It’s traditionally the best and busiest time of year for television which can leave you spoilt for choice or in a pitched battle as to who gets to hold the remote control. STACIA BRIGGS finds ten TV highlights this Christmas.

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1) The Snowman and the Snowdog, Channel 4, 8pm, Christmas Eve: Raymond Briggs (not a relative, although how I wish he was) created one of the most enduring festive characters in British history when he first drew The Snowman, and the animation – particularly the one with the David Bowie foreword – remains one of my favourite seasonal treats, jostling for the top spot with The Box of Delights. Briggs hasn’t created this sequel but is a “consultant” and has given the project his blessing, which is good enough for me. The Snowdog, who has mismatched socks for ears and a satsuma for a nose, joins the Snowman and a new little boy for aerial adventures that are sure to delight.

2) Downton Abbey, ITV1, 8.45pm, Christmas Day: Remember that annual holiday the Grantham family always take at Duneagle Castle? No, me neither – but suspend disbelief and pretend that you do, because the well-to-do from Downton are off to Scotland to visit feisty flapper Lady Rose, she-who-dances-with-married-men-in-seedy-nightclubs-and-who-is-a-bit-of-a-card. While the cats are away, the mouse below stairs will play and Carson is left to control the servants who get quite carried away when a carnival comes to town. Meanwhile, Lady Edith makes a bid to see herself in the gossip pages by having a liaison with a married newspaper editor, Matthew and Mary argue and house cook Mrs Patmore has a moment under the mistletoe.

3) Call the Midwife, BBC1, 7.40pm, Christmas Day: There were almost festive fists at dawn when it was announced that this seasonal special would clash with Downton Abbey on ITV1 but schedules have been tweaked and disaster averted. Huzzah! After a storming first series in January, the nuns and nurses from Nonnatus House are back with a somewhat gritty installment which involves a heartwrenching story tackling teen pregnancy, the horrors of the workhouse and child mortality. Thank heavens, therefore, for Miranda Hart, whose character Chummy puts on her first nativity play.

4) Doctor Who, BBC1, 5.25pm, Christmas Day: This is the one programme that everyone in my household (age range: 12 to 72) will watch without a word of complaint on December 25. Gathering everyone to watch anything else together involves a degree of sacrifice, moaning and/or bribery. This year’s Christmas special takes us back to December 24 1892 when mankind was faced with deep frozen evil, namely snowmen that can talk and who boast icicle fangs. With the Doctor still mourning the loss of sidekick Amy Pond, there’s no better time for him to find a new companion, the rather lovely Clara. Add into the mix Richard E Grant as a Victorian misanthrope, Tom Ward as an uptight widower and Ian McKellan as the voice of the snowmen and you’ve got a recipe for something very special indeed.

5) The Royle Family Christmas Special, 9.45pm, BBC1, Christmas Day: Airing for the first time in two years, this special – written by masters of understated, clever comedy Caroline Aherne, Craig Cash and Phil Mealey – will feature the kind of underwhelming Christmas that many of us will recognise. Dave is planning to pitch an idea on Dragon’s Den, Jim is determined to get-rich-quick with the help of a scratchcard, Joe is on the look out for love and Barbara proudly presents her Pound Shop presents. Just what to watch if you’ve had an overdose of “posh” courtesy of Downton Abbey.

6) Mr Stink, BBC1, 6.30pm, December 23: An adaptation of David Walliam’s hilarious children’s book Mr Stink, there’s a stellar cast attached to this production which includes Walliams himself. Twelve-year-old Chloe lives a lonely life with her politically-ambitios mother, Sheridan Smith, and hapless father, Jonny Vegas, and her goodie-two-shoes sister. Then she meets Mr Stink, brilliantly played by Downton’s Hugh Bonneville. Her mother is appalled. Everyone has to hold their nose. And then we find out, Mr Stink is actually stinking rich – not before we see Britan’s Got Talent’s Pudsey the Dog in his first acting role, though. Brilliant.

7) Homeland, Channel 4, 9pm, December 23: One of my favourite dramas of the year (with The Walking Dead, Dexter and True Blood hot on its heels) comes to its conclusion tonight, although whether or not there ever is a conclusion in Homeland is up for discussion. Having spent the past few months wondering whether Brody is a terrorist, a double agent or some kind of triple agent, we’re hoping for some answers. Most of all, we’re hoping for another series. Soon.

8) Outnumbered, BBC1, 9.35pm, Christmas Eve: As an amuse bouche for series five, which begins next year, the Outnumbered cast is back for Christmas as the Brockman family throw a festive party. It will come as no surprise to learn that things don’t run smoothly – Gran turns up unannounced, Jake has fallen in with the wrong crowd, Karen is busy chatting with online friends and Ben is hosting games of blind football and swingball with the guests. Even better, Mark Heap (who I love) is a guest star along with Sanjeev Bhaskar from The Kumars at No 42.

9) The Hotel, Channel 4, 8pm, December 30: One of my favourite fly-on-the-wall documentaries for years, The Hotel is back and business is still, well, pretty terrible. Owner Mark Jenkins attempts to steer The Grovenor Hotel into the black against heavy odds and the cameras are there to document every moment: you have to feel for Mark, a man who claims to be the life and soul of the party but who in reality is one of the most miserable creatures in hospitality today.

10) World’s Most Dangerous Roads, BBC2, 9pm, December 27: A new series in which celebrities undertake some of the most perilous road trips in the world – I’m imagining a difficult pitch to the celebrities’ agents. Angus Deayton and Mariella Frostrup brave broken bridges and flimsy ferries as they drive up Madagascar’s eastern coast, Hugh Bonneville and Jessica Hynes pair up to drive through the former Soviet republic of Georgia and Stephen Fry and Jake Humphries attempt the Acle Straight at rush hour. I may have made that last one up.

3 comments

  • It would be most marvellous to see one more episode of the Vicar of Dibley.

    Report this comment

    Whiley Boy

    Thursday, December 20, 2012

  • It would be most marvellous to see one more episode of the Vicar of Dibley.

    Report this comment

    Whiley Boy

    Thursday, December 20, 2012

  • It would be most marvellous to see one more episode of the Vicar of Dibley.

    Report this comment

    Whiley Boy

    Thursday, December 20, 2012

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