Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without a bumper selection of must-watch TV shows and films to get stuck into. And this year looks set to be little different, as the merry elves working at the BBC, Sky, NOW TV, ITV, Channel 4, Netflix, Disney+, and Amazon Prime have come through with some festive television treats.
There are, as you’ve probably guessed, some familiar faces in the mix, including Strictly Come Dancing, Call The Midwife, Gogglebox, and First Dates. And, for those looking for a nostalgia hit, we have the return of The Vicar Of Dibley (not to mention an actual Bridget Jones’ Diary documentary) to get stuck into, too.
And, for all those in the mood for something brand-new, there’s a lot to choose from: think Black Narcissus, Disney’s Soul, the much-anticipated Doctor Who special, and Shonda Rhimes’ Bridgerton, to name just a few.
All in all, it’s going to be a brilliant a great time for telly fans.
So here’s our pick of the best things to watch over Christmas 2020. Just be sure to bookmark this article, as it will be updated regularly to include new titles and information.
Christmas on Sky and NOW TV
Roald & Beatrix: The Tail of the Curious Mouse
When to watch: Christmas Eve at 8.15pm.
What it’s about: Boasting an all-star cast including Dawn French, Jessica Hynes, Nina Sosanya, and Bill Bailey, this heartwarming comedy-drama tells the story of how a lonely young boy sets off on a big adventure to meet Beatrix Potter . And, as this joyful story goes on to reveal, that eventual meeting plays a big role in the boy’s life, as he grows up to become Roald Dahl and write magical children’s books of his own.
Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch Musical!
When to watch: Sunday 20 December at 6pm.
What it’s about: Starring Glee’s Matthew Morrison, Dr. Seuss’ classic holiday tale gets a musical makeover in this NBC stage adaptation. Featuring the hit songs “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch” and “Welcome Christmas,” The Grinch discovers there’s more to Christmas than he bargained for in this heart-warming holiday classic.
National Theatre Live: Twelfth Night and Jane Eyre
When to watch: Monday 21 December at 9pm and Monday 28 December at 9pm.
At a time when many theatre fans around the world aren’t able to visit National Theatre Live venues or local theatres, Sky Arts is bringing us two productions from the National Theatre on Sky Arts. In a collaboration between the National Theatre and Bristol Old Vic, the classic story of the trailblazing Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte is as inspiring as ever. And make a date with Shakespeare with his whirlwind comedy of mistaken identity, featuring Tamsin Greig as a transformed Malvolia in Twelfth Night.
The Simpsons Christmas Special
When to watch: Christmas Eve.
Back in 1989, The Simpsons made the leap from short animated stings on the Tracy Ulman Show to a thirty-minute Christmas special titled “Simpsons Roasting Over an Open Fire.” Since then, The Simpsons has become one of the longest running scripted series on television, with Marge even delivering the alternative to the Queen’s Christmas Speech in 2004. So, this Christmas Eve, why not crack open a Duff and squeeze onto the sofa for another seasonal special with Springfield’s finest?
Christmas on Disney+
When to watch: From Christmas Day.
What it’s about: Pixar’s Soul tells the story of Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx), a middle-school band teacher who gets the chance of a lifetime to play at the best jazz club in town. But one small misstep takes him from the streets of New York City to The Great Before – a fantastical place where new souls get their personalities, quirks and interests before they go to Earth.
Watch the trailer for yourself below:
Christmas on BBC One
Vicky McClure’s Dementia Choir at Christmas
When to watch: Wednesday 16 December at 7.30pm.
What it’s about: In this heartwarming seasonal special for BBC One, Line Of Duty’s Vicky McClure tells us what the Dementia Choir has been doing during lockdown, leading up to a very special Christmas performance with members of the English National Opera at the London Coliseum for one choir member.
“Mick is living his bucket list while he can and wants to sing on a stage one last time,” reads the official synopsis.
“He knows he’s coming to London to sing, but he has no idea where or that Vicky’s also arranged for her co-star on Line Of Duty, Adrian Dunbar, to sing with him.”
We have a feeling we’re going to need the tissues for this one.
Call The Midwife
When to watch: Christmas Day at 7.40pm.
What it’s about: Call The Midwife has become something of a Christmas staple over the years, and this special episode – set in December 1965 – sees everyone at Nonnatus House’s plans for a traditional Christmas go awry. Poor Sister Monica Joan (Judy Parfitt) is rushed to hospital, while Trixie (Helen George) is left fuming when she is thoughtlessly gifted a subscription to a Marriage Bureau.
Elsewhere, a surprise reunion for Shelagh (Laura Main) sees her become involved in a deeply moving birth, and Nurse Crane (Linda Bassett) is caught up in an exciting adventure when the circus arrives in Poplar.
All in all? The sort of Christmas fare we can’t wait to settle down to, quite frankly.
Sir David Attenborough’s Meerkat: A Dynasties Special
When to watch: New Year’s Day at 1pm.
What it’s about: Scientists recently discovered that watching Sir David Attenborough documentaries is proven to make us significantly happier, while also reducing our stress and anxiety. Consider Meerkat: A Dynasties Special, all about a young meerkat queen called Maghogho, essential viewing over Christmas.
