Your ultimate guide to what to watch on TV this Christmas

Your ultimate guide to what to watch on TV this Christmas: From the best dramas to family shows, films, comedies and specials, all you need to know about this year’s festive telly extravaganza

  • READ MORE: The best Christmas movies revealed – from Home Alone to Miracle on 34th Street

Battle for the spirit of Christmas: Good Santa takes on Bad Santa in the highlight of the festive dramas… 


Christmas Eve, 8pm, Sky Max

A bank robbery, a delinquent schoolboy and a hostage situation don’t exactly scream ‘magical Christmas movie’. But Sky’s new drama conjures up a festive miracle by blending bleak elements into a warm holiday film with a bit of edge. 

Timothy Spall and James Nesbitt play two very different Santas in The Heist Before Christmas: Timothy’s claims to be the real Santa who’s fallen from his sleigh, while James’s is a bank robber using his Santa costume as a disguise.

The mayhem starts when young tearaway Mikey Collins (newcomer Bamber Todd, 13) follows James’s Santa into the woods after he’s held up a bank.

James Nesbitt (far left) and Timothy Spall as two different Santas in The Heist Before Christmas

Mikey, who’s got no time for the spirit of Christmas, wants a cut of the loot to buy his little brother Sean (Joshua McLees, 11) the bike he wants. But Mikey also comes across Timothy’s Santa, and is sceptical when he says he’s the real deal.

‘The bank robber takes them hostage, and we’re into a battle for Mikey’s soul – between the crook who recognises Mikey as a novice version of his immoral self, and Santa who sees this good kid struggling with what’s right and wrong,’ explains Timothy, 66.

Playing Santa meant Timothy had to wear lots of padding after famously shedding several stone. ‘I used to supply my own bellies, but now they have to get me fake ones,’ he chuckles. ‘I’d rather have that any day.’

Cold Feet star James, 58, was attracted to the script’s mix of comedy and social commentary. 

‘It had a lovely, quirky, farcical, slapstick feel to it,’ he says. ‘The message is great, it opens a very important window into the cost-ofliving crisis. I think it’ll hit home how difficult it’s been for a lot of people.’

Creator Ronan Blaney got the idea for the film years ago when he was a teacher. ‘It was the last day of term and I wished the kids a Happy Christmas, and there was one kid who said, “Christmas is s**t,”’ he recalls. 

‘I knew why he thought Christmas was terrible. His family had drink problems and no money. It got me thinking about the pressure Christmas puts people under.’

Ronan and director Ed Hall scoured Northern Ireland, where the film is set, for boys to play the young brothers. ‘It was a lengthy process but worthwhile, the boys carry the whole thing,’ says Ed.

There was even the joyful serendipity of unexpected heavy snowfall during the shoot in March, although it made filming brutal. 

‘I love working at home in Northern Ireland,’ says James, ‘but there was a lot of bad weather. When we did a stunt at the end, it was horrific.’

It all adds up to a lovely Christmas film with a warm message at its heart.

‘It’s a bit of a commentary about “kids with” and “kids without” at Christmas,’ says Timothy. ‘And it’s also very funny… we hope!’


Thursday 21 December, 8pm, Channel 5

The All Creatures Great And Small Christmas Special sees Siegfried (left) promise to deliver Helen’s child if necessary

In an echo of the Christmas story, this special episode of the much-loved drama based on the memoirs of Yorkshire vet James Herriot features an expectant mother and plenty of jeopardy. 

Entitled On A Wing And A Prayer, the plot will pick up where series four ended with Helen pregnant and James ready to go to war. 

We see him finish his RAF pilot training, just as the real Herriot did. It’s a doubly worrying time for Helen, who’s already had fears over losing her baby, but there’s perhaps small comfort in the fact that Siegfried has promised to deliver the child if necessary…

Sister Julienne (pictured) is played by Jenny Agutter


Christmas Day, 8.15pm, BBC1

Get the tissues ready for the annual Christmas Day weepie as the Call The Midwife cast deliver another heartwarming, heart-breaking and snow-filled story. 

While Fred is getting ready to play Santa once again, Sister Monica Joan falls into a deep depression, convinced this will be her last Christmas, Trixie and Matthew are celebrating their first festive season as newlyweds, and the midwives have two tricky births to deal with. 

