Television-watching has become a Christmas Day tradition in the United Kingdom. BBC One’s approach to this is not just to broadcast programmes of a Christmassy nature, but to also make them events. Christmas Day is, for BBC One, “television special day”, a parade of all the best shows. Part of the enjoyment of the day is waiting for one’s own favourite show to broadcast their Christmas special, while also appreciating it being broadcast on the same day as other much-loved shows. It’s our Superbowl, our Thanksgiving. The last Christmas Day broadcast to become the most-watched of the year was 2008’s A Matter of Loaf and Death, with a rating of 16.15 million.
BBC Television Director Danny Cohen has said
“This year’s Christmas line-up on BBC Television is one of our best ever. There’s world-class talent, edge of your seat drama, outstanding comedy and fantastic storytelling. Across our channels we will bring families together and provide something for everyone.”
Christmas Day begins with the Christmas Eve Roman Catholic Midnight Mass From Arundel Cathedral with the Dean, the Reverend Canon Tim Madeley, which leads into Christmas Day programming. Carols include O Come All Ye Faithful, Silent Night and Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. Elizabeth Stratford directs the Choir, who’ll perform Gounod in C and A Boy is Born, composed by Will Todd. The organ will be played by Daniel Moult.
The first broadcast to begin on Christmas Day is romantic comedy Sliding Doors at 01:05, a story about the delicacy of fate based on Gwyneth Paltrow’s Helen missing a train.
This will be followed by Weather for the Week Ahead at 02:40.
This will be followed by Joins BBC News at 02:45, a simulcast of BBC News through the night.
This ends at 06:00 with Breakfast, a live news show updating audiences on daily developments, while also functioning as a chat show to promote new entertainment releases.
Breakfast lasts for three hours until 09:00, when BBC One are to broadcast The Gruffalo, an animated adaptation of Julia Donaldson’s children’s book illustrated by Axel Scheffler. A mouse takes a walk through the woods looking for a nut, encountering a fox, an owl and a snake. Surviving all three encounters, he meets with the Gruffalo, a creature of terrifying description. With James Cordon and John Hurt.
Originally broadcast 25th December 2009 on BBC One.
The Gruffalo will be followed at 09:30 by another half-hour animated adaptation: On Angel Wings, a retelling of the Nativity by Michael Morpurgo. Eight-year-old Rachel visits her siblings for the first time as they meet Grandfather Amos for his annual tradition of a night in the hills. But Rachel reminds him of a magical night, and he recalls the adventure he had, in-which he, as a shepherd boy, was flown away by Angel Gabriel to be the first visitor to the newborn king. On Angel Wings and The Gruffalo between 09:00 and 10:00 form the children’s hour every Christmas Day before the correspondence that takes place every Christmas Day on BBC One at 10:00:
This year’s is Come and Join the Celebration, a live broadcast of the Christmas morning service from St. George’s Church. This features both carols and modern songs. This timeslot also always lasts for an hour, leading this year into several hours of repeat programming.
This begins at 11:00 with the fifth Only Fools and Horses Christmas Special, A Royal Flush. In this episode, Rodney becomes friends with Lady Maylebury, and when a romance develops, Del Boy attempts to profit from it.
Originally broadcast on 25th December 1986 on BBC One.
The following repeat is A Grand Day Out at 12:00. This BAFTA-winning claymation was the first motion picture of the Wallace and Gromit universe, in-which inventor Wallace constructs a rocket to transport himself to the Moon in search of cheese, and discover more than they expected.
Originally broadcast on 24th December 1990 on Channel 4.
At 12:25, Gnomeo and Juliet, a retelling of Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. The family feud of the Capulets and the Montagues is replaced with the rivalry between the Mr. Capulet’s red garden gnomes and Ms. Montague’s blue garden gnomes. Capulet’s red gnome Juliet meets Montague’s blue gnome Romeo, and they fall in love. But the red gnome Tybalt is the blue gnome Romeo’s worst enemy, and he must keep his romance with her secret.
