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EFL CUP - MAN UTD - MOURINHO PRE BRISTOL CITY

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho talking ahead of the EFL Cup tie v Bristol City - *** EMBARGO UNTIL 12:00pm ON TUESDAY 19TH DECEMBER 2017 ***

EFL CUP - MAN UTD - MOURINHO PRE BRISTOL CITY

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho talking ahead of the EFL Cup tie v Bristol City - *** EMBARGO UNTIL 12:00pm ON TUESDAY 19TH DECEMBER 2017 ***

EFL CUP - MAN UTD - MOURINHO PRE BRISTOL CITY

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho talking ahead of the EFL Cup tie v Bristol City - *** EMBARGO UNTIL 12:00pm ON TUESDAY 19TH DECEMBER 2017 ***

EFL CUP - MAN UTD - MOURINHO PRE BRISTOL CITY

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho talking ahead of the EFL Cup tie v Bristol City - *** EMBARGO UNTIL 12:00pm ON TUESDAY 19TH DECEMBER 2017 ***

West Brom 1 Manchester United 2: Romelu Lukaku sends message to his critics as United survive late wobble

Romelu Lukaku did not celebrate his goal. Jose Mourinho did not either and it now appears to be a deliberate approach being taken by Manchester United as they grimly attempt to stay in touch with the runaway Premier League leaders, Manchester City. Do not celebrate early, Mourinho said after this victory over West Bromwich Albion, which reduced City’s advantage at the top back to 11 points; and we are still one game short of half-way through the Premier League campaign. But that fact is giving Mourinho motivation. And he is using it to motivate his players. There is, the gathering theme appears to be, a long way to go with the inference being that we, the media, and also City themselves, maybe, have started those celebrations far too early. Titles are not won in December but they can be lost then and the fact that United have responded to the adversity of losing the Manchester derby with two narrow victories will give Mourinho a shot of satisfaction. However that will be tempered slightly by yet another injury with captain Antonio Valencia hobbling off with an apparently damaged hamstring. The truth is that United did not play well in the midweek win over Bournemouth and were not substantially better here, and it will not please him that his team were reduced to time-wasting – leading to bookings for Nemanja Matic and Marcos Rojo – and running the ball into the corner, by Anthony Martial, as they ran down the clock. That followed an unlikely late rally from Albion, who were far better in the second-half, after a limp performance that will have certainly concerned Alan Pardew. The Baggies are still waiting for the bounce but, at least, they scored – the first goal under their new manager in his fourth game in charge – and they also had a strong claim for a penalty when Ashley Young barged James McClean into United goalkeeper David De Gea. That could have salvaged an unlikely but precious point. Jesse Lingard doubles United's lead with a deflected shot from distance Credit: Reuters Instead the result pushes second-placed United onto 41 points, 10 ahead of seventh-placed Tottenham Hotspur, who finished last season as runners-up and 17 points ahead of them which is clear evidence of substantial progress under Mourinho. The frustration for him, and United, is the re-definition of the campaign by Pep Guardiola’s City who are frankly playing football on a different plane from the rest of the league at present. And United laboured. It was far from fluid and yet they ended the first period two goals up and apparently game over. Until they scored it was turgidly inconsequential, in truth, but then Oliver Burke, not for the first time, and on his first league start for Albion, sloppily lost possession and Juan Mata pushed the ball out wide to Marcus Rashford who shifted it back onto his right foot and crossed for Lukaku to rise in between Jonny Evans and Kieran Gibbs – why was the latter marking such a hulking striker? – and power a superb header beyond Ben Foster and high into the net.   Cue, again, the debate over whether or not Lukaku can only do it against the lesser teams as that was his 31st goal in 39 matches against the ‘non-big-six’ sides. Lukaku did not celebrate – just as he had not celebrated his headed goal against Bournemouth – and while that may have partly been about, in this case, respect for the club where he spent a successful season on loan it also appeared more than that. It appeared, despite Mourinho saying it was because he had not celebrated either, a pointed message to the critics which is a little misguided although his manager will not care. Maybe he is fuelling that sense of injustice. Gareth Barry pokes home from a few yards to get West Brom back into it Credit: Getty Images United turned the screw. Matic fed the ball in to Lukaku who found Mata who laid it off to Jesse Lingard and his low shot would have been covered by Foster only for Ahmed Hegazi to try and block with the ball spinning off his boot to wrong-foot the goalkeeper. Albion were out of luck and United appeared out of sight. Pardew withdrew Claudio Yacob at half-time, bringing on 36-year-old Gareth Barry, and it made a difference as did his later substitutions – with Jay Rodriguez and Chris Brunt also coming on. Suddenly there was a bit more urgency and aggression, which rose even further when they eventually switched to a more direct 4-4-2, and when a corner was won Brunt’s delivery caused panic in the United defence. Jonny Evans attempted to head home, the ball sailing over him and rebounding off Rodriguez. It flew back into a thicket of players with Barry calmly stroking it past De Gea from close-range. The dynamic, as so often in the Premier League shifted, and Albion had unexpected belief. Suddenly, and for the first time, United were under pressure with Rodriguez reaching another Brunt cross only to bullet his header just wide with De Gea beaten. Then Barry had a shot blocked with Mourinho’s anxiety rising as the four minutes of added time ran into five. So Albion remain in the bottom three, facing a fight against relegation, with their next fixture, away to Stoke City now taking on even greater importance given the plight of both clubs. United, after their Carabao Cup quarter-final against Bristol City on Wednesday, face Leicester City away. Mourinho will demand they do not relent, that they push City as much as they can in the hope that the champions-elect have been proclaimed far too early. 4:07PM FT: West Brom 1 Man Utd 2 Full time! 77 comfortable minutes for United followed by some desperate defending. But it's three points and they stay in second - 11 points behind Man City.  4:05PM 93 minutes Good close control from Martial to trap and aerial ball and win United a free-kick. West Brom shouldn't get another chance from here.  4:04PM Chance missed to finish the game Rojo smashed a long ball forward and Lukaku was in behind the West Brom defence, Evans did well to get back at him and force him onto his right foot and his shot bobbles wide.  4:02PM Four minutes added time More danger as Hegazi swings a ball in but Barry's shot is blocked.  4:01PM 89 minutes A rare spell of football from United as Martial keeps it in the corner. 4:00PM 87 minutes Very nearly a calamity from Rojo at the back post, skewing behind for a corner under no pressure. Brunt's delivery is perfect, evading De Gea and finding Evans at the back post. Matic does just about enough and the ball bounces almost across the line into De Gea's arms.  3:57PM 84 minutes CHANCE! Will West Brom fashion another one? Brunt swings in a tremendous cross from the left, and Rodriguez gets the run on Jones but gets too much on the header and it flies wide of the front post.  3:55PM 82 minutes Another ball thrown into the United box, but strong defending by Jones wins a foul. De Gea once again kicks it long towards Lukaku and again it does not stick.  3:54PM 81 minutes United inviting pressure through their own carelessness in possession. Gibbs swings a ball in, and Rodriguez attempts a  ridiculously ambitious swivel and volley. Gets it on target, but would have been better off looking for a lay-off.  3:52PM 80 minutes The game was drifting aimlessly, but now the crowd are up. Mix-up between Brunt and Gibbs lets United's defence have a breather. Mourinho was going to bring on Martial before the goal, and he stuck with that conviction.  3:50PM GOAL! Barry - West Brom get one back From the resulting corner, West Brom find their lifeline. Scruffy defending from United, Rojo gets beaten at the back post and the ball trickles across the six-yard box. It was begging to be tucked away and Gareth Barry was the man to stick his toe out and get his team back into this.  3:48PM 76 minutes The away fans have been signing his name for a while, and Anthony Martial is ready to come on. Phil Jones slips in the United area which gives Rondon a yard to shoot, and it deflects behind for a West Brom corner. 3:46PM 73 minutes Lazy forward play from Rondon not to get himself back onside. Much better moments later however, Hegazi steps out of defence and fires a risky vertical pass into Brunt who then feeds Rondon down the side's of United's centre backs. His left-foot shot is low and straight at De Gea. 3:43PM 71 minutes Alan Pardew rolling the dice: Chris Brunt enters the fray. He has excellent set-piece delivery and that looks West Brom's only hope.  3:42PM 69 minutes United have taken the sting out of this match. West Brom pumping balls forward but with very little quality. 3:39PM 66 minutes Gibbs clips a long-ball over Young's head to test him out in his new position. Mr. Reliable is up to the task -his renaissance under Jose Mourinho has been magnificent. 3:36PM 64 minutes Bad news for United fans, Antonio Valencia has gone down clutching his hamstring. No messing around, he pulled up straight away which probably rules him out of the rest of the Christmas period. Marcos Rojo replaces him, and Ashley Young switches to right-back. Luke Shaw ignored... 3:34PM 62 minutes United's two No.10s Lingard and Mata are finding more space in this second-half, as West Brom's midfield pair try to push up the field and press.  3:32PM 59 minutes West Brom, to their credit, are taking chances here as they search for a way back into this. Both full-backs were committed forward and Lingard lead the United counter, exchanged passes with Lukaku before shooting straight at Foster from the edge of the area. That's what they did so well at Arsenal a few weeks ago.  3:29PM 57 minutes United respond to that short flurry of West Brom pressure. Valencia swings in a cross and the ball sits up nicely for Rashford on the half-volley at the back post. Foster was rooted,  but it flies just wide on the far post.  3:27PM 55 minutes Good chance for West Brom. Barry lifts a well-weighted ball over Jones's head that Burke latches on to. He whips a brilliant first-time ball across the area taking Smalling out of the game but neither Rondon on McClean could apply the finishing touch.  3:25PM 52 minutes Handbags at the Hawthorns. Hegazi found himself isolated with Rashford but holds him off, perhaps unlawfully. Rashford stayed down holding his face which angered the West Brom defender. Rashford then picks up and runs over to get under Hegazi's grill. Yellow card for the United man, and replays showed he went down very easily in the original incident.  3:22PM 49 minutes West Brom trying to press high up the pitch, but their defence have not pushed up behind their midfield line leaving Lingard with acres of space to receive the ball and turn. He looks for Lukaku with a chipped cross but the Belgian was flagged offside.  3:20PM 47 minutes West Brom have switched to a 4-4-2 with Barry joining Krychowiak in midfield and Burke playing right up through the middle with Rondon.  3:17PM We're back under way So can West Brom make a game of this or are United heading for a simple three points? Stay with us to find out. Gareth Barry on for West Brom. 3:16PM Jesse Lingard celebrates United's second Credit: Getty Images   3:11PM Comfortable for United despite a slow start Solid enough first-half performance by United, and the game has looked easy for them since Romelu Lukaku's opening goal. Until then, West Brom were doing well and United were struggling to zip the ball between the lines with Ander Herrera looking notably low on confidence. Jay Rodriguez is an option on the bench for Alan Pardew, but it is some quality in cenrtral midfield West Brom really need and that will have to be addressed in January.  3:01PM HT: WBA 0-2 United That's that for the first 45 minutes. 2:59PM 44 minutes A rare shout of excitement from the home crowd as Livermore makes a yard for himself 25 yards out but his effort is straight at D Gea. 2:58PM 42 minutes McClean swings a cross over the bar and out for a goal kick. West Brom have tried hard, and it is east to see what that they came into the match with a plan. Conceding the first goal has rendered it obsolete however.  2:55PM 39 minutes Matic drives United forward once again and wins a corner. West Brom are struggling to keep this game alive going into the second half. There is plenty of time remaining, they do not need to chase a goal before half time.  2:53PM 'Park the bus, park the bus...' United fans mockingly signing City's 'park the bus, park the bus' chant back at them now their team have scored two first-half goals. Not that City fans will be too bothered.  2:51PM GOAL! 2-0 United Wicked deflection to Jesse Lingard's shot off Hegazi doubles United's lead.  20 yards out just outside the area, Lingard's strike was heading towards the arms of Ben Foster until the centre back stuck his leg out and the ball ricocheted in. 2:49PM 33 minutes Panicked defending in the United area. Nyom does well to drive past Matic and swing a cross in that was only partially blocked by Smalling at the near post. Valencia was on hand to smash clear. Burke has been more influential in the last few minutes.  2:47PM 31 minutes West Brom are now in a tight spot. They need to show more adventure going forward, but that could leave them exposed against the pace of United's forward line.  Incidentally, no celebration whatsoever from Lukaku. A defiant signal to the critics or a mark of respect to his former loan club?  2:44PM Lukaku's goal West Brom vs Man Utd 2:43PM GOAL! Lukaku -  1-0 United A simple opening goal for Mourinho's side. Rashford whips in a cross from the left, and Lukaku holds off Gibbs on the six-yard line to glance home. Very little movement from Lukaku, the cross was delivered straight onto his head and he just had to direct it into the net. 2:40PM 24 minutes West Brom take a free-kick short and a deflected shot goes behind for a corner. The delivery was too deep, and Evans can only loop a header over the bar. West Brom really need to maximise every situation like that, but they have been wasteful so far.  2:38PM 22 minutes Another giveaway by Herrera and then West Brom pop it around him. Fine delivery from McClean but Jones did well to stoop and head clear under pressure from Rondon. A rare spell of possession for the hosts, but they almost look uncomfortable when they are asked to take the initiative and shift the ball. 2:36PM No right side to Man Utd Average touch positions (20 min)   2:36PM 19 minutes Most of United's attacks have come down their left flank, but they are struggling to penetrate West Brom with neat interplay. Their best moments have come from long-balls over the top. Ander Herrera struggling to be productive in possession. What happened to him? He was a goalscoring midfielder at Athletic Bilbao, but has morphed into a water-carrier in England.  2:33PM 16 minutes Lukaku's oft-criticised hold up play under the microscope again. He did well to hold Evans off but his flick back towards Lingard missed its target. At the other end, Rondon shows him how it's done with a lovely chest control and lay-off,.  2:31PM 14 minutes These chilly afternoons are not particularly conducive to a good atmosphere, as fans sit on their hands to keep them warm. Danger at West Brom's back post as Young swings a cross in to where Lukaku had isolated Gibbs, but the former Arsenal man did really well to stay touch tight and win the header. You might recall van Gaal's United used Fellaini to that effect against Gibbs at the Emirates in November, 2014.  2:28PM Little goalmouth action so far West Brom vs Man Utd shots on goal   2:27PM 10 minutes West Brom's midfield is not the most progressive, it is fair to say. They are all staying behind the ball, and there is not really a good passer among them. Rondon is a ray of light, and looks like he could win a foot-race against Jones or Smalling but not much support for him.  2:24PM 8 minutes Mata has been given the license to drift across the pitch, and he and Lingard are both operating in central positions behind Luakaku. Rashord starting in a fixed position from the left. United are playing without a right-winger essentially, leaving room for Antonio Valencia to maraud forward. West Brom have struggled to string three passes together, United doing all of the probing.  Until a wonderful Rondon backheel set McClean away on the counter-attack, but there was no West Brom player to meet his whipped cross.  2:21PM 4 minutes Oliver Burke has started on the right, and is up against Ashley Young who is a right-footer at left-back. Driving on his weaker left-side might be the plan. A little better from West Brom there, but a diagonal pass skips through for a goal kick off the surface.  De Gea's long kick forward releases Rashford but his shot from an inside left position is blocked. Sunday league stuff really, Pardew will be worried about the ease with which one punt upfield cut them open.  2:17PM 2 minutes Torrential rain this morning in the West Midlands. Far from being a leveller, the faster surface should suit United and they have already settled into a spell of possession. The pattern is set, with West Brom reluctant to press too high. They are retreating into their own half, reducing the space in behind their back four.  2:15PM We're off Sky have United in a 4-2-3-1 with Mata starting from the right flank. We'll see, but I fancy Rashford and Lukaku will play as more of a front two. The home side kick-off and we are under way. After two botched kick-offs... 2:12PM Players are on their way out  Kick off a few minutes away   2:09PM Pardew going for stick rather than carrot Alan Pardew has said Oliver Burke is in the team to scare United, and if he fails to do so he might not be on the pitch for too long. That's one way to build his confidence up.  The former Crystal Palace manager talked up his abilities as a psychologist and he has got a history of getting a tune out of maverick wingers such as Matthew Etherington and Hatem Ben Arfa. 2:02PM Why no Mkhitaryan? Read James Ducker on why a clash of styles rather than a lack of effort is behind Henrikh Mkhitaryan's exile. A lone ranger Credit: CameraSports 1:56PM Alan Pardew stiffens up his midfield No four-four-effin-two from Pardiola today, with an industrious midfield three of Claudio Yacob, Grzegorz Krychowiak and Jake Livermore picked to stop United finding their rhythm. It is not the most mobile or athletic engine room though, so they have to avoid turnovers and giving United the chance to counter attack against them, particularly through Lingard.  Looking forward to watching Oliver Burke. His early departure from Nottingham Forest to RB Leipzig would have taught him much, but he left the Bundesliga in search of more regular football. He has outstanding physical attributes for a 20-year-old, and perhaps everyone - player included - needs to show a little more patience.  1:47PM Jesse Lingard becoming one of Mourinho's reliables Right then, what is going on with this United team? As Gary Neville points out from the gantry, their back five were all at the club under Sir Alex Fergurson: De Gea, Valencia, Jones, Smalling and Young.  The midfield three has a nice balance to it, with Nemanja Matic patrolling in front of the centre-backs, Ander Herrera in a box to box role and Juan Mata supplying the creativity.  The configuration of the front three will be interesting. Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford could play either side of Romelu Lukaku, or Lingard could play in behind the two forwards in more of a 4-3-1-2.   1:39PM Mourinho speaks I'm not making rotation, I'm not protecting the players for the matches that are coming up. I'm picking the team that is best to win this match.  Their stadium is always a difficult stadium because their crowd is so supportive and enthusiastic. Very experienced, very physical, capable to defend in numbers and being dangerous on direct football with Rondon and McClean.  1:24PM West Brom team news: Oliver Burke makes his first Premier League start �� Our team to face @ManUtd...#WBAMUN#COYB#WBApic.twitter.com/61ywIdKq2w— West Bromwich Albion (@WBA) December 17, 2017 1:23PM Man Utd team: Jose Mourinho starts with a back four Here it is - #MUFC's starting XI for #WBAMUN! �� pic.twitter.com/wSFom3lKtz— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 17, 2017 1:21PM Can Man Utd keep their place as the best of the rest? Good afternoon and welcome to the latest instalment of the Premier League's race for second.  Manchester United travel to West Brom 14 points behind neighbours Manchester City, and cementing their status as top four certainties is a more realistic target for the Christmas period than reigniting a title race.  Jose Mourinho's side have a veneer of solidity, with five league victories either side of their derby defeat against City, but performances have not been so convincing. Two long-range Ashley Young goals gave them a two-goal lead from nothing at Watford, they defended desperately for long periods of their crucial win at Arsenal, and there was little more than a piece of cigarette paper separating them and Bournemouth in mid-week when once again David De Gea was relied upon.  The numbers suggest United cannot afford to keep giving up the volume of chances they are currently - Bournemouth had 14 shots on goal at Old Trafford, seven of them on target - and expect to keep winning. Eric Bailly has been sorely missed, as has Paul Pogba who serves the last of his three-match ban today. Romelu Lukaku will line-up against his former club, for whom he scored a hat-trick against United in that crazy 5-5 draw that brought down the curtain on the Sir Alex Ferguson era. No Henrikh Mkhitaryan these days, who has been sent to Coventry by Mourinho since his limp performance at Stamford Bridge.  Alan Pardew promised to bring adventurous and expressive football to the Hawthorns, so naturally they are yet to score a goal under him. There have been some bold selections however, with Pardew fond of picking three strikers in the same XI, usually Jay Rodriguez, Salomon Rondon and Hal Robson-Kanu. The latter is asked to fill on the right flank when West Brom defend in a 4-4-2 shape. That doesn't look a natural fit, and United might look to focus their attacks down that flank where Anthony Martial likes to operate.

West Brom 1 Manchester United 2: Romelu Lukaku sends message to his critics as United survive late wobble

Romelu Lukaku did not celebrate his goal. Jose Mourinho did not either and it now appears to be a deliberate approach being taken by Manchester United as they grimly attempt to stay in touch with the runaway Premier League leaders, Manchester City. Do not celebrate early, Mourinho said after this victory over West Bromwich Albion, which reduced City’s advantage at the top back to 11 points; and we are still one game short of half-way through the Premier League campaign. But that fact is giving Mourinho motivation. And he is using it to motivate his players. There is, the gathering theme appears to be, a long way to go with the inference being that we, the media, and also City themselves, maybe, have started those celebrations far too early. Titles are not won in December but they can be lost then and the fact that United have responded to the adversity of losing the Manchester derby with two narrow victories will give Mourinho a shot of satisfaction. However that will be tempered slightly by yet another injury with captain Antonio Valencia hobbling off with an apparently damaged hamstring. The truth is that United did not play well in the midweek win over Bournemouth and were not substantially better here, and it will not please him that his team were reduced to time-wasting – leading to bookings for Nemanja Matic and Marcos Rojo – and running the ball into the corner, by Anthony Martial, as they ran down the clock. That followed an unlikely late rally from Albion, who were far better in the second-half, after a limp performance that will have certainly concerned Alan Pardew. The Baggies are still waiting for the bounce but, at least, they scored – the first goal under their new manager in his fourth game in charge – and they also had a strong claim for a penalty when Ashley Young barged James McClean into United goalkeeper David De Gea. That could have salvaged an unlikely but precious point. Jesse Lingard doubles United's lead with a deflected shot from distance Credit: Reuters Instead the result pushes second-placed United onto 41 points, 10 ahead of seventh-placed Tottenham Hotspur, who finished last season as runners-up and 17 points ahead of them which is clear evidence of substantial progress under Mourinho. The frustration for him, and United, is the re-definition of the campaign by Pep Guardiola’s City who are frankly playing football on a different plane from the rest of the league at present. And United laboured. It was far from fluid and yet they ended the first period two goals up and apparently game over. Until they scored it was turgidly inconsequential, in truth, but then Oliver Burke, not for the first time, and on his first league start for Albion, sloppily lost possession and Juan Mata pushed the ball out wide to Marcus Rashford who shifted it back onto his right foot and crossed for Lukaku to rise in between Jonny Evans and Kieran Gibbs – why was the latter marking such a hulking striker? – and power a superb header beyond Ben Foster and high into the net.   Cue, again, the debate over whether or not Lukaku can only do it against the lesser teams as that was his 31st goal in 39 matches against the ‘non-big-six’ sides. Lukaku did not celebrate – just as he had not celebrated his headed goal against Bournemouth – and while that may have partly been about, in this case, respect for the club where he spent a successful season on loan it also appeared more than that. It appeared, despite Mourinho saying it was because he had not celebrated either, a pointed message to the critics which is a little misguided although his manager will not care. Maybe he is fuelling that sense of injustice. Gareth Barry pokes home from a few yards to get West Brom back into it Credit: Getty Images United turned the screw. Matic fed the ball in to Lukaku who found Mata who laid it off to Jesse Lingard and his low shot would have been covered by Foster only for Ahmed Hegazi to try and block with the ball spinning off his boot to wrong-foot the goalkeeper. Albion were out of luck and United appeared out of sight. Pardew withdrew Claudio Yacob at half-time, bringing on 36-year-old Gareth Barry, and it made a difference as did his later substitutions – with Jay Rodriguez and Chris Brunt also coming on. Suddenly there was a bit more urgency and aggression, which rose even further when they eventually switched to a more direct 4-4-2, and when a corner was won Brunt’s delivery caused panic in the United defence. Jonny Evans attempted to head home, the ball sailing over him and rebounding off Rodriguez. It flew back into a thicket of players with Barry calmly stroking it past De Gea from close-range. The dynamic, as so often in the Premier League shifted, and Albion had unexpected belief. Suddenly, and for the first time, United were under pressure with Rodriguez reaching another Brunt cross only to bullet his header just wide with De Gea beaten. Then Barry had a shot blocked with Mourinho’s anxiety rising as the four minutes of added time ran into five. So Albion remain in the bottom three, facing a fight against relegation, with their next fixture, away to Stoke City now taking on even greater importance given the plight of both clubs. United, after their Carabao Cup quarter-final against Bristol City on Wednesday, face Leicester City away. Mourinho will demand they do not relent, that they push City as much as they can in the hope that the champions-elect have been proclaimed far too early. 4:07PM FT: West Brom 1 Man Utd 2 Full time! 77 comfortable minutes for United followed by some desperate defending. But it's three points and they stay in second - 11 points behind Man City.  4:05PM 93 minutes Good close control from Martial to trap and aerial ball and win United a free-kick. West Brom shouldn't get another chance from here.  4:04PM Chance missed to finish the game Rojo smashed a long ball forward and Lukaku was in behind the West Brom defence, Evans did well to get back at him and force him onto his right foot and his shot bobbles wide.  4:02PM Four minutes added time More danger as Hegazi swings a ball in but Barry's shot is blocked.  4:01PM 89 minutes A rare spell of football from United as Martial keeps it in the corner. 4:00PM 87 minutes Very nearly a calamity from Rojo at the back post, skewing behind for a corner under no pressure. Brunt's delivery is perfect, evading De Gea and finding Evans at the back post. Matic does just about enough and the ball bounces almost across the line into De Gea's arms.  3:57PM 84 minutes CHANCE! Will West Brom fashion another one? Brunt swings in a tremendous cross from the left, and Rodriguez gets the run on Jones but gets too much on the header and it flies wide of the front post.  3:55PM 82 minutes Another ball thrown into the United box, but strong defending by Jones wins a foul. De Gea once again kicks it long towards Lukaku and again it does not stick.  3:54PM 81 minutes United inviting pressure through their own carelessness in possession. Gibbs swings a ball in, and Rodriguez attempts a  ridiculously ambitious swivel and volley. Gets it on target, but would have been better off looking for a lay-off.  3:52PM 80 minutes The game was drifting aimlessly, but now the crowd are up. Mix-up between Brunt and Gibbs lets United's defence have a breather. Mourinho was going to bring on Martial before the goal, and he stuck with that conviction.  3:50PM GOAL! Barry - West Brom get one back From the resulting corner, West Brom find their lifeline. Scruffy defending from United, Rojo gets beaten at the back post and the ball trickles across the six-yard box. It was begging to be tucked away and Gareth Barry was the man to stick his toe out and get his team back into this.  3:48PM 76 minutes The away fans have been signing his name for a while, and Anthony Martial is ready to come on. Phil Jones slips in the United area which gives Rondon a yard to shoot, and it deflects behind for a West Brom corner. 3:46PM 73 minutes Lazy forward play from Rondon not to get himself back onside. Much better moments later however, Hegazi steps out of defence and fires a risky vertical pass into Brunt who then feeds Rondon down the side's of United's centre backs. His left-foot shot is low and straight at De Gea. 3:43PM 71 minutes Alan Pardew rolling the dice: Chris Brunt enters the fray. He has excellent set-piece delivery and that looks West Brom's only hope.  3:42PM 69 minutes United have taken the sting out of this match. West Brom pumping balls forward but with very little quality. 3:39PM 66 minutes Gibbs clips a long-ball over Young's head to test him out in his new position. Mr. Reliable is up to the task -his renaissance under Jose Mourinho has been magnificent. 3:36PM 64 minutes Bad news for United fans, Antonio Valencia has gone down clutching his hamstring. No messing around, he pulled up straight away which probably rules him out of the rest of the Christmas period. Marcos Rojo replaces him, and Ashley Young switches to right-back. Luke Shaw ignored... 3:34PM 62 minutes United's two No.10s Lingard and Mata are finding more space in this second-half, as West Brom's midfield pair try to push up the field and press.  3:32PM 59 minutes West Brom, to their credit, are taking chances here as they search for a way back into this. Both full-backs were committed forward and Lingard lead the United counter, exchanged passes with Lukaku before shooting straight at Foster from the edge of the area. That's what they did so well at Arsenal a few weeks ago.  3:29PM 57 minutes United respond to that short flurry of West Brom pressure. Valencia swings in a cross and the ball sits up nicely for Rashford on the half-volley at the back post. Foster was rooted,  but it flies just wide on the far post.  3:27PM 55 minutes Good chance for West Brom. Barry lifts a well-weighted ball over Jones's head that Burke latches on to. He whips a brilliant first-time ball across the area taking Smalling out of the game but neither Rondon on McClean could apply the finishing touch.  3:25PM 52 minutes Handbags at the Hawthorns. Hegazi found himself isolated with Rashford but holds him off, perhaps unlawfully. Rashford stayed down holding his face which angered the West Brom defender. Rashford then picks up and runs over to get under Hegazi's grill. Yellow card for the United man, and replays showed he went down very easily in the original incident.  3:22PM 49 minutes West Brom trying to press high up the pitch, but their defence have not pushed up behind their midfield line leaving Lingard with acres of space to receive the ball and turn. He looks for Lukaku with a chipped cross but the Belgian was flagged offside.  3:20PM 47 minutes West Brom have switched to a 4-4-2 with Barry joining Krychowiak in midfield and Burke playing right up through the middle with Rondon.  3:17PM We're back under way So can West Brom make a game of this or are United heading for a simple three points? Stay with us to find out. Gareth Barry on for West Brom. 3:16PM Jesse Lingard celebrates United's second Credit: Getty Images   3:11PM Comfortable for United despite a slow start Solid enough first-half performance by United, and the game has looked easy for them since Romelu Lukaku's opening goal. Until then, West Brom were doing well and United were struggling to zip the ball between the lines with Ander Herrera looking notably low on confidence. Jay Rodriguez is an option on the bench for Alan Pardew, but it is some quality in cenrtral midfield West Brom really need and that will have to be addressed in January.  3:01PM HT: WBA 0-2 United That's that for the first 45 minutes. 2:59PM 44 minutes A rare shout of excitement from the home crowd as Livermore makes a yard for himself 25 yards out but his effort is straight at D Gea. 2:58PM 42 minutes McClean swings a cross over the bar and out for a goal kick. West Brom have tried hard, and it is east to see what that they came into the match with a plan. Conceding the first goal has rendered it obsolete however.  2:55PM 39 minutes Matic drives United forward once again and wins a corner. West Brom are struggling to keep this game alive going into the second half. There is plenty of time remaining, they do not need to chase a goal before half time.  2:53PM 'Park the bus, park the bus...' United fans mockingly signing City's 'park the bus, park the bus' chant back at them now their team have scored two first-half goals. Not that City fans will be too bothered.  2:51PM GOAL! 2-0 United Wicked deflection to Jesse Lingard's shot off Hegazi doubles United's lead.  20 yards out just outside the area, Lingard's strike was heading towards the arms of Ben Foster until the centre back stuck his leg out and the ball ricocheted in. 2:49PM 33 minutes Panicked defending in the United area. Nyom does well to drive past Matic and swing a cross in that was only partially blocked by Smalling at the near post. Valencia was on hand to smash clear. Burke has been more influential in the last few minutes.  2:47PM 31 minutes West Brom are now in a tight spot. They need to show more adventure going forward, but that could leave them exposed against the pace of United's forward line.  Incidentally, no celebration whatsoever from Lukaku. A defiant signal to the critics or a mark of respect to his former loan club?  2:44PM Lukaku's goal West Brom vs Man Utd 2:43PM GOAL! Lukaku -  1-0 United A simple opening goal for Mourinho's side. Rashford whips in a cross from the left, and Lukaku holds off Gibbs on the six-yard line to glance home. Very little movement from Lukaku, the cross was delivered straight onto his head and he just had to direct it into the net. 2:40PM 24 minutes West Brom take a free-kick short and a deflected shot goes behind for a corner. The delivery was too deep, and Evans can only loop a header over the bar. West Brom really need to maximise every situation like that, but they have been wasteful so far.  2:38PM 22 minutes Another giveaway by Herrera and then West Brom pop it around him. Fine delivery from McClean but Jones did well to stoop and head clear under pressure from Rondon. A rare spell of possession for the hosts, but they almost look uncomfortable when they are asked to take the initiative and shift the ball. 2:36PM No right side to Man Utd Average touch positions (20 min)   2:36PM 19 minutes Most of United's attacks have come down their left flank, but they are struggling to penetrate West Brom with neat interplay. Their best moments have come from long-balls over the top. Ander Herrera struggling to be productive in possession. What happened to him? He was a goalscoring midfielder at Athletic Bilbao, but has morphed into a water-carrier in England.  2:33PM 16 minutes Lukaku's oft-criticised hold up play under the microscope again. He did well to hold Evans off but his flick back towards Lingard missed its target. At the other end, Rondon shows him how it's done with a lovely chest control and lay-off,.  2:31PM 14 minutes These chilly afternoons are not particularly conducive to a good atmosphere, as fans sit on their hands to keep them warm. Danger at West Brom's back post as Young swings a cross in to where Lukaku had isolated Gibbs, but the former Arsenal man did really well to stay touch tight and win the header. You might recall van Gaal's United used Fellaini to that effect against Gibbs at the Emirates in November, 2014.  2:28PM Little goalmouth action so far West Brom vs Man Utd shots on goal   2:27PM 10 minutes West Brom's midfield is not the most progressive, it is fair to say. They are all staying behind the ball, and there is not really a good passer among them. Rondon is a ray of light, and looks like he could win a foot-race against Jones or Smalling but not much support for him.  2:24PM 8 minutes Mata has been given the license to drift across the pitch, and he and Lingard are both operating in central positions behind Luakaku. Rashord starting in a fixed position from the left. United are playing without a right-winger essentially, leaving room for Antonio Valencia to maraud forward. West Brom have struggled to string three passes together, United doing all of the probing.  Until a wonderful Rondon backheel set McClean away on the counter-attack, but there was no West Brom player to meet his whipped cross.  2:21PM 4 minutes Oliver Burke has started on the right, and is up against Ashley Young who is a right-footer at left-back. Driving on his weaker left-side might be the plan. A little better from West Brom there, but a diagonal pass skips through for a goal kick off the surface.  De Gea's long kick forward releases Rashford but his shot from an inside left position is blocked. Sunday league stuff really, Pardew will be worried about the ease with which one punt upfield cut them open.  2:17PM 2 minutes Torrential rain this morning in the West Midlands. Far from being a leveller, the faster surface should suit United and they have already settled into a spell of possession. The pattern is set, with West Brom reluctant to press too high. They are retreating into their own half, reducing the space in behind their back four.  2:15PM We're off Sky have United in a 4-2-3-1 with Mata starting from the right flank. We'll see, but I fancy Rashford and Lukaku will play as more of a front two. The home side kick-off and we are under way. After two botched kick-offs... 2:12PM Players are on their way out  Kick off a few minutes away   2:09PM Pardew going for stick rather than carrot Alan Pardew has said Oliver Burke is in the team to scare United, and if he fails to do so he might not be on the pitch for too long. That's one way to build his confidence up.  The former Crystal Palace manager talked up his abilities as a psychologist and he has got a history of getting a tune out of maverick wingers such as Matthew Etherington and Hatem Ben Arfa. 2:02PM Why no Mkhitaryan? Read James Ducker on why a clash of styles rather than a lack of effort is behind Henrikh Mkhitaryan's exile. A lone ranger Credit: CameraSports 1:56PM Alan Pardew stiffens up his midfield No four-four-effin-two from Pardiola today, with an industrious midfield three of Claudio Yacob, Grzegorz Krychowiak and Jake Livermore picked to stop United finding their rhythm. It is not the most mobile or athletic engine room though, so they have to avoid turnovers and giving United the chance to counter attack against them, particularly through Lingard.  Looking forward to watching Oliver Burke. His early departure from Nottingham Forest to RB Leipzig would have taught him much, but he left the Bundesliga in search of more regular football. He has outstanding physical attributes for a 20-year-old, and perhaps everyone - player included - needs to show a little more patience.  1:47PM Jesse Lingard becoming one of Mourinho's reliables Right then, what is going on with this United team? As Gary Neville points out from the gantry, their back five were all at the club under Sir Alex Fergurson: De Gea, Valencia, Jones, Smalling and Young.  The midfield three has a nice balance to it, with Nemanja Matic patrolling in front of the centre-backs, Ander Herrera in a box to box role and Juan Mata supplying the creativity.  The configuration of the front three will be interesting. Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford could play either side of Romelu Lukaku, or Lingard could play in behind the two forwards in more of a 4-3-1-2.   1:39PM Mourinho speaks I'm not making rotation, I'm not protecting the players for the matches that are coming up. I'm picking the team that is best to win this match.  Their stadium is always a difficult stadium because their crowd is so supportive and enthusiastic. Very experienced, very physical, capable to defend in numbers and being dangerous on direct football with Rondon and McClean.  1:24PM West Brom team news: Oliver Burke makes his first Premier League start �� Our team to face @ManUtd...#WBAMUN#COYB#WBApic.twitter.com/61ywIdKq2w— West Bromwich Albion (@WBA) December 17, 2017 1:23PM Man Utd team: Jose Mourinho starts with a back four Here it is - #MUFC's starting XI for #WBAMUN! �� pic.twitter.com/wSFom3lKtz— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 17, 2017 1:21PM Can Man Utd keep their place as the best of the rest? Good afternoon and welcome to the latest instalment of the Premier League's race for second.  Manchester United travel to West Brom 14 points behind neighbours Manchester City, and cementing their status as top four certainties is a more realistic target for the Christmas period than reigniting a title race.  Jose Mourinho's side have a veneer of solidity, with five league victories either side of their derby defeat against City, but performances have not been so convincing. Two long-range Ashley Young goals gave them a two-goal lead from nothing at Watford, they defended desperately for long periods of their crucial win at Arsenal, and there was little more than a piece of cigarette paper separating them and Bournemouth in mid-week when once again David De Gea was relied upon.  The numbers suggest United cannot afford to keep giving up the volume of chances they are currently - Bournemouth had 14 shots on goal at Old Trafford, seven of them on target - and expect to keep winning. Eric Bailly has been sorely missed, as has Paul Pogba who serves the last of his three-match ban today. Romelu Lukaku will line-up against his former club, for whom he scored a hat-trick against United in that crazy 5-5 draw that brought down the curtain on the Sir Alex Ferguson era. No Henrikh Mkhitaryan these days, who has been sent to Coventry by Mourinho since his limp performance at Stamford Bridge.  Alan Pardew promised to bring adventurous and expressive football to the Hawthorns, so naturally they are yet to score a goal under him. There have been some bold selections however, with Pardew fond of picking three strikers in the same XI, usually Jay Rodriguez, Salomon Rondon and Hal Robson-Kanu. The latter is asked to fill on the right flank when West Brom defend in a 4-4-2 shape. That doesn't look a natural fit, and United might look to focus their attacks down that flank where Anthony Martial likes to operate.

