Whistle And Ill Come To You
Why So Unmissable? Like all Christmas tales should be, this one’s creepier than your granddad trying on lipstick. John Hurt plays a retired, strictly sceptical lecturer who revisits the hotel that he and his wife went to when they were first married. There, ghostly goings-ons soon start to occur.
When’s It On? Christmas Eve, BBC2
Tenuous Film Connection? Uh, it’s John Hurt. The legend. Made a few movies?
Why So Unmissable? It’s a Doctor Who Christmas episode, for a start. But it’s also our first chance to celebrate the season with new Doctor Matt Smith, who here has a run in with Michael Gambon’s miserable scrooge-like Kazran. Yeah, it’s a re-telling of A Christmas Carol , with a distinctly Whoian bent.
When’s It On? Christmas Day, BBC1,
Tenuous Film Connection? Total Film loves it. So there.
Why So Unmissable? Two of the film world’s best Johns – Hughes and Candy – team up for a raucous family romp that features the latter playing titular buffoon Buck. He’s stranded with his brother’s kids for a week, which kicks up all kinds of hilarious hi-jinks – and some of the best one-liners Hughes ever crafted.
When’s It On? Christmas Eve, ITV3, 9pm
Why So Unmissable? E4’s coolest TV series gets itself a cool as ice Christmas special. It’s the last in the series, with the gang drawn into a plot involving a drug dealer who appears to have the ability to deal powers. Expect bold, mad drama and daring plot twists galore.
When’s It On? Sunday 19 December, E4, 10pm
Tenusous Film Connection? It's clearly inspired by big screen comic book adaps - and damn near film-like in its polished execution.
Why So Unmissable? The much-belated sequel will have been out a few weeks by the time this one lands, but it’s still worth going back and checking out the ahead-of-its-time 1982 original.
When’s It On? Christmas Eve, Sky Modern Greats, 5.30pm
Rock & Chips
Why So Unmissable? We don’t have Only Fools And Horses Christmas specials anymore (boo), so this is the next best thing. Nicholas Lyndhurst plays womaniser Freddie Robdal, a bank robber who may or may not end up being Rodney’s father.
When’s It On? Wednesday 29 December, BBC1, 9pm
Tenuous Film Connection? Lyndhurst cropped up the 1996 version of Gulliver's Travels ...
Why So Unmissable? Pixar crosses its celebrated CG animation approach with a superhero yarn and a splash of Bondian thrills. Retired married superheroes Bob and Helen Parr now have a family and are attempting to lead a normal life. But when evil Syndrome sets out for revenge against Bob’s superhero alter-ego Mr Incredible, the entire family are tipped into a globe-trotting adventure.
When’s It On? Monday 27 December, BBC1, 3.25pm
Why So Unmissable? After stunning us all with her brilliant TV movie portrayal of Enid Blyton, Helena Bonham Carter’s back on the small screen for this adap of Nigel Slater’s bestseller. And she’ brought a noticeably older Freddie Highmore with her. He’s a gentle young chap, she’s his dad’s new wife. Together they compete for Ken Scott’s affections through the art of baking.
When’s It On? Thursday 30 December, BBC1, 9pm
Tenuous Film Connection? Helena Bonham Carter’s a massive movie star. Freddie Highmore’s a teeny movie star. Consider yourself connected.
Come Rain Come Shine
Why So Unmissable? Because it both reminds us that we don’t need presents to enjoy Christmas (aaaah) and makes us feel guilty about how much cash we’ve splashed. Also, David Jason and Alison Steadman together on screen at the same time should be a calorie-free treat.
When’s It On? Monday 20 December, ITV1, 8.30pm
Tenuous Film Connection? It’s a TV movie.
Why So Unmissable? Bah humbug! For those of us not in the mood for all the Yuletide joy, Bill Murray updates Dicken’s Christmas Carol (surely the most revisited Christmas tale ever) as a high-powered and heartless TV executive who just hates Christmas.
