Opinion

Christmas TV guide 2023: The gentle pleasures of festive telly

Christmas telly is a gentle festive panacea. It’s pixelated wallpaper, a burbling sound in the corner, a big rectangle to fixate upon. We don’t need surprises

Hannah Waddingham

Hannah Waddingham in Home For Christmas. Image: Robert Viglasky/Apple TV

Complaining about Christmas TV is a grand tradition that I’ve been indulging in since I was a child. Even now – when there’s so much content available that you could binge it until the end of time and still not even make a dent – you’ll never find anything you want to watch (apart from maybe Ghosts.)

But I guess that’s the point. Christmas telly is a gentle festive panacea. It’s pixelated wallpaper, a burbling sound in the corner, a big rectangle to fixate upon. We don’t need surprises. We know Bruce Willis will save the Nakatomi Plaza and Kevin’s parents will eventually figure out where they left him. And even if we’re watching a new series of a much-hyped drama, we’ll be in a Quality Street stupor anyway and we’ll just remember that Jamie Dornan was in it – something about a guy going on his holidays? So, with that in mind, let us reach for the remote and a half-empty packet of biscuits for cheese and see what delights await…

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Mary Berry’s Highland Christmas (BBC Two) 

Hoots! Mary is floating up to Scotland to enjoy a good old Highland Christmas – which I imagine will be a phantasmagoria of magical castles, Aberdeen Angus wellington and bowls of cranachan eaten by a fireplace adorned with stag’s heads. As a long- time resident of Scotland, all I can tell you is that she’d better stock up on some Irn-Bru for the morning after. (Get the original full sugar version, though, Mary doll. Oh, and a roll and square sausage.) 

Rob and Rom vs Lapland (Sky Max)

I like Romesh Ranganathan, but he’s on TV so much doing so many different wacky things that I’m starting to get concerned for his sanity. Can someone give him a bit of annual leave? This time he’s been sent to Lapland with his comedy partner Rob Beckett to try to be an elf. The mere thought of it is making me want to book into the Priory for exhaustion. 

Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special (BBC One) 

Strictly comes into its own at this time of year. The spangly, celebratory inanity, the flailing limbs, the bitchy remarks and the inevitable sweaty humiliation. It’s just like the office Christmas party, but with slightly fewer sequins and more natural looking makeup. This year’s line-up features Keisha from Sugababes. She hasn’t cracked a smile since 1996, so I can’t wait to see her doing the Paso Doble while looking like she’s about to say something mean about your River Island puffa jacket. 

Doctor Who (BBC One)

In my house, Doctor Who had to be watched in complete silence because my brother used to tape every episode by leaning a cassette recorder against the unforgiving wooden slats of the Rediffusion speaker. Even now, no talking is allowed. This has led me to resent all things Tardis-related, but at least this year I have Ncuti Gatwa to cheer me up while I’m being told off for talking over an important plot point about a sonic screwdriver. 

Hannah Waddingham: Home For Christmas (Apple TV)

This looks to be a variety show at the London Coliseum, starring the woman from Ted Lasso/the Baileys adverts. It feels like nobody really knows what to do with this towering woman with the perma-grin and the sequinned gowns. Is she the new Jimmy Tarbuck? 

Nigella’s Amsterdam Christmas Special (BBC Two) 

I’m sure Nigella will look bewitching as she strolls through Amsterdam, stuffing her face with stroopwaffels. But tradition dictates that she stays at home having one of her posh dinner parties, featuring a ridiculously big trifle in a jewel-coloured cut-glass dish. I am outraged that they’ve taken her out of her North London kitchen/studio. Thanks, BBC – Christmas is ruined.

Lucy Sweet is a freelance journalist

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine, which exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income. To support our work buy a copy!

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