Meanwhile, the whole community is excited by the forthcoming Apollo 8 launch and lonely Cyril hopes to help a troubled man.

Ralf Little plays Dr Neville Parker 


Boxing Day, 9pm, BBC1

DI Neville Parker (Ralf Little) may still be nursing his wounds after a tough break-up in the last series but his mum Melanie (the always-brilliant Doon Mackichan) has arrived to help – and quickly finds herself at the centre of things. 

Meanwhile, there’s the death of an entrepreneur to investigate, and Neville must grill the victim’s family.


Wednesday 27 December, 9pm, BBC1

A brilliant new two-part retelling of Agatha Christie’s 1939 novel, now set in 1954 and given a modern twist. 

Industry’s David Jonsson stars as Luke Fitzwilliam, a military attaché newly arrived in England from Nigeria to take up an exciting new job in Whitehall. He meets a lady on a train and his world is turned upside down. 

Miss Pinkerton (Penelope Wilton) with Luke Fitzwilliam (David Jonsson) in Agatha Christie’s Murder Is Easy

Miss Pinkerton (Penelope Wilton) tells him a killer is on the loose in her sleepy English village but because no one locally is willing to investigate properly, she’s on her way to Scotland Yard. 

Fitzwilliam – the ultimate outsider – soon becomes involved in the case against his better judgment…


Friday 29 December, 9pm, BBC1

A poignant and funny drama about five ordinary Welshmen who take part in a medical trial that will change their lives – it’s for Viagra.

Five ordinary Welshmen take part in a medical trial for Viagra (pictured)

The fictional story, inspired by one of the first medical trials held in Swansea’s Morriston Hospital in 1994, looks at some of the guinea pigs for a drug that would go on to make a difference to the sex lives of millions. 

Iwan Rheon, Phaldut Sharma, Paul Rhys, Mark Lewis Jones and Steffan Rhodri all play characters desperate for the drug to work, while Aneurin Barnard and Joanna Page are the medics hoping to help them.



Friday 22 December, 9pm, BBC2

Lady Gaga and Adam Driver star in House of Gucci, which chronicles the real-life rise and fall of the Italian Gucci fashion dynasty 

This Succession-style tale of feud, manipulation, greed and murder, based on Sara Gay Forden’s 2001 non-fiction book of the same name, chronicles the compelling real-life rise and fall of the Italian Gucci fashion dynasty. 

Lady Gaga plays Patrizia Reggiani, a beautiful young woman who sees a way into the family via law student Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver), heir to a chunk of the Gucci billions.


Christmas Day, 12.55pm, BBC1

Charlize Theron and Bette Midler voice Morticia (pictured) and Grandmama Addams in The Addams Family 2

Only a member of America’s creepiest clan could turn their uncle into an octopus at a science fair. That’s exactly what Gomez and Morticia’s daughter Wednesday does in this cartoon sequel that’s big on laughs. 

Charlize Theron and Bette Midler voice Morticia and Grandmama Addams.

TOY STORY 4 (2019)

Christmas Day, 3.10pm, BBC1

Toy Story 4 sees the introduction of new characters, including Gabby Gabby, a talking doll voiced by Mad Men star Christina Hendricks

Woody, Buzz and the rest of the toys discover they’re going on a road trip with Bonnie and her family – but danger lies ahead. 

Look out for brilliant new characters Gabby Gabby, a talking doll voiced by Mad Men star Christina Hendricks, and Duke Caboom, a Canadian stunt rider voiced by Keanu Reeves who invites Woody to take part in a life-saving escapade.


Boxing Day, 3.15pm, BBC1

Peter Rabbit, voiced by James Corden, packs his bags when his owner Bea portrays him as a naughty boy in her latest children’s book  

Lovable floppy-eared hero… or villain? Peter Rabbit (James Corden) is upset when his owner Bea (Rose Byrne) portrays him as a naughty boy in her latest children’s book. 

So he packs his bags, before an encounter with crook Barnabas risks setting Peter on the road to a life of crime. Can he pull himself back from the brink?

The LION KING (2019)

Boxing Day, 5.05pm, BBC1

The Lion King features incredible computer-generated animals – they’re not real but they look it

Disney captured the magic of their 1994 musical animated hit in this remake, giving it the same treatment as they did Beauty And The Beast and The Jungle Book. 