The Ghost of Christmas
When to watch: Wednesday 23 December at 8.30pm.
What it’s about: It’s Christmas at Button House, and Mike (Kiell Smith-Bynoe) is keen to make it perfect for his visiting family. However, Alison (Charlotte Ritchie) quickly becomes distracted as she makes it her mission to inject some festive cheer into her ghostly pals. Will she be able to help them to rediscover the real message of Christmas?
Doctor Who: Revolution Of The Daleks
When to watch: New Year’s Day at 6.45pm.
What it’s about: Aptly titled Revolution Of The Daleks, this year’s much-anticipated festive episode of Doctor Who will pick up pretty much exactly where the 12th series left off: The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) seems doomed to end her days in a high-security alien prison, while her human companions Yaz (Mandip Gill), Ryan (Tosin Cole) and Graham (Bradley Walsh) go about their normal lives on Earth without her.
But then the trio accidentally stumble across a disturbing plan. A disturbing plan involving (you guessed it) many, many Daleks. Will they, with a little help from an old friend, be able to defeat the exterminators once and for all?
Mary Berry Saves Christmas
When to watch: Wednesday 23 December at 6.30pm.
What it’s about: You get exactly what it says on the tin with this one: Mary Berry, like the angel she is, rolls up her sleeves to help three hopeless non-cooks create surprise Christmas feasts for their loved ones.
When to watch: Sunday 27, Monday 28 and Tuesday 29 December at 9pm.
What it’s about: In this adaptation of Rumer Godden’s classic novel Black Narcissus, Gemma Arterton stars as ambitious young nun Sister Clodagh, who heads a mission to a remote clifftop palace in the Himalayas once known as the ‘House of Women’.
As she and her sisters attempt to make the palace of Mopu their home, though, its haunting mysteries awaken forbidden desires that seem destined to repeat a terrible tragedy.
To quote Stylist’s Hollie Richardson: “It looks sexy, spooky and a little bit bonkers – which is why we’re totally into it.”
The Vicar Of Dibley In Lockdown
When to watch: Monday 7 December at 8.50pm.
What it’s about: If you’ve been wondering what Geraldine Grainger (Dawn French) has been up to during lockdown, wonder no longer: she’s been conducting sermons over Zoom. And these new thoughts on life and chocolate will be packaged as three brand new 10 minute shows that will precede some of her earlier adventures this Christmas on BBC One.
Strictly: The Christmas Countdown
When to watch: Christmas Day at 4.45pm.
What it’s about: While Covid-19 restrictions have put paid to our hopes of a festive dance-off this year, Strictly: The Christmas Countdown will see hosts Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman revealing which dances the viewers have voted into their top 25 of all time.
The Big New Year’s In
When to watch: New Year’s Eve at 9pm.
What it’s about: Social distancing rules mean it’s highly unlikely we’ll be able to celebrate New Year’s Eve as usual, so the BBC is putting on a live entertainment show which will run throughout the evening.
Packed with famous faces, the synopsis promises that this “unforgettable concert leads up to a very special midnight celebration.” For now, though, exact details of the night remain a mystery.
When to watch: New Year’s Day at 9pm.
What it’s about: The Serpent, which stars Tahar Rahim as French conman and mass murderer Charles Sobhraj, is based on the true story of how he was caught and brought to trial.
The drama follows Herman Knippenberg (Billy Howle), a junior diplomat from the Dutch Embassy in Bangkok as he unwittingly walks into the web of crime that leads him to chase down the murderer in the twilight years of the Asian Hippie Trail.
Jenna Coleman will also star as Sobhraj’s partner and frequent accomplice, Marie-Andrée Leclerc.
Christmas on BBC Two
Nigella Lawson’s Cook, Eat Repeat Christmas special
When to watch: Tuesday 22 December at 8pm.
What it’s about: An hour-long special of Nigella Lawson’s Cook, Eat, Repeat will air over the festive period. While we don’t know which recipes she will be tackling, Nigella has promised us that she will be offering her own unique twist to the Christmas dinner table, featuring food from near and far, to add something a little different to the seasonal set menu.
QI Christmas Quiz With Sandi Toksvig
When to watch: Wednesday 23 December at 9.30pm.
Sandi Toksvig is here to ensure we all have a very merry quizmas, bringing us plenty of festive-themed questions in a bid to get out brains whirring after our traditional Christmas nap.
Victoria Wood: The Secret List
When to watch: Christmas Day at 9.10pm.
What it’s about: This tribute to the late comedy legend counts down a hand-picked list of Victoria Wood’s favourite career moments, which was discovered in a notebook after she passed away in 2016.
Being Bridget Jones
When to watch: Tuesday 22 December at 9pm.
What it’s about: Can you believe it’s been a whopping 25 years since Bridget Jones made her first appearance via a newspaper column detailing her rocky relationships with men, booze, fags… and knicker elastic. To celebrate our beloved Bridge, then, this BBC Two film explores how Helen Fielding’s character reflects changing attitudes to women, and the way their stories are told.
The Gruffalo and Me: The Magical World of Julia Donaldson
When to watch: Christmas Day at 8.10am.
What it’s about: The Gruffalo, Zog, The Highway Rat, Stick Man, The Paper Dolls, Tabby McTat, Tiddler… this documentary film will uncover the surprising stories behind how Julia Donaldson’s iconic characters were created, and what they mean to a generation of readers.
Cinderella: A Comic Relief Pantomime for Christmas
When to watch: Christmas Eve at 8.15pm.
What it’s about: This glorious helping of feel-good (and suitably magical) TV sees Olivia Colman play the Fairy Godmother alongside Helena Bonham Carter, her co-star in The Crown, for a virtual charity version of the fairytale classic. The Queen’s Gambit’s Anya Taylor-Joy stars as Cinderella, with hand drawn illustrations from the brilliant Quentin Blake.
Christmas on ITV
The Story Of SM:TV Live
When to watch: Boxing Day at 9.25am.
What it’s about: Presenters Cat Deeley, Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly have all moved on to do big things since they left SM:TV Live 19 years ago. In this nostalgia-heavy ITV special, though, they’ll be reuniting to look back at the children’s TV show that made them household names.
Christmas On Channel 4
Quentin Blake’s Clown
When to watch: Christmas Day at 7.40pm.
What it’s about: Inspired by a book of the same name, Quentin Blake’s Clown is a half hour animation bringing to life the adventures of a little toy clown, thrown away with a load of old discarded toys, as he goes on a journey to find a new loving home for himself and his friends. And, yeah, it’s narrated by Helena Bonham-Carter herself.
Big Fat Quiz Of The Year 2020
When to watch: Boxing Day at 9:05pm.
What it’s about: To celebrate the welcome dawn of another year, Jimmy Carr puts a panel of top celebrity teams to test as he presents his big, fat and fiendishly difficult quiz.
Gogglebox: Festive Special
When to watch: TBC
What it’s about: We’ve been relying heavily on Gogglebox’s armchair critics to keep us smiling during lockdown, so you better believe that we’ll be tuning in to hear their thoughts on the year’s biggest Christmas TV shows.
First Dates Christmas
When to watch: Wednesday 23 December at 9pm.
What it’s about: First Dates might usually take place at Paternoster Chop House, but this Christmas will see Fred Sirieix and the team head to some seriously cosy countryside pubs in a bid to help a new batch of hopeful singletons find love.
The Great Christmas Bake Off
When to watch: Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at 7.40pm.
What it’s about: Paul Hollywood, Prue Leith and Matt Lucas are joined by Bake Off: The Professionals host Tom Allen as they celebrate Christmas in the famous white tent.
Christmas on Netflix
When to watch: Christmas Day.
What it’s about: Based on the historical romance novels by bestselling author Julia Quinn, Stylist’s Helen Bownass has Bridgerton pegged as an absolute must-watch.
“It tells the story of Daphne Bridgerton and Simon Basset,” she says of the upcoming Netflix show. “The couple come to an arrangement to get engaged in an effort to get Basset’s mother off his back about getting married. However, during the engagement Daphne finds herself falling for her faux lover and has to work out how she can make the fake relationship a reality.”
Helen adds: “In other words, like The Wedding Date – but make it 19th century aristocracy.”
The Midnight Sky
When to watch: Wednesday 23 December.
What it’s about: George Clooney is the director of this sci-fi film about a lone scientist in the Arctic who races to contact a crew of astronauts returning home to a mysterious global catastrophe.
London Hughes’ To Catch A Dick
When to watch: Tuesday 22 December.
What it’s about: London Hughes’ stand-up show To Catch A Dick, which was nominated for last year’s Edinburgh Comedy Award, will be available to stream on Netflix this Christmas.
“I’m so excited for the world to see this special,” says Hughes, who recently launched her podcast London, Actually on Spotify.
“After the crazy year we’ve had, we could all do with a good laugh and some good dick.”
Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina: Season 4
When to watch: New Year’s Eve.
What it’s about: All good things must come to an end, and so too must Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina.
“The Eldritch Terrors descend upon Greendale [and] the coven must fight each terrifying threat one-by-one (The Weird, The Returned, The Darkness to name a few), all leading up to… The Void, which is the End of All Things,” reads Netflix’s synopsis for the finale, which is due to land on the streaming platform on 31 December.
“As the witches wage war, with the help of The Fright Club, Nick begins to slowly earn his way back into Sabrina’s heart, but will it be too late?”
Christmas on Amazon Prime
When to watch: Christmas Day.
What it’s about: Starring Tessa Thompson and boasting a 100% ‘fresh’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Sylvie’s Love is a must-watch when it drops on Amazon Prime on 25 December.
The film sees Sylvie (Thompson) embark on a summer romance with a saxophonist who takes a summer job at her father’s record store in Harlem. But, when they reconnect years later, they discover that their feelings for each other have not faded with the years.
Images: Netflix, BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Getty, Spotify
Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.