Plunkett on TV: Christmas picks

Tis the season to be jolly - and watch even more telly than we normally do.

As the countdown to Christmas begins in earnest, we’ve rounded up some of our TV highlights of the season, beginning this weekend and taking us all the way through to the new year.

From comedy to drama, factual to entertainment, from bang up to date true life adaptations to magical flights of fantasy, it’s a fabulously festive selection box.

See you in 2023!

Britain’s Got Talent: The Ultimate Magician - ITV1

Sunday 18th December

There’s no more magical way to begin our festive rundown than with this special edition of Britain’s Got Talent.

The two-hour talent contest brings together the best illusionists from BGT over the years and pits them against some of the finest magicians from around the world.

Presenter Stephen Mulhern’s got a trick or two up his sleeve - he’s a pretty handy magician himself - with the judging panel joined by the great Penn Jillette and the theatre audience choosing the £50,000 winner.

What they say: ‘The show’s biggest magic acts go head to head as they compete to be crowned the ultimate magician.’ TellyMix

I Hate Suzie Too - Sky Atlantic/Now

Tuesday 20 December

Sky’s Billie Piper comedy drama is back for a three-part ‘anti-Christmas Christmas special’ and given the pitch black nature of its first series, you’d surely expect nothing else.

Very funny but deadly serious at the same time, I Hate Suzie Too sees disgraced former child star Suzie Pickles attempt to rebuild her life - and reputation - on reality TV dance show Dance Crazee.

Created by Piper with playwright and Succession writer Lucy Prebble, it’s an another unflinching look at the dark side of fame and life as a woman in the public eye.

What they say: ‘Piper is absolutely mesmerising … A truly triumphant return.’ Radio Times

Vardy v Rooney: A Courtroom Drama - Channel 4

Wednesday 21st December

The most sensational courtroom drama of the year has become an eagerly-anticipated TV event.

This two-part adaptation of the ‘Wagatha Christie’ court case stars Chanel Cresswell (This is England) as Coleen Rooney and Game of Thrones’ Natalia Tena as Rebekah Vardy with Michael Sheen as superstar barrister, David Sherborne.

Promises to be the next best thing to being in the courtroom yourself.

What they say: ‘Since television cameras weren’t allowed inside the courtroom, this dramatisation written using the transcripts from the Wagatha Christie trial will be the closest we’ll get to experiencing what really happened.’ iNews

The Madame Blanc Mysteries Christmas Special - Channel 5

Thursday 22nd December

Sally Lindsay is back as the antiques dealer turned supersleuth solving mystery and murder in the south of France.

It’s all gorgeous to look at, of course, the perfect sun-drenched getaway as we hunker down in front of the TV (and a roaring fire), featuring a guest spot for Tony Robinson as a reformed career criminal.

The even better news for fans is that this is the first of a second series of the crime drama returning in 2023.

What they say: ‘Do snow scenes leave you cold? Get easily bored by bobble hats? Then this is the Christmas special for you, as the sun is still shining in Saint Victoire.’ Radio Times

Red Riding Hood: After Ever After - Sky Max/Sky Showcase/Now

Friday 23rd December

Sky’s festive fairytale specials imagine what happened after the classic stories ended, and this year we return 50 years later to the story of Red Riding Hood.

Our heroine is now a professional ‘wolf buster’ with her granddaughter determined to follow in her famous footsteps. To which the only possible response is surely: ‘Grandmother dear, what big footsteps you have!’

The fourth instalment of David Williams’ anthology series stars Ashley McGuire (This Country) and Jack Carroll (Britain’s Got Talent). Let the fun and games begin.

What they say: ‘Features plenty of silliness and humour so loved by children … but a serious message lies within.’ Radio Times


All Creatures Great and Small - Channel 5

Friday 23rd December

It’s a sign of how warmly embraced this new adaptation of All Creatures Great and Small has been that its Christmas special already feels like a festive TV fixture.

All of the residents of Skeldale House are back in this beautifully rendered take on the classic James Herriot stories.

