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Your Christmas TV Guide: the best bits

We’ve cut through the noise so you can see festive big-hitters only on screen this holiday season.

Written by Chris Kingston
Published 20.12.2023

WHAT’S ON TV THIS CHRISTMAS

The Winter King

The Winter King

21st December, ITV X

It looks like this Christmas will involve medieval battles and swordfights aplenty.

New series The Winter King is an anticipated adaptation of Bernard Cornwell’s Warlord Chronicles books and stars Iain de Caestecker (of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD fame) as the exiled warlord, Arthur, who is called back to his family when Merlin predicts that it’s Arthur’s destiny to bring the country together.

There have been many screen adaptations based on the Arthurian legend, from Excalibur (1981) to BBC One’s Merlin (2008), so it will be interesting to see if The Winter King will be a hit or a miss when it arrives on ITVX tomorrow.

All Creatures Great and Small

All Creatures Great and Small

21st December, Channel 5 

Like Call The Midwife on BBC One, Channel 5 has its own cosy Christmas special thanks to its beloved period drama, All Creatures Great and Small.

Series 5 saw Winston Churchill come to power against the backdrop of the Second World War. But now it’s Christmas and James Herriot (Nicholas Ralph) is miles away from home at an RAF training base when an emotional phone call with his pregnant wife, Helen (Rachel Shenton), makes him determined to get back to her.

But James soon finds that he doesn’t have many options, and that the RAF can’t seem to spare him. Struggling to know how to do the right thing, will James find his way home in time for Christmas?

As well as the usual ensemble of farmers and animals, All Creatures Great and Small promises to be a cosy, festive hug through the screen.

Tabby McTat

Tabby McTat

Christmas Day, BBC One

Among the many Christmas Day traditions for the BBC is a festive animated treat based on the bestselling picture books by Julia Donaldson and illustrator Axel Scheffler.

2023 also marks the 30th year of their creative partnership.

This Christmas sees the adaptation of Tabby McTat, a truly heart-warming tale about the friendship between a musical cat and his busker friend, Fred. Loads of familiar names are among the voice cast for this one, including Jodie Whittaker who takes on narrating duties, Rob Brydon as Fred and Sope Dirisu as Tabby.

Mog's Christmas

Mog's Christmas

Christmas Day, Channel 4

As well as Tabby McTat on the BBC, it looks like Channel 4 have another heart-warming tale for kids to enjoy.

This one comes from the team behind the 2019 adaptation of The Tiger Who Came To Tea, adapting another beloved children’s book: Mog’s Christmas by Judith Kerr.

The story follows Mog the family cat, who feels a bit left out during the holiday season. When she spots the huge Christmas tree she freaks out and climbs to the roof, where she refuses to move no matter how hard the family tries.

We have an impressive line-up providing the voices, Including Adjoa Andoh, Claire Foy and Benedict Cumberbatch, as well as the legend that is Miriam Margolyes.

Doctor Who Xmas Special

Doctor Who Xmas Special

Christmas Day, BBC One and Disney+

Doctor Who fans have been in for a treat this year with not one but three 60th anniversary specials starring David Tennent and Catherine Tate.

And if you’re still possessing that game changing regeneration (I still can’t quite believe what happened myself!), we’ve got the grand return of the Christmas special airing on Christmas Day.

The Church on Ruby Road will be Ncuti Gatwa’s first official outing as the 15th Doctor, with Coronation Streetstar Mille Gibson stepping up to the plate as the new companion Ruby Sunday, who has her world turned upside down when she meets the mysterious time traveller. Together, they face off against mythical and mysterious goblins who are kidnapping babies and planning to eat them…

The BBC has also released its first ever Christmas single as well with ‘The Goblin Song’ – it seems it’s never been a better time to be a Doctor Who fan.

Call The Midwife

Call The Midwife

Christmas Day, BBC One

We say it every year, but it just wouldn’t be Christmas without a Call The Midwife special. Along with turkey and all the trimmings, this show has become a festive tradition year after year.

The unlikely series about nuns and midwives started way back in 2012, based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, and it’s still going strong with more than 100 episodes and counting – including 11 Christmas specials with a 12th this Christmas Day. We also have a brand new series to look forward to, coming in January.

For this year’s festive special, we go back to 1968, just before Apollo 8 circled the moon. Picking up shortly after where series 12 ended, newlyweds Matthew and Trixie are looking forward to spending their first Christmas as a married couple.

