I really can’t believe we’re already in December and that means it’s time to look ahead three weeks to what the festive television schedules will look like. We already know that ITV1 are hoping another Christmas special of Downton Abbey will see them win the ratings war while Channel 4 inevitably have a film-heavy line-up while Alan Carr will deliver another Chatty Man Christmas Special. However this week it was the BBC’s time to reveal what programmes they’ll be airing over Christmas and into the New Year and while we don’t know what will be airing when we can at least speculate what the Beeb hopes will be a winning Christmas day line-up.
The big news is that the BBC’s most successful drama of 2012, Call the Midwife will be getting a Christmas special which will be airing on Christmas Day itself. The episode sees Christmas being a busy time for the midwives of Poplar especially when a baby is left on the steps of the convent an event which has the whole community out trying to find the money. Jenny Lee is meanwhile preoccupied with the heart-breaking mystery of the local semi-vagrant woman Mrs Jenkins who will be played by Benidorm’s Sheila Reid. Finally the newly-married Chummy is under pressure to put on a truly monumental Nativity play using the local children. As well playing Chummy, Miranda Hart will be busy with the return of her sitcom Miranda which is promoted to BBC1 and kicks off with a festive episode in which Penny threatens to cancel Christmas unless her daughter can sort her life out.
Nowadays Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without the annual Doctor Who special and this year’s offering is particularly monumental as we see Jenna-Louise Coleman playing the new companion Clara for the first time even though she did guest star as a different character back in The Asylum of the Daleks episode. That confusion aside this episode is set in 1892 and sees Coleman’s governess seek help from The Doctor after a mysterious menace starts causing mischief. However The Doctor is at his lowest ebb following the departure of the Ponds and is unwilling to help but will the arrival of some old allies help him to see what is the right action to take? Other family fantasy drama is on offer over Christmas with the last two ever episodes of Merlin are broadcast which sees the young wizard finally attempt to fulfil his prophecy. Another Saturday night favourite that will return for its annual Christmas special is Strictly Come Dancing which will see six new contestants take to the dancefloor for the first time they are footballer Fabrice Muamba, comedienne Katy Brand, actress Sheila Hancock, JLS’ JB Gill, Blue Peter presenter Helen Skelton and legendary comedian Bobby Ball. The show will also feature former contestants such as Rachel Stevens, Kelly Brook, Chris Hollins and the first ever winner Natasha Kaplinsky.
After forgetting to write an episode in time Craig Cash and Caroline Aherne bring The Royle Family back for another festive special. This time around Barbara has been busy in Poundland buying presents for the family while Dave thinks he’s onto a new business idea that he thinks he can pitch on Dragon’s Den. Elsewhere the new busty neighbour makes an impression on Joe and Jim is hoping to strike it rich with the scratch card he’s bought. They’ll be more family comedy courtesy of Outnumbered in which the Brockmans make the disastrous decision to host a Christmas party for their neighbours who are played by, among others, Sanjeev Bhaskar and Mark Heap. While the controversial Mrs Brown’s Boys also starts a new series with a Christmas episode, that sees the matriarch busying herself for her biggest Christmas yet.
As always there’s something for the kids as Room on the Broom hopes to match the success of the two Gruffalo adaptations that have aired on Christmas Day over the last couple of years. Based on Julia Donaldson’s picture book this follows the story of a kindly witch who lets a number of different animals fly on her broomstick. As you would expect a stellar cast has lined up to add their voices to the piece they include Simon Pegg, Rob Brydon, Timothy Spall, Martin Clunes and David Walliams. Talking of Walliams he’s also starring in an adaptation of his own children’s story Mr Stink as he takes on the role of the Prime Minister with Hugh Boneville playing the titular smelly man. The now popular children’s tale also features Sheridan Smith and Johnny Vegas as well as the acting debut of Britain’s Got Talent’s Pudsey the Dog.
The kids don’t get all the new stuff though as there are two one-off dramas airing on BBC1 over the festive period both of which have interesting premises. First up is Restless which stars Downton Abbey’s Michelle Dockery as Ruth who one day learns that her mother Sally isn’t the respectable woman she thought but instead is Eva a 30 year veteran of the British Secret Service. The drama then follows both the past of the young Eva, played by Hayley Atwell, and her current day incarnation portrayed by Charlotte Rampling who wants to finally have a normal life after years of being Restless. The second drama Loving Mrs Hatto is written by Victoria Wood and like Restless focuses on characters over a number of years as they fall in love and try to improve their fortunes. Francesca Annis and Alfred Molina star as a couple who try to turn their lives around after she gets a chance to become a world famous musician but only if the pair can pull of an audacious heist.
The non-fiction portions of the festive line-up are headlined by David Attenborough’s Africa which sees the legendary naturalist narrate a four year exploration of the continent’s most famous wildlife. Another David, this time Mr Suchet, is also fronting a documentary as David Suchet: In the Footsteps of St Paul sees the actor trace the modern Catholic religion following the death of Jesus. The BBC is also reviving Superstars for a one-off special that sees 16 of Team GB’s Medalists compete in a series of challenges with the contstants including Mo Farrah, Katherine Grainger and Christine Ohuruogo. There are also many of the traditional favourites to look forward to including two editions of Top of the Pops, a Songs of Praise special and the traditional Christmas Day Eucharist.
BBC2’s festive schedule is headlined by The Girl an Alfred Hitchcock biopic which explores the legendary director’s fragile relationship with leading lady Tippi Hedren. Toby Jones stars as Hitchcock who becomes obsessed with winning the love of Sienna Miller’s Hedren an infatuation that ended up harming both of their careers. Elsewhere Arena profiles the nation’s favourite art loving nun in Sister Wendy and The Art of the Gospel while Sue Perkins looks at the truth behind another popular nun and her family in her Sound of Music expose Climbed Every Mountain. In addition they’ll be Christmas specials of many BBC2 favourites including QI, James May’s Toy Stories, Sarah Millican’s Television Programme and Dragon’s Den. They’ll also be an update on last year’s Christmas chart-toppers with The Choir – Military Wives Revisited and the annual TV tradition that is Carols from Kings.
The BBC3 Christmas line-up is headed up by a festive special of their brilliant sitcom Him and Her while they’ll also be special episodes of Don’t Tell the Bride and Snog Marry Avoid. The year will also be explored in both Great Movie Mistakes 2012 and The Most Amazing Moments of London 2012. Meanwhile BBC4 are showcasing Screen Goddesses over the Christmas period including Joan Crawford, Bette Davis and Clara bow.