This features stunning computer-generated animals – they’re not real but they sure look it – with Simba as the princely lion cub fleeing his kingdom. Beyonce is the voice of Nala.

Get that festive feline! From Mog’s Christmas to the Doctor Who special, these are the best shows for all the family to enjoy


Christmas Eve, 7.45pm, Ch4

If ever a voiceover part felt fated, it’s surely Tacy Kneale’s recent role. For Tacy was tasked with providing the on-screen miaows and purrs of a cat that was a much-loved part of her childhood – and thanks to her mother Judith Kerr, many other children’s too.

That cat’s name was Mog, and she inspired the 18 storybooks written by Judith since 1970 that have sold more than four million copies worldwide. 

‘The original Mog actually didn’t miaow much, but when she did she meant it,’ Tacy recalls. ‘And she purred a lot.’

Mog’s Christmas, based on the 1976 book of the same name, will air at 7.45pm on Christmas Eve on Channel 4

Half a century on, Mog’s yuletide capers, captured in the 1976 book Mog’s Christmas, have now been adapted into a charming half-hour animation by the team who brought us previous festive offerings The Tiger Who Came To Tea and We’re Going On A Bear Hunt.

The fictional Mog lives with Mr and Mrs Thomas and their children Debbie and Nicky, and her speciality is causing gentle chaos.

It’s no different at Christmas, when Mr Thomas and the children arrive home with an enormous tree. This scares Mog so much she scrambles onto the roof for safety and refuses to come down. 

Despite everyone’s fears, Mog has a magical night in the snow before, on Christmas Day, falling down the chimney after hearing talk of breakfast and arriving in the kitchen to the surprise and relief of all the family.

The animated version, painstakingly created over many months and composed of more than 16,000 hand-drawn pictures, has a starry voice cast, with Benedict Cumberbatch and Claire Foy as Mr and Mrs Thomas, and Miriam Margolyes and Maggie Steed as the permanently bewildered visiting aunts. 

Former Fast Show comedian Charlie Higson is the voice of the ‘jolly uncle’, and overall narration is provided by Bridgerton star Adjoa Andoh, who also feels she was destined for the job.

She raised her children with Judith’s stories and also recently provided the voice of Judith’s mother in the Radio 4 dramatisation of When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, Judith’s semi-autobiographical story of a Jewish family escaping Germany before the Second World War.

‘There’s also a primary school named after Judith near me in London, so I feel very embedded,’ says Adjoa.

The half-hour animation was painstakingly created over many months and is composed of more than 16,000 hand-drawn pictures

Viewers will undoubtedly find themselves delighted by the 70s details drawn out by the animation team, among them the face of veteran sports commentator Des Lynam appearing on a TV screen in a local store. ‘All generations can get things from it,’ says Adjoa.

Charlie Higson adds that Judith also ensured the books worked on different levels. ‘She showed the world through a cat’s-eye view, but we’re also seeing it from the view of small children.’

Judith passed away in 2019 at 95, and Tacy and her brother Matthew are delighted with the way their mother’s work has been brought to life. ‘It’s been done so beautifully, it’s a masterpiece,’ says Matthew.


Christmas Day, 2.35pm, BBC1

The beautiful adaptations of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s work – from The Gruffalo to Stick Man – have become firm Christmas Day family favourites. 

Tabby McTat, based on Julia’s history as a busker and her love of cats, tells the tale of Tabby, who loves to sing with his busker friend Fred, but when the two become parted chaos ensues. 

As usual, the story is voiced by an all-star cast including Jodie Whittaker and Rob Brydon, who stars as Fred and also sings on The Tabby McTat Song, which is being released as a single for charity.


Christmas Day, 5.55pm, BBC1

Millie Gibson as Ruby Sunday, the new companion of the 15th doctor, played by Ncuti Gatwa

It’s been five years since Doctor Who last made it into the Christmas Day schedules, but with a new Doctor to introduce and Davina McCall making a guest appearance, the time-travelling Tardis dweller is back this year. 

The episode, titled The Church On Ruby Road, won’t just see the 15th doctor, Ncuti Gatwa, taking over but we’ll also meet his new companion Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson). 

