Christmas TV is just as big a part of the festive season as eating too much and making a fool of yourself at the office party.
So here’s our guide to the best festive (and not-so-festive) programming coming to TV, streaming and On Demand over the month of December.
We’ll update this list as new programmes are announced, and dates and times are confirmed, so check back regularly.
The best Christmas specials to watch this year
Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special
What is it? Six former Strictly contestants are returning to the dance floor for this year’s festive special – namely Ann Widdecombe, Anita Rani, Caroline Flack, Aston Merrygold, Jake Wood, and Michael Vaughan – with regular hosts Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman topping up the festive fun. With a Christmas dance theme of fairy tales and making dreams come true, what will the professionals come up with?
Where and when can I watch it? BBC One, Christmas Day, 5.30pm
Doctor Who Christmas Special
What is it? The annual spectacle of the Doctor Who Christmas Special returns once again this year; the first with Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor at the helm of the shiny new Tardis. There were rumours the special had been cancelled, with writer Chris Chibnall being misquoted as saying “I think we might have overmined every single thing about Christmas in Doctor Who.” Thankfully, those words were actually spoken by previous writer Steven Moffat last year.
Where and when can I watch it? BBC One, New Year’s Day, 7pm
Celebrity Lego Masters at Christmas
What is it? What could be better than the already feel-good format of LEGO fans building amazing creations, Bake Off-style? A load of celebrities doing it with a festive twist. This is sure to be a heart-warming way to kick off your Christmas telly binge.
Where and when can I watch it? December 11, Channel 4, 8pm
Mark Kermode’s Christmas Cinema Secrets
What is it? Mark Kermode’s genre-busting look at the history of cinema proved so popular earlier in the year that the BBC opted to keep it around on iPlayer for a whole year. This festive edition probes into the workings of Christmas films in particular, looking at the conventions and tropes that make them so beloved by millions year after year.
Where and when can I watch it? BBC Four, December 20, 9pm
The Crystal Maze Christmas Special
What is it? Richard Ayoade hss reinvented The Crystal Maze since taking over as host in his own uniquely funny way. No word yet on just which celebrities will be stepping up to the plate come this year’s Christmas special, but you can be sure that the format of the show will force them into some pretty uncomfortable tasks.
Where and when can I watch it? Channel 4 (date TBC)
The Great Christmas Bake Off
What is it? There’s no word yet on who might be entering the tent for the festive edition of the popular baking show. But last year’s special brought us eight bakers from previous series returning to go head to head in seasonal challenges to find out who was top of the tree as Star Baker.
Where and when can I watch it? Channel 4 (date TBC)
Love Island: The Christmas Special
What is it? When will the bubble burst for ITV’s exceedingly popular reality show? Hopefully not over the Christmas period if you’re the bosses of ITV, who are bringing us a special, festive reunion featuring viewers’ favourites from series gone by. Expect the contestants to be wearing a few more layers than they did in the summer heat.
Where and when can I watch it? ITV2 (date TBC)
The best family-friendly shows to watch on TV this Christmas
What is it? This new animated co-production between the BBC and Netflix is bringing Richard Adams’ beloved story back to our screens, with a two-part TV adaptation that boasts a remarkable cast. James McAvoy and Nicholas Hoult voice group-leading brothers Hazel and Fiver, Bigwig will be played by Star Wars’ John Boyega, while Gemma Arterton and Olivia Colman voice Clover and Strawberry. Oh, and Sir Ben Kingsley is on board as the fearsome General too. The creators say it may be more family-friendly than the traumatising ’70s film – but don’t expect it to shy away from the darkness completely.
Where and when can I watch it? BBC One, December 22, 7.30pm
Top of the Pops Christmas Special
What is it? A tipsy, post-Christmas dinner tradition in this writer’s family, the annual Top of the Pops special rounds up the biggest tracks of the year, and proves a handy primer for those who may not have followed the pop world for the previous 12 months. There will also be a similar round-up on New Year’s Day.
Where and when can I watch it? BBC Two, Christmas Day, 12.30pm
What is it? This colourful new animation from Magic Light Studios – the makers of The Gruffalo – tells the story of an accident-prone dragon voiced by Lenny Henry, who leads a cast that also features Tracey Ullman and Kit Harington.
