This festive season promises to be fabulous, with highlights including two Mrs Brown's Boys specials, a Call The Midwife Christmas episode, a New Year's Day outing for Jodie Whittaker's Time Lord and a new version of Watership Down. Here we bring you an exclusive rundown of the best shows to watch this Christmas and when they're on!
The best Christmas shows and what channels and times they’re on…
Call The Midwife Christmas Special, BBC1, Christmas Day, 7.45pm
It’s Christmas 1963 in Poplar and the ever-busy midwives are rushed off their feet as the nuns head off to the Mother House and a horrified Sister Julienne (Jenny Agutter) hears she could be the next Mother Superior.
Thankfully, Trixie (Helen George) is back to lend a hand when formidable Sister Mildred (guest star Miriam Margolyes) turns up with four Chinese orphans in need of TLC and plans are soon underway for a special Christmas Nativity.
Other new faces include Fenella Woolgar as Sister Hilda and Ella Bruccoleri as Sister Frances. And Jenny Agutter, who plays Sister Julienne, revealed to us that there’s a nod to tragic Barbara in the festive episode.
Mrs Brown’s Boys Christmas Special, BBC 1, Christmas Day, 10.15pm; Mrs Brown’s Boys New Year Special, New Year’s Day, 10pm
As Mammy (Brendan O’Carroll) returns for two special Christmas and New Year episodes, watch out for the appearance of another spectacular but probably ill-fated tree in the Brown household as Mrs B goes all out to win Father Damien’s competition for the best decorated house.
Speaking about the festive episode, Brendan told us: “I spent the Summer thinking, ‘What am I going to do with the Christmas tree this year?’”
Les Misérables, BBC1, Tuesday 30th December, 9pm
There might not be any songs in store but Andrew Davies’ epic six-part adaptation of Victor Hugo’s masterpiece will keep you captivated as it follows the obsessive friction between fugitive jailbird Jean Valjean (played by Dominic West) and dogged policeman Javert (David Oyelowo) who is on his trail.
Set against the backdrop of political tensions in France in the early 19th century, it also stars Olivia Colman, Lily Collins and Josh O’Connor.
ABC Murders, BBC1, starts Boxing Day, 9pm
This adaptation of the infamously gripping Agatha Christie novel, written by the wonderful crime author back in 1936, will have Poirot fans on the edge of their seats this festive season.
John Malkovich (Being John Malkovich, In The Line Of Fire, Dangerous Liaisons) will lead the cast as Hercule Poirot, staring alongside Rupert Grint (Harry Potter, Sick Note) as Inspector Crome, and Andrew Buchan (Broadchurch, The Honourable Woman) as Franklin Clarke as they try to solve a 1930s murder mystery. Describing his Poirot, John tells us: “It’s always evolving but he isn’t happy. He is quite forgotten and the world has passed him by. You see some of his backstory and he’s an old man with a past.”
Torvill & Dean, ITV, Christmas Day, 9.15pm
From their first meeting as teenagers in Nottingham in the 1970s to winning Olympic Gold in 1984, the true story of the nation’s most famous ice skating duo is recounted in this entertaining biopic starring Poppy Lee Friar and Will Tudor.
Stephen Tompkinson and Dean Andrews play the young skaters’ fathers while Anita Dobson and Jaime Winstone portray the coaches who set them on the path to glory.
Luther BBC1, starts New Year’s Day, 9pm
Idris Elba makes his much-anticipated return as troubled detective DCI John Luther in series five of the blistering crime drama. He and new recruit DS Catherine Halliday (Wunmi Mosaku) investigate a series of monstrous killings that force Luther to confront the horrors of his own recent past. Hermione Norris also joins the cast as psychiatrist Dr Vivien Lake who could help them crack the case.
Watership Down, BBC1, starts Saturday 22nd December, 7pm
This two-part TV adaptation of the famous 1972 novel written by Richard Adams boasts an all-star cast including James McAvoy (Atonement, X-Men, Arthur Christmas), Nicholas Hoult (About a Boy, X-Men), Gemma Arterton (Quantum of Solace, Clash of the Titans) and Olivia Colman (Murder on the Orient Express, Broadchurch and The Crown).
It’s also been revealed that Sam Smith has recorded an original song for the animation.
Doctor Who, BBC1, New Year’s Day, 7pm
In a break with tradition, the Time Lord’s thrilling seasonal adventure will take place at New Year as the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and companions Graham (Bradley Walsh), Ryan (Tosin Cole) and Yaz (Mandip Gill) head for home.
But when a chilling force from across centuries of history poses a terrible threat to planet Earth, can the gang save the day?