The story focuses on Ruby, who was abandoned on Christmas Eve as a baby, and how she encounters the Doctor, and also introduces a new villain called the Goblin King.


Friday 29 December, 10.30am, BBC1 and on iPlayer now

Billy Jenkins as Dodger (left) and Christopher Eccleston as Fagin in the special episode of the drama based on Charles Dickens’s characters before they met Oliver Twist

Dodger (Billy Jenkins), Fagin (Christopher Eccleston) and the gang attempt their most audacious heist yet in this special episode of the BAFTA-winning drama based on Dickens’s characters before they met Oliver Twist. 

Aptly called Coronation, it’ll see our charming crooks attempt to steal the Crown Jewels, and special guests include Simon Callow, Toby Stephens and Nicola Coughlan.

Quentin Blake’s Box Of Treasures is narrated by Adrian Lester (pictured)


Friday 29 December, 1.25pm, BBC1 and on iPlayer now

Quentin Blake is the maestro of children’s books – the 91-year-old has illustrated or written more than 500 of them and this collection of six of his animated stories is perfect for Christmas. 

Narrated by Adrian Lester, the tales begin with Jack And Nancy, a story about two children who long to visit the exotic lands they’ve heard about and then, one windy day, their wish comes true.


New Year’s Eve, 11.30am, BBC1 and on iPlayer now

Despite the many attempts to ‘cancel’ Enid Blyton, her stories remain firm favourites, and this modern reimagining of her most famous adventures is set to be one of the most talked-about family shows this Christmas. 

BBC1’s The Famous Five is a modern reimagining of Enid Blyton’s most renowned adventures 

It’s been created by Nicolas Winding Refn who’s best known for violent films including Drive and Neon Demon and in the first of three episodes, The Curse Of Kirrin Island, we learn how cousins Julian, Dick, Anne, George and Timmy the dog solve the crime of a dead body discovered on a beach. 

Does it have anything to do with a ‘curse’ on the nearby island owned by the family?

Santa’s magical little helpers spread Christmas cheer in The Repair Shop at Christmas 2023 while the Strictly Come Dancing special brims with festive feeling

The Repair Shop at Christmas 2023

Christmas Eve, 8pm, BBC1

When people bring their treasured heirlooms into The Repair Shop to be restored and reveal the emotional stories behind them, it’s not just viewers who are moved to tears.

Although he keeps his cool as he introduces them, presenter Jay Blades is often overwhelmed too – especially at this time of year. ‘I well up all the time,’ he says. ‘But you can feel the magic at Christmas. Every year we do it bigger and better – and I can’t wait for viewers to see this year’s show.’

The Christmas Eve special certainly packs a few emotional punches, none more so than when Jo Thomas from Wales brings in a broken record player with deep sentimental value. 

Jay Blades (second from right) and the Repair Shop team in the Christmas-themed barn

Her son Ben gave it to her on the last Christmas before he died in January 2006, aged just 11. Playing records on it reminds her of dancing with Ben to Abba songs before cancer cruelly cut his life short.

Audio expert Mark Stuckey is tasked with fixing it. ‘That story got to me,’ says Mark. ‘I could feel the pain this family has gone through.

‘That an 11-year-old considered he was dying and wanted to leave something solid behind for his mother – you just think, “Wow!” We complain about our aches and pains, but when you hear some of the stories that come into the barn you think, “What the heck do we have to moan about?”’

Also working her magic is paper restorer Angelina Bakalarou, who tackles 100-year-old cardboard Santa decorations passed down through three generations to Sheila from Newcastle.

‘The biggest challenge was their textured surface,’ explains Angelina. ‘I made a paste to create the texture. I spent about four days repairing them, they were my little guys!’

Though the episode was filmed in September, the barn certainly looks as Christmassy as Santa’s grotto with snow, beautiful fairy lights, trees and Christmas jumpers galore. 

‘We have got an amazing team of set designers,’ says Jay. ‘One day the barn looked as it usually does, and then the next it looked really Christmassy.’

And after a break last year, the experts then do a round of Secret Santa, surprising each other with handmade gifts.

‘It’s always a little bit competitive and we love to see what we’ve chosen for each other,’ says Jay. ‘Without giving too much away, it gets a bit emotional.’