Where and when can I watch it? BBC One, Christmas Day, 4.50pm
The best TV dramas to watch over Christmas
What is it? Andrew Davies’ non-musical six-part adaptation of Victor Hugo’s 19th-Century literary classic is not likely to disappoint, and the cast boasts a host of stars that you’ll have seen on big and small screen, including Olivia Colman, Dominic West, Lily Collins, and David Oyelowo.
Where and when can I watch it? December 30, BBC One, 9pm
Fortitude Season 3
What is it? Fortitude will get you feeling suitably chilly in time for Christmas; just don’t expect the psychological mystery thriller to bring you traditional good tidings. Set in the fictional Arctic Norwegian settlement of Fortitude, the show plays out like a frost-bitten Twin Peaks with added horror, complete with violent outbursts and all manner of strange goings on.
Where and when can I watch it? Sky Atlantic and NOW TV, December 6
The Long Song
What is it? An adaptation of the award-winning novel of the same name, The Long Song comes with a star studded cast that includes Sir Lenny Henry, Agent Carter actress Hayley Atwell and King Charles III star Tamara Lawrance. The the three-part series tells a story of love, hope, passion, survival and determination on a plantation in Jamaica.
Where and when can I watch it? December 18, BBC One, 9pm
The Dead Room
What is it? The tradition of the Christmas ghost story is revived by Mark Gatiss, who pens this eerie tale set inside a radio studio and starring Simon Callow and Bodyguard‘s Anjli Mohindra. Expect things to go bump on the night before Christmas.
Where and can I watch it? BBC Four, Christmas Eve, 10pm
The Midnight Gang
— David Walliams (@davidwalliams) September 25, 2018
What is it? Another Christmas, another one-off comedy-drama special based on one of David Walliams best selling children’s books. This time, it’s the turn of The Midnight Gang, which tells the story of five kids and their quest for adventure. Walliams will be playing a dastardly headmaster in the live-action adaptation, the seventh of the comedian’s books to be brought to television screens.
Where and when can I watch it? BBC One, Boxing Day, 7.30pm
The ABC Murders
What is it? What better time than Christmas for a bit of murder mystery? Especially one that features such a stellar cast. It’s a return to screens from Hercule Poirot, and stepping into the role as the Belgian detective is none other than Hollywood legend John Malkovich. Rupert Grint also joins the cast for a story that tells the story of the legendary detective on the hunt for a serial killer known only as “A.B.C.” in an adaptation of Agatha Christie’s famous 1936 novel.
Where and when can I watch it? BBC One, Boxing Day, 9pm
Luther Series 5
What is it? Idris Elba returns as the maverick detective in the BBC’s most hard-hitting of sleuthing series, joined once again by Alice Morgan, the serial killer played by Ruth Wilson, despite fans believing she had died at the end of season four.
Where and when can I watch it? New Year’s Day, BBC One, 9pm
What is it? Based on a novella that George R. R. Martin wrote in 1980 – the Game of Thrones author serves as an executive producer on the show – Nightflyers tells the story of eight scientists and a powerful telepath who embark on an expedition to the edge of the Solar System in the hope of contacting alien life. They’re a tight-knit crew aboard the titular spacecraft, but when terrifying and violent events begin to take place, they start to question each other – surviving the journey proves harder than anyone thought. It’s expected to hit Netflix in December.
