The rules were simple. I took the double sized Christmas and New Year issue of the Radio Times and went through the five main channels plus any more available via Freeview. Then you I wrote down my must-see programs, in day-by-day order.
And here’s what I ended up with, skipping over any ongoing serials or anything not special to the season in some sense or another.
Several of these shows will be screened more than once, but I’ve listed the premiere after which they’ll most likely be available via catch-up services too.
At least I hope so – there’s a couple of fierce clashes.
Saturday 22nd December
9.00pm, BBC Four – Arena: Screen Godesses
A documentary about the darlings of the Hollywood studio era, 1910 to the early ’60s. Features Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor all the way back to Theda Bara, Louise Brooks, Lillian Gish et al. The brief twinkle of Brian Eno theme tune is just a bonus.
12.00 Midnight, BBC Two – The Story of the Fairytale of New York
Behind the making of what is probably the best perennial Christmastime radio fave.
1.00am, BBC Two – Johnny Cash at Christmas
An 1970 special that sees Cash perform with the Carter Family, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, the Statler Brothers and the Everly Brothers.
Sunday 23d December
6.30pm, BBC One – Mr. Stink
The BBC’s first narrative commission in 3D is a family story about a smelly tramp. Stars Hugh Bonneville, was adapted from the book from David Walliams, and here’s the trailer:
8.30pm, BBC One – Loving Miss Hatto
A “true story” drama about an infamous con from the world of classical music, written by Victoria Wood and starring Francesca Annis and Alfred Molina. Should be rich in character and charm. There’s a trailer for this too:
10.55pm, BBC Four – Elizabeth Taylor: England’s Other Elizabeth
An profile of Ms. Taylor built around an interview she gave on a trip to the UK in 2000. I never saw this and I just won’t miss it this time.
8.00pm, Channel 4 – The Snowman and the Snowdog
The sequel to Christmas classic, The Snowman. There’s no Raymond Briggs book behind this one, it’s a sequel to the original toon rather than a new adaptation, but it certainly looks nice. Here’s the trailer:
And, incidentally, you can see The Snowman at 6pm on the 23rd if you don’t already know it backwards or have the new Blu-ray.
9.35pm, BBC One – Outnumbered Christmas Special
Probably the best sitcom about family I have ever seen, at least if you play by Rich’s rules which bars The Simpsons. This special episode features Mark Heap, centre of the British comedy universe. I guess it was just a matter of time.
There’s no trailer as yet, but here’s a sort-of promo from the BBC’s Christmas campaign:
9.40pm, BBC Two – Ronnie Barker: The Man Faces Of…
A tribute to Ronnie Barker, half of the Two Ronnies and one of Britain’s best, and best loved, TV comedians.
10.30pm, BBC Two – The Two Ronnies: The Studio Recordings
Un-edited takes of the aforementioned Barker and his little co-Ronnie, Mr. Corbett, recording their show back in the 70s and 80s.
10.30pm Channel 4 – Friday Night Dinner Christmas Special
I’m curious to see how the Jewish Friday Night Dinner characters celebrate Christmas. More Mark Heap, him being so important to British comedy and all.
3.00pm, BBC HD – The Queen’s Speech in 3D
How can I resist? I hope there’s at least a little bit of “things popping out of the screen.”
4.35pm, BBC One – Room on the Broom
An animated adaptation of the popular picture book with Simon Pegg, Sally Hawkins, Gillian Anderson and Rob Brydon amongst the voice cast. You’ll see the Gruffalo-alike animation and designs in this trailer:
5.15pm, BBC One – Doctor Who Christmas Special – The Snowmen
We’ve been over this and over this…
9.45pm, BBC One – The Royle Family – Barbara’s Old Ring
Royle Family christmas specials have been alternately tremendous and disappointing, or maybe that’s just been the pendulum of expectations taking effect. They had a year off last year – which might mean they’ve skipped over a duffer. Here’s the trailer for this year’s try:
7.10pm, Channel 5 – TV’s 50 Greatest Magic Tricks
A clips show, and a Channel 5 clip show at that, but there’s probably going to be at least 20 really impressive illusions in a selection of this size, perhaps many more. I do love a good magic trick.
