“Two-week bumper This Week in Culture... Feel the heft of telly heaven!”
Ten points to anyone who can tell me which brilliant Christmas special that quote is from. Yes, the festive season is upon us at last, and I thought, what better way to celebrate than with a two-week special This Christmas in Culture, detailing all the shows you need to watch. So grab yourself a glass of sherry, a mince pie, put your feet up – no need to think about rapidly approaching deadlines just yet – and enjoy my Christmas picks!
Series 12 of The Apprentice wraps up with a special Sunday episode this week as not to crash with the looming Christmas BBC schedules. The finale sees Alana Spencer and Courtney Woods pitching their business plans to Lord Alan Sugar in a bid to get his quarter of a million pound investment and became the next ‘Apprentice’. See my verdict on the final two candidates in my special feature here.
True to 2016 form, it’s been an absolutely bonkers series, with pretty much every candidate hopeless. To me, it signifies a worrying move from the business side into a comedy reality show; seriously, anyone could do a better job than most of these idiots. You can see who is crowned Lord Sugar’s next apprentice Sunday 18th December, BBC One at 9pm.
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt
This children’s classic is getting adapted for TV this Christmas, after the success of The Snowman in recent years. Michael Rosen’s We’re Going on a Bear Hunt is coming to Channel 4 on Christmas Eve, to warm the souls of families nationwide.
The animated adventure concerns a family (you guessed it) going on a bear hunt, though I can’t recall why they undertake such a dangerous and unnecessary expedition with their young children. Broadchurch‘s Olivia Coleman, Harry Potter‘s Mark Williams, and Matilda‘s Pam Ferris lead the all-star voice cast, and you catch the adaptation Christmas Eve on Channel 4 at 7.30pm. One thing’s for sure though – can’t skip over this one, nor can you go round it via the other channels – you’ll just have to sit through it.
Doctor Who – ‘The Return of Doctor Mysterio’
After a year of absence from our screens, Doctor Who is back – for better or for worse. Ahead of April’s long anticipated series comes their traditional festive offering, with Steven Moffat cashing in on the ‘superhero’ craze that’s taken the world by storm.
The Ghost, played by Justin Chatwin, could be friend or foe, but will he usurp the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) as saviour of the day? One thing’s for sure; it’s extremely unlikely that Nardole (Matt Lucas) will be anything but a disastrous piece of comic one-liners. See my scathing review of Nardole’s first appearance, in last year’s Christmas special, here. Watching the Doctor Who special should be a Christmas tradition for every family, and you can catch it on Christmas Day at the early time of 5.45 on BBC One.
The Last Dragonslayer
Sky1’s Christmas offering is an adaptation of Jasper Fforde’s fantastical novel, The Last Dragonslayer. The TV movie is set in a world where magic has been pushed to the brink of extinction by modern society, and young orphan Jennifer Strange (Ellise Chappell) discovers her destiny to become the last dragonslayer.
Ricky Tomlinson and John Bradley also star in the adaptation, and there are hope it will spawn the entire series being adapted. The Last Dragonslayer airs on Sky1, Christmas Day at 5.45 – so in direct competition with its fantastical rival, Doctor Who.
With Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden) at the brink of death from his failing liver, Lee Carter (Danny-Boy Hatchard) lying to his family after his involvement in a violent robbery of their pub, and Max Branning (Jake Wood) about to make an explosive return to Albert Square, Christmas on EastEnders is unlikely to be a quiet one. You can catch it all across the festive season, with an hour-long special airing on Christmas Day at 9.30pm.
Though, I’m sure that someone will still say: “This is going to be the best Christmas Walford has ever had.” *Rolls eyes*.
Who can believe that its been nearly three years since Outnumbered wrapped up, seemingly for good, with its fifth series? Well, now its back for a one-off festive special, and the Brockmans look to be causing a much mayhem as ever.
The Andy Hamilton-penned series follows mum Sue (Claire Skinner) and dad Pete (Hugh Dennis), and their three children Jake (Tyger Drew-Honey), Ben (Daniel Roche), and Karen (Ramona Marquez). When the series began back in 2007, eldest Jake was the age youngest Karen is now, and the show’s finale in 2014, the children were seen to be finally solving the family’s problems, not the adults. In this Christmas special, the Brockmans try to pull off a Christmas surprise for Grandad (his original actor, David Ryall died on Christmas Day of 2014). Hopefully the special means we’ll be seeing more of the Brockmans in years to come. The Outnumbered special airs this Boxing Day on BBC One.
Inside No. 9 – ‘The Devil of Christmas’
After a similarly long absence from our screens, a new series of Inside No. 9 has been promised all year but has failed to appear. To wet your appetite before Series 3 (eventually) appears, Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton are back with a Christmas special.
The special is themed around the spooky but festive story of Krampus, the dark side of Father Christmas, and is set in a house (presumably No.9?) in 1970s Austria. Shearsmith and Pemberton even had it filmed in the style of a 70s portmanteau horror episode – not your typical festive fun special. Jessica Raine guest stars in this episode, and you can check out The Edge‘s ‘On Edge: Anticipating’ for the show here. If it’s the darker side of Christmas you’re after, ‘The Devil of Christmas’ is not to be missed; you can catch it on December 27th, on BBC Two at 10pm.
Charlie Brooker’s 2016 Wipe
Charlie Brooker is flavour of the month right now – what would have been seen as grim, ‘worst case scenario’ visions of the future several years ago are now scarily coming true, and his cult following grows by the minute after the release of new Black Mirror earlier this year. He’s back for his annual Wipe, examining the most eventful year since…well, ever.
We don’t envy his giant task – he’s got the deaths of many a celebrity, including Sir Terry Wogan, David Bowie, and Victoria Wood, to sensitively address, while also tackling the controversial subject of Brexit, its explosive fallout, and finally, the rise of Donald Trump in America. You try packing that into an hour. Charlie Brooker’s 2016 Wipe airs December 29th, 9pm on BBC Two, and if you’re a lover of dark comedy like me, it’s not one to be missed.
Alternative Pick: The Pantomime!
It’s not all about TV – this is This Christmas in Culture after all! If your eyes are getting a bit tired of being glued to the box, you can pop along to Mayflower Theatre to see this year’s pantomime, Robin Hood. It’s headed up by EastEnders’ very own Kat and Alfie (Jessie Wallace and Shane Richie), and is sure to make you laugh your socks off. Or you can take a trip to the Nuffield Theatre on campus, which will be showing the groundbreaking Fantastic Mr Fox across the festive season. It’s Christmas – what better time to go to the theatre?!
Merry Christmas one and all!