The 12 TV picks of Christmas

It’s (nearly) Christmas!

So we thought we’d do something slightly different with these 12 TV picks featuring just some of the many TV highlights over the festive period, from comedy to drama, documentary to entertainment, one-offs to returning series.

We present to you … the 12 TV picks of Christmas.

Roald & Beatrix: The Tail of the Curious Mouse - Sky One/Now TV

This feature-length festive gem is inspired by the true story of when a six-year-old Roald Dahl (Harry Tayler) met his idol, Beatrix Potter, played by Dawn French.

The 1920s set family drama uses live action, puppetry and stop frame animation to tell this heart-warming magical adventure.

And it features an all-star cast including Alison Steadman, Rob Brydon, Jessica Hynes, Nick Mohammed and Bill Bailey.

What they say: ‘A magical story of what really can happen when you are brave enough to follow your dreams.’ Telly Mix

When it’s on: Christmas Eve, 8.15pm

Billy Connolly: It’s Been A Pleasure - ITV

A star-studded celebration of the career and unique genius of Billy Connolly who is stepping back from stand-up comedy after 50 years.

Connolly and his wife Pamela Stephenson discuss his decision and how he copes with Parkinson’s disease in this moving tribute.

Stars paying homage to the Big Yin include Elton John, Paul McCartney, Dustin Hoffman, Whoopi Goldberg and Sheridan Smith, picking their favourite moments from his career along with the choices of the man himself.

What they say: ‘An uplifting celebration of his life, it will undoubtedly make you laugh but it will probably make you cry too.’ Radio Times

When it’s on: 28 December, 9.30pm


The Great Christmas Bake Off - Channel 4

It was a record return for The Great British Bake Off, this year’s final watched by a peak of more than 10 million viewers, Channel 4’s biggest overnight audience since modern ratings methodology began in 2002.

So there’s no lack of appetite for not one but two end of year specials - one on Christmas Eve (featuring Tom Allen stepping in for Noel Fielding) and another on 3 January.

Judges Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith are back in the tent as eight familiar faces return from series past to take part in a mini tournament. Simply delicious.

What they say: ‘What more could you want as you settle down with your 983th mince pie of the festive season?’ What’s on TV

When it’s on: Christmas Eve, 7.40pm; 3 January, 7.45pm

All Creatures Great and Small - Channel 5

Channel 5’s adaptation of James Herriot’s much loved veterinary stories was one of the feelgood drama hits of the year.

And this Christmas special is an absolute treat for fans eagerly awaiting its return for a second series next year.

Starring Nicholas Ralph, Anna Madeley, Rachel Shenton and Callum Woodhouse, it has everything you’d want from a Christmas special and more, including Siegfried (Samuel West) as Father Christmas.

What they say: ‘Christmas specials hardly come more festive … enchanting.’ Radio Times

When it’s on: 22 December, 9pm

Meet The Richardsons at Christmas - Dave

There’s plenty to laugh at - and relate to - in this two-part festive spin-off of Dave’s acclaimed mockumentary starring comedian couple Jon Richardson and Lucy Beaumont.

The two play exaggerated versions of themselves in the show which offers a fictional window into the lives of the couple, their celebrity friends and neighbours in Hebden Bridge.

The Christmas specials follow the family’s efforts to create the perfect Christmas for their daughter Elsie, including a homemade panto. Johnny Vegas also stars, complete with Bad Santa outfit, with appearances from Jason Donovan and Roy Wood.

What they say: ‘This curmudgeonly festive comedy was a downbeat delight.’ Daily Telegraph

When’s it on: 16 December, 10pm


Jack & The Beanstalk After Ever After - Sky One/Now TV

This year’s Christmas panto season is not what it was for reasons we don’t need to go into  here, so who better to help fill the gap than David Walliams in this family friendly special.

Walliams stars as the giant in this tale that imagines what happened after Jack & The Beanstalk ended. Suffering from memory loss when he unexpectedly wakes up in the little town of Titchington, the giant teams up with Jack (Eddie Karanja) to help him get back home.

Co-written by Walliams and the Dawson brothers, there’s plenty of gags for young and old alike with a fairytale cast including Sheridan Smith and the Inbetweeners’ Blake Harrison.

