The BBC has unveiled its slate of programming for the Christmas season, which includes returning favourites and high-profile new dramas, as well as a healthy mix of light entertainment and fascinating factual pieces.


Charlotte Moore, BBC Chief Content Officer, said: "Christmas 2021 is a time to reunite with friends and family once more, and this year’s line-up of must-see shows will bring everyone together to share the festive season on the BBC.

"There’s a stocking full of special programmes to enthral and enchant featuring your favourite stars and characters, whatever your mood. The BBC is the place to be entertained this Christmas and New Year."

Doctor Who will once again air its seasonal special on New Year's Day, with the hotly anticipated episode set to guest star Aisling Bea (Home Sweet Home Alone), Adjani Salmon (Dreaming Whilst Black) and Pauline McLynn (Father Ted).

There will be more family-friendly fantasy as Mackenzie Crook returns with two more episodes of his critically acclaimed Worzel Gummidge, with Strictly champ Bill Bailey and The A List's Nneka Okoye joining the family as Mr Peregrine and Calliope Jane.

We'll be heading back to Saint Marie for the first ever festive episode of Death in Paradise, which sees Danny John-Jules returning as Dwayne Myers to co-star opposite Ralf Little, who plays DI Neville Parker.

Of course, it wouldn't be Christmas without a stop-off at Nonnatus House, with this year's Call the Midwife special focusing on wedding planning as Lucille (Leonie Elliott) and Cyril (Zephryn Taitte) prepare to tie the knot.

If you're a fan of the BBC's sitcom output, you'll also be well catered for with the return of Lee Mack's Not Going Out, Brendan O'Carroll's Mrs Brown's Boys and the BAFTA-nominated Ghosts, which will feature a special appearance from comedy legend Jennifer Saunders.

Ghosts series 3 cast
Ghosts series 3 cast BBC

If you're looking for something brand new to sink your teeth into, the BBC also has you covered with a slate of high-profile dramas starring some very big names.

There's been a lot of interest in A Very British Scandal from screenwriter Sarah Phelps, which stars Claire Foy (The Crown) and Paul Bettany (WandaVision) as the Duke and Duchess of Argyll, chronicling their explosive divorce as it unfolded.

Fellow Marvel star Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Loki) and Emmy nominee David Oyelowo lead the cast of psychological thriller The Girl Before, which follows a woman "who moves into a strange house designed by an enigmatic architect".

David Tennant will no doubt continue to dominate British television with Around the World in 80 Days, a fresh adaptation of the classic Jules Verne story about intrepid explorer Phileas Fogg.

Meanwhile, Fifty Shades of Grey alum Jamie Dornan teams up with Baptiste creators Harry and Jack Williams for The Tourist, which follows one man's desperate plight as he wakes up stranded in the perilous Australian outback.

Last but not least, Mark Gatiss' latest ghost story is an adaptation of The Mezzotint for BBC Two just in time for New Year's Eve, with Rory Kinnear (No Time to Die), Robert Bathurst (Toast of London) and Nikesh Patel (Starstruck) rounding out the cast.

National treasure Sir David Attenborough will release two films for the BBC over Christmas – Wonder of Song and Mammoth Graveyard – focusing on his favourite recordings from the natural world and an archeological dig in Swindon respectively.

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Those looking to put their brains to the test can tune into festive editions of University Challenge, Only Connect and a rebooted The Weakest Link with Romesh Ranganathan (who will also be fronting a new episode of comedy show The Ranganation).

Romesh Ranganathan
Romesh Ranganathan BBC

There will be plenty more laughs from Michael McIntyre's Christmas Wheel, Would I Lie to You?, QI, Live at the Apollo, and for the bravest viewers, Frankie Boyle's New World Order.

Glossy entertainment formats I Can See Your Voice, The Hit List and The Wall also return with celebrity editions, while the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas special will bring some ballroom sparkle to the big day.

Top Gear presenters Chris Harris, Paddy McGuinness and Freddie Flintoff get back behind the wheel for special episode Driving Home for Christmas, which kicks off in the Welsh village of Bethlehem before heading to Bath to deliver an enormous Norway Spruce.

The Repair Shop will be offering more emotional restorations of treasured family heirlooms, while The Great British Sewing Bee will return with Sara Pascoe taking over hosting duties from Joe Lycett.

If you're looking for some cooking inspiration, there will be plenty of dishes being served up on the BBC over the Christmas period too.

MasterChef: Champions Special 2021
MasterChef: Champions Special 2021 BBC

MasterChef Champions Special will pit five of the most memorable contestants from previous years against each other, with The Professionals Rematch being a similar concept for the spin-off series, and of course, you can also expect a more light-hearted Celebrity Christmas Cook-Off featuring big personalities including Gemma Collins, Joe Swash, Joey Essex and Judi Love.

In addition, two of the UK's most popular celebrity chefs will be sharing their top recipes in Andi Oliver's Taste of Home Christmas Special and Mary Berry's Festive Feasts.

Bob Mortimer and Paul Whitehouse will team up to catch an elusive English Salmon in Gone Christmas Fishing, while another beloved duo Dave Myers and Si King will create a unique festive feast in The Hairy Bikers Go North for Christmas.

For the little ones, there will be new episodes of The Beaker Girls and Horrible Histories, as well as Aardman's latest animated offering Shaun the Sheep: The Flight Before Christmas.

Meanwhile, Academy Award winner Olivia Colman and Doctor Who alum Matt Smith team up for an adaptation of Julia Donaldson's The Superworm.

As is traditional, there will be more Carols from Kings and Songs of Praise over the period, while The Royal Institution will bring more Christmas Lectures, led by Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam.


Looking for something to watch? Check out our TV Guide to see what's on tonight.