The BBC has announced its details of what will be airing on BBC One, BBC Two and BBC Four over the festive period.
Several new dramas will be on over Christmas. One is The Long Song, based on the novel by Andrea Levy and starring Tamara Lawrance as July, a slave during the final days of slavery in 19th century Jamaica. Levy is also the focus of a special edition of Imagine. Meanwhile Andrew Davies has created a new six-part adaptation of Les Miserables (the novel rather than the musical), with Dominic West as Jean Valjean. There is also a two-part computerised adaptation of Watership Down, with James McAvoy and Nicholas Hoult playing Hazel and Fiver.
For the kids that is the debut of Zog, Julia Donaldson’s story of an accident-prone dragon, voiced by Hugh Skinner with narration from Sir Lenny Henry and also starring Tracey Ullman. There is also the now traditional David Walliams adaptation, this time his story The Midnight Gang, about a group of children in a hospital who make patients dreams come true at midnight. Alan Davies and Hayden Gwynne star in this, with David Walliams making his usual cameo. Lee Mack meanwhile stars in a special live edition of his sitcom Not Going Out, while Stephen Merchant and Asim Chaudhry star as mismatched neighbours in one-off comedy Click & Collect, about a father trying to get the must-have toy of the year for his daughter.
Elsewhere Take That perform a special concert marking their 30th anniversary, Mary Berry presents her ideal Christmas Party, and a special edition of Spy Creatures follows the Spy in the Snow.
There is also plenty of religious programme to mark the birth of Christ. My Faith and Me features four public figures sharing how past experiences have shaped their faith. There is Midnight Mass broadcast from Buckfast Abbey in Devon as well as Christmas Morning Live from Oldham Parish Church, and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby will be giving his New Year Message. Letitia Wright also tells the story of the nativity in On Christmas Night.
Returning programmes and performances include Idris Elba in Luther and John Malkovich as Hercule Poirot in Agatha Christies The ABC Murders, as well as Christmas specials of Call the Midwife, EastEnders, Hold the Sunset, Michael McIntyre’s Big Show, The Graham Norton Show, The Young Offenders, Would I Lie to You? and two special editions of Mrs. Brown’s Boys, Top of the Pops and Songs of Praise. Meanwhile Doctor Who has a New Year special.
Comedy appears to be the main focus on BBC Two this Christmas. The main show of interest is the return of two shows missing from the BBC archives. Two episodes from the first series of The Morecambe and Wise Show from 1968 were discovered in a derelict cinema in Sierra Leone. Now they have restored, turned back into colour, and are being shown on the BBC again for the first time in half a century.
Following his death last December, there is a tribute to Sir Ken Dodd in How Tickled We Were. There is also documentary about Billy Connolly entitled Made in Scotland, and a 20th anniversary look back at Goodness Gracious Me.
There are also Christmas specials of Upstart Crow, which this time appears to be going Dickensian with a tribute to A Christmas Carol, an end-of-year edition of Frankie Boyle’s New World Order, while Series P of QI focuses on pubs. Director Ben Wheatley also debuts his latest dark comedy film, Happy New Year, Colin Burstead. Plus there are Christmas specials of Mock the Week, Live at the Apollo, A Year in the Life of a Year and The Misadventures of Romesh Ranganathan. A new series of Two Doors Down also begins.
Also on BBC Two are two special editions of Dragons’ Den, plus specials of Inside the Factory and Amazing Hotels. Meanwhile foodies can enjoy Masterchef: The Professionals, Nadiya’s Party Feasts and Mary Berry’s Country House at Christmas. If you prefer the outdoors, Chris Packham and Michaela Strachan present Christmas Sky, looking at both winter wildlife and the night’s sky. There is also dramatised natural history Snow-Wolf (working title) and a close up look at some normally dangerous animals in Grizzly Bear Cubs and Me. Also in documentaries, there is a profile of Raymond Briggs, creator of The Snowman and When the Wind Blows among other classics.
On top of this is comes some musical entertainment. There is a Broadway musical performance of An American in Paris, a TV debut of the Royal Opera House’s production of Swan Lake,and the traditional New Year’s Day Concert from Vienna’s Golden Hall of the Musikverein (also on BBC Four). Gregory Porter presents Merry Christmas Baby, hile there is also the classic Carols from King’s, and for the first time ever a behind-the-scenes look at St. Paul’s Cathedral Christmas preparations.
Music is the order of things on BBC Four over Christmas. There’s two archive editions of Top of the Pops focusing on music from 1987, plus A Musical History of Fleetwood Mac, a profile of Bros in After the Screaming Stops, and Sir Antonio Pappano, music director at the Royal Opera House, discusses his favourite arias. There is also a musical documentary of a very different kind in Dreaming of a Jewish Christmas.
Also on BBC Four Mark Gatiss pens The Dead Room, a Christmas ghost story about the long-running radio horror series of the same name. A documentary follows Andrew Davies, the maker of many of Britain’s finest small-screen dramas (including the already mentioned BBC One adaptation of Les Miserables). Finally, Mark Kermode returns with a new edition of his Secrets of Cinema series, looking at how to make the perfect Christmas movie.
Full details of shows can be found on the BBC Media Centre website.