More TV highlights over the festive season

From a spirited reworking of Phileas Fogg starring David Tennant to an Oscar-worthy Judy, here are more TV highlights over the festive season

Specials from Bake Off and Doctor Who, a tribute to the late Stephen Sondheim, new Death In Paradise – and a Taskmaster treat!

 

Boxing Day

Around The World In 80 Days

David Tennant is the perfect choice to don Phileas Fogg’s top hat in this spirited reworking of Jules Verne’s 1872 tale.

The eight episodes kick off with a double bill here that sees the indomitable English gentleman setting off to loop the globe with only his trusty manservant and an intrepid female reporter for company. BBC1, 5.50pm and 6.40pm

David Tennant (above, centre) is the perfect choice to don Phileas Fogg’s top hat in this spirited reworking of Jules Verne’s 1872 tale, co-starring Ibrahim Koma (left) and Leonie Benesch (right)

David Tennant (above, centre) is the perfect choice to don Phileas Fogg’s top hat in this spirited reworking of Jules Verne’s 1872 tale, co-starring Ibrahim Koma (left) and Leonie Benesch (right)

 

Death In Paradise

Ralf Little gets another nice Caribbean break on the Beeb’s budget as DI Neville Parker in a new mystery.

He’s not the only Brit actor getting a trip to the island of Saint Marie, though: look out for Juliet Stevenson and Mathew Baynton too in the case of a shipping magnate who is murdered at a Christmas party. BBC1, 7.30pm

 

A Very British Scandal

Paul Bettany and Claire Foy star as the Duke and Duchess of Argyll in this account of the real-life 1963 divorce case that rocked Britain’s aristocracy and raised eyebrows everywhere. 

Shot through with accusations of forgery, theft, drugs, bribery and violence, it’s a dark tale that unfolds over three nights. BBC1, 9pm, until Tuesday

Paul Bettany and Claire Foy (above) star as the Duke and Duchess of Argyll in this account of the real-life 1963 divorce case that rocked Britain’s aristocracy

Paul Bettany and Claire Foy (above) star as the Duke and Duchess of Argyll in this account of the real-life 1963 divorce case that rocked Britain’s aristocracy

 

Mortimer And Whitehouse: Gone Christmas Fishing

One of the most welcome Christmas catches sees Paul Whitehouse and Bob Mortimer unpacking their fishing rods for an hour-long special.

The pair (along with guest star Paul Gascoigne) set off to the North of England for a stay in a stately home while they try to fulfil Paul’s lifelong dream of catching a salmon. BBC2, 9pm

 

Billy Connolly: My Absolute Pleasure 

Scotland’s finest comedy export looks back on his life and career from the comfort of his Florida home.

It’s a bittersweet show (Connolly now suffers from Parkinson’s disease), but The Big Yin’s trademark sense of mischief is still strong and the archive clips of him in his stand-up prime are glorious. ITV, 9.30pm

 

Monday, December 27

Stephen Sondheim Night 

After Sondheim’s death last month aged 91, the Beeb is paying a timely tribute to the emperor of American musical theatre (Sweeney Todd, Follies) with an evening of programmes.

The two-hour Sondheim Prom (7pm) from 2010 is the high spot, but look out, too, for Sondheim At The BBC (9.05pm), Omnibus: Sunday In The Park With Stephen (10.05pm) and Face To Face With Stephen Sondheim (10.55pm). BBC4

 

The Voice Kids

The Spice Girls’ Mel C joins the cast of judges as the talent show returns for three junior editions on consecutive nights.

The contestants may be little (they range in age from seven to 14), but their vocal talents certainly aren’t, with convincing renditions of songs by everyone from Elton John to Frankie Valli stunning the judges. ITV, 7.30pm, until Wednesday

 

Travel Man: 96 Hours In Iceland

Joe Lycett takes over the Travel Man wheelie suitcase from Richard Ayoade, marking his debut as host with a flying visit to Iceland in the company of comedian and unexpected Strictly star Bill Bailey.

They tick off familiar tourist moments (geysers, fjords, Northern Lights…) but also a few odder treats. Reykjavik’s only punk museum, anyone? Channel 4, 8pm

 

Tuesday, December 28 

Worzel Gummidge: Twitchers

Mackenzie Crook makes a welcome return as the curmudgeonly scarecrow in the first of two sweet new adventures.

Tonight he has a chance to scare away some rare birds, but will he be able to do it without the crowds of birdwatchers pursuing him and spotting him in motion? BBC1, 7.15pm, Tuesday and Wednesday

 

Extraordinary Escapes At Christmas With Sandi Toksvig

Toksvig heads to Norway with three famous women. Cue a hunt for killer whales with scientist Maggie Aderin-Pocock, encounters with wolves alongside Dragons’ Den’s Deborah Meaden and a trip up a mountain with actress Fay Ripley. Channel 4, 8pm

 

Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 

The Royal Institution Christmas Lectures are one of the great festive telly traditions, popularising science for generation after generation.

This year the UK’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Jonathan Van-Tam, presents the trio of talks focusing on a topic that we’re all now fascinated with: viruses. BBC4, 8pm

 

A Play In A Day 

Can three teams of performers create an original 15-minute theatrical production (a dance piece, a musical and a drama) with only 24 hours to write, cast and rehearse them?

It’s a tricky challenge for the bands of newcomers and old hands, but watching them do it is great fun. Sky Arts, 9.30pm

 

West Side Story 

It’s rare that remaking a classic film works (Hitchcock’s Psycho. Really?). But if anyone can, it’s Steven Spielberg, and indeed his new version of the movie of West Side Story has had critics gushing.

Here’s a chance to see the original film of the Romeo And Juliet story transported to the streets of New York, as written by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim. 

