34. Let’s Do Christmas Lunch With Gino and Mel.
Because you know you’re going to want to watch some kind of traditional festive daytime sappery. And if you’re going to do that, you may as well go all out as daytime’s whitest-teethed troupers, Melanie Sykes and Gino DiCampo.
33. The Harry Potter franchise takes over Christmas forever.
Deathly Hallows Part 1 is the big centrepiece of ITV’s Boxing Day schedule. But you do realise what this means? The movie series is now going to be the easy staple of the festive season even more than the Bond movies used to own Bank Holidays. There’s no way of stopping this and it will never end. Choose wisely, kids.
Boxing Day, 7.15pm. ITV.
32. Daniella Westbrook does Celebrity Come Dine With Me.
Along with Louis Spence, Sinitta and Hugo Taylor from Made In Chelsea. Consider this due warning.
December 27, 8pm, Channel 4.
31. The Big Reunion remain reunited.
When ITV2 got Atomic Kitten, 5ive, Honeyz, 911, Liberty X, 911 and Blue they can’t have imaged it would come to this. One arena tour later, they’re all back again, to record a version of Slade’s “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day” in aid of Text Santa. Video here and you have been warned.
20 December, ITV.
30. What life is really like for Ms Spears in I Am Britney Jean.
The behind-the-scenes documentary finally gets a UK airing. We’re promised a real-life insight into the agony and the ecstasy of being Britney Spears and, one would hope, the series of meetings that led to “Work Bitch” becoming a thing that actually happened.
Boxing Day, 10.05pm, ITV.
29. Downton Abbey is still going.
Nobody was too impressed with the most recent series of Downton, which was felt to be saggy and overcrowded. The special takes further risks by decamping the family from the Abbey and not even being set at Christmas, as the Crawley’s decamp to their London residence for the summer for a visit to Buckingham Palace. Still, Shirley McLaine returns as Lady Cora’s mother which will allow for lashings of camp sparring with Maggie Smith.
Christmas Day, ITV.
28. Bluestone 42 are still away and in danger.
A comedy drama based around a bomb disposal unit in the midst of Operation Herrick might sound like a tough sell. But this newcomer is an example of the kind of risks BBC Three can take, and came off touching and was compared favourably to M*A*S*H*. In this special, the forces in Afghanistan celebrate Christmas too.
BBC Three, tbc.
27. David Jason is Still Open All Hours.
This is risky. Bringing back a beloved 1970s sitcom without its star Ronnie Barker would sound a terrible and tasteless idea the rest of the time. But David Jason, returning as Granville who has inherited the shop from Arkwright, is the same kind of Great Uncle to the nation that Barker was, and if original writer Roy Clarke gets the script right then it might just work.
Boxing Day, 8.15pm, BBC One.
25. Mrs Brown’s Boys continues to annoy critics.
When a show manages to offend the vast majority of critics but delight mass audiences for years on end then it has to be doing something right. Brendan O’Carroll’s warm sitcom is back to annoy the high-brow with two new Christmas episodes.
Starting Christmas Day, 9.30pm, BBC One.
24. Gok Does Panto… (and oh yes, he does).
With fashion shows, slimming shows, books about style, shows about cooking and plans to open restaurants, clearly what Gok Wan really needs at this point is another career strand. And what the general public clearly need is more Gok. Pantomime is clearly the obvious move, so here we are, joining him every step of the way as he prepares to star as The Man In The Mirror in a Birmingham production of Snow White. My eyes, etc.
23. Strictly does Christmas.
The ultimate life hack for enjoying Strictly Come Dancing? Just watch the special. You don’t have to invest in three months of this nonsense, you’ll probably be drunk enough to enjoy it properly, and the one-off nature of the booking guarantees a better calibre of celebrity. This year, Sara Cox, Elaine Paige, Rochelle from The Saturdays and 80s pop hunk Matt Goss from Bros join the sequined fun.
Christmas Day, 5pm, BBC One.
22. Get Tangled.
It’s not like the internet has left you short of Disney Princesses this year, if you knew where to find them, But just in case you’re still lacking, Rapunzel will be letting down her hair for her UK TV premiere.
Christmas Day, 3.20, ITV.
21. Christmas gore with Machete.
Christmas movies don’t all have to be sentimental fluff you know. You can have things like this ultra-violent Tarantino spin-off B-movie tribute from Robert Rodriguez. Robert DeNiro, Jessica Alba, Don Johnson, Steven Seagal and Lindsay Lohan star in there probably cheapest and possibly coolest-ever movie.
Boxing Day, 12.10am, Channel 4.
20. The Homeland finale.
Everyone who stuck with Homeland (and we realise that wasn’t many people) insists that sticking with Homeland was a decision worth making. Spoilers prevent us saying anything more.
December 22, 9pm, Channel 4.
19. Death comes to Pemberley in Death Comes To Pemberley.
With the Jane Austen well running dry, BBC One turn to the (actually quite acclaimed) murder-mystery-mash-up-sequel to Pride And Prejudice from PD James for its big costume drama. Jenna Coleman makes her other prominent festive appearance on the channel as the wicked Lydia Wickham.
Boxing Day, 8.15pm, BBC One.
18. Derren Brown attempts a Great Art Robbery.
After all the apocalypses and games of Russian roulette, the country’s favourite (possibly only) primetime mentalist trickster returns with a rather warmer festive stunt. Promising art collector Ivan Massow he can steal one his paintings in plain sight, even telling him when he will do it, he recruits an army of pensioners, showing in turn how they are the most invisible people in society.