That’s the show’s stock-in-trade of course, and Jay’s convinced this episode will deliver another warm and moving holiday glow. ‘It’s always special in the barn,’ he says. ‘But Christmas Repair Shop is magical.’

Bradley Walsh picks his favourite comedians and shows 

Bradley Walsh: My Comedy Heroes 

Saturday 16 December, 9.05pm, Channel 5

Bradley gets us chuckling with this three-part series in which he picks his favourite comedians and shows. 

Bradley’s best-of-the-best list includes national treasures such as Victoria Wood and Morecambe & Wise, and he’ll share clips from shows such as Dad’s Army and Blackadder. 

Showbiz mates Alison Steadman and Alexander Armstrong will also reveal their stories from working in comedy and reflect on what makes our sitcoms world-class.

Capital’s Jingle Bell Ball 

Sunday 17 December, 5pm, ITV1

The nation’s biggest Christmas party is back with highlights from the two-night event at London’s 02 Arena earlier this month. 

‘It’s the start of Christmas for me!’ exclaims Roman Kemp, co-host of the show with his Capital Radio breakfast colleagues Chris Stark and Siân Welby. 

Favourites on the bill in this poptastic kick-start to Christmas include Take That, Rudimental, Alicia Keys, S Club, Rita Ora, Raye and Busted.

DIY SOS: EastEnders Special

Monday 18 December, 8pm, BBC1

DIY SOS’s Chris Frediani (left) pictured with Colin Salmon, who plays George Knight in Eastenders

Nick Knowles and his band of merry fixer-uppers team up with the EastEnders gang for this tear-jerking special instalment of the home-improvement show. 

We’ll see which of the Walford crew pick up tools in aid of mental health hub Butterfly Effect Wellbeing. Before, the charity operated out of a Portakabin, but now has a new home that requires extensive renovation. 

They must all work together to transform the space into a welcoming haven.

Celebrity Masterchef: Christmas Cook-Off 

Wednesday 20 December, 9pm, BBC1

Boyband Blue’s Duncan James (pictured) is one of the famous faces taking part in this year’s Celebrity Masterchef: Christmas Cook-Off 

Break out the cooking sherry for a competition with former contestants eager for another chance to win the Golden Whisk. 

Singer Mel Blatt, actor Richard Blackwood, Blue’s Duncan James and Love Island’s Faye Winter don festive aprons to make an Australian-themed dish from mystery ingredients. 

They’ll present to Gregg Wallace and Aussie natives John Torode and Peter Andre.

The Great British Sewing Bee: Celebrity Christmas Special 

Thursday 21 December, 9pm, BBC1

Ghosts star and former Sewing Bee Christmas Special contestant Kiell Smith-Bynoe hosts as four celebrities get their bobbins out in this holiday special. It’s his first time taking over as host of the show – he’ll continue his duties in the upcoming series, too. 

Punk legend Toyah Willcox, comedian Jessica Knappett, After Life star Kerry Godliman and Black Ops’ Hammed Animashaun will be tasked with creating Christmas stockings with their own unique twist, turning puffer coats into kids’ fancy dress and whipping up dream outfits for Christmas Day.  

And it all takes place under the watchful eye of judges Esme Young and Patrick Grant.

The Great Christmas Bake Off 2023

Christmas Eve, 8.15pm, Channel 4

The Great Christmas Bake Off 2023 team: Noel Fielding (top left), Alison Hammond (top right), Paul Hollywood (bottom left) and Prue Leith (bottom right)

Half a dozen ghosts of Bake Offs past join for this festive special, one baker from each series since the show moved to Channel 4. 

They’re asked to whip up mince pies, cinnamon bread and a ‘redemption bake’ – to make up for a disaster they experienced on the series. 

The tone is lighter than a twice-baked soufflé, with even Paul Hollywood ditching his Scrooge persona.

Britain Get Singing 

Christmas Eve, 9pm, ITV1

Can Kate Garraway carry a tune? Find out in this festive sing-off pitting the stars of our favourite shows against one another. 

Hosted by Roman Kemp, the special will see Kate singing as part of the Good Morning Britain team against EastEnders, Coronation Street, Love Island and The Masked Singer. 

