The Christmas TV schedule often brings new dramas, comedy specials and festive films to enjoy as you relax with the family, recovering from roast dinners and far too much pudding.
Obviously, with COVID-19 doing its best to spoil everything in 2020, things will be a bit different for many people this year, but hopefully you’ll still be entertained by what the BBC has to offer. Here’s our guide to the best shows on BBC1, 2 & 4 this yuletide season.
- 09:00 - Kung Fu Panda
- 10:25 - Kung Fu Panda Holiday
- 10:45 - Kung Fu Panda 3
- 12:10 - BBC News and Weather
- 14:15 - Cars 3
- 15:50 - BBC News and Weather
- 16:15 - Paddington 2
- 17:55 - Worzel Gummidge: Saucy Nancy
- 18:55 - The Wall Versus Celebrities
- 19:45 - Would I lie To You? at Christmas
- 20:15 - Eastenders
- 20:40 - Gavin and Stacey Christmas Special
- 21:45 - Miranda's Games with Showbiz Names
- 22:15 - Have I Got 30 Years For You
- 23:15 - The Two Ronnies Sketchbook
- 09:35 - Scrooge
- 11:25 - Talking Pictures: Christmas Classics
- 12:10 - Bargain Hunt
- 12:55 - Winter's Weirdest Events
- 13:25 - Meet Me In St Louis
- 15:15 - Paddington: The Man Behind The Bear
- 16:15 - Morecambe and Wise
- 17:15 - The Two Ronnies Sketchbook
- 17:30 - Carols from Kings
- 18:45 - Remarkable Places to Eat
- 19:45 - University Challenge
- 20:15 - Cinderella: A Comic Relief Pantomime for Christmas
- 21:15 - Great British Menu
- 22:15 - Martin's Close
- 22:45 - The Dead Room
- 23:15 - The Lost Ghost Story with Mark Gatiss
- 19:00 - Fanny Craddock Cooks for Christmas
- 19:15 - The Joy of Painting
- 19:45 - Viva Las Vegas
- 21:05 - Elvis: The Rebirth of the King
- 22:05 - TOTP2
- 22:55 - ...Sings Elvis
- 23:55 - All Aboard! The Sleigh Ride
BBC1 Highlights - Christmas Eve
Kung Fu Panda series
Starting at 9am
Christmas Eve starts off with a classic animation triple bill as we follow the adventures of Jack Black’s Kung Fu Panda through the original Kung Fu Panda movie, followed by Kung Fu Panda Holiday and Kung Fu Panda 3. Plenty to keep the kids, and some of us adults, busy.
To continue the animated fun, there’s the UK TV premiere of Cars 3, which this time sees Lightning McQueen have to contend with new, faster racers that want to take away his Piston Cup title.
Worzel Gummidge: Saucy Nancy
People of a certain age will remember the late 70s children’s TV show about a talking scarecrow and his love for another inanimate mannikin in the form of Aunt Sally. This year we’ll be treated with another updated adventure for Worzel starring Mackenzie Crook, with Shirley Henderson in the titular Saucy Nancy role.
Would I lie to you? at Christmas
You can’t beat a good panel show to bring a bit of festive cheer, so tune into this modern-day equivalent of Call My Bluff for some laughs. Bring your own sherry to increase the merriment.
You can always expect high drama in the Christmas episodes of the long-running soap, and this year should prove no different. There are shows on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day, so that leaves plenty of time for things to go awry in Walford. The big plot point this year is the return of an old character, but who will it be?
Miranda’s Games with Showbiz Names
The name says it all really. Join Miranda Hart and an all-star cast to see out Christmas Eve with a smile on your face.
Midnight Mass at Clifton Cathedral
Have your candles at the ready, as the traditional meaning for Christmas is celebrated with late night worship from Bristol’s Clifton Cathedral.
BBC2 Highlights - Christmas Eve
Meet Me in St Louis
Ok, it’s hardly Christmas themed, but if you fancy a classic 1940s musical starring Judy Garland, then this will be a fine way to spend a couple of hours.
Remarkable Places to Eat
Michel Roux Jr has a fine job, being able to take his friend out for sumptuous food while we all watch on with rumbling tummies. This time it’s Bristol that receives them, with promises are Christmas treats that include Jamaican Jerk Turkey. We’re hungry all ready.
Christmas University Challenge
The academic quiz show returns this Christmas, with contests starting on the 21 December and progressing through to the final that will be aired on New Year’s Day. Christmas Eve sees Nottingham and Sheffield going head to head, so you can tune in for at a little mental exercise from the comfort of your sofa.
The Great British Christmas Menu
The culinary adventures continue on BBC2 with this special episode that sees top British chefs and previous winners of the series trying to outdo each other with festive feasts, all of which will be served to those who were the heroes of the coronavirus outbreak this year.
