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Best on the box: Top drama, entertainment, family and celebrity picks to get your teeth into this Christmas

© BBC/Guy Levy Strictly Come Dancing - Christmas Special.
Strictly Come Dancing - Christmas Special.

There’s no better time for binging on TV and stuffing your face with chocolates on the couch than Christmas.

But what to watch?

Here, we round up the best on offer on the box this festive period:


It wouldn’t be festive period without a bit of ballroom, and Strictly Come Dancing returns for an all-star Christmas special.

Six of the most-loved Strictly stars return to the dance floor for the annual special coming to BBC One for the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special (BBC1, Christmas Day, 4.40pm)

This year the leading ladies are Debbie McGee, Chizzy Akudolu and Gemma Atkinson and the gentlemen returning to the ballroom are Joe Sugg, Mark Wright and Richard Arnold.

Hosted by Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman, the show wouldn’t be complete without the festive foursome on the judging panel.

Head judge Shirley Ballas returns joining Motsi Mabuse on her first Christmas special alongside fellow judges, Bruno Tonioli and Craig Revel Horwood.

The new series of Dancing on Ice returns early next year and fans are in for a treat with a one-off festive show with Dancing On Ice At Christmas (ITV, today, 7pm). All the celebrity and professional skaters will be seen on the ice for the first time, and The Christmas extravaganza will feature another show-stopping routine from ice legends Torvill and Dean, as well as performances from some of Dancing on Ice’s most popular alumni, including Ray Quinn and Jake Quickenden.

Never mind dieting after Christmas – Noel Fielding and Sandi Toksvig return with more festive-themed baking challenges

The Great Christmas Bake Off (C4, Christmas Day, 7.10pm) features Tom Hetherington and Chuen-Yan from 2017’s competition.

Noel, Sandi, Prue and Paul are back in the tent for their traditional Christmas get-together.

They’ll have their usual Christmassy challenges for the title of festive Star Baker.

They’ll round off the shindig with legendary British rock band Status Quo performing their smash hit Rockin’ All Over The World.


Put your feet up – if you can – on Christmas Day with an adaptation of a much-loved book written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler.

The Snail And The Whale (BBC1, Christmas Day, 2.30pm) shows us a restless young snail, voiced by Oscar nominee Sally Hawkins, who has ambitions to travel the world.

She hitches a lift on a great big grey-blue humpback whale – which sounds an awful lot like Rob Brydon – and sets off with him across the seas.

On their journey the snail and the whale discover towering icebergs and far-off lands, fiery mountains and golden sands.

The snail is delighted by the wonderful world around her, until she realises how small it makes her feel.

But the snail is called into action when her and the whale run into trouble.

There’s also the return of a much-loved children’s character thanks to Mackenzie Crook.

The former Office star has rebooted Worzel Gummidge (BBC1, Boxing Day, 6.20pm, and Dec 27, 7pm) 40 years after Jon Pertwee took on the role.

Mackenzie’s Detectorists was filled with beautiful footage of the countryside – so expect more of the same, as well as his trademark witty script.

Also joining him is comedy legend Michael Palin, Harry Potter actress Zoe Wanamaker, Benidorm’s Steve Pemberton, and Getting On’s Vicki Pepperdine.

If you’re looking for more animation then there’s the adaptation of the long-standing children’s classic The Tiger Who Came To Tea (Channel 4, Christmas Eve, 7.30pm).

Britain’s Got Talent judge David Walliams narrates, while the other characters are voiced by actors including Sherlock’s Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays Daddy, and Green Wing’s Tamsin Greig, who is Mummy.

Queen of Katwe star David Oyelowo plays the mischievous and troublesome Tiger.


Martin’s Close (BBC4, Christmas Eve, 10pm)

The Christmas ghost story was a tradition created by the Victorians, and is being continued by League of Gentleman writer Mark Gatiss – and Peter Capaldi.

Former Doctor Who star Capaldi is starring in Martin’s Close, which was originally penned in the 19th Century by iconic author MR James.

The standalone 30-minute drama is a chilling ghost story adapted and directed by Gatiss.

The story follows Mr Martin, a man accused of murdering a young woman with learning difficulties, with suspicion turning to him when the ghost of his victim apparently starts tormenting him and appearing to her neighbours.

In his murder trial, the evidence of the ghostly apparitions ends up playing an unusually large part in proceedings, making for a strange twist on a standard legal drama.

Peter Capaldi plays Dolben, the barrister prosecuting Martin, and he’s joined in a cast which also includes Wilf Scolding as John Martin, and Scot Sara Crowe (Four Weddings and a Funeral) as Sarah.

If that isn’t chilly enough for you, there’s some scandi-noir with Wisting (Saturday, 9pm, BBC4).

The drama, which stars Sven Nordin and Carrie-Anne Moss, is based on the best-selling books The Caveman and The Hunting Dogs by writer Jørn Lier Horst.

Set in the unique landscape of Norway, this series follows homicide detective William Wisting as he wrestles with the most challenging and shocking case of his career: a wanted US serial killer preying amongst them.

Hollywood actress Carrie-Anne Moss, known for her roles in the Matrix and Marvel’s Jessica Jones, plays FBI Agent Maggie Griffin alongside British actor Richie Campbell (The Frankenstein Chronicles) who plays Special Agent John Bantham.


He’s known for being a champion against tabloid intrusion as much as his iconic 90s romantic comedy roles.

Hugh Grant is a more complicated character than the bumbling posh Englishman he was initially typecast as.

A new documentary about Grant is set to air on BBC 2 tomorrow which sheds light on his life in television and film (Hugh Grant: A Life On Screen, BBC2, Monday, 9pm).

From his early days starting out in comedy troupe, The Jockeys Of Norfolk, to his breakthrough role as Charles in Four Weddings And A Funeral, for which he won a Bafta in 1995, Hugh has become one of Britain’s best-loved film stars.

Since then, he has gone from strength to strength with box office hits including Bridget Jones’s Diary, Love Actually, Notting Hill, About A Boy, Two Weeks’ Notice, Paddington 2 and Florence Foster Jenkins. The programme also includes interviews from friends and colleagues who have helped shape Hugh’s glittering career, such as Andie MacDowell, Richard Curtis, Sandra Bullock, Colin Firth and Nicholas Hoult.

And on Christmas Day there’s another landmark documentary that explores the extraordinary life and music of Dolly Parton (Dolly Parton: Here I Am, BBC2, 8.30pm).

Featuring archive footage and exclusive interviews with Dolly and stars like Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, this film lifts the lid on the songwriting genius behind I Will Always Love You, Jolene, 9 to 5 and a host of other chart-topping hits.

From her humble beginnings to her global success, the film discovers how a girl from the Smoky Mountains conquered Nashville to become the queen of country music.

On Channel 4, meanwhile, Aussie favourite Kylie Minogue is hosting a series of surprises for her fans.

Kylie’s Secret Night is on Channel 4, Christmas Day, 10.30pm.

David Walliams stars in a fairytale sequel aimed at children who enjoy his books – Cinderella After Ever After (Sky 1, Christmas Eve, 8pm)

Travel Man Richard Ayoade becomes quizmaster in Celebrity Crystal Maze, (C4, Mon, 10pm), with guests Shirley Ballas and Scarlett Moffatt