Jonathan Ross joins the judges this year, alongside singers Adam Lambert, Alesha Dixon and But which group of musical talents has what it takes to emerge victorious? 

Although Corrie has the mighty Claire Sweeney on its side, The Masked Singer boasts previous contestants Russell Watson and Aled Jones and appears to be a shoo-in. But as the old saying goes, it’s not over till the fat lady sings.

Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special

Christmas Day, 4.40pm, BBC1

Strictly Come Dancing presenters Claudia Winkleman (left) and Tess Daly are joined by six celebrities for the Christmas special 

For those missing their weekly dose of dance-floor magic, Strictly waltzes back in its traditional Christmas Day slot. 

Claudia Winkleman and Tess Daly invite six celebrities for a twirl around the ballroom with a pro – EastEnders’ Jamie Borthwick, BBC Breakfast’s Sally Nugent, actress Tillie Amartey, rugby player Danny Cipriani, Sugababe Keisha Buchanan and historian Dan Snow – while a performance from Eurovision wonder Sam Ryder and two fab-u-lous group routines will add to the festive feeling.

The Masked Singer: Christmas Special

Celebrity contestants hide beneath flamboyant costumes in The Masked Singer

Christmas Day, 7.30pm, ITV1

ITV’s hit talent show gets its first festive special ahead of its new series. There’s a Christmassy vibe to this sing-off in which four celebrity contestants hide beneath festively flamboyant costumes, each hoping to stump the celebrity panel and viewers about their identities. 

Jonathan Ross, Rita Ora, Davina McCall and Mo Gilligan will be joined by Leona Lewis as a guest panellist, with host Joel Dommett struggling not to laugh at some of their wilder guesses.

The Piano At Christmas

Christmas Day, 8.45pm, Channel 4

The Piano experts Lang Lang (left) and Mika perform at London’s King’s Cross station for the Christmas special 

The moving hit show is back with a holiday special, in which six amateur pianists from the first series return to perform Christmas tunes on a piano at London’s King’s Cross station. 

They include Harry, 92, who brought viewers to tears with his attempts to connect with his wife who had dementia, and 13-year-old Lucy, whose talent despite her disabilities astonished show experts Lang Lang and Mika.

Peaky Blinders: Rambert’s The Redemption Of Thomas Shelby

New Year’s Day, 9.25pm, BBC4

The Rambert Dance Company perform a piece telling the story of gangster Tommy Shelby and his family 

This innovative dance piece written by Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight and performed by Rambert Dance Company tells the story of ruthless gangster Tommy Shelby and his family. 

Filmed at the Birmingham Hippodrome, it follows Tommy as he builds his empire in post-war Birmingham and becomes transfixed by a mysterious woman who may have an ulterior motive. 

The late poet and Peaky Blinders star Benjamin Zephaniah performs the spoken word segments, while a band belts out iconic songs from the show.

A frightful farewell: Our pick of festive comedy, including the Ghosts finale and Here We Go: Mum’s Classic Family Christmas 


Christmas Day, 7.45pm, BBC1

After five series, three festive specials and a Comic Relief short featuring Kylie Minogue, the spooky residents of Button House are about to be spirited away for good. This Christmas sees one last hurrah for hit sitcom Ghosts with a festive special, and the team behind it say it really is the end.

‘We don’t want to outstay our welcome,’ says Larry Rickard, who plays both the headless nobleman Sir Humphrey and Robin the caveman, two of the spectres who haunt the stately home having died on the land where it was built. ‘As a cast who also write the show, we wanted to go out on a high.’

Ghosts centres on Alison (Charlotte Ritchie), who inherited a rambling country property (the show is filmed at West Horsley Place in Surrey) from a distant relative and then suffered a bang on the head during her first visit, an accident that left her able to see the spooks who reside there for eternity. 

Ghosts Christmas Special cast (L-R): Kitty (Lolly Adefope), Pat (Jim Howick), The Captain (Ben Willbond), Mike (Kiell Smith-Bynoe), Julian (Simon Farnaby), Alison (Charlotte Ritchie), Robin (Larry Rickard), Thomas Thorne (Mat Baynton), Lady Button (Martha Howe-Douglas) and Humphrey (Larry Rickard) 

Long-suffering partner Mike (Kiell Smith-Bynoe) is aware of their presence but can’t see or hear the ghosts himself.