Originally released 23rd January 2011 by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.
Gnomeo and Juliet divides the two-acts of an un-consecutive double-bill set in the Wallace and Gromit universe: at 13:40, the Shaun the Sheep episode We Wish Ewe a Merry Christmas, in-which the animals form a secret plan to decorate the farmhouse to give the farmer a memorable Christmas.
Originally broadcast 17th December 2010 on CBBC.
This will be followed at 13:50 by BBC News at One, which isn’t actually at one.
At 14:00 hours, Top of the Pops will return for a Christmas special. The show’s format involves that week’s musicians playing in the studio, which reveals the top ten tracks in the charts. The show was cancelled in 2006 (blame YouTube), but has returned for Christmas specials, as it’s an opportunity for ratings. The musicians featured will be determined by whoever’s in the top of the charts, and this will reveal which song is the UK’s Christmas number one single, which is the British music chart’s Christmas anticipated tradition. Last year’s was Sam Bailey with Skyscraper. Hosted by Fearne Cotton and Reggie Yates.
At 15:00; The Queen, giving the British monarch’s annual Christmas message, and broadcast on television since 1957. It rotates biennially between BBC One, ITV and Sky. This year, it’s to be broadcast on BBC One at the traditional time of 15:00, at which point, its embargo expires.
At 15:10, BBC One premieres Puss in Boots, part of the annual tradition of showing family features on Christmas Day. Puss in Boots is another spin-off, after Shaun the Sheep. Puss in Boots teams-up with a thief and old friend Humpty Dumpty to locate the magic beans and steal the goose that lays golden eggs…
Originally released in cinemas on 28th October 2011 by Paramount Pictures.
At 17:00, Bruce Forsyth returns to co-host, with Tess Daly, the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special, in-which the professionals dance with celebrity contestants from previous seasons, and the winner is decided by studio audience vote. The lineup this year, who’ll be dancing to a pantomime theme, is:
- Series 10 champions Louis Smith and Aliona Vilani
- Series 11 finalists Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Aljaž Skorjanec
- Series 7 champions Chris Hollins and Iveta Lukosiute
- Series 6 runners-up Rachel Stevens and Tristan McManus
- Series 10 semi-finalists Lisa Riley and Robin Windsor
- Series 9 contestants Russell Grant and Joanne Clifton.
The judges are also to embrace the pantomime theme, with Len Goodman becoming Baron Hardup, Craig Revel Horwood the Evil Queen, Darcey Bussell the Fairy Godmother and Bruno Tonioli Buttons. Forsyth will also dance with the female professionals to Winter Wonderland.
At 18:15, Doctor Who: Last Christmas will be Peter Capaldi’s first Christmas Special in the role, assuming it in the previous Christmas Special, The Time of the Doctor. Jenna Coleman also stars as Clara Oswald, who’s been reported by the Daily Mirror to have been originally departing in the episode, but having deciding to stay for the next season. Nick Frost guest stars as Santa Claus, with Nathan McMullen as Wolf, Dan Starkey as Ian (who also featured as Strax in The Snowmen and two other Sontarans in The Time of the Doctor, being the first actor to appear in three consecutive Doctor Who Christmas Specials as different characters), with Michael Troughton, Natalie Gumede and Faye Marsay. A preview’s already been shown during Children in Need, which is also a tradition. Claus will assist the Doctor and Oswald when they’re trapped at the North Pole, surrounded by Sleepers and Dream Crabs.
Frost said of his Claus role “I wanted to make him slightly edgy and cross at times and a bit like a gangster. I want viewers to be kept in the dark as to his intentions, so you don’t know if he’s good or if he’s evil”, while Coleman has said of the plot: “It’s written in sections and it’s about dreaming – what is real and what is not”.
At 18:30, BBC One HD begins broadcasting This is BBC One HD, a cinematography-based clip montage of BBC One programming available on BBC One. This is filler content during regional programming.
At 19:00, the final fifteen minutes of Doctor Who: Last Christmas will be broadcast.
