Your Complete Guide To The Best Christmas TV Of 2019

Image Courtesy of BBC Pictures.
Gavin & Stacey
Blame the ghosts of Radio Times past if you will, but there’s something about the Christmas TV schedule that makes us want to forgo our year-round cynicism (not to mention our chronic inability to watch telly on anything other than catch-up) and start highlighting things in earnest.
Every time, in a fit of festive madness, we start crafting the perfect lineup of Christmas viewing with the very best of intentions, dodging turkeys like the inevitable Mrs Brown’s Boys nightmare in favour of shiny new dramas, cosy literary adaptations and extended episodes of old favourites. And though our carefully planned schedules don’t always work out – for every documentary we successfully navigate, there’ll almost certainly be a repeat viewing of Love Actually on ITV2 – Christmas is the perfect time to put your social life on hold and hibernate with some comfort viewing.
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This year, there’s plenty to look forward to, from the long-awaited return of Gavin & Stacey to a slate of dark new period dramas, plus the usual soap histrionics and some heart-warming reality fare. Here’s how to use your screen time wisely...

Dancing on Ice at Christmas

It’s hard to overstate the power of a great Gemma Collins meme and for a brief, wild moment at the start of the year, the promise of brand new Collins #content achieved the unthinkable and got us hooked on Dancing on Ice (ironically, or at least that’s what we told everyone). What was more poignant than the GC falling to the floor to the strains of Celine Dion? What was more empowering than her shouting "Boring, NEXT!" at a judge who dared criticise her? It makes perfect sense, then, to finish the year back where we began: with another transcendent ice performance from Gemma, who’s the main reason to watch the first ever Dancing on Ice Christmas special. 
ITV, 22nd December at 7pm
Image Courtesy of BBC Pictures.
A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol

From Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight comes a distinctly un-cosy take on Dickens’ festive favourite. The three-parter promises to fully embrace the tale’s darker notes, which have been notably absent from recent adaptations (remember the animation with a theme tune sung by Kate Winslet? Thought not) and boasts an impressive cast. Guy Pearce is the headline act as Scrooge, joined by Stephen Graham as Jacob Marley, Charlotte Riley as the Ghost of Christmas Present and Joe "London Boy" Alwyn as Bob Cratchit. And as a cautionary tale about the value of selflessness and empathy, it surely couldn’t have come at a better time.
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BBC One, 22nd December at 9pm

Hugh Grant: A Life On Screen

After bringing his Love Actually character to life during the general election, Hugh Grant takes a look back at his screen career in a new BBC Two documentary. While we’ll mainly be tuning in for the obligatory deep dive into his rom-com heyday, the film will also explore his roots in sketch comedy and the recent comeback – the Hughnaissance, if you will – that’s seen him embrace roles as disparate as Paddington 2’s panto villain and A Very English Scandal’s closeted politician. Plus, it’s only fitting that the guest lineup reads like the cast list for our dream Richard Curtis ensemble drama: Colin Firth, Andie MacDowell, Sandra Bullock and Nicholas Hoult.
BBC Two, 23rd December at 9pm

The Tiger Who Came To Tea

Christmas is a time for nostalgia, meaning it’s perfectly acceptable to revisit some childhood favourites (and if you can do so under the guise of introducing them to a 'new generation', that’s great too). So, if you find The Snowman to be far too emotionally draining, gather nieces, nephews and other assorted family members for this charming animated version of Judith Kerr’s whimsical picture book. It’ll be voiced by an impressive cast, including David Oyelowo as the Tiger, Benedict Cumberbatch as Dad and Tamsin Greig as Mum, and Robbie Williams has recorded a new song for the soundtrack.
Channel 4, 24th December at 7.30pm
Image Courtesy of BBC Pictures.
Call The Midwife

Call The Midwife

In the absence of a Downton Abbey special (no, the film isn’t out on DVD yet, we’ve checked), we’ll default to Call The Midwife to fulfil our seasonal craving for a cosy Christmas Day period drama. This time around, the women of Nonnatus House are swapping east London for the Outer Hebrides (if only temporarily) in response to a shortage of nurses on the islands. They’ll have to contend with more than just freezing temperatures and rogue flocks of sheep, though, as the locals aren’t overly enamoured with the group of do-gooders who have set up a clinic in their church. 
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BBC One, 25th December at 7.30pm 

Gavin & Stacey 

We admit it. When James Corden and Ruth Jones announced that they’d written a brand-new Gavin & Stacey Christmas special, set to air 10 years after we bid goodbye to our beloved Barry Islanders (and their Billericay counterparts), our elation was mixed with a lurking sense of dread. Could Corden, now best known around the world for singing in cars with celebrities, still convince as Smithy? Would Pete and Dawn get a look in? What if it was…rubbish? We’re pleased to report, however, that the one-off hourlong episode is, as Nessa would put it, proper tidy. This time, it’s Uncle Bryn’s turn to mastermind Christmas dinner for his family and the Essex gang, too – and the pressure doesn’t suit him. Don’t miss it, alright?
BBC One, 25th December at 8.30pm
Image Courtesy of BBC Pictures.
Dolly Parton: Here I Am

Dolly Parton: Here I Am

It’s been a good year for Dolly Parton fans, thanks to Netflix film Dumplin’, the streaming service’s subsequent Dolly-themed anthology series and, erm, that ITV2 special where Amber Davies from Love Island flew out to Dollywood. Now, this landmark documentary promises to explore the iconic yet enigmatic country star’s enduring career, through archive footage and interviews with 9 to 5 co-stars Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, as well as the woman herself. If you’re after a chaser, follow up with Dolly’s Glastonbury set, which airs straight after. 
BBC Two, 25th December at 8.30pm

EastEnders

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – unless you’re unlucky enough to live on Albert Square, where the festive season usually heralds the start of untold misery and woe. The EastEnders Christmas special is all about the cliffhangers (you can probably hear those drumrolls right now) and this one will be no exception. Phil Mitchell is out for revenge after learning he’s not the father of Sharon’s unborn child and things don’t look good for Keanu (who’s the dad of said baby – and just happens to be engaged to Phil’s daughter), as it seems the Square’s hard man will go to any lengths to get his own back.
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BBC One, 25th December at 9.30pm

First Dates at Christmas

If the films of Richard Curtis and Nancy Meyers have filled you with a hopeless belief that Christmas is the perfect time to find love, this festive version of First Dates should hopefully confirm your hypothesis. For the first time ever, Fred Sirieix and his squad of delightful waiting staff are swapping Paternoster Chop House for a cosy country pub in a bid to up the romance factor. It all sounds like a scene from Meyers’ The Holiday – but will our singles find their own Jude Law or Cameron Diaz?
Channel 4, 25th December at 9.30pm

YOU

Series one of YOU was insane, problematic and painfully compelling. Starring Penn Badgley as Joe Goldberg, a character best described as Dan Humphrey’s psychotic doppelgänger, it had all the right ingredients to make it our first binge-watch of 2019. After a dramatic finale which – spoiler alert – saw Joe get away with the murder of his sort-of girlfriend Beck thanks to some very convoluted plotting, the second series finds him making a new life in Los Angeles and finding a new object of obsession: an aspiring chef named Love Quinn. Nothing screams tidings of comfort and joy like catching up with this deranged MRA with literary pretensions.
Netflix, 26th December 
Image Courtesy of BBC Pictures.

The Trial of Christine Keeler

In 1963, Christine Keeler’s overlapping affairs with John Profumo, then a Tory Secretary of State for War in Harold Macmillan’s government, and Yevgeny Ivanov, a Soviet naval attache, hit the headlines – and drew the 21-year-old model and dancer into a maelstrom. The Profumo affair sparked a nationwide moral panic, fuelled by anxieties over gender, race, class and communism, while the beautiful Keeler was simultaneously scapegoated and objectified by the media (sound familiar?). This new six-part series, which stars Sophie Cookson as Keeler and Ellie Bamber as her best friend Mandy Rice-Davies, promises to retell events through the female gaze, and has been written, produced and directed by women. 
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BBC One, 29th December at 9pm

Doctor Who

Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor is back after a yearlong hiatus and once again the traditional festive special has been shifted from Christmas to New Year’s Day – not that we’re complaining. The hourlong episode, which kicks off series 12, sees MI6 under threat from alien forces, prompting the intelligence services to turn to the Doctor and her gaggle of hangers-on (including Bradley Walsh in age makeup), who have plenty of experience in this field. Though further plot details are scarce, the title, "Spyfall", has us hoping for some kind of Bond parody.  
BBC One, 1st January at 6.55pm
Image Courtesy of Channel 4.
The Great Festive Bake Off

The Great Festive Bake Off 

Channel 4 has demonstrated its ongoing commitment to public service broadcasting by scheduling a very special edition of Bake Off to land on New Year’s Day, timed perfectly to assuage any lingering hangovers (or existential crises). Paul, Prue, Sandi and Noel will be joined in the tent by the cast of Derry Girls – including Sister Michael – who’ll be vying to impress the judges with some seasonal bakes. Purists will be glad to note that a more conventional Christmas special will still air on 25th December, with four contestants from the 2017 and 2018 series going head to head.
Channel 4, 1st January at 7.40pm
Image Courtesy of BBC Pictures.
Dracula

Dracula

Bram Stoker’s gothic tale is winging its way back to the small screen, courtesy of former Doctor Who collaborators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, with Danish actor Claes Bang starring as a charismatic Count. He is joined by an array of stars including Morfydd Clark, Dolly Wells and The Thick of It’s Joanna Scanlan for three feature-length episodes airing across three nights. Of this season’s literary adaptations, this is probably your least family-friendly option, thanks to blood, guts and a script that sexes up some of the book’s undertones. You have been warned...
BBC One, 1st January at 9pm

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