West Brom 1 Manchester United 2: Romelu Lukaku sends message to his critics as United survive late wobble

Romelu Lukaku did not celebrate his goal. Jose Mourinho did not either and it now appears to be a deliberate approach being taken by Manchester United as they grimly attempt to stay in touch with the runaway Premier League leaders, Manchester City. Do not celebrate early, Mourinho said after this victory over West Bromwich Albion, which reduced City’s advantage at the top back to 11 points; and we are still one game short of half-way through the Premier League campaign. But that fact is giving Mourinho motivation. And he is using it to motivate his players. There is, the gathering theme appears to be, a long way to go with the inference being that we, the media, and also City themselves, maybe, have started those celebrations far too early. Titles are not won in December but they can be lost then and the fact that United have responded to the adversity of losing the Manchester derby with two narrow victories will give Mourinho a shot of satisfaction. However that will be tempered slightly by yet another injury with captain Antonio Valencia hobbling off with an apparently damaged hamstring. The truth is that United did not play well in the midweek win over Bournemouth and were not substantially better here, and it will not please him that his team were reduced to time-wasting – leading to bookings for Nemanja Matic and Marcos Rojo – and running the ball into the corner, by Anthony Martial, as they ran down the clock. That followed an unlikely late rally from Albion, who were far better in the second-half, after a limp performance that will have certainly concerned Alan Pardew. The Baggies are still waiting for the bounce but, at least, they scored – the first goal under their new manager in his fourth game in charge – and they also had a strong claim for a penalty when Ashley Young barged James McClean into United goalkeeper David De Gea. That could have salvaged an unlikely but precious point. Jesse Lingard doubles United's lead with a deflected shot from distance Credit: Reuters Instead the result pushes second-placed United onto 41 points, 10 ahead of seventh-placed Tottenham Hotspur, who finished last season as runners-up and 17 points ahead of them which is clear evidence of substantial progress under Mourinho. The frustration for him, and United, is the re-definition of the campaign by Pep Guardiola’s City who are frankly playing football on a different plane from the rest of the league at present. And United laboured. It was far from fluid and yet they ended the first period two goals up and apparently game over. Until they scored it was turgidly inconsequential, in truth, but then Oliver Burke, not for the first time, and on his first league start for Albion, sloppily lost possession and Juan Mata pushed the ball out wide to Marcus Rashford who shifted it back onto his right foot and crossed for Lukaku to rise in between Jonny Evans and Kieran Gibbs – why was the latter marking such a hulking striker? – and power a superb header beyond Ben Foster and high into the net.   Cue, again, the debate over whether or not Lukaku can only do it against the lesser teams as that was his 31st goal in 39 matches against the ‘non-big-six’ sides. Lukaku did not celebrate – just as he had not celebrated his headed goal against Bournemouth – and while that may have partly been about, in this case, respect for the club where he spent a successful season on loan it also appeared more than that. It appeared, despite Mourinho saying it was because he had not celebrated either, a pointed message to the critics which is a little misguided although his manager will not care. Maybe he is fuelling that sense of injustice. Gareth Barry pokes home from a few yards to get West Brom back into it Credit: Getty Images United turned the screw. Matic fed the ball in to Lukaku who found Mata who laid it off to Jesse Lingard and his low shot would have been covered by Foster only for Ahmed Hegazi to try and block with the ball spinning off his boot to wrong-foot the goalkeeper. Albion were out of luck and United appeared out of sight. Pardew withdrew Claudio Yacob at half-time, bringing on 36-year-old Gareth Barry, and it made a difference as did his later substitutions – with Jay Rodriguez and Chris Brunt also coming on. Suddenly there was a bit more urgency and aggression, which rose even further when they eventually switched to a more direct 4-4-2, and when a corner was won Brunt’s delivery caused panic in the United defence. Jonny Evans attempted to head home, the ball sailing over him and rebounding off Rodriguez. It flew back into a thicket of players with Barry calmly stroking it past De Gea from close-range. The dynamic, as so often in the Premier League shifted, and Albion had unexpected belief. Suddenly, and for the first time, United were under pressure with Rodriguez reaching another Brunt cross only to bullet his header just wide with De Gea beaten. Then Barry had a shot blocked with Mourinho’s anxiety rising as the four minutes of added time ran into five. So Albion remain in the bottom three, facing a fight against relegation, with their next fixture, away to Stoke City now taking on even greater importance given the plight of both clubs. United, after their Carabao Cup quarter-final against Bristol City on Wednesday, face Leicester City away. Mourinho will demand they do not relent, that they push City as much as they can in the hope that the champions-elect have been proclaimed far too early. 4:07PM FT: West Brom 1 Man Utd 2 Full time! 77 comfortable minutes for United followed by some desperate defending. But it's three points and they stay in second - 11 points behind Man City.  4:05PM 93 minutes Good close control from Martial to trap and aerial ball and win United a free-kick. West Brom shouldn't get another chance from here.  4:04PM Chance missed to finish the game Rojo smashed a long ball forward and Lukaku was in behind the West Brom defence, Evans did well to get back at him and force him onto his right foot and his shot bobbles wide.  4:02PM Four minutes added time More danger as Hegazi swings a ball in but Barry's shot is blocked.  4:01PM 89 minutes A rare spell of football from United as Martial keeps it in the corner. 4:00PM 87 minutes Very nearly a calamity from Rojo at the back post, skewing behind for a corner under no pressure. Brunt's delivery is perfect, evading De Gea and finding Evans at the back post. Matic does just about enough and the ball bounces almost across the line into De Gea's arms.  3:57PM 84 minutes CHANCE! Will West Brom fashion another one? Brunt swings in a tremendous cross from the left, and Rodriguez gets the run on Jones but gets too much on the header and it flies wide of the front post.  3:55PM 82 minutes Another ball thrown into the United box, but strong defending by Jones wins a foul. De Gea once again kicks it long towards Lukaku and again it does not stick.  3:54PM 81 minutes United inviting pressure through their own carelessness in possession. Gibbs swings a ball in, and Rodriguez attempts a  ridiculously ambitious swivel and volley. Gets it on target, but would have been better off looking for a lay-off.  3:52PM 80 minutes The game was drifting aimlessly, but now the crowd are up. Mix-up between Brunt and Gibbs lets United's defence have a breather. Mourinho was going to bring on Martial before the goal, and he stuck with that conviction.  3:50PM GOAL! Barry - West Brom get one back From the resulting corner, West Brom find their lifeline. Scruffy defending from United, Rojo gets beaten at the back post and the ball trickles across the six-yard box. It was begging to be tucked away and Gareth Barry was the man to stick his toe out and get his team back into this.  3:48PM 76 minutes The away fans have been signing his name for a while, and Anthony Martial is ready to come on. Phil Jones slips in the United area which gives Rondon a yard to shoot, and it deflects behind for a West Brom corner. 3:46PM 73 minutes Lazy forward play from Rondon not to get himself back onside. Much better moments later however, Hegazi steps out of defence and fires a risky vertical pass into Brunt who then feeds Rondon down the side's of United's centre backs. His left-foot shot is low and straight at De Gea. 3:43PM 71 minutes Alan Pardew rolling the dice: Chris Brunt enters the fray. He has excellent set-piece delivery and that looks West Brom's only hope.  3:42PM 69 minutes United have taken the sting out of this match. West Brom pumping balls forward but with very little quality. 3:39PM 66 minutes Gibbs clips a long-ball over Young's head to test him out in his new position. Mr. Reliable is up to the task -his renaissance under Jose Mourinho has been magnificent. 3:36PM 64 minutes Bad news for United fans, Antonio Valencia has gone down clutching his hamstring. No messing around, he pulled up straight away which probably rules him out of the rest of the Christmas period. Marcos Rojo replaces him, and Ashley Young switches to right-back. Luke Shaw ignored... 3:34PM 62 minutes United's two No.10s Lingard and Mata are finding more space in this second-half, as West Brom's midfield pair try to push up the field and press.  3:32PM 59 minutes West Brom, to their credit, are taking chances here as they search for a way back into this. Both full-backs were committed forward and Lingard lead the United counter, exchanged passes with Lukaku before shooting straight at Foster from the edge of the area. That's what they did so well at Arsenal a few weeks ago.  3:29PM 57 minutes United respond to that short flurry of West Brom pressure. Valencia swings in a cross and the ball sits up nicely for Rashford on the half-volley at the back post. Foster was rooted,  but it flies just wide on the far post.  3:27PM 55 minutes Good chance for West Brom. Barry lifts a well-weighted ball over Jones's head that Burke latches on to. He whips a brilliant first-time ball across the area taking Smalling out of the game but neither Rondon on McClean could apply the finishing touch.  3:25PM 52 minutes Handbags at the Hawthorns. Hegazi found himself isolated with Rashford but holds him off, perhaps unlawfully. Rashford stayed down holding his face which angered the West Brom defender. Rashford then picks up and runs over to get under Hegazi's grill. Yellow card for the United man, and replays showed he went down very easily in the original incident.  3:22PM 49 minutes West Brom trying to press high up the pitch, but their defence have not pushed up behind their midfield line leaving Lingard with acres of space to receive the ball and turn. He looks for Lukaku with a chipped cross but the Belgian was flagged offside.  3:20PM 47 minutes West Brom have switched to a 4-4-2 with Barry joining Krychowiak in midfield and Burke playing right up through the middle with Rondon.  3:17PM We're back under way So can West Brom make a game of this or are United heading for a simple three points? Stay with us to find out. Gareth Barry on for West Brom. 3:16PM Jesse Lingard celebrates United's second Credit: Getty Images   3:11PM Comfortable for United despite a slow start Solid enough first-half performance by United, and the game has looked easy for them since Romelu Lukaku's opening goal. Until then, West Brom were doing well and United were struggling to zip the ball between the lines with Ander Herrera looking notably low on confidence. Jay Rodriguez is an option on the bench for Alan Pardew, but it is some quality in cenrtral midfield West Brom really need and that will have to be addressed in January.  3:01PM HT: WBA 0-2 United That's that for the first 45 minutes. 2:59PM 44 minutes A rare shout of excitement from the home crowd as Livermore makes a yard for himself 25 yards out but his effort is straight at D Gea. 2:58PM 42 minutes McClean swings a cross over the bar and out for a goal kick. West Brom have tried hard, and it is east to see what that they came into the match with a plan. Conceding the first goal has rendered it obsolete however.  2:55PM 39 minutes Matic drives United forward once again and wins a corner. West Brom are struggling to keep this game alive going into the second half. There is plenty of time remaining, they do not need to chase a goal before half time.  2:53PM 'Park the bus, park the bus...' United fans mockingly signing City's 'park the bus, park the bus' chant back at them now their team have scored two first-half goals. Not that City fans will be too bothered.  2:51PM GOAL! 2-0 United Wicked deflection to Jesse Lingard's shot off Hegazi doubles United's lead.  20 yards out just outside the area, Lingard's strike was heading towards the arms of Ben Foster until the centre back stuck his leg out and the ball ricocheted in. 2:49PM 33 minutes Panicked defending in the United area. Nyom does well to drive past Matic and swing a cross in that was only partially blocked by Smalling at the near post. Valencia was on hand to smash clear. Burke has been more influential in the last few minutes.  2:47PM 31 minutes West Brom are now in a tight spot. They need to show more adventure going forward, but that could leave them exposed against the pace of United's forward line.  Incidentally, no celebration whatsoever from Lukaku. A defiant signal to the critics or a mark of respect to his former loan club?  2:44PM Lukaku's goal West Brom vs Man Utd 2:43PM GOAL! Lukaku -  1-0 United A simple opening goal for Mourinho's side. Rashford whips in a cross from the left, and Lukaku holds off Gibbs on the six-yard line to glance home. Very little movement from Lukaku, the cross was delivered straight onto his head and he just had to direct it into the net. 2:40PM 24 minutes West Brom take a free-kick short and a deflected shot goes behind for a corner. The delivery was too deep, and Evans can only loop a header over the bar. West Brom really need to maximise every situation like that, but they have been wasteful so far.  2:38PM 22 minutes Another giveaway by Herrera and then West Brom pop it around him. Fine delivery from McClean but Jones did well to stoop and head clear under pressure from Rondon. A rare spell of possession for the hosts, but they almost look uncomfortable when they are asked to take the initiative and shift the ball. 2:36PM No right side to Man Utd Average touch positions (20 min)   2:36PM 19 minutes Most of United's attacks have come down their left flank, but they are struggling to penetrate West Brom with neat interplay. Their best moments have come from long-balls over the top. Ander Herrera struggling to be productive in possession. What happened to him? He was a goalscoring midfielder at Athletic Bilbao, but has morphed into a water-carrier in England.  2:33PM 16 minutes Lukaku's oft-criticised hold up play under the microscope again. He did well to hold Evans off but his flick back towards Lingard missed its target. At the other end, Rondon shows him how it's done with a lovely chest control and lay-off,.  2:31PM 14 minutes These chilly afternoons are not particularly conducive to a good atmosphere, as fans sit on their hands to keep them warm. Danger at West Brom's back post as Young swings a cross in to where Lukaku had isolated Gibbs, but the former Arsenal man did really well to stay touch tight and win the header. You might recall van Gaal's United used Fellaini to that effect against Gibbs at the Emirates in November, 2014.  2:28PM Little goalmouth action so far West Brom vs Man Utd shots on goal   2:27PM 10 minutes West Brom's midfield is not the most progressive, it is fair to say. They are all staying behind the ball, and there is not really a good passer among them. Rondon is a ray of light, and looks like he could win a foot-race against Jones or Smalling but not much support for him.  2:24PM 8 minutes Mata has been given the license to drift across the pitch, and he and Lingard are both operating in central positions behind Luakaku. Rashord starting in a fixed position from the left. United are playing without a right-winger essentially, leaving room for Antonio Valencia to maraud forward. West Brom have struggled to string three passes together, United doing all of the probing.  Until a wonderful Rondon backheel set McClean away on the counter-attack, but there was no West Brom player to meet his whipped cross.  2:21PM 4 minutes Oliver Burke has started on the right, and is up against Ashley Young who is a right-footer at left-back. Driving on his weaker left-side might be the plan. A little better from West Brom there, but a diagonal pass skips through for a goal kick off the surface.  De Gea's long kick forward releases Rashford but his shot from an inside left position is blocked. Sunday league stuff really, Pardew will be worried about the ease with which one punt upfield cut them open.  2:17PM 2 minutes Torrential rain this morning in the West Midlands. Far from being a leveller, the faster surface should suit United and they have already settled into a spell of possession. The pattern is set, with West Brom reluctant to press too high. They are retreating into their own half, reducing the space in behind their back four.  2:15PM We're off Sky have United in a 4-2-3-1 with Mata starting from the right flank. We'll see, but I fancy Rashford and Lukaku will play as more of a front two. The home side kick-off and we are under way. After two botched kick-offs... 2:12PM Players are on their way out  Kick off a few minutes away   2:09PM Pardew going for stick rather than carrot Alan Pardew has said Oliver Burke is in the team to scare United, and if he fails to do so he might not be on the pitch for too long. That's one way to build his confidence up.  The former Crystal Palace manager talked up his abilities as a psychologist and he has got a history of getting a tune out of maverick wingers such as Matthew Etherington and Hatem Ben Arfa. 2:02PM Why no Mkhitaryan? Read James Ducker on why a clash of styles rather than a lack of effort is behind Henrikh Mkhitaryan's exile. A lone ranger Credit: CameraSports 1:56PM Alan Pardew stiffens up his midfield No four-four-effin-two from Pardiola today, with an industrious midfield three of Claudio Yacob, Grzegorz Krychowiak and Jake Livermore picked to stop United finding their rhythm. It is not the most mobile or athletic engine room though, so they have to avoid turnovers and giving United the chance to counter attack against them, particularly through Lingard.  Looking forward to watching Oliver Burke. His early departure from Nottingham Forest to RB Leipzig would have taught him much, but he left the Bundesliga in search of more regular football. He has outstanding physical attributes for a 20-year-old, and perhaps everyone - player included - needs to show a little more patience.  1:47PM Jesse Lingard becoming one of Mourinho's reliables Right then, what is going on with this United team? As Gary Neville points out from the gantry, their back five were all at the club under Sir Alex Fergurson: De Gea, Valencia, Jones, Smalling and Young.  The midfield three has a nice balance to it, with Nemanja Matic patrolling in front of the centre-backs, Ander Herrera in a box to box role and Juan Mata supplying the creativity.  The configuration of the front three will be interesting. Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford could play either side of Romelu Lukaku, or Lingard could play in behind the two forwards in more of a 4-3-1-2.   1:39PM Mourinho speaks I'm not making rotation, I'm not protecting the players for the matches that are coming up. I'm picking the team that is best to win this match.  Their stadium is always a difficult stadium because their crowd is so supportive and enthusiastic. Very experienced, very physical, capable to defend in numbers and being dangerous on direct football with Rondon and McClean.  1:24PM West Brom team news: Oliver Burke makes his first Premier League start �� Our team to face @ManUtd...#WBAMUN#COYB#WBApic.twitter.com/61ywIdKq2w— West Bromwich Albion (@WBA) December 17, 2017 1:23PM Man Utd team: Jose Mourinho starts with a back four Here it is - #MUFC's starting XI for #WBAMUN! �� pic.twitter.com/wSFom3lKtz— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 17, 2017 1:21PM Can Man Utd keep their place as the best of the rest? Good afternoon and welcome to the latest instalment of the Premier League's race for second.  Manchester United travel to West Brom 14 points behind neighbours Manchester City, and cementing their status as top four certainties is a more realistic target for the Christmas period than reigniting a title race.  Jose Mourinho's side have a veneer of solidity, with five league victories either side of their derby defeat against City, but performances have not been so convincing. Two long-range Ashley Young goals gave them a two-goal lead from nothing at Watford, they defended desperately for long periods of their crucial win at Arsenal, and there was little more than a piece of cigarette paper separating them and Bournemouth in mid-week when once again David De Gea was relied upon.  The numbers suggest United cannot afford to keep giving up the volume of chances they are currently - Bournemouth had 14 shots on goal at Old Trafford, seven of them on target - and expect to keep winning. Eric Bailly has been sorely missed, as has Paul Pogba who serves the last of his three-match ban today. Romelu Lukaku will line-up against his former club, for whom he scored a hat-trick against United in that crazy 5-5 draw that brought down the curtain on the Sir Alex Ferguson era. No Henrikh Mkhitaryan these days, who has been sent to Coventry by Mourinho since his limp performance at Stamford Bridge.  Alan Pardew promised to bring adventurous and expressive football to the Hawthorns, so naturally they are yet to score a goal under him. There have been some bold selections however, with Pardew fond of picking three strikers in the same XI, usually Jay Rodriguez, Salomon Rondon and Hal Robson-Kanu. The latter is asked to fill on the right flank when West Brom defend in a 4-4-2 shape. That doesn't look a natural fit, and United might look to focus their attacks down that flank where Anthony Martial likes to operate.

West Brom 1 Manchester United 2: Romelu Lukaku sends message to his critics as United survive late wobble

Romelu Lukaku did not celebrate his goal. Jose Mourinho did not either and it now appears to be a deliberate approach being taken by Manchester United as they grimly attempt to stay in touch with the runaway Premier League leaders, Manchester City. Do not celebrate early, Mourinho said after this victory over West Bromwich Albion, which reduced City’s advantage at the top back to 11 points; and we are still one game short of half-way through the Premier League campaign. But that fact is giving Mourinho motivation. And he is using it to motivate his players. There is, the gathering theme appears to be, a long way to go with the inference being that we, the media, and also City themselves, maybe, have started those celebrations far too early. Titles are not won in December but they can be lost then and the fact that United have responded to the adversity of losing the Manchester derby with two narrow victories will give Mourinho a shot of satisfaction. However that will be tempered slightly by yet another injury with captain Antonio Valencia hobbling off with an apparently damaged hamstring. The truth is that United did not play well in the midweek win over Bournemouth and were not substantially better here, and it will not please him that his team were reduced to time-wasting – leading to bookings for Nemanja Matic and Marcos Rojo – and running the ball into the corner, by Anthony Martial, as they ran down the clock. That followed an unlikely late rally from Albion, who were far better in the second-half, after a limp performance that will have certainly concerned Alan Pardew. The Baggies are still waiting for the bounce but, at least, they scored – the first goal under their new manager in his fourth game in charge – and they also had a strong claim for a penalty when Ashley Young barged James McClean into United goalkeeper David De Gea. That could have salvaged an unlikely but precious point. Jesse Lingard doubles United's lead with a deflected shot from distance Credit: Reuters Instead the result pushes second-placed United onto 41 points, 10 ahead of seventh-placed Tottenham Hotspur, who finished last season as runners-up and 17 points ahead of them which is clear evidence of substantial progress under Mourinho. The frustration for him, and United, is the re-definition of the campaign by Pep Guardiola’s City who are frankly playing football on a different plane from the rest of the league at present. And United laboured. It was far from fluid and yet they ended the first period two goals up and apparently game over. Until they scored it was turgidly inconsequential, in truth, but then Oliver Burke, not for the first time, and on his first league start for Albion, sloppily lost possession and Juan Mata pushed the ball out wide to Marcus Rashford who shifted it back onto his right foot and crossed for Lukaku to rise in between Jonny Evans and Kieran Gibbs – why was the latter marking such a hulking striker? – and power a superb header beyond Ben Foster and high into the net.   Cue, again, the debate over whether or not Lukaku can only do it against the lesser teams as that was his 31st goal in 39 matches against the ‘non-big-six’ sides. Lukaku did not celebrate – just as he had not celebrated his headed goal against Bournemouth – and while that may have partly been about, in this case, respect for the club where he spent a successful season on loan it also appeared more than that. It appeared, despite Mourinho saying it was because he had not celebrated either, a pointed message to the critics which is a little misguided although his manager will not care. Maybe he is fuelling that sense of injustice. Gareth Barry pokes home from a few yards to get West Brom back into it Credit: Getty Images United turned the screw. Matic fed the ball in to Lukaku who found Mata who laid it off to Jesse Lingard and his low shot would have been covered by Foster only for Ahmed Hegazi to try and block with the ball spinning off his boot to wrong-foot the goalkeeper. Albion were out of luck and United appeared out of sight. Pardew withdrew Claudio Yacob at half-time, bringing on 36-year-old Gareth Barry, and it made a difference as did his later substitutions – with Jay Rodriguez and Chris Brunt also coming on. Suddenly there was a bit more urgency and aggression, which rose even further when they eventually switched to a more direct 4-4-2, and when a corner was won Brunt’s delivery caused panic in the United defence. Jonny Evans attempted to head home, the ball sailing over him and rebounding off Rodriguez. It flew back into a thicket of players with Barry calmly stroking it past De Gea from close-range. The dynamic, as so often in the Premier League shifted, and Albion had unexpected belief. Suddenly, and for the first time, United were under pressure with Rodriguez reaching another Brunt cross only to bullet his header just wide with De Gea beaten. Then Barry had a shot blocked with Mourinho’s anxiety rising as the four minutes of added time ran into five. So Albion remain in the bottom three, facing a fight against relegation, with their next fixture, away to Stoke City now taking on even greater importance given the plight of both clubs. United, after their Carabao Cup quarter-final against Bristol City on Wednesday, face Leicester City away. Mourinho will demand they do not relent, that they push City as much as they can in the hope that the champions-elect have been proclaimed far too early. 4:07PM FT: West Brom 1 Man Utd 2 Full time! 77 comfortable minutes for United followed by some desperate defending. But it's three points and they stay in second - 11 points behind Man City.  4:05PM 93 minutes Good close control from Martial to trap and aerial ball and win United a free-kick. West Brom shouldn't get another chance from here.  4:04PM Chance missed to finish the game Rojo smashed a long ball forward and Lukaku was in behind the West Brom defence, Evans did well to get back at him and force him onto his right foot and his shot bobbles wide.  4:02PM Four minutes added time More danger as Hegazi swings a ball in but Barry's shot is blocked.  4:01PM 89 minutes A rare spell of football from United as Martial keeps it in the corner. 4:00PM 87 minutes Very nearly a calamity from Rojo at the back post, skewing behind for a corner under no pressure. Brunt's delivery is perfect, evading De Gea and finding Evans at the back post. Matic does just about enough and the ball bounces almost across the line into De Gea's arms.  3:57PM 84 minutes CHANCE! Will West Brom fashion another one? Brunt swings in a tremendous cross from the left, and Rodriguez gets the run on Jones but gets too much on the header and it flies wide of the front post.  3:55PM 82 minutes Another ball thrown into the United box, but strong defending by Jones wins a foul. De Gea once again kicks it long towards Lukaku and again it does not stick.  3:54PM 81 minutes United inviting pressure through their own carelessness in possession. Gibbs swings a ball in, and Rodriguez attempts a  ridiculously ambitious swivel and volley. Gets it on target, but would have been better off looking for a lay-off.  3:52PM 80 minutes The game was drifting aimlessly, but now the crowd are up. Mix-up between Brunt and Gibbs lets United's defence have a breather. Mourinho was going to bring on Martial before the goal, and he stuck with that conviction.  3:50PM GOAL! Barry - West Brom get one back From the resulting corner, West Brom find their lifeline. Scruffy defending from United, Rojo gets beaten at the back post and the ball trickles across the six-yard box. It was begging to be tucked away and Gareth Barry was the man to stick his toe out and get his team back into this.  3:48PM 76 minutes The away fans have been signing his name for a while, and Anthony Martial is ready to come on. Phil Jones slips in the United area which gives Rondon a yard to shoot, and it deflects behind for a West Brom corner. 3:46PM 73 minutes Lazy forward play from Rondon not to get himself back onside. Much better moments later however, Hegazi steps out of defence and fires a risky vertical pass into Brunt who then feeds Rondon down the side's of United's centre backs. His left-foot shot is low and straight at De Gea. 3:43PM 71 minutes Alan Pardew rolling the dice: Chris Brunt enters the fray. He has excellent set-piece delivery and that looks West Brom's only hope.  3:42PM 69 minutes United have taken the sting out of this match. West Brom pumping balls forward but with very little quality. 3:39PM 66 minutes Gibbs clips a long-ball over Young's head to test him out in his new position. Mr. Reliable is up to the task -his renaissance under Jose Mourinho has been magnificent. 3:36PM 64 minutes Bad news for United fans, Antonio Valencia has gone down clutching his hamstring. No messing around, he pulled up straight away which probably rules him out of the rest of the Christmas period. Marcos Rojo replaces him, and Ashley Young switches to right-back. Luke Shaw ignored... 3:34PM 62 minutes United's two No.10s Lingard and Mata are finding more space in this second-half, as West Brom's midfield pair try to push up the field and press.  3:32PM 59 minutes West Brom, to their credit, are taking chances here as they search for a way back into this. Both full-backs were committed forward and Lingard lead the United counter, exchanged passes with Lukaku before shooting straight at Foster from the edge of the area. That's what they did so well at Arsenal a few weeks ago.  3:29PM 57 minutes United respond to that short flurry of West Brom pressure. Valencia swings in a cross and the ball sits up nicely for Rashford on the half-volley at the back post. Foster was rooted,  but it flies just wide on the far post.  3:27PM 55 minutes Good chance for West Brom. Barry lifts a well-weighted ball over Jones's head that Burke latches on to. He whips a brilliant first-time ball across the area taking Smalling out of the game but neither Rondon on McClean could apply the finishing touch.  3:25PM 52 minutes Handbags at the Hawthorns. Hegazi found himself isolated with Rashford but holds him off, perhaps unlawfully. Rashford stayed down holding his face which angered the West Brom defender. Rashford then picks up and runs over to get under Hegazi's grill. Yellow card for the United man, and replays showed he went down very easily in the original incident.  3:22PM 49 minutes West Brom trying to press high up the pitch, but their defence have not pushed up behind their midfield line leaving Lingard with acres of space to receive the ball and turn. He looks for Lukaku with a chipped cross but the Belgian was flagged offside.  3:20PM 47 minutes West Brom have switched to a 4-4-2 with Barry joining Krychowiak in midfield and Burke playing right up through the middle with Rondon.  3:17PM We're back under way So can West Brom make a game of this or are United heading for a simple three points? Stay with us to find out. Gareth Barry on for West Brom. 3:16PM Jesse Lingard celebrates United's second Credit: Getty Images   3:11PM Comfortable for United despite a slow start Solid enough first-half performance by United, and the game has looked easy for them since Romelu Lukaku's opening goal. Until then, West Brom were doing well and United were struggling to zip the ball between the lines with Ander Herrera looking notably low on confidence. Jay Rodriguez is an option on the bench for Alan Pardew, but it is some quality in cenrtral midfield West Brom really need and that will have to be addressed in January.  3:01PM HT: WBA 0-2 United That's that for the first 45 minutes. 2:59PM 44 minutes A rare shout of excitement from the home crowd as Livermore makes a yard for himself 25 yards out but his effort is straight at D Gea. 2:58PM 42 minutes McClean swings a cross over the bar and out for a goal kick. West Brom have tried hard, and it is east to see what that they came into the match with a plan. Conceding the first goal has rendered it obsolete however.  2:55PM 39 minutes Matic drives United forward once again and wins a corner. West Brom are struggling to keep this game alive going into the second half. There is plenty of time remaining, they do not need to chase a goal before half time.  2:53PM 'Park the bus, park the bus...' United fans mockingly signing City's 'park the bus, park the bus' chant back at them now their team have scored two first-half goals. Not that City fans will be too bothered.  2:51PM GOAL! 2-0 United Wicked deflection to Jesse Lingard's shot off Hegazi doubles United's lead.  20 yards out just outside the area, Lingard's strike was heading towards the arms of Ben Foster until the centre back stuck his leg out and the ball ricocheted in. 2:49PM 33 minutes Panicked defending in the United area. Nyom does well to drive past Matic and swing a cross in that was only partially blocked by Smalling at the near post. Valencia was on hand to smash clear. Burke has been more influential in the last few minutes.  2:47PM 31 minutes West Brom are now in a tight spot. They need to show more adventure going forward, but that could leave them exposed against the pace of United's forward line.  Incidentally, no celebration whatsoever from Lukaku. A defiant signal to the critics or a mark of respect to his former loan club?  2:44PM Lukaku's goal West Brom vs Man Utd 2:43PM GOAL! Lukaku -  1-0 United A simple opening goal for Mourinho's side. Rashford whips in a cross from the left, and Lukaku holds off Gibbs on the six-yard line to glance home. Very little movement from Lukaku, the cross was delivered straight onto his head and he just had to direct it into the net. 2:40PM 24 minutes West Brom take a free-kick short and a deflected shot goes behind for a corner. The delivery was too deep, and Evans can only loop a header over the bar. West Brom really need to maximise every situation like that, but they have been wasteful so far.  2:38PM 22 minutes Another giveaway by Herrera and then West Brom pop it around him. Fine delivery from McClean but Jones did well to stoop and head clear under pressure from Rondon. A rare spell of possession for the hosts, but they almost look uncomfortable when they are asked to take the initiative and shift the ball. 2:36PM No right side to Man Utd Average touch positions (20 min)   2:36PM 19 minutes Most of United's attacks have come down their left flank, but they are struggling to penetrate West Brom with neat interplay. Their best moments have come from long-balls over the top. Ander Herrera struggling to be productive in possession. What happened to him? He was a goalscoring midfielder at Athletic Bilbao, but has morphed into a water-carrier in England.  2:33PM 16 minutes Lukaku's oft-criticised hold up play under the microscope again. He did well to hold Evans off but his flick back towards Lingard missed its target. At the other end, Rondon shows him how it's done with a lovely chest control and lay-off,.  2:31PM 14 minutes These chilly afternoons are not particularly conducive to a good atmosphere, as fans sit on their hands to keep them warm. Danger at West Brom's back post as Young swings a cross in to where Lukaku had isolated Gibbs, but the former Arsenal man did really well to stay touch tight and win the header. You might recall van Gaal's United used Fellaini to that effect against Gibbs at the Emirates in November, 2014.  2:28PM Little goalmouth action so far West Brom vs Man Utd shots on goal   2:27PM 10 minutes West Brom's midfield is not the most progressive, it is fair to say. They are all staying behind the ball, and there is not really a good passer among them. Rondon is a ray of light, and looks like he could win a foot-race against Jones or Smalling but not much support for him.  2:24PM 8 minutes Mata has been given the license to drift across the pitch, and he and Lingard are both operating in central positions behind Luakaku. Rashord starting in a fixed position from the left. United are playing without a right-winger essentially, leaving room for Antonio Valencia to maraud forward. West Brom have struggled to string three passes together, United doing all of the probing.  Until a wonderful Rondon backheel set McClean away on the counter-attack, but there was no West Brom player to meet his whipped cross.  2:21PM 4 minutes Oliver Burke has started on the right, and is up against Ashley Young who is a right-footer at left-back. Driving on his weaker left-side might be the plan. A little better from West Brom there, but a diagonal pass skips through for a goal kick off the surface.  De Gea's long kick forward releases Rashford but his shot from an inside left position is blocked. Sunday league stuff really, Pardew will be worried about the ease with which one punt upfield cut them open.  2:17PM 2 minutes Torrential rain this morning in the West Midlands. Far from being a leveller, the faster surface should suit United and they have already settled into a spell of possession. The pattern is set, with West Brom reluctant to press too high. They are retreating into their own half, reducing the space in behind their back four.  2:15PM We're off Sky have United in a 4-2-3-1 with Mata starting from the right flank. We'll see, but I fancy Rashford and Lukaku will play as more of a front two. The home side kick-off and we are under way. After two botched kick-offs... 2:12PM Players are on their way out  Kick off a few minutes away   2:09PM Pardew going for stick rather than carrot Alan Pardew has said Oliver Burke is in the team to scare United, and if he fails to do so he might not be on the pitch for too long. That's one way to build his confidence up.  The former Crystal Palace manager talked up his abilities as a psychologist and he has got a history of getting a tune out of maverick wingers such as Matthew Etherington and Hatem Ben Arfa. 2:02PM Why no Mkhitaryan? Read James Ducker on why a clash of styles rather than a lack of effort is behind Henrikh Mkhitaryan's exile. A lone ranger Credit: CameraSports 1:56PM Alan Pardew stiffens up his midfield No four-four-effin-two from Pardiola today, with an industrious midfield three of Claudio Yacob, Grzegorz Krychowiak and Jake Livermore picked to stop United finding their rhythm. It is not the most mobile or athletic engine room though, so they have to avoid turnovers and giving United the chance to counter attack against them, particularly through Lingard.  Looking forward to watching Oliver Burke. His early departure from Nottingham Forest to RB Leipzig would have taught him much, but he left the Bundesliga in search of more regular football. He has outstanding physical attributes for a 20-year-old, and perhaps everyone - player included - needs to show a little more patience.  1:47PM Jesse Lingard becoming one of Mourinho's reliables Right then, what is going on with this United team? As Gary Neville points out from the gantry, their back five were all at the club under Sir Alex Fergurson: De Gea, Valencia, Jones, Smalling and Young.  The midfield three has a nice balance to it, with Nemanja Matic patrolling in front of the centre-backs, Ander Herrera in a box to box role and Juan Mata supplying the creativity.  The configuration of the front three will be interesting. Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford could play either side of Romelu Lukaku, or Lingard could play in behind the two forwards in more of a 4-3-1-2.   1:39PM Mourinho speaks I'm not making rotation, I'm not protecting the players for the matches that are coming up. I'm picking the team that is best to win this match.  Their stadium is always a difficult stadium because their crowd is so supportive and enthusiastic. Very experienced, very physical, capable to defend in numbers and being dangerous on direct football with Rondon and McClean.  1:24PM West Brom team news: Oliver Burke makes his first Premier League start �� Our team to face @ManUtd...#WBAMUN#COYB#WBApic.twitter.com/61ywIdKq2w— West Bromwich Albion (@WBA) December 17, 2017 1:23PM Man Utd team: Jose Mourinho starts with a back four Here it is - #MUFC's starting XI for #WBAMUN! �� pic.twitter.com/wSFom3lKtz— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 17, 2017 1:21PM Can Man Utd keep their place as the best of the rest? Good afternoon and welcome to the latest instalment of the Premier League's race for second.  Manchester United travel to West Brom 14 points behind neighbours Manchester City, and cementing their status as top four certainties is a more realistic target for the Christmas period than reigniting a title race.  Jose Mourinho's side have a veneer of solidity, with five league victories either side of their derby defeat against City, but performances have not been so convincing. Two long-range Ashley Young goals gave them a two-goal lead from nothing at Watford, they defended desperately for long periods of their crucial win at Arsenal, and there was little more than a piece of cigarette paper separating them and Bournemouth in mid-week when once again David De Gea was relied upon.  The numbers suggest United cannot afford to keep giving up the volume of chances they are currently - Bournemouth had 14 shots on goal at Old Trafford, seven of them on target - and expect to keep winning. Eric Bailly has been sorely missed, as has Paul Pogba who serves the last of his three-match ban today. Romelu Lukaku will line-up against his former club, for whom he scored a hat-trick against United in that crazy 5-5 draw that brought down the curtain on the Sir Alex Ferguson era. No Henrikh Mkhitaryan these days, who has been sent to Coventry by Mourinho since his limp performance at Stamford Bridge.  Alan Pardew promised to bring adventurous and expressive football to the Hawthorns, so naturally they are yet to score a goal under him. There have been some bold selections however, with Pardew fond of picking three strikers in the same XI, usually Jay Rodriguez, Salomon Rondon and Hal Robson-Kanu. The latter is asked to fill on the right flank when West Brom defend in a 4-4-2 shape. That doesn't look a natural fit, and United might look to focus their attacks down that flank where Anthony Martial likes to operate.

West Brom 1 Manchester United 2: Romelu Lukaku sends message to his critics as United survive late wobble

