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24th Dec 2021

Christmas TV: The ultimate guide to the best movies and shows this festive season

Adam Bloodworth

Consider this your festive season diary

Your weird uncle is being racist again and the booze is making things worse. You need to get away from family, just a couple of hours away from the intensity, but what to watch?

Here at JOE we’ve scoured the Christmas TV listings to help you have the very best Christmas, no matter your vibe, and no matter what your situation, whether you’re self-isolating, trying to self-isolate from your family, or gathering around the TV set like families do in the movies. 

Here’s what to watch

What to watch if you’re feeling Christmassy AF

Shaun The Sheep

Attention all adults who still wish they were kids: Wallace and Gromit animators Aardman is returning with a new episode of Shaun The Sheep this festive season. Shaun and his pals are getting pumped for Christmas, but one of the flock goes missing – cue a race to save his pal Timmy before he becomes a Christmas present (or worse, someone’s Christmas lunch?) Christmas Eve, 6pm, BBC One

The Great British Baking Show: Holidays

If your guilty pleasure was Bake Off and you shed a tear when Guiseppe won, you’ll be excited to go in for another tear of the ciabatta. 

Bake Off returns for a ‘Holidays’ special. Obviously geared to the Americans with that kind of title, the show features old favourites Pru Leith, Paul Hollywood, and presenters Matt Lucas and comedian Tom Allen. Bakers from past seasons will create Christmas specials. Expect naughty puns and even naughtier Christmas bakes. Already streaming on Netflix 

Single All The Way

Stifler’s mum stars in Single All The Way! Jennifer Coolidge, the actor who was also brilliant in summer comedy The White Lotus, is the recognisable centrepiece of this queer rom-com for Christmas. A boy takes a mate with him to pose as his boyfriend in front of family who always, always ask why he’s single. And, yep, you’ve guessed it, their friendship develops. The topic of family coming home for Christmas is pretty tried-and-tested by now, so this may bore you if you’re looking for a new take on the season. But if classic is what you’re after, crack open the Quality Street and tuck in. Already streaming on Netflix

Mrs Brown’s Boys

Everyone loves Mrs Brown’s Boys, right? Okay, we’re teasing, most people hate it and it’s notoriously the most divisive show on TV. But if you’re aching for Agnes, there’s not one, but two festive specials that bring Brendan O’Carroll’s must-mocked ‘Mammy’ back. In the Chrimbo episode, Agnes becomes a member of the local choir. So far so Christmassy – but on the downside, there’s a worrying Christmas tree shortage. In the second seasonal special, the Brown family is confronted with an unexpected investment offer as the New Year rolls in.

Get out to the pub or hunker down on the sofa – as ever, Mrs Brown’s Boys will be the talk of Christmas telly, whether you love it or hate it. Christmas Day, 10.20pm, BBC One. New Year’s Day, 10pm, BBC One

Love Hard

Natalie meets Josh on a dating app and commits to flying to New York to spend Christmas with him – and end her disastrous dating days forever. But she’s been catfished for Christmas, as Josh isn’t who he says he is. This rom-com is interesting in the way it humanises the catfisher, rather than demonising him, but, Netflix’s new Christmas offering is pretty naff. But if it’s Christmas songs and a fresh rom-com you’re after, this is worth a watch purely to experience an uplifting Christmas film about… catfishing. Now there’s a convo for the Christmas dinner table. Already streaming on Netflix

Father Christmas Is Back 

Think your family is dysfunctional? Imagine having supposed free speech warrior and woke hater John Cleese as your father. The debates over the Christmas dinner table would be rife. Okay, so Cleese isn’t playing himself – he plays a cantankerous older gentleman hooking up with the mum of three daughters, one of which is played by Liz Hurley. Frasier’s Kelsey Grammar also stars. The movie is pretty bad if we’re being honest, but since when did Christmas movies need to be good? If you fancy laughing at a bad Christmas movie, look no further. Already streaming on Netflix

What to watch if you fancy ripping the shit out of Christmas

Never Mind The Buzzcocks Christmas Special

After seven years off air following its BBC exit, Buzzcocks is back. Sky returns with a Christmas special of the pop quiz comedy panel show. Everyone’s favourite weirdo Noel Fielding’s on board, as is People Just Do Nothing’s Asim Chaudhry. Greg Davies is on host duty. Already available on Sky and NOW.

Spitting Image Christmas Special 

Twenty-four years after it last aired, satirical comedy puppet show Spitting Image made a loud return last year – and to some rave reviews. There’s been controversy too, such as criticism of the Marcus Rashford puppet, but mostly this show absolutely wins at ripping the UK’s biggest names to shreds with brilliant sketches. Expect Prince Andrew to be given a rough time. Already available to Britbox subscribers, ITV, 10pm, Christmas Eve

A League Of Their Own Christmas Party

Sack off Santa by tuning into the festive special of the award-winning sports entertainment panel show. It’s hosted by the best troupe, namely Romesh Ranganathan, Freddie Flintoff, and Jamie Redknapp. Expect sports banter of the highest level as two teams go head-to-head to test their sporting knowledge. Already available on Sky One and Now TV 

Top Gear Christmas special

The lads are back for a one-off festive special. Paddy, Freddie, and Chris buy each other cars and set off on a road trip from Bethlehem. (If Bethlehem is actually somewhere west of Swindon, that is.) Christmas Eve, 8.30pm, BBC One 

How To Ruin Christmas: The Funeral 

What happens when a family funeral is scheduled on the same day as another family member’s wedding anniversary? Oh, and that day is also Christmas day. This film about family struggles at Christmas time will feel super relatable to anyone with a big family, and it’s packed with big laughs too. Already streaming on Netflix

What to watch that has sweet FA to do with Christmas 

The Tourist

This sounds creepy as hell. A bloke is stuck in the Australian outback when a giant truck starts pursuing him. He ends up in hospital, bruised but alive, but with no idea who he is or what happened. Cue an epic race through some spectacular landscapes to find out. 1 January, 9pm, BBC One

Attenborough’s back with two new docs

Oh yes, he is. Hungover on one of those weird days between Christmas and the new year? Here’s your ticket. As ever, these are sure to be sensational. One’s about a woolly mammoth graveyard and the other, about animal song. The pic above of the animal O.G. beaming proudly with a giant woolly mammoth tusk has us hooked already. Attenborough and the Mammoth Graveyard, December 30, 8pm, BBC One. Attenborough’s Wonder of Song, Jan 3, 6.30pm

A Very British Scandal 

Everyone loves a salacious scandal, and the story of the divorce of the Duke and Duchess of Argyll was one of the most notorious of the 1960s. This drama is leading the BBC’s Christmas scheduling and it stars The Crown’s Claire Foy and Avengers actor Paul Bettany. Expect forgery, theft, drugs, and bribery: the whole shebang. December 26, 9pm, BBC One

BBC Sports Personality of the Year 

You know the score, a big bombastic celebration of the year’s biggest sporting heroes during a heart-warming evening. This year’s event has already taken place, but if you haven’t seen who won yet, we won’t spoil the surprise here. Tune in to find out! Available on iPlayer now

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