From Downton to EastEnders, the TV shows you have to watch this Christmas

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Gareth Watkins
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As Chris Rea sits in his Ferrari, stuck a traffic jam, humming merrily to himself, we can safely assume that on top of all the general stuff – family, a big fridge, many cheeses – one of the things he is most looking forward to is the hours and hours of special telly that he can enjoy when he finally gets home for Christmas.

But where to start with so much choice?

Well Chris worry not, we have curated the very best seasonal TV so you don’t have to go through the double Radio Times with your highlighter.

  • Downton Abbey – The Finale

    Christmas Day, 8.45pm ITV

    The nation’s favourite rose-tinted historical soap opera draws to a close on Christmas Day and as per tradition ’tis the season for a death in the house.

    The smart money is on the sharp-tongued dowager to deliver one more pithy one-liner before she shuffles off her mortal coil, but she is made of stern stuff and is probably still dishing out barbed bon mots in Café De Paris right now.

    There’s plenty of loose threads to tie up as the family prepare to celebrate New Year’s Eve 1926 – could Edith marry Bertie, will Carson ever come to terms with any disturbance to the natural order of things or will the National Trust swoop in, buy Downton and install a lovely tea room in Mrs Patmore’s kitchen? The times are, after all, changing.

  • Sherlock, The Abominable Bride

    New Year’s Day, 9pm BBC1

    This one-off special sees a tweed-clad Benedict Cumberbatch stalking (hence the deer-stalker) the pea-souper streets of Victorian London in search of a mysterious killer who disguises her/himself behind a bridal veil.

    Stephen Moffat, the show’s creator said in an online interview that to see, “the Holmes and Watson of their generation in the authentic setting was irresistible.” 

    Martin Freeman said that it was, “exciting just to put different clobber on.” Cumberbatch just eyed the camera broodily, as if that was reason enough to watch. We can’t help but agree. 

  • Stick Man

    Christmas Day, 4.45pm, BBC1

    Haul a nephew or niece away from the loud, plastic, soon-to-be-landfill toys they've had from Aunty Barbara, grab another glass of whatever’s closest to hand and settle in to watch this magical adaptation of Julia Donaldson’s (The Gruffalo, Room On The Broom) much-loved tale of an intrepid stick man and his adventures.

    Voiced by Martin Freeman, Hugh Bonneville, Jennifer Saunders, Russell Tovey, Rob Brydon and Sally Hawkins, the dose of wide-eyed child-like loveliness will be the perfect way to lift you out of your food coma.

  • And Then There Were None

    Boxing Day, 9pm, BBC1

    Drugs! Violence! Swearing! Not three words you would associate with your average Agatha Christie, but this is And Then There Were None, an adaptation (albeit one beefed up with the aforementioned drugs, violence and swearing that didn’t feature in the original) of Christie’s bestselling 1939 novel.

    Ten people, including Poldark’s Aidan Turner, Sam Neill, Miranda Richardson and Charles Dance, are invited to a remote island where they are forced to pay for the crimes of their past. To be fair to the reboot, it is one of Christie’s darker novels so will benefit from this Scandi-style bleakness.

    Just be warned, Miss Marple this ain’t.

  • Gogglesprogs

    Christmas Day, 8pm, C4

    The most meta show on TV returns for a kids’ special with a selection of little darlings airing their views on some of 2015’s biggest shows, from Bake Off to the election coverage.

    Expect brutal honesty and the wisdom of children but with no booze and swearing. 

  • Our Cilla

    Christmas Day, 10.45pm, ITV

    Cilla Black was the top trending search term on Google in 2015 which only goes to show how fondly the nation viewed the singer who died suddenly on August 1.

    This celebration of her life brings together tributes from friends including Ringo Starr, Sir Cliff Richard and Elaine Paige as well as rare interviews and archive footage of her early career.

    From her beginnings as a coat check girl in Liverpool’s Cavern Club and a stellar singing career in the Sixties, to becoming the first woman to front her own prime time show and finally her elevation to the queen of Saturday night, the show charts the career of a true light-entertainment legend.

  • EastEnders

    Christmas Day, 8.45pm, BBC1

    As a slice of ‘traditional’ East London life, EastEnders is now about as authentic as Star Wars is to space travel. The Queen Vic on a Christmas Day should really be full of city workers and hipsters who’ve nipped out of their million pound homes to tuck into craft beer and chorizo scotch eggs.

    But parking our ‘can’t afford a house in London’ cynicism for one second the one East end traditional we can all still buy into is a good old-fashioned Christmas Day tear up.

    And the trailer hints that this year should be no exception – a car crash, a (potential) murder, Phil on the bottle (again potentially) – it’s a glorious Christmas Day downer, full of elongated vowels, smashing glasses and the ghost of Pat's tinsel earrings.

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Gareth Watkins