December 13, 9pm, Channel 4.
17. Another Big Fat Quiz, this time of 2013 unsurprisingly.
Aka Jimmy Carr’s one good reason for still being employed in television. A good one, because it will never get old.
16. Carols And Caravans with the Gypsy Weddings crew.
The travellers might have been overtaken a little in our hearts by another C4 reality show (more of which later) this year, but they’re still bringing their own special sparkle to festivities. This year, Paddy Doherty is pimping up his pad with a life-sized neon penguin while over in Belfast, always-the-bridesmad Barbara McFayen is finally preparing for her big day…
15. Winstone goes wussy in Moonfleet.
Sky’s luxuriant family dramas have become a Christmas tradition of their own in recent years. And this year they’re getting tough-guy Ray Winstone to tug some emo strings in this adaptation of J. Meade Falkner’s epic adventure novel from 1898. A young man dreams of adventure and joins a gang of smugglers. Anuerin Barnard and Karl McCrane co-star.
14. Danny Dyer joins EastEnders!!!
Yes geezah, yes. Christmas is usually a time of misery on Albert Square. But this year in its most inspired piece of casting in years, they’re bringing the UK’s lairiest ‘ard man as the Queen Vic’s new landlord. His bulldog is called Lady Di. Whatever else happens, this is going to be very funny.
13. David Attenborough’s fun with dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum
The UK’s favourite naturalists has a fun evening with some even older historical relics, In a 3D special teaming up with the people behind Gravity, he takes over the Natural History museum for a night of wonder with re-animated dinosaurs, ice-age beasts and giant reptiles. Rawr!
New Year’s Day, Sky1 / Sky3D.
12. The Queen!
Now that everyone likes the royals again then it feels like an adorable time to return to one of the Christmas traditions we’ve all sort of forgotten. Out of all of them, she looks like quite a good sort, and it’s not like it lasts for very long.
Christmas Day, 3pm, most of the channels.
11. David Walliams and the Gangsta Granny.
In the vein of last year’s Mr Stink, this year’s daft festive family adventure come courtesy of Walliams’ 2001 children’s book. An all-star cast of Joanna Lumley, Miranda Hart, Rob Brydon and Robbie bloody Williams team up for the story of a young boy who discovers that this Gran (Julia McKenzie) used to be an intrepid jewel thief.
Boxing Day, 6.05pm, BBC One.
10. The Snowman And The Snowdog begins another 30 years of annual repeats.
The original was repeated every year for 30 years before, only to be briefly overtaken in the later years by Love, Actually. So there’s no reason to assume the really-quite-good-actually shouldn’t go on to do the same.
Christmas Eve, 7.30pm, Channel 4.
9. Man Down at Christmas.
Greg Davies’ semi-autobiographical tale of a calamitous teacher was the best new sitcom of the year, and not just because Rik Mayall’s showstealing performance as his borderline-psychotic father. This Christmas special was commissioned before the series had even aired, and it’s not looking like the season to be jolly for hapless Dan.
Channel 4, tbc.
8. Still Educating Yorkshire.
Young Musharaf Asghar melted the hearts of the nation as Mr Burton tried to help him overcome his stammer in time for his GCSE English exam. He’s back taking centre stage in this special which promises just as much emo but with the added sentimentality of Christmas. So we’re not sure how we’ll cope.
Channel 4, tbc.
7. Mark Gatiss brings the scares in The Tractate Middoth.
There are few things more Christmassy than a good ghost story, and these stylish adaptations have become a BBC tradition in recent years. Here Gatiss brings his usual ghoulish panache to a story by M R James. Sacha Dhawan from An Adventure In Space And Time takes centre-stage.
Christmas Day, BBC Two.
6. The Whale
In the early 19th century, a treacherous voyage through the Essex formed the basis for the real-life events that inspired Moby Dick. Before he died in 1883 aged 78, Thomas Nickerson recounted his adventures at sea as a young cabin-boy. Those accounts informed both the classic novel, and this retelling, which introduced Charles Furness as the young Tom, and stars Jonas “Robin Hood” Armstrong.
December 22, BBC One.
5. It’s The Great Christmas Bake-Off.
Mary and Paul, Mel and Sue, Christmas jumpers and gingerbread houses. There isn’t really going to be any point resisting this as our experts present a masterclass in festive baking. Just, mmmmm.
4. All of the Toy Stories!
BBC One have pulled something very exciting. The complete and consecutive adventures of Woody, Buzz and co will be screened one day at a time in the run up to Christmas. Rejoice!
December 23-25, BBC One.
3. The Doctor Who regeneration.
“We’re going to take a much-loved children’s hero,” cackled Steven Moffat last month, “and kill him off, at Christmas!” Yes, the hour has come for the Fall Of The Eleventh, as Matt Smith makes his final appearance at the Doctor. On the fields of Trenzalore, silence will fall. And the clock will chime for the Twelfth night…
Finally finally finally! Although we never actually promised it any sooner, Sherlock fans will have waited a whole two years to solve the mystery of really happened outside St Bart’s that day, as the consulting detective cheated death in the most audacious way. But as we rejoin the action in The Empty Hearse, it is also two years later. And if Sherlock expects easy forgiveness, he is mistaken.
New Year’s Day, 9pm, BBC One.
1. Lady Gaga and The Muppets Holiday Spectacular.
Oh come on, as if this isn’t the thing you’re secretly most looking forward to.
Christmas Eve, 8pm, Channel 5.