It’s almost the most wonderful time of the year! While we wait for TV’s airing schedule for the Christmas period to be revealed, here are eight forthcoming highlights of the festive broadcast calendar.
1. Doctor Who: Twice Upon A Time
This one-off episode of the BBC’s flagship sci-fi shows the meeting of two incarnations of the Doctor: Peter Capaldi’s, in what will be his last episode, and David Bradley – aka Harry Potter’s Filch.
Why watch? We’ll also get our first glimpse of the new Doctor: Jodie Whitaker.
Fun fact: It’s very emotional. After visiting the set, Jo Whiley reported: “everyone was in tears”.
2. Top of the Pops
An absolute staple of Christmastime viewing, which presenter Fearne Cotton describes as “one of my Christmas highlights”.
Why watch? Performances this year come from chart-toppers including Dua Lipa, Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit.
Fun fact: The last band to perform live on a weekly episode of TOTP was Snow Patrol, in 2006, with ‘Chasing Cars’.
Based on a 2008 novel by journalist Misha Glenny, this eight-episode crime drama starts at Christmas and has been touted as 2018’s answer to The Night Manager. It’s about the British-raised son of Russian exiles with mafia ties “trying to escape the shadow of that criminal past.”
Why watch? To see how Bond-tipped actor James Norton will handle a thriller, following critically acclaimed stints in War and Peace and Happy Valley.
Fun fact: The screenplay was written by Drive’s Hossein Amini and Black Mirror director James Watkins.
4. The League of Gentlemen
The grotesque residents of Royston Vasey are back on telly for three new episodes, marking the 20th anniversary of the comedy show’s debut on BBC Radio and 15 years since it came to an end on TV.
Why watch? Plot hints are thin on the ground, but reports say there’s a threat to Royston Vasey – and that means hilarious carnage will undoubtedly ensue.
Fun fact: The fictional town of Royston Vasey is the real name of Roy “Chubby” Brown. The stand-up comedian appeared in the show’s second TV series as the town’s mayor.
5. Alan Partridge: Why, When Where, How and Whom?
In which the genesis of Steve Coogan’s entirely un-self-aware character is fully explored, 25 years on from his first BBC Radio 4 radio chat-show Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge.
Why watch? If you’ve never understood AP, this is your chance. If you love him, it’s an opportunity to sink into nostalgia’s sweet embrace.
Fun fact: Alan’s celebrity friends include Bill Oddie and Eamonn Holmes, the latter of whom he describes as “marvellous company – but he does get very bad tempered if he hasn’t had a feed”.
6. The Great Christmas Bake Off / The Great Festive Bake Off
Confusingly, there are two separate holiday Bake Off specials this year – one for Christmas and another for New Year, presumably. In each one-off episode, four ‘all-star’ contestants from previous series will compete to be crowned Star Baker.
Why watch? To see the magical reunion of season seven’s Val and Selasi. (That series’ Benjamina also appears, but in the ‘festive’ episode, sadly).
Fun fact: Selasi has said he wants to make the cake for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding.
7. Nile Rodgers & Chic’s New Year Fireworks
If you’ve always wanted to make your New Year’s resolution while Chic’s ‘Le Freak’ is played live – well, 2018 is unquestionably your year. Nile Rodgers and his merry band will be playing the annual show broadcast by the Beeb in the run-up to central London’s huge fireworks show on NYE.
Why watch? The BBC is calling it ‘an unmissable music and firework spectacular’, which translates as: ‘It’s either this or the Hootenanny, bitches’.
Fun fact: Nile Rodgers is a member of four different Halls of Fame: Dance Music, Grammy, Songwriters’, and Rock & Roll.
8. A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong
The Play That Goes Wrong is a hugely successful meta comedy where a theatrical performance by an amateur company goes absolutely terribly. The team behind it ruined Peter Pan for the BBC last year, and this year it’s A Christmas Carol’s turn.
Why watch? This year’s narrator is Dame Diana Rigg, last seen as Game of Thrones’ withering Olenna Tyrell.
Fun fact: Since its debut just five years ago, The Play That Goes Wrong has been translated into more than 20 different languages for production across the world.
9. Vic & Bob’s Big Night Out
Once known as Vic Reeves’ Big Night Out, this sketch show (now with added Bob Mortimer) is returning to the BBC after more than 25 years off the air.
Why watch? Matt Lucas, who worked with the duo on Shooting Stars is also set to appear in the half-hour episode.
Fun fact: Vic and Bob were the proud recipients of the Aardman Slapstick Visual Comedy Award in 2015.