What they say: ‘A new twisted version of Jack and the Beanstalk … promises to be a Christmas TV highlight.’ What’s on TV

When it’s on: 23 December, 8pm

The Masked Singer - ITV

With its mixture of mystery celebrities and extraordinarily elaborate outfits, it’s TV's oddest talent show - and also one of the most entertaining.

The first series of ITV’s The Masked Singer, won by Girls Aloud’s Nicola Roberts, was one of the most talked about shows of the year and it’s back for a second series beginning on Boxing Day.

Presenter Joel Dommett returns alongside judges Jonathan Ross, Rita Ora and Davina McCall, with Mo Gilligan stepping in for Ken Jeong. Let the ‘guess who?’ games begin …

What they say: ‘A sausage strutting its stuff on stage and singing its heart out can only mean one of two things: either too much sherry was consumed on Christmas Day, or The Masked Singer is back.’ Radio Times

When’s it on: Boxing Day, 7pm

One Night In … Hamleys - Channel 4

Fulfilling the dream of many children - and probably quite a few adults too -  Romesh Ranganathan, Rob Beckett and Tom Allen are locked overnight in the world famous Hamleys toy shop in London’s Regent Street.

The trio are allowed the run of the place, rummaging around the shelves, sharing stories of Christmas past and generally having a right old time of it.

Narrated by Sarah Millican, the antics of the ‘three not so wise men’ promise to be a nostalgic festive delight.

What they say: ‘It’s every child’s dream - and therefore a brilliant idea for a show.’ Radio Times

When’s it on - Christmas Eve, 9pm


Big Zuu’s Christmas Eats - Dave

Big Zuu is back with a double helping of festive specials of his much-loved Big Zuu's Big Eats.

The grime MC and self-taught chef - real name Zuhair Hussain - cooks up a festive storm with his sous chef Hyder and chief taster Tubsey.

Phil Wang, Desiree Burch, Ed Gamble and Rosie Jones appear in a comedy special while a music edition features rapper AJ Tracey, grime MC Jme with his sister and radio presenter Julie Adenuga and hip-hop artist Loyle Carner.

What they say: ‘Prepping your first Christmas roast? Big Zuu’s the cook to help you.’ The Guardian

When’s it on: 18 December, 10pm


National Theatre: Twelfth Night - Sky Arts

The National Theatre’s acclaimed production of Twelfth Night airs on Sky Arts as part of its long-running partnership with the broadcaster.

Tamsin Greig stars as Malvolia in this gender-fluid production of Shakespeare’s comedy directed by Simon Godwin.

It is one of two National Theatre productions airing on Sky Arts in December, along with Jane Eyre, an NT co-production with Bristol Old Vic directed by Sally Cookson and starring Madeleine Worrall and Felix Hayes.

What they say: ‘Tamsin Greig is brilliant in a show full of fun.’ The Guardian

When’s it on: 21 December, 9pm


Stephen Fry’s 21st Century Firsts - ITV

On the eve of the 21st century’s 21st birthday, Stephen Fry takes a step back to guide viewers through some of the fascinating and ground-breaking things that have happened for the first time in the new millennium.

And quite a ride it is too, a fascinating and nostalgic journey through a new(ish) century that has seen extraordinary technological advances, and social media revolutionise the way we communicate.

There is no better guide for this sort of thing than the erudite and always entertaining Fry, who also looks at the century’s most significant cultural and political firsts.

What they say: ‘Fry takes viewers through his top 21 ‘firsts’ of the 21st Century, exploring an era before smart-phones, sat-nav and selfies.’ Televisual

When’s it on: 30 December, 8.30pm


The Last Leg of the Year - Channel 4

It would take a special talent to persuade you to spend any more time looking back on 2020 than is strictly necessary.

But then the three faces of Channel 4’s The Last Leg - Adam Hills, Josh Widdecombe and Alex Brooker - are just that, bidding farewell to the last 12 months and asking what 2021 has got in store for us all.

They are joined for this two-hour retrospective with guests including James Acaster and Lorraine Kelly with house band Alex Horne (back on New Year’s Day with a special one-off of Taskmaster) and the Horne Section.

What they say: ‘If anyone can find humour in a 12 months we’d all rather forget, it’s these guys.’ Radio Times

When’s it on: New Year’s Eve, 9pm

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