Friday, 11 December 2015

Christmas Television

From Nigella to Strictly to Sherlock, the best seasonal viewing

Written by Ben Felsenburg
Our most stylish TV chef asks us to discard any thought of turkey with all the trimmings in Simply Nigella Christmas Special (BBC Two, Monday 14, 8pm). The centrepiece is glazed ham, and there’s another welcome break with tradition – not one but three cakes.

The Great British Bake Off Christmas Masterclass (BBC Two, Thursday 17, 9pm) oozes with inspiration for treats that will dazzle your guests. A pie made from turkey and ham leftovers and a pavlova wreath are among the feast of ingenious creations offered up by Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood.

Rodgers And Hammerstein; Alexander Armstrong; Mel Giedroyc: these are a few of our favourite things – making The Sound Of Music Live (ITV, Sunday 20, 7.30pm) a must. Rediscover the joyous musical as the nuns and Von Trapps take on the Nazis.

It was in 1932 that George V made history by speaking to his people on the wireless. In Cue The Queen: Celebrating The Christmas Speech (BBC One, Monday 21, 7pm) Kirsty Young takes a fascinating look back over decades of royal broadcasts.

tv-590-3Clockwise from left: Gypsy live from the Savoy, Sherlock, Dickensian, And Then There Were None

With Carson soon to have buttled his last, the stars line up to salute Julian Fellowes et al in Bafta Celebrates Downton Abbey (ITV, Monday 21, 9pm). A certain royal couple reveal themselves as dedicated fans.

In February we’ll see Captain Mainwaring and his men on the big screen, so We’re Doomed! The Dad’s Army Story (BBC Two, Tuesday 22, 9pm) could hardly be more timely. John Sessions leads the cast with an uncanny recreation of Arthur Lowe in the farcical behind-the-scenes story of the sitcom.

It’s exhausting enough buying everything for the holidays, but Christmas Shopping Fever 2015: John Lewis And The Retail Race (BBC Two, Wednesday 23, 9.30pm) reminds us to spare a thought for those on the other side of the counter. Cherry Healey reveals the campaign fought by the army of staff on the shop floor.

Engage the little grey cells for an edifying hour of The Great History Quiz: The Tudors (BBC Two, Christmas Eve, 9pm). Team captain Lucy Worsley is pitted against fellow historian Dan Snow, with host Kirsty Young presiding over the questions.

In these turbulent times there are the most serious matters of state for the monarch to address in The Queen’s Christmas Broadcast 2015 (BBC One, Christmas Day, 3pm). Yet surely the royal chat will be leavened with memories of happy moments, most of all the arrival of Princess Charlotte.

Sated with turkey – or Nigella’s glazed ham – we are pinned to our sofas while the stars hotfoot it into action in Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special (BBC One, Christmas Day, 6.15pm). Pantomime routines (some intentional) are the theme as Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman take charge.

A glorious double bill of costume drama begins with the clock winding back to 1960 in Call The Midwife (BBC One, Christmas Day, 7.30pm). Christmas is a time for joy – not to mention the arrival of an intrusive television crew – at Nonnatus House, but the sweetness is leavened by the private heartbreak nursed by Iris (Joanne Adams). Then, in Downton Abbey: The Finale (ITV, Christmas Day, 8.45pm) they’re preparing to party like it’s 1926 both above and below stairs – but there are many questions to settle – most of all: will Lady Edith at last find happiness?

tv-590-4Clockwise from left: Call The Midwife, The Great History Quiz, Antiques Roadshow, Gareth Malone's Great Choir

It’s been said that Charles Dickens would have been scripting soaps had he lived today, and now EastEnders writer Tony Jordan gives us Dickensian (BBC One, Boxing Day, 7pm), in which characters from the author’s different novels exist side by side. The murder of Jacob Marley rocks a certain Miss Havisham’s wedding day – and Bleak House’s Inspector Bucket (Stephen Rea) investigates.

There is nothing like a Dame Agatha Christie adaptation: And Then There Were None (BBC One, Boxing Day, 9pm) is one of the best from the Queen of Crime. Ten strangers are invited to an island – only to be killed off one by one. Poldark heartthrob Aidan Turner, Anna Maxwell Martin and Charles Dance lead an outstanding cast.

One of the most acclaimed musical productions in recent years, Gypsy: Live From The Savoy Theatre (BBC Four, Boxing Day, 9pm) stars Imelda Staunton as the ultimate showbiz mum pushing her daughters onto the vaudeville stage. Staunton delivers the performance of a lifetime.

The traditional Christmas tale of the supernatural is given an unsettling basis in fact in Harry Price: Ghost Hunter (ITV, Sunday 27, 8.30pm). Rafe Spall stars as the determinedly scientific sceptic investigating things that go bump in the night in the houses of 1920s gentry.

After a decade getting Britain to discover its voice, Gareth Malone’s Great Choir (BBC Two, Tuesday 29, 8pm) sees the songmeister on a mission to bring all his different ensembles together into one giant group. Malone begins his heart-warming mission by tracking down the schoolchildren of a decade ago, now grown up.

Fiona Bruce visits Lyme Park in the Peak District in Antiques Roadshow (BBC One, Wednesday 30, 8pm). The haul of treasure includes Edwardian Christmas presents, and two very different royal heirlooms.

Benedict Cumberbatch dons period costume as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective is restored to 19thcentury London in Sherlock (BBC One, New Year’s Day, 9pm). The Abominable Bride pits the sleuth and Doctor Watson against a woman on a killing spree: but have they met their match in a foe who may come from beyond this mortal realm?

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