Where and when can I watch it? Netflix (date TBC)
Best of the rest: more highlights of the Christmas and New Year 2018 TV schedules
Dogs of Berlin (Netflix)
The Hook Up Plan (Netflix)
Neo Yokio: Pink Christmas (Netflix)
Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds at Christmas (Channel 4, 9pm)
Shop Well for Less? Christmas Special (BBC One, 8pm)
Fuller House: Season 4 (Netflix)
Sunderland Till I Die (Netflix)
Voltron: Legendary Defender: Season 4 (Netflix)
BBC Sports Personality of the Year (BBC One, 7pm)
Best Christmas Ever (ITV, 9pm)
Celebrity Chase Christmas Special (ITV, 8pm)
Inside Hamleys at Christmas (Channel 5, 8pm)
Danger Mouse Christmas Special (CBBC)
Food Unwrapped Does Christmas (Channel 4, 10pm)
Long Lost Family Christmas Reunion (ITV, 9pm)
Dennis and Gnasher Christmas Special (CBBC)
Gogglesprogs Christmas Special (Channel 4, 8pm)
QI Christmas Special (BBC Two, 10pm)
The Undateables : A Festive Proposal (Channel 4, 9pm)
Imagine… Andrea Levy: Her Island Story (BBC One, 10.45pm)
Insert Name Here Christmas Special (BBC Two, 10pm)
Jamie’s Quick and Easy Christmas (Channel 4, 8pm)
World’s Most Expensive Christmas Dinners (Channel 4, 9pm)
Blue Peter Christmas Special (CBBC, 5.30pm)
Celebrity Call Centre Christmas Special (Channel 4, 8pm)
Live at the Apollo Christmas Special (BBC Two, 10pm)
Micky Flanagan Xmas Spectacular (NOW TV)
The Misadventures of Romesh Ranganathan: The Arctic (BBC Two, 9pm)
Mock the Week Christmas Special (BBC Two, 10.30pm)
The Secret Life of the Zoo at Christmas (Channel 4, 8pm)
100 Years of King’s Carols (BBC One, 7pm)
3 Below: Tales of Arcadia (Netflix)
Big Narstie’s Big Christmas (Channel 4, 10pm)
Celebrity Mastermind (BBC One, 8.30pm)
The Last Leg Christmas Special (Channel 4, 9pm)
Not Going Out Live Special (BBC One, 9pm)
Dreaming of a Jewish Christmas (BBC Four, 11.35pm)
Hold the Sunset Christmas Special (BBC One, 6.20pm)
What Would Your Kid Do? Christmas Special (ITV)
The Young Offenders Christmas Special (BBC One, 11.15pm)
Bad Move Christmas Special (ITV, 8.30pm)
All Together Now Celebrities (BBC One, 12.30pm)
Call the Midwife Christmas Special (BBC One, 7.45pm)
Christmas Morning Live from Oldham Parish Church (BBC One)
Michael McIntyre’s Big Christmas Show (BBC One, 6.45pm)
Mrs. Brown’s Boys Christmas Special (BBC One, 10.15pm)
The Queen’s Christmas Broadcast (BBC One/ITV, 3pm)
Take That and Us (BBC One, 7pm)
The Keith and Paddy Picture Show Christmas Special (ITV, 10pm)
Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas 2018 (Channel 4, 8pm)
Andrew Davies: Rewriting the Classics (BBC Four, 10.05pm)
Spy in the Snow (BBC One, 7pm)
Jools Annual Hootenanny (BBC Two)
Raymond Briggs: Snowmen, Bogeymen & Milkmen (BBC Two, 9pm)
Madness Rocks Big Ben Live (BBC One, 12.10am)
Mrs Brown’s Boys: New Year Special (BBC One, 10pm)
Dates to be confirmed:
A League of their Own Christmas Party 2018 (Sky One/NOW TV)
Billy Connolly: Made in Scotland (BBC Two)
Child Genius V Celebrities Christmas Special (Channel 4)
Christmas Sky with Chris and Michaela (BBC Two)
Click & Collect (BBC One)
Coronation Street (ITV)
Delicious: Season 3 (Sky One/NOW TV)
EastEnders (BBC One)
First Dates Christmas Special (Channel 4)
For Facts Sake Christmas Special (BBC One)
The Gadget Show Christmas Special (Channel 5)
Goodness Gracious Me – 20 years innit! (BBC Two)
Gordon Buchanan’s Bringing Up Grizzly (BBC Two)
Happy New Year, Colin Burstead (BBC Two)
Inside the Christmas Factory: Chocolate Assortments (BBC Two)
The Jonathan Ross Show Christmas Special (ITV)
Ken Dodd: How Tickled We Were (BBC Two)
Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas (Channel 4)
Mary Berry’s Christmas Party (BBC One)
Mary Berry’s Country House at Christmas (BBC Two)
Nadiya’s Party Feasts (BBC Two)
Nailed It! Holiday (Netflix)
Pointless Christmas Special (BBC One)
The Secret Life of 5 Year-Olds on Holiday (Channel 4)
Snow-Wolf (BBC Two)
Songs of Praise Big Sing Christmas (BBC One)
Songs of Praise Big Sing New Year (BBC One)
Still Open All Hours Christmas Special (BBC One)
Tipping Point Christmas Special (ITV)
Top Class Christmas Special (CBBC)
Travel Man Christmas Special (Channel 4)
Trollied – The Wedding (Sky One)
Two Doors Down (BBC Two)
Upstart Crow Christmas Special (BBC Two)
Would I Lie to You at Christmas? (BBC One)
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This article was originally published on our sister title iNews