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Your guide to the best of Christmas TV

By Reportergrace  |  Posted: December 14, 2013


The Dowager Countess of Grantham will be spending Christmas at Downton Abbey

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Christmas TV is as much part of our festive tradition as opening presents, eating turkey and singing carols.

With an emphasis on 'feel-good' drama and comedy, the December schedules are always packed with seasonal specials of year-round favourites - and 2013 is no exception.

With the hugely popular Downton Abbey, Call the Midwife, Great British Bake Off and Sherlock all returning to the box for the holiday season, as well as the eagerly-awaited return of classic sitcom Open All Hours, here's our pick of the top TV treats this Christmas.

1. DOWNTON ABBEY - ITV, Christmas Day, 8:30pm

The most popular period drama in recent times returns for what has now become a traditional Christmas Day special. In last year's December 25th episode, viewers were left shocked when Downton's heir Matthew Crawley was dramatically killed off in a car crash soon after the birth of his son. This autumn's storylines came under fire, with some fans claiming they were dull, so expect writer Julian Fellowes to add some more romantic drama to the lives of sisters Mary and Edith - and he's promised fans that there will be no deaths this year.

2. STILL OPEN ALL HOURS - BBC1, Boxing Day, 7:45pm

Fans of the classic David Jason sitcom descended on Doncaster en masse earlier this year when the veteran actor was seen filming this new episode on the original set. His character Granville has now inherited Arkwright's from Uncle Albert, and he is joined by a new generation of characters, with roles for Johnny Vegas, Nina Wadia and Sally Lindsay. However, rumours of a further series were scotched by Jason.

3. DEATH COMES TO PEMBERLEY - BBC1, Boxing Day, 8:15pm

Another treat for fans of period drama - this 'sequel' to Jane Austen's classic Pride and Prejudice is actually based on a novel by P D James. Six years after their marriage, Darcy and Elizabeth's annual ball at their Pemberley stately home descends into a murder mystery when Elizabeth's rebellious younger sister Lydia turns up, claiming her caddish husband Wickham has been killed. Trevor Eve, Matthew Goode, Rebecce Front, Anna Maxwell Martin and Jenna Coleman

make up the cast.

4. THE GREAT BRITISH BAKE OFF - BBC2, December 17, 8pm

A 2013 success, the Bake Off has legions of fans and has been credited with creating a surge in interest in baking. Popular presenters Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood front this festive special and this time there are no contestants for them to judge - it is their own seasonal dishes up for scrutiny. The pair will share recipes for stollen, mincemeat streusel, a gingerbread house and more, as well as telling you how to make the most of your Boxing Day leftovers.

5. DOCTOR WHO - BBC1, Christmas Day, 7pm

Fans of the Doctor flocked to last month's anniversary special, and now they will be able to see his latest incarnation as Scottish actor Peter Capaldi makes his debut in the role, taking over from Matt Smith, who has some unfinished business in this episode. The Doctors must fight a huge army of the most lethal aliens in the universe, who have gathered on a small planet .

6. SHERLOCK - BBC1, New Year's Day, 9pm

Benedict Cumberbatch has made the role of Arthur Conan Doyle's genius detective his own, and he returns to solve a new mystery alongside his faithful sidekick Watson. In an episode titled The Empty Hearse, set two years after Holmes supposedly died at Reichenbach, the enigmatic sleuth appears again in London, which is now under threat from a terrorist attack. Expecting Watson to be delighted by his return, he is in fact worried that Holmes's demands will derail his relationship with Mary Morstan.


Just weeks after the winner of this year's series is announced, a new line-up of celebrities take to the dancefloor for this one-off attempt to scoop the crown. The biggest name to compete is The Saturdays singer Rochelle Humes, who previously danced in the Comic Relief special, and other celebs to sign up include Elaine Page and DJ Sara Cox. Bruce Forsyth, Tess Daly and the regular judging panel host.

8. CALL THE MIDWIFE - BBC1, Christmas Day, 6:15pm

BBC bosses sensibly decided to schedule the 1950s-set midwifery drama to avoid a clash with Downton Abbey. The nuns and nurses of Nonnatus House in the East End are forced to draw on their experiences of the Blitz when an unexploded bomb shuts off electricity supplies - and there's sure to be a birth along the way.

9. THE CALL CENTRE - BBC3, December 17, 9pm

An unexpected hit for the BBC this year, this reality show follows the staff at Swansea's 'third-largest' call centre. CEO Nev Wiltshire became a cult figure for viewers in the last series, and in this festive version he sets up a Christmas choir with salesman Kieran singing solos. The episode also sees Hayley struggle to balance the budget for the office party at a working men's club - will she manage to offer both a free bar and fabulous decorations?

10. AGATHA CHRISTIE'S MARPLE - ITV, December 29, 8pm

In this new mystery, the sharp Miss Marple investigates a sinister hate campaign directed at a newly-married couple who have moved into a supposedly cursed house. After tragedy strikes, the elderly sleuth's own life is put at risk as she tries to solve the puzzle

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  • camelherder  |  December 14 2013, 3:48PM

    THE GREAT BRITISH BAKE OFF - BBC2, December 17, 8pm Who the heck wants to watch someone cook on Christmas day. Most of us will be too stuffed and asleep on the couch to watch it anyway.

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