Romelu Lukaku did not celebrate his goal. Jose Mourinho did not either and it now appears to be a deliberate approach being taken by Manchester United as they grimly attempt to stay in touch with the runaway Premier League leaders, Manchester City. Do not celebrate early, Mourinho said after this victory over West Bromwich Albion, which reduced City’s advantage at the top back to 11 points; and we are still one game short of half-way through the Premier League campaign. But that fact is giving Mourinho motivation. And he is using it to motivate his players. There is, the gathering theme appears to be, a long way to go with the inference being that we, the media, and also City themselves, maybe, have started those celebrations far too early. Titles are not won in December but they can be lost then and the fact that United have responded to the adversity of losing the Manchester derby with two narrow victories will give Mourinho a shot of satisfaction. However that will be tempered slightly by yet another injury with captain Antonio Valencia hobbling off with an apparently damaged hamstring. The truth is that United did not play well in the midweek win over Bournemouth and were not substantially better here, and it will not please him that his team were reduced to time-wasting – leading to bookings for Nemanja Matic and Marcos Rojo – and running the ball into the corner, by Anthony Martial, as they ran down the clock. That followed an unlikely late rally from Albion, who were far better in the second-half, after a limp performance that will have certainly concerned Alan Pardew. The Baggies are still waiting for the bounce but, at least, they scored – the first goal under their new manager in his fourth game in charge – and they also had a strong claim for a penalty when Ashley Young barged James McClean into United goalkeeper David De Gea. That could have salvaged an unlikely but precious point. Jesse Lingard doubles United's lead with a deflected shot from distance Credit: Reuters Instead the result pushes second-placed United onto 41 points, 10 ahead of seventh-placed Tottenham Hotspur, who finished last season as runners-up and 17 points ahead of them which is clear evidence of substantial progress under Mourinho. The frustration for him, and United, is the re-definition of the campaign by Pep Guardiola’s City who are frankly playing football on a different plane from the rest of the league at present. And United laboured. It was far from fluid and yet they ended the first period two goals up and apparently game over. Until they scored it was turgidly inconsequential, in truth, but then Oliver Burke, not for the first time, and on his first league start for Albion, sloppily lost possession and Juan Mata pushed the ball out wide to Marcus Rashford who shifted it back onto his right foot and crossed for Lukaku to rise in between Jonny Evans and Kieran Gibbs – why was the latter marking such a hulking striker? – and power a superb header beyond Ben Foster and high into the net.   Cue, again, the debate over whether or not Lukaku can only do it against the lesser teams as that was his 31st goal in 39 matches against the ‘non-big-six’ sides. Lukaku did not celebrate – just as he had not celebrated his headed goal against Bournemouth – and while that may have partly been about, in this case, respect for the club where he spent a successful season on loan it also appeared more than that. It appeared, despite Mourinho saying it was because he had not celebrated either, a pointed message to the critics which is a little misguided although his manager will not care. Maybe he is fuelling that sense of injustice. Gareth Barry pokes home from a few yards to get West Brom back into it Credit: Getty Images United turned the screw. Matic fed the ball in to Lukaku who found Mata who laid it off to Jesse Lingard and his low shot would have been covered by Foster only for Ahmed Hegazi to try and block with the ball spinning off his boot to wrong-foot the goalkeeper. Albion were out of luck and United appeared out of sight. Pardew withdrew Claudio Yacob at half-time, bringing on 36-year-old Gareth Barry, and it made a difference as did his later substitutions – with Jay Rodriguez and Chris Brunt also coming on. Suddenly there was a bit more urgency and aggression, which rose even further when they eventually switched to a more direct 4-4-2, and when a corner was won Brunt’s delivery caused panic in the United defence. Jonny Evans attempted to head home, the ball sailing over him and rebounding off Rodriguez. It flew back into a thicket of players with Barry calmly stroking it past De Gea from close-range. The dynamic, as so often in the Premier League shifted, and Albion had unexpected belief. Suddenly, and for the first time, United were under pressure with Rodriguez reaching another Brunt cross only to bullet his header just wide with De Gea beaten. Then Barry had a shot blocked with Mourinho’s anxiety rising as the four minutes of added time ran into five. So Albion remain in the bottom three, facing a fight against relegation, with their next fixture, away to Stoke City now taking on even greater importance given the plight of both clubs. United, after their Carabao Cup quarter-final against Bristol City on Wednesday, face Leicester City away. Mourinho will demand they do not relent, that they push City as much as they can in the hope that the champions-elect have been proclaimed far too early. 4:07PM FT: West Brom 1 Man Utd 2 Full time! 77 comfortable minutes for United followed by some desperate defending. But it's three points and they stay in second - 11 points behind Man City.  4:05PM 93 minutes Good close control from Martial to trap and aerial ball and win United a free-kick. West Brom shouldn't get another chance from here.  4:04PM Chance missed to finish the game Rojo smashed a long ball forward and Lukaku was in behind the West Brom defence, Evans did well to get back at him and force him onto his right foot and his shot bobbles wide.  4:02PM Four minutes added time More danger as Hegazi swings a ball in but Barry's shot is blocked.  4:01PM 89 minutes A rare spell of football from United as Martial keeps it in the corner. 4:00PM 87 minutes Very nearly a calamity from Rojo at the back post, skewing behind for a corner under no pressure. Brunt's delivery is perfect, evading De Gea and finding Evans at the back post. Matic does just about enough and the ball bounces almost across the line into De Gea's arms.  3:57PM 84 minutes CHANCE! Will West Brom fashion another one? Brunt swings in a tremendous cross from the left, and Rodriguez gets the run on Jones but gets too much on the header and it flies wide of the front post.  3:55PM 82 minutes Another ball thrown into the United box, but strong defending by Jones wins a foul. De Gea once again kicks it long towards Lukaku and again it does not stick.  3:54PM 81 minutes United inviting pressure through their own carelessness in possession. Gibbs swings a ball in, and Rodriguez attempts a  ridiculously ambitious swivel and volley. Gets it on target, but would have been better off looking for a lay-off.  3:52PM 80 minutes The game was drifting aimlessly, but now the crowd are up. Mix-up between Brunt and Gibbs lets United's defence have a breather. Mourinho was going to bring on Martial before the goal, and he stuck with that conviction.  3:50PM GOAL! Barry - West Brom get one back From the resulting corner, West Brom find their lifeline. Scruffy defending from United, Rojo gets beaten at the back post and the ball trickles across the six-yard box. It was begging to be tucked away and Gareth Barry was the man to stick his toe out and get his team back into this.  3:48PM 76 minutes The away fans have been signing his name for a while, and Anthony Martial is ready to come on. Phil Jones slips in the United area which gives Rondon a yard to shoot, and it deflects behind for a West Brom corner. 3:46PM 73 minutes Lazy forward play from Rondon not to get himself back onside. Much better moments later however, Hegazi steps out of defence and fires a risky vertical pass into Brunt who then feeds Rondon down the side's of United's centre backs. His left-foot shot is low and straight at De Gea. 3:43PM 71 minutes Alan Pardew rolling the dice: Chris Brunt enters the fray. He has excellent set-piece delivery and that looks West Brom's only hope.  3:42PM 69 minutes United have taken the sting out of this match. West Brom pumping balls forward but with very little quality. 3:39PM 66 minutes Gibbs clips a long-ball over Young's head to test him out in his new position. Mr. Reliable is up to the task -his renaissance under Jose Mourinho has been magnificent. 3:36PM 64 minutes Bad news for United fans, Antonio Valencia has gone down clutching his hamstring. No messing around, he pulled up straight away which probably rules him out of the rest of the Christmas period. Marcos Rojo replaces him, and Ashley Young switches to right-back. Luke Shaw ignored... 3:34PM 62 minutes United's two No.10s Lingard and Mata are finding more space in this second-half, as West Brom's midfield pair try to push up the field and press.  3:32PM 59 minutes West Brom, to their credit, are taking chances here as they search for a way back into this. Both full-backs were committed forward and Lingard lead the United counter, exchanged passes with Lukaku before shooting straight at Foster from the edge of the area. That's what they did so well at Arsenal a few weeks ago.  3:29PM 57 minutes United respond to that short flurry of West Brom pressure. Valencia swings in a cross and the ball sits up nicely for Rashford on the half-volley at the back post. Foster was rooted,  but it flies just wide on the far post.  3:27PM 55 minutes Good chance for West Brom. Barry lifts a well-weighted ball over Jones's head that Burke latches on to. He whips a brilliant first-time ball across the area taking Smalling out of the game but neither Rondon on McClean could apply the finishing touch.  3:25PM 52 minutes Handbags at the Hawthorns. Hegazi found himself isolated with Rashford but holds him off, perhaps unlawfully. Rashford stayed down holding his face which angered the West Brom defender. Rashford then picks up and runs over to get under Hegazi's grill. Yellow card for the United man, and replays showed he went down very easily in the original incident.  3:22PM 49 minutes West Brom trying to press high up the pitch, but their defence have not pushed up behind their midfield line leaving Lingard with acres of space to receive the ball and turn. He looks for Lukaku with a chipped cross but the Belgian was flagged offside.  3:20PM 47 minutes West Brom have switched to a 4-4-2 with Barry joining Krychowiak in midfield and Burke playing right up through the middle with Rondon.  3:17PM We're back under way So can West Brom make a game of this or are United heading for a simple three points? Stay with us to find out. Gareth Barry on for West Brom. 3:16PM Jesse Lingard celebrates United's second Credit: Getty Images   3:11PM Comfortable for United despite a slow start Solid enough first-half performance by United, and the game has looked easy for them since Romelu Lukaku's opening goal. Until then, West Brom were doing well and United were struggling to zip the ball between the lines with Ander Herrera looking notably low on confidence. Jay Rodriguez is an option on the bench for Alan Pardew, but it is some quality in cenrtral midfield West Brom really need and that will have to be addressed in January.  3:01PM HT: WBA 0-2 United That's that for the first 45 minutes. 2:59PM 44 minutes A rare shout of excitement from the home crowd as Livermore makes a yard for himself 25 yards out but his effort is straight at D Gea. 2:58PM 42 minutes McClean swings a cross over the bar and out for a goal kick. West Brom have tried hard, and it is east to see what that they came into the match with a plan. Conceding the first goal has rendered it obsolete however.  2:55PM 39 minutes Matic drives United forward once again and wins a corner. West Brom are struggling to keep this game alive going into the second half. There is plenty of time remaining, they do not need to chase a goal before half time.  2:53PM 'Park the bus, park the bus...' United fans mockingly signing City's 'park the bus, park the bus' chant back at them now their team have scored two first-half goals. Not that City fans will be too bothered.  2:51PM GOAL! 2-0 United Wicked deflection to Jesse Lingard's shot off Hegazi doubles United's lead.  20 yards out just outside the area, Lingard's strike was heading towards the arms of Ben Foster until the centre back stuck his leg out and the ball ricocheted in. 2:49PM 33 minutes Panicked defending in the United area. Nyom does well to drive past Matic and swing a cross in that was only partially blocked by Smalling at the near post. Valencia was on hand to smash clear. Burke has been more influential in the last few minutes.  2:47PM 31 minutes West Brom are now in a tight spot. They need to show more adventure going forward, but that could leave them exposed against the pace of United's forward line.  Incidentally, no celebration whatsoever from Lukaku. A defiant signal to the critics or a mark of respect to his former loan club?  2:44PM Lukaku's goal West Brom vs Man Utd 2:43PM GOAL! Lukaku -  1-0 United A simple opening goal for Mourinho's side. Rashford whips in a cross from the left, and Lukaku holds off Gibbs on the six-yard line to glance home. Very little movement from Lukaku, the cross was delivered straight onto his head and he just had to direct it into the net. 2:40PM 24 minutes West Brom take a free-kick short and a deflected shot goes behind for a corner. The delivery was too deep, and Evans can only loop a header over the bar. West Brom really need to maximise every situation like that, but they have been wasteful so far.  2:38PM 22 minutes Another giveaway by Herrera and then West Brom pop it around him. Fine delivery from McClean but Jones did well to stoop and head clear under pressure from Rondon. A rare spell of possession for the hosts, but they almost look uncomfortable when they are asked to take the initiative and shift the ball. 2:36PM No right side to Man Utd Average touch positions (20 min)   2:36PM 19 minutes Most of United's attacks have come down their left flank, but they are struggling to penetrate West Brom with neat interplay. Their best moments have come from long-balls over the top. Ander Herrera struggling to be productive in possession. What happened to him? He was a goalscoring midfielder at Athletic Bilbao, but has morphed into a water-carrier in England.  2:33PM 16 minutes Lukaku's oft-criticised hold up play under the microscope again. He did well to hold Evans off but his flick back towards Lingard missed its target. At the other end, Rondon shows him how it's done with a lovely chest control and lay-off,.  2:31PM 14 minutes These chilly afternoons are not particularly conducive to a good atmosphere, as fans sit on their hands to keep them warm. Danger at West Brom's back post as Young swings a cross in to where Lukaku had isolated Gibbs, but the former Arsenal man did really well to stay touch tight and win the header. You might recall van Gaal's United used Fellaini to that effect against Gibbs at the Emirates in November, 2014.  2:28PM Little goalmouth action so far West Brom vs Man Utd shots on goal   2:27PM 10 minutes West Brom's midfield is not the most progressive, it is fair to say. They are all staying behind the ball, and there is not really a good passer among them. Rondon is a ray of light, and looks like he could win a foot-race against Jones or Smalling but not much support for him.  2:24PM 8 minutes Mata has been given the license to drift across the pitch, and he and Lingard are both operating in central positions behind Luakaku. Rashord starting in a fixed position from the left. United are playing without a right-winger essentially, leaving room for Antonio Valencia to maraud forward. West Brom have struggled to string three passes together, United doing all of the probing.  Until a wonderful Rondon backheel set McClean away on the counter-attack, but there was no West Brom player to meet his whipped cross.  2:21PM 4 minutes Oliver Burke has started on the right, and is up against Ashley Young who is a right-footer at left-back. Driving on his weaker left-side might be the plan. A little better from West Brom there, but a diagonal pass skips through for a goal kick off the surface.  De Gea's long kick forward releases Rashford but his shot from an inside left position is blocked. Sunday league stuff really, Pardew will be worried about the ease with which one punt upfield cut them open.  2:17PM 2 minutes Torrential rain this morning in the West Midlands. Far from being a leveller, the faster surface should suit United and they have already settled into a spell of possession. The pattern is set, with West Brom reluctant to press too high. They are retreating into their own half, reducing the space in behind their back four.  2:15PM We're off Sky have United in a 4-2-3-1 with Mata starting from the right flank. We'll see, but I fancy Rashford and Lukaku will play as more of a front two. The home side kick-off and we are under way. After two botched kick-offs... 2:12PM Players are on their way out  Kick off a few minutes away   2:09PM Pardew going for stick rather than carrot Alan Pardew has said Oliver Burke is in the team to scare United, and if he fails to do so he might not be on the pitch for too long. That's one way to build his confidence up.  The former Crystal Palace manager talked up his abilities as a psychologist and he has got a history of getting a tune out of maverick wingers such as Matthew Etherington and Hatem Ben Arfa. 2:02PM Why no Mkhitaryan? Read James Ducker on why a clash of styles rather than a lack of effort is behind Henrikh Mkhitaryan's exile. A lone ranger Credit: CameraSports 1:56PM Alan Pardew stiffens up his midfield No four-four-effin-two from Pardiola today, with an industrious midfield three of Claudio Yacob, Grzegorz Krychowiak and Jake Livermore picked to stop United finding their rhythm. It is not the most mobile or athletic engine room though, so they have to avoid turnovers and giving United the chance to counter attack against them, particularly through Lingard.  Looking forward to watching Oliver Burke. His early departure from Nottingham Forest to RB Leipzig would have taught him much, but he left the Bundesliga in search of more regular football. He has outstanding physical attributes for a 20-year-old, and perhaps everyone - player included - needs to show a little more patience.  1:47PM Jesse Lingard becoming one of Mourinho's reliables Right then, what is going on with this United team? As Gary Neville points out from the gantry, their back five were all at the club under Sir Alex Fergurson: De Gea, Valencia, Jones, Smalling and Young.  The midfield three has a nice balance to it, with Nemanja Matic patrolling in front of the centre-backs, Ander Herrera in a box to box role and Juan Mata supplying the creativity.  The configuration of the front three will be interesting. Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford could play either side of Romelu Lukaku, or Lingard could play in behind the two forwards in more of a 4-3-1-2.   1:39PM Mourinho speaks I'm not making rotation, I'm not protecting the players for the matches that are coming up. I'm picking the team that is best to win this match.  Their stadium is always a difficult stadium because their crowd is so supportive and enthusiastic. Very experienced, very physical, capable to defend in numbers and being dangerous on direct football with Rondon and McClean.  1:24PM West Brom team news: Oliver Burke makes his first Premier League start �� Our team to face @ManUtd...#WBAMUN#COYB#WBApic.twitter.com/61ywIdKq2w— West Bromwich Albion (@WBA) December 17, 2017 1:23PM Man Utd team: Jose Mourinho starts with a back four Here it is - #MUFC's starting XI for #WBAMUN! �� pic.twitter.com/wSFom3lKtz— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 17, 2017 1:21PM Can Man Utd keep their place as the best of the rest? Good afternoon and welcome to the latest instalment of the Premier League's race for second.  Manchester United travel to West Brom 14 points behind neighbours Manchester City, and cementing their status as top four certainties is a more realistic target for the Christmas period than reigniting a title race.  Jose Mourinho's side have a veneer of solidity, with five league victories either side of their derby defeat against City, but performances have not been so convincing. Two long-range Ashley Young goals gave them a two-goal lead from nothing at Watford, they defended desperately for long periods of their crucial win at Arsenal, and there was little more than a piece of cigarette paper separating them and Bournemouth in mid-week when once again David De Gea was relied upon.  The numbers suggest United cannot afford to keep giving up the volume of chances they are currently - Bournemouth had 14 shots on goal at Old Trafford, seven of them on target - and expect to keep winning. Eric Bailly has been sorely missed, as has Paul Pogba who serves the last of his three-match ban today. Romelu Lukaku will line-up against his former club, for whom he scored a hat-trick against United in that crazy 5-5 draw that brought down the curtain on the Sir Alex Ferguson era. No Henrikh Mkhitaryan these days, who has been sent to Coventry by Mourinho since his limp performance at Stamford Bridge.  Alan Pardew promised to bring adventurous and expressive football to the Hawthorns, so naturally they are yet to score a goal under him. There have been some bold selections however, with Pardew fond of picking three strikers in the same XI, usually Jay Rodriguez, Salomon Rondon and Hal Robson-Kanu. The latter is asked to fill on the right flank when West Brom defend in a 4-4-2 shape. That doesn't look a natural fit, and United might look to focus their attacks down that flank where Anthony Martial likes to operate.

West Brom 1 Manchester United 2: Romelu Lukaku sends message to his critics as United survive late wobble

Romelu Lukaku did not celebrate his goal. Jose Mourinho did not either and it now appears to be a deliberate approach being taken by Manchester United as they grimly attempt to stay in touch with the runaway Premier League leaders, Manchester City. Do not celebrate early, Mourinho said after this victory over West Bromwich Albion, which reduced City’s advantage at the top back to 11 points; and we are still one game short of half-way through the Premier League campaign. But that fact is giving Mourinho motivation. And he is using it to motivate his players. There is, the gathering theme appears to be, a long way to go with the inference being that we, the media, and also City themselves, maybe, have started those celebrations far too early. Titles are not won in December but they can be lost then and the fact that United have responded to the adversity of losing the Manchester derby with two narrow victories will give Mourinho a shot of satisfaction. However that will be tempered slightly by yet another injury with captain Antonio Valencia hobbling off with an apparently damaged hamstring. The truth is that United did not play well in the midweek win over Bournemouth and were not substantially better here, and it will not please him that his team were reduced to time-wasting – leading to bookings for Nemanja Matic and Marcos Rojo – and running the ball into the corner, by Anthony Martial, as they ran down the clock. That followed an unlikely late rally from Albion, who were far better in the second-half, after a limp performance that will have certainly concerned Alan Pardew. The Baggies are still waiting for the bounce but, at least, they scored – the first goal under their new manager in his fourth game in charge – and they also had a strong claim for a penalty when Ashley Young barged James McClean into United goalkeeper David De Gea. That could have salvaged an unlikely but precious point. Jesse Lingard doubles United's lead with a deflected shot from distance Credit: Reuters Instead the result pushes second-placed United onto 41 points, 10 ahead of seventh-placed Tottenham Hotspur, who finished last season as runners-up and 17 points ahead of them which is clear evidence of substantial progress under Mourinho. The frustration for him, and United, is the re-definition of the campaign by Pep Guardiola’s City who are frankly playing football on a different plane from the rest of the league at present. And United laboured. It was far from fluid and yet they ended the first period two goals up and apparently game over. Until they scored it was turgidly inconsequential, in truth, but then Oliver Burke, not for the first time, and on his first league start for Albion, sloppily lost possession and Juan Mata pushed the ball out wide to Marcus Rashford who shifted it back onto his right foot and crossed for Lukaku to rise in between Jonny Evans and Kieran Gibbs – why was the latter marking such a hulking striker? – and power a superb header beyond Ben Foster and high into the net.   Cue, again, the debate over whether or not Lukaku can only do it against the lesser teams as that was his 31st goal in 39 matches against the ‘non-big-six’ sides. Lukaku did not celebrate – just as he had not celebrated his headed goal against Bournemouth – and while that may have partly been about, in this case, respect for the club where he spent a successful season on loan it also appeared more than that. It appeared, despite Mourinho saying it was because he had not celebrated either, a pointed message to the critics which is a little misguided although his manager will not care. Maybe he is fuelling that sense of injustice. Gareth Barry pokes home from a few yards to get West Brom back into it Credit: Getty Images United turned the screw. Matic fed the ball in to Lukaku who found Mata who laid it off to Jesse Lingard and his low shot would have been covered by Foster only for Ahmed Hegazi to try and block with the ball spinning off his boot to wrong-foot the goalkeeper. Albion were out of luck and United appeared out of sight. Pardew withdrew Claudio Yacob at half-time, bringing on 36-year-old Gareth Barry, and it made a difference as did his later substitutions – with Jay Rodriguez and Chris Brunt also coming on. Suddenly there was a bit more urgency and aggression, which rose even further when they eventually switched to a more direct 4-4-2, and when a corner was won Brunt’s delivery caused panic in the United defence. Jonny Evans attempted to head home, the ball sailing over him and rebounding off Rodriguez. It flew back into a thicket of players with Barry calmly stroking it past De Gea from close-range. The dynamic, as so often in the Premier League shifted, and Albion had unexpected belief. Suddenly, and for the first time, United were under pressure with Rodriguez reaching another Brunt cross only to bullet his header just wide with De Gea beaten. Then Barry had a shot blocked with Mourinho’s anxiety rising as the four minutes of added time ran into five. So Albion remain in the bottom three, facing a fight against relegation, with their next fixture, away to Stoke City now taking on even greater importance given the plight of both clubs. United, after their Carabao Cup quarter-final against Bristol City on Wednesday, face Leicester City away. Mourinho will demand they do not relent, that they push City as much as they can in the hope that the champions-elect have been proclaimed far too early. 4:07PM FT: West Brom 1 Man Utd 2 Full time! 77 comfortable minutes for United followed by some desperate defending. But it's three points and they stay in second - 11 points behind Man City.  4:05PM 93 minutes Good close control from Martial to trap and aerial ball and win United a free-kick. West Brom shouldn't get another chance from here.  4:04PM Chance missed to finish the game Rojo smashed a long ball forward and Lukaku was in behind the West Brom defence, Evans did well to get back at him and force him onto his right foot and his shot bobbles wide.  4:02PM Four minutes added time More danger as Hegazi swings a ball in but Barry's shot is blocked.  4:01PM 89 minutes A rare spell of football from United as Martial keeps it in the corner. 4:00PM 87 minutes Very nearly a calamity from Rojo at the back post, skewing behind for a corner under no pressure. Brunt's delivery is perfect, evading De Gea and finding Evans at the back post. Matic does just about enough and the ball bounces almost across the line into De Gea's arms.  3:57PM 84 minutes CHANCE! Will West Brom fashion another one? Brunt swings in a tremendous cross from the left, and Rodriguez gets the run on Jones but gets too much on the header and it flies wide of the front post.  3:55PM 82 minutes Another ball thrown into the United box, but strong defending by Jones wins a foul. De Gea once again kicks it long towards Lukaku and again it does not stick.  3:54PM 81 minutes United inviting pressure through their own carelessness in possession. Gibbs swings a ball in, and Rodriguez attempts a  ridiculously ambitious swivel and volley. Gets it on target, but would have been better off looking for a lay-off.  3:52PM 80 minutes The game was drifting aimlessly, but now the crowd are up. Mix-up between Brunt and Gibbs lets United's defence have a breather. Mourinho was going to bring on Martial before the goal, and he stuck with that conviction.  3:50PM GOAL! Barry - West Brom get one back From the resulting corner, West Brom find their lifeline. Scruffy defending from United, Rojo gets beaten at the back post and the ball trickles across the six-yard box. It was begging to be tucked away and Gareth Barry was the man to stick his toe out and get his team back into this.  3:48PM 76 minutes The away fans have been signing his name for a while, and Anthony Martial is ready to come on. Phil Jones slips in the United area which gives Rondon a yard to shoot, and it deflects behind for a West Brom corner. 3:46PM 73 minutes Lazy forward play from Rondon not to get himself back onside. Much better moments later however, Hegazi steps out of defence and fires a risky vertical pass into Brunt who then feeds Rondon down the side's of United's centre backs. His left-foot shot is low and straight at De Gea. 3:43PM 71 minutes Alan Pardew rolling the dice: Chris Brunt enters the fray. He has excellent set-piece delivery and that looks West Brom's only hope.  3:42PM 69 minutes United have taken the sting out of this match. West Brom pumping balls forward but with very little quality. 3:39PM 66 minutes Gibbs clips a long-ball over Young's head to test him out in his new position. Mr. Reliable is up to the task -his renaissance under Jose Mourinho has been magnificent. 3:36PM 64 minutes Bad news for United fans, Antonio Valencia has gone down clutching his hamstring. No messing around, he pulled up straight away which probably rules him out of the rest of the Christmas period. Marcos Rojo replaces him, and Ashley Young switches to right-back. Luke Shaw ignored... 3:34PM 62 minutes United's two No.10s Lingard and Mata are finding more space in this second-half, as West Brom's midfield pair try to push up the field and press.  3:32PM 59 minutes West Brom, to their credit, are taking chances here as they search for a way back into this. Both full-backs were committed forward and Lingard lead the United counter, exchanged passes with Lukaku before shooting straight at Foster from the edge of the area. That's what they did so well at Arsenal a few weeks ago.  3:29PM 57 minutes United respond to that short flurry of West Brom pressure. Valencia swings in a cross and the ball sits up nicely for Rashford on the half-volley at the back post. Foster was rooted,  but it flies just wide on the far post.  3:27PM 55 minutes Good chance for West Brom. Barry lifts a well-weighted ball over Jones's head that Burke latches on to. He whips a brilliant first-time ball across the area taking Smalling out of the game but neither Rondon on McClean could apply the finishing touch.  3:25PM 52 minutes Handbags at the Hawthorns. Hegazi found himself isolated with Rashford but holds him off, perhaps unlawfully. Rashford stayed down holding his face which angered the West Brom defender. Rashford then picks up and runs over to get under Hegazi's grill. Yellow card for the United man, and replays showed he went down very easily in the original incident.  3:22PM 49 minutes West Brom trying to press high up the pitch, but their defence have not pushed up behind their midfield line leaving Lingard with acres of space to receive the ball and turn. He looks for Lukaku with a chipped cross but the Belgian was flagged offside.  3:20PM 47 minutes West Brom have switched to a 4-4-2 with Barry joining Krychowiak in midfield and Burke playing right up through the middle with Rondon.  3:17PM We're back under way So can West Brom make a game of this or are United heading for a simple three points? Stay with us to find out. Gareth Barry on for West Brom. 3:16PM Jesse Lingard celebrates United's second Credit: Getty Images   3:11PM Comfortable for United despite a slow start Solid enough first-half performance by United, and the game has looked easy for them since Romelu Lukaku's opening goal. Until then, West Brom were doing well and United were struggling to zip the ball between the lines with Ander Herrera looking notably low on confidence. Jay Rodriguez is an option on the bench for Alan Pardew, but it is some quality in cenrtral midfield West Brom really need and that will have to be addressed in January.  3:01PM HT: WBA 0-2 United That's that for the first 45 minutes. 2:59PM 44 minutes A rare shout of excitement from the home crowd as Livermore makes a yard for himself 25 yards out but his effort is straight at D Gea. 2:58PM 42 minutes McClean swings a cross over the bar and out for a goal kick. West Brom have tried hard, and it is east to see what that they came into the match with a plan. Conceding the first goal has rendered it obsolete however.  2:55PM 39 minutes Matic drives United forward once again and wins a corner. West Brom are struggling to keep this game alive going into the second half. There is plenty of time remaining, they do not need to chase a goal before half time.  2:53PM 'Park the bus, park the bus...' United fans mockingly signing City's 'park the bus, park the bus' chant back at them now their team have scored two first-half goals. Not that City fans will be too bothered.  2:51PM GOAL! 2-0 United Wicked deflection to Jesse Lingard's shot off Hegazi doubles United's lead.  20 yards out just outside the area, Lingard's strike was heading towards the arms of Ben Foster until the centre back stuck his leg out and the ball ricocheted in. 2:49PM 33 minutes Panicked defending in the United area. Nyom does well to drive past Matic and swing a cross in that was only partially blocked by Smalling at the near post. Valencia was on hand to smash clear. Burke has been more influential in the last few minutes.  2:47PM 31 minutes West Brom are now in a tight spot. They need to show more adventure going forward, but that could leave them exposed against the pace of United's forward line.  Incidentally, no celebration whatsoever from Lukaku. A defiant signal to the critics or a mark of respect to his former loan club?  2:44PM Lukaku's goal West Brom vs Man Utd 2:43PM GOAL! Lukaku -  1-0 United A simple opening goal for Mourinho's side. Rashford whips in a cross from the left, and Lukaku holds off Gibbs on the six-yard line to glance home. Very little movement from Lukaku, the cross was delivered straight onto his head and he just had to direct it into the net. 2:40PM 24 minutes West Brom take a free-kick short and a deflected shot goes behind for a corner. The delivery was too deep, and Evans can only loop a header over the bar. West Brom really need to maximise every situation like that, but they have been wasteful so far.  2:38PM 22 minutes Another giveaway by Herrera and then West Brom pop it around him. Fine delivery from McClean but Jones did well to stoop and head clear under pressure from Rondon. A rare spell of possession for the hosts, but they almost look uncomfortable when they are asked to take the initiative and shift the ball. 2:36PM No right side to Man Utd Average touch positions (20 min)   2:36PM 19 minutes Most of United's attacks have come down their left flank, but they are struggling to penetrate West Brom with neat interplay. Their best moments have come from long-balls over the top. Ander Herrera struggling to be productive in possession. What happened to him? He was a goalscoring midfielder at Athletic Bilbao, but has morphed into a water-carrier in England.  2:33PM 16 minutes Lukaku's oft-criticised hold up play under the microscope again. He did well to hold Evans off but his flick back towards Lingard missed its target. At the other end, Rondon shows him how it's done with a lovely chest control and lay-off,.  2:31PM 14 minutes These chilly afternoons are not particularly conducive to a good atmosphere, as fans sit on their hands to keep them warm. Danger at West Brom's back post as Young swings a cross in to where Lukaku had isolated Gibbs, but the former Arsenal man did really well to stay touch tight and win the header. You might recall van Gaal's United used Fellaini to that effect against Gibbs at the Emirates in November, 2014.  2:28PM Little goalmouth action so far West Brom vs Man Utd shots on goal   2:27PM 10 minutes West Brom's midfield is not the most progressive, it is fair to say. They are all staying behind the ball, and there is not really a good passer among them. Rondon is a ray of light, and looks like he could win a foot-race against Jones or Smalling but not much support for him.  2:24PM 8 minutes Mata has been given the license to drift across the pitch, and he and Lingard are both operating in central positions behind Luakaku. Rashord starting in a fixed position from the left. United are playing without a right-winger essentially, leaving room for Antonio Valencia to maraud forward. West Brom have struggled to string three passes together, United doing all of the probing.  Until a wonderful Rondon backheel set McClean away on the counter-attack, but there was no West Brom player to meet his whipped cross.  2:21PM 4 minutes Oliver Burke has started on the right, and is up against Ashley Young who is a right-footer at left-back. Driving on his weaker left-side might be the plan. A little better from West Brom there, but a diagonal pass skips through for a goal kick off the surface.  De Gea's long kick forward releases Rashford but his shot from an inside left position is blocked. Sunday league stuff really, Pardew will be worried about the ease with which one punt upfield cut them open.  2:17PM 2 minutes Torrential rain this morning in the West Midlands. Far from being a leveller, the faster surface should suit United and they have already settled into a spell of possession. The pattern is set, with West Brom reluctant to press too high. They are retreating into their own half, reducing the space in behind their back four.  2:15PM We're off Sky have United in a 4-2-3-1 with Mata starting from the right flank. We'll see, but I fancy Rashford and Lukaku will play as more of a front two. The home side kick-off and we are under way. After two botched kick-offs... 2:12PM Players are on their way out  Kick off a few minutes away   2:09PM Pardew going for stick rather than carrot Alan Pardew has said Oliver Burke is in the team to scare United, and if he fails to do so he might not be on the pitch for too long. That's one way to build his confidence up.  The former Crystal Palace manager talked up his abilities as a psychologist and he has got a history of getting a tune out of maverick wingers such as Matthew Etherington and Hatem Ben Arfa. 2:02PM Why no Mkhitaryan? Read James Ducker on why a clash of styles rather than a lack of effort is behind Henrikh Mkhitaryan's exile. A lone ranger Credit: CameraSports 1:56PM Alan Pardew stiffens up his midfield No four-four-effin-two from Pardiola today, with an industrious midfield three of Claudio Yacob, Grzegorz Krychowiak and Jake Livermore picked to stop United finding their rhythm. It is not the most mobile or athletic engine room though, so they have to avoid turnovers and giving United the chance to counter attack against them, particularly through Lingard.  Looking forward to watching Oliver Burke. His early departure from Nottingham Forest to RB Leipzig would have taught him much, but he left the Bundesliga in search of more regular football. He has outstanding physical attributes for a 20-year-old, and perhaps everyone - player included - needs to show a little more patience.  1:47PM Jesse Lingard becoming one of Mourinho's reliables Right then, what is going on with this United team? As Gary Neville points out from the gantry, their back five were all at the club under Sir Alex Fergurson: De Gea, Valencia, Jones, Smalling and Young.  The midfield three has a nice balance to it, with Nemanja Matic patrolling in front of the centre-backs, Ander Herrera in a box to box role and Juan Mata supplying the creativity.  The configuration of the front three will be interesting. Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford could play either side of Romelu Lukaku, or Lingard could play in behind the two forwards in more of a 4-3-1-2.   1:39PM Mourinho speaks I'm not making rotation, I'm not protecting the players for the matches that are coming up. I'm picking the team that is best to win this match.  Their stadium is always a difficult stadium because their crowd is so supportive and enthusiastic. Very experienced, very physical, capable to defend in numbers and being dangerous on direct football with Rondon and McClean.  1:24PM West Brom team news: Oliver Burke makes his first Premier League start �� Our team to face @ManUtd...#WBAMUN#COYB#WBApic.twitter.com/61ywIdKq2w— West Bromwich Albion (@WBA) December 17, 2017 1:23PM Man Utd team: Jose Mourinho starts with a back four Here it is - #MUFC's starting XI for #WBAMUN! �� pic.twitter.com/wSFom3lKtz— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 17, 2017 1:21PM Can Man Utd keep their place as the best of the rest? Good afternoon and welcome to the latest instalment of the Premier League's race for second.  Manchester United travel to West Brom 14 points behind neighbours Manchester City, and cementing their status as top four certainties is a more realistic target for the Christmas period than reigniting a title race.  Jose Mourinho's side have a veneer of solidity, with five league victories either side of their derby defeat against City, but performances have not been so convincing. Two long-range Ashley Young goals gave them a two-goal lead from nothing at Watford, they defended desperately for long periods of their crucial win at Arsenal, and there was little more than a piece of cigarette paper separating them and Bournemouth in mid-week when once again David De Gea was relied upon.  The numbers suggest United cannot afford to keep giving up the volume of chances they are currently - Bournemouth had 14 shots on goal at Old Trafford, seven of them on target - and expect to keep winning. Eric Bailly has been sorely missed, as has Paul Pogba who serves the last of his three-match ban today. Romelu Lukaku will line-up against his former club, for whom he scored a hat-trick against United in that crazy 5-5 draw that brought down the curtain on the Sir Alex Ferguson era. No Henrikh Mkhitaryan these days, who has been sent to Coventry by Mourinho since his limp performance at Stamford Bridge.  Alan Pardew promised to bring adventurous and expressive football to the Hawthorns, so naturally they are yet to score a goal under him. There have been some bold selections however, with Pardew fond of picking three strikers in the same XI, usually Jay Rodriguez, Salomon Rondon and Hal Robson-Kanu. The latter is asked to fill on the right flank when West Brom defend in a 4-4-2 shape. That doesn't look a natural fit, and United might look to focus their attacks down that flank where Anthony Martial likes to operate.

What's on TV tonight: a new Agatha Christie, The Apprentice final and Sports Personality of the Year 

