One of the best things about Christmas is the torrent of Christmas specials and old classics that always brings festive cheer to the family when you’re huddled round the TV on the cold nights in the lead up to, on and after Christmas Day.
Whether you’re eagerly waiting to see the mischief the Top Gear teams gets up to, watch the stars take to a glitter-adorned floor on Strictly or hide behind the sofa as Dr Who takes on more out-of-this-world evil, make sure you don’t miss a thing with our festive Christmas TV guide.
Top Gear (27th Dec, 8:30pm, BBC2)
Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May will be taking on their ‘most gruelling challenge to date’ this Christmas, as they head 1,600km across Patagonia in a Porsche 928, Lotus Esprit and Ford Mustang. The first part will be aired on Saturday 27 December at 8.30pm, while the second part will follow up the next day at 8pm, both on BBC2.
If you fear you’re going to miss the team’s antics (which angered most of Argentina), you can catch up with the trio via your smart TV, Xbox, Playstation (PS3 or PS4), Wii, computer or mobile device with the iPlayer app. Alternatively, Sky customers can watch the Christmas special via the Sky Go app, while Virgin subscribers can watch it on TiVo. Catch up on YouView if you’re with BT, TalkTalk TV’s On Demand, Freesat or beam it to your TV via Chromecast.
Strictly Come Dancing (Christmas day, TBC, BBC1)
Strictly Come Dancing’s Christmas special will see a new set of celebs hit the dancefloor for a one-off pantomime-themed extravaganza. Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Rachel Stevens, Louis Smith, Chris Hollins, Lisa Riley and Russell Grant will all return to wow judges Len Goodman, Bruno Tonioli, Darcey Bussell and Craig Revel Horwood and presenters Tess Daly and Bruce Forsyth, who will make his return for the special, too.
If you fear Strictly is going to interfere with your afternoon gaming session, you will be able to watch it on the iPlayer after it’s aired if you don’t record it. Like other Christmas content aired on the BBC, you can also catch up with Strictly on Virgin TiVo’s Catch Up service, TalkTalk On Demand, Sky Go via your computer, smartphone or tablet, or if you have a Chromecast, beam it to your TV or watch on your console with the iPlayer app.
Downton Abbey (Christmas day, 9pm, ITV)
Set in Christmas 1924, the Downton Abbey Christmas special takes place at Brancaster Castle in Northumberland as the crew set off for a break. There’s plenty of scandal when Lord Sinderby’s butler Stowell decides to air some of his frustrations and possibly a new suitor for Lady Mary. It’ll be aired at 9pm on ITV on Christmas Day, straight after Coronation Street.
If it’s likely you’ll be asleep in an alcohol and food-induced coma by 9pm, we suggest you catch up on the family on the ITV Player on the web, PS3 or PS4,YouView, Sky and Virgin Media, plus some Freesat services. You can also download the app for watching on your smartphone or tablet to fill the boring days after Christmas.
Doctor Who (Christmas day, 6:15pm, BBC1)
As usual, the Christmas special episode of Dr Who sees a festive theme, with the Dr, played by Peter Capaldi heading to the Arctic. There are a few celebs in the sci-fi drama including Nick Frost as Father Christmas, Natalie Gumede, Faye Marsey, Maureen Beattie and Michael Troughton, son of second Doctor Patrick Troughton.
Dr Who isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, so if your family won’t let you watch it on Christmas Day at 6.15pm, you can either record it if you’re fortunate to have a recordable Freeview, Sky or youView box, otherwise there’s always catch up via the iPlayer on your smart TV, digital TV service (Virgin Media, TalkTalk, Sky, BT), Xbox, Playstation (PS3 or PS4), Wii, computer or mobile device with the iPlayer app.
Game of Thrones (From Dec 20th, 9pm, Sky Atlantic)
Sky Atlantic will be airing series 1-4 of Game of Thrones over the Chrimbo period before series five hits screens in Spring next year. The entire back catalogue of the fantasy drama will play on 12 consecutive nights (from 9pm) from December 20, so if you haven’t already become addicted, now’s the time.
You can watch by heading to Sky Atlantic on your Now TV or Sky subscription or if you just want to get stuck in now, the box set is available via on demand on both services now. If you don’t already have a subscription to Sky Atlantic on your Now TV box, you can sign up for £6.99 a month on a rolling 30-day deal just for the festive season if you so wish.
Black Mirror (December 16th, 9pm, Channel 4)
Created by Charlie Brooker, series 3 of Black Mirror will debut on December 16 with the Christmas special, White Christmas. The 90-minute episode takes the theme of ‘blocking’ people as you can do on social media and stars Mad Men’s Jon Hamm and co-star Rafe Spall.