When’s It On? Christmas Day, Channel 4, 1pm
Why So Unmissable? It was a four-year-long TV series on ITV back in the early ‘70s, but now Upstairs Downstairs is back courtesy of the BBC. They’ve given the whole thing a good lick of paint, and lured back original star Jean Marsh to reprise her role as housemaid Rose Buck. This three-part series should make for interesting comparisons with the original.
When’s It On? Boxing Day, BBC1, 9pm
Tenuous Film Connection? Jean Marsh unforgettably played the villainous Bavmorda in cult ‘80s fantasy Willow .
Why So Unmissable? Catherine Tate has therapy-by-telly, retelling her childhood through the idiot box and exercising her demons. Recreating her younger years in embarrassing detail (bed-wetting and Gary Glitter costumes), it should give an interesting insight into the actress’ formative years. In a weird spin, Tate will also play her own mother…
When’s It On? Sunday 19 December, Sky1, 9pm
Tenuous Film Connection? Catherine Tate is in the director’s chair. That’s rather film-y.
Come Fly With Me
Why So Unmissable? Matt Lucas and David Walliams are back dressing up in silly costumes and doing funny voices. But this isn’t Little Brain – Come Fly With Me is a whole other kettle of fish. Set in an airport, it employs a mockumentary approach that sees the funny pair taking on a massive haul of new characters – such as surefire funnies Nanako and Asuko, who are Japanese Martin Clunes obsessives…
When’s It On? Christmas Day, BBC1, 10pm
Tenuous Film Connection? Matt Lucas starred in this year’s Alice In Wonderland as TweedleDum and TweedleDee. Just because you dumped it from your memory banks doesn't mean it didn't happen.
Why So Unmissable? It’s a Christmas TV staple. How can it possibly be Christmas if we’ve not got the strains of ‘walking in the air’ blasting out the telly while we prepare to eat ourselves stupid?
When’s It On? Christmas Eve, Channel 4, 1.20pm
Why So Unmissable? It’s got that funny, destructive kid from Outnumbered in it. That’d be Daniel Roche, who made everybody guffaw with laughter at his portrayal of 11-year-old mischief maker Ben. Now he’s taking on the role of William Brown, an equally impish young thing – albeit one causing mayhem in the ‘50s, instead of present day.
When’s It On? Tuesday 28 December, BBC1,
Tenuous Film Connection? Just William was turned into a movie in 1940 by Graham Cutts. Nobody liked it much.
Why So Unmissable? Anti-Christmas anarchy, as a father brings home a cute and cuddly Mogwai creature for his son – which breeds a deadly brood of wicked Gremlins. Joe Dante at his absolute best.
When’s It On? Boxing Day, ITV2, 9pm
National Lampoons Christmas Vacation
Why So Unmissable? Because you can never have too much John Hughes at Christmas. Here the ‘80s guru provides the script for a Chevy Chase festive yarn, with Chase playing Clark Griswold, an accident-prone father attempting to throw the perfect Christmas. Batty and ridiculous, but ten tonnes of fun.
When’s It On? Monday 27 December, ITV2, 9pm
Ruth Jones Christmas Cracker
Why So Unmissable? Likeable Jones should prove a great host, as we get a fix of chat, music and comedy from the Gavin & Stacey star. Ricky Gervais pops along for a natter, while Miranda Hart and Will Young also spread a little Christmas cheer.
When’s It On? Monday 20 December, BBC2, 9pm
Tenuous Film Connection? Gervais has done a few of those movie things.
Shrek The Halls
Why So Unmissable? Like old Uncle Arthur it’s rolled out every year, but Shrek The Halls never fails to charm. Post- Shrek The Third and pre- Shrek Forever After , it’s a snow-dusted yarn that sees Shrek attempt to give Fiona and the family a truly special Christmas – with the help of guidebook Christmas For Village Idiots . Bags of fun.
When’s It On? Christmas Eve, BBC1, 4.55pm
Why So Unmissable? Not only is it the film that Danny Boyle broke the Academy Awards with, it’s a feel-good modern classic with a truly fantastic soundtrack. The way Boyle turns ITV gameshow Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? into a message about our life and times is a marvel.
When’s It On? Boxing Day, More4, 9.05pm
Greatest Christmas TV Moments
Why So Unmissable? If you’ve got a spare three hours on your hands on the eve of Christmas Eve (and, let’s face it, who hasn’t?), this countdown should give you a few festive chuckles. Promising Christmas crackers galore, it’s a showcase for all those great dramatic moments, sitcom specials and comedy sketches that have had a Yuletide flavour over the years.
When’s It On? Christmas Eve, Five, 9pm
Tenuous Film Connection? Plasticine film stars Wallace and Gromit make an appearance. Tenuous enough for you?
Paul OGradys Christmas
Why So Unmissable? O’Grady’s a bit like a presenter version of Marmite, but if you’re in the ‘love him’ category, this’ll be essential Christmas Eve viewage. He’s got Bette Midler on crooning a little and talking about her career, and an appearance of World Heavyweight boxing champ Dave Haye.
When’s It On? Christmas Eve, ITV1, 9pm
Tenuous Film Connection? Bette Midler’s still a movie star, right?
Why So Unmissable? Grand, lush adaptation of Boris Pasternak’s famous novel. You don’t get to be the eighth highest grossing film of all time for nothing, and Zhivago is a great example of classic Hollywood filmmaking. The plot follows a Russian poet who falls for the wife of a politician during the Bolshevik Revolution. True masterpiece.
When’s It On? Wednesday 28 December, Five, 2.25pm
Why So Unmissable? If you’ve still not seen it yet, here’s your chance. Not quite the masterpiece that it was built up to be, but still a fantastic three hour epic that packs in enough heart and visual spectacle for an entire series of Star Trek. Zoe Saldana in particular is a revelation.
When’s It On? Monday 27 December, Sky Premiere, 8pm
The Royle Family
Why So Unmissable? The first time we’ve seen the Royles in a year, and the first Christmas-themed episode in two, this new round with the family finds Barbara struggling to take on Christmas alone. Jim’s out of action after a work accident. Dave and Denise worry about their cheapie gifts. Also, there might very well be a birth.
When’s It On? Christmas Day, BBC1, 9pm
Tenuous Film Connection? Ricky Tomlinson’s had his share of film outings, including Mike Bassett: Manager and 51st State.
Blackadders Christmas Carol
Why So Unmissable? Another chance to see the classic special, an inspired redux/redo of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. It’s Christmas Eve in 1850, and Ebenezer Blackadder is visited by some horrible ancestors in a backward spin on Dickens’ tale.
When’s It On? Christmas Day, BBC2, 8.35pm
Tenuous Film Connection? We'll say "Mr Bean" and "movie", and then back slowly away.
Why So Unmissable? It’s one of the greatest Burton/Depp team-ups, as they forge a brilliantly dark fairytale. Depp’s never better as the titular Ed, the product of a scientist, and whose hands are made of scissors. Entering an American suburb, Ed is surprised by what he finds, and soon becomes a neighbourhood celebrity.
When’s It On? Christmas Day, Channel 4, 7pm
Why So Unmissable? They don’t get much more epic, so if you fancy seeing Christmas day out in style, this is the way to do it. Charlton Heston plays Prince Judah Ben-Hur, who’s betrayed by a Roman friend and sold into slavery. Then sets out for revenge. The 11 Oscars speak for themselves.
When’s It On? Christmas Day, Sky Classics, 10.45pm
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
Why So Unmissable? Another Christmas staple, but one we never tire of. Steven Spielberg presents a vision of cuddly aliens that spits in the face of the invasion horrors of yesteryear (and, uh, this year), as cute little ET gets left behind on Earth and befriends kid Elliott. The end will have the entire family blubbing.
When’s It On? Tuesday 28 December, ITV1, 2.40pm
Why So Unmissable? It’s the best of the X films. Bryan Singer’s sequel doesn’t have to contend with introducing the X-Men this time, meaning everything gets set up much quicker as Magneto attempts to break free of his plastic prison – with a little help from lythe henchwoman Mystique. Meanwhile, Nightcrawler pitches up, and Halle Berry continues to do that eyeball rolling thing.
When’s It On? Thursday 30 December, ITV1, 10.35pm
Why So Unmissable? More festive frolics from Vic and Bob, who draft in Ricky Tomlinson and Ronnie Wood for a race off – to the death. If that hasn’t already warmed your cockles, there’s also captains Jack Dee and Ulrika Johnson, while the lovely Thandie Newton stops by along with Joanna Page.
When’s It On? Thursday 30 December, BBC2, 10pm
Tenuous Film Connection? That there Thandie's a film star. Oooh, pretty.
Why So Unmissable? It’s the perfect opportunity to see how John Wayne handled the material, as Jeff Bridges and the Coen Brothers get ready to unleash their own True Grit on cinemas on 14 January. Wayne plays a past-his-best marshal who helps a young girl track down her father’s murderer.
When’s It On? Thursday 30 December, Channel 4, 1.40pm
Why So Unmissable? It provides a respite from all that festive joy. Brian De Palma’s adaptation of Stephen King’s version novel packs a fair wallop to this day – even if it suffers from typical Bad ‘70s Hair Syndrome. The final bloodbath is what you’ll remember, but everything that goes before it is equal parts dreamy and horrifying.
When’s It On? Christmas Day, Channel 4, 12.10am
Mad Mel: The Rise And Fall Of A Hollywood Icon
Why So Unmissable? A great way to catch up on just what’s been going on with Mel Gibson, this. The facts are all a bit murky, channelled by internet hearsay, persistent rumours and denials about the careering star’s life. This bio should take an unflinching look at the real Mel Gibson.
When’s It On? Sunday 19 December, Bio, 9pm
Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix
Why So Unmissable? Here’s one of the better Potter films, this one blending just enough whimsical charm in with the darker elements that the franchise is perhaps best known for. Harry and chums fall under the tyrannical rule of Dolores Umbridge, who usurps Dumbledore as headmaster of Hogwarts...
When’s It On? Sunday 19 December, ITV1, 6.30pm
Close Up With Martin Scorsese
Why So Unmissable? It should provide us with a fascinating insight into the way Scorsese works. This doc series follows seven incredibly lucky young artists, who get to spend a whole year being mentored by some industry big wigs. First up is this episode, in which they meet Martin Scorsese. We’re Grinch green right now.
When’s It On? Monday 20 December, More4, 7.20pm
Fantastic Mr Fox
Why So Unmissable? It’s a marvel, and bloody marvellous. Wes Anderson transfers the themes of his live-action films over to stop-motion animation, the result both beautiful and suitably barmy. Also, we love that Mr Fox wears the same pyjamas as a character from The Darjeeling Limited.
When’s It On? Christmas Eve, Sky Premiere, 5.50pm
Victoria Wood With All The Trimmings
Why So Unmissable? An avalanche of movie stars crop up in Wood’s raucous Christmas special. Deep breath: Julie Walters, Alan Rickman, Richard E. Grant, Imelda Staunton and Pete Postlethwait all take a bow, among many others. Classic.
When’s It On? Wednesday 22 December, BBC2, 8.05pm
Tenuous Film Connection? We're not typing out that guest list again...
North By Northwest
Why So Unmissable? It’s got bugger all to do with Christmas, but it’s on this Sunday, so why not? Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece remains one of the best action films ever made, as labyrinthine and surprising as they come – with a genuinely brilliant climax atop Mount Rushmore. Cary Grant puts in one of his finest ever performances.
When’s It On? Sunday 19 December, TCM, 9pm
Why So Unmissable? Stephen Fry’s hilariously acerbic sort-of-quiz show for budding boffins gets magical, as he invites Daniel Radcliffe and Graham Norton on for a few founds of grey matter games. You learn and you laugh at the same time. Perfect.
When’s It On? Christmas Eve, BBC1, 9.30pm
Tenuous Film Connection? It’s Harry Potter!