But there is also a serious side on display with war having broken out against Germany and Jewish evacuee Eva (Ella Bernstein) enlightening the vets on her traditions.

What they say: ‘A signature blend of humour and poignancy, wrapped in a snow-sprinkled, nostalgia-laden Yorkshire Dales setting.’ Yorkshire Post


Meet The Richardsons at Christmas - Dave

Friday 23rd December

Jon Richardson and Lucy Beaumont will be back next year with a fourth series of their award-winning mockumentary on Dave.

Jon and Lucy have very different ideas on what constitutes a perfect Christmas in this fabulous two-part special featuring Jonny Vegas and Jason Donovan.

The perfect festive treat while we wait for the couple to return.

‘Superb writing and acting … Chaotic, funny and loving all at the same time.’ Broadcast

Britain Get Singing - ITV1

Christmas Eve 

If you were ever to find a celebrity TV singing contest under the Christmas tree - stick with us, please - then it would surely be this.

Britain Get Singing is an all-star affair from the judging panel to the contestants in this one-off festive special.

Five groups made up of stars from some of ITV’s most popular shows - Love Island, The Chase, Emmerdale, Loose Women and Coronation Street - attempt to impress judges, Alesha Dixon, Jason Manford and Adam Lambert.

What they say: ‘Ever wanted to see a band made up of ex-Love Islanders battle it out with a Loose Women pop group? You’re in luck.’ iNews


Christmas Carole - Sky Max/Sky Showcase/Now

Christmas Eve

Suranne Jones stars in this modern day take on the Dickens classic, a glittering treat which is full of Christmas spirit(s).

There’s a new Scrooge in town and her name is Carole Mackay (Jones in fabulous panto villain mode), an outrageously wealthy online entrepreneur who sees only one thing to be made at Christmas - money.

But her past, present and future are about to catch up with her, in the form of Jo Brand, Nish Kumar and Morecambe and Wise (uncannily brought back to life by Jonty Stephens and Ian Ashpitel).

What they say: ‘Suranne Jones raises the ‘bah’ in a redemptive tale with a pleasing twist of 2022.’ Radio Times

Doc Martin - ITV1

Christmas Day

They thought it was all over, but it is now, as ITV’s long-running and much-loved Doc Martin bows out with a festive special on Christmas Day.

The final episode of the last series saw Martin Clunes’ Martin Ellingham change his mind about leaving Cornwall to return to London in the most dramatic of circumstances.

This festive one-off promises to go a bit easier on the nerves, featuring an unexpected turn of events at a Santa’s Christmas grotto. Clones promises it will be ‘really lovely, really cosy, perfect for Christmas Day’ (and it’s followed by a Doc Martin retrospective on ITV1 on 29 December).

What they say: ‘Portwenn’s grumpy GP seems set on casting himself as the Grinch … but this last-ever episode tries to get him to see the error of his ways, and does so, rather touchingly.’ Radio Times

The Festive Pottery Throwdown - Channel 4

Christmas Day

A day after the Christmas edition of The Great British Bake Off airs on Channel 4 comes the inaugural festival edition of its sister show.

The Great Pottery Throwdown is already the warmest of watches with judge Keith Brymer Jones likely to dissolve into tears at any moment, so this Christmas special promises to be a real comfort blanket.

James Fleet, Jenny Eclair, Sunetra Sarker and Jamie Laing are the celebrities tackling suitably festive clay-based challenges. A big-hearted treat.

What they say:  ‘The battle of the clay returns … as they attempt to become champion of the very first Great Festive Pottery Throw Down.’ HuffPost


Without Sin - ITVX

Wednesday 28th December

Vicky McClure stars as a mother still trying to come to terms with the murder of her 14-year-old daughter in this new psychological thriller on ITVX.

McClure’s grieving mother is persuaded to visit the man imprisoned for her murder, believing he wants to atone for his actions, but nothing can prepare her for the revelations which await.