You can catch up on the first two series’ of Black Mirror on 4OD box sets on mobile, tablet, Xbox or PS3, YouView, Now TV, Virgin Media, Roku, Samsung and Panasonic TVs via the 4OD app. We’re betting series 3 will be available after the Christmas episode has aired too.
Miranda (Christmas day, 7:15pm, BBC1)
Miranda Hart has decided to end her sitcom series with a bang, offering up two final episodes of singleton stories over Christmas. The question on everyone’s lips though, is will she ever find a lover? Hart has hinted that it might be the theme of the final two episodes, saying she wants her TV show to finish on a high.
Miranda’s penultimate episode is set to air on Christmas Day at 7:15pm, with the closing episode showing on New Year’s Day. If you reckon you’ll be too hungover to enjoy the finale, you can catch up on it until 1st February via the BBC’s iPlayer app across smart TVs, YouView, Sky On Demand, Virgin TV or on your Xbox or Playstation. You can also beam it to your TV using Chromecast.
Coronation Street (From Christmas day, 8pm, ITV)
Nothing’s ever simple in Weatherfield, especially not at Christmas. This year’s Christmas special will centre around the Platts with a ‘massive and life-changing’ plot in store. Life is looking up for Steve Macdonald though as he attempts to give his family the best Christmas Day ever.
As always, Corrie will be shown a LOT over Christmas, including an hour-long episode on Christmas Day at 8pm, another hour on Boxing Day at 7pm, then Monday 29 December (7.30 and 8.30pm), New Year’s Eve at 7.30pm and 2nd January at 7.30pm and 8.30pm.
If there’s just too much action to watch live, you can of course catch up with the ITV Player on the web, PS3 or PS4,YouView, Sky and Virgin Media, plus some Freesat services. If you’d rather reserve it for when you’re on the move, download the ITV Player app on your smartphone or tablet to take Corrie wherever you go.
Playhouse Presents: Marked (December 18th, 2:35am, Sky Arts)
Sky Arts’ Playhouse Presents Christmas special this year is Marked, starring Stephen Fry and Kiefer Sutherland. The drama sees Sutherland as a man desperate for money who undertakes some hitman activity to earn some cash. Along the way, he meets a range of famous faces, including a random encounter with Fry, dressed up as Santa (ish).
Playhouse Presents: Marked is available to watch on Sky Arts 1 at 10pm on 18th December and Friday 19th December at 2:35am, or alternatively, you can watch in on demand via the Sky Go app for desktop, smartphone or tablet.
EastEnders (Christmas day, 9pm, BBC1)
Just like Corrie, Christmas never goes smoothly in Walford. A number of the storylines that started during the year will come to a head, including the murder of Lucy Beale, Kat and Alfie’s relationship woes, a fall-out at Dot’s and bad news for the Carters.
Eastenders will go head-to-head with Downton Abbey at 9pm on Christmas Day, so if you opt to watch that instead, you can catch up with Eastenders on the iPlayer, whether you’re watching on a PC, your smart TV, YouView, Sky box, Virgin Media, smartphone, tablet or gaming console.
Call the Midwife (Christmas day, 7:30pm, BBC1)
We got a little taster of the Christmas episode of Call the Midwife during Children in Need, but if you missed it, it follows Nonnatus House’s preparations. Chummy is in charge of Christmas performance rehearsals, although one picture shows her taking a tumble in the snow, while husband PC Noakes cuddles baby Freddy close to his chest in another.
Call the Midwife will air straight after Miranda at 7:30pm, which means if you’re an Emmerdale fan you may miss the midwifery special. Help is at hand though, because you can catch-up on the iPlayer on all its platforms, including Android and iOS smartphones and tablets, desktop, computer consoles, smart TVs and YouView, Sky, Virgin Media’s TiVo and Chromecast.
Queen’s Christmas Message (Christmas day, 3pm, BBC1)
What Christmas would be complete without either the Queen’s Christmas Message or the alternative Christmas message if you’re not a royalist? Although the focus of this year’s Christmas message hasn’t yet been revealed, it’s pretty likely she’ll refer to her growing family, with William and Kate expecting their second child early next year.
The Queen’s christmas Message will be aired at 3pm on BBC 1 on Christmas Day and can also be watched live through iPlayer or catch-up after the event has happened across all iPlayer-supported platforms.
Alternative Christmas Message (Christmas day, 3pm, Channel 4)
For those who aren’t royalists, the Alternative Christmas Message will be broadcast at the same time as Queenie. Last year saw whistleblower Edward Snowden make the speech, talking about internet privacy, but this year’s host hasn’t yet been revealed.
If you’d rather watch our leader deliver her message to the masses live, you can catch up with the Alternative Christmas Message on 4OD across Android and iOS mobiles, tablet, Xbox or PS3, YouView, Now TV, Virgin Media, Roku, Samsung and Panasonic TVs via the 4OD app.