir David Attenborough), Penguins: Meet the Family (narrated by Liz Bonnin), Animal Park (with Ben Fogle and Kate Humble) and Cheetah Family and Me (with Gordon Buchanan), while three famous faces will join Mary Berry to help some the culinary-challenged in Mary Berry Saves Christmas, and Masterchef will be back for two specials –one featuring past professional chefs, and one with previous celebrity contestants. 

Bridging the gap from this year to 2021 will be Graham Norton with his end of year show, Jool’s Annual Hootenanny, 31st December’s live entertainment show The Big New Year’s In, and the traditional live New Year’s Day Concert from Vienna on 1st January.

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Check out what else is on with our TV Guide, or take a look at our new TV shows 2020 page to find out what’s airing this autumn and beyond.