The four-part drama reunites McClure with her This is England 86 co-star Johnny Harris and is co-produced by McClure’s own production company.

What they say: ‘Balances tough character drama with a mystery thriller … Vicky McClure is brilliant.’ Radio Times

CSI: Vegas - Alibi

Wednesday 28th December

We hesitate to suggest it but by this point in the festive period you may already have had your fill of chocolates and mince pies.

In which case we have the perfect end-of-year escape with the second series of CSI: Vegas returning exclusively on Alibi.

The return of the gadget-filled Sin City crime drama sees original CSI cast member Catherine Willows (Marg Helgenberger) persuade Maxine Roby (Paula Newsome) rejoin the team.

What they say: ‘If they had this kind of tech on Midsomer Murders, there’s no way each case would be two hours long.’ Radio Times

Prince Andrew: The Musical - Channel 4

Thursday 29th December

King Charles will be making his first Christmas broadcast this year but the most eye-catching royal event of the festive schedules is surely this.

An ensemble cast of Kieran Hodgson, Munya Chawawa, Jenny Bede, Harry Enfield, Joe Wilkinson and Baga Chipz, chart the rise and fall of Prince Andrew from the ‘80s almost up to the present day.

You won’t want to be in Pizza Express when this is on.

What they say: ‘With seven hilarious original musical numbers and revealing archive footage, the disgraced Duke of York’s spectacular downfall gets a West End-style treatment.’ HuffPost


Romantic Getaway - Sky Comedy/Now

New Year’s Day

Katherine Ryan and Romesh Ranganathan star as a couple so desperate to find the money to fund more IVF treatment that they accidentally (on purpose) steal £500,000 and end up on the run from the criminal underworld.

A modern Bonnie and Clyde tale co-starring Johnny Vegas as the couple’s dodgy boss, Romantic Getaway is written and created by Ranganathan and his regular collaborator Benjamin Green.

The six-part high octane heist caper promises thrills and laughs in just about equal measure with two of our favourite comic talents.

What they say: ‘Exactly what we’re going to need on New Year’s Day.’ Virgin Radio

Taskmaster New Year’s Treat -  Channel 4

New Year’s Day

And what a treat it promises to be as five new celebrities and comedians take part in a special New Year edition of the Channel 4 institution.

Sir Mo Farah, Carol Vorderman, Greg James, Amelia Dimoldenberg and Rebecca Lucy Taylor - AKA singer-songwriter Self Esteem - will be attempting to impress Taskmaster Greg Davies, all aided and abetted by show creator, ‘little Alex Horne’.

Taskmaster proper will be back for a new series in the spring with a line-up of Frankie Boyle, Jenny Eclair, Kiell Smith-Bynoe, Mae Martin and Ivo Martin.

What they say: ‘A one-off episode of sublime silliness.’ Den of Geek

Alex Jones: Making Babies - W

Thursday 5th January

And finally, Alex Jones’ new documentary series for W feels like an appropriate way to look ahead to the new year.

The One Show presenter fully immerses herself in the ultimate life affirming job of creating new life as she trains to become a fertility assistant at a leading fertility clinic.

Following in the footsteps of another W show, in which Emma Willis trained to become a maternity care assistant, Jones helps couples going through IVF treatment. A most emotional watch.

What they say: ‘A personal and passionate subject for Jones, who opened up about her own fertility struggles in 2016.’ Radio Times.

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What’s on Sky in the next fortnight

Matt Lucas and Eli James return in Fantasy Football League. Liz Bonnin explores in Artic From Above. There’s a collaboration in new SWAT. The team in NCIS: LA face an old enemy and The Rookie returns.


Highlights from ITV

The drama continues in Love Island, Maternal continues, follow all the highs and lows in The Sex Lives of College Girls and famous faces continue to impress the judges on Dancing on Ice.


What to watch on Channel 4

Everyone Else Burns follows a family belonging to a highly religious cult. Uncover the truth behind Englishness in Grayson Perry’s Full English and see the world of multimillion-pound property construction in Building Britain’s Superhomes.