8.00pm, BBC Four – The Royal Institute Christmas Lectures
Science made soluble. Two subsequent lectures air at 8pm on Thursday 27th and Friday 28th – the next two days. A favourite of mine since I was only yay high.
9.00pm, BBC One – Miranda
At once a Christmas special and the first episode of this third, and apparently final, series. Here’s the trailer:
9.00pm, BBC Two – The Girl
A drama about Alfred Hitchcock and Tippi Hedron, as essayed by Toby Jones and Sienna Miller. Played in the US to a less than encouraging reception earlier in the year but, hey, Toby Jones. Here’s the latest promo:
9.00pm, BBC Four – Moominland Tales: The Life of Tove Jansson
A profile of the creator of the Moomins, apparently also digging into her real life and the rest of her work.
Thursday 27th December
9.00pm, ITV – Panto!
Co-written by playwright Jonathan Harvey alongside its star, John Bishop, this is a comedy set behind the scenes of a pantomime and is apparently based on Bishop’s real life experiences. Also stars TV’s hardest working woman, Sheridan Smith.
There’s no trailer as yet, but this clip of Bishop doing stand up about his time in panto might give you some idea of what will go on:
Friday 28th December
9.00pm, BBC Four – The Richest Songs in the World
Mark Radcliffe provides the voice over for a list of the ten songs to have made more money than any others. Apparently includes an approximation of how the royalty system works.
10.40pm, Channel 4 - Mashed
Rich Fulcher presents a 2012 retrospective comprised of new work especially made for this show by various web maestros and mash-up artistes like Rob Manuel and Cassetteboy. Fulcher is… an interesting character, probably best known for his work on The Mighty Boosh. This is bound to be a very, very odd hour.
Saturday 29th December
8.15pm, BBC Two – Climbed Every Mountain: The Story Behind The Sound of Music
Salzburg is only now getting around to staging a production of The Sound of Music. An excuse, then, for this look back at the movie and the real-life story of the Von Trapps. An oft-told story, but there’s a special weapon this time in the form of my favourite, Sue Perkins.
Sunday 30th December
6.05pm, Channel 4 – How The Snowman Came Back To Life
Raymond Briggs in interview and a profile of the making of The Snowman and the Snowdog.
9.00pm, BBC Two – Neil Armstrong: First Man on the Moon
The story of Neil Armstrong’s life from his childhood during the great depression and on through his work in the space program, all the way to the moon and back. Appropriately enough, this is followed by Moon at 10.00pm and, also appropriately, that’s followed by the final cut of Blade Runner at 11.30pm.
9.00pm, Channel 4 - Big Fat Quiz of the Year
The annual year-end quiz produced for Channel 4 by Hot Sauce. Typically these have proven to be good company for cold winter night.
9.00pm, BBC Four – Hollywood’s Last Screen Goddess: Clara Bow
This profile of Bow promises to look at her extraordinary streak of superstardom in early Hollywood as well as the fall from grace that led to her retiring, for good, at the age of just 28.
New Year’s Eve
8.00pm, BBC Four – … Sings Disney Songs!
A compilation of performances from the BBC archive showing performances of songs from Disney movies. Hopefully there will be more to this than Celine Dion and Peter Andre.
New Year’s Day
7.30pm, Channel 4 – Frankie Howerd: The Lost Tapes
Between talking heads for context we’ll also get home movie footage, previously unaired interview material with Howerd himself and bits of his stand-up.
10.00pm, BBC Two – Charlie Brooker’s 2012 Wipe
A look back at 2012 as presented in the media. See it in one piece before its cut into bits and scattered across YouTube. Brooker will no doubt pick some of the right targets, and I hope he’ll do more than take cheap shots.
And just like that, we’re back to work and the last few days in this big fat Radio Times stop feeling so special.
Not a bad little selection