BBC4 Highlights - Christmas Eve
The Joy of Painting
The king of calm, Bob Ross, is on every day of Christmas painting winter scenes. If the hustle and bustle of the holidays are getting on top off you, put this on and feel the serenity wash over you once more.
Viva Las Vegas
For some reason, BBC4 has a series of Elvis shows on this Christmas, with the 1964 movie Viva Las Vegas kicking off the evening. It’s followed by a documentary about his career, a Top of the Pops Elvis special, and finally a collection of other singers covering his work. Guess it really must be the season of the coming of the King.
All Aboard! The Sleigh Ride
If you’ve ever wanted to tap your inner Santa, then this two-hour real-time recording of a traditional reindeer sleigh journeying across the artic could be a good place to start.
- 08:55 - The Gruffalo
- 09:25 - The Gruffalo's Child
- 09:50 - Lou
- 10:00 - Christmas Day Service
- 11:00 - The Snail and the Whale
- 11:25 - Zog
- 11:55 - Top of the Pops Christmas Special
- 12:55 - BBC News and Weather
- 13:10 - Inner Workings
- 13:15 - Early Man
- 14:35 - Zog and the Flying Doctors
- 15:00 - The Queen's Christmas Broadcast
- 15:10 - Coco
- 16:45 - Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special
- 18:00 - Michael McIntyre's Christmas Wheel
- 19:00 - Blankety Blank Christmas Special
- 19:40 - Call the Midwife
- 21:10 - Eastenders
- 22:05 - Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas Special
- 08:10 - The Gruffalo and Me: The Remarkable Julia Donaldson
- 09:00 - Reindeer Family & Me
- 10:00 - Inside the Factory
- 11:00 - Talking Pictures : Gene Kelly
- 11:35 - Singin' in the Rain
- 13:15 - Some Like it Hot
- 15:15 - Cue the Queen: Celebrating the Christmas Speech
- 16:15 - The Morecombe and Wise Show (Christmas 1975)
- 17:20 - To the Manor Born
- 17:50 - The Queen
- 18:00 - Matthew Bourne's The Red Shoes
- 19:40 - Dad's Army
- 20:20 - Victoria Wood's All Day Breakfast
- 21:10 - Victoria Wood's Secret List
- 22:10 - La La Land
- 19:00 - TOTP2 (Christmas 2010)
- 19:40 - Royal Opera All-Star Gala
- 21:10 - Maria by Callas
- 23:05 - Florence Foster Jenkins
BBC1 Highlights - Christmas Day
Top of the Pops Christmas Special
It’s been a rough year for most of us, so take an hour out while the turkey is cooking to enjoy the songs that made the biggest impact in 2020. There will be performances from Joel Corry (ft MNEK), Clean Bandit & Mabel, Celeste, and Axel x AJ Tracy.
Zog and the Flying Doctors
From Julia Donaldson, author of The Gruffalo (which is due to be shown earlier in the day), comes this exciting animated adventure with flying orange dragons, alongside the aforementioned doctors, and the need to rescue one of their number from the clutches of an evil Uncle. An all-star cast, including Lenny Henry, contribute the voices to this charming tale.
Strictly: The Christmas Countdown
Coronavirus has dealt a blow to any hopes of a normal Strictly instalment this Christmas, but you’ll still be able to get a bit of glitz and fleet-footed action as BBC1 counts down the 25 favourite dances as voted for by the viewers.
Expect to see John Sergeant and Ann Widdecombe strut their stuff once more on Christmas Day.
Michael McIntyre’s Christmas Wheel
Holly Willoughby, Alan Carr and Oti Mabuse join Michael McIntyre in this Christmas edition of the gameshow. Who will prove the smartest and raise the most amount of money for charity?
Blankety Blank Christmas Special
While there have been complaints that most of the content this year is repeats, many will surely welcome the rejuvenation of the classic gameshow Blankety Blank. Bradley Walsh will take charge, following in the footsteps of Terry Wogan and Les Dawson, with a collection of celebrities trying their best to fill in the blanks.
Call the Midwife Christmas Special
The producers of Call the Midwife have managed a very special delivery of their own with a festive episode of the hugely popular drama. As you hand around the mince pies, you can enjoy more maternity-based adventures with a circus arriving in Poplar to the delight of the residents, while one character will end up in hospital but not in a professional capacity.
BBC2 Highlights - Christmas Day
Singin’ in the Rain
What better way to enjoy the post-present madness of Christmas morning than watching one of the best musicals of all time. Gene Kelly takes centre stage, but Debbie Reynolds and Stanley Donen are equally charming and excellent in a tale of the transition from silent movies to ‘talkies’. Fantastic dance routines, memorable songs and a great story. Good morning indeed.
The Red Shoes Ballet
This production of the classic ballet sees the Lermontov company bring some grace and culture to BBC2 on Christmas Day. Beautiful music is included free of charge.