Starring Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer, it was the highest-grossing film of 1961 and won ten Oscars, thanks to Robert Wise’s direction and vibrant choreography from Jerome Robbins. A classic. BBC4, 9pm

 

Wednesday, December 29

A Star Is Born

The plot is a bit hackneyed – it’s the fourth time Hollywood has had a stab at this tale – but the performances make this version sing.

Lady Gaga is great as the aspiring singer discovered working as a waitress by Bradley Cooper’s fading country rock star, and the chemistry between the pair is positively exhilarating. BBC1, 9pm

 

The Great British Dig: History In Your Back Garden 

Hugh Dennis picks up his shovel and trudges off to Falkirk as this Time Team knock-off returns for a second series.

Now the Mock The Week man and his team of archaeologists are in search of the remains of a Roman fort, which might just be buried under the local bowling green… More4, 9pm

 

Thursday, December 30

Attenborough And The Mammoth Graveyard

 When amateur fossil-hunters Sally and Neville Hollingworth discovered a mammoth bone in the mud of a quarry near Swindon, they triggered a search for answers that dug deep into Britain’s prehistoric past.

David Attenborough meets the couple and joins the quest tonight, wondering just what the giant pachyderms were doing there, and whether it’s possible that early humans killed them. BBC1, 8pm

 

The Great British Sewing Bee: Celebrity New Year Special  

Comedian Rose Matafeo, former Steps singer Claire Richards, Drag Race UK winner Lawrence Chaney and Newsnight’s Kirsty Wark reveal their sewing skills (or indeed their lack of them).

Comedian Rose Matafeo, former Steps singer Claire Richards, Drag Race UK winner Lawrence Chaney and Newsnight’s Kirsty Wark (above) reveal their sewing skills

Comedian Rose Matafeo, former Steps singer Claire Richards, Drag Race UK winner Lawrence Chaney and Newsnight’s Kirsty Wark (above) reveal their sewing skills

Can they turn old clothes into party dresses for kids, make a festive waistcoat and run up a food-themed fancy-dress outfit? BBC1, 9pm; 10.35pm Scotland

 

Judy

Renée Zellweger goes all the way over the rainbow with an Oscar-winning role as the tragic Wizard Of Oz star and singer Judy Garland in her later days.

She struggles with bad health, substance abuse and her self-destructive nature as she attempts to get her career back on track in London. BBC2, 9pm

Renée Zellweger (above) goes all the way over the rainbow with an Oscar-winning role as the tragic Wizard Of Oz star and singer Judy Garland

Renée Zellweger (above) goes all the way over the rainbow with an Oscar-winning role as the tragic Wizard Of Oz star and singer Judy Garland

 

New Year’s Eve

MasterChef Champion Of Champions 

A quintet of previous winners dust off their aprons for a return to the MasterChef cauldron.

Most of them have used their victory to go on to higher culinary heights, so perhaps it’s only fitting that for one task John Torode and Gregg Wallace ask them to turn out a dish that shows what they’ve learnt since winning. BBC1, 8.30pm 

John Torode and Gregg Wallace (above) ask contestants to turn out a dish that shows what they’ve learnt since winning in MasterChef Champion Of Champions

John Torode and Gregg Wallace (above) ask contestants to turn out a dish that shows what they’ve learnt since winning in MasterChef Champion Of Champions

 

Jools’ Annual Hootenanny 

Ed Sheeran, Gregory Porter and Lulu are among the guests singing in the New Year as Jools Holland’s musical extravaganza marks its 28th year.

Expect predictions for 2022 from Vic Reeves and lashings of unprompted boogie-woogie piano from Jools himself. BBC2, 11.25pm

 

New Year’s Day

Doctor Who 

Daleks and the Doctor Who New Year’s Day Special are a bit of a tradition.

As the malevolent pepperpots make yet another reappearance, will the Doctor and her friends (plus guest star Aisling Bea) escape a deadly Groundhog Day-esque time loop and avoid extermination? BBC1, 7pm

 

The Masked Singer 

Rockhopper, Robobunny, Bagpipes, Traffic Cone, Lionfish and Doughnuts are some of the fantastical costumes concealing household names as a new series of the secretive singing challenge begins. Episode two follows on January 2. ITV, 7pm

 

The Great New Year Bake Off 

Following Christmas Day’s celebrity offerings, expect some more polished performances in the tent in this second special as actual former contestants return. Kim-Joy and Jon from the 2018 series are back. Channel 4, 7.40pm

 

Downton Abbey

After six series of upstairs-and-downstairs up and downs, the folk of the Yorkshire country estate returned in movie form.

With a visit from George V and Queen Mary on the cards, can Lord Grantham and his family (and their staff, of course) maintain their sang froid? ITV, 8.30pm

After six series of upstairs-and-downstairs up and downs, the folk of the Yorkshire country estate returned in movie form. Michelle Dockery (above) stars as Lady Mary Talbot

After six series of upstairs-and-downstairs up and downs, the folk of the Yorkshire country estate returned in movie form. Michelle Dockery (above) stars as Lady Mary Talbot

 

The Tourist

Jamie Dornan wakes up in hospital with no memory of who he is or what he’s doing in Australia. He’d better find answers fast as shady figures begin chasing him in this opener for a six-part series. BBC1, 9pm

 

Taskmaster’s New Year Treat

The usual comedians step to the side as famous faces from the world of celebrity get to pander to Taskmaster Greg Davies’s outlandish whims.

Do Adrian Chiles, Claudia Winkleman, Jonnie Peacock, Lady Leshurr and Baroness Sayeeda Warsi realise what they’re in for? Channel 4, 9pm

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