Play Hard

Your Christmas TV guide

HLN sorts your Christmas crackers from your festive flops...

Written by Chris Kingston
Published 18.12.2020

The Vicar of Dibley in Lockdown

Christmas viewing is all about the return of long-forgotten classics, but we’ve been spoiled these last few years by BBC swapping re-runs for triumphant returns. And while it was Gavin and Stacey’s turn last year, Christmas 2020 is all about everyone’s favourite woman of the cloth. This half-hour special features three brand new, 10-minute episodes, each set at different times during this bizarre year. From Geraldine learning how to deliver sermons over Zoom to the parishioners realising that letting Owen cut their hair is never a wise move, and how the very-dearly departed Alice is still an important presence in the village, this latest instalment from Dibley is sure to leave you smiling.

21st December, 8.50 pm, BBC One

The Great Christmas Bake Off

Four previous Great British Bake Off contestants are invited back into the white tent for a festive edition of the beloved baking contest, with those competing including Jamie and Rosie from 2019, Ruby from 2018 and James from 2017. Paul Hollywood, Prue Leith and Matt Lucas are joined by Bake Off: The Professionals host Tom Allen, who fills in for the unavailable Noel Fielding.

Christmas Eve, 7.40pm, Channel 4

Roald & Beatrix: The Tail Of The Curious Mouse 

This Sky One special is inspired by a chance meeting between two giants of the children’s book world, Roald Dahl and Beatrix Potter. And although born 50 years apart, it turns out that they actually had a lot in common. A mixture of live-action, animation and puppetry, Dawn French takes on Beatrix while young Harry Tayler plays the six-year-old Roald, whose meeting with the Peter Rabbit creator would go on to inspire him in his own writing. Each are supported by a stellar cast made up of Gavin & Stacy regulars Rob Brydon and Alison Steadman and Strictly’s Bill Bailey, amongst others.

Christmas Eve, 8.15pm, Sky One 

Zog and the Flying Doctors 

The BBC’s festive love affair with Julia Donaldson continues, and we’re here for it. Building on the success of The Gruffalo, The Snail and the Whale, Stick Man and the first Zog instalment, Zog and the Flying Doctors follows young dragon Zog (Hugh Skinner) as he joins an airborne medical service alongside Princess Pearl and Gadabout. Rob Brydon once again lends his vocal talents, this time voicing the King, while Lenny Henry narrates. This one promises to be a classic case of, ‘oh whack it on for the kids’ and, 10 minutes later, you’re low-key hooked.

Christmas Day, 2.35pm, BBC One 

Call The Midwife  

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a new festive episode of Call The Midwife. Now in the middle of the swinging ‘60s, Nonnatus House is looking forward to holiday season with all the trimmings – but things go a bit awry. Sister Monica Joan is rushed to hospital, Trixie is incensed to receive a subscription to a Marriage Bureau as a Christmas gift, and a surprise reunion for Shelagh involves her in a deeply moving birth. And there’s also a guest appearance by Peter Davison as the ringmaster of a circus which arrives in Poplar. But don’t be lulled into thinking you won’t need your tissues. 

Christmas Day, 7.40pm, BBC One 

Quentin Blake’s Clown 

Narrated by the BAFTA-winning (and brilliant) Helena Bonham Carter, Roald Dahl illustrator Quentin Blake’s half-hour animation brings to life the adventures of a little toy clown, who has been dumped with a load of old, discarded toys and must journey to find a new home. All this from the channel who brought us The Snowman, The Snowman and the Snow Dog, We’re Going On A Bear Hunt and The Tiger Who Came To Tea – we reckon the little ones will love it.

Christmas Day, 7.40pm, Channel 4 

The Story of SM:TV Live 

Ok, it definitely wasn’t just us who used to set their weekend around SM:TV Live. The nation’s introduction to Ant and Dec (we’ve been with them from the PJ and Duncan days), SM:TV Live saw them create the ultimate dream team with the woman every girl in our primary schools wanted to be, Cat Deeley. And the result was Saturday morning TV gold. Their own live music show, CD:UK, was always a highlight, but we’ll remember it fondly for Challenge Ant, Wonky Donkey, the Postbag dance, Pokemon Rap and Friends parody, Chums. Anyway, this special festive documentary – complete with new interviews with the trio and a recreation of the original set – will give you a nostalgia hit like no other.

Boxing Day, 9.25am, ITV

Black Narcissus 

We’ve been looking forward to this one, (don’t believe us? Check out our article about book to screen adaptations). This intriguing three-part adaptation of the classic novel by Rumer Godden stars Gemma Arterton in a tale of sexual repression and forbidden love. It also features one of the last roles Dame Diana Rigg took on before her death. The story’s set in 1934 on a remote clifftop palace in the Himalayas, once known as the ‘House of Women’ and now a convent belonging to the disciplined Sisters of Mary. But while the nuns should be engaging in daily worship, the convent’s insidious past slowly seeps into their daily lives and sees them begin to struggle with their unspoken desires. 

27th–29th December, 9.00pm, BBC One

Christopher Kingston
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