As well as Robin and Sir Humphrey, the Button House ghosts include Georgian noblewoman Kitty, trouserless MP Julian and former owner Lady Button, but the Christmas special adds another character to the mix. 

In the first episode of the final series in October Alison revealed she was having a baby, and here the infant Mia, played by twin girls, coos her way through the comedy. 

‘The ghosts realise that Mike, Alison and Mia are now a family and that, by default, they aren’t part of that family like some of them thought they were,’ explains Larry.

Mike’s mum Betty also arrives at Button House to help with the baby but stays too long when all Mike and Alison want is to be left alone to bring up their child. And they aren’t the only ones spooked by Betty’s presence – the ghosts fear for their futures when the  kindly woman makes a shocking discovery.

Martha Howe Douglas, who plays pompous old Lady Button, says she’s happy with the way the show finishes. 

‘I think we honour the programme with the end we give it, and I believe viewers will enjoy it too. Although filming that final episode was difficult because it was so emotional. I got sent back to the make-up truck at least once because I was crying so much, I was a wreck!’

The decision to bring the curtain down on Ghosts rather than let it fade away did at least give the cast the chance to have a proper end-of-show blowout and hand-pick props they could take away as souvenirs. 

The wrap party featured special tequila-based, Ghosts-themed cocktails and once the director had shouted cut one final time, Martha, Larry and Mathew Baynton (who plays lovestruck poet ghost Thomas) all took the framed oil paintings of their characters which had been commissioned for the walls of Button House.

All the cast, many of whom had worked together on Horrible Histories, say they’ll miss the show but plan to work together again in the future. 

‘It’s defined the last few years of our lives,’ says Jim Howick, who plays former scout leader Pat. 

‘We’d film from January to March and then start writing the next series, and that’s been the pattern for several years. But we enjoyed every minute and we’re going to miss it like crazy.’


Thursday 21 December, 10pm, Sky Max

Tissues at the ready for Imelda Staunton’s scene-stealing performance in this special festive episode of the long-running comedy-drama. 

She stars as the lonely aunt of Dr Chris (Dominic West), who needs some festive cheering up from Vinnie (Joe Gilgun). 

But Aunt Edie isn’t the only one facing Christmas misery. Tyler’s school nativity play is in doubt after a robbery and Vinnie’s determined to put things right, prompting a tussle with loathsome impresario Dick Dolphin (Taskmaster’s Greg Davies). 

Some of the language may be a bit fruity, but there’s a lovely warm-hearted glow to the story – and a beautiful tear-jerking ending.


Friday 22 December, 8.30pm, BBC1

Husband Paul is played by Jim Howick

Mum Rachel (Katherine Parkinson) reckons she has the key to a cracking Christmas for the dysfunctional Jessop family, as one of the most promising new sitcoms in years gets its first Christmas special. 

Rachel wants everyone including husband Paul (played by Jim Howick who is also scout leader Pat in Ghosts) to adhere to a rigid timetable, starting with stocking-opening and followed by the unwrapping of bigger presents, then church, turkey, the King’s speech, charades, a family rendition of Hey Mr Christmas by Showaddywaddy and finally a family viewing of Shrek.


Christmas Eve, 10pm, BBC1

Lee, played by Lee Mack (right) picks up pensioner Wilfred from a care home to join his famile for Christmas 

There’s an unfortunate case of mistaken identity when Lee (Lee Mack) picks up pensioner Wilfred from a care home to join his family – including wonderfully sarcastic father-in-law Geoffrey (Geoffrey Whitehead) – for a joyous Christmas. 

Add an excess of booze, and soon Lee’s wife Lucy’s orders to make this a drama-free celebration are tested in the 100th episode of this sitcom.


Friday 29 December, 10pm, BBC2

Spandau Ballet’s Gary and Martin Kemp

Spandau Ballet legends Gary and Martin Kemp were happy for the joke to be on them when they appeared in spoof documentary All True in 2020. 

Here we catch up with the brothers three years on, as the cameras follow them over a year while they get divorced, attempt to form a supergroup and work with Dexter Fletcher – director of films Rocketman and Bohemian Rhapsody – on a biopic about their lives. 

Tamzin Outhwaite and Citizen Khan star Adil Ray guest star.

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