Preview: The Best of Christmas TV 2018

Deck the halls with fantastic telly…

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Despite being a generally misanthropic frown of a man, I LOVE Christmas. I love Christmas films. I love Fairytale of New York. I love waking up hungover and having a glass of champagne at 9am. I love it all. Although, curiously, I hate Christmas pudding. And Christmas cake. Hmm. 

Anyway. One of the best parts of Christmas is all the wonderful TV that I get to enjoy through a Guinness induced haze surrounded by chocolate wrappers. This year is no exception, starting with…

Springsteen on Broadway (Netflix) – Out now

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Despite bring nearly 70, The Boss has somehow managed to squeeze in 256 shows of his acclaimed broadway run in 2018. Appearing with his wife and collaborator Patti Scialfa, Springsteen performs a show that takes in excerpts from his excellent 2016 autobiography Born to Run, as well as other stories and, of course, his inimitable songs. It’s not Christmassy, but by God, it’ll be good. 

Watership Down (BBC 1) – 22nd/23rd December

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It is a longstanding cause of consternation among friends and relatives that I have never seen, and have therefore never been traumatised by, the 1978 animated version of Richard Adams novel, but I have a chance to redeem myself somewhat by taking in this new adaptation brought to us in a joint production by the BBC and Netflix. An eclectic and talented voice cast featuring the likes of James McAvoy, Olivia Colman and John Boyega is sure to bring this beloved tale to life for a whole new generation. And for me.

The Dead Room (BBC 4) – Christmas Eve

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Sherlock co-creator and sometime League of Gentlemen alumni Mark Gatiss is much sought after in the world of television at the moment, but he has taken time out of his schedule to revive the sadly moribund tradition of the Christmas eve ghost story. 

The Dead Room stars legendary actor Simon Callow and is influenced by the prestigious ghost story writer MR James. With Gatiss on writing duties, this spooky festive treat is sure to offer an interesting alternative to the usual syrupy Christmas fare. 

The Big Fat Quiz of the Year (C4) Boxing Day

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The Big Fat Quiz is as much a Christmas tradition in our house as my Dad falling asleep by 8pm and my Mum asking if she can buy Go on the Monopoly board. While it’s not quite as entertaining now that they are no longer allowed to drink, it is still a vital round up of the year’s main news events, especially in the tragic absence of the Charlie Brooker’s Yearly Wipe.

Joining host Jimmy Carr this year are Richard Ayoade, Noel Fielding, David Mitchell, Mo Gilligan, Claudia Winkleman and Michelle Wolf. Exciting times. 

Travel Man: 96 Hours in Jordan (C4) 27th December

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Travel Man is one of the most underrated shows on TV at the moment and the simple format that sees comedian/director Richard Ayoade travelling around the world with a famous companion shows no signs of growing tired. This Christmas special sees Ayoade tackle Jordan (the country not the glamour model) and promises to be longer than previous entries.

Do yourself a favour and watch the others on catch-up if you are yet to nestle yourself in Ayoade’s loving and tender embrace. 

The Secret World of Emily Bronte (C4) 29th December

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As Wuthering Heights is one of my favourite ever novels, I will be setting aside some time to catch this documentary about her life presented by life long Bronte fan Lily Collins. 2016’s To Walk Invisible was a wonderfully effective dramatic rendering of the Bronte sisters incredible life and became one of the highlights of that year’s Christmas schedule. The Secret World of Emily Bronte has a lot to live up to. 

Les Miserables (BBC 1) 30th December

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I will admit that I know absolutely nothing about Les Miserables as the singing has always put me off. This BBC adaptation attempts to fix this issue by adapting Victor Hugo’s novel without having people hysterically breaking into song every two minutes. 

A sparkly cast including David Oyelowo, Lily Collins and Olivia Colman ensures that expectations are high for Les Miserables, particularly as this adaptation comes from the same team who produced the BBC‘s acclaimed War & Peace in 2017. 

MOTD: The 2018 World Cup Story (BBC 1)/World Cup: Summer of Love (ITV) – New Years Eve

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When we collectively look back on 2018, it will be England’s incredible World Cup summer that we remember most. Slabhead, the love train and endless debates about Raheem Sterling. What a time to be alive. Both the Beeb and ITV are having a crack at reliving that unforgettable period. Get your England shirts out and get Baddiel & Skinner on the phone. It’s coming home again. 

To read more about my love affair with this England squad, click here.

Raymond Briggs: Snowmen, Bogeymen and Milkmen (BBC 2) – New Years Eve

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It literally wouldn’t be Christmas without The Snowman (only when narrated by David Bowie though obviously), and this loving documentary takes us to the man behind the carrot and the scarf. If, like me, you have become old enough to realise that going out on NYE is always a mistake, fall back on this instead. God, it’s wonderful being an old man. 

The Inbetweeners: Fwends Reunited (C4) – New Year’s Day

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Yep. We are old enough now where The Inbetweeners is already being looked upon fondly as a relic of the past. Time comes for us all. This two hour New Year’s Day extravaganza reunites all the main cast and promises to be a hilarious retrospective on one of the decades best loved British comedies. If you don’t watch it you are basically a bit of a bumder. 

For a list of the top 10 British TV comedies, click here.