Victoria Wood: The Secret List
This celebration of the career of one of Britain’s best-loved comedians is drawn from a list of her favourite sketches that Victoria Wood assembled before her sad death in 2016. A range of celebrities, both fans and many who worked with her, act as talking-head hosts, stitching together over 20 sketches that show the progression of Wood and the comedic genius she truly was. Bittersweet, but very enjoyable was to spend the evening.
La La Land
Finish the day with this multiple-oscar winning tale of ambition, dreams and the costs that come with following them. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling star in this beautiful but bittersweet movie.
BBC4 Highlights - Christmas Day
Royal Opera All-Star Gala
A collection of arias, duets, and choruses performed by some of the biggest opera stars in the world. There’s sections from Bizet’s Carmen, Rossini’s Barber of Seville and more.
Maria by Callas
Legendary Opera singer Maria Callas recounts her career in her words, via the diligent editing of interviews, performances and home movies compiled by documentary maker Tom Volf.
- 08:55 - Madagascar Escape 2 Africa
- 10:15 - Penguins of Madagascar
- 11:35 - Madly Madagascar
- 12:00 - Football Focus
- 13:00 - BBC News and Weather
- 13:20 - Brave
- 14:45 - MOTD Live: Aston Villa v Crystal Palace
- 17:00 - Grease
- 18:45 - The Repair Shop at Christmas
- 19:45 - The Great British Sewing Bee: Celebrity Christmas Special
- 20:45 - Eastenders
- 21:05 - Dunkirk
- 22:45 - BBC News and Weather
- 22:55 - Match of the Day
- 08:40 - Operation Snow Tiger (Ep 1)
- 09:40 - Operation Snow Tiger (Ep 2)
- 10:40 - Kiss Me Kate
- 12:25 - Talking Pictures: Musicals
- 13:10 - Calamity Jane
- 14:50 - Cinderella
- 16:30 - Wallace & Gromit: A Close Shave
- 17:00 - Dad's Army
- 17:30 - The Morecambe and Wise Show (Lost Tapes Ep 1)
- 18:10 - The Morecambe and Wise Show (Lost Tapes Ep 2)
- 18:40 - The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
- 20:35 - University Challenge
- 21:05 - Victoria Wood's Secret List
- 22:05 - Victoria Wood Standup
- 23:40 - Tom Jones and Beverlet Knight's Gospel Christmas
- 19:00 - Royal Ballet All-Star Gala
- 20:30 - The Two Ronnies Sketchbook
- 21:00 - Inspector Montalbano
- 22:50 - Suite Francaise
BBC1 Highlights - Boxing Day
Settle the kids down with Pixar’s flame-haired hero as she fights for the right to parity. Magic, comedy and a central character with the best barnet in animation history.
Another classic movie to enjoy this Christmas. Watch John Travolta and Olivier Newton-John sing their way into your hearts with this coming of age musical whose songs truly survive the test of time. Also, with the cold wind blowing outside, a brief journey to the summer of the 70s could prove a welcome relief.
The Repair Shop at Christmas
The Barn will be opening its doors again on Boxing Day, fixing up items with emotional significance for their owners. If you haven’t enjoyed this surprisingly moving show before, make sure you make some time for it this Christmas.
Great British Sewing Bee Celebrity Christmas Special
BBC fires up the sewing machines once more, as a group of celebrities compete to fashion garments that impress the judges and don’t fall apart when touched. Watch Denise Van Outen, Sara Pascoe, Dr Ranj Singh and Shirley Ballas wield their thimbles in anger for the chance to be the Christmas champion.
BBC2 Highlights - Boxing Day
BBC2 continues its run of classic movies with Doris Day starring as a tom-boy in the wild west. Songs like Once I Had a Secret Love, Black Hills of Dakota, and Just Blew in from the Windy City all add to the comedy, charm and sheer joy of this old gem.
Wallace & Gromit: A Close Shave
It might be getting on in years now, but this Wallace and Gromit adventure still remains a hilarious instalment in the cheese-fuelled duo’s canon. What could go wrong when Wallace invents a sheep-shearing machine? Plenty, especially when an unscrupulous robo-dog gets in on the action.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Based on the novel of the same name, this romantic drama set just after the end of world war two sees a newly published detective-novel writer receiving an invite from a literary society on the island. She travels there to promote her work, but finds a place recovering from Nazi occupation and a people who make her want to stay.
BBC4 Highlights - Boxing Day
Ice Dream: Lapland’s Snow Show
This documentary explores what happened when a group of artists and architects were gathered together in Lap Land and set the task of creating art from ice and snow.
Royal Ballet All-Star Gala
Accompanying the Royal Opera All-Star Gala, the Royal Ballet performs highlights from Don Quixote, the modern Untouchable by Hofesh Schecter, and other classics, while Natalia Osipova dances the Dying Swan from Swan Lake.
For even more choice, be sure to read our guides to the best Christmas TV and best Christmas movies on Netflix, Prime, Disney+ and NowTV.