Sunday 17 December Agatha Christie’s Crooked House Channel 5, 9.00pm With BBC One dropping its Agatha Christie adaptation this Christmas, Channel 5 swooped for this lavish whodunit, which has never been filmed before in spite of supposedly being its author’s favourite. Adapted by Julian Fellowes and with an all-star cast almost on par with Kenneth Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express, it features Max Irons’s increasingly rumpled gumshoe Charles Hayward, who is recruited by his old flame Sophia de Haviland (Prime Suspect 1973’s Stefanie Martini) to investigate the mysterious death of her tycoon grandfather at his shadowy country pile. Fellowes is in his element with this, and his script doesn’t stray too far from the Christie formula, while allowing for a dash of self-awareness with Josephine (Honor Kneafsey), a smart-alec child who says things like “I’d say we’re due another murder”. Otherwise, it’s business as usual with a series of ripe character turns, from Gillian Anderson’s louche actress and Julian Sands’s supercilious playwright to Glenn Close’s eccentric spinster and Christina Hendricks’s grieving femme fatale. Everyone seems to be having great fun, and it’s infectious all the way to the shocking conclusion. Gabriel Tate Man Like Mobeen BBC Three, from 10.00am Released as a four-part box set, this amiable new comedy walks a tightrope between acerbic political comment and gleeful silliness through Mobeen Dean (played by series creator Guz Khan), a 28-year-old Brummie trying to leave his criminal past behind and go straight, while nurturing his whip-smart younger sister. Full of sharp observations on anti-Islamic prejudice and Muslim culture, it’s punchy, idiotic and unexpectedly poignant.  European Rugby Champions Cup: Wasps v La Rochelle Sky Sports Action, 12.45pm Languishing in third place in Pool 1, having lost two of their opening three games, Wasps need a big performance at the Ricoh Arena against leaders La Rochelle. It’ll be the second time the sides have met in a week, with the French team scoring  six tries in their 49-29 thrashing of Wasps last Sunday. If they lose here, Wasps can wave goodbye to a quarter-final slot.  Happy Holidays with Bing and Frank Sky Arts, 6.30pm Christmas comes early on Sky Arts, with this festive special from Messrs Crosby and Sinatra, performing standards in sharp suits and comfy knitwear. If crooning isn’t your thing, Gwen Stefani hosts her own Christmas special at 9.00pm, followed by Grammy-winning Nashville trio Lady Antebellum playing tracks from their On This Winter’s Night album in a concert in their hometown. GT Sports Personality of the Year 2017 BBC One, 6.45pm Gary Lineker, Clare Balding and Gabby Logan introduce the annual shindig of awkward interviews, sturdily inspiring montages and celebrations of sporting achievement. Anthony Joshua, Lewis Hamilton, Johanna Konta and Chris Froome lead a competitive field for the big award. The Apprentice BBC One, 9.00pm Could The Apprentice finally be running out of steam? This year’s final candidates certainly are, as they recruit former rivals to help them create brands and adverts to pitch to industry experts, only for dreadful marketing to undo them both. The winner is interviewed on You’re Hired at 10.00pm. The Alternativity BBC Two, 9.00pm This documentary follows the creation of a contemporary take on the Nativity. With its use of modern musical styles, this Danny Boyle and Banksy collaboration is like no other but it is respectful to the story at its heart. Inside Bentley: a Great British Motor Car Channel 4, 9.00pm Here is another peek into the lives of the rich and famous, this time through the cars they drive: Joe Lister’s cameras go inside the Bentley factory and its Mayfair showroom to explore the extraordinary vehicles and the unique features which are available only to the very wealthy indeed. GT Toy Story 2 (1999)★★★★★ BBC One, 2.50pm As ingenious, witty and exuberant as the original, if not more, this should bring as much pleasure to parents as to children. Woody the toy cowboy (voiced by Tom Hanks), who’s owned by a sweet but careless little boy called Andy, has fallen into the clutches of a creepy collector, so Woody’s fellow toys, including Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen)and Jessie (Joan Cusack), must rush to the rescue. Toy Story 3 is on Christmas Day. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946, b/w) ★★★★★ Christmas Gold, 3.30pm Frank Capra’s Oscar-winning drama is compulsory December viewing. Pillar-of-the community George Bailey (James Stewart) is racked with self-doubt and contemplating suicide on Christmas Eve, before an intervention from his guardian angel (Henry Travers). It’s a long, dark journey to the final joyous scene in which he realises how much he is loved. Miracle on 34th Street (1994) ★★★★☆ Channel 4, 5.50pm This is the fourth version of the merry Christmas mood-enhancer. George Seaton’s original remains the perennial favourite, but this one, with a screenplay by John Hughes, sticks close to the outline. Kindly Kris Kringle (Richard Attenborough making perhaps the most perfect Santa Claus) tries to prove in a court room, and to a six-year-old girl, that he is the real Father Christmas. Monday 18 December Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith Credit: BBC The League of Gentlemen BBC Two, 10.00pm This is undoubtedly one of the highlights of the festive season for comedy fans. The influential freak show sitcom set in the blighted fictional town of Royston Vasey returns for a three-part run to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its award-winning debut on Radio 4 (the transfer to TV didn’t occur until 1999).  Reviving once-popular comedy is a risky business – just look at the recent Porridge fiasco – but Mark Gatiss, Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton have gone on to bigger, if not always better, things in the intervening years and they return here as if they were never away. Still performing all the major characters on screen (with the group’s fourth member, Jeremy Dyson, sharing the writing duties) they update the stories and characters without losing the demonic humour of the original.  Most of the best characters make a reappearance – Tubbs and Edward, Barbra the trans taxi driver, Herr Lipp, Pauline Campbell-Jones and Mr Chinnery the vet – as Royston Vasey faces its greatest existential threat. Val Denton, meanwhile, sets the tone decisivelyin an opening scene memorable for all the wrong reasons. Gerard O’Donovan Father Brown BBC One, 1.45pm Mark Williams returns for a sixth series as GK Chesterton’s crime-fighting Catholic priest. It’s Christmas in Kembleford but when a dog makes a gruesome discovery in the woods, Father Brown sets out to reverse a terrible miscarriage of justice. Mary Berry’s Christmas Party BBC One, 8.30pm Tips, recipes and full-on merriment as the BBC’s queen of baking invites a handful of famous faces round for a Christmas party cook-in: Alex Jones shows off her rissoles, Darcey Bussell crafts a dance-inspired dessert, while Adil Ray handles the canapés. Plus there’s ginger glazed ham, white chocolate cherry brandy cake, and much more. The Art That Made Mexico: Paradise, Power and Prayers BBC Four, 9.00pm Artist Alinka Echeverria concludes her series by exploring the influence of faith on Mexican culture and how the conquistadors’ Catholic notions of venerating the divine through art found fertile ground thanks to earlier Mayan beliefs. Birds of a Feather Christmas special ITV, 9.00pm Marks and Gran’s long-running sitcom creaks back for another festive special, with Tracey’s (Linda Robson) Yuletide plans upsetting both Sharon (Pauline Quirke) and Dorien (Lesley Joseph). Abba: When All Is Said and Done Channel 5, 9.00pm An Abba double whammy starts with this docudrama exploring the very different stories of the Swedish supergroup’s singers Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad through their own words. Abba: Live in Concert follows at 11.05pm, recorded at the group’s peak in 1979. GO Andre Rieu: Christmas In London 2016 Sky Arts, 9.00pm Rieu entertains with everything festive from Jingle Bells to White Christmas and O Holy Night, bringing his infectious blend of glitter, frills and massed violin strings to boost the seasonal mood. Private Lives of The Monarchs Yesterday, 9.00pm There’s more to Henry VIII than the image of a roistering glutton whose obsession with siring a male heir led to England’s break with Catholicism. So says historian Tracy Borman, painting a picture of a thoughtful young king driven to tyranny by personal demons. GO Carry On Cleo (1964) ★★★☆☆ Channel 4, 12.20pm “Infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it in for me!” So says Kenneth Williams’s waspish Caesar in this, one of the best in the long-running series of cheap and cheerful comedies. Set in ancient Rome, it’s hardly Shakespeare but at least the gags come thick and fast. Watch out for an early appearance from Coronation Street’s Amanda Barrie as a doe-eyed Cleopatra, up to her ears in ass’s milk and political intrigue. First Blood (1982) ★★★★☆ ITV4, 9.00pm Based on David Morrell’s novel, this is the first and best of the Rambo action-movie franchise – it’s more sensitive than the sequels. Sylvester Stallone has become synonymous with Rambo, a maladjusted ex-Green Beret who, after having some Vietnam flashbacks, goes on a one-man war against a crooked small-town sheriff (Brian Dennehy). It’s pacy and raw with a moving climax. Part II is on Tuesday. The Woman in Black (2012) ★★★★☆ Channel 4, 12.10am Thanks to its almost hyper-Edwardian setting and some canny plot alterations, this feels less like a remake of Susan Hill’s ghost story than a new reading of an old tale, trembling with freshly terrifying resonances. Daniel Radcliffe gives a grown-up performance, while director James Watkins uses shadows and empty spaces to create a percolating sense of dread. Tuesday 19 December Faye Marsey as Sarah Credit: Channel 4 Shamed Channel 4, 9.00pm It’s not the most Christmassy of fare but Anthony Philipson’s (My Mad Fat Diary) dark, theatrical one-off drama is worth checking out. Featuring an intense central performance from Faye Marsay (who seems to be everywhere right now, with Bancroft last week and the BBC thriller McMafia to come), Shamed tells the story of 27-year-old Sarah, who suddenly decides to kidnap and imprison two apparently unconnected men: the seemingly perfect just-about-to-get-married Nathan (Nick Blood) and cocky player Mani (Ryan McKen). Both claim never to have met each other or Sarah before. However there’s a method behind her madness, and one which, when revealed, opens up wider questions about how different events can resonate in different ways. Philipson’s tight script keeps you guessing about the connection until near the end before spilling out into violence and debates about the difference between guilt and shame.  It’s not perfect – Mani is underwritten and the rushed ending is a little forced – but Shamed makes some thoughtful points about our attitudes toward sex and the way in which certain people can stride through life without acknowledging the damage they trail behind. Sarah Hughes The Royal Variety Performance 2017 ITV, 7.30pm Miranda Hart hosts this year’s Royal Variety Performance, attended by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, with guests ranging from the obvious (Michael Ball, Alfie Boe) to the incongruous (Kelsey Grammer, Seal). Jamie’s Italian Christmas Channel 4, 8.00pm Another week, another Christmas cookery show. Our chef tonight is the ubiquitous Jamie Oliver who has holed up in a log cabin with his mentor Gennaro Contaldo and hopes to teach us to give the traditional British Christmas an Italian twist. U2 at the BBC BBC One, 9.00pm The Irish band continue their quest for world domination with this film centred on new album Songs of Experience. The action takes place at Abbey Road Studios, where they perform some of their biggest hits and squeeze in a quick chat with Cat Deeley.    Invasion! With Sam Willis BBC Four, 9.00pm The final part of this engaging series sees historian Sam Willis examine one of the more unusual military ideas in history: Napoleon’s plan to use a fleet of balloons as part of his invasion plans during the War of the Third Coalition. The French first crossed the English Channel by hot air balloon in 1785 and Napoleon appointed aeronaut Sophie Blanchard as air service chief to carry out the idea. The plans ultimately came to nothing, but that didn’t stop stories and caricatures of balloons carrying arms, men and even horses spreading through the media.  The First Silent Night Yesterday, 9.00pm The mournful Silent Night is one of the world’s most beloved carols, and was declared an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2011. This film follows actor Simon Callow as he heads to the Austrian village of Oberndorf to uncover its origins before considering why this carol above all others resonates so strongly. SH Extraordinary Teens: Young, Gifted and Broke Channel 4, 10.00pm Pianist and composer Shane Thomas hit the headlines aged only 10 when his precocious talent saw him hailed as the British Mozart. Seven years later his career has stalled. What emerges is a depressing but well-told story of ambition tampered by poverty and a system in which privilege and connections count as much, if not more than raw talent. SH Sword of Sherwood Forest (1960) ★★★☆☆ Film4, 5.05pm Terence Fisher teamed up with Hammer Films for this child-friendly spin-off from The Adventures of Robin Hood TV series, with Richard Greene, who reprises his role here. Peter Cushing stars as the dastardly Sheriff of Nottingham out to murder the Archbishop of Canterbury. It’s a cheap and cheerful affair that remains true to the spirit of the original. Smurfs: The Lost Village (2017) ★★☆☆☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 6.15pm The third of the big-screen outings for The Smurfs is a trippy treat for under-eights, for everyone else the blues. This Smurfs contains double the number of Smurfs ever previously seen, thanks to the discovery of an all-female enclave somewhere deep in the woods. Demi Lovato, Mandy Patinkin, Michelle Rodriguez and Julia Roberts are among those lending their voices. Carol (2015) ★★★★★ Film4, 9.00pm Todd Haynes’s adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 novel is gorgeous, gently groundbreaking, and quite possibly be the saddest thing that you’ll ever see. It tells the story of a photographer (Rooney Mara) who has a relationship with an older woman (Cate Blanchett) in New York. Haynes’ film concludes that love is the riskiest but most necessary gamble. Wednesday 20 December Dame Judi Dench Credit: BBC Judi Dench: My Passion for Trees BBC One, 8.00pm When this one-off documentary was announced, some predictably invoked Alan Partridge’s hapless pitch of Youth Hostelling with Chris Eubank. Certainly, it’s hard to imagine many other celebrities managing to get this made, and even harder to imagine any who could have made it so watchable. A look of astonished delight is plastered over Dame Judi’s face throughout the hour, as she makes all manner of unexpected discoveries about the trees that she loves. There is also a rare peek into her personal life and relationship with her “chap”, David Mills. This may lack the forensic camerawork and high-spec CGI of most BBC nature documentaries, but there are rewarding revelations amid the occasional dose of Botany 101. “I think of my trees as part of my extended family,” says Dench – not the absurd piece of sentimentality you might suspect, as she plants a tree in her back garden for each friend or relative who has died. And trees, it transpires, are also remarkably sociable in their way, an arboreal community connected by spidery threads of fungus and able to call for help if under attack by aphids. Charming and subtly educational. Gabriel Tate What Makes You Tic? BBC Three, from 10.00am Vlogger Lewis “QBall” Nickell aims to conquer his Tourette’s Syndrome and launch a career as a talk-show host, meeting The Vamps and Girls Aloud alumna Nadine Coyle as part of his efforts to raise awareness. Carabao Cup: Bristol City v Manchester United Sky Sports Main Event, 7.30pm We’re at Ashton Gate for this quarter-final clash, as the Robins look to produce and upset against holders Manchester United. The hosts have already claimed two Premier League scalps in Watford and Stoke City, but United are clear favourites here.  The Real Marigold on Tour BBC One, 9.00pm When you see the lives the Marigold pensioners are leading who wouldn’t be envious? This week, Sheila Ferguson, Rustie Lee, Paul Nicholas and Dennis Taylor head to Iceland. There, they go whale watching in the fishing village of Hausavik, and try aqua aerobics and gymnastics in Reykjavik. Elsewhere, Sheila goes on a date with an Icelandic man. Peaky Blinders BBC Two, 9.00pm Perhaps the best series yet comes to a punishing climax with the night of the big fight and yet another reckoning for the Shelbys, this time courtesy of Changretta (Adrien Brody) and once-trusted allies. A Night for the Emergency Services ITV, 9.00pm Presenting a sort of 999’s Got Talent, Ashley Banjo and Diversity introduce a showcase for the firefighters, police and hospital workers who demonstrate skills far beyond their professional capabilities. These include magicians, dancers and a Michael Bublé impersonator, along with appearances from a few special guests. Taskmaster Champion of Champions  Dave, 9.00pm One of the funniest series on TV comes to a spectacular climax as the ultimate Taskmaster champion is crowned, with previous winners Josh Widdicombe, Katherine Ryan, Noel Fielding, Rob Beckett and Bob Mortimer all in the running. Dian Fossey: Secrets in the Mist  National Geographic, 9.00pm After a lifetime of conservation work and, campaigning against poaching, primatologist Dian Fossey was killed in her Rwandan cabin in 1985 – a crime that remains unsolved. The final part of this gripping series examines possible motives. GT Male Rape: Breaking the Silence BBC One, 10.45pm; Scot & Wales, 11.10pm; NI, 11.40pm First shown on BBC Three, this grim but necessary film hears from three men who are among the estimated one-in-six to have been victims of rape. GT Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) ★★★★★ BBC One, 1.45pm Steven Spielberg’s rollicking adventure film, with a very scary end, won four Oscars and created a new action hero in Dr Henry “Indiana” Jones (Harrison Ford). Jones is an archaeologist hired by the US government in 1936 to seek out the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis find it. The ensuing events provide a rollercoaster of thrills. The Temple of Doom and The Last Crusade follow over the next two night. Chicken Run (2000) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 3.35pm Aardman Animations, the studio behind many of Nick Park’s triumphs, conjures up another stop-motion corker that fairly swarms with clever little jokes and details. Our heroes here are a group of jauntily anthropomorphic chickens; they’re plotting their escape to freedom from the tyrannical Mr and Mrs Tweedy, who run the farm on which they live. The voice cast boasts Julia Sawalha, Jane Horrocks and Mel Gibson. The Phantom of the Opera (2004) ★★★☆☆ Sky Arts, 9.00pm Impressed by his use of music in The Lost Boys, Andrew Lloyd Webber hired director Joel Schumacher to bring his hit musical, the longest-running Broadway show in history, about a disfigured genius who lives hidden in the Paris Opera House and who develops a crush on a chorus girl, to the big screen. The score has all the faux-gothic pomp required, but Gerard Butler’s Phantom fails to spook. Thursday 21 December Darcey Bussell Credit: BBC Darcey Bussell: Looking for Fred Astaire BBC One, 10.45pm One dance star explores another in this unpretentious profile of Fred Astaire. Darcey Bussell traces Astaire’s journey from his hometown in Nebraska to New York, London and Los Angeles to examine his ascent to film stardom, achieved after nearly three decades as a professional dancer. She puts forward that he owed much of his success to three women – his mother, his sister and dancing partner Adele, and his first wife Phyllis – but wisely doesn’t labour the point.  Bussell peruses memorabilia and film footage – there’s a delightful clip of Astaire dancing with his long-time collaborator, Hermes Pan – and discusses with historians Astaire’s early life, work ethic and personality clash with Ginger Rogers. The commentary doesn’t uncover much that an Astaire fan wouldn’t already know, but Bussell is an enthusiastic guide and the clips are terrific. Strictly professionals Aljaz Skorjanec and Janette Manrara are touring a successful stage show called Remembering Fred – this film also reminds us of Astaire’s immeasurable contribution to dance, though it wouldn’t harm for it to air at an hour more suited to the ballroom dance-loving demographic. Vicki Power MasterChef: The Professionals: The Finals BBC Two, 8.00pm It’s ladles at dawn for the three finalists as they tackle their last challenge. They’ll cook a three-course meal in three hours for the formidable judging trio of Wareing, Galetti and Wallace, who’ll then choose their champ. Joanna & Jennifer: Absolutely Champers BBC Two, 9.00pm On the flimsy premise of celebrating 25 years since the birth of Absolutely Fabulous, Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley take a fizz-fuelled jolly to France to tour vineyards. They neck vats of bubbly in a travelogue as meandering as Patsy’s gait after an evening spent swigging Bolly. Gordon, Gino and Fred’s Great Christmas Roast ITV, 9.00pm It’s Celtic vigour versus Italian passion in this feelgood cookery special. TV chefs Gordon Ramsay and Gino D’Acampo compete, with a team of celebrity helpers, to create the best Christmas banquet for 100 emergency services workers. First Dates’ maître d’ Fred Sirieux presents. Donny Osmond’s Easy Listening Christmas Channel 5, 9.00pm This Val Doonican-style one-off sees Donny Osmond counting down his 25 favourite festive songs, exploring their geneses and comparing classic renditions to cover versions. VP The Tunnel: Vengeance Sky Atlantic, 9.00pm The symbiosis between Anglo-French cop partners Karl and Elise (Stephen Dillane and Clémence Poésy) in this murder mystery shows us a cheering flipside to Brexit. Their touching, humorous relationship is affecting, even if the series overall lacks the Scandinavian-style eeriness of The Bridge, on which it’s based. Here, the cross-channel cops make a breakthrough in the search for the missing children. The Galaxy Britain Built: Droids, Darth Vader and Lightsaber/Hollywood’s Master of Myth BBC Four, 10.00pm and 11.00pm In celebration of the release of The Last Jedi, these documentaries look at the ingredients that helped shape the Star Wars phenomenon. The first focuses on the film crew who created George Lucas’s fictional galaxy. The second, from 1999, explores the work of US academic Joseph Campbell, whom Lucas has credited with inspiring his plot. VP The Dark Crystal (1982) ★★★☆☆ Film4, 1.05pm Muppets creator Jim Henson stepped out from the comfort of children’s TV to make this dark fantasy tale about a pair of creatures who must find a missing shard of crystal in order to defeat the evil Skeksis. The superbly designed puppets and sets add a surreal quality but it lacks the sense of humour which made Labyrinth, Henson’s next cinema release, so popular. Frank Oz, fellow puppeteer and the voice of Yoda, co-directs. Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 3.35pm Nick Park’s plucky Plasticine pair set about rescuing a village whose annual vegetable competition is in jeopardy because of rabbits eating up the contents of everyone’s gardens. But their bunny brainwashing goes wrong and they accidentally create a mutant rabbit. Beautifully shot, charming, and very silly, it deservedly won the Oscar for Best Animation. Candyman (1992) ★★★★☆ Film4, 11.15pm Virginia Madsen does powerhouse work as a student of folklore lured into fascination with a hook-handed killer who appears when you say his name five times in front of a mirror. She ignores all warnings but is soon blamed for his crimes when a series of horrible murders begin. Majestic direction from Bernard Rose transforms this into a resoundingly epic and gory fable. Friday 22 December Bruno Tonioli  Credit: BBC Saturday Night Fever: The Ultimate Disco Movie BBC Two, 9.00pm Long before he became a household name as a Strictly Come Dancing judge, Bruno Tonioli had a successful career as a choreographer to the stars, arranging dance for music videos, stage shows and tours for Tina Turner, Sting, Elton John and many others. Here he looks back 40 years to when he was a young dancer in New York and got caught up in the global phenomenon that was Saturday Night Fever.  It’s a great story, told with typical Tonioli verve, of how a low-budget film starring the then unknown John Travolta and using the music of a failing band of high-pitched popsters, the Bee Gees, became one of the biggest box office draws of all time and gave half the world “disco fever”. It also shows how – to give credit where it is due – much of its success was down to the visionary genius and unstoppable determination of the Bee Gees’ manager, the late Robert Stigwood, impresario behind some of the most popular stars, and hit stage and film musicals (Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, Grease, Bugsy Malone) of the Seventies. Contributors include Travolta. Gerard O’Donovan The Toys That Made Us Netflix, from today Toys of the Eighties are the focus of this series taking an in-depth look at the nostalgia and collecting fervour that surrounds eight of the biggest selling toy brands of that decade: Transformers, Stars Wars, He-Man, GI Joe, Barbie, Star Trek, Hello Kitty and Lego. Premier League Football: Arsenal v Liverpool Sky Sports Main Event, 7.00pm Action from the Emirates Stadium, as Arsenal  look to avenge a 4-0 defeat in August, when Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, Mo Salah and Daniel Sturridge all found the net for Liverpool. TOTP4 Christmas 2017 BBC Four, 7.30pm Get into the Christmas party spirit with Mark Radcliffe’s countdown of classic festive hits from Top of the Pops’s glitter-spattered archive, with The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl, Wizzard, Slade, The Darkness and Ed Sheeran among the acts featured. Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast Christmas Special Channel 4, 8.00pm Jamie Oliver and Jimmy Doherty welcome actress Liv Tyler to the pier café to make her favourite takeaway, pork dim sum. Oliver also whips up a cracking kedgeree, and Doherty builds a home-made wood-fired oven. Al Murray’s Make Christmas Great Again ITV, 9.00pm Al Murray’s gloriously unreconstructed pub landlord invites an audience to a lock-in at the Reindeer’s Head where he bends ears on such matters as how Christmas is losing its Britishness while whipping up anti-PC seasonal singalongs and remonstrating with celebrity guests. George Michael to Tom Petty: a Tribute Sky Arts, 9.00pm Chuck Berry, Fats Domino and David Cassidy are just some of the musicians and performers who, along with George Michael and Tom Petty, we lost in the past 12 months – as affectionately remembered in this 90-minute tribute. GO Les Dawson: In His Own Words Channel 5, 10.00pm Comedians didn’t come more old school than Les Dawson, with his bluff Northern style, rubber face and mother-in-law jokes. But he was one of the most original comedians of his generation, as proved by this terrific documentary that raids the archives for his funniest work. The Graham Norton Show BBC One, 10.40pm Grahm Norton’s line-up offers a good mix of interest: Hollywood star Will Smith, Victoria’s Jenna Coleman, chef Jamie Oliver and former Keane frontman Tom Chaplin. GO Bright (2017) Netflix, from today This Netflix Original – a $100 million special-effects blockbuster from David Ayer, director of Suicide Squad – sounds like a mash-up of Lethal Weapon and Lord of the Rings. In an alternate Los Angeles where elves and witches walk the streets, Will Smith’s tough NYPD officer finds himself partnered with an orc (Joel Edgerton). Considering its hefty price tag and star-studded soundtrack (Migos, Rag’n’Bone Man, Camila Cabello), this could be Netflix’s biggest mistake yet Puss in Boots (2011) ★★☆☆☆ BBC One, 3.40pm DreamWorks Animation’s Shrek spin-off follows Puss in Boots’s life before he became the green ogre’s sidekick. With the help of Kitty Softpaws (voiced by Salma Hayek) and Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis), the swashbuckling feline (Antonio Banderas) becomes a hero after saving his town. Like the CGI ogre’s last two films, Shrek the Third and Shrek Forever After, the animation is more impressive than the jokes. Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001) ★★★★☆ ITV, 10.40pm American actress Renée Zellweger perfects her English accent to play the Chardonnay-swigging, chain-smoking, lovelorn Bridget in this adaptation of Helen Fielding’s novel, which remains a solid favourite. Love interests Hugh Grant and Colin Firth are excellent as her roguish boss Daniel Cleaver and the stuffy-but-handsome (even in a Christmas jumper) lawyer Mark Darcy. Saturday 23 December A Christmas Tree in Manger Square, Bethlehem Credit: Channel 4 The World’s Best Christmas Lights: From Liverpool to Bethlehem Channel 4, 8.00pm It is amazing what you can build a successful, multi-million-pound, internationally renowned business from. Liverpool-based company The Christmas Decorators specialise in the commercial design and installation of large-scale Christmas lights and decorations – the kind you see in every shop, street and town square. This entertaining film, one of the more offbeat of the season, follows a rather surprising commission: to install the lights and decorations at what many might consider the birthplace of Christmas – Manger Square in Bethlehem. In fact, they’ve been doing it every year since 2012, bringing every single bulb and bauble with them from their warehouse in the UK.  It’s a huge logistical effort, which is also a possibly tricky one, if customs or security in, say, Istanbul take exception to the Bethlehem-bound consignment as it passes through. Director of operations GED Comerford leads the four-person installation team on the trek from Liverpool. It’s fraught with hitches and glitches – even a home-baked Christmas cake is regarded with suspicion by local security – but all the more entertaining for that. Gerard O’Donovan Smashie’s Xmastastic Playlist Christmas Gold, 4.00pm Getting the Christmas party off to an early start from his fab-tastic hideaway at Radio Hush, The Fast Show’s Mike Smash (Paul Whitehouse) brings his off-kilter pop-DJ insights to an hour of festive hits from Wizzard to Johnny Mathis via McCartney, Dylan and Springsteen.  Elf: The Musical Channel 5, 5.00pm There’s seasonal song, dance and fun in the stage musical version of Will Ferrell’s much-loved comedy from the Lowry Theatre in Salford. Ben Forster, who won ITV’s Superstar talent search in 2012, leads the cast as Buddy, a human orphan who was raised by Santa’s elves in the North Pole and returns to New York in search of his family. Michael Buble’s Christmas in New York Sky Arts, 5.00pm At the Radio City Music Hall the crooner sings a selection of seasonal classics, along with a sparkling line-up of special guests including Barbra Streisand, Ariana Grande and The Muppets’ Miss Piggy. It is repeated on Sky One at 12.15am. Pointless Celebrities Christmas Special BBC One, 6.15pm Some of the contestants in this festive edition of the quiz could themselves be pointless answers in a round on Christmas hits. Jona Lewie, Jimmy Osmond and Ben Haenow are among those answering Alexander Armstrong questions. Blind Date Christmas Special Channel 5, 8.00pm There’s a fairy-tale spin to this edition of Paul O’Grady’s matchmaking show, as a Prince Charming has to choose between fellow panto actors Cinderella, Snow White and Tinkerbell. It’s Christmas Live from the Royal Albert Hall Sky One, 8.00pm The Royal Albert Hall is transformed to a rock ’n’ roll winter wonderland as Jason Manford introduces performances by Holly Johnson, Marc Almond, Chrissie Hynde and Shakin’ Stevens, among many others. GO Feud: Bette and Joan BBC Two, from 9.00pm; NI, from 9.30pm Ryan Murphy’s stylish and scathingly catty dramatisation of the Hollywood feud between Bette Davis (Susan Sarandon) and Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange) reaches the moment that the actresses’ mutual loathing went off the scale – while working on the 1962 classic What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (which follows). GO Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001) ★★★☆☆ ITV, 1.35pm  From today to New Year’s Day, ITV are screening all of the Harry Potter films – one film a day, except on Boxing Day. This first adaptation of J K Rowling’s novel was, for a while, the second highest-grossing film ever. Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint are endearing (and very young) in the lead roles but the film lacks the original book’s compulsiveness. Frozen (2013) ★★★★★ BBC One, 2.50pm Disney’s 53rd feature is an enchanting combination of fairy-tale derring-do and heart-popping musical numbers that has left children and adults powerless to its charms. Elsa (Idina Menzel) is a shy princess driven into exile when her magical powers are discovered. Her sister Anna (Kristen Bell) gallops off to fetch her from her beautiful ice palace. Spin-off Olaf’s Frozen Adventure is on Christmas Day. Bill (2015) ★★★★☆ BBC Two, 6.00pm Intelligent children and immature adults will love this mock-biopic from the Horrible Histories troupe that follows the young William Shakespeare (Mathew Baynton) as he ascends from quill-scraping zero to literary hero. Some of the best moments (a running joke about false moustaches is one) are full-bloodedly Pythonesque, although occasionally a kind of student-revue smarminess creeps in. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962, b/w) ★★★★★ BBC Two, 10.35pm; not N Ireland Robert Aldrich’s classic slice of American Grotesque, starring two of cinema’s greatest screen divas, started a trend for casting ageing actresses in campy Gothic horror movies. Joan Crawford and Bette Davis play reclusive sisters locked in an abusive relationship in their crumbling Hollywood mansion.  Christmas Eve Sue Perkins, Mary Berry and Mel Giedroyc Credit: BBC Mary, Mel and Sue’s Big Christmas Thank You BBC One, 7.00pm Anyone looking for some extra festive cheer should look no further than this exuberant Christmas special which sees former Great British Bake-Off stars Mary Berry, Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc join forces to help out at a community centre in the Rhondda Valley in Wales.  Initially, it seems as though this is one of those rather forced shows in which celebrities dispense good cheer and bad jokes, but an emotional story of community spirit in the face of despair swiftly emerges. “We’ve lost our library, our butchers, both banks have closed and there’s no school,” states Elizabeth “Buffy” Williams. Working with her friend Lynne, Buffy has attempted to combat that by opening a community centre offering meals, bingo and after-school classes. Now they want to throw a special Christmas meal for the whole community but it’s tough: the kitchen is small, money is tight and Lynne freely admits that she hates cooking. Enter the indomitable Mrs Berry, who rolls up her sleeves, corrals Daffyd, a 16-year-old with a GCSE in catering, into becoming her sous chef and helps Lynne tackle her phobia. The final celebration should bring a tear to even the most cynical of eyes. Sarah Hughes Premiership Rugby Union: Leicester Tigers v Saracens BT Sport 1, 2.30pm Below-par this season, Leicester will be hoping a win here at Welford Park against third-placed Saracens will give them fresh momentum going into the new year.  Countryfile BBC One, 6.00pm The team head to the Peak District for this special which sees John Craven exploring Longshaw Estate, Anita Rani experiencing a Nativity play with a difference and Matt Baker venturing into Peak Cavern for a carol concert.  Christmas University Challenge 2017 BBC Two, 8.00pm; Scotland, 5.45pm There’s something addictive about the University Challenge’s specials, possibly because they allow us to see celebrities in a new light. The opener sees a team from Durham University, including actor Nick Mohammed, take on a Keble College side featuring Katy Brand. Child Genius vs Celebrities Christmas Special Channel 4, 8.00pm Richard Osman is our host for this Christmas special, which sees past child geniuses take on, among others, Catastrophe star Rob Delaney and broadcaster Janet Street Porter. Will youth or experience win out?  Michael McIntyre’s Big Christmas Show BBC One, 8.30pm The comedian returns for a festive edition in which Alesha Dixon risks social disaster by handing over her phone in Celebrity Send-to-All, plus there’s stand-up from Bill Bailey and music from Seal.  Maigret in Montmartre ITV, 8.30pm Critics haven’t always been kind to ITV’s reboot of Georges Simenon’s Maigret featuring Rowan Atkinson. Yet there’s actually a lot to like here. Atkinson underplays the role nicely, the plots are serviceable and the whole thing is entertaining if undemanding fare. This episode sees Maigret drawn in to the murder of a showgirl. SH M R James evening BBC Four, from 9.00pm Shut the doors, draw the curtains and prepare to be thoroughly spooked as BBC Four dedicates an evening to ghost writer supreme M R James. First up, long-time James fan Mark Gatiss looks at how this diffident Anglican bachelor created stories that still send a tingle down the spine a century after they were written. It’s followed at 10pm by two adaptations of James’s work: The Tractate Middoth, a chilling story about vengeance from beyond the grave, starring Sacha Dhawan and John Castle, and No 13, featuring Greg Wise as an academic who uncovers more than he bargains for in a small medieval town. Billy Elliot: the Musical Sky Arts, 9.00pm Anyone who hasn’t managed to catch Stephen Daldry’s big-hearted musical take on his film about a miner’s son who just wants to dance can find out what all the fuss is about with this performance from 2014 starring Ruthie Henshall and Elliott Hanna. SH Gone with the Wind (1939) ★★★★★ Channel 5, 9.20am Hollywood’s highest-grossing movie until The Sound of Music in 1966, this was the film for which the word “epic” was invented. Vivien Leigh became a star as Scarlett O’Hara, the spoilt Southern belle whose life is turned upside down by the US Civil War. Clark Gable and Leslie Howard are her lovers. It’s brash and self-indulgent, but frankly we don’t give a damn. The Lego Batman Movie (2017) ★★★★☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 1.25pm and 7.00pm Don’t tell Ben Affleck – who plays Actual Batman – but the actor has been made surplus to requirements by one and a half inches of moulded plastic. Lego Batman’s debut solo feature, spun off from a cameo in The Lego Movie, is frantically and relentlessly funny as a new police commissioner (Rosario Dawson) threatens to make the Caped Crusader redundant. Guys and Dolls (1955) ★★★★☆ BBC Two, 3.20pm The 1955 film adaptation of the Broadway classic holds up rather well. The stellar casting certainly helps: Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra in one film – as the rival New York gamblers (and gangsters) Sky Masterson and Nathan Detroit, who place a bet on compromising the virtue of a pious Salvation Army woman, Sarah Brown (played by Jean Simmons). The musical numbers are still a delight. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) ★★★★★ Channel 4, 6.30pm Tiny Tim is a small green frog, Mrs Cratchit is a bad-tempered pig and Charles Dickens himself is portrayed by Gonzo, enormous blue nose and all. And yet, there are few better, or more affecting versions of A Christmas Carol than this musical adaptation. Michael Caine is ideal as the miserly Scrooge, the laughs are aplenty and the finale is as rousing as they come. Christmas Day Peter Capaldi and David Bradley Credit: BBC Doctor Who BBC One, 5.30pm While it’s not unusual for Doctor Who to begin with a “Previously…”, this one takes things all the way back to William Hartnell’s First Doctor, having faced the Cybermen at the South Pole and refused to regenerate. After necessarily metamorphosing into David Bradley (who played Hartnell in Mark Gatiss’s docudrama An Adventure in Space and Time), he duly encounters Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor, in a similar fix. Throw in Mark Gatiss’s doomed British army captain, transported from the Western Front at the moment of death with stiff upper lip wobbling, a mysterious glass woman (Nikki Amuka-Bird) with the power to freeze time, the return of Bill (Pearl Mackie) and a few other surprises, and you have another of Steven Moffat’s self-imposed riddles to unravel. Given that this is Moffat’s own last stand, and with Jodie Whitaker due to make her bow at the end of the episode, you might anticipate a tsunami of self-indulgence and sentimentality, but no. Capaldi and Mackie’s snappy, affectionate chemistry precludes such easy options, Gatiss is restrained and funny and Moffat’s musing on war and peace is enough to bear the wit and self-referentiality. A dignified farewell. Gabriel Tate The Highway Rat BBC One, 4.45pm Rob Brydon narrates and David Tennant voices the eponymous anti-hero in another enchanting adaptation of a Julia Donaldson/Axel Scheffler picture book, this time depicting the comeuppance for a selfish, swashbuckling rat and his long-suffering steed.. The Royal Opera: Puccini’s La Boheme BBC Four, 7.00pm Clemency Burton-Hill introduces Richard Jones’s production of Puccini’s tale of love and loss among bohemians in 19th-century Paris, conducted by Antonio Pappano and starring tenor Michael Fabiano and soprano Nicole Car as star-crossed lovers Rodolfo and Mimi. Jones’s production has a wintry charm that should see it sit very comfortably in today’s schedules.  Olaf’s Frozen Adventure Sky Cinema Premiere/On Demand, 7.30pm Perhaps better suited to television after a brief run in cinemas that saw parents complaining about it delaying screenings of Coco, this Frozen spin-off finds the cheerful snowman Olaf (voiced by Josh Gad) joining his reindeer, Sven, on a mission for their royal highnesses Elsa (Idina Menzel) and Anna (Kristen Bell) who are desperate to create their own Christmas tradition. Expect four catchy new songs to be ringing around your head. GT  Call the Midwife BBC One, 7.40pm Call the Midwife pulls out all the stops for this astoundingly gloomy affair as a Boxing Day freeze descends, stranding Valerie (Jennifer Kirby) in a caravan for an ad hoc delivery and accounting for a popular old timer with a very dark secret. The Great Christmas bake off Channel 4, 7.40pm Val and Selasi from last year, Paul Jagger (he of 2015’s bread lion) and Welsh Beca, a 2013 semi-finalist, return to compete for Star Baker, introduced and judged by the new Fab Four. There’s more of the same on New Year’s Day. Victoria ITV, 9.00pm The Queen (Jenna Coleman) is pregnant again and missing her governess, leaving Albert (Tom Hughes) in the unlikely role of Christmas merrymaker-in-chief. It’s a festive special by numbers, but affecting and easy on the eye. Ashes Cricket: Australia v England BT Sport 1, 10.30pm It’s been a fraught series, on and off the field, for England, with their players’ professionalism frequently called into question. This signals the start of the fourth Test, played at Melbourne Cricket Ground. Can Joe Root’s beleaguered side salvage some dignity? Or will the Aussies continue to have a field day? 300 Years of French & Saunders BBC One, 10.35pm Unseen footage, much-loved sketches and of course Lulu feature in this one-off, which sees the duo back together on TV for the first time in a decade. The new material is intermittently inspired and vigorously performed, with The Handmaid’s Tale, the Kardashians and Poldark all subjected to their attentions. GT Singin’ in the Rain (1952) ★★★★★ Channel 5, 1.05pm There are few movie scenes more memorable than Gene Kelly’s rain-soaked Singin’ in the Rain sequence, or many more jaw-dropping than Donald O’Connor’s walk up the wall. But more than song and dance, this film contains real satire as it recounts the introduction of the “talkie” and the superficial nature of the US film industry. Debbie Reynolds (who died a year ago, one day after daughter Carrie Fisher) co-stars as the Hollywood ingénue. Cinderella (2015) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 3.10pm Kenneth Branagh’s twinkling, live-action Cinderella sticks doggedly to Disney’s 1950 animated version (Cinders’s rodent companions are present) and favours sparkle over wit. However, Cate Blanchett is marvellous as the Wicked Stepmother and Helena Bonham Carter makes a jolly good Fairy Godmother. Princess-obsessed little girls will find it irresistible and the costumes are stunning. Oliver! (1968) ★★★★☆ Channel 5, 3.10pm Carol Reed, who had previously directed The Third Man, won an Oscar for his superior version of Lionel Bart’s musical of the classic Charles Dickens tale (Reed’s only ever attempt at the musical genre). Eight-year-old Mark Lester is sweet as Oliver Twist but it was Ron Moody as Fagin who received the Oscar nod. Reed’s nephew, another Oliver, is a brooding and brutal Bill Sikes and still has the potential to shock. Dumbo (1941) ★★★★★ Channel 4. 4.30pm It may be one of Disney’s shortest animated films, but it is also one of its most loved. Baby elephant Dumbo is born with unfeasibly large ears, is separated from his mother and becomes ostracised by his fellow circus animals. It is only when Timothy Mouse encourages Dumbo to make the most of his ears that he discovers he can fly. This remains an undisputed masterpiece from Disney’s golden age of animation. Boxing Day Willa Fitzgerald, Kathryn Newton, Maya Hawke and Annes Elwy Credit: BBC Little Women BBC One, 8.00pm One suspects that this beautiful adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s much-loved coming-of-age novel (published in 1868) was due a less prominent airing until the BBC had to shelve its flagship festive Agatha Christie adaptation Ordeal by Innocence due to sexual assault allegations against one of the stars. That seems no great loss now, as this sparkling gem of a drama – scripted by Call the Midwife creator Heidi Thomas – more than deserves a Boxing Day prime-time slot.  Told in three parts, it follows the lives of the March sisters – Jo (Maya Hawke), Meg (Willa Fitzgerald), Beth (Annes Elwy), and Amy (Kathryn Newton) – as they progress from adolescence to adulthood under the protective eye of their mother, Marmee (Emily Watson), while their father is away in the American Civil War.  As life-affirming a tale as you could want this time of year, it’s full of high spirits and loving kindness. There are nice cameo performances by Michael Gambon and Angela Lansbury, but in the opening part, the acting laurels go to Hawke for her spot-on portrayal of tomboyish proto-feminist Jo, and Jonah Hauer-King, as boy next door Laurie Laurence. Gerard O’Donovan Todd Barry: Spicy Honey Netflix, from today Stand-up Todd Barry is best known in the US for his bone-dry wit. Anyone seeking relief from the festive season’s more saccharine shows will be sure to find it in this one-off recording from his latest tour. Premier League Football: Tottenham Hotspur v Southampton Sky Sports Main Event, 12.00noon Spurs won both of their matches against the Saints last season, including a 2-1 victory in one of their final home matches at White Hart Lane. Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli both scored in the first half, with James Ward-Prowse pulling one back for Southampton in the second. Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella BBC Two, 5.35pm From Sadler’s Wells, a treat for dance fans in this dazzling Blitz-era reworking of Prokofiev’s classic ballet, performed by Bourne’s New Adventures company.  Snow Bears BBC One, 6.30pm Kate Winslet narrates this documentary following a pack of polar bears as they embark on an eventful 400-mile journey to reach the pack ice where they hunt. Surprisingly charming. Discovering: Julie Andrews Sky Arts, 7.00pm A look at the life and career of an actress and singer more associated with Christmas than most, thanks to endless festive repeats of Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music. But there’s much more to Julie Andrews than that, as shown in this beautifully put-together profile.  Reindeer Family and Me BBC Two, 8.00pm Wildlife film-maker Gordon Buchanan’s festive offering focuses on Santa’s favourite quadruped. In Lapland, Buchanan settles in with the nomadic Sami people to learn the ways of the herder, before setting out with a single reindeer to capture the Northern Lights as they’ve never been filmed before. Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 2017: The Language OF life BBC Four, 8.00pm This year’s theme, The Language of Life, sees cognitive neuroscientist Professor Sophie Scott of UCL embark on an exploration of the urge to communicate. In the opener, she unpicks the evolution of the human voice. GO The Miniaturist BBC One, 9.00pm An absorbing adaptation of Jessie Burton’s bestseller about a young woman thrust into an arranged marriage with a perplexing merchant in 17th-century Amsterdam. It looks exquisite, although the constant quest to shoot each frame as if it were a Vermeer painting doesn’t help the pace. Anna Taylor-Joy plays 18-year-old Nella with suitable bafflement, Alex Hassell intrigues as Johannes, while Romola Garai steals the show as his sister, Marin. Concludes tomorrow. Big Fat Quiz of the Year 2017 Channel 4, 9.00pm Jimmy Carr hosts C4’s alternative comedy quiz looking back at the year in the news, with guests including Richard Ayoade, Noel Fielding, David Mitchell and Katherine Ryan. GO Mary Poppins (1964) ★★★★★ BBC One, 3.45pm This is the popular story of a magical nanny (Julie Andrews) who takes over a London home, transforming the lives of its inhabitants. Dick Van Dyke may affect the worst cockney accent ever heard on film, but the combination of the catchy songs, sumptuous live action and colourful animation makes this one of the most enduring children’s films, and a staple of the festive schedules. The film was nominated for 13 Oscars. Beauty and the Beast (2017) ★★★★☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 10.55am and 5.50pm Emma Watson dazzles in Disney’s show-stopping, live-action, chocolate box remake. The film’s songs – which include three new ones – by Alan Menken are the pulse, the purpose and the headline draw, while Ewan McGregor is delightful as Lumière, Luke Evans perfect as Gaston, and Dan Stevens, in digital fur, is the Prince. The Little Mermaid (1989) ★★★★☆ Channel 4, 4.20pm This vivacious retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale began a rich vein of form for Disney animations (Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King followed). A combination of unforgettable characters, including Sebastian the singing Jamaican crab and the delightfully evil baddie Ursula (based on drag queen Divine), and catchy songs makes Ariel’s journey to dry land a magical thing. Jurassic World (2015) ★★★★☆ ITV, 6.40pm Can modern audiences still be wowed by computer-generated dinosaurs? This long-awaited Jurassic Park sequel (the original movie was released in 1993) proves that they can. A new attraction at the dinosaur theme park, created to re-spark visitor interest, gravely backfires and it’s left to Chris Pratt’s raptor trainer and Bryce Dallas Howard’s scientist to save the day. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is out next year. Wednesday 27 December Steve Coogan as Alan Partidge Credit: BBC Alan Partridge: Why, When, Where, How and Whom? BBC Two, 9.00pm Unfortunately, there were no previews available for this palate-cleansing documentary ahead of Alan Partridge’s return to the BBC for a new series next year, which co-creator Steve Coogan promises will include the sometime Radio Norwich presenter’s take on that most contentious of topics, Brexit. It’s been 25 years since he and Armando Iannucci created the hapless Partridge, described by Iannucci as “a kind of social X-ray of male middle-aged Middle England”, a bombastic, self-important local presenter with an unwavering belief in the importance of the highway code and “imperial leisurewear”.  Now this documentary attempts to explain why this character, above all others, has touched such a nerve. Among those contributing are Coogan and Iannucci, Patrick Marber, Peter Baynham, Rebecca Front, David Schneider and Doon Mackichan, and we’re also promised unseen archive footage. The real secret to Alan’s lasting appeal is a simple one, however: he’s a fully realised character and a very English monster in the same vein as Basil Fawlty. Even as we laugh at him, we’re moved by his increasing self-awareness. Sarah Hughes Celebrity Mastermind BBC One, 7.00pm Actor Jack Ashton, comedian Rich Hall, Match of the Day commentator Guy Mowbray and poet Pam Ayres join John Humphrys for a new run of the celebrity edition. Among the specialist subjects tonight are Tennessee Williams, Iron Maiden and Ashes Cricket.  Agatha Christie vs Hercule Poirot Sky Arts, 7.30pm Pierre Bayar presents this interesting deconstruction of one of Agatha Christie’s most celebrated novels, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, in which he alleges a miscarriage of justice by Poirot.  Six Robots & Us BBC Two, 8.00pm Psychologist Dr Caroline Jay and robotics specialist Prof Jonathan Rossiter join forces in this fascinating experiment which aims to uncover how helpful the latest innovations in robotics truly are. To find out the team deliver four very different robots to families around the UK.  Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 2017: the language of life BBC Four, 8.00pm Professor Sophie Scott, UCL’s Head of the Speech Communications Group, gives this year’s lecture, looking at silent communication and why our body language and smells can say as much if not more than our words and sounds.   World’s Strongest Man 2017 Channel 5, 8.00pm Channel 5 brings us all the action from the World’s Strongest Man competition in Botswana. All eyes are on the USA’s Brian Shaw, the defending champion, who is hoping to win for a record firth time.  Turtle, Eagle, Cheetah: A Slow Odyssey BBC Four, 9.00pm BBC Four’s latest foray into the enticing world of slow TV is this nature documentary which focuses on the different views of a cheetah on the African savannah, a green turtle in the Indonesia reefs and a white-tailed eagle in Scotland. SH Miranda Does Christmas Channel 4, 9.00pm Like many an institution before her, Miranda Hart has swapped the BBC for Channel 4 on her return to the small screen. Here, Hart hosts a “raucous Christmas party” with guests including David Tennant, Sam Smith and Prue Leith. SH The Red Shoes (1948) ★★★★★ BBC Two, 12.10pm Powell and Pressburger’s seminal musical tragedy is one of cinema’s great wonders. It’s about a talented ballet dancer (Moira Shearer), her romance with a struggling composer (Marius Goring) and her loyalty to the ballet that he wrote and in which she is meant to star. The film’s theme of the pre-eminent call of creative passion is thought to be an allegory for P & P’s devotion to their craft. Big Hero 6 (2014) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 4.10pm This Disney animation is an East-meets-West adventure with buckets of heart and soul – and quite possibly Disney at its adorable, huggable, and most visually extravagant best. Hiro Hamada, a 14-year-old orphan living in the city of San Fransokyo, befriends Baymax, a 10-foot-tall, bright, white inflatable robot invented by his elder brother, who’s killed in a mysterious fire at his laboratory. Scrooged (1988) ★★★★☆ Film4, 4.35pm 9+Bill Murray plays a mean-spirited network TV president who sees the light after he experiences ghostly visitations – including Carol Kane as a happy-slapping fairy in a tutu – in this droll comic update of Dickens’s tale. Murray is on deadpan, cynical form (“Have you tried staples?”) and Robert Mitchum contributes a priceless cameo as a fellow executive with plans to produce TV shows for cats and dogs. Oasis: Supersonic (2016) ★★★☆☆ BBC Two, 10.00pm Oasis’s glory-days documentary indulges Noel and Liam Gallagher’s bad behaviour. Mat Whitecross’s film starts and ends with the pair of dates when Oasis debatably peaked, at Knebworth in 1996, and goes to excessive length to detail stories of their excess. Few rock stars, in fairness, have a habit of being so amusingly and brutally honest about their failings, and Whitecross is content to let them have the last word. Thursday 28 December David Attenborough Credit: BBC Attenborough and the Empire of the Ants BBC Two, 9.30pm Back on dry land after Blue Planet II, David Attenborough travels to the Jura Mountains on the Swiss-French border to investigate the methods used by two different communities of wood ants to survive and thrive. One adopts a familiar strategy of territorial aggression, with a family dominated by a single queen and chemical warfare on rival communities conducted with liberal distribution of formic acid. The other appears to defy the rules of evolution as they are currently understood, forming a supercolony consisting of several communities cooperating for the greater good in a manner reminiscent of early man’s first steps to eventual supremacy. Queens, sentries and workers labour alongside each other in a manner which sounds far-fetched, but the cameras capture this extraordinary behaviour in mesmerising detail, from hunting to breeding to self-preservation.  The now-customary behind-the-scenes postscript sees Attenborough almost as amazed by the new technology that allows such access to nature (in this case, the “FrankenCam”) as by nature itself. It’s not Blue Planet II, but it’s the sort of fascinating deeper dive that Natural World does so well. Gabriel Tate Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 2017: The Language OF life BBC Four, 8.00pm Sophie Scott brings her series of lectures to an close with an examination of language and comprehension in the animal kingdom. Are we humans really as far advanced as we believe, or might primates and even birds be able to communicate with comparable sophistication? The Secret Life of 5 Year Olds On Holiday Channel 4, 8.30pm Familiar faces from the most recent series head to Cyprus to enjoy flying, swimming and local delicacies, while the professionals watch on and deliver their analyses of childhood behaviour. What Britain Bought in 2017 Channel 4, 9.00pm Mary Portas assesses whether this year has been as dismal as expected for high-street retailers, and examines a few unlikely trends: unicorns, gin and, she suggests, big knickers. Clint Eastwood: a Life in Film Sky Arts, 9.00pm Whether you love or loathe his hardline politics, few would dispute the astonishing consistency of Clint Eastwood’s work. For such a prolific actor and director, there are few duds on his CV and plenty of masterpieces, from Unforgiven to Once Upon a Time in the West. Made in 2007, the year of his ambitious wartime diptych Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima, this excellent programme finds Eastwood in good-humoured form as he talks Michael Henry Wilson through his 50-year career. GT Bruno Mars: Live in Harlem BBC One, 10.25pm; NI, 11.25pm Harlem’s Apollo Theatre launched the careers of James Brown, Ella Fitzgerald and Lauryn Hill, among many others. Bruno Mars pays tribute to the building’s history and rolls out the hits – Uptown Funk, Just the Way You Are et al – along with some dazzling choreography for a hard partying crowd. Romesh Ranganathan: Irrational Live BBC Two, 10.30pm Perhaps rivalled only by Katherine Ryan for small-screen ubiquity this year, Romesh Ranganathan has proved himself an accomplished stand-up comedian. This special, recorded at London’s Hammersmith Apollo in 2016, captures the comedian’s jaundiced but very funny musings on family life. GT The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! (2012) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 9.00am This claymation Aardman romp is a delight. The impasto of non-stop gags, comic detail and slapstick action should appeal to all the family. Hugh Grant plays the Pirate Captain, who needs more booty if he is to stand a chance of winning the title of Pirate of the Year. The plot takes in Darwin, the last dodo and Queen Victoria (voiced by Imelda Staunton). Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 (2017) ★★★★☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 11.00am and 8.00pm Marvel’s playful space sequel looks like an explosion in a nursery school craft cupboard – every scene comes caked in rainbows, glitter and gunge. The core crew returns, led by Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), but the story only really begins with the arrival of a benign and bearded mystic called Ego (Kurt Russell), who has big news for Peter about his earthly origins. Flight (2012) ★★★☆☆ Channel 5, 9.00pm Robert Zemeckis’s film, starring Denzel Washington as alcoholic commercial pilot Whip Whitaker, is a long, earnest, sporadically brilliant drama. On a routine hop from Florida to Atlanta, Whip’s plane starts to tumble out of the sky – a dramatic sequence that will turn nervous fliers’ stomachs – and the pilot must fight to save the lives of those on board. Dull in parts, this is nevertheless morally provocative. Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (2013) ★★★☆☆ BBC Two, 11.30pm Films based on sitcoms tend to play broader than the real series, and this cinema outing for Steve Coogan’s fading media gasbag is no exception. The plot has Alan held hostage at a radio station in Norfolk. Old friends, such as his assistant Lynn (Felicity Montagu), join in and viewers hoping for new catchphrases will be happy, but Partridge loses his Pooterish potency when moving from talk to action. Friday 29 December Bob Mortimer and Vic Reeves Credit: BBC Vic & Bob’s Big Night Out BBC Two, 9.00pm Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer return for this one-off Christmas edition of their sketch show, 27 years after it first aired as Vic Reeves Big Night Out. Fans will be pleased to hear that age has not dimmed the comedians’ energy – in this half-hour they bounce around the studio in the same vein as their younger selves, which gives the show a rapid-fire pace.  The pair’s chemistry is undeniable and they frequently make each other laugh, as well as a raucous studio audience. There is a sense that Reeves and Mortimer are now improvising much of their material, which may explain why some of the jokes here are a touch below par. But many of the sketches are excellent, such as their parody of Channel 4 dating show First Dates, in which they play jokey gay Yorkshiremen. In another, Vic sells wigs made of body parts.  Nostalgia comes in the form of a cameo from Matt Lucas, forever associated with his George Dawes character in Shooting Stars, and the revival of character Graham Lister (played by Bob) in the talent show parody sketch Novelty Island. This brief return reminds us that, with their corny jokes and surreal sense of humour, there’s nobody quite like Vic and Bob. Vicki Power Tim Vine Travels Through Time Christmas Special BBC One, 7.30pm Prepare for a barrage of seasonal puns as Tim Vine’s comedy show returns. Emma Bunton and Reverend Richard Coles join Vine on a jaunt to Tudor times. Eric & Ernie’s Home Movies BBC Two, 8.00pm Those ghosts of Christmas past, Morecambe and Wise, are revisited in this charming documentary showcasing the double act via some newly discovered home movies. Look out also for a repeat of Morecambe & Wise: Leading Ladies (BBC Two, 7.00pm) and Eric, Ernie & Me (BBC Four, 9.00pm), a drama exploring their relationship with writer Eddie Braben. Victoria Wood by her friends Channel 5, 9.00pm This tribute to the late comedian covers much the same ground, and includes some identical contributors, as BBC One’s Our Friend Victoria, but it’s still a treat to be reminded of Wood’s talents. Her 1997 stand-up show, Victoria Wood: Live 1997, follows.   Delicious Sky One, 9.00pm Sky dishes up a second series of this frothy Cornwall-set drama. Chef Gina (Dawn French) has now joined forces with Sam (Emilia Fox) to run the Penrose Hotel, as the man that they were both once married to, Leo (Iain Glen), narrates from beyond the grave. But it turns out tensions haven’t died with him, and their spats bring a pinch of spice to the drama. Tonight, Franco Nero arrives as Gina’s ne’er-do-well father to stir up trouble. Frankie Boyle’s 2017 New Year World Order BBC Two, 10.00pm; not NI This year’s absence of Charlie Brooker’s Wipe is mitigated somewhat by Frankie Boyle’s return for this end-of-year round-up. And certainly somebody needs to help make sense of this crazy year. VP Elvis: The Rebirth of the King BBC Four, 10.00pm This compelling film seeks to overturn the enduring image of Elvis Presley’s Vegas years as a tragic nadir of his career. It argues that Presley’s musical renaissance in a 1968 Christmas TV special saw the King reach new creative heights that he carried into his Vegas shows, before disillusionment and drugs took over. Fantastic archive footage and commentary from his former collaborators, including Elvis’s backing singers, make a convincing case. VP Up (2009) ★★★★★ BBC One, 2.25pm Possibly Pixar’s finest film, Up has a captivating story that realises the vividness of a childlike imagination. Only those with a heart of stone wouldn’t be moved by the story of Ed Asner (voiced by Carl Fredricksen), who tries to fulfil his dream of building a house next to Paradise Falls in South America. His odyssey brings him more than he bargained for, including a young, hyperactive Wilderness Explorer called Russell. Brave (2012) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 4.20pm The first of Pixar’s films to have a female protagonist won an Oscar and there’s a bewitching craftsmanship to its storytelling. It’s set in the Highlands during the feudal period. Kelly MacDonald plays the flame-haired Merida, who would rather ride her horse than play the role of simpering princess; unable to sway her mother (Emma Thompson), she seeks the help of a witch (Julie Walters). Gone Girl (2014) ★★★☆☆ BBC One, 9.15pm; N Ireland, 9.45pm Cold and controlled, yet fun, this drama, directed by David Fincher, is based on Gillian Flynn’s novel of the same name. Rosamund Pike is Amy Elliott-Dunne, who disappears one morning, much to the apparent surprise of her husband (Ben Affleck). The media sniff around and soon the couple’s secrets come to the surface. Darkly suspenseful at first, the story soon turns into blood-drenched self-parody. The Great Gatsby (2013) ★★★☆☆ BBC Two, 11.15pm Baz Luhrmann lays on a cinematic buffet of such sense-addling brazenness that it takes a while before you notice the film is finger-food and nothing more. Leonardo DiCaprio is Jay Gatsby, a newly minted millionaire, and Carey Mulligan is Daisy Buchanan, the lost love he longs to win back. On the rare occasions Luhrmann gives them space to act in the pulsating frenzy of his Jazz Age world, both do a wonderful job. Television previewers Toby Dantzic, Catherine Gee, Simon Horsford, Sarah Hughes, Clive Morgan, Gerard O'Donovan, Vicki Power, Patrick Smith, Gabriel Tate and Rachel Ward

