Want something warm, cheap and entertaining this New Year? Had enough revelling to last you until at least the next clock-change? Then don’t be queuing in the freezing cold, paying over the odds to get in a bar, spending another another hour waiting to get to the bar, forking out twenty notes for a lemonade, and walking home in tight shoes after you’ve failed to get a cab.
Instead rejoice – added to all the perfectly acceptable reasons to wave out the old and welcome in the new from your favourite armchair, is that the TV selection is particularly good this year, with a heady mixture of comedy, drama, review and live jollity.
Here are ten of our top picks for bringing in 2012 with the box:
Friday 30th December
The Many Faces of Judi Dench – 8pm BBC2
One of the best things about festive TV are the one-off completely non-festive offerings that crop up in the schedule. Last week we saw a veneration of Victoria Wood, this week it’s Judi Dench whose national treasure status is documented. Don’t expect anything controversial, but the diverse Dame has been in some brilliant film and TV, so worth spending an hour enjoying the best clips and celebrating one of our own.
Mrs Dickens’s Family Christmas – 9pm BBC2
Watch out - there’s going to be quite a lot of Dickens this next couple of months, as the 200th anniversary of the birth of arguably the world’s best novelist (I said arguably!) is celebrated. Here we have Sue Perkins capably comparing some of his famous characters against the real women in his strangely messy personal life.
A Royal Year to Remember – 9pm ITV1
Who better than Alan Titchmarsh to assess how the nation regarded its monarchy in a year that saw the romance of two royal weddings, the untiring work ethic of the Queen and her consort, and the frisson of a globally-serenaded arse. Most enjoyable will surely be Titchmarsh’s own squirmingness when interviewing Prince Philip. The Duke may be 90, but he can still make mincemeat of a lesser man.
Charlie Brooker’s 2011 Wipe – 10.30pm BBC4
It’s been an event-filled year by any standards, so Brooker will have his work cut out reviewing how the media acquitted themselves throughout. Most interesting, surely, will be his take on the celebrities who suffered ‘hacking’ – especially now he’s married a TV presenter and become a figure of fascination himself.
Saturday – New Year’s Eve:
Harry Hill’s TV Burp Xmas Special – 6.30pm ITV1
Apparently, a whole load of US left-wingers know about politics based on what comedian Jon Stewart shows them. In the same way has Harry Hill kept the nation astutely informed of a whole load of telly goings-on. Only when someone is closing do we really appreciate their value. So as the host prepares to hang up his black suit, we must gaze in wonder at a man who can be funny just by turning up and sitting behind a desk.
TV’s 50 Greatest Magic Tricks – 8pm, C5
Nearly three hours counting down history’s greatest broadcast illusions – ranging from Penn and Teller, Derren Brown changing someone else’s mind, and David Blaine seemingly out of his. All helped along with expert commentary by the inexhaustible Paul Daniels with Debbie McGee, and some ‘we are not worthy’ contributions from Joe Pasquale and Dick and Dom. There’s got to be something for everyone in this lot.
Eric and Ernie – 9pm, BBC2
As we’re no longer afforded the perennial festive wonder of the Morecambe and Wise Christmas special, this can serve as a sweet reminder of what we’ve lost. BAFTA winner Daniel Rigby (Eric) and Bryan Dick (Ernie) play the winning duo in the days when they were told that northern comedy just didn’t work on television. Required viewing for any aspirational comedian, and for those who miss the magic that was Morecambe. This programme sits sandwiched between a tribute programme by huge fan Paul Merton, and vintage Parkinson interviewing the pair.
Who’s counting the bongs at midnight?
BBC1 – Jake Humphrey – Big Ben, fireworks, Thames.
BBC2 – Jools Holland – with Cyndia Lauper, Jessie J and Ruby Turner for company.
ITV – No one – just a news roundup, with a cut to Big Ben for the chimes
Channel 4 – Alan Carr, with guests Jonathan Ross, Paddy McGuiness and Co. But they go off air 30 minutes before midnight, leaving us with a Yuletide YouTube collection, curated by Alex Zane. Uninspiring. But if you’re still going strong, there’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers on afterwards.
Sunday – New Year’s Day
EastEnders – 7pm, BBC1
Pat gets a send-off worthy of a character who’s been propping up the Square for 25 years. Hankies at the ready. (This isn’t in my top ten, but an honourable mention in despatches for the enduringly excellent Pam St Clement)
Sherlock – 8.10pm, BBC1
The first series of this modern reworking of an enduring favourite got nine million viewers, was sold to 180 countries around the world and made global heart-throbs of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. So the BBC have got a lot riding on A Scandal in Belgravia, the first cab off the rank from Steven Moffat this time around. Will it deliver? Of course. Entertainment that is funny, stimulating and stylish – how often does that happen? A high dramatic bar has been set for 2012.
Absolutely Fabulous – 9.40pm, BBC1
Following last week’s moderately popular return, Patsy and Edina are back on our screens. Able support is provided by Lulu, Emma Bunton and Lindsey Duncan in a tour de French force. Even if this show doesn’t quite surf the zeitgeist of its initial run, it’s still worth a watch for some of the one-liners, especially when Patsy gets on a roll.
Hacks -10pm, C4
Drop the Dead Donkey alumnus Guy Jenkin turns his pen on the hacking saga of this year. Quality support comes from ‘royal expert’ Celia Imrie, and ‘Australian proprietor’ Michael Kitchen – presumably, the success of this show will prove to what extent hacking has extended beyond the self-referential bubble of the media world.