Zog, BBC1, Christmas Day, 4.50pm
An animated adaptation of a Julia Donaldson story is fast becoming a Christmas tradition, and this year is no exception as the BBC has announced that Zog will be the adventure enchanting children across the UK.
The story follows an accident-prone dragon who gets himself into all sorts of scrapes and will feature an all-star cast including Sir Lenny Henry as the narrator and Kit Harrington as Sir Gadabout.
Strictly Come Dancing 2018 Christmas Special, BBC1, 5.30pm
Christmas wouldn’t be complete without a sprinkling of glitter and a huge dollop of fake tan to go with our festive turkey.
And it’s been revealed that Jake Wood, Anita Rani, Ann Widdecombe, Caroline Flack, Aston Merrygold and Michael Vaughan will be the stars battling it out on the infamous dance floor at Blackpool Tower.
Which couple will make it to the top of the leader board and find themselves taking home the much-coveted Christmas trophy?
Midnight Gang, BBC1, Boxing Day, 7.30pm
This children’s book, written by David Williams, is the sixth book by the comedian-turned-author that has been adapted by the BBC.
The hilarious book, which tells an extraordinary heart-warming tale of five children on a hospital ward who are all on a quest for adventure is set to leave young viewers spellbound, and David even appears in the production himself as the headmaster.
Hold the Sunset, BBC1, Sunday 23rd December, 6.20pm
Alison Steadman and John Cleese return for a festive edition, that sees Edith celebrate her final Christmas in Blighty before starting her new life in the sun. But her sister Joan (new cast signing Sue Johnston) soon causes bother…
Not Going Out, BBC1, Friday 21st December, 9pm
Lee Mack is making a festive special of his hit comedy – and this time it’s live! Joking about the task ahead, Lee says: “Live episode of a BBC1 sitcom…what could possibly go wrong? Loads. Which, let’s be honest, is why you sadists will be watching. So don’t miss out on seeing me end my career.”
We’ll join Lee (Lee Mack) and Lucy (Sally Bretton) live from their festively decorated living room, where they’re talking about the Ding Dong Merrily on Live Christmas Spectacular – the Christmas variety show they’ve been roped into organising to raise money for their children’s school.
Obviously everything goes wrong – their friends, Toby (Hugh Dennis) and Anna (Abigail Cruttenden), also return for the live episode.
Spy in the Snow, BBC1 , Sunday 30th December, BBC1
David Tennant narrates captivating wintery footage of penguins, polar bears and even parrots.
Paul O’Grady: For The Love of Dogs At Christmas, ITV, Christmas Day, 5.55pm
Mr O’Grady is playing Santa Paws to more deserving pooches as he makes his annual festive visit to Battersea.
CBeebies Christmas Show, CBeebies, Friday 21st December, 5pm
The Christmas Show put on by favourite CBeebies personalities every year is always a hit with pre-schooler viewers. This year the production will follow the familiar story of Thumbelina, a thumb-sized girl who lives in an oversized woodland world, and goes on numerous adventures as she tries to work out her own identity.
Families will also be able to watch Thumbelina in cinemas throughout the UK from 15th December, with exclusive content from the one and only Justin Fletcher, AKA Mr Tumble.
Click & Collect, BBC1, Christmas Eve, 9pm
Stephen Merchant is teaming up with Asim Chaudhry for this festive comedy. They play two mismatched neighbours who drive across the country to pick up the one toy that will make a little girl’s Christmas dreams come true.
Opening on Christmas Eve, Andrew (Stephen Merchant) has somehow failed to buy his six-year-old the one present she really wants – Sparklehoof the Unicorn Princess.
It seems to have sold out in London, but luckily his annoying neighbour Dev (Asim Chaudhry) has managed to track down the last one in the country. The only problem it’s 300 miles away in Carlisle and they need a Christmas miracle to get it in time.
Michael McIntyre’s Big Christmas Show, BBC1, Christmas Day, 6.45pm
There is plenty of festive fun in store as Mr McIntyre takes over the Theatre Royal Drury Lane and a very special guest hands in their phone for Send to All.
The Great British Bake Off C4, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, times vary
Some of our favourite bakers from previous series are back in the tent for two special editions, which will see them whipping up some mouth-watering seasonal goodies under the watchful eye of hosts Noel Fielding and Sandi Toksvig. Here’s hoping judges Prue Leith and Paul Hollywood will be full of festive spirit and handing out Prue Pats and Hollywood Handshakes aplenty!
Jane McDonald & Friends at Christmas, Channel 5, Saturday 22nd December, 9pm
Jane has a hectic yuletide ahead as she shares some seasonal duets with her famous guests including Alexandra Burke and Tony Hadley.
best Christmas shows will be updated as more shows are announced