What's on TV tonight: The League of Gentlemen returns and Mary Berry’s Christmas Party

Monday 18 December The League of Gentlemen BBC Two, 10.00pm This is undoubtedly one of the highlights of the festive season for comedy fans. The influential freak show sitcom set in the blighted fictional town of Royston Vasey returns for a three-part run to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its award-winning debut on Radio 4 (the transfer to TV didn’t occur until 1999).  Reviving once-popular comedy is a risky business – just look at the recent Porridge fiasco – but Mark Gatiss, Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton have gone on to bigger, if not always better, things in the intervening years and they return here as if they were never away. Still performing all the major characters on screen (with the group’s fourth member, Jeremy Dyson, sharing the writing duties) they update the stories and characters without losing the demonic humour of the original.  Most of the best characters make a reappearance – Tubbs and Edward, Barbra the trans taxi driver, Herr Lipp, Pauline Campbell-Jones and Mr Chinnery the vet – as Royston Vasey faces its greatest existential threat. Val Denton, meanwhile, sets the tone decisivelyin an opening scene memorable for all the wrong reasons. Gerard O’Donovan Father Brown BBC One, 1.45pm Mark Williams returns for a sixth series as GK Chesterton’s crime-fighting Catholic priest. It’s Christmas in Kembleford but when a dog makes a gruesome discovery in the woods, Father Brown sets out to reverse a terrible miscarriage of justice. Mary Berry’s Christmas Party BBC One, 8.30pm Tips, recipes and full-on merriment as the BBC’s queen of baking invites a handful of famous faces round for a Christmas party cook-in: Alex Jones shows off her rissoles, Darcey Bussell crafts a dance-inspired dessert, while Adil Ray handles the canapés. Plus there’s ginger glazed ham, white chocolate cherry brandy cake, and much more. The Art That Made Mexico: Paradise, Power and Prayers BBC Four, 9.00pm Artist Alinka Echeverria concludes her series by exploring the influence of faith on Mexican culture and how the conquistadors’ Catholic notions of venerating the divine through art found fertile ground thanks to earlier Mayan beliefs. Birds of a Feather Christmas special ITV, 9.00pm Marks and Gran’s long-running sitcom creaks back for another festive special, with Tracey’s (Linda Robson) Yuletide plans upsetting both Sharon (Pauline Quirke) and Dorien (Lesley Joseph). Abba: When All Is Said and Done Channel 5, 9.00pm An Abba double whammy starts with this docudrama exploring the very different stories of the Swedish supergroup’s singers Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad through their own words. Abba: Live in Concert follows at 11.05pm, recorded at the group’s peak in 1979. GO Andre Rieu: Christmas In London 2016 Sky Arts, 9.00pm Rieu entertains with everything festive from Jingle Bells to White Christmas and O Holy Night, bringing his infectious blend of glitter, frills and massed violin strings to boost the seasonal mood. Private Lives of The Monarchs Yesterday, 9.00pm There’s more to Henry VIII than the image of a roistering glutton whose obsession with siring a male heir led to England’s break with Catholicism. So says historian Tracy Borman, painting a picture of a thoughtful young king driven to tyranny by personal demons. GO Carry On Cleo (1964) ★★★☆☆ Channel 4, 12.20pm “Infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it in for me!” So says Kenneth Williams’s waspish Caesar in this, one of the best in the long-running series of cheap and cheerful comedies. Set in ancient Rome, it’s hardly Shakespeare but at least the gags come thick and fast. Watch out for an early appearance from Coronation Street’s Amanda Barrie as a doe-eyed Cleopatra, up to her ears in ass’s milk and political intrigue. First Blood (1982) ★★★★☆ ITV4, 9.00pm Based on David Morrell’s novel, this is the first and best of the Rambo action-movie franchise – it’s more sensitive than the sequels. Sylvester Stallone has become synonymous with Rambo, a maladjusted ex-Green Beret who, after having some Vietnam flashbacks, goes on a one-man war against a crooked small-town sheriff (Brian Dennehy). It’s pacy and raw with a moving climax. Part II is on Tuesday. The Woman in Black (2012) ★★★★☆ Channel 4, 12.10am Thanks to its almost hyper-Edwardian setting and some canny plot alterations, this feels less like a remake of Susan Hill’s ghost story than a new reading of an old tale, trembling with freshly terrifying resonances. Daniel Radcliffe gives a grown-up performance, while director James Watkins uses shadows and empty spaces to create a percolating sense of dread. Tuesday 19 December Faye Marsey as Sarah Credit: Channel 4 Shamed Channel 4, 9.00pm It’s not the most Christmassy of fare but Anthony Philipson’s (My Mad Fat Diary) dark, theatrical one-off drama is worth checking out. Featuring an intense central performance from Faye Marsay (who seems to be everywhere right now, with Bancroft last week and the BBC thriller McMafia to come), Shamed tells the story of 27-year-old Sarah, who suddenly decides to kidnap and imprison two apparently unconnected men: the seemingly perfect just-about-to-get-married Nathan (Nick Blood) and cocky player Mani (Ryan McKen). Both claim never to have met each other or Sarah before. However there’s a method behind her madness, and one which, when revealed, opens up wider questions about how different events can resonate in different ways. Philipson’s tight script keeps you guessing about the connection until near the end before spilling out into violence and debates about the difference between guilt and shame.  It’s not perfect – Mani is underwritten and the rushed ending is a little forced – but Shamed makes some thoughtful points about our attitudes toward sex and the way in which certain people can stride through life without acknowledging the damage they trail behind. Sarah Hughes The Royal Variety Performance 2017 ITV, 7.30pm Miranda Hart hosts this year’s Royal Variety Performance, attended by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, with guests ranging from the obvious (Michael Ball, Alfie Boe) to the incongruous (Kelsey Grammer, Seal). Jamie’s Italian Christmas Channel 4, 8.00pm Another week, another Christmas cookery show. Our chef tonight is the ubiquitous Jamie Oliver who has holed up in a log cabin with his mentor Gennaro Contaldo and hopes to teach us to give the traditional British Christmas an Italian twist. U2 at the BBC BBC One, 9.00pm The Irish band continue their quest for world domination with this film centred on new album Songs of Experience. The action takes place at Abbey Road Studios, where they perform some of their biggest hits and squeeze in a quick chat with Cat Deeley.    Invasion! With Sam Willis BBC Four, 9.00pm The final part of this engaging series sees historian Sam Willis examine one of the more unusual military ideas in history: Napoleon’s plan to use a fleet of balloons as part of his invasion plans during the War of the Third Coalition. The French first crossed the English Channel by hot air balloon in 1785 and Napoleon appointed aeronaut Sophie Blanchard as air service chief to carry out the idea. The plans ultimately came to nothing, but that didn’t stop stories and caricatures of balloons carrying arms, men and even horses spreading through the media.  The First Silent Night Yesterday, 9.00pm The mournful Silent Night is one of the world’s most beloved carols, and was declared an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2011. This film follows actor Simon Callow as he heads to the Austrian village of Oberndorf to uncover its origins before considering why this carol above all others resonates so strongly. SH Extraordinary Teens: Young, Gifted and Broke Channel 4, 10.00pm Pianist and composer Shane Thomas hit the headlines aged only 10 when his precocious talent saw him hailed as the British Mozart. Seven years later his career has stalled. What emerges is a depressing but well-told story of ambition tampered by poverty and a system in which privilege and connections count as much, if not more than raw talent. SH Sword of Sherwood Forest (1960) ★★★☆☆ Film4, 5.05pm Terence Fisher teamed up with Hammer Films for this child-friendly spin-off from The Adventures of Robin Hood TV series, with Richard Greene, who reprises his role here. Peter Cushing stars as the dastardly Sheriff of Nottingham out to murder the Archbishop of Canterbury. It’s a cheap and cheerful affair that remains true to the spirit of the original. Smurfs: The Lost Village (2017) ★★☆☆☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 6.15pm The third of the big-screen outings for The Smurfs is a trippy treat for under-eights, for everyone else the blues. This Smurfs contains double the number of Smurfs ever previously seen, thanks to the discovery of an all-female enclave somewhere deep in the woods. Demi Lovato, Mandy Patinkin, Michelle Rodriguez and Julia Roberts are among those lending their voices. Carol (2015) ★★★★★ Film4, 9.00pm Todd Haynes’s adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 novel is gorgeous, gently groundbreaking, and quite possibly be the saddest thing that you’ll ever see. It tells the story of a photographer (Rooney Mara) who has a relationship with an older woman (Cate Blanchett) in New York. Haynes’ film concludes that love is the riskiest but most necessary gamble. Wednesday 20 December Dame Judi Dench Credit: BBC Judi Dench: My Passion for Trees BBC One, 8.00pm When this one-off documentary was announced, some predictably invoked Alan Partridge’s hapless pitch of Youth Hostelling with Chris Eubank. Certainly, it’s hard to imagine many other celebrities managing to get this made, and even harder to imagine any who could have made it so watchable. A look of astonished delight is plastered over Dame Judi’s face throughout the hour, as she makes all manner of unexpected discoveries about the trees that she loves. There is also a rare peek into her personal life and relationship with her “chap”, David Mills. This may lack the forensic camerawork and high-spec CGI of most BBC nature documentaries, but there are rewarding revelations amid the occasional dose of Botany 101. “I think of my trees as part of my extended family,” says Dench – not the absurd piece of sentimentality you might suspect, as she plants a tree in her back garden for each friend or relative who has died. And trees, it transpires, are also remarkably sociable in their way, an arboreal community connected by spidery threads of fungus and able to call for help if under attack by aphids. Charming and subtly educational. Gabriel Tate What Makes You Tic? BBC Three, from 10.00am Vlogger Lewis “QBall” Nickell aims to conquer his Tourette’s Syndrome and launch a career as a talk-show host, meeting The Vamps and Girls Aloud alumna Nadine Coyle as part of his efforts to raise awareness. Carabao Cup: Bristol City v Manchester United Sky Sports Main Event, 7.30pm We’re at Ashton Gate for this quarter-final clash, as the Robins look to produce and upset against holders Manchester United. The hosts have already claimed two Premier League scalps in Watford and Stoke City, but United are clear favourites here.  The Real Marigold on Tour BBC One, 9.00pm When you see the lives the Marigold pensioners are leading who wouldn’t be envious? This week, Sheila Ferguson, Rustie Lee, Paul Nicholas and Dennis Taylor head to Iceland. There, they go whale watching in the fishing village of Hausavik, and try aqua aerobics and gymnastics in Reykjavik. Elsewhere, Sheila goes on a date with an Icelandic man. Peaky Blinders BBC Two, 9.00pm Perhaps the best series yet comes to a punishing climax with the night of the big fight and yet another reckoning for the Shelbys, this time courtesy of Changretta (Adrien Brody) and once-trusted allies. A Night for the Emergency Services ITV, 9.00pm Presenting a sort of 999’s Got Talent, Ashley Banjo and Diversity introduce a showcase for the firefighters, police and hospital workers who demonstrate skills far beyond their professional capabilities. These include magicians, dancers and a Michael Bublé impersonator, along with appearances from a few special guests. Taskmaster Champion of Champions  Dave, 9.00pm One of the funniest series on TV comes to a spectacular climax as the ultimate Taskmaster champion is crowned, with previous winners Josh Widdicombe, Katherine Ryan, Noel Fielding, Rob Beckett and Bob Mortimer all in the running. Dian Fossey: Secrets in the Mist  National Geographic, 9.00pm After a lifetime of conservation work and, campaigning against poaching, primatologist Dian Fossey was killed in her Rwandan cabin in 1985 – a crime that remains unsolved. The final part of this gripping series examines possible motives. GT Male Rape: Breaking the Silence BBC One, 10.45pm; Scot & Wales, 11.10pm; NI, 11.40pm First shown on BBC Three, this grim but necessary film hears from three men who are among the estimated one-in-six to have been victims of rape. GT Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) ★★★★★ BBC One, 1.45pm Steven Spielberg’s rollicking adventure film, with a very scary end, won four Oscars and created a new action hero in Dr Henry “Indiana” Jones (Harrison Ford). Jones is an archaeologist hired by the US government in 1936 to seek out the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis find it. The ensuing events provide a rollercoaster of thrills. The Temple of Doom and The Last Crusade follow over the next two night. Chicken Run (2000) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 3.35pm Aardman Animations, the studio behind many of Nick Park’s triumphs, conjures up another stop-motion corker that fairly swarms with clever little jokes and details. Our heroes here are a group of jauntily anthropomorphic chickens; they’re plotting their escape to freedom from the tyrannical Mr and Mrs Tweedy, who run the farm on which they live. The voice cast boasts Julia Sawalha, Jane Horrocks and Mel Gibson. The Phantom of the Opera (2004) ★★★☆☆ Sky Arts, 9.00pm Impressed by his use of music in The Lost Boys, Andrew Lloyd Webber hired director Joel Schumacher to bring his hit musical, the longest-running Broadway show in history, about a disfigured genius who lives hidden in the Paris Opera House and who develops a crush on a chorus girl, to the big screen. The score has all the faux-gothic pomp required, but Gerard Butler’s Phantom fails to spook. Thursday 21 December Darcey Bussell Credit: BBC Darcey Bussell: Looking for Fred Astaire BBC One, 10.45pm One dance star explores another in this unpretentious profile of Fred Astaire. Darcey Bussell traces Astaire’s journey from his hometown in Nebraska to New York, London and Los Angeles to examine his ascent to film stardom, achieved after nearly three decades as a professional dancer. She puts forward that he owed much of his success to three women – his mother, his sister and dancing partner Adele, and his first wife Phyllis – but wisely doesn’t labour the point.  Bussell peruses memorabilia and film footage – there’s a delightful clip of Astaire dancing with his long-time collaborator, Hermes Pan – and discusses with historians Astaire’s early life, work ethic and personality clash with Ginger Rogers. The commentary doesn’t uncover much that an Astaire fan wouldn’t already know, but Bussell is an enthusiastic guide and the clips are terrific. Strictly professionals Aljaz Skorjanec and Janette Manrara are touring a successful stage show called Remembering Fred – this film also reminds us of Astaire’s immeasurable contribution to dance, though it wouldn’t harm for it to air at an hour more suited to the ballroom dance-loving demographic. Vicki Power MasterChef: The Professionals: The Finals BBC Two, 8.00pm It’s ladles at dawn for the three finalists as they tackle their last challenge. They’ll cook a three-course meal in three hours for the formidable judging trio of Wareing, Galetti and Wallace, who’ll then choose their champ. Joanna & Jennifer: Absolutely Champers BBC Two, 9.00pm On the flimsy premise of celebrating 25 years since the birth of Absolutely Fabulous, Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley take a fizz-fuelled jolly to France to tour vineyards. They neck vats of bubbly in a travelogue as meandering as Patsy’s gait after an evening spent swigging Bolly. Gordon, Gino and Fred’s Great Christmas Roast ITV, 9.00pm It’s Celtic vigour versus Italian passion in this feelgood cookery special. TV chefs Gordon Ramsay and Gino D’Acampo compete, with a team of celebrity helpers, to create the best Christmas banquet for 100 emergency services workers. First Dates’ maître d’ Fred Sirieux presents. Donny Osmond’s Easy Listening Christmas Channel 5, 9.00pm This Val Doonican-style one-off sees Donny Osmond counting down his 25 favourite festive songs, exploring their geneses and comparing classic renditions to cover versions. VP The Tunnel: Vengeance Sky Atlantic, 9.00pm The symbiosis between Anglo-French cop partners Karl and Elise (Stephen Dillane and Clémence Poésy) in this murder mystery shows us a cheering flipside to Brexit. Their touching, humorous relationship is affecting, even if the series overall lacks the Scandinavian-style eeriness of The Bridge, on which it’s based. Here, the cross-channel cops make a breakthrough in the search for the missing children. The Galaxy Britain Built: Droids, Darth Vader and Lightsaber/Hollywood’s Master of Myth BBC Four, 10.00pm and 11.00pm In celebration of the release of The Last Jedi, these documentaries look at the ingredients that helped shape the Star Wars phenomenon. The first focuses on the film crew who created George Lucas’s fictional galaxy. The second, from 1999, explores the work of US academic Joseph Campbell, whom Lucas has credited with inspiring his plot. VP The Dark Crystal (1982) ★★★☆☆ Film4, 1.05pm Muppets creator Jim Henson stepped out from the comfort of children’s TV to make this dark fantasy tale about a pair of creatures who must find a missing shard of crystal in order to defeat the evil Skeksis. The superbly designed puppets and sets add a surreal quality but it lacks the sense of humour which made Labyrinth, Henson’s next cinema release, so popular. Frank Oz, fellow puppeteer and the voice of Yoda, co-directs. Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 3.35pm Nick Park’s plucky Plasticine pair set about rescuing a village whose annual vegetable competition is in jeopardy because of rabbits eating up the contents of everyone’s gardens. But their bunny brainwashing goes wrong and they accidentally create a mutant rabbit. Beautifully shot, charming, and very silly, it deservedly won the Oscar for Best Animation. Candyman (1992) ★★★★☆ Film4, 11.15pm Virginia Madsen does powerhouse work as a student of folklore lured into fascination with a hook-handed killer who appears when you say his name five times in front of a mirror. She ignores all warnings but is soon blamed for his crimes when a series of horrible murders begin. Majestic direction from Bernard Rose transforms this into a resoundingly epic and gory fable. Friday 22 December Bruno Tonioli  Credit: BBC Saturday Night Fever: The Ultimate Disco Movie BBC Two, 9.00pm Long before he became a household name as a Strictly Come Dancing judge, Bruno Tonioli had a successful career as a choreographer to the stars, arranging dance for music videos, stage shows and tours for Tina Turner, Sting, Elton John and many others. Here he looks back 40 years to when he was a young dancer in New York and got caught up in the global phenomenon that was Saturday Night Fever.  It’s a great story, told with typical Tonioli verve, of how a low-budget film starring the then unknown John Travolta and using the music of a failing band of high-pitched popsters, the Bee Gees, became one of the biggest box office draws of all time and gave half the world “disco fever”. It also shows how – to give credit where it is due – much of its success was down to the visionary genius and unstoppable determination of the Bee Gees’ manager, the late Robert Stigwood, impresario behind some of the most popular stars, and hit stage and film musicals (Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, Grease, Bugsy Malone) of the Seventies. Contributors include Travolta. Gerard O’Donovan The Toys That Made Us Netflix, from today Toys of the Eighties are the focus of this series taking an in-depth look at the nostalgia and collecting fervour that surrounds eight of the biggest selling toy brands of that decade: Transformers, Stars Wars, He-Man, GI Joe, Barbie, Star Trek, Hello Kitty and Lego. Premier League Football: Arsenal v Liverpool Sky Sports Main Event, 7.00pm Action from the Emirates Stadium, as Arsenal  look to avenge a 4-0 defeat in August, when Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, Mo Salah and Daniel Sturridge all found the net for Liverpool. TOTP4 Christmas 2017 BBC Four, 7.30pm Get into the Christmas party spirit with Mark Radcliffe’s countdown of classic festive hits from Top of the Pops’s glitter-spattered archive, with The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl, Wizzard, Slade, The Darkness and Ed Sheeran among the acts featured. Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast Christmas Special Channel 4, 8.00pm Jamie Oliver and Jimmy Doherty welcome actress Liv Tyler to the pier café to make her favourite takeaway, pork dim sum. Oliver also whips up a cracking kedgeree, and Doherty builds a home-made wood-fired oven. Al Murray’s Make Christmas Great Again ITV, 9.00pm Al Murray’s gloriously unreconstructed pub landlord invites an audience to a lock-in at the Reindeer’s Head where he bends ears on such matters as how Christmas is losing its Britishness while whipping up anti-PC seasonal singalongs and remonstrating with celebrity guests. George Michael to Tom Petty: a Tribute Sky Arts, 9.00pm Chuck Berry, Fats Domino and David Cassidy are just some of the musicians and performers who, along with George Michael and Tom Petty, we lost in the past 12 months – as affectionately remembered in this 90-minute tribute. GO Les Dawson: In His Own Words Channel 5, 10.00pm Comedians didn’t come more old school than Les Dawson, with his bluff Northern style, rubber face and mother-in-law jokes. But he was one of the most original comedians of his generation, as proved by this terrific documentary that raids the archives for his funniest work. The Graham Norton Show BBC One, 10.40pm Grahm Norton’s line-up offers a good mix of interest: Hollywood star Will Smith, Victoria’s Jenna Coleman, chef Jamie Oliver and former Keane frontman Tom Chaplin. GO Bright (2017) Netflix, from today This Netflix Original – a $100 million special-effects blockbuster from David Ayer, director of Suicide Squad – sounds like a mash-up of Lethal Weapon and Lord of the Rings. In an alternate Los Angeles where elves and witches walk the streets, Will Smith’s tough NYPD officer finds himself partnered with an orc (Joel Edgerton). Considering its hefty price tag and star-studded soundtrack (Migos, Rag’n’Bone Man, Camila Cabello), this could be Netflix’s biggest mistake yet Puss in Boots (2011) ★★☆☆☆ BBC One, 3.40pm DreamWorks Animation’s Shrek spin-off follows Puss in Boots’s life before he became the green ogre’s sidekick. With the help of Kitty Softpaws (voiced by Salma Hayek) and Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis), the swashbuckling feline (Antonio Banderas) becomes a hero after saving his town. Like the CGI ogre’s last two films, Shrek the Third and Shrek Forever After, the animation is more impressive than the jokes. Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001) ★★★★☆ ITV, 10.40pm American actress Renée Zellweger perfects her English accent to play the Chardonnay-swigging, chain-smoking, lovelorn Bridget in this adaptation of Helen Fielding’s novel, which remains a solid favourite. Love interests Hugh Grant and Colin Firth are excellent as her roguish boss Daniel Cleaver and the stuffy-but-handsome (even in a Christmas jumper) lawyer Mark Darcy. Saturday 23 December A Christmas Tree in Manger Square, Bethlehem Credit: Channel 4 The World’s Best Christmas Lights: From Liverpool to Bethlehem Channel 4, 8.00pm It is amazing what you can build a successful, multi-million-pound, internationally renowned business from. Liverpool-based company The Christmas Decorators specialise in the commercial design and installation of large-scale Christmas lights and decorations – the kind you see in every shop, street and town square. This entertaining film, one of the more offbeat of the season, follows a rather surprising commission: to install the lights and decorations at what many might consider the birthplace of Christmas – Manger Square in Bethlehem. In fact, they’ve been doing it every year since 2012, bringing every single bulb and bauble with them from their warehouse in the UK.  It’s a huge logistical effort, which is also a possibly tricky one, if customs or security in, say, Istanbul take exception to the Bethlehem-bound consignment as it passes through. Director of operations GED Comerford leads the four-person installation team on the trek from Liverpool. It’s fraught with hitches and glitches – even a home-baked Christmas cake is regarded with suspicion by local security – but all the more entertaining for that. Gerard O’Donovan Smashie’s Xmastastic Playlist Christmas Gold, 4.00pm Getting the Christmas party off to an early start from his fab-tastic hideaway at Radio Hush, The Fast Show’s Mike Smash (Paul Whitehouse) brings his off-kilter pop-DJ insights to an hour of festive hits from Wizzard to Johnny Mathis via McCartney, Dylan and Springsteen.  Elf: The Musical Channel 5, 5.00pm There’s seasonal song, dance and fun in the stage musical version of Will Ferrell’s much-loved comedy from the Lowry Theatre in Salford. Ben Forster, who won ITV’s Superstar talent search in 2012, leads the cast as Buddy, a human orphan who was raised by Santa’s elves in the North Pole and returns to New York in search of his family. Michael Buble’s Christmas in New York Sky Arts, 5.00pm At the Radio City Music Hall the crooner sings a selection of seasonal classics, along with a sparkling line-up of special guests including Barbra Streisand, Ariana Grande and The Muppets’ Miss Piggy. It is repeated on Sky One at 12.15am. Pointless Celebrities Christmas Special BBC One, 6.15pm Some of the contestants in this festive edition of the quiz could themselves be pointless answers in a round on Christmas hits. Jona Lewie, Jimmy Osmond and Ben Haenow are among those answering Alexander Armstrong questions. Blind Date Christmas Special Channel 5, 8.00pm There’s a fairy-tale spin to this edition of Paul O’Grady’s matchmaking show, as a Prince Charming has to choose between fellow panto actors Cinderella, Snow White and Tinkerbell. It’s Christmas Live from the Royal Albert Hall Sky One, 8.00pm The Royal Albert Hall is transformed to a rock ’n’ roll winter wonderland as Jason Manford introduces performances by Holly Johnson, Marc Almond, Chrissie Hynde and Shakin’ Stevens, among many others. GO Feud: Bette and Joan BBC Two, from 9.00pm; NI, from 9.30pm Ryan Murphy’s stylish and scathingly catty dramatisation of the Hollywood feud between Bette Davis (Susan Sarandon) and Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange) reaches the moment that the actresses’ mutual loathing went off the scale – while working on the 1962 classic What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (which follows). GO Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001) ★★★☆☆ ITV, 1.35pm  From today to New Year’s Day, ITV are screening all of the Harry Potter films – one film a day, except on Boxing Day. This first adaptation of J K Rowling’s novel was, for a while, the second highest-grossing film ever. Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint are endearing (and very young) in the lead roles but the film lacks the original book’s compulsiveness. Frozen (2013) ★★★★★ BBC One, 2.50pm Disney’s 53rd feature is an enchanting combination of fairy-tale derring-do and heart-popping musical numbers that has left children and adults powerless to its charms. Elsa (Idina Menzel) is a shy princess driven into exile when her magical powers are discovered. Her sister Anna (Kristen Bell) gallops off to fetch her from her beautiful ice palace. Spin-off Olaf’s Frozen Adventure is on Christmas Day. Bill (2015) ★★★★☆ BBC Two, 6.00pm Intelligent children and immature adults will love this mock-biopic from the Horrible Histories troupe that follows the young William Shakespeare (Mathew Baynton) as he ascends from quill-scraping zero to literary hero. Some of the best moments (a running joke about false moustaches is one) are full-bloodedly Pythonesque, although occasionally a kind of student-revue smarminess creeps in. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962, b/w) ★★★★★ BBC Two, 10.35pm; not N Ireland Robert Aldrich’s classic slice of American Grotesque, starring two of cinema’s greatest screen divas, started a trend for casting ageing actresses in campy Gothic horror movies. Joan Crawford and Bette Davis play reclusive sisters locked in an abusive relationship in their crumbling Hollywood mansion.  Christmas Eve Sue Perkins, Mary Berry and Mel Giedroyc Credit: BBC Mary, Mel and Sue’s Big Christmas Thank You BBC One, 7.00pm Anyone looking for some extra festive cheer should look no further than this exuberant Christmas special which sees former Great British Bake-Off stars Mary Berry, Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc join forces to help out at a community centre in the Rhondda Valley in Wales.  Initially, it seems as though this is one of those rather forced shows in which celebrities dispense good cheer and bad jokes, but an emotional story of community spirit in the face of despair swiftly emerges. “We’ve lost our library, our butchers, both banks have closed and there’s no school,” states Elizabeth “Buffy” Williams. Working with her friend Lynne, Buffy has attempted to combat that by opening a community centre offering meals, bingo and after-school classes. Now they want to throw a special Christmas meal for the whole community but it’s tough: the kitchen is small, money is tight and Lynne freely admits that she hates cooking. Enter the indomitable Mrs Berry, who rolls up her sleeves, corrals Daffyd, a 16-year-old with a GCSE in catering, into becoming her sous chef and helps Lynne tackle her phobia. The final celebration should bring a tear to even the most cynical of eyes. Sarah Hughes Premiership Rugby Union: Leicester Tigers v Saracens BT Sport 1, 2.30pm Below-par this season, Leicester will be hoping a win here at Welford Park against third-placed Saracens will give them fresh momentum going into the new year.  Countryfile BBC One, 6.00pm The team head to the Peak District for this special which sees John Craven exploring Longshaw Estate, Anita Rani experiencing a Nativity play with a difference and Matt Baker venturing into Peak Cavern for a carol concert.  Christmas University Challenge 2017 BBC Two, 8.00pm; Scotland, 5.45pm There’s something addictive about the University Challenge’s specials, possibly because they allow us to see celebrities in a new light. The opener sees a team from Durham University, including actor Nick Mohammed, take on a Keble College side featuring Katy Brand. Child Genius vs Celebrities Christmas Special Channel 4, 8.00pm Richard Osman is our host for this Christmas special, which sees past child geniuses take on, among others, Catastrophe star Rob Delaney and broadcaster Janet Street Porter. Will youth or experience win out?  Michael McIntyre’s Big Christmas Show BBC One, 8.30pm The comedian returns for a festive edition in which Alesha Dixon risks social disaster by handing over her phone in Celebrity Send-to-All, plus there’s stand-up from Bill Bailey and music from Seal.  Maigret in Montmartre ITV, 8.30pm Critics haven’t always been kind to ITV’s reboot of Georges Simenon’s Maigret featuring Rowan Atkinson. Yet there’s actually a lot to like here. Atkinson underplays the role nicely, the plots are serviceable and the whole thing is entertaining if undemanding fare. This episode sees Maigret drawn in to the murder of a showgirl. SH M R James evening BBC Four, from 9.00pm Shut the doors, draw the curtains and prepare to be thoroughly spooked as BBC Four dedicates an evening to ghost writer supreme M R James. First up, long-time James fan Mark Gatiss looks at how this diffident Anglican bachelor created stories that still send a tingle down the spine a century after they were written. It’s followed at 10pm by two adaptations of James’s work: The Tractate Middoth, a chilling story about vengeance from beyond the grave, starring Sacha Dhawan and John Castle, and No 13, featuring Greg Wise as an academic who uncovers more than he bargains for in a small medieval town. Billy Elliot: the Musical Sky Arts, 9.00pm Anyone who hasn’t managed to catch Stephen Daldry’s big-hearted musical take on his film about a miner’s son who just wants to dance can find out what all the fuss is about with this performance from 2014 starring Ruthie Henshall and Elliott Hanna. SH Gone with the Wind (1939) ★★★★★ Channel 5, 9.20am Hollywood’s highest-grossing movie until The Sound of Music in 1966, this was the film for which the word “epic” was invented. Vivien Leigh became a star as Scarlett O’Hara, the spoilt Southern belle whose life is turned upside down by the US Civil War. Clark Gable and Leslie Howard are her lovers. It’s brash and self-indulgent, but frankly we don’t give a damn. The Lego Batman Movie (2017) ★★★★☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 1.25pm and 7.00pm Don’t tell Ben Affleck – who plays Actual Batman – but the actor has been made surplus to requirements by one and a half inches of moulded plastic. Lego Batman’s debut solo feature, spun off from a cameo in The Lego Movie, is frantically and relentlessly funny as a new police commissioner (Rosario Dawson) threatens to make the Caped Crusader redundant. Guys and Dolls (1955) ★★★★☆ BBC Two, 3.20pm The 1955 film adaptation of the Broadway classic holds up rather well. The stellar casting certainly helps: Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra in one film – as the rival New York gamblers (and gangsters) Sky Masterson and Nathan Detroit, who place a bet on compromising the virtue of a pious Salvation Army woman, Sarah Brown (played by Jean Simmons). The musical numbers are still a delight. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) ★★★★★ Channel 4, 6.30pm Tiny Tim is a small green frog, Mrs Cratchit is a bad-tempered pig and Charles Dickens himself is portrayed by Gonzo, enormous blue nose and all. And yet, there are few better, or more affecting versions of A Christmas Carol than this musical adaptation. Michael Caine is ideal as the miserly Scrooge, the laughs are aplenty and the finale is as rousing as they come. Christmas Day Peter Capaldi and David Bradley Credit: BBC Doctor Who BBC One, 5.30pm While it’s not unusual for Doctor Who to begin with a “Previously…”, this one takes things all the way back to William Hartnell’s First Doctor, having faced the Cybermen at the South Pole and refused to regenerate. After necessarily metamorphosing into David Bradley (who played Hartnell in Mark Gatiss’s docudrama An Adventure in Space and Time), he duly encounters Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor, in a similar fix. Throw in Mark Gatiss’s doomed British army captain, transported from the Western Front at the moment of death with stiff upper lip wobbling, a mysterious glass woman (Nikki Amuka-Bird) with the power to freeze time, the return of Bill (Pearl Mackie) and a few other surprises, and you have another of Steven Moffat’s self-imposed riddles to unravel. Given that this is Moffat’s own last stand, and with Jodie Whitaker due to make her bow at the end of the episode, you might anticipate a tsunami of self-indulgence and sentimentality, but no. Capaldi and Mackie’s snappy, affectionate chemistry precludes such easy options, Gatiss is restrained and funny and Moffat’s musing on war and peace is enough to bear the wit and self-referentiality. A dignified farewell. Gabriel Tate The Highway Rat BBC One, 4.45pm Rob Brydon narrates and David Tennant voices the eponymous anti-hero in another enchanting adaptation of a Julia Donaldson/Axel Scheffler picture book, this time depicting the comeuppance for a selfish, swashbuckling rat and his long-suffering steed.. The Royal Opera: Puccini’s La Boheme BBC Four, 7.00pm Clemency Burton-Hill introduces Richard Jones’s production of Puccini’s tale of love and loss among bohemians in 19th-century Paris, conducted by Antonio Pappano and starring tenor Michael Fabiano and soprano Nicole Car as star-crossed lovers Rodolfo and Mimi. Jones’s production has a wintry charm that should see it sit very comfortably in today’s schedules.  Olaf’s Frozen Adventure Sky Cinema Premiere/On Demand, 7.30pm Perhaps better suited to television after a brief run in cinemas that saw parents complaining about it delaying screenings of Coco, this Frozen spin-off finds the cheerful snowman Olaf (voiced by Josh Gad) joining his reindeer, Sven, on a mission for their royal highnesses Elsa (Idina Menzel) and Anna (Kristen Bell) who are desperate to create their own Christmas tradition. Expect four catchy new songs to be ringing around your head. GT  Call the Midwife BBC One, 7.40pm Call the Midwife pulls out all the stops for this astoundingly gloomy affair as a Boxing Day freeze descends, stranding Valerie (Jennifer Kirby) in a caravan for an ad hoc delivery and accounting for a popular old timer with a very dark secret. The Great Christmas bake off Channel 4, 7.40pm Val and Selasi from last year, Paul Jagger (he of 2015’s bread lion) and Welsh Beca, a 2013 semi-finalist, return to compete for Star Baker, introduced and judged by the new Fab Four. There’s more of the same on New Year’s Day. Victoria ITV, 9.00pm The Queen (Jenna Coleman) is pregnant again and missing her governess, leaving Albert (Tom Hughes) in the unlikely role of Christmas merrymaker-in-chief. It’s a festive special by numbers, but affecting and easy on the eye. Ashes Cricket: Australia v England BT Sport 1, 10.30pm It’s been a fraught series, on and off the field, for England, with their players’ professionalism frequently called into question. This signals the start of the fourth Test, played at Melbourne Cricket Ground. Can Joe Root’s beleaguered side salvage some dignity? Or will the Aussies continue to have a field day? 300 Years of French & Saunders BBC One, 10.35pm Unseen footage, much-loved sketches and of course Lulu feature in this one-off, which sees the duo back together on TV for the first time in a decade. The new material is intermittently inspired and vigorously performed, with The Handmaid’s Tale, the Kardashians and Poldark all subjected to their attentions. GT Singin’ in the Rain (1952) ★★★★★ Channel 5, 1.05pm There are few movie scenes more memorable than Gene Kelly’s rain-soaked Singin’ in the Rain sequence, or many more jaw-dropping than Donald O’Connor’s walk up the wall. But more than song and dance, this film contains real satire as it recounts the introduction of the “talkie” and the superficial nature of the US film industry. Debbie Reynolds (who died a year ago, one day after daughter Carrie Fisher) co-stars as the Hollywood ingénue. Cinderella (2015) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 3.10pm Kenneth Branagh’s twinkling, live-action Cinderella sticks doggedly to Disney’s 1950 animated version (Cinders’s rodent companions are present) and favours sparkle over wit. However, Cate Blanchett is marvellous as the Wicked Stepmother and Helena Bonham Carter makes a jolly good Fairy Godmother. Princess-obsessed little girls will find it irresistible and the costumes are stunning. Oliver! (1968) ★★★★☆ Channel 5, 3.10pm Carol Reed, who had previously directed The Third Man, won an Oscar for his superior version of Lionel Bart’s musical of the classic Charles Dickens tale (Reed’s only ever attempt at the musical genre). Eight-year-old Mark Lester is sweet as Oliver Twist but it was Ron Moody as Fagin who received the Oscar nod. Reed’s nephew, another Oliver, is a brooding and brutal Bill Sikes and still has the potential to shock. Dumbo (1941) ★★★★★ Channel 4. 4.30pm It may be one of Disney’s shortest animated films, but it is also one of its most loved. Baby elephant Dumbo is born with unfeasibly large ears, is separated from his mother and becomes ostracised by his fellow circus animals. It is only when Timothy Mouse encourages Dumbo to make the most of his ears that he discovers he can fly. This remains an undisputed masterpiece from Disney’s golden age of animation. Boxing Day Willa Fitzgerald, Kathryn Newton, Maya Hawke and Annes Elwy Credit: BBC Little Women BBC One, 8.00pm One suspects that this beautiful adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s much-loved coming-of-age novel (published in 1868) was due a less prominent airing until the BBC had to shelve its flagship festive Agatha Christie adaptation Ordeal by Innocence due to sexual assault allegations against one of the stars. That seems no great loss now, as this sparkling gem of a drama – scripted by Call the Midwife creator Heidi Thomas – more than deserves a Boxing Day prime-time slot.  Told in three parts, it follows the lives of the March sisters – Jo (Maya Hawke), Meg (Willa Fitzgerald), Beth (Annes Elwy), and Amy (Kathryn Newton) – as they progress from adolescence to adulthood under the protective eye of their mother, Marmee (Emily Watson), while their father is away in the American Civil War.  As life-affirming a tale as you could want this time of year, it’s full of high spirits and loving kindness. There are nice cameo performances by Michael Gambon and Angela Lansbury, but in the opening part, the acting laurels go to Hawke for her spot-on portrayal of tomboyish proto-feminist Jo, and Jonah Hauer-King, as boy next door Laurie Laurence. Gerard O’Donovan Todd Barry: Spicy Honey Netflix, from today Stand-up Todd Barry is best known in the US for his bone-dry wit. Anyone seeking relief from the festive season’s more saccharine shows will be sure to find it in this one-off recording from his latest tour. Premier League Football: Tottenham Hotspur v Southampton Sky Sports Main Event, 12.00noon Spurs won both of their matches against the Saints last season, including a 2-1 victory in one of their final home matches at White Hart Lane. Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli both scored in the first half, with James Ward-Prowse pulling one back for Southampton in the second. Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella BBC Two, 5.35pm From Sadler’s Wells, a treat for dance fans in this dazzling Blitz-era reworking of Prokofiev’s classic ballet, performed by Bourne’s New Adventures company.  Snow Bears BBC One, 6.30pm Kate Winslet narrates this documentary following a pack of polar bears as they embark on an eventful 400-mile journey to reach the pack ice where they hunt. Surprisingly charming. Discovering: Julie Andrews Sky Arts, 7.00pm A look at the life and career of an actress and singer more associated with Christmas than most, thanks to endless festive repeats of Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music. But there’s much more to Julie Andrews than that, as shown in this beautifully put-together profile.  Reindeer Family and Me BBC Two, 8.00pm Wildlife film-maker Gordon Buchanan’s festive offering focuses on Santa’s favourite quadruped. In Lapland, Buchanan settles in with the nomadic Sami people to learn the ways of the herder, before setting out with a single reindeer to capture the Northern Lights as they’ve never been filmed before. Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 2017: The Language OF life BBC Four, 8.00pm This year’s theme, The Language of Life, sees cognitive neuroscientist Professor Sophie Scott of UCL embark on an exploration of the urge to communicate. In the opener, she unpicks the evolution of the human voice. GO The Miniaturist BBC One, 9.00pm An absorbing adaptation of Jessie Burton’s bestseller about a young woman thrust into an arranged marriage with a perplexing merchant in 17th-century Amsterdam. It looks exquisite, although the constant quest to shoot each frame as if it were a Vermeer painting doesn’t help the pace. Anna Taylor-Joy plays 18-year-old Nella with suitable bafflement, Alex Hassell intrigues as Johannes, while Romola Garai steals the show as his sister, Marin. Concludes tomorrow. Big Fat Quiz of the Year 2017 Channel 4, 9.00pm Jimmy Carr hosts C4’s alternative comedy quiz looking back at the year in the news, with guests including Richard Ayoade, Noel Fielding, David Mitchell and Katherine Ryan. GO Mary Poppins (1964) ★★★★★ BBC One, 3.45pm This is the popular story of a magical nanny (Julie Andrews) who takes over a London home, transforming the lives of its inhabitants. Dick Van Dyke may affect the worst cockney accent ever heard on film, but the combination of the catchy songs, sumptuous live action and colourful animation makes this one of the most enduring children’s films, and a staple of the festive schedules. The film was nominated for 13 Oscars. Beauty and the Beast (2017) ★★★★☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 10.55am and 5.50pm Emma Watson dazzles in Disney’s show-stopping, live-action, chocolate box remake. The film’s songs – which include three new ones – by Alan Menken are the pulse, the purpose and the headline draw, while Ewan McGregor is delightful as Lumière, Luke Evans perfect as Gaston, and Dan Stevens, in digital fur, is the Prince. The Little Mermaid (1989) ★★★★☆ Channel 4, 4.20pm This vivacious retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale began a rich vein of form for Disney animations (Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King followed). A combination of unforgettable characters, including Sebastian the singing Jamaican crab and the delightfully evil baddie Ursula (based on drag queen Divine), and catchy songs makes Ariel’s journey to dry land a magical thing. Jurassic World (2015) ★★★★☆ ITV, 6.40pm Can modern audiences still be wowed by computer-generated dinosaurs? This long-awaited Jurassic Park sequel (the original movie was released in 1993) proves that they can. A new attraction at the dinosaur theme park, created to re-spark visitor interest, gravely backfires and it’s left to Chris Pratt’s raptor trainer and Bryce Dallas Howard’s scientist to save the day. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is out next year. Wednesday 27 December Steve Coogan as Alan Partidge Credit: BBC Alan Partridge: Why, When, Where, How and Whom? BBC Two, 9.00pm Unfortunately, there were no previews available for this palate-cleansing documentary ahead of Alan Partridge’s return to the BBC for a new series next year, which co-creator Steve Coogan promises will include the sometime Radio Norwich presenter’s take on that most contentious of topics, Brexit. It’s been 25 years since he and Armando Iannucci created the hapless Partridge, described by Iannucci as “a kind of social X-ray of male middle-aged Middle England”, a bombastic, self-important local presenter with an unwavering belief in the importance of the highway code and “imperial leisurewear”.  Now this documentary attempts to explain why this character, above all others, has touched such a nerve. Among those contributing are Coogan and Iannucci, Patrick Marber, Peter Baynham, Rebecca Front, David Schneider and Doon Mackichan, and we’re also promised unseen archive footage. The real secret to Alan’s lasting appeal is a simple one, however: he’s a fully realised character and a very English monster in the same vein as Basil Fawlty. Even as we laugh at him, we’re moved by his increasing self-awareness. Sarah Hughes Celebrity Mastermind BBC One, 7.00pm Actor Jack Ashton, comedian Rich Hall, Match of the Day commentator Guy Mowbray and poet Pam Ayres join John Humphrys for a new run of the celebrity edition. Among the specialist subjects tonight are Tennessee Williams, Iron Maiden and Ashes Cricket.  Agatha Christie vs Hercule Poirot Sky Arts, 7.30pm Pierre Bayar presents this interesting deconstruction of one of Agatha Christie’s most celebrated novels, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, in which he alleges a miscarriage of justice by Poirot.  Six Robots & Us BBC Two, 8.00pm Psychologist Dr Caroline Jay and robotics specialist Prof Jonathan Rossiter join forces in this fascinating experiment which aims to uncover how helpful the latest innovations in robotics truly are. To find out the team deliver four very different robots to families around the UK.  Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 2017: the language of life BBC Four, 8.00pm Professor Sophie Scott, UCL’s Head of the Speech Communications Group, gives this year’s lecture, looking at silent communication and why our body language and smells can say as much if not more than our words and sounds.   World’s Strongest Man 2017 Channel 5, 8.00pm Channel 5 brings us all the action from the World’s Strongest Man competition in Botswana. All eyes are on the USA’s Brian Shaw, the defending champion, who is hoping to win for a record firth time.  Turtle, Eagle, Cheetah: A Slow Odyssey BBC Four, 9.00pm BBC Four’s latest foray into the enticing world of slow TV is this nature documentary which focuses on the different views of a cheetah on the African savannah, a green turtle in the Indonesia reefs and a white-tailed eagle in Scotland. SH Miranda Does Christmas Channel 4, 9.00pm Like many an institution before her, Miranda Hart has swapped the BBC for Channel 4 on her return to the small screen. Here, Hart hosts a “raucous Christmas party” with guests including David Tennant, Sam Smith and Prue Leith. SH The Red Shoes (1948) ★★★★★ BBC Two, 12.10pm Powell and Pressburger’s seminal musical tragedy is one of cinema’s great wonders. It’s about a talented ballet dancer (Moira Shearer), her romance with a struggling composer (Marius Goring) and her loyalty to the ballet that he wrote and in which she is meant to star. The film’s theme of the pre-eminent call of creative passion is thought to be an allegory for P & P’s devotion to their craft. Big Hero 6 (2014) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 4.10pm This Disney animation is an East-meets-West adventure with buckets of heart and soul – and quite possibly Disney at its adorable, huggable, and most visually extravagant best. Hiro Hamada, a 14-year-old orphan living in the city of San Fransokyo, befriends Baymax, a 10-foot-tall, bright, white inflatable robot invented by his elder brother, who’s killed in a mysterious fire at his laboratory. Scrooged (1988) ★★★★☆ Film4, 4.35pm 9+Bill Murray plays a mean-spirited network TV president who sees the light after he experiences ghostly visitations – including Carol Kane as a happy-slapping fairy in a tutu – in this droll comic update of Dickens’s tale. Murray is on deadpan, cynical form (“Have you tried staples?”) and Robert Mitchum contributes a priceless cameo as a fellow executive with plans to produce TV shows for cats and dogs. Oasis: Supersonic (2016) ★★★☆☆ BBC Two, 10.00pm Oasis’s glory-days documentary indulges Noel and Liam Gallagher’s bad behaviour. Mat Whitecross’s film starts and ends with the pair of dates when Oasis debatably peaked, at Knebworth in 1996, and goes to excessive length to detail stories of their excess. Few rock stars, in fairness, have a habit of being so amusingly and brutally honest about their failings, and Whitecross is content to let them have the last word. Thursday 28 December David Attenborough Credit: BBC Attenborough and the Empire of the Ants BBC Two, 9.30pm Back on dry land after Blue Planet II, David Attenborough travels to the Jura Mountains on the Swiss-French border to investigate the methods used by two different communities of wood ants to survive and thrive. One adopts a familiar strategy of territorial aggression, with a family dominated by a single queen and chemical warfare on rival communities conducted with liberal distribution of formic acid. The other appears to defy the rules of evolution as they are currently understood, forming a supercolony consisting of several communities cooperating for the greater good in a manner reminiscent of early man’s first steps to eventual supremacy. Queens, sentries and workers labour alongside each other in a manner which sounds far-fetched, but the cameras capture this extraordinary behaviour in mesmerising detail, from hunting to breeding to self-preservation.  The now-customary behind-the-scenes postscript sees Attenborough almost as amazed by the new technology that allows such access to nature (in this case, the “FrankenCam”) as by nature itself. It’s not Blue Planet II, but it’s the sort of fascinating deeper dive that Natural World does so well. Gabriel Tate Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 2017: The Language OF life BBC Four, 8.00pm Sophie Scott brings her series of lectures to an close with an examination of language and comprehension in the animal kingdom. Are we humans really as far advanced as we believe, or might primates and even birds be able to communicate with comparable sophistication? The Secret Life of 5 Year Olds On Holiday Channel 4, 8.30pm Familiar faces from the most recent series head to Cyprus to enjoy flying, swimming and local delicacies, while the professionals watch on and deliver their analyses of childhood behaviour. What Britain Bought in 2017 Channel 4, 9.00pm Mary Portas assesses whether this year has been as dismal as expected for high-street retailers, and examines a few unlikely trends: unicorns, gin and, she suggests, big knickers. Clint Eastwood: a Life in Film Sky Arts, 9.00pm Whether you love or loathe his hardline politics, few would dispute the astonishing consistency of Clint Eastwood’s work. For such a prolific actor and director, there are few duds on his CV and plenty of masterpieces, from Unforgiven to Once Upon a Time in the West. Made in 2007, the year of his ambitious wartime diptych Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima, this excellent programme finds Eastwood in good-humoured form as he talks Michael Henry Wilson through his 50-year career. GT Bruno Mars: Live in Harlem BBC One, 10.25pm; NI, 11.25pm Harlem’s Apollo Theatre launched the careers of James Brown, Ella Fitzgerald and Lauryn Hill, among many others. Bruno Mars pays tribute to the building’s history and rolls out the hits – Uptown Funk, Just the Way You Are et al – along with some dazzling choreography for a hard partying crowd. Romesh Ranganathan: Irrational Live BBC Two, 10.30pm Perhaps rivalled only by Katherine Ryan for small-screen ubiquity this year, Romesh Ranganathan has proved himself an accomplished stand-up comedian. This special, recorded at London’s Hammersmith Apollo in 2016, captures the comedian’s jaundiced but very funny musings on family life. GT The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! (2012) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 9.00am This claymation Aardman romp is a delight. The impasto of non-stop gags, comic detail and slapstick action should appeal to all the family. Hugh Grant plays the Pirate Captain, who needs more booty if he is to stand a chance of winning the title of Pirate of the Year. The plot takes in Darwin, the last dodo and Queen Victoria (voiced by Imelda Staunton). Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 (2017) ★★★★☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 11.00am and 8.00pm Marvel’s playful space sequel looks like an explosion in a nursery school craft cupboard – every scene comes caked in rainbows, glitter and gunge. The core crew returns, led by Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), but the story only really begins with the arrival of a benign and bearded mystic called Ego (Kurt Russell), who has big news for Peter about his earthly origins. Flight (2012) ★★★☆☆ Channel 5, 9.00pm Robert Zemeckis’s film, starring Denzel Washington as alcoholic commercial pilot Whip Whitaker, is a long, earnest, sporadically brilliant drama. On a routine hop from Florida to Atlanta, Whip’s plane starts to tumble out of the sky – a dramatic sequence that will turn nervous fliers’ stomachs – and the pilot must fight to save the lives of those on board. Dull in parts, this is nevertheless morally provocative. Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (2013) ★★★☆☆ BBC Two, 11.30pm Films based on sitcoms tend to play broader than the real series, and this cinema outing for Steve Coogan’s fading media gasbag is no exception. The plot has Alan held hostage at a radio station in Norfolk. Old friends, such as his assistant Lynn (Felicity Montagu), join in and viewers hoping for new catchphrases will be happy, but Partridge loses his Pooterish potency when moving from talk to action. Friday 29 December Bob Mortimer and Vic Reeves Credit: BBC Vic & Bob’s Big Night Out BBC Two, 9.00pm Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer return for this one-off Christmas edition of their sketch show, 27 years after it first aired as Vic Reeves Big Night Out. Fans will be pleased to hear that age has not dimmed the comedians’ energy – in this half-hour they bounce around the studio in the same vein as their younger selves, which gives the show a rapid-fire pace.  The pair’s chemistry is undeniable and they frequently make each other laugh, as well as a raucous studio audience. There is a sense that Reeves and Mortimer are now improvising much of their material, which may explain why some of the jokes here are a touch below par. But many of the sketches are excellent, such as their parody of Channel 4 dating show First Dates, in which they play jokey gay Yorkshiremen. In another, Vic sells wigs made of body parts.  Nostalgia comes in the form of a cameo from Matt Lucas, forever associated with his George Dawes character in Shooting Stars, and the revival of character Graham Lister (played by Bob) in the talent show parody sketch Novelty Island. This brief return reminds us that, with their corny jokes and surreal sense of humour, there’s nobody quite like Vic and Bob. Vicki Power Tim Vine Travels Through Time Christmas Special BBC One, 7.30pm Prepare for a barrage of seasonal puns as Tim Vine’s comedy show returns. Emma Bunton and Reverend Richard Coles join Vine on a jaunt to Tudor times. Eric & Ernie’s Home Movies BBC Two, 8.00pm Those ghosts of Christmas past, Morecambe and Wise, are revisited in this charming documentary showcasing the double act via some newly discovered home movies. Look out also for a repeat of Morecambe & Wise: Leading Ladies (BBC Two, 7.00pm) and Eric, Ernie & Me (BBC Four, 9.00pm), a drama exploring their relationship with writer Eddie Braben. Victoria Wood by her friends Channel 5, 9.00pm This tribute to the late comedian covers much the same ground, and includes some identical contributors, as BBC One’s Our Friend Victoria, but it’s still a treat to be reminded of Wood’s talents. Her 1997 stand-up show, Victoria Wood: Live 1997, follows.   Delicious Sky One, 9.00pm Sky dishes up a second series of this frothy Cornwall-set drama. Chef Gina (Dawn French) has now joined forces with Sam (Emilia Fox) to run the Penrose Hotel, as the man that they were both once married to, Leo (Iain Glen), narrates from beyond the grave. But it turns out tensions haven’t died with him, and their spats bring a pinch of spice to the drama. Tonight, Franco Nero arrives as Gina’s ne’er-do-well father to stir up trouble. Frankie Boyle’s 2017 New Year World Order BBC Two, 10.00pm; not NI This year’s absence of Charlie Brooker’s Wipe is mitigated somewhat by Frankie Boyle’s return for this end-of-year round-up. And certainly somebody needs to help make sense of this crazy year. VP Elvis: The Rebirth of the King BBC Four, 10.00pm This compelling film seeks to overturn the enduring image of Elvis Presley’s Vegas years as a tragic nadir of his career. It argues that Presley’s musical renaissance in a 1968 Christmas TV special saw the King reach new creative heights that he carried into his Vegas shows, before disillusionment and drugs took over. Fantastic archive footage and commentary from his former collaborators, including Elvis’s backing singers, make a convincing case. VP Up (2009) ★★★★★ BBC One, 2.25pm Possibly Pixar’s finest film, Up has a captivating story that realises the vividness of a childlike imagination. Only those with a heart of stone wouldn’t be moved by the story of Ed Asner (voiced by Carl Fredricksen), who tries to fulfil his dream of building a house next to Paradise Falls in South America. His odyssey brings him more than he bargained for, including a young, hyperactive Wilderness Explorer called Russell. Brave (2012) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 4.20pm The first of Pixar’s films to have a female protagonist won an Oscar and there’s a bewitching craftsmanship to its storytelling. It’s set in the Highlands during the feudal period. Kelly MacDonald plays the flame-haired Merida, who would rather ride her horse than play the role of simpering princess; unable to sway her mother (Emma Thompson), she seeks the help of a witch (Julie Walters). Gone Girl (2014) ★★★☆☆ BBC One, 9.15pm; N Ireland, 9.45pm Cold and controlled, yet fun, this drama, directed by David Fincher, is based on Gillian Flynn’s novel of the same name. Rosamund Pike is Amy Elliott-Dunne, who disappears one morning, much to the apparent surprise of her husband (Ben Affleck). The media sniff around and soon the couple’s secrets come to the surface. Darkly suspenseful at first, the story soon turns into blood-drenched self-parody. The Great Gatsby (2013) ★★★☆☆ BBC Two, 11.15pm Baz Luhrmann lays on a cinematic buffet of such sense-addling brazenness that it takes a while before you notice the film is finger-food and nothing more. Leonardo DiCaprio is Jay Gatsby, a newly minted millionaire, and Carey Mulligan is Daisy Buchanan, the lost love he longs to win back. On the rare occasions Luhrmann gives them space to act in the pulsating frenzy of his Jazz Age world, both do a wonderful job. Television previewers Toby Dantzic, Catherine Gee, Simon Horsford, Sarah Hughes, Clive Morgan, Gerard O'Donovan, Vicki Power, Patrick Smith, Gabriel Tate and Rachel Ward

What's on TV tonight: The League of Gentlemen returns and Mary Berry’s Christmas Party

Monday 18 December The League of Gentlemen BBC Two, 10.00pm This is undoubtedly one of the highlights of the festive season for comedy fans. The influential freak show sitcom set in the blighted fictional town of Royston Vasey returns for a three-part run to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its award-winning debut on Radio 4 (the transfer to TV didn’t occur until 1999).  Reviving once-popular comedy is a risky business – just look at the recent Porridge fiasco – but Mark Gatiss, Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton have gone on to bigger, if not always better, things in the intervening years and they return here as if they were never away. Still performing all the major characters on screen (with the group’s fourth member, Jeremy Dyson, sharing the writing duties) they update the stories and characters without losing the demonic humour of the original.  Most of the best characters make a reappearance – Tubbs and Edward, Barbra the trans taxi driver, Herr Lipp, Pauline Campbell-Jones and Mr Chinnery the vet – as Royston Vasey faces its greatest existential threat. Val Denton, meanwhile, sets the tone decisivelyin an opening scene memorable for all the wrong reasons. Gerard O’Donovan Father Brown BBC One, 1.45pm Mark Williams returns for a sixth series as GK Chesterton’s crime-fighting Catholic priest. It’s Christmas in Kembleford but when a dog makes a gruesome discovery in the woods, Father Brown sets out to reverse a terrible miscarriage of justice. Mary Berry’s Christmas Party BBC One, 8.30pm Tips, recipes and full-on merriment as the BBC’s queen of baking invites a handful of famous faces round for a Christmas party cook-in: Alex Jones shows off her rissoles, Darcey Bussell crafts a dance-inspired dessert, while Adil Ray handles the canapés. Plus there’s ginger glazed ham, white chocolate cherry brandy cake, and much more. The Art That Made Mexico: Paradise, Power and Prayers BBC Four, 9.00pm Artist Alinka Echeverria concludes her series by exploring the influence of faith on Mexican culture and how the conquistadors’ Catholic notions of venerating the divine through art found fertile ground thanks to earlier Mayan beliefs. Birds of a Feather Christmas special ITV, 9.00pm Marks and Gran’s long-running sitcom creaks back for another festive special, with Tracey’s (Linda Robson) Yuletide plans upsetting both Sharon (Pauline Quirke) and Dorien (Lesley Joseph). Abba: When All Is Said and Done Channel 5, 9.00pm An Abba double whammy starts with this docudrama exploring the very different stories of the Swedish supergroup’s singers Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad through their own words. Abba: Live in Concert follows at 11.05pm, recorded at the group’s peak in 1979. GO Andre Rieu: Christmas In London 2016 Sky Arts, 9.00pm Rieu entertains with everything festive from Jingle Bells to White Christmas and O Holy Night, bringing his infectious blend of glitter, frills and massed violin strings to boost the seasonal mood. Private Lives of The Monarchs Yesterday, 9.00pm There’s more to Henry VIII than the image of a roistering glutton whose obsession with siring a male heir led to England’s break with Catholicism. So says historian Tracy Borman, painting a picture of a thoughtful young king driven to tyranny by personal demons. GO Carry On Cleo (1964) ★★★☆☆ Channel 4, 12.20pm “Infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it in for me!” So says Kenneth Williams’s waspish Caesar in this, one of the best in the long-running series of cheap and cheerful comedies. Set in ancient Rome, it’s hardly Shakespeare but at least the gags come thick and fast. Watch out for an early appearance from Coronation Street’s Amanda Barrie as a doe-eyed Cleopatra, up to her ears in ass’s milk and political intrigue. First Blood (1982) ★★★★☆ ITV4, 9.00pm Based on David Morrell’s novel, this is the first and best of the Rambo action-movie franchise – it’s more sensitive than the sequels. Sylvester Stallone has become synonymous with Rambo, a maladjusted ex-Green Beret who, after having some Vietnam flashbacks, goes on a one-man war against a crooked small-town sheriff (Brian Dennehy). It’s pacy and raw with a moving climax. Part II is on Tuesday. The Woman in Black (2012) ★★★★☆ Channel 4, 12.10am Thanks to its almost hyper-Edwardian setting and some canny plot alterations, this feels less like a remake of Susan Hill’s ghost story than a new reading of an old tale, trembling with freshly terrifying resonances. Daniel Radcliffe gives a grown-up performance, while director James Watkins uses shadows and empty spaces to create a percolating sense of dread. Tuesday 19 December Faye Marsey as Sarah Credit: Channel 4 Shamed Channel 4, 9.00pm It’s not the most Christmassy of fare but Anthony Philipson’s (My Mad Fat Diary) dark, theatrical one-off drama is worth checking out. Featuring an intense central performance from Faye Marsay (who seems to be everywhere right now, with Bancroft last week and the BBC thriller McMafia to come), Shamed tells the story of 27-year-old Sarah, who suddenly decides to kidnap and imprison two apparently unconnected men: the seemingly perfect just-about-to-get-married Nathan (Nick Blood) and cocky player Mani (Ryan McKen). Both claim never to have met each other or Sarah before. However there’s a method behind her madness, and one which, when revealed, opens up wider questions about how different events can resonate in different ways. Philipson’s tight script keeps you guessing about the connection until near the end before spilling out into violence and debates about the difference between guilt and shame.  It’s not perfect – Mani is underwritten and the rushed ending is a little forced – but Shamed makes some thoughtful points about our attitudes toward sex and the way in which certain people can stride through life without acknowledging the damage they trail behind. Sarah Hughes The Royal Variety Performance 2017 ITV, 7.30pm Miranda Hart hosts this year’s Royal Variety Performance, attended by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, with guests ranging from the obvious (Michael Ball, Alfie Boe) to the incongruous (Kelsey Grammer, Seal). Jamie’s Italian Christmas Channel 4, 8.00pm Another week, another Christmas cookery show. Our chef tonight is the ubiquitous Jamie Oliver who has holed up in a log cabin with his mentor Gennaro Contaldo and hopes to teach us to give the traditional British Christmas an Italian twist. U2 at the BBC BBC One, 9.00pm The Irish band continue their quest for world domination with this film centred on new album Songs of Experience. The action takes place at Abbey Road Studios, where they perform some of their biggest hits and squeeze in a quick chat with Cat Deeley.    Invasion! With Sam Willis BBC Four, 9.00pm The final part of this engaging series sees historian Sam Willis examine one of the more unusual military ideas in history: Napoleon’s plan to use a fleet of balloons as part of his invasion plans during the War of the Third Coalition. The French first crossed the English Channel by hot air balloon in 1785 and Napoleon appointed aeronaut Sophie Blanchard as air service chief to carry out the idea. The plans ultimately came to nothing, but that didn’t stop stories and caricatures of balloons carrying arms, men and even horses spreading through the media.  The First Silent Night Yesterday, 9.00pm The mournful Silent Night is one of the world’s most beloved carols, and was declared an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2011. This film follows actor Simon Callow as he heads to the Austrian village of Oberndorf to uncover its origins before considering why this carol above all others resonates so strongly. SH Extraordinary Teens: Young, Gifted and Broke Channel 4, 10.00pm Pianist and composer Shane Thomas hit the headlines aged only 10 when his precocious talent saw him hailed as the British Mozart. Seven years later his career has stalled. What emerges is a depressing but well-told story of ambition tampered by poverty and a system in which privilege and connections count as much, if not more than raw talent. SH Sword of Sherwood Forest (1960) ★★★☆☆ Film4, 5.05pm Terence Fisher teamed up with Hammer Films for this child-friendly spin-off from The Adventures of Robin Hood TV series, with Richard Greene, who reprises his role here. Peter Cushing stars as the dastardly Sheriff of Nottingham out to murder the Archbishop of Canterbury. It’s a cheap and cheerful affair that remains true to the spirit of the original. Smurfs: The Lost Village (2017) ★★☆☆☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 6.15pm The third of the big-screen outings for The Smurfs is a trippy treat for under-eights, for everyone else the blues. This Smurfs contains double the number of Smurfs ever previously seen, thanks to the discovery of an all-female enclave somewhere deep in the woods. Demi Lovato, Mandy Patinkin, Michelle Rodriguez and Julia Roberts are among those lending their voices. Carol (2015) ★★★★★ Film4, 9.00pm Todd Haynes’s adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 novel is gorgeous, gently groundbreaking, and quite possibly be the saddest thing that you’ll ever see. It tells the story of a photographer (Rooney Mara) who has a relationship with an older woman (Cate Blanchett) in New York. Haynes’ film concludes that love is the riskiest but most necessary gamble. Wednesday 20 December Dame Judi Dench Credit: BBC Judi Dench: My Passion for Trees BBC One, 8.00pm When this one-off documentary was announced, some predictably invoked Alan Partridge’s hapless pitch of Youth Hostelling with Chris Eubank. Certainly, it’s hard to imagine many other celebrities managing to get this made, and even harder to imagine any who could have made it so watchable. A look of astonished delight is plastered over Dame Judi’s face throughout the hour, as she makes all manner of unexpected discoveries about the trees that she loves. There is also a rare peek into her personal life and relationship with her “chap”, David Mills. This may lack the forensic camerawork and high-spec CGI of most BBC nature documentaries, but there are rewarding revelations amid the occasional dose of Botany 101. “I think of my trees as part of my extended family,” says Dench – not the absurd piece of sentimentality you might suspect, as she plants a tree in her back garden for each friend or relative who has died. And trees, it transpires, are also remarkably sociable in their way, an arboreal community connected by spidery threads of fungus and able to call for help if under attack by aphids. Charming and subtly educational. Gabriel Tate What Makes You Tic? BBC Three, from 10.00am Vlogger Lewis “QBall” Nickell aims to conquer his Tourette’s Syndrome and launch a career as a talk-show host, meeting The Vamps and Girls Aloud alumna Nadine Coyle as part of his efforts to raise awareness. Carabao Cup: Bristol City v Manchester United Sky Sports Main Event, 7.30pm We’re at Ashton Gate for this quarter-final clash, as the Robins look to produce and upset against holders Manchester United. The hosts have already claimed two Premier League scalps in Watford and Stoke City, but United are clear favourites here.  The Real Marigold on Tour BBC One, 9.00pm When you see the lives the Marigold pensioners are leading who wouldn’t be envious? This week, Sheila Ferguson, Rustie Lee, Paul Nicholas and Dennis Taylor head to Iceland. There, they go whale watching in the fishing village of Hausavik, and try aqua aerobics and gymnastics in Reykjavik. Elsewhere, Sheila goes on a date with an Icelandic man. Peaky Blinders BBC Two, 9.00pm Perhaps the best series yet comes to a punishing climax with the night of the big fight and yet another reckoning for the Shelbys, this time courtesy of Changretta (Adrien Brody) and once-trusted allies. A Night for the Emergency Services ITV, 9.00pm Presenting a sort of 999’s Got Talent, Ashley Banjo and Diversity introduce a showcase for the firefighters, police and hospital workers who demonstrate skills far beyond their professional capabilities. These include magicians, dancers and a Michael Bublé impersonator, along with appearances from a few special guests. Taskmaster Champion of Champions  Dave, 9.00pm One of the funniest series on TV comes to a spectacular climax as the ultimate Taskmaster champion is crowned, with previous winners Josh Widdicombe, Katherine Ryan, Noel Fielding, Rob Beckett and Bob Mortimer all in the running. Dian Fossey: Secrets in the Mist  National Geographic, 9.00pm After a lifetime of conservation work and, campaigning against poaching, primatologist Dian Fossey was killed in her Rwandan cabin in 1985 – a crime that remains unsolved. The final part of this gripping series examines possible motives. GT Male Rape: Breaking the Silence BBC One, 10.45pm; Scot & Wales, 11.10pm; NI, 11.40pm First shown on BBC Three, this grim but necessary film hears from three men who are among the estimated one-in-six to have been victims of rape. GT Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) ★★★★★ BBC One, 1.45pm Steven Spielberg’s rollicking adventure film, with a very scary end, won four Oscars and created a new action hero in Dr Henry “Indiana” Jones (Harrison Ford). Jones is an archaeologist hired by the US government in 1936 to seek out the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis find it. The ensuing events provide a rollercoaster of thrills. The Temple of Doom and The Last Crusade follow over the next two night. Chicken Run (2000) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 3.35pm Aardman Animations, the studio behind many of Nick Park’s triumphs, conjures up another stop-motion corker that fairly swarms with clever little jokes and details. Our heroes here are a group of jauntily anthropomorphic chickens; they’re plotting their escape to freedom from the tyrannical Mr and Mrs Tweedy, who run the farm on which they live. The voice cast boasts Julia Sawalha, Jane Horrocks and Mel Gibson. The Phantom of the Opera (2004) ★★★☆☆ Sky Arts, 9.00pm Impressed by his use of music in The Lost Boys, Andrew Lloyd Webber hired director Joel Schumacher to bring his hit musical, the longest-running Broadway show in history, about a disfigured genius who lives hidden in the Paris Opera House and who develops a crush on a chorus girl, to the big screen. The score has all the faux-gothic pomp required, but Gerard Butler’s Phantom fails to spook. Thursday 21 December Darcey Bussell Credit: BBC Darcey Bussell: Looking for Fred Astaire BBC One, 10.45pm One dance star explores another in this unpretentious profile of Fred Astaire. Darcey Bussell traces Astaire’s journey from his hometown in Nebraska to New York, London and Los Angeles to examine his ascent to film stardom, achieved after nearly three decades as a professional dancer. She puts forward that he owed much of his success to three women – his mother, his sister and dancing partner Adele, and his first wife Phyllis – but wisely doesn’t labour the point.  Bussell peruses memorabilia and film footage – there’s a delightful clip of Astaire dancing with his long-time collaborator, Hermes Pan – and discusses with historians Astaire’s early life, work ethic and personality clash with Ginger Rogers. The commentary doesn’t uncover much that an Astaire fan wouldn’t already know, but Bussell is an enthusiastic guide and the clips are terrific. Strictly professionals Aljaz Skorjanec and Janette Manrara are touring a successful stage show called Remembering Fred – this film also reminds us of Astaire’s immeasurable contribution to dance, though it wouldn’t harm for it to air at an hour more suited to the ballroom dance-loving demographic. Vicki Power MasterChef: The Professionals: The Finals BBC Two, 8.00pm It’s ladles at dawn for the three finalists as they tackle their last challenge. They’ll cook a three-course meal in three hours for the formidable judging trio of Wareing, Galetti and Wallace, who’ll then choose their champ. Joanna & Jennifer: Absolutely Champers BBC Two, 9.00pm On the flimsy premise of celebrating 25 years since the birth of Absolutely Fabulous, Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley take a fizz-fuelled jolly to France to tour vineyards. They neck vats of bubbly in a travelogue as meandering as Patsy’s gait after an evening spent swigging Bolly. Gordon, Gino and Fred’s Great Christmas Roast ITV, 9.00pm It’s Celtic vigour versus Italian passion in this feelgood cookery special. TV chefs Gordon Ramsay and Gino D’Acampo compete, with a team of celebrity helpers, to create the best Christmas banquet for 100 emergency services workers. First Dates’ maître d’ Fred Sirieux presents. Donny Osmond’s Easy Listening Christmas Channel 5, 9.00pm This Val Doonican-style one-off sees Donny Osmond counting down his 25 favourite festive songs, exploring their geneses and comparing classic renditions to cover versions. VP The Tunnel: Vengeance Sky Atlantic, 9.00pm The symbiosis between Anglo-French cop partners Karl and Elise (Stephen Dillane and Clémence Poésy) in this murder mystery shows us a cheering flipside to Brexit. Their touching, humorous relationship is affecting, even if the series overall lacks the Scandinavian-style eeriness of The Bridge, on which it’s based. Here, the cross-channel cops make a breakthrough in the search for the missing children. The Galaxy Britain Built: Droids, Darth Vader and Lightsaber/Hollywood’s Master of Myth BBC Four, 10.00pm and 11.00pm In celebration of the release of The Last Jedi, these documentaries look at the ingredients that helped shape the Star Wars phenomenon. The first focuses on the film crew who created George Lucas’s fictional galaxy. The second, from 1999, explores the work of US academic Joseph Campbell, whom Lucas has credited with inspiring his plot. VP The Dark Crystal (1982) ★★★☆☆ Film4, 1.05pm Muppets creator Jim Henson stepped out from the comfort of children’s TV to make this dark fantasy tale about a pair of creatures who must find a missing shard of crystal in order to defeat the evil Skeksis. The superbly designed puppets and sets add a surreal quality but it lacks the sense of humour which made Labyrinth, Henson’s next cinema release, so popular. Frank Oz, fellow puppeteer and the voice of Yoda, co-directs. Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 3.35pm Nick Park’s plucky Plasticine pair set about rescuing a village whose annual vegetable competition is in jeopardy because of rabbits eating up the contents of everyone’s gardens. But their bunny brainwashing goes wrong and they accidentally create a mutant rabbit. Beautifully shot, charming, and very silly, it deservedly won the Oscar for Best Animation. Candyman (1992) ★★★★☆ Film4, 11.15pm Virginia Madsen does powerhouse work as a student of folklore lured into fascination with a hook-handed killer who appears when you say his name five times in front of a mirror. She ignores all warnings but is soon blamed for his crimes when a series of horrible murders begin. Majestic direction from Bernard Rose transforms this into a resoundingly epic and gory fable. Friday 22 December Bruno Tonioli  Credit: BBC Saturday Night Fever: The Ultimate Disco Movie BBC Two, 9.00pm Long before he became a household name as a Strictly Come Dancing judge, Bruno Tonioli had a successful career as a choreographer to the stars, arranging dance for music videos, stage shows and tours for Tina Turner, Sting, Elton John and many others. Here he looks back 40 years to when he was a young dancer in New York and got caught up in the global phenomenon that was Saturday Night Fever.  It’s a great story, told with typical Tonioli verve, of how a low-budget film starring the then unknown John Travolta and using the music of a failing band of high-pitched popsters, the Bee Gees, became one of the biggest box office draws of all time and gave half the world “disco fever”. It also shows how – to give credit where it is due – much of its success was down to the visionary genius and unstoppable determination of the Bee Gees’ manager, the late Robert Stigwood, impresario behind some of the most popular stars, and hit stage and film musicals (Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, Grease, Bugsy Malone) of the Seventies. Contributors include Travolta. Gerard O’Donovan The Toys That Made Us Netflix, from today Toys of the Eighties are the focus of this series taking an in-depth look at the nostalgia and collecting fervour that surrounds eight of the biggest selling toy brands of that decade: Transformers, Stars Wars, He-Man, GI Joe, Barbie, Star Trek, Hello Kitty and Lego. Premier League Football: Arsenal v Liverpool Sky Sports Main Event, 7.00pm Action from the Emirates Stadium, as Arsenal  look to avenge a 4-0 defeat in August, when Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, Mo Salah and Daniel Sturridge all found the net for Liverpool. TOTP4 Christmas 2017 BBC Four, 7.30pm Get into the Christmas party spirit with Mark Radcliffe’s countdown of classic festive hits from Top of the Pops’s glitter-spattered archive, with The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl, Wizzard, Slade, The Darkness and Ed Sheeran among the acts featured. Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast Christmas Special Channel 4, 8.00pm Jamie Oliver and Jimmy Doherty welcome actress Liv Tyler to the pier café to make her favourite takeaway, pork dim sum. Oliver also whips up a cracking kedgeree, and Doherty builds a home-made wood-fired oven. Al Murray’s Make Christmas Great Again ITV, 9.00pm Al Murray’s gloriously unreconstructed pub landlord invites an audience to a lock-in at the Reindeer’s Head where he bends ears on such matters as how Christmas is losing its Britishness while whipping up anti-PC seasonal singalongs and remonstrating with celebrity guests. George Michael to Tom Petty: a Tribute Sky Arts, 9.00pm Chuck Berry, Fats Domino and David Cassidy are just some of the musicians and performers who, along with George Michael and Tom Petty, we lost in the past 12 months – as affectionately remembered in this 90-minute tribute. GO Les Dawson: In His Own Words Channel 5, 10.00pm Comedians didn’t come more old school than Les Dawson, with his bluff Northern style, rubber face and mother-in-law jokes. But he was one of the most original comedians of his generation, as proved by this terrific documentary that raids the archives for his funniest work. The Graham Norton Show BBC One, 10.40pm Grahm Norton’s line-up offers a good mix of interest: Hollywood star Will Smith, Victoria’s Jenna Coleman, chef Jamie Oliver and former Keane frontman Tom Chaplin. GO Bright (2017) Netflix, from today This Netflix Original – a $100 million special-effects blockbuster from David Ayer, director of Suicide Squad – sounds like a mash-up of Lethal Weapon and Lord of the Rings. In an alternate Los Angeles where elves and witches walk the streets, Will Smith’s tough NYPD officer finds himself partnered with an orc (Joel Edgerton). Considering its hefty price tag and star-studded soundtrack (Migos, Rag’n’Bone Man, Camila Cabello), this could be Netflix’s biggest mistake yet Puss in Boots (2011) ★★☆☆☆ BBC One, 3.40pm DreamWorks Animation’s Shrek spin-off follows Puss in Boots’s life before he became the green ogre’s sidekick. With the help of Kitty Softpaws (voiced by Salma Hayek) and Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis), the swashbuckling feline (Antonio Banderas) becomes a hero after saving his town. Like the CGI ogre’s last two films, Shrek the Third and Shrek Forever After, the animation is more impressive than the jokes. Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001) ★★★★☆ ITV, 10.40pm American actress Renée Zellweger perfects her English accent to play the Chardonnay-swigging, chain-smoking, lovelorn Bridget in this adaptation of Helen Fielding’s novel, which remains a solid favourite. Love interests Hugh Grant and Colin Firth are excellent as her roguish boss Daniel Cleaver and the stuffy-but-handsome (even in a Christmas jumper) lawyer Mark Darcy. Saturday 23 December A Christmas Tree in Manger Square, Bethlehem Credit: Channel 4 The World’s Best Christmas Lights: From Liverpool to Bethlehem Channel 4, 8.00pm It is amazing what you can build a successful, multi-million-pound, internationally renowned business from. Liverpool-based company The Christmas Decorators specialise in the commercial design and installation of large-scale Christmas lights and decorations – the kind you see in every shop, street and town square. This entertaining film, one of the more offbeat of the season, follows a rather surprising commission: to install the lights and decorations at what many might consider the birthplace of Christmas – Manger Square in Bethlehem. In fact, they’ve been doing it every year since 2012, bringing every single bulb and bauble with them from their warehouse in the UK.  It’s a huge logistical effort, which is also a possibly tricky one, if customs or security in, say, Istanbul take exception to the Bethlehem-bound consignment as it passes through. Director of operations GED Comerford leads the four-person installation team on the trek from Liverpool. It’s fraught with hitches and glitches – even a home-baked Christmas cake is regarded with suspicion by local security – but all the more entertaining for that. Gerard O’Donovan Smashie’s Xmastastic Playlist Christmas Gold, 4.00pm Getting the Christmas party off to an early start from his fab-tastic hideaway at Radio Hush, The Fast Show’s Mike Smash (Paul Whitehouse) brings his off-kilter pop-DJ insights to an hour of festive hits from Wizzard to Johnny Mathis via McCartney, Dylan and Springsteen.  Elf: The Musical Channel 5, 5.00pm There’s seasonal song, dance and fun in the stage musical version of Will Ferrell’s much-loved comedy from the Lowry Theatre in Salford. Ben Forster, who won ITV’s Superstar talent search in 2012, leads the cast as Buddy, a human orphan who was raised by Santa’s elves in the North Pole and returns to New York in search of his family. Michael Buble’s Christmas in New York Sky Arts, 5.00pm At the Radio City Music Hall the crooner sings a selection of seasonal classics, along with a sparkling line-up of special guests including Barbra Streisand, Ariana Grande and The Muppets’ Miss Piggy. It is repeated on Sky One at 12.15am. Pointless Celebrities Christmas Special BBC One, 6.15pm Some of the contestants in this festive edition of the quiz could themselves be pointless answers in a round on Christmas hits. Jona Lewie, Jimmy Osmond and Ben Haenow are among those answering Alexander Armstrong questions. Blind Date Christmas Special Channel 5, 8.00pm There’s a fairy-tale spin to this edition of Paul O’Grady’s matchmaking show, as a Prince Charming has to choose between fellow panto actors Cinderella, Snow White and Tinkerbell. It’s Christmas Live from the Royal Albert Hall Sky One, 8.00pm The Royal Albert Hall is transformed to a rock ’n’ roll winter wonderland as Jason Manford introduces performances by Holly Johnson, Marc Almond, Chrissie Hynde and Shakin’ Stevens, among many others. GO Feud: Bette and Joan BBC Two, from 9.00pm; NI, from 9.30pm Ryan Murphy’s stylish and scathingly catty dramatisation of the Hollywood feud between Bette Davis (Susan Sarandon) and Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange) reaches the moment that the actresses’ mutual loathing went off the scale – while working on the 1962 classic What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (which follows). GO Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001) ★★★☆☆ ITV, 1.35pm  From today to New Year’s Day, ITV are screening all of the Harry Potter films – one film a day, except on Boxing Day. This first adaptation of J K Rowling’s novel was, for a while, the second highest-grossing film ever. Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint are endearing (and very young) in the lead roles but the film lacks the original book’s compulsiveness. Frozen (2013) ★★★★★ BBC One, 2.50pm Disney’s 53rd feature is an enchanting combination of fairy-tale derring-do and heart-popping musical numbers that has left children and adults powerless to its charms. Elsa (Idina Menzel) is a shy princess driven into exile when her magical powers are discovered. Her sister Anna (Kristen Bell) gallops off to fetch her from her beautiful ice palace. Spin-off Olaf’s Frozen Adventure is on Christmas Day. Bill (2015) ★★★★☆ BBC Two, 6.00pm Intelligent children and immature adults will love this mock-biopic from the Horrible Histories troupe that follows the young William Shakespeare (Mathew Baynton) as he ascends from quill-scraping zero to literary hero. Some of the best moments (a running joke about false moustaches is one) are full-bloodedly Pythonesque, although occasionally a kind of student-revue smarminess creeps in. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962, b/w) ★★★★★ BBC Two, 10.35pm; not N Ireland Robert Aldrich’s classic slice of American Grotesque, starring two of cinema’s greatest screen divas, started a trend for casting ageing actresses in campy Gothic horror movies. Joan Crawford and Bette Davis play reclusive sisters locked in an abusive relationship in their crumbling Hollywood mansion.  Christmas Eve Sue Perkins, Mary Berry and Mel Giedroyc Credit: BBC Mary, Mel and Sue’s Big Christmas Thank You BBC One, 7.00pm Anyone looking for some extra festive cheer should look no further than this exuberant Christmas special which sees former Great British Bake-Off stars Mary Berry, Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc join forces to help out at a community centre in the Rhondda Valley in Wales.  Initially, it seems as though this is one of those rather forced shows in which celebrities dispense good cheer and bad jokes, but an emotional story of community spirit in the face of despair swiftly emerges. “We’ve lost our library, our butchers, both banks have closed and there’s no school,” states Elizabeth “Buffy” Williams. Working with her friend Lynne, Buffy has attempted to combat that by opening a community centre offering meals, bingo and after-school classes. Now they want to throw a special Christmas meal for the whole community but it’s tough: the kitchen is small, money is tight and Lynne freely admits that she hates cooking. Enter the indomitable Mrs Berry, who rolls up her sleeves, corrals Daffyd, a 16-year-old with a GCSE in catering, into becoming her sous chef and helps Lynne tackle her phobia. The final celebration should bring a tear to even the most cynical of eyes. Sarah Hughes Premiership Rugby Union: Leicester Tigers v Saracens BT Sport 1, 2.30pm Below-par this season, Leicester will be hoping a win here at Welford Park against third-placed Saracens will give them fresh momentum going into the new year.  Countryfile BBC One, 6.00pm The team head to the Peak District for this special which sees John Craven exploring Longshaw Estate, Anita Rani experiencing a Nativity play with a difference and Matt Baker venturing into Peak Cavern for a carol concert.  Christmas University Challenge 2017 BBC Two, 8.00pm; Scotland, 5.45pm There’s something addictive about the University Challenge’s specials, possibly because they allow us to see celebrities in a new light. The opener sees a team from Durham University, including actor Nick Mohammed, take on a Keble College side featuring Katy Brand. Child Genius vs Celebrities Christmas Special Channel 4, 8.00pm Richard Osman is our host for this Christmas special, which sees past child geniuses take on, among others, Catastrophe star Rob Delaney and broadcaster Janet Street Porter. Will youth or experience win out?  Michael McIntyre’s Big Christmas Show BBC One, 8.30pm The comedian returns for a festive edition in which Alesha Dixon risks social disaster by handing over her phone in Celebrity Send-to-All, plus there’s stand-up from Bill Bailey and music from Seal.  Maigret in Montmartre ITV, 8.30pm Critics haven’t always been kind to ITV’s reboot of Georges Simenon’s Maigret featuring Rowan Atkinson. Yet there’s actually a lot to like here. Atkinson underplays the role nicely, the plots are serviceable and the whole thing is entertaining if undemanding fare. This episode sees Maigret drawn in to the murder of a showgirl. SH M R James evening BBC Four, from 9.00pm Shut the doors, draw the curtains and prepare to be thoroughly spooked as BBC Four dedicates an evening to ghost writer supreme M R James. First up, long-time James fan Mark Gatiss looks at how this diffident Anglican bachelor created stories that still send a tingle down the spine a century after they were written. It’s followed at 10pm by two adaptations of James’s work: The Tractate Middoth, a chilling story about vengeance from beyond the grave, starring Sacha Dhawan and John Castle, and No 13, featuring Greg Wise as an academic who uncovers more than he bargains for in a small medieval town. Billy Elliot: the Musical Sky Arts, 9.00pm Anyone who hasn’t managed to catch Stephen Daldry’s big-hearted musical take on his film about a miner’s son who just wants to dance can find out what all the fuss is about with this performance from 2014 starring Ruthie Henshall and Elliott Hanna. SH Gone with the Wind (1939) ★★★★★ Channel 5, 9.20am Hollywood’s highest-grossing movie until The Sound of Music in 1966, this was the film for which the word “epic” was invented. Vivien Leigh became a star as Scarlett O’Hara, the spoilt Southern belle whose life is turned upside down by the US Civil War. Clark Gable and Leslie Howard are her lovers. It’s brash and self-indulgent, but frankly we don’t give a damn. The Lego Batman Movie (2017) ★★★★☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 1.25pm and 7.00pm Don’t tell Ben Affleck – who plays Actual Batman – but the actor has been made surplus to requirements by one and a half inches of moulded plastic. Lego Batman’s debut solo feature, spun off from a cameo in The Lego Movie, is frantically and relentlessly funny as a new police commissioner (Rosario Dawson) threatens to make the Caped Crusader redundant. Guys and Dolls (1955) ★★★★☆ BBC Two, 3.20pm The 1955 film adaptation of the Broadway classic holds up rather well. The stellar casting certainly helps: Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra in one film – as the rival New York gamblers (and gangsters) Sky Masterson and Nathan Detroit, who place a bet on compromising the virtue of a pious Salvation Army woman, Sarah Brown (played by Jean Simmons). The musical numbers are still a delight. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) ★★★★★ Channel 4, 6.30pm Tiny Tim is a small green frog, Mrs Cratchit is a bad-tempered pig and Charles Dickens himself is portrayed by Gonzo, enormous blue nose and all. And yet, there are few better, or more affecting versions of A Christmas Carol than this musical adaptation. Michael Caine is ideal as the miserly Scrooge, the laughs are aplenty and the finale is as rousing as they come. Christmas Day Peter Capaldi and David Bradley Credit: BBC Doctor Who BBC One, 5.30pm While it’s not unusual for Doctor Who to begin with a “Previously…”, this one takes things all the way back to William Hartnell’s First Doctor, having faced the Cybermen at the South Pole and refused to regenerate. After necessarily metamorphosing into David Bradley (who played Hartnell in Mark Gatiss’s docudrama An Adventure in Space and Time), he duly encounters Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor, in a similar fix. Throw in Mark Gatiss’s doomed British army captain, transported from the Western Front at the moment of death with stiff upper lip wobbling, a mysterious glass woman (Nikki Amuka-Bird) with the power to freeze time, the return of Bill (Pearl Mackie) and a few other surprises, and you have another of Steven Moffat’s self-imposed riddles to unravel. Given that this is Moffat’s own last stand, and with Jodie Whitaker due to make her bow at the end of the episode, you might anticipate a tsunami of self-indulgence and sentimentality, but no. Capaldi and Mackie’s snappy, affectionate chemistry precludes such easy options, Gatiss is restrained and funny and Moffat’s musing on war and peace is enough to bear the wit and self-referentiality. A dignified farewell. Gabriel Tate The Highway Rat BBC One, 4.45pm Rob Brydon narrates and David Tennant voices the eponymous anti-hero in another enchanting adaptation of a Julia Donaldson/Axel Scheffler picture book, this time depicting the comeuppance for a selfish, swashbuckling rat and his long-suffering steed.. The Royal Opera: Puccini’s La Boheme BBC Four, 7.00pm Clemency Burton-Hill introduces Richard Jones’s production of Puccini’s tale of love and loss among bohemians in 19th-century Paris, conducted by Antonio Pappano and starring tenor Michael Fabiano and soprano Nicole Car as star-crossed lovers Rodolfo and Mimi. Jones’s production has a wintry charm that should see it sit very comfortably in today’s schedules.  Olaf’s Frozen Adventure Sky Cinema Premiere/On Demand, 7.30pm Perhaps better suited to television after a brief run in cinemas that saw parents complaining about it delaying screenings of Coco, this Frozen spin-off finds the cheerful snowman Olaf (voiced by Josh Gad) joining his reindeer, Sven, on a mission for their royal highnesses Elsa (Idina Menzel) and Anna (Kristen Bell) who are desperate to create their own Christmas tradition. Expect four catchy new songs to be ringing around your head. GT  Call the Midwife BBC One, 7.40pm Call the Midwife pulls out all the stops for this astoundingly gloomy affair as a Boxing Day freeze descends, stranding Valerie (Jennifer Kirby) in a caravan for an ad hoc delivery and accounting for a popular old timer with a very dark secret. The Great Christmas bake off Channel 4, 7.40pm Val and Selasi from last year, Paul Jagger (he of 2015’s bread lion) and Welsh Beca, a 2013 semi-finalist, return to compete for Star Baker, introduced and judged by the new Fab Four. There’s more of the same on New Year’s Day. Victoria ITV, 9.00pm The Queen (Jenna Coleman) is pregnant again and missing her governess, leaving Albert (Tom Hughes) in the unlikely role of Christmas merrymaker-in-chief. It’s a festive special by numbers, but affecting and easy on the eye. Ashes Cricket: Australia v England BT Sport 1, 10.30pm It’s been a fraught series, on and off the field, for England, with their players’ professionalism frequently called into question. This signals the start of the fourth Test, played at Melbourne Cricket Ground. Can Joe Root’s beleaguered side salvage some dignity? Or will the Aussies continue to have a field day? 300 Years of French & Saunders BBC One, 10.35pm Unseen footage, much-loved sketches and of course Lulu feature in this one-off, which sees the duo back together on TV for the first time in a decade. The new material is intermittently inspired and vigorously performed, with The Handmaid’s Tale, the Kardashians and Poldark all subjected to their attentions. GT Singin’ in the Rain (1952) ★★★★★ Channel 5, 1.05pm There are few movie scenes more memorable than Gene Kelly’s rain-soaked Singin’ in the Rain sequence, or many more jaw-dropping than Donald O’Connor’s walk up the wall. But more than song and dance, this film contains real satire as it recounts the introduction of the “talkie” and the superficial nature of the US film industry. Debbie Reynolds (who died a year ago, one day after daughter Carrie Fisher) co-stars as the Hollywood ingénue. Cinderella (2015) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 3.10pm Kenneth Branagh’s twinkling, live-action Cinderella sticks doggedly to Disney’s 1950 animated version (Cinders’s rodent companions are present) and favours sparkle over wit. However, Cate Blanchett is marvellous as the Wicked Stepmother and Helena Bonham Carter makes a jolly good Fairy Godmother. Princess-obsessed little girls will find it irresistible and the costumes are stunning. Oliver! (1968) ★★★★☆ Channel 5, 3.10pm Carol Reed, who had previously directed The Third Man, won an Oscar for his superior version of Lionel Bart’s musical of the classic Charles Dickens tale (Reed’s only ever attempt at the musical genre). Eight-year-old Mark Lester is sweet as Oliver Twist but it was Ron Moody as Fagin who received the Oscar nod. Reed’s nephew, another Oliver, is a brooding and brutal Bill Sikes and still has the potential to shock. Dumbo (1941) ★★★★★ Channel 4. 4.30pm It may be one of Disney’s shortest animated films, but it is also one of its most loved. Baby elephant Dumbo is born with unfeasibly large ears, is separated from his mother and becomes ostracised by his fellow circus animals. It is only when Timothy Mouse encourages Dumbo to make the most of his ears that he discovers he can fly. This remains an undisputed masterpiece from Disney’s golden age of animation. Boxing Day Willa Fitzgerald, Kathryn Newton, Maya Hawke and Annes Elwy Credit: BBC Little Women BBC One, 8.00pm One suspects that this beautiful adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s much-loved coming-of-age novel (published in 1868) was due a less prominent airing until the BBC had to shelve its flagship festive Agatha Christie adaptation Ordeal by Innocence due to sexual assault allegations against one of the stars. That seems no great loss now, as this sparkling gem of a drama – scripted by Call the Midwife creator Heidi Thomas – more than deserves a Boxing Day prime-time slot.  Told in three parts, it follows the lives of the March sisters – Jo (Maya Hawke), Meg (Willa Fitzgerald), Beth (Annes Elwy), and Amy (Kathryn Newton) – as they progress from adolescence to adulthood under the protective eye of their mother, Marmee (Emily Watson), while their father is away in the American Civil War.  As life-affirming a tale as you could want this time of year, it’s full of high spirits and loving kindness. There are nice cameo performances by Michael Gambon and Angela Lansbury, but in the opening part, the acting laurels go to Hawke for her spot-on portrayal of tomboyish proto-feminist Jo, and Jonah Hauer-King, as boy next door Laurie Laurence. Gerard O’Donovan Todd Barry: Spicy Honey Netflix, from today Stand-up Todd Barry is best known in the US for his bone-dry wit. Anyone seeking relief from the festive season’s more saccharine shows will be sure to find it in this one-off recording from his latest tour. Premier League Football: Tottenham Hotspur v Southampton Sky Sports Main Event, 12.00noon Spurs won both of their matches against the Saints last season, including a 2-1 victory in one of their final home matches at White Hart Lane. Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli both scored in the first half, with James Ward-Prowse pulling one back for Southampton in the second. Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella BBC Two, 5.35pm From Sadler’s Wells, a treat for dance fans in this dazzling Blitz-era reworking of Prokofiev’s classic ballet, performed by Bourne’s New Adventures company.  Snow Bears BBC One, 6.30pm Kate Winslet narrates this documentary following a pack of polar bears as they embark on an eventful 400-mile journey to reach the pack ice where they hunt. Surprisingly charming. Discovering: Julie Andrews Sky Arts, 7.00pm A look at the life and career of an actress and singer more associated with Christmas than most, thanks to endless festive repeats of Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music. But there’s much more to Julie Andrews than that, as shown in this beautifully put-together profile.  Reindeer Family and Me BBC Two, 8.00pm Wildlife film-maker Gordon Buchanan’s festive offering focuses on Santa’s favourite quadruped. In Lapland, Buchanan settles in with the nomadic Sami people to learn the ways of the herder, before setting out with a single reindeer to capture the Northern Lights as they’ve never been filmed before. Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 2017: The Language OF life BBC Four, 8.00pm This year’s theme, The Language of Life, sees cognitive neuroscientist Professor Sophie Scott of UCL embark on an exploration of the urge to communicate. In the opener, she unpicks the evolution of the human voice. GO The Miniaturist BBC One, 9.00pm An absorbing adaptation of Jessie Burton’s bestseller about a young woman thrust into an arranged marriage with a perplexing merchant in 17th-century Amsterdam. It looks exquisite, although the constant quest to shoot each frame as if it were a Vermeer painting doesn’t help the pace. Anna Taylor-Joy plays 18-year-old Nella with suitable bafflement, Alex Hassell intrigues as Johannes, while Romola Garai steals the show as his sister, Marin. Concludes tomorrow. Big Fat Quiz of the Year 2017 Channel 4, 9.00pm Jimmy Carr hosts C4’s alternative comedy quiz looking back at the year in the news, with guests including Richard Ayoade, Noel Fielding, David Mitchell and Katherine Ryan. GO Mary Poppins (1964) ★★★★★ BBC One, 3.45pm This is the popular story of a magical nanny (Julie Andrews) who takes over a London home, transforming the lives of its inhabitants. Dick Van Dyke may affect the worst cockney accent ever heard on film, but the combination of the catchy songs, sumptuous live action and colourful animation makes this one of the most enduring children’s films, and a staple of the festive schedules. The film was nominated for 13 Oscars. Beauty and the Beast (2017) ★★★★☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 10.55am and 5.50pm Emma Watson dazzles in Disney’s show-stopping, live-action, chocolate box remake. The film’s songs – which include three new ones – by Alan Menken are the pulse, the purpose and the headline draw, while Ewan McGregor is delightful as Lumière, Luke Evans perfect as Gaston, and Dan Stevens, in digital fur, is the Prince. The Little Mermaid (1989) ★★★★☆ Channel 4, 4.20pm This vivacious retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale began a rich vein of form for Disney animations (Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King followed). A combination of unforgettable characters, including Sebastian the singing Jamaican crab and the delightfully evil baddie Ursula (based on drag queen Divine), and catchy songs makes Ariel’s journey to dry land a magical thing. Jurassic World (2015) ★★★★☆ ITV, 6.40pm Can modern audiences still be wowed by computer-generated dinosaurs? This long-awaited Jurassic Park sequel (the original movie was released in 1993) proves that they can. A new attraction at the dinosaur theme park, created to re-spark visitor interest, gravely backfires and it’s left to Chris Pratt’s raptor trainer and Bryce Dallas Howard’s scientist to save the day. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is out next year. Wednesday 27 December Steve Coogan as Alan Partidge Credit: BBC Alan Partridge: Why, When, Where, How and Whom? BBC Two, 9.00pm Unfortunately, there were no previews available for this palate-cleansing documentary ahead of Alan Partridge’s return to the BBC for a new series next year, which co-creator Steve Coogan promises will include the sometime Radio Norwich presenter’s take on that most contentious of topics, Brexit. It’s been 25 years since he and Armando Iannucci created the hapless Partridge, described by Iannucci as “a kind of social X-ray of male middle-aged Middle England”, a bombastic, self-important local presenter with an unwavering belief in the importance of the highway code and “imperial leisurewear”.  Now this documentary attempts to explain why this character, above all others, has touched such a nerve. Among those contributing are Coogan and Iannucci, Patrick Marber, Peter Baynham, Rebecca Front, David Schneider and Doon Mackichan, and we’re also promised unseen archive footage. The real secret to Alan’s lasting appeal is a simple one, however: he’s a fully realised character and a very English monster in the same vein as Basil Fawlty. Even as we laugh at him, we’re moved by his increasing self-awareness. Sarah Hughes Celebrity Mastermind BBC One, 7.00pm Actor Jack Ashton, comedian Rich Hall, Match of the Day commentator Guy Mowbray and poet Pam Ayres join John Humphrys for a new run of the celebrity edition. Among the specialist subjects tonight are Tennessee Williams, Iron Maiden and Ashes Cricket.  Agatha Christie vs Hercule Poirot Sky Arts, 7.30pm Pierre Bayar presents this interesting deconstruction of one of Agatha Christie’s most celebrated novels, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, in which he alleges a miscarriage of justice by Poirot.  Six Robots & Us BBC Two, 8.00pm Psychologist Dr Caroline Jay and robotics specialist Prof Jonathan Rossiter join forces in this fascinating experiment which aims to uncover how helpful the latest innovations in robotics truly are. To find out the team deliver four very different robots to families around the UK.  Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 2017: the language of life BBC Four, 8.00pm Professor Sophie Scott, UCL’s Head of the Speech Communications Group, gives this year’s lecture, looking at silent communication and why our body language and smells can say as much if not more than our words and sounds.   World’s Strongest Man 2017 Channel 5, 8.00pm Channel 5 brings us all the action from the World’s Strongest Man competition in Botswana. All eyes are on the USA’s Brian Shaw, the defending champion, who is hoping to win for a record firth time.  Turtle, Eagle, Cheetah: A Slow Odyssey BBC Four, 9.00pm BBC Four’s latest foray into the enticing world of slow TV is this nature documentary which focuses on the different views of a cheetah on the African savannah, a green turtle in the Indonesia reefs and a white-tailed eagle in Scotland. SH Miranda Does Christmas Channel 4, 9.00pm Like many an institution before her, Miranda Hart has swapped the BBC for Channel 4 on her return to the small screen. Here, Hart hosts a “raucous Christmas party” with guests including David Tennant, Sam Smith and Prue Leith. SH The Red Shoes (1948) ★★★★★ BBC Two, 12.10pm Powell and Pressburger’s seminal musical tragedy is one of cinema’s great wonders. It’s about a talented ballet dancer (Moira Shearer), her romance with a struggling composer (Marius Goring) and her loyalty to the ballet that he wrote and in which she is meant to star. The film’s theme of the pre-eminent call of creative passion is thought to be an allegory for P & P’s devotion to their craft. Big Hero 6 (2014) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 4.10pm This Disney animation is an East-meets-West adventure with buckets of heart and soul – and quite possibly Disney at its adorable, huggable, and most visually extravagant best. Hiro Hamada, a 14-year-old orphan living in the city of San Fransokyo, befriends Baymax, a 10-foot-tall, bright, white inflatable robot invented by his elder brother, who’s killed in a mysterious fire at his laboratory. Scrooged (1988) ★★★★☆ Film4, 4.35pm 9+Bill Murray plays a mean-spirited network TV president who sees the light after he experiences ghostly visitations – including Carol Kane as a happy-slapping fairy in a tutu – in this droll comic update of Dickens’s tale. Murray is on deadpan, cynical form (“Have you tried staples?”) and Robert Mitchum contributes a priceless cameo as a fellow executive with plans to produce TV shows for cats and dogs. Oasis: Supersonic (2016) ★★★☆☆ BBC Two, 10.00pm Oasis’s glory-days documentary indulges Noel and Liam Gallagher’s bad behaviour. Mat Whitecross’s film starts and ends with the pair of dates when Oasis debatably peaked, at Knebworth in 1996, and goes to excessive length to detail stories of their excess. Few rock stars, in fairness, have a habit of being so amusingly and brutally honest about their failings, and Whitecross is content to let them have the last word. Thursday 28 December David Attenborough Credit: BBC Attenborough and the Empire of the Ants BBC Two, 9.30pm Back on dry land after Blue Planet II, David Attenborough travels to the Jura Mountains on the Swiss-French border to investigate the methods used by two different communities of wood ants to survive and thrive. One adopts a familiar strategy of territorial aggression, with a family dominated by a single queen and chemical warfare on rival communities conducted with liberal distribution of formic acid. The other appears to defy the rules of evolution as they are currently understood, forming a supercolony consisting of several communities cooperating for the greater good in a manner reminiscent of early man’s first steps to eventual supremacy. Queens, sentries and workers labour alongside each other in a manner which sounds far-fetched, but the cameras capture this extraordinary behaviour in mesmerising detail, from hunting to breeding to self-preservation.  The now-customary behind-the-scenes postscript sees Attenborough almost as amazed by the new technology that allows such access to nature (in this case, the “FrankenCam”) as by nature itself. It’s not Blue Planet II, but it’s the sort of fascinating deeper dive that Natural World does so well. Gabriel Tate Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 2017: The Language OF life BBC Four, 8.00pm Sophie Scott brings her series of lectures to an close with an examination of language and comprehension in the animal kingdom. Are we humans really as far advanced as we believe, or might primates and even birds be able to communicate with comparable sophistication? The Secret Life of 5 Year Olds On Holiday Channel 4, 8.30pm Familiar faces from the most recent series head to Cyprus to enjoy flying, swimming and local delicacies, while the professionals watch on and deliver their analyses of childhood behaviour. What Britain Bought in 2017 Channel 4, 9.00pm Mary Portas assesses whether this year has been as dismal as expected for high-street retailers, and examines a few unlikely trends: unicorns, gin and, she suggests, big knickers. Clint Eastwood: a Life in Film Sky Arts, 9.00pm Whether you love or loathe his hardline politics, few would dispute the astonishing consistency of Clint Eastwood’s work. For such a prolific actor and director, there are few duds on his CV and plenty of masterpieces, from Unforgiven to Once Upon a Time in the West. Made in 2007, the year of his ambitious wartime diptych Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima, this excellent programme finds Eastwood in good-humoured form as he talks Michael Henry Wilson through his 50-year career. GT Bruno Mars: Live in Harlem BBC One, 10.25pm; NI, 11.25pm Harlem’s Apollo Theatre launched the careers of James Brown, Ella Fitzgerald and Lauryn Hill, among many others. Bruno Mars pays tribute to the building’s history and rolls out the hits – Uptown Funk, Just the Way You Are et al – along with some dazzling choreography for a hard partying crowd. Romesh Ranganathan: Irrational Live BBC Two, 10.30pm Perhaps rivalled only by Katherine Ryan for small-screen ubiquity this year, Romesh Ranganathan has proved himself an accomplished stand-up comedian. This special, recorded at London’s Hammersmith Apollo in 2016, captures the comedian’s jaundiced but very funny musings on family life. GT The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! (2012) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 9.00am This claymation Aardman romp is a delight. The impasto of non-stop gags, comic detail and slapstick action should appeal to all the family. Hugh Grant plays the Pirate Captain, who needs more booty if he is to stand a chance of winning the title of Pirate of the Year. The plot takes in Darwin, the last dodo and Queen Victoria (voiced by Imelda Staunton). Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 (2017) ★★★★☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 11.00am and 8.00pm Marvel’s playful space sequel looks like an explosion in a nursery school craft cupboard – every scene comes caked in rainbows, glitter and gunge. The core crew returns, led by Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), but the story only really begins with the arrival of a benign and bearded mystic called Ego (Kurt Russell), who has big news for Peter about his earthly origins. Flight (2012) ★★★☆☆ Channel 5, 9.00pm Robert Zemeckis’s film, starring Denzel Washington as alcoholic commercial pilot Whip Whitaker, is a long, earnest, sporadically brilliant drama. On a routine hop from Florida to Atlanta, Whip’s plane starts to tumble out of the sky – a dramatic sequence that will turn nervous fliers’ stomachs – and the pilot must fight to save the lives of those on board. Dull in parts, this is nevertheless morally provocative. Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (2013) ★★★☆☆ BBC Two, 11.30pm Films based on sitcoms tend to play broader than the real series, and this cinema outing for Steve Coogan’s fading media gasbag is no exception. The plot has Alan held hostage at a radio station in Norfolk. Old friends, such as his assistant Lynn (Felicity Montagu), join in and viewers hoping for new catchphrases will be happy, but Partridge loses his Pooterish potency when moving from talk to action. Friday 29 December Bob Mortimer and Vic Reeves Credit: BBC Vic & Bob’s Big Night Out BBC Two, 9.00pm Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer return for this one-off Christmas edition of their sketch show, 27 years after it first aired as Vic Reeves Big Night Out. Fans will be pleased to hear that age has not dimmed the comedians’ energy – in this half-hour they bounce around the studio in the same vein as their younger selves, which gives the show a rapid-fire pace.  The pair’s chemistry is undeniable and they frequently make each other laugh, as well as a raucous studio audience. There is a sense that Reeves and Mortimer are now improvising much of their material, which may explain why some of the jokes here are a touch below par. But many of the sketches are excellent, such as their parody of Channel 4 dating show First Dates, in which they play jokey gay Yorkshiremen. In another, Vic sells wigs made of body parts.  Nostalgia comes in the form of a cameo from Matt Lucas, forever associated with his George Dawes character in Shooting Stars, and the revival of character Graham Lister (played by Bob) in the talent show parody sketch Novelty Island. This brief return reminds us that, with their corny jokes and surreal sense of humour, there’s nobody quite like Vic and Bob. Vicki Power Tim Vine Travels Through Time Christmas Special BBC One, 7.30pm Prepare for a barrage of seasonal puns as Tim Vine’s comedy show returns. Emma Bunton and Reverend Richard Coles join Vine on a jaunt to Tudor times. Eric & Ernie’s Home Movies BBC Two, 8.00pm Those ghosts of Christmas past, Morecambe and Wise, are revisited in this charming documentary showcasing the double act via some newly discovered home movies. Look out also for a repeat of Morecambe & Wise: Leading Ladies (BBC Two, 7.00pm) and Eric, Ernie & Me (BBC Four, 9.00pm), a drama exploring their relationship with writer Eddie Braben. Victoria Wood by her friends Channel 5, 9.00pm This tribute to the late comedian covers much the same ground, and includes some identical contributors, as BBC One’s Our Friend Victoria, but it’s still a treat to be reminded of Wood’s talents. Her 1997 stand-up show, Victoria Wood: Live 1997, follows.   Delicious Sky One, 9.00pm Sky dishes up a second series of this frothy Cornwall-set drama. Chef Gina (Dawn French) has now joined forces with Sam (Emilia Fox) to run the Penrose Hotel, as the man that they were both once married to, Leo (Iain Glen), narrates from beyond the grave. But it turns out tensions haven’t died with him, and their spats bring a pinch of spice to the drama. Tonight, Franco Nero arrives as Gina’s ne’er-do-well father to stir up trouble. Frankie Boyle’s 2017 New Year World Order BBC Two, 10.00pm; not NI This year’s absence of Charlie Brooker’s Wipe is mitigated somewhat by Frankie Boyle’s return for this end-of-year round-up. And certainly somebody needs to help make sense of this crazy year. VP Elvis: The Rebirth of the King BBC Four, 10.00pm This compelling film seeks to overturn the enduring image of Elvis Presley’s Vegas years as a tragic nadir of his career. It argues that Presley’s musical renaissance in a 1968 Christmas TV special saw the King reach new creative heights that he carried into his Vegas shows, before disillusionment and drugs took over. Fantastic archive footage and commentary from his former collaborators, including Elvis’s backing singers, make a convincing case. VP Up (2009) ★★★★★ BBC One, 2.25pm Possibly Pixar’s finest film, Up has a captivating story that realises the vividness of a childlike imagination. Only those with a heart of stone wouldn’t be moved by the story of Ed Asner (voiced by Carl Fredricksen), who tries to fulfil his dream of building a house next to Paradise Falls in South America. His odyssey brings him more than he bargained for, including a young, hyperactive Wilderness Explorer called Russell. Brave (2012) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 4.20pm The first of Pixar’s films to have a female protagonist won an Oscar and there’s a bewitching craftsmanship to its storytelling. It’s set in the Highlands during the feudal period. Kelly MacDonald plays the flame-haired Merida, who would rather ride her horse than play the role of simpering princess; unable to sway her mother (Emma Thompson), she seeks the help of a witch (Julie Walters). Gone Girl (2014) ★★★☆☆ BBC One, 9.15pm; N Ireland, 9.45pm Cold and controlled, yet fun, this drama, directed by David Fincher, is based on Gillian Flynn’s novel of the same name. Rosamund Pike is Amy Elliott-Dunne, who disappears one morning, much to the apparent surprise of her husband (Ben Affleck). The media sniff around and soon the couple’s secrets come to the surface. Darkly suspenseful at first, the story soon turns into blood-drenched self-parody. The Great Gatsby (2013) ★★★☆☆ BBC Two, 11.15pm Baz Luhrmann lays on a cinematic buffet of such sense-addling brazenness that it takes a while before you notice the film is finger-food and nothing more. Leonardo DiCaprio is Jay Gatsby, a newly minted millionaire, and Carey Mulligan is Daisy Buchanan, the lost love he longs to win back. On the rare occasions Luhrmann gives them space to act in the pulsating frenzy of his Jazz Age world, both do a wonderful job. Television previewers Toby Dantzic, Catherine Gee, Simon Horsford, Sarah Hughes, Clive Morgan, Gerard O'Donovan, Vicki Power, Patrick Smith, Gabriel Tate and Rachel Ward

What's on TV tonight: The League of Gentlemen returns and Mary Berry’s Christmas Party

Monday 18 December The League of Gentlemen BBC Two, 10.00pm This is undoubtedly one of the highlights of the festive season for comedy fans. The influential freak show sitcom set in the blighted fictional town of Royston Vasey returns for a three-part run to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its award-winning debut on Radio 4 (the transfer to TV didn’t occur until 1999).  Reviving once-popular comedy is a risky business – just look at the recent Porridge fiasco – but Mark Gatiss, Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton have gone on to bigger, if not always better, things in the intervening years and they return here as if they were never away. Still performing all the major characters on screen (with the group’s fourth member, Jeremy Dyson, sharing the writing duties) they update the stories and characters without losing the demonic humour of the original.  Most of the best characters make a reappearance – Tubbs and Edward, Barbra the trans taxi driver, Herr Lipp, Pauline Campbell-Jones and Mr Chinnery the vet – as Royston Vasey faces its greatest existential threat. Val Denton, meanwhile, sets the tone decisivelyin an opening scene memorable for all the wrong reasons. Gerard O’Donovan Father Brown BBC One, 1.45pm Mark Williams returns for a sixth series as GK Chesterton’s crime-fighting Catholic priest. It’s Christmas in Kembleford but when a dog makes a gruesome discovery in the woods, Father Brown sets out to reverse a terrible miscarriage of justice. Mary Berry’s Christmas Party BBC One, 8.30pm Tips, recipes and full-on merriment as the BBC’s queen of baking invites a handful of famous faces round for a Christmas party cook-in: Alex Jones shows off her rissoles, Darcey Bussell crafts a dance-inspired dessert, while Adil Ray handles the canapés. Plus there’s ginger glazed ham, white chocolate cherry brandy cake, and much more. The Art That Made Mexico: Paradise, Power and Prayers BBC Four, 9.00pm Artist Alinka Echeverria concludes her series by exploring the influence of faith on Mexican culture and how the conquistadors’ Catholic notions of venerating the divine through art found fertile ground thanks to earlier Mayan beliefs. Birds of a Feather Christmas special ITV, 9.00pm Marks and Gran’s long-running sitcom creaks back for another festive special, with Tracey’s (Linda Robson) Yuletide plans upsetting both Sharon (Pauline Quirke) and Dorien (Lesley Joseph). Abba: When All Is Said and Done Channel 5, 9.00pm An Abba double whammy starts with this docudrama exploring the very different stories of the Swedish supergroup’s singers Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad through their own words. Abba: Live in Concert follows at 11.05pm, recorded at the group’s peak in 1979. GO Andre Rieu: Christmas In London 2016 Sky Arts, 9.00pm Rieu entertains with everything festive from Jingle Bells to White Christmas and O Holy Night, bringing his infectious blend of glitter, frills and massed violin strings to boost the seasonal mood. Private Lives of The Monarchs Yesterday, 9.00pm There’s more to Henry VIII than the image of a roistering glutton whose obsession with siring a male heir led to England’s break with Catholicism. So says historian Tracy Borman, painting a picture of a thoughtful young king driven to tyranny by personal demons. GO Carry On Cleo (1964) ★★★☆☆ Channel 4, 12.20pm “Infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it in for me!” So says Kenneth Williams’s waspish Caesar in this, one of the best in the long-running series of cheap and cheerful comedies. Set in ancient Rome, it’s hardly Shakespeare but at least the gags come thick and fast. Watch out for an early appearance from Coronation Street’s Amanda Barrie as a doe-eyed Cleopatra, up to her ears in ass’s milk and political intrigue. First Blood (1982) ★★★★☆ ITV4, 9.00pm Based on David Morrell’s novel, this is the first and best of the Rambo action-movie franchise – it’s more sensitive than the sequels. Sylvester Stallone has become synonymous with Rambo, a maladjusted ex-Green Beret who, after having some Vietnam flashbacks, goes on a one-man war against a crooked small-town sheriff (Brian Dennehy). It’s pacy and raw with a moving climax. Part II is on Tuesday. The Woman in Black (2012) ★★★★☆ Channel 4, 12.10am Thanks to its almost hyper-Edwardian setting and some canny plot alterations, this feels less like a remake of Susan Hill’s ghost story than a new reading of an old tale, trembling with freshly terrifying resonances. Daniel Radcliffe gives a grown-up performance, while director James Watkins uses shadows and empty spaces to create a percolating sense of dread. Tuesday 19 December Faye Marsey as Sarah Credit: Channel 4 Shamed Channel 4, 9.00pm It’s not the most Christmassy of fare but Anthony Philipson’s (My Mad Fat Diary) dark, theatrical one-off drama is worth checking out. Featuring an intense central performance from Faye Marsay (who seems to be everywhere right now, with Bancroft last week and the BBC thriller McMafia to come), Shamed tells the story of 27-year-old Sarah, who suddenly decides to kidnap and imprison two apparently unconnected men: the seemingly perfect just-about-to-get-married Nathan (Nick Blood) and cocky player Mani (Ryan McKen). Both claim never to have met each other or Sarah before. However there’s a method behind her madness, and one which, when revealed, opens up wider questions about how different events can resonate in different ways. Philipson’s tight script keeps you guessing about the connection until near the end before spilling out into violence and debates about the difference between guilt and shame.  It’s not perfect – Mani is underwritten and the rushed ending is a little forced – but Shamed makes some thoughtful points about our attitudes toward sex and the way in which certain people can stride through life without acknowledging the damage they trail behind. Sarah Hughes The Royal Variety Performance 2017 ITV, 7.30pm Miranda Hart hosts this year’s Royal Variety Performance, attended by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, with guests ranging from the obvious (Michael Ball, Alfie Boe) to the incongruous (Kelsey Grammer, Seal). Jamie’s Italian Christmas Channel 4, 8.00pm Another week, another Christmas cookery show. Our chef tonight is the ubiquitous Jamie Oliver who has holed up in a log cabin with his mentor Gennaro Contaldo and hopes to teach us to give the traditional British Christmas an Italian twist. U2 at the BBC BBC One, 9.00pm The Irish band continue their quest for world domination with this film centred on new album Songs of Experience. The action takes place at Abbey Road Studios, where they perform some of their biggest hits and squeeze in a quick chat with Cat Deeley.    Invasion! With Sam Willis BBC Four, 9.00pm The final part of this engaging series sees historian Sam Willis examine one of the more unusual military ideas in history: Napoleon’s plan to use a fleet of balloons as part of his invasion plans during the War of the Third Coalition. The French first crossed the English Channel by hot air balloon in 1785 and Napoleon appointed aeronaut Sophie Blanchard as air service chief to carry out the idea. The plans ultimately came to nothing, but that didn’t stop stories and caricatures of balloons carrying arms, men and even horses spreading through the media.  The First Silent Night Yesterday, 9.00pm The mournful Silent Night is one of the world’s most beloved carols, and was declared an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2011. This film follows actor Simon Callow as he heads to the Austrian village of Oberndorf to uncover its origins before considering why this carol above all others resonates so strongly. SH Extraordinary Teens: Young, Gifted and Broke Channel 4, 10.00pm Pianist and composer Shane Thomas hit the headlines aged only 10 when his precocious talent saw him hailed as the British Mozart. Seven years later his career has stalled. What emerges is a depressing but well-told story of ambition tampered by poverty and a system in which privilege and connections count as much, if not more than raw talent. SH Sword of Sherwood Forest (1960) ★★★☆☆ Film4, 5.05pm Terence Fisher teamed up with Hammer Films for this child-friendly spin-off from The Adventures of Robin Hood TV series, with Richard Greene, who reprises his role here. Peter Cushing stars as the dastardly Sheriff of Nottingham out to murder the Archbishop of Canterbury. It’s a cheap and cheerful affair that remains true to the spirit of the original. Smurfs: The Lost Village (2017) ★★☆☆☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 6.15pm The third of the big-screen outings for The Smurfs is a trippy treat for under-eights, for everyone else the blues. This Smurfs contains double the number of Smurfs ever previously seen, thanks to the discovery of an all-female enclave somewhere deep in the woods. Demi Lovato, Mandy Patinkin, Michelle Rodriguez and Julia Roberts are among those lending their voices. Carol (2015) ★★★★★ Film4, 9.00pm Todd Haynes’s adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 novel is gorgeous, gently groundbreaking, and quite possibly be the saddest thing that you’ll ever see. It tells the story of a photographer (Rooney Mara) who has a relationship with an older woman (Cate Blanchett) in New York. Haynes’ film concludes that love is the riskiest but most necessary gamble. Wednesday 20 December Dame Judi Dench Credit: BBC Judi Dench: My Passion for Trees BBC One, 8.00pm When this one-off documentary was announced, some predictably invoked Alan Partridge’s hapless pitch of Youth Hostelling with Chris Eubank. Certainly, it’s hard to imagine many other celebrities managing to get this made, and even harder to imagine any who could have made it so watchable. A look of astonished delight is plastered over Dame Judi’s face throughout the hour, as she makes all manner of unexpected discoveries about the trees that she loves. There is also a rare peek into her personal life and relationship with her “chap”, David Mills. This may lack the forensic camerawork and high-spec CGI of most BBC nature documentaries, but there are rewarding revelations amid the occasional dose of Botany 101. “I think of my trees as part of my extended family,” says Dench – not the absurd piece of sentimentality you might suspect, as she plants a tree in her back garden for each friend or relative who has died. And trees, it transpires, are also remarkably sociable in their way, an arboreal community connected by spidery threads of fungus and able to call for help if under attack by aphids. Charming and subtly educational. Gabriel Tate What Makes You Tic? BBC Three, from 10.00am Vlogger Lewis “QBall” Nickell aims to conquer his Tourette’s Syndrome and launch a career as a talk-show host, meeting The Vamps and Girls Aloud alumna Nadine Coyle as part of his efforts to raise awareness. Carabao Cup: Bristol City v Manchester United Sky Sports Main Event, 7.30pm We’re at Ashton Gate for this quarter-final clash, as the Robins look to produce and upset against holders Manchester United. The hosts have already claimed two Premier League scalps in Watford and Stoke City, but United are clear favourites here.  The Real Marigold on Tour BBC One, 9.00pm When you see the lives the Marigold pensioners are leading who wouldn’t be envious? This week, Sheila Ferguson, Rustie Lee, Paul Nicholas and Dennis Taylor head to Iceland. There, they go whale watching in the fishing village of Hausavik, and try aqua aerobics and gymnastics in Reykjavik. Elsewhere, Sheila goes on a date with an Icelandic man. Peaky Blinders BBC Two, 9.00pm Perhaps the best series yet comes to a punishing climax with the night of the big fight and yet another reckoning for the Shelbys, this time courtesy of Changretta (Adrien Brody) and once-trusted allies. A Night for the Emergency Services ITV, 9.00pm Presenting a sort of 999’s Got Talent, Ashley Banjo and Diversity introduce a showcase for the firefighters, police and hospital workers who demonstrate skills far beyond their professional capabilities. These include magicians, dancers and a Michael Bublé impersonator, along with appearances from a few special guests. Taskmaster Champion of Champions  Dave, 9.00pm One of the funniest series on TV comes to a spectacular climax as the ultimate Taskmaster champion is crowned, with previous winners Josh Widdicombe, Katherine Ryan, Noel Fielding, Rob Beckett and Bob Mortimer all in the running. Dian Fossey: Secrets in the Mist  National Geographic, 9.00pm After a lifetime of conservation work and, campaigning against poaching, primatologist Dian Fossey was killed in her Rwandan cabin in 1985 – a crime that remains unsolved. The final part of this gripping series examines possible motives. GT Male Rape: Breaking the Silence BBC One, 10.45pm; Scot & Wales, 11.10pm; NI, 11.40pm First shown on BBC Three, this grim but necessary film hears from three men who are among the estimated one-in-six to have been victims of rape. GT Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) ★★★★★ BBC One, 1.45pm Steven Spielberg’s rollicking adventure film, with a very scary end, won four Oscars and created a new action hero in Dr Henry “Indiana” Jones (Harrison Ford). Jones is an archaeologist hired by the US government in 1936 to seek out the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis find it. The ensuing events provide a rollercoaster of thrills. The Temple of Doom and The Last Crusade follow over the next two night. Chicken Run (2000) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 3.35pm Aardman Animations, the studio behind many of Nick Park’s triumphs, conjures up another stop-motion corker that fairly swarms with clever little jokes and details. Our heroes here are a group of jauntily anthropomorphic chickens; they’re plotting their escape to freedom from the tyrannical Mr and Mrs Tweedy, who run the farm on which they live. The voice cast boasts Julia Sawalha, Jane Horrocks and Mel Gibson. The Phantom of the Opera (2004) ★★★☆☆ Sky Arts, 9.00pm Impressed by his use of music in The Lost Boys, Andrew Lloyd Webber hired director Joel Schumacher to bring his hit musical, the longest-running Broadway show in history, about a disfigured genius who lives hidden in the Paris Opera House and who develops a crush on a chorus girl, to the big screen. The score has all the faux-gothic pomp required, but Gerard Butler’s Phantom fails to spook. Thursday 21 December Darcey Bussell Credit: BBC Darcey Bussell: Looking for Fred Astaire BBC One, 10.45pm One dance star explores another in this unpretentious profile of Fred Astaire. Darcey Bussell traces Astaire’s journey from his hometown in Nebraska to New York, London and Los Angeles to examine his ascent to film stardom, achieved after nearly three decades as a professional dancer. She puts forward that he owed much of his success to three women – his mother, his sister and dancing partner Adele, and his first wife Phyllis – but wisely doesn’t labour the point.  Bussell peruses memorabilia and film footage – there’s a delightful clip of Astaire dancing with his long-time collaborator, Hermes Pan – and discusses with historians Astaire’s early life, work ethic and personality clash with Ginger Rogers. The commentary doesn’t uncover much that an Astaire fan wouldn’t already know, but Bussell is an enthusiastic guide and the clips are terrific. Strictly professionals Aljaz Skorjanec and Janette Manrara are touring a successful stage show called Remembering Fred – this film also reminds us of Astaire’s immeasurable contribution to dance, though it wouldn’t harm for it to air at an hour more suited to the ballroom dance-loving demographic. Vicki Power MasterChef: The Professionals: The Finals BBC Two, 8.00pm It’s ladles at dawn for the three finalists as they tackle their last challenge. They’ll cook a three-course meal in three hours for the formidable judging trio of Wareing, Galetti and Wallace, who’ll then choose their champ. Joanna & Jennifer: Absolutely Champers BBC Two, 9.00pm On the flimsy premise of celebrating 25 years since the birth of Absolutely Fabulous, Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley take a fizz-fuelled jolly to France to tour vineyards. They neck vats of bubbly in a travelogue as meandering as Patsy’s gait after an evening spent swigging Bolly. Gordon, Gino and Fred’s Great Christmas Roast ITV, 9.00pm It’s Celtic vigour versus Italian passion in this feelgood cookery special. TV chefs Gordon Ramsay and Gino D’Acampo compete, with a team of celebrity helpers, to create the best Christmas banquet for 100 emergency services workers. First Dates’ maître d’ Fred Sirieux presents. Donny Osmond’s Easy Listening Christmas Channel 5, 9.00pm This Val Doonican-style one-off sees Donny Osmond counting down his 25 favourite festive songs, exploring their geneses and comparing classic renditions to cover versions. VP The Tunnel: Vengeance Sky Atlantic, 9.00pm The symbiosis between Anglo-French cop partners Karl and Elise (Stephen Dillane and Clémence Poésy) in this murder mystery shows us a cheering flipside to Brexit. Their touching, humorous relationship is affecting, even if the series overall lacks the Scandinavian-style eeriness of The Bridge, on which it’s based. Here, the cross-channel cops make a breakthrough in the search for the missing children. The Galaxy Britain Built: Droids, Darth Vader and Lightsaber/Hollywood’s Master of Myth BBC Four, 10.00pm and 11.00pm In celebration of the release of The Last Jedi, these documentaries look at the ingredients that helped shape the Star Wars phenomenon. The first focuses on the film crew who created George Lucas’s fictional galaxy. The second, from 1999, explores the work of US academic Joseph Campbell, whom Lucas has credited with inspiring his plot. VP The Dark Crystal (1982) ★★★☆☆ Film4, 1.05pm Muppets creator Jim Henson stepped out from the comfort of children’s TV to make this dark fantasy tale about a pair of creatures who must find a missing shard of crystal in order to defeat the evil Skeksis. The superbly designed puppets and sets add a surreal quality but it lacks the sense of humour which made Labyrinth, Henson’s next cinema release, so popular. Frank Oz, fellow puppeteer and the voice of Yoda, co-directs. Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 3.35pm Nick Park’s plucky Plasticine pair set about rescuing a village whose annual vegetable competition is in jeopardy because of rabbits eating up the contents of everyone’s gardens. But their bunny brainwashing goes wrong and they accidentally create a mutant rabbit. Beautifully shot, charming, and very silly, it deservedly won the Oscar for Best Animation. Candyman (1992) ★★★★☆ Film4, 11.15pm Virginia Madsen does powerhouse work as a student of folklore lured into fascination with a hook-handed killer who appears when you say his name five times in front of a mirror. She ignores all warnings but is soon blamed for his crimes when a series of horrible murders begin. Majestic direction from Bernard Rose transforms this into a resoundingly epic and gory fable. Friday 22 December Bruno Tonioli  Credit: BBC Saturday Night Fever: The Ultimate Disco Movie BBC Two, 9.00pm Long before he became a household name as a Strictly Come Dancing judge, Bruno Tonioli had a successful career as a choreographer to the stars, arranging dance for music videos, stage shows and tours for Tina Turner, Sting, Elton John and many others. Here he looks back 40 years to when he was a young dancer in New York and got caught up in the global phenomenon that was Saturday Night Fever.  It’s a great story, told with typical Tonioli verve, of how a low-budget film starring the then unknown John Travolta and using the music of a failing band of high-pitched popsters, the Bee Gees, became one of the biggest box office draws of all time and gave half the world “disco fever”. It also shows how – to give credit where it is due – much of its success was down to the visionary genius and unstoppable determination of the Bee Gees’ manager, the late Robert Stigwood, impresario behind some of the most popular stars, and hit stage and film musicals (Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, Grease, Bugsy Malone) of the Seventies. Contributors include Travolta. Gerard O’Donovan The Toys That Made Us Netflix, from today Toys of the Eighties are the focus of this series taking an in-depth look at the nostalgia and collecting fervour that surrounds eight of the biggest selling toy brands of that decade: Transformers, Stars Wars, He-Man, GI Joe, Barbie, Star Trek, Hello Kitty and Lego. Premier League Football: Arsenal v Liverpool Sky Sports Main Event, 7.00pm Action from the Emirates Stadium, as Arsenal  look to avenge a 4-0 defeat in August, when Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, Mo Salah and Daniel Sturridge all found the net for Liverpool. TOTP4 Christmas 2017 BBC Four, 7.30pm Get into the Christmas party spirit with Mark Radcliffe’s countdown of classic festive hits from Top of the Pops’s glitter-spattered archive, with The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl, Wizzard, Slade, The Darkness and Ed Sheeran among the acts featured. Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast Christmas Special Channel 4, 8.00pm Jamie Oliver and Jimmy Doherty welcome actress Liv Tyler to the pier café to make her favourite takeaway, pork dim sum. Oliver also whips up a cracking kedgeree, and Doherty builds a home-made wood-fired oven. Al Murray’s Make Christmas Great Again ITV, 9.00pm Al Murray’s gloriously unreconstructed pub landlord invites an audience to a lock-in at the Reindeer’s Head where he bends ears on such matters as how Christmas is losing its Britishness while whipping up anti-PC seasonal singalongs and remonstrating with celebrity guests. George Michael to Tom Petty: a Tribute Sky Arts, 9.00pm Chuck Berry, Fats Domino and David Cassidy are just some of the musicians and performers who, along with George Michael and Tom Petty, we lost in the past 12 months – as affectionately remembered in this 90-minute tribute. GO Les Dawson: In His Own Words Channel 5, 10.00pm Comedians didn’t come more old school than Les Dawson, with his bluff Northern style, rubber face and mother-in-law jokes. But he was one of the most original comedians of his generation, as proved by this terrific documentary that raids the archives for his funniest work. The Graham Norton Show BBC One, 10.40pm Grahm Norton’s line-up offers a good mix of interest: Hollywood star Will Smith, Victoria’s Jenna Coleman, chef Jamie Oliver and former Keane frontman Tom Chaplin. GO Bright (2017) Netflix, from today This Netflix Original – a $100 million special-effects blockbuster from David Ayer, director of Suicide Squad – sounds like a mash-up of Lethal Weapon and Lord of the Rings. In an alternate Los Angeles where elves and witches walk the streets, Will Smith’s tough NYPD officer finds himself partnered with an orc (Joel Edgerton). Considering its hefty price tag and star-studded soundtrack (Migos, Rag’n’Bone Man, Camila Cabello), this could be Netflix’s biggest mistake yet Puss in Boots (2011) ★★☆☆☆ BBC One, 3.40pm DreamWorks Animation’s Shrek spin-off follows Puss in Boots’s life before he became the green ogre’s sidekick. With the help of Kitty Softpaws (voiced by Salma Hayek) and Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis), the swashbuckling feline (Antonio Banderas) becomes a hero after saving his town. Like the CGI ogre’s last two films, Shrek the Third and Shrek Forever After, the animation is more impressive than the jokes. Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001) ★★★★☆ ITV, 10.40pm American actress Renée Zellweger perfects her English accent to play the Chardonnay-swigging, chain-smoking, lovelorn Bridget in this adaptation of Helen Fielding’s novel, which remains a solid favourite. Love interests Hugh Grant and Colin Firth are excellent as her roguish boss Daniel Cleaver and the stuffy-but-handsome (even in a Christmas jumper) lawyer Mark Darcy. Saturday 23 December A Christmas Tree in Manger Square, Bethlehem Credit: Channel 4 The World’s Best Christmas Lights: From Liverpool to Bethlehem Channel 4, 8.00pm It is amazing what you can build a successful, multi-million-pound, internationally renowned business from. Liverpool-based company The Christmas Decorators specialise in the commercial design and installation of large-scale Christmas lights and decorations – the kind you see in every shop, street and town square. This entertaining film, one of the more offbeat of the season, follows a rather surprising commission: to install the lights and decorations at what many might consider the birthplace of Christmas – Manger Square in Bethlehem. In fact, they’ve been doing it every year since 2012, bringing every single bulb and bauble with them from their warehouse in the UK.  It’s a huge logistical effort, which is also a possibly tricky one, if customs or security in, say, Istanbul take exception to the Bethlehem-bound consignment as it passes through. Director of operations GED Comerford leads the four-person installation team on the trek from Liverpool. It’s fraught with hitches and glitches – even a home-baked Christmas cake is regarded with suspicion by local security – but all the more entertaining for that. Gerard O’Donovan Smashie’s Xmastastic Playlist Christmas Gold, 4.00pm Getting the Christmas party off to an early start from his fab-tastic hideaway at Radio Hush, The Fast Show’s Mike Smash (Paul Whitehouse) brings his off-kilter pop-DJ insights to an hour of festive hits from Wizzard to Johnny Mathis via McCartney, Dylan and Springsteen.  Elf: The Musical Channel 5, 5.00pm There’s seasonal song, dance and fun in the stage musical version of Will Ferrell’s much-loved comedy from the Lowry Theatre in Salford. Ben Forster, who won ITV’s Superstar talent search in 2012, leads the cast as Buddy, a human orphan who was raised by Santa’s elves in the North Pole and returns to New York in search of his family. Michael Buble’s Christmas in New York Sky Arts, 5.00pm At the Radio City Music Hall the crooner sings a selection of seasonal classics, along with a sparkling line-up of special guests including Barbra Streisand, Ariana Grande and The Muppets’ Miss Piggy. It is repeated on Sky One at 12.15am. Pointless Celebrities Christmas Special BBC One, 6.15pm Some of the contestants in this festive edition of the quiz could themselves be pointless answers in a round on Christmas hits. Jona Lewie, Jimmy Osmond and Ben Haenow are among those answering Alexander Armstrong questions. Blind Date Christmas Special Channel 5, 8.00pm There’s a fairy-tale spin to this edition of Paul O’Grady’s matchmaking show, as a Prince Charming has to choose between fellow panto actors Cinderella, Snow White and Tinkerbell. It’s Christmas Live from the Royal Albert Hall Sky One, 8.00pm The Royal Albert Hall is transformed to a rock ’n’ roll winter wonderland as Jason Manford introduces performances by Holly Johnson, Marc Almond, Chrissie Hynde and Shakin’ Stevens, among many others. GO Feud: Bette and Joan BBC Two, from 9.00pm; NI, from 9.30pm Ryan Murphy’s stylish and scathingly catty dramatisation of the Hollywood feud between Bette Davis (Susan Sarandon) and Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange) reaches the moment that the actresses’ mutual loathing went off the scale – while working on the 1962 classic What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (which follows). GO Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001) ★★★☆☆ ITV, 1.35pm  From today to New Year’s Day, ITV are screening all of the Harry Potter films – one film a day, except on Boxing Day. This first adaptation of J K Rowling’s novel was, for a while, the second highest-grossing film ever. Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint are endearing (and very young) in the lead roles but the film lacks the original book’s compulsiveness. Frozen (2013) ★★★★★ BBC One, 2.50pm Disney’s 53rd feature is an enchanting combination of fairy-tale derring-do and heart-popping musical numbers that has left children and adults powerless to its charms. Elsa (Idina Menzel) is a shy princess driven into exile when her magical powers are discovered. Her sister Anna (Kristen Bell) gallops off to fetch her from her beautiful ice palace. Spin-off Olaf’s Frozen Adventure is on Christmas Day. Bill (2015) ★★★★☆ BBC Two, 6.00pm Intelligent children and immature adults will love this mock-biopic from the Horrible Histories troupe that follows the young William Shakespeare (Mathew Baynton) as he ascends from quill-scraping zero to literary hero. Some of the best moments (a running joke about false moustaches is one) are full-bloodedly Pythonesque, although occasionally a kind of student-revue smarminess creeps in. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962, b/w) ★★★★★ BBC Two, 10.35pm; not N Ireland Robert Aldrich’s classic slice of American Grotesque, starring two of cinema’s greatest screen divas, started a trend for casting ageing actresses in campy Gothic horror movies. Joan Crawford and Bette Davis play reclusive sisters locked in an abusive relationship in their crumbling Hollywood mansion.  Christmas Eve Sue Perkins, Mary Berry and Mel Giedroyc Credit: BBC Mary, Mel and Sue’s Big Christmas Thank You BBC One, 7.00pm Anyone looking for some extra festive cheer should look no further than this exuberant Christmas special which sees former Great British Bake-Off stars Mary Berry, Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc join forces to help out at a community centre in the Rhondda Valley in Wales.  Initially, it seems as though this is one of those rather forced shows in which celebrities dispense good cheer and bad jokes, but an emotional story of community spirit in the face of despair swiftly emerges. “We’ve lost our library, our butchers, both banks have closed and there’s no school,” states Elizabeth “Buffy” Williams. Working with her friend Lynne, Buffy has attempted to combat that by opening a community centre offering meals, bingo and after-school classes. Now they want to throw a special Christmas meal for the whole community but it’s tough: the kitchen is small, money is tight and Lynne freely admits that she hates cooking. Enter the indomitable Mrs Berry, who rolls up her sleeves, corrals Daffyd, a 16-year-old with a GCSE in catering, into becoming her sous chef and helps Lynne tackle her phobia. The final celebration should bring a tear to even the most cynical of eyes. Sarah Hughes Premiership Rugby Union: Leicester Tigers v Saracens BT Sport 1, 2.30pm Below-par this season, Leicester will be hoping a win here at Welford Park against third-placed Saracens will give them fresh momentum going into the new year.  Countryfile BBC One, 6.00pm The team head to the Peak District for this special which sees John Craven exploring Longshaw Estate, Anita Rani experiencing a Nativity play with a difference and Matt Baker venturing into Peak Cavern for a carol concert.  Christmas University Challenge 2017 BBC Two, 8.00pm; Scotland, 5.45pm There’s something addictive about the University Challenge’s specials, possibly because they allow us to see celebrities in a new light. The opener sees a team from Durham University, including actor Nick Mohammed, take on a Keble College side featuring Katy Brand. Child Genius vs Celebrities Christmas Special Channel 4, 8.00pm Richard Osman is our host for this Christmas special, which sees past child geniuses take on, among others, Catastrophe star Rob Delaney and broadcaster Janet Street Porter. Will youth or experience win out?  Michael McIntyre’s Big Christmas Show BBC One, 8.30pm The comedian returns for a festive edition in which Alesha Dixon risks social disaster by handing over her phone in Celebrity Send-to-All, plus there’s stand-up from Bill Bailey and music from Seal.  Maigret in Montmartre ITV, 8.30pm Critics haven’t always been kind to ITV’s reboot of Georges Simenon’s Maigret featuring Rowan Atkinson. Yet there’s actually a lot to like here. Atkinson underplays the role nicely, the plots are serviceable and the whole thing is entertaining if undemanding fare. This episode sees Maigret drawn in to the murder of a showgirl. SH M R James evening BBC Four, from 9.00pm Shut the doors, draw the curtains and prepare to be thoroughly spooked as BBC Four dedicates an evening to ghost writer supreme M R James. First up, long-time James fan Mark Gatiss looks at how this diffident Anglican bachelor created stories that still send a tingle down the spine a century after they were written. It’s followed at 10pm by two adaptations of James’s work: The Tractate Middoth, a chilling story about vengeance from beyond the grave, starring Sacha Dhawan and John Castle, and No 13, featuring Greg Wise as an academic who uncovers more than he bargains for in a small medieval town. Billy Elliot: the Musical Sky Arts, 9.00pm Anyone who hasn’t managed to catch Stephen Daldry’s big-hearted musical take on his film about a miner’s son who just wants to dance can find out what all the fuss is about with this performance from 2014 starring Ruthie Henshall and Elliott Hanna. SH Gone with the Wind (1939) ★★★★★ Channel 5, 9.20am Hollywood’s highest-grossing movie until The Sound of Music in 1966, this was the film for which the word “epic” was invented. Vivien Leigh became a star as Scarlett O’Hara, the spoilt Southern belle whose life is turned upside down by the US Civil War. Clark Gable and Leslie Howard are her lovers. It’s brash and self-indulgent, but frankly we don’t give a damn. The Lego Batman Movie (2017) ★★★★☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 1.25pm and 7.00pm Don’t tell Ben Affleck – who plays Actual Batman – but the actor has been made surplus to requirements by one and a half inches of moulded plastic. Lego Batman’s debut solo feature, spun off from a cameo in The Lego Movie, is frantically and relentlessly funny as a new police commissioner (Rosario Dawson) threatens to make the Caped Crusader redundant. Guys and Dolls (1955) ★★★★☆ BBC Two, 3.20pm The 1955 film adaptation of the Broadway classic holds up rather well. The stellar casting certainly helps: Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra in one film – as the rival New York gamblers (and gangsters) Sky Masterson and Nathan Detroit, who place a bet on compromising the virtue of a pious Salvation Army woman, Sarah Brown (played by Jean Simmons). The musical numbers are still a delight. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) ★★★★★ Channel 4, 6.30pm Tiny Tim is a small green frog, Mrs Cratchit is a bad-tempered pig and Charles Dickens himself is portrayed by Gonzo, enormous blue nose and all. And yet, there are few better, or more affecting versions of A Christmas Carol than this musical adaptation. Michael Caine is ideal as the miserly Scrooge, the laughs are aplenty and the finale is as rousing as they come. Christmas Day Peter Capaldi and David Bradley Credit: BBC Doctor Who BBC One, 5.30pm While it’s not unusual for Doctor Who to begin with a “Previously…”, this one takes things all the way back to William Hartnell’s First Doctor, having faced the Cybermen at the South Pole and refused to regenerate. After necessarily metamorphosing into David Bradley (who played Hartnell in Mark Gatiss’s docudrama An Adventure in Space and Time), he duly encounters Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor, in a similar fix. Throw in Mark Gatiss’s doomed British army captain, transported from the Western Front at the moment of death with stiff upper lip wobbling, a mysterious glass woman (Nikki Amuka-Bird) with the power to freeze time, the return of Bill (Pearl Mackie) and a few other surprises, and you have another of Steven Moffat’s self-imposed riddles to unravel. Given that this is Moffat’s own last stand, and with Jodie Whitaker due to make her bow at the end of the episode, you might anticipate a tsunami of self-indulgence and sentimentality, but no. Capaldi and Mackie’s snappy, affectionate chemistry precludes such easy options, Gatiss is restrained and funny and Moffat’s musing on war and peace is enough to bear the wit and self-referentiality. A dignified farewell. Gabriel Tate The Highway Rat BBC One, 4.45pm Rob Brydon narrates and David Tennant voices the eponymous anti-hero in another enchanting adaptation of a Julia Donaldson/Axel Scheffler picture book, this time depicting the comeuppance for a selfish, swashbuckling rat and his long-suffering steed.. The Royal Opera: Puccini’s La Boheme BBC Four, 7.00pm Clemency Burton-Hill introduces Richard Jones’s production of Puccini’s tale of love and loss among bohemians in 19th-century Paris, conducted by Antonio Pappano and starring tenor Michael Fabiano and soprano Nicole Car as star-crossed lovers Rodolfo and Mimi. Jones’s production has a wintry charm that should see it sit very comfortably in today’s schedules.  Olaf’s Frozen Adventure Sky Cinema Premiere/On Demand, 7.30pm Perhaps better suited to television after a brief run in cinemas that saw parents complaining about it delaying screenings of Coco, this Frozen spin-off finds the cheerful snowman Olaf (voiced by Josh Gad) joining his reindeer, Sven, on a mission for their royal highnesses Elsa (Idina Menzel) and Anna (Kristen Bell) who are desperate to create their own Christmas tradition. Expect four catchy new songs to be ringing around your head. GT  Call the Midwife BBC One, 7.40pm Call the Midwife pulls out all the stops for this astoundingly gloomy affair as a Boxing Day freeze descends, stranding Valerie (Jennifer Kirby) in a caravan for an ad hoc delivery and accounting for a popular old timer with a very dark secret. The Great Christmas bake off Channel 4, 7.40pm Val and Selasi from last year, Paul Jagger (he of 2015’s bread lion) and Welsh Beca, a 2013 semi-finalist, return to compete for Star Baker, introduced and judged by the new Fab Four. There’s more of the same on New Year’s Day. Victoria ITV, 9.00pm The Queen (Jenna Coleman) is pregnant again and missing her governess, leaving Albert (Tom Hughes) in the unlikely role of Christmas merrymaker-in-chief. It’s a festive special by numbers, but affecting and easy on the eye. Ashes Cricket: Australia v England BT Sport 1, 10.30pm It’s been a fraught series, on and off the field, for England, with their players’ professionalism frequently called into question. This signals the start of the fourth Test, played at Melbourne Cricket Ground. Can Joe Root’s beleaguered side salvage some dignity? Or will the Aussies continue to have a field day? 300 Years of French & Saunders BBC One, 10.35pm Unseen footage, much-loved sketches and of course Lulu feature in this one-off, which sees the duo back together on TV for the first time in a decade. The new material is intermittently inspired and vigorously performed, with The Handmaid’s Tale, the Kardashians and Poldark all subjected to their attentions. GT Singin’ in the Rain (1952) ★★★★★ Channel 5, 1.05pm There are few movie scenes more memorable than Gene Kelly’s rain-soaked Singin’ in the Rain sequence, or many more jaw-dropping than Donald O’Connor’s walk up the wall. But more than song and dance, this film contains real satire as it recounts the introduction of the “talkie” and the superficial nature of the US film industry. Debbie Reynolds (who died a year ago, one day after daughter Carrie Fisher) co-stars as the Hollywood ingénue. Cinderella (2015) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 3.10pm Kenneth Branagh’s twinkling, live-action Cinderella sticks doggedly to Disney’s 1950 animated version (Cinders’s rodent companions are present) and favours sparkle over wit. However, Cate Blanchett is marvellous as the Wicked Stepmother and Helena Bonham Carter makes a jolly good Fairy Godmother. Princess-obsessed little girls will find it irresistible and the costumes are stunning. Oliver! (1968) ★★★★☆ Channel 5, 3.10pm Carol Reed, who had previously directed The Third Man, won an Oscar for his superior version of Lionel Bart’s musical of the classic Charles Dickens tale (Reed’s only ever attempt at the musical genre). Eight-year-old Mark Lester is sweet as Oliver Twist but it was Ron Moody as Fagin who received the Oscar nod. Reed’s nephew, another Oliver, is a brooding and brutal Bill Sikes and still has the potential to shock. Dumbo (1941) ★★★★★ Channel 4. 4.30pm It may be one of Disney’s shortest animated films, but it is also one of its most loved. Baby elephant Dumbo is born with unfeasibly large ears, is separated from his mother and becomes ostracised by his fellow circus animals. It is only when Timothy Mouse encourages Dumbo to make the most of his ears that he discovers he can fly. This remains an undisputed masterpiece from Disney’s golden age of animation. Boxing Day Willa Fitzgerald, Kathryn Newton, Maya Hawke and Annes Elwy Credit: BBC Little Women BBC One, 8.00pm One suspects that this beautiful adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s much-loved coming-of-age novel (published in 1868) was due a less prominent airing until the BBC had to shelve its flagship festive Agatha Christie adaptation Ordeal by Innocence due to sexual assault allegations against one of the stars. That seems no great loss now, as this sparkling gem of a drama – scripted by Call the Midwife creator Heidi Thomas – more than deserves a Boxing Day prime-time slot.  Told in three parts, it follows the lives of the March sisters – Jo (Maya Hawke), Meg (Willa Fitzgerald), Beth (Annes Elwy), and Amy (Kathryn Newton) – as they progress from adolescence to adulthood under the protective eye of their mother, Marmee (Emily Watson), while their father is away in the American Civil War.  As life-affirming a tale as you could want this time of year, it’s full of high spirits and loving kindness. There are nice cameo performances by Michael Gambon and Angela Lansbury, but in the opening part, the acting laurels go to Hawke for her spot-on portrayal of tomboyish proto-feminist Jo, and Jonah Hauer-King, as boy next door Laurie Laurence. Gerard O’Donovan Todd Barry: Spicy Honey Netflix, from today Stand-up Todd Barry is best known in the US for his bone-dry wit. Anyone seeking relief from the festive season’s more saccharine shows will be sure to find it in this one-off recording from his latest tour. Premier League Football: Tottenham Hotspur v Southampton Sky Sports Main Event, 12.00noon Spurs won both of their matches against the Saints last season, including a 2-1 victory in one of their final home matches at White Hart Lane. Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli both scored in the first half, with James Ward-Prowse pulling one back for Southampton in the second. Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella BBC Two, 5.35pm From Sadler’s Wells, a treat for dance fans in this dazzling Blitz-era reworking of Prokofiev’s classic ballet, performed by Bourne’s New Adventures company.  Snow Bears BBC One, 6.30pm Kate Winslet narrates this documentary following a pack of polar bears as they embark on an eventful 400-mile journey to reach the pack ice where they hunt. Surprisingly charming. Discovering: Julie Andrews Sky Arts, 7.00pm A look at the life and career of an actress and singer more associated with Christmas than most, thanks to endless festive repeats of Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music. But there’s much more to Julie Andrews than that, as shown in this beautifully put-together profile.  Reindeer Family and Me BBC Two, 8.00pm Wildlife film-maker Gordon Buchanan’s festive offering focuses on Santa’s favourite quadruped. In Lapland, Buchanan settles in with the nomadic Sami people to learn the ways of the herder, before setting out with a single reindeer to capture the Northern Lights as they’ve never been filmed before. Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 2017: The Language OF life BBC Four, 8.00pm This year’s theme, The Language of Life, sees cognitive neuroscientist Professor Sophie Scott of UCL embark on an exploration of the urge to communicate. In the opener, she unpicks the evolution of the human voice. GO The Miniaturist BBC One, 9.00pm An absorbing adaptation of Jessie Burton’s bestseller about a young woman thrust into an arranged marriage with a perplexing merchant in 17th-century Amsterdam. It looks exquisite, although the constant quest to shoot each frame as if it were a Vermeer painting doesn’t help the pace. Anna Taylor-Joy plays 18-year-old Nella with suitable bafflement, Alex Hassell intrigues as Johannes, while Romola Garai steals the show as his sister, Marin. Concludes tomorrow. Big Fat Quiz of the Year 2017 Channel 4, 9.00pm Jimmy Carr hosts C4’s alternative comedy quiz looking back at the year in the news, with guests including Richard Ayoade, Noel Fielding, David Mitchell and Katherine Ryan. GO Mary Poppins (1964) ★★★★★ BBC One, 3.45pm This is the popular story of a magical nanny (Julie Andrews) who takes over a London home, transforming the lives of its inhabitants. Dick Van Dyke may affect the worst cockney accent ever heard on film, but the combination of the catchy songs, sumptuous live action and colourful animation makes this one of the most enduring children’s films, and a staple of the festive schedules. The film was nominated for 13 Oscars. Beauty and the Beast (2017) ★★★★☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 10.55am and 5.50pm Emma Watson dazzles in Disney’s show-stopping, live-action, chocolate box remake. The film’s songs – which include three new ones – by Alan Menken are the pulse, the purpose and the headline draw, while Ewan McGregor is delightful as Lumière, Luke Evans perfect as Gaston, and Dan Stevens, in digital fur, is the Prince. The Little Mermaid (1989) ★★★★☆ Channel 4, 4.20pm This vivacious retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale began a rich vein of form for Disney animations (Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King followed). A combination of unforgettable characters, including Sebastian the singing Jamaican crab and the delightfully evil baddie Ursula (based on drag queen Divine), and catchy songs makes Ariel’s journey to dry land a magical thing. Jurassic World (2015) ★★★★☆ ITV, 6.40pm Can modern audiences still be wowed by computer-generated dinosaurs? This long-awaited Jurassic Park sequel (the original movie was released in 1993) proves that they can. A new attraction at the dinosaur theme park, created to re-spark visitor interest, gravely backfires and it’s left to Chris Pratt’s raptor trainer and Bryce Dallas Howard’s scientist to save the day. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is out next year. Wednesday 27 December Steve Coogan as Alan Partidge Credit: BBC Alan Partridge: Why, When, Where, How and Whom? BBC Two, 9.00pm Unfortunately, there were no previews available for this palate-cleansing documentary ahead of Alan Partridge’s return to the BBC for a new series next year, which co-creator Steve Coogan promises will include the sometime Radio Norwich presenter’s take on that most contentious of topics, Brexit. It’s been 25 years since he and Armando Iannucci created the hapless Partridge, described by Iannucci as “a kind of social X-ray of male middle-aged Middle England”, a bombastic, self-important local presenter with an unwavering belief in the importance of the highway code and “imperial leisurewear”.  Now this documentary attempts to explain why this character, above all others, has touched such a nerve. Among those contributing are Coogan and Iannucci, Patrick Marber, Peter Baynham, Rebecca Front, David Schneider and Doon Mackichan, and we’re also promised unseen archive footage. The real secret to Alan’s lasting appeal is a simple one, however: he’s a fully realised character and a very English monster in the same vein as Basil Fawlty. Even as we laugh at him, we’re moved by his increasing self-awareness. Sarah Hughes Celebrity Mastermind BBC One, 7.00pm Actor Jack Ashton, comedian Rich Hall, Match of the Day commentator Guy Mowbray and poet Pam Ayres join John Humphrys for a new run of the celebrity edition. Among the specialist subjects tonight are Tennessee Williams, Iron Maiden and Ashes Cricket.  Agatha Christie vs Hercule Poirot Sky Arts, 7.30pm Pierre Bayar presents this interesting deconstruction of one of Agatha Christie’s most celebrated novels, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, in which he alleges a miscarriage of justice by Poirot.  Six Robots & Us BBC Two, 8.00pm Psychologist Dr Caroline Jay and robotics specialist Prof Jonathan Rossiter join forces in this fascinating experiment which aims to uncover how helpful the latest innovations in robotics truly are. To find out the team deliver four very different robots to families around the UK.  Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 2017: the language of life BBC Four, 8.00pm Professor Sophie Scott, UCL’s Head of the Speech Communications Group, gives this year’s lecture, looking at silent communication and why our body language and smells can say as much if not more than our words and sounds.   World’s Strongest Man 2017 Channel 5, 8.00pm Channel 5 brings us all the action from the World’s Strongest Man competition in Botswana. All eyes are on the USA’s Brian Shaw, the defending champion, who is hoping to win for a record firth time.  Turtle, Eagle, Cheetah: A Slow Odyssey BBC Four, 9.00pm BBC Four’s latest foray into the enticing world of slow TV is this nature documentary which focuses on the different views of a cheetah on the African savannah, a green turtle in the Indonesia reefs and a white-tailed eagle in Scotland. SH Miranda Does Christmas Channel 4, 9.00pm Like many an institution before her, Miranda Hart has swapped the BBC for Channel 4 on her return to the small screen. Here, Hart hosts a “raucous Christmas party” with guests including David Tennant, Sam Smith and Prue Leith. SH The Red Shoes (1948) ★★★★★ BBC Two, 12.10pm Powell and Pressburger’s seminal musical tragedy is one of cinema’s great wonders. It’s about a talented ballet dancer (Moira Shearer), her romance with a struggling composer (Marius Goring) and her loyalty to the ballet that he wrote and in which she is meant to star. The film’s theme of the pre-eminent call of creative passion is thought to be an allegory for P & P’s devotion to their craft. Big Hero 6 (2014) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 4.10pm This Disney animation is an East-meets-West adventure with buckets of heart and soul – and quite possibly Disney at its adorable, huggable, and most visually extravagant best. Hiro Hamada, a 14-year-old orphan living in the city of San Fransokyo, befriends Baymax, a 10-foot-tall, bright, white inflatable robot invented by his elder brother, who’s killed in a mysterious fire at his laboratory. Scrooged (1988) ★★★★☆ Film4, 4.35pm 9+Bill Murray plays a mean-spirited network TV president who sees the light after he experiences ghostly visitations – including Carol Kane as a happy-slapping fairy in a tutu – in this droll comic update of Dickens’s tale. Murray is on deadpan, cynical form (“Have you tried staples?”) and Robert Mitchum contributes a priceless cameo as a fellow executive with plans to produce TV shows for cats and dogs. Oasis: Supersonic (2016) ★★★☆☆ BBC Two, 10.00pm Oasis’s glory-days documentary indulges Noel and Liam Gallagher’s bad behaviour. Mat Whitecross’s film starts and ends with the pair of dates when Oasis debatably peaked, at Knebworth in 1996, and goes to excessive length to detail stories of their excess. Few rock stars, in fairness, have a habit of being so amusingly and brutally honest about their failings, and Whitecross is content to let them have the last word. Thursday 28 December David Attenborough Credit: BBC Attenborough and the Empire of the Ants BBC Two, 9.30pm Back on dry land after Blue Planet II, David Attenborough travels to the Jura Mountains on the Swiss-French border to investigate the methods used by two different communities of wood ants to survive and thrive. One adopts a familiar strategy of territorial aggression, with a family dominated by a single queen and chemical warfare on rival communities conducted with liberal distribution of formic acid. The other appears to defy the rules of evolution as they are currently understood, forming a supercolony consisting of several communities cooperating for the greater good in a manner reminiscent of early man’s first steps to eventual supremacy. Queens, sentries and workers labour alongside each other in a manner which sounds far-fetched, but the cameras capture this extraordinary behaviour in mesmerising detail, from hunting to breeding to self-preservation.  The now-customary behind-the-scenes postscript sees Attenborough almost as amazed by the new technology that allows such access to nature (in this case, the “FrankenCam”) as by nature itself. It’s not Blue Planet II, but it’s the sort of fascinating deeper dive that Natural World does so well. Gabriel Tate Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 2017: The Language OF life BBC Four, 8.00pm Sophie Scott brings her series of lectures to an close with an examination of language and comprehension in the animal kingdom. Are we humans really as far advanced as we believe, or might primates and even birds be able to communicate with comparable sophistication? The Secret Life of 5 Year Olds On Holiday Channel 4, 8.30pm Familiar faces from the most recent series head to Cyprus to enjoy flying, swimming and local delicacies, while the professionals watch on and deliver their analyses of childhood behaviour. What Britain Bought in 2017 Channel 4, 9.00pm Mary Portas assesses whether this year has been as dismal as expected for high-street retailers, and examines a few unlikely trends: unicorns, gin and, she suggests, big knickers. Clint Eastwood: a Life in Film Sky Arts, 9.00pm Whether you love or loathe his hardline politics, few would dispute the astonishing consistency of Clint Eastwood’s work. For such a prolific actor and director, there are few duds on his CV and plenty of masterpieces, from Unforgiven to Once Upon a Time in the West. Made in 2007, the year of his ambitious wartime diptych Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima, this excellent programme finds Eastwood in good-humoured form as he talks Michael Henry Wilson through his 50-year career. GT Bruno Mars: Live in Harlem BBC One, 10.25pm; NI, 11.25pm Harlem’s Apollo Theatre launched the careers of James Brown, Ella Fitzgerald and Lauryn Hill, among many others. Bruno Mars pays tribute to the building’s history and rolls out the hits – Uptown Funk, Just the Way You Are et al – along with some dazzling choreography for a hard partying crowd. Romesh Ranganathan: Irrational Live BBC Two, 10.30pm Perhaps rivalled only by Katherine Ryan for small-screen ubiquity this year, Romesh Ranganathan has proved himself an accomplished stand-up comedian. This special, recorded at London’s Hammersmith Apollo in 2016, captures the comedian’s jaundiced but very funny musings on family life. GT The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! (2012) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 9.00am This claymation Aardman romp is a delight. The impasto of non-stop gags, comic detail and slapstick action should appeal to all the family. Hugh Grant plays the Pirate Captain, who needs more booty if he is to stand a chance of winning the title of Pirate of the Year. The plot takes in Darwin, the last dodo and Queen Victoria (voiced by Imelda Staunton). Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 (2017) ★★★★☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 11.00am and 8.00pm Marvel’s playful space sequel looks like an explosion in a nursery school craft cupboard – every scene comes caked in rainbows, glitter and gunge. The core crew returns, led by Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), but the story only really begins with the arrival of a benign and bearded mystic called Ego (Kurt Russell), who has big news for Peter about his earthly origins. Flight (2012) ★★★☆☆ Channel 5, 9.00pm Robert Zemeckis’s film, starring Denzel Washington as alcoholic commercial pilot Whip Whitaker, is a long, earnest, sporadically brilliant drama. On a routine hop from Florida to Atlanta, Whip’s plane starts to tumble out of the sky – a dramatic sequence that will turn nervous fliers’ stomachs – and the pilot must fight to save the lives of those on board. Dull in parts, