All of the best Christmas TV to get excited about this year, on the BBC, ITV & Channel 4

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Lucy Robson
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Les Miserables TV series 2018

From festive specials of your favourite TV shows like Doctor Who and The Inbetweeners, to new BBC Drama series with an all-star cast like Les Misérables, these are our top picks from the Christmas TV listings announced so far for the festive period, including Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing day, New Years Eve & New Year’s Day. 

Its official, we are in December and Christmas is now open for business. That means, no longer having to hide your premature festive excitement, or shriek “urgh” in mock disgust at the mere suggestion of playing “just a couple of tunes” from the office Christmas playlist in (mid) November. 

That in mind, we are now allowed to get justly excited about all of the great festive telly scheduled for over the Christmas period, without judgement. Whatever your preferred TV genre, you are guaranteed to find at least something to look forward to watching this year, with an influx of family-friendly classic reboots, crime dramas, documentaries and more on all of the main terrestrial channels and Freeview, including the BBC network, ITV and Channel 4.

The BBC, in particular, have unveiled exactly the kind of stellar line up we’ve come to expect, with highlights including brand new, star-filled adaptions of classic dramas, such as Watership Down and Les Miserables. If you like your festive TV a bit more gritty, the eagerly awaited fifth season of Luther is due to return on New Years’s Day. 

Over on Channel 4 and ITV, festive treats include Christmas specials from beloved British TV shows, such as GBBO and Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds, as well as the biopic of iconic ice-skating duo, Torvill and Dean

So without further ado, here is the Stylist ultimate guide to the best Christmas TV for 2018, made to be watched by a fire (if possible), in cosy pyjamas with a red wine spiced latte in hand. Enjoy! 

Best Christmas TV on the BBC

Watership Down 2018 TV Series

Watership Down TV Still 2018

Who is in Watership Down 2018?

James McAvoy, Nicholas Hoult, John Boyega, Gemma Arterton, Olivia Colman, Gemma ChanRosamund Pike, Taron Egerton.

Where and when can I watch Watership Down 2018? 

7pm, Saturday 22 December & Sunday 23 December on BBC One. Series will then be available to stream on Netflix.

What do we know so far? 

Aside from the eye-watering cast of big names voicing the CGI rabbits and a theme song provided by Sam Smith, we know that unlike the original film adaption of the 1972 novel, the new Watership Down will be released as two episodes, airing on Saturday 22 December and Sunday 23 December. Watership Down will then be released in full for your binge-watching pleasure on Netflix. 

This dark but well-loved tale follows a colony of rabbits in the English countryside, in search of a new home to replace their warren that has been thoughtlessly destroyed by man. A powerful metaphor for, you’ve guessed it - the destruction of nature by the human race. 

The original 1978 Watership Down film is widely recognised to be rather disturbing, so not the most obvious choice from the BBC for their Christmas schedule - however executive producer Rory Aitken has said the violence will be softened for this 2018 adaption, on the grounds that in the past it has caused audiences to miss the true message of Richard Adams classic book. He said “While we won’t shy away from the darkness in the book, visually it won’t be as brutal and scarring.” We can’t wait to watch this. 

Watch the trailer for Watership Down 2018 here.

The ABC Murders

The ABC Murders

Who is in The ABC Murders? 

John Malkovich, Kenneth Branagh, Rupert Grint, Peter Ustinov, Eamon Farren, Andrew Buchan.

Where and when can I watch The ABC Murders

9pm, 26 December on BBC One. Series will then be available to stream on Amazon Prime.

What do we know so far? 

The ABC Murders, based on the 1936 detective novel by Agatha Christie, is the latest addition to the BBC’s vast portfolio of period crime dramas. This time John Malkovich steps into the iconic role of Detective Hercule Poirot, joined by Ron Weasley, AKA Rupert Grint who is almost unrecognisable in his role as Poirot’s nemesis, Inspector Crome. Following the usual Christie format, Poirot is on the hunt for a serial killer - and the only clue to the culprit is a copy of the ABC Railway guide left at each crime scene.

After all three episodes have aired on the BBC, the full series of The ABC Murders will then be available to stream on Amazon Prime.

Les Misérables 2018 TV Series 

Les Miserables Still BBC TV Adaption for 2018

Who is in Les Misérables (TV series 2018)? 

Olivia Colman, Dominic West, Lily Collins, Josh O’Connor, David Oyelowo.

Where and when can I watch Les Misérables 2018? 

9pm, 30 December on BBC One.

What do we know so far? 

This is the big one. Not only does the BBC retelling of Victor Hugo’s multi-faceted, intense romantic drama, set against the backdrop of the French revolution, sport a super talented, all-star cast - it’s also written by Andrew Davies, who was behind the BBC TV remakes of War and Peace (2016) and Pride and Prejudice (yes, that one that launched Colin Firth’s career in 1995). When he isn’t working for the BBC, he is busy writing other little-known film screenplays, such as Bridget Jones Diary

With Lily Collins taking on the main role of tragic Fantine, played by Anne Hathaway in the big budget musical from 2012, Dominic West as Hugh Jackman’s escaped convict Jean Valjean, and Olivia Colman as the conniving innkeeper Madame Thénardier - we have no doubt the new six-part mini-series of Les Mis for 2018 will not disappoint. 

Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special 2018

Strictly Come Dancing 2018 Christmas Special

Which celebrity contestants will be returning for the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special 2018? 

Caroline Flack, Aston Merrygold, Ann Widdecombe, Jake Wood, Michael Vaughan.

Where and when can I watch the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special 2018? 

Christmas Day on BBC One.

What do we know so far?

Strictly judges Bruno Tonioli, Craig Revel Horwood, Darcey Bussell and Shirley Ballas, as well as presenters Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman will all be back for the annual Christmas edition of Strictly Come Dancing, airing on BBC One on Christmas Day.

As with past Strictly Christmas specials, 2018 will see some of the most popular contestants from previous series return to the dance floor to compete for the silver star trophy, in an all-out glitz and glam festive ballroom extravaganza. 

The theme this year is “fairy tales and making dreams come true,” so, as always, expect sequins, warbling covers of Christmas classics and a very shiny mane from Claudia Winkleman.

Call The Midwife Christmas Special

Call The Midwife Series 8 Still

Who is in the Call The Midwife Christmas Special? 

Helen George, Jennifer Kirby, Miriam Margolyes, Fenella Woolgar.

When and where can I watch the Call The Midwife Christmas Special? 

7.45pm, Christmas Day on BBC One.

What do we know so far?

The firm festive favourite is back for 2018, with a Christmas special and brand new Call The Midwife series 8 to follow.  The rumour is that this year’s festive episode will be the most Christmassy yet, as its set during the winter of 1963, one of the coldest and snowiest on record in British history. 

So far we have confirmation that the majority of the cast will be returning from series 7, with a few new additions to boot, including Miriam Margolyes, who you may recognise as Professor Sprout from the Harry Potter films. Margoyles will play Sister Mildred, whose arrival brings chaos to Nonnatus House. 

Doctor Who New Years Special 2018

Doctor Who New Years Eve Special 2018

Who is in The festive special of Doctor Who for 2018? 

Jodie Whittaker, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill.

When and where can I watch the Doctor Who New Years Special 2018?

7pm, New Year’s Day on BBC One.

What do we know so far?

2018 has been a year of breaking away from tradition for Doctor Who. Not only do we now have our first ever female doctor, who we might add, is also rapidly becoming one of the most popular doctors of all time, we are also seeing a breakaway from tradition in the eagerly-awaited Christmas special usual TV slot. 

Doctor Who Christmas Day specials are a big deal. They are so ingrained in the festive TV schedule that they have maintained their December 25 slot every year since 2005. That’s why when the BBC announced that this year’s Doctor Who festive special would not air on Christmas Day, there was speculation that the show was being cancelled. 

Thankfully, this isn’t the case at all, we will simply have to wait until the New Year to find out what Jodie Whittaker will get up to in her first festive outing. The perfect cure for NYE hangovers. 

The War of the Worlds TV Series

War Of The Worlds BBC TV series still

Who is in The War of the Worlds 2018 TV Series? 

Eleanor Tomlinson, Rafe Spall, Robert Carlyle, Rupert Graves.

When and where can I watch The War of the Worlds 2018 TV Series? 

Date & time TBC, on the BBC.

What do we know so far? 

As we all know, nothing says Christmas like an alien invasion. This three-part TV adaption of HG Well’s apocalypse adventure novel, The War of the Worlds is set to hit our screens over the Christmas period and fill us with festive dread and anxiety (not unlike the effect of the original War of the Worlds broadcast in 1938, which triggered an outbreak of mass hysteria that aliens were actually taking over the planet). 

Wondering how similar to the original sci-fi classic novel this will be? Well, unlike the War of The Worlds film from the early noughties with Tom Cruise in the lead role, this new mini-series for Christmas 2018 more closely follows HG Wells original plot. Eleanor Tomlinson (Poldark) and Rafe Spall (One Day) star as a couple navigating the complete mayhem of an alien invasion, not to mention unjust prejudice against their relationship. 

The Dead Room 2018

The Dead Room 2018

Who is in The Dead Room 2018

Simon Callow, Anjli Mohindra, Susan Penhaligon, Joshua Oakes-Rogers.

When and where can I watch The Dead Room? 

10pm, Christmas Eve on BBC Four.

What do we know so far? 

Continuing with the horror theme at Christmas, The Dead Room is an eerie new ghost story, set in an old radio station studio (that just so happens to be the iconic BBC Maida Vale studios). 

The TV drama stars Simon Callow, a long time radio presenter who returns to the studio, a sound-proofed ‘dead room,’ to record his show, also called ‘The Dead Room,’ only to find that it seems to be haunted by the ghosts of his own (Christmas) past, not ideal when no-one can hear you. 

This one-off, thirty minute TV special has been created by Mark Gatiss, whose credentials include co-creating Sherlock, so you can look forward to offsetting the Christmas cheer with this spooky festive treat.

Luther Series 5

Who is returning for Luther Series 5? 

Idris Elba, Ruth Wilson, Wunmi Mosaku, Hermione Norris, Dermot Crowley.

When and where can I watch Luther Season 5? 

9pm, New Years Day on BBC One.

What do we know so far?

One of the BBC’s best and most original detective dramas is finally back for a very eagerly anticipated season 5. The new series of Luther sees Idris Elba, fresh from receiving an OBE, reprise the role that sent him into the stratosphere, the troubled detective DCI John Luther on the tail of a brutal serial killer in London.  

This time DCI Luther will be joined by a new partner, DS Halliday (Wunmi Mosaku), who will be replacing Game Of Thrones Rose Leslie from the previous series. 

Luther fans are most excited to see how our favourite moody detective will react to the shock return of on-off love interest Alice Morgan, played by Ruth Wilson, who we were led to believe died at the end of season 4.  

Fleetwood Mac: A Musical History 

When and where can I watch Fleetwood Mac: A Musical History 2018 documentary? 

8pm, 21 December on BBC Four.

What do we know so far?

If ever there was a band surrounded by ‘rumours’ of inter-band affairs, addiction, changing line-ups, members suing one another and general high drama, it’s Fleetwood Mac. 

There have been countless documentaries charting the history of the band, most with a focus on the personal lives of the band, but this one promises to focus on the history of their iconic music - and it couldn’t be timed better with their impending tour of the UK and Ireland next year. 

Best Christmas TV on Channel 4 

Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds at Christmas

When and where can I watch Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds at Christmas

Programme was originally shown at 9pm, Monday 18 December on Channel 4. Watch it here on 4OD.

On the Christmas cheer scale, this is probably the most festive offering of all on this list. Channel 4’s big hit of the year, Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds is back with a particularly cute Christmas special to make us all weep tears of joy. 

In this episode, the children and old people are putting on a carol concert, guaranteed to warm the hearts of even the frostiest of scrooges. 

The Great British Bake Off Christmas Special 2018

Who will be appearing on The Great British Bake Off Christmas Special 2018? 

Prue Leith, Paul Hollywood, Noel Fielding, Sandi Toksvig.

When and where can I watch The Great British Bake Off Christmas Special 2018?

8pm, Christmas Day on Channel 4.

What do we know so far?

It wouldn’t be Christmas without a special double festive edition of GBBO, now would it? We don’t yet know exactly when this will air, although it’s safe to assume that there will be two festive specials, one showing on Christmas Day, The Great British Bake Off Christmas Special and the second part - The Great Festive Bake Off on New Year’s Day. 

If past years are anything to go by, expect to see the return of favourite contestants from the previous series, as well as wannabe celebrity bakers trying their hand at some extreme festive baking. No doubt the highlights will be Noel Fielding’s inevitably snazzy festive shirt.

The Inbetweeners 10th Birthday Party

Who will be returning for The Inbetweeners 10th Birthday Party?

Simon Bird, James Buckley, Blake Harrison, Joe Thomas.

When and where can I watch The Inbetweeners 10th Birthday Party? 

Date and time TBC, on Channel 4.

What do we know so far?

If you can believe it, 2018 marks the 10th anniversary of E4’s cult hit The Inbetweeners. To mark the occasion, everyone’s favourite awkward six-formers will be returning for a two-hour long special which just so happens to coincide with the festive period. Could there be a better Christmas gift?

Will, Jay, Simon and Neil are all confirmed to take part in the 10th birthday show, which will feature a celebration of all of The Inbetweeners best moments, with some behind-the-scenes, never before seen footage and some celebrity guests thrown in for good measure. 

Best Christmas TV on ITV

The ITV Christmas schedule will be updated as more titles are released. 

Torvill and Dean Biopic 2018

Who is in the Torvill and Dean 2018 biopic? 

Poppy Lee Friar, Will Tudor, Anita Dobson, Jaime Winstone.

When and where can I watch the Torvill and Dean 2018 biopic? 

9.15pm, Christmas Day on ITV.

What do we know so far?

One of the main festive highlights for the Christmas season 2018 has to be ITV’s Torvill and Dean biopic, a dramatisation of the story behind the greatest ice-skating duo of all time, Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean. 

Written by William Ivory (Made in Dagenham) and composed from hours of intense interviews with the real-life Torvill and Dean, the two-hour feature-length special will cover the humble beginning of this winning sports partnership, in the period leading up to their iconic gold medal win at the 1984 Winter Olympics. 

This article will be updated, so keep checking this page for new Christmas TV shows, series & special episodes announced on the BBC, ITV & Channel 4.

Main image: BBC