Christmas 2016: best TV on today, Thursday 29th December
The Bronte sisters step into the spotlight on BBC1 before Charlie Brooker's Philomena Cunk talks us through Christmas on BBC2
If you’ve reached that stage in your Christmas holidays when you’re growing weary of sharing bonhomie with your nearest and dearest, just think, it could be worse, you could be a Brontë sister. Sally Wainwright’s harrowing dramatization of life in Haworth for three women who write like angels but who, it seems, are destined to see out their days serving their menfolk or being governesses is the perfect Christmas corrective. Finn Atkins, Chloe Pirrie and Charlie Murphy are formidable as Charlotte, Emily and Anne, striding the village streets like bonneted Reservoir Dogs as they seek to fulfil their destiny as the greatest of all writers.
In a year where Ed Balls has become the Billy Elliot of ballroom dancing, you might think you’ve seen it all. But even more inspiring are the four young Welsh boys in this documentary who don make-up and fake tan to train and compete as ballroom dancers seven days a week. In an area of the valleys where rugby is king, these rare, brave boys don’t just have the pressure of winning but also the judgement from peers, friends and a few dads, too. The film follows them as they prepare for the UK dancing championships in Bournemouth and face all kinds of struggles that come with going against the grain.
The sight of polar bear cubs tobogganing down a snowy slope on their tummies never fails to delight. You may have seen footage like this many times before on one wildlife film or another, but it will always melt your heart. There’s plenty of amazing footage in this Gordon Buchanan documentary, showing how some animals positively thrive in nature’s winter wonderlands. We see owls, penguins, wolverines and — a bit of a nod to the Christmas season here — reindeer. But challenging those polar bears for the title of Cutest Animals Ever is a pair of adorable black bear cubs that are struggling to survive an unexpected, freezing blizzard.
Charlie Brooker’s 2016 Wipe, 9pm, BBC2
Who’d be a satirist in 2016, a year when every week brought something calamitous, ridiculous or momentous? The idea is usually to give reality a dark or absurd twist, but in the past 12 months reality hasn’t needed much help. Trying to make sense of a year in which the Prime Minister’s resignation probably wouldn’t figure in a news stories top five is Charlie Brooker, who has only an hour to cover everything and was still hammering out a script as RT went to press. He will, however, be helped in this impossible task by various guest contributors, including Philomena Cunk, whose own show, Cunk on Christmas, airs directly afterwards.
Bruce Springsteen: In His Words, 10.35pm, C4
Watching a joyous, barnstorming Springsteen gig, it’s hard to believe he’s struggled with depression, as he disclosed in his recent autobiography. He reveals more in this profile, including the first time, aged six, he played guitar for an audience: “I made a horrible noise. But I did enjoy bangin’ the hell out of it!” He also talks about why, aged 67, he still feels most alive when he’s in front of 60,000 people smashing out Thunder Road or Born to Run.
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Kasim is starting to feel suffocated at the Bartons'. And who can blame him? Give Emma an inch and she'll end up drugging you and taking you captive. Just ask James Barton... on no, you can't, because Emma ended up pushing him to his death from a road bridge. My advice? Run, Kasim! Run for the Dales!
Elsewhere, Joanie takes matters into her own hands when she tries to defend Kerry (I can't help but feel that Emmerdale is gearing up to let Joanie go, so that actress Denise Black can transfer back to Corrie). And Chrissie isn't happy that Rebecca has invited half the village to her New Year's Eve party."