Leading-out Doctor Who at 19:15 is the penultimate episode of Miranda. 2013’s Season three ended with the cliffhanger of Miranda receiving two proposals, and the special is planned to conclude that cliffhanger. The special was announced by star Miranda Hart on Chatty Man Summer Special, and later confirmed in The Sun that two Christmas specials would be made. Hart said:
“I’m actually coming to the end of the whole sitcom. People have loved the character, which is so nice and amazing for me. But as she gets older, I don’t want her to keep falling over and making a fool of herself.”
Speaking on The Jonathan Ross Show, she said
“There wasn’t a dry eye during our final scene, I have to say. The next story I wanted to write was what I’ve done, and it ended up feeling like the right time to end it. I’ve just written a real finale moment. On the night, when we filmed it, we all got very emotional, because we did realise it felt like the end, and, watching it back in the edit, I’ve cried every time I’ve seen it. It’s because I realised I’ve written the end of it. Yeah, it is sad.”
Hart also co-stars in Call the Midwife at 19:50, which will be the first episode without Jessica Raine as Jennifer Lee. Hart and Helen George return as Camilla Noakes and Beatrice Franklin. Two pregnant teenagers are sent to a mother and baby home, Chummy and Patsy disapprove of its conditions, and begin campaigning for more care for the residents, and to convince them to give-up their children, prompting Shelagh Turner to reflect on the life of her own adopted daughter. Cynthia discovers a mystery that involves a couple struggling to survive after leaving a recently-closed mental home, while the Nonnatus House Christmas concert is still being organised.
At 21:00, EastEnders will focus on Mick Carter’s attempts to make his family’s first Christmas in Albert Square perfect. He, and the Carter family, also came into to the show in the last Christmas special. But this episode is also the climax of the year’s storylines, in-which character secrets are finally revealed, which Danny Dyer describes as “explosive”. Linda’s pregnant after being raped by Dean Wicks, and Shirley hasn’t revealed to Mick that she’s his mother, not sister. The Beales spend their first Christmas special without the murdered Lucy.
At 22:05, Mrs. Brown’s Boys Christmas special, Mammy’s Tickled Pink follows the success of last year’s Christmas special, the most watched programme of the day. This year, Rory’s getting plastic surgery, Cathy has a secret, and the family want a budget Secret Santa. Winnie also creates tension with her unusual Christmas tree.
At 22:40, Michael McIntyre is to host Michael McIntyre’s Very Christmassy Christmas Show, featuring numerous stand-up guests, with interludes between acts from himself, along with audience participation and music. Mrs. Brown guest stars. Robbie Williams surprises shoppers with an unexpected performance, Rob Brydon and Barbara Windsor will appear in the show that ends with a sing-song from pianist Jamie Cullum.
BBC News at Ten is then broadcast at 23:40.
With BBC Weather at 23:52.
Christmas Day programming concludes with On Christmas Night, a reflection of the day, hosted by Adjoa Andoh at 23:55.
The Mirror reports that 63% of programmes broadcast by the UK’s “main four” consists of repeats.
01:05 Sliding Doors
02:40 Weather for the Week Ahead
02:45 Joins BBC News
09:00 The Gruffalo
09:30 On Angel Wings
10:00 Come and Join the Celebration
11:00 Only Fools and Horses: A Royal Flush
12:00 A Grand Day Out
12:25 Gnomeo and Juliet
13:40 Shaun the Sheep: We Wish Ewe A Merry Christmas
13:50 BBC News at One
14:00 Top of the Pops
15:00 The Queen
15:10 Puss in Boots
17:00 Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special
18:15 Doctor Who: Last Christmas
18:30 This is BBC One HD
19:00 Doctor Who: Last Christmas
19:50 Call the Midwife
22:05 Mrs. Brown’s Boys
22:40 Michael McIntyre’s Very Christmassy Christmas Show
23:40 BBC News at Ten
23:52 BBC Weather
23:55 On Christmas Night