ENTERTAINMENT
17/12/2018 16:35 GMT | Updated 18/12/2018 15:32 GMT

Christmas TV Guide 2018: 41 Shows You Can't Afford To Miss

We've trawled through the schedules so you don't have to.

With Christmas just around the corner, everyone has already started thinking about how they are going to fill the time off they have over the coming days – but fear not, there is plenty on the TV to keep us all entertained. 

Each of the main broadcasters have published their full festive schedules, which feature a mix of familiar favourites and one-off specials, as well as a few surprises. 

But to save you having to trawl through the listings, we’ve gone through and picked out the shows (41, to be precise) you can’t afford to miss over the holiday period...

‘Torvill And Dean’

ITV, Christmas Day at 9.15pm

ITV

Poppy Lee Friar and Will Tudor take on the roles of legendary skaters Jane Torvill and Christopher Dean in this new biopic. It will document how the ‘Dancing On Ice’ stars went from humble beginnings training in Nottingham to gold medal-winning Olympians.  

‘EastEnders’ 

BBC One, Christmas Day at 9.15pm

BBC

The Moon/Slater clan take centre stage in Albert Square this Christmas, which promises to be just as dramatic as usual. The truth about Alfie and Hayley’s baby is set to unravel in catastrophic style, and Kat’s world will be shattered into pieces, when a shock death leaving someone with blood on their hands. 

Meanwhile, Mick and Linda Carter are reunited when he is released from prison, but his mind soon turns to revenge, while Mel also has a surprise in store for her deceitful groom as their wedding day arrives. 

‘The ABC Murders’ 

BBC One, Boxing Day at 9pm

BBC

This adaptation of Agatha Christie’s 1936 novel is the latest in a collection made for the BBC, and sees John Malkovich leading the cast as Hercule Poirot alongside Rupert Grint as Inspector Crome. The pair investigate the murders of a killer who has traveled the length and breadth of Britain via the railway network. 

‘The Great Christmas Bake Off’

Channel 4, Christmas Day at 8pm and New Year’s Day at 7.40pm

Channel 4

Four former bakers, Liam Charles (series 8), Flo Atkins (series 8) Jane Beedle (series 7) and Andrew Smyth (series 7) return to the tent to face off in a series of seasonal challenges, where one of them will be crowned Christmas Star Baker.

Kate Henry (series 5), Tamal Ray (series 6), Candice Brown (series 7) and Steven Carter Bailey (series 8) also return for a New Year’s Special.

‘Doctor Who’

BBC One, New Year’s Day at 7pm

BBC

In a break from tradition, the festive ‘Doctor Who’ special will air on New Year’s Day rather that Christmas Day, and as 2019 gets underway, a terrifying evil is stirring from across the centuries of earth’s history. 

‘Call The Midwife’

BBC One, Christmas Day at 7.45pm

BBC

In the run up to Christmas, Trixie (Helen George) returns to Poplar refreshed from her trip to Portofino, just as the nuns begin the process of electing a new mother superior. Meanwhile, Sister Mildred, an indefatigable sister played by Miriam Margolyes, arrives unexpectedly. 

‘Paul O’Grady’s For The Love Of Dogs At Christmas’

ITV, Christmas Day at 5.55pm

ITV

Paul returns to Battersea Cats And Dogs Home for another festive edition of his hugely popular documentary series, looking at the challenges the team face at this time of year. Look out for a west Highland terrier called Sylvester, who is guaranteed to steal your heart.  

‘Luther’ 

BBC One, New Year’s Day at 9pm

BBC

Idris Elba reprises his role as the Detective Chief Inspector as the fifth series of the hit drama begins. 

Luther and new recruit D.S. Catherine Halliday, played by Wunmi Mosaku, are confounded by a complex tangle of leads and misdirection that seems designed to protect an untouchable corruption, but Luther is forced to confront some unburied demons of his own.

‘Courtney Act’s Christmas Extravaganza’

Channel 4, Christmas Eve at 11.05pm

Channel 4

The ‘Drag Race’ alum and ‘Celebrity Big Brother’ winner tops off a huge 2018 with her very own show. Dubbed the world’s first Dragazine show, where “everyone is welcome” the hour-long special sees Courtney front musical numbers, studio items and chat to an array of celebrity guests.  

‘Zog’

BBC One, Christmas Day at 4.50pm

BBC

From the creators of the modern classic ‘The Gruffalo’ comes this heartwarming and enchanting half-hour animated special based on the beloved children’s book. It features Sir Lenny Henry as the narrator, Tracey Ullman as Madame Dragon, Hugh Skinner as Zog, Patsy Ferran as Princess Pearl and Kit Harington as Sir Gadabout.  

‘Watership Down’ 

BBC One, Saturday 22 December at 7pm and Sunday 23 December at 7.20pm

BBC

The latest TV adaptation of Richard Adams’ bestselling novel will air in two parts and features the vocal talents of John Boyega, Olivia Colman, Sir Ben Kingsley, Tom Wilkinson, Gemma Arterton, Peter Capaldi, Mackenzie Crook, Anne-Marie Duff, Taron Egerton, Freddie Fox, Daniel Kaluuya, Rory Kinnear, Craig Parkinson, Rosamund Pike, Jason Watkins and Gemma Chan.

‘Coronation Street’

ITV, Christmas Day at 8.15pm

ITV

Johnny’s infidelity with Liz is still playing on Jenny’s mind and, having overdone the Christmas spirits, the Rovers’ landlady does something she will live to regret. Meanwhile, Daniel is determined to make this a Christmas to remember for him and his pregnant wife Sinead.

‘Les Misérables’

BBC One, Sunday 30 December at 9pm

BBC

The latest take on Victor Hugo’s 19th century classic is one of the jewels in the crown of the BBC Christmas schedule, with the six-part adaptation delving deep into the many layers of the story, which is set against the backdrop of France at a time of civil unrest. 

The cast boasts Dominic West as Jean Valjean, David Oyelowo as Javert and Lily Collins as Fantine, Olivia Colman as Madame Thénardier and Josh O’Connor as Marius. 

‘All Together Now Celebrities’

BBC One, Christmas Eve at 7.15pm

BBC

Gemma Collins, Alison Hammond, Amber Davies and Omid Djalili are some of the household names taking to the stage in the star-studded celebrity special of the BBC’s hit singing show. Rob Beckett and Geri Horner return to their roles as host and head of ‘The 100’ judging panel, respectively.

‘Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special’ 

Christmas Day, 5.30pm on BBC One

BBC

Former contestants Anita Rani, Ann Widdecombe, Caroline Flack, Aston Merrygold, Jake Wood and Michael Vaughan are all back in the ballroom as they compete to be crowned the ‘Strictly’ Christmas 2018 champion.

‘Emmerdale’

ITV, Christmas Day at 7.15pm

ITV

Jessie’s planning a surprise festive wedding with Marlon Dingle, but with such secretive plans for the nuptials Marlon believes he’s doing the catering, while Sam thinks he might be the lucky groom. Will the right person make it down the aisle?

‘Click And Collect’ 

BBC One, Christmas Eve at 9pm

BBC

Stephen Merchant and People Just Do Nothing’s Asim Chaudhry team up as two mismatched neighbours driving across the country to pick up the one toy that will make a little girl’s Christmas dreams come true in this ‘Jingle All The Way’-style comedy. 

‘Alan Carr’s Christmas Cracker’

Channel 4, Christmas Day at 10.15pm

Channel 4

Alan Carr hosts a Christmas extravaganza from his very own alpine log cabin, where he’s joined by the likes of Dani Dyer, Channing Tatum, Alesha Dixon, Lily Allen, Vicky McClure and Olly Murs for a good old knees up.

‘Hold The Sunset’

BBC One, Sunday 23 December at 6.20pm

BBC

This festive special of Alison Steadman and John Cleese’s sitcom sees Edith spending her last Christmas with her family, before she and Phil set off for their dream retirement in the Mediterranean, and it promises to be colourful to say the least. 

‘The Jonathan Ross Christmas Show’

ITV, Saturday 22 December, 10.05pm

Rex/Shitterstock/ITV

Jonathan is joined on his famous sofa by former ‘X Files’ and ‘The Fall’ star Gillian Anderson, Hollywood actor Rob Lowe, 2018 ‘Bake Off’ winner Rahul Mandal, comedian Tom Allen and actress Sheridan Smith. Plus, there’s music from John Legend and the Kingdom Choir.

‘The Inbetweeners: Fwends Reunited’

Channel 4, New Year’s Day at 9pm

Channel 4

The original gang of four – Simon Bird (Will), James Buckley (Jay), Joe Thomas (Simon) and Blake Harrison (Neil) – reunite for one night only to host a two-hour studio show celebrating 10 years since their E4 sitcom debuted. There will be behind-the-scenes footage, surprise guests and never-before-heard stories from their time on set.

‘Mrs Brown’s Boys’

BBC One, Christmas Day at 10.15pm

BBC

Mammy is back for another two Christmas editions of the Marmite sitcom, this time opening the doors of her home to Winnie and Sharon when a storm destroys their house. 

‘Ken Dodd: How Tickled We Were’

BBC Two, Boxing Day at 9pm

BBC

Following his death earlier this year, this one-off special explores the life and work of the man described by many as “the last great music hall entertainer”, featuring contributions from those who knew him best.

‘Michael McIntyre’s Big Christmas Show’ 

BBC One, Christmas Day at 6.15pm

BBC

Michael McIntyre’s annual festive special returns packed with big stars, big laughs and big surprises.

‘The Crystal Maze’

Channel 4, Boxing Day at 9pm

Channel 4

Christopher Biggins, Deborah Meaden, Jamie Laing, Frankie Bridge and Chris Kamara join Richard Ayoade for a festive exploration around the famous maze, in the hope of winning a cash prize for charity.

‘Take That: We’ve Come A Long Way’ 

BBC One, Friday 28 December at 7pm

Dave J Hogan via Getty Images

As the boyband mark their 30th anniversary, they are celebrated in a special one-off that will feature fans sharing their stories of how the lads touched their lives - and in some cases, changed their world completely. Robbie Williams will also be rejoining them as they reflect on three decades in the spotlight.

‘The Midnight Gang’

BBC One, Boxing Day at 7.30pm 

BBC

The latest of David Walliams’ books to be turned into comedy drama tells the tale of a young boy who finds himself in a children’s ward after being hit on the head by a cricket ball. He soon discovers a secret gang of children who go on midnight adventures making dreams come true.  

‘Big Fat Quiz Of The Year’

Channel 4, Boxing Day at 9pm

Channel 4

Claudia Winkleman, Michelle Wolf, Mo Gilligan, Richard Ayoade, David Mitchell and Noel Fielding join the fun as Jimmy Carr hosts this annual look back at the year that was.

‘Not Going Out: Live Special’ 

BBC One, Friday 21 December at 9pm

BBC

For the first time ever, Lee Mack’s hit sitcom is going out LIVE as Lee and Lucy are strong-armed into organising a Christmas variety show to raise money for their children’s school. 

‘Upstart Crow’ 

BBC Two, Christmas Day at 8.15pm

BBC

Kenneth Branagh guest-stars in the David Mitchell-fronted sitcom as a mysterious stranger who gives Shakespeare a new sense of love, light and hope as the family come to terms with a cruel loss during the bleak midwinter.

‘Jane McDonald And Friends NYE Special’

Channel 5, New Year’s Eve, 9pm and 11.55pm

Channel 5

Jane sees in 2019 in her usual fabulous style in this two-part special, which sees her joined by Alexandra Burke, Billy Ocean, Gilbert O’Sullivan and Collabro for a sing-a-long.

‘Top Of The Pops’ 

BBC One, Christmas Day at 12.30pm and Saturday 29 December at 5.20pm 

BBC

The much-missed music show returns for its annual festive specials, revealing the Christmas number one and looking back on the biggest songs of 2018. Fearne Cotton and Clara Amfo present. 

‘Merry Christmas Baby - With Gregory Porter And Friends’

BBC Two, Christmas Day at 9.15pm

SIPA USA/PA Images

Join Gregory Porter and friends for a seasonal cocktail of music and song with a warm and joyful, festive jazz vibe.

‘Mock The Week’ 

BBC Two, Christmas Eve at 10pm

BBC

Dara O’Briain is joined-as ever-by Hugh Dennis as they serve up the traditional Yuletide Scenes We’d Like to See and a Newsreel from Hugh in their annual special. 

‘First Dates At Christmas’

Channel 4, Christmas Day at 9.15pm

Channel 4

Everyone deserves to find love at Christmas, and that is exactly what the team at the First Dates restaurant are hoping to help with, as they welcome a bunch of singletons in for a slap-up festival meal.

‘Live At The Apollo’ 

BBC Two, Saturday 22 December at 9.30pm

BBC

Sarah Millican introduces Ahir Shah, Laura Lexx and Gary Delaney to the iconic Hammersmith Apollo stage. 

‘Would I Lie to You At Christmas?’

BBC One, Christmas Eve at 10pm 

BBC

Lily Allen, Noddy Holder, James Acaster and Sian Gibson join Rob Brydon, Lee Mack and David Mitchell for a Christmas edition of comedy panel show, which sees the teams trying to separate fact from fiction. 

‘Blind Date’

Channel 5, Saturday 22 December at 7pm

Channel 5

Paul O’Grady kicks off a new series of the classic dating show with a Christmas special that sees a former contestant from the ITV series return to find love, 26 years after their original appearance.

‘Spy In The Snow’

BBC One, Sunday 30 December at 7pm

BBC

This hidden camera nature show reveals the fascinating behaviours of the animals who call nature’s winter wonderland home - from penguins to parrots, polar bears to otters and wallabies and wombats. David Tennant narrates. 

‘The Last Leg Of The Year’

Channel 4, New Year’s Eve at 9pm

Channel 4

Adam Hills, Josh Widdicombe and Alex Brooker will be giving 2018 the send off it deserves, but mercilessly ripping the mick out of it in this end-of-year special. Plus, they’ll be giving out their Dick of the Year award - will Trump triumph for a second year running?

‘Chris and Michaela: Under The Christmas Sky’

BBC Two, Sunday 23 December at 9pm

BBC

Journeying through some of the most incredible winter landscapes on earth, Chris Packham and Michaela Strachan uncover secrets of the night sky and animal phenomena that are unique to this time of year.