Meanwhile, Nancy and her daughter Colette are invited to stay at Nonnatus House after Sister Julienne offers her a room for the foreseeable future. Plus, we have drama when Cyril discovers a lost soul living alone in a basement flat.

This BBC drama not only tackles topical subjects and medical issues of the time it is set in, but also interweaves tough discussions with tales of love. So, cosy up in front of the TV and enjoy this festive treat.

WHAT TO STREAM AT CHRISTMAS

Genie

Genie

Sky Cinema / NOW   

Richard Curtis (Love Actually) is rom-com writing royalty and his 1991 film, Bernard and the Genie, has been adapted into a sparkly new Christmas romp.

This one stars Melissa McCarthy as a genie who is accidentally freed from an antique jewellery box by Bernard, a man down on his luck, whose workaholic life results in him becoming estranged from his wife and daughter.

Of course, all is not lost – as Bernard and the genie team up in an attempt to get his family back. Expect lots of festive fun, as well as a star turn from Alan Cumming as Bernard’s tyrannical boss.

Merry Little Batman

Merry Little Batman

Amazon Prime

If you fancy some superhero action over the festive period, then why not try this new animated action comedy from Amazon that is fun for the whole family.

The movie focuses on a young Damian Wayne, the son of Batman, who finds himself alone in Wayne Manor on Christmas Eve. When Batman is called away on urgent matters, he must transform himself into Little Batman to defend Wayne Manor and Gotham City from crooks and supervillains such as The Joker, The Penguin, Mr Freeze, Poison Ivy and Bane, who are all intent on destroying the festive holidays.

Home Alone meets Batman? Count me in.

The Crown: Series 6, Part 2

The Crown: Series 6, Part 2

Netflix

This Christmas marks the end of an era, as the sixth and final series of The Crown has arrived on Netflix.

This series follows the events surrounding the death of Princess Diana (Elizabeth Debicki). The Queen, played by Imelda Staunton, reflects on her reign, Prince Charles (Dominic West) marries Camilla (Olivia Williams), and Prince William (Ed McVey) starts a romance with Kate Middleton (Meg Bellany) at university.

The Crown has long been praised for its acting, directing and cinematography, although it would be an understatement to say that historical inaccuracies have received a lot of criticism.

So, while you should take everything with a pinch of salt, it doesn’t have make for excellent viewing.

Chicken Run: Dawn of The Nugget

Chicken Run: Dawn of The Nugget

Netflix 

The original Chicken Run has to be one of the most beloved animated films of all time. It’s a wonderful stop-motion romp from the masters over at Aardman Animations and I’m genuinely surprised that it took 23 years to get a sequel.

Chicken Run: Dawn of The Nugget once more follows feisty chicken Ginger (voiced by Thandie Newton), alongside cocky American rooster Rocky (Zachary Levi). But this time, instead of breaking out of the chicken farm, they’re actually breaking in – after a familiar villain returns to threaten their whole flock.

Aardman Studios have a good track record for quality animated stop-motion adventures, including Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of The Were-Rabbit and Shaun the Sheep, so we’re expecting big things from this one.

Maestro

Maestro

Netflix    

Bradley Cooper directs and stars in Maestro – a new biographical drama about legendary composer Leonard Bernstein, who wrote the music for West Side Story and was the director of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra for over a decade.

The movie follows Bernstein’s remarkable career and also his turbulent marriage to Felicia Montealegre (played by Carey Mulligan) with both Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg serving as producers.

We’re already calling it – I’d be amazed if Maestro doesn’t get at least one nod for an Oscar during the 2024 awards season.

Rebel Moon: Part 1 - A Child of Fire

Rebel Moon: Part 1 - A Child of Fire

Netflix

Zack Snyder (Watchmen, Man of Steel and Army of the Dead) is back with another ambitious blockbuster for Netflix.

This epic space opera centres on a peaceful colony on the edge of the galaxy, which is threatened by the armies of an evil galactic tyrant. It soon appears that a mysterious stranger living among its villagers becomes their best hope of survival.

Kora (Sofia Boutella) is tasked with finding fighters who will unite with her, sharing a common need for revenge. A battle over the fate of the galaxy is waged and, in the process, a new army of heroes is soon formed

The cast also incudes Charlie Hunnam, Ed Skrein, Ray Fisher, Djimon Hounsou and Anthony Hopkins as the voice of a mechanized battle robot. This one is giving off major Star Wars vibes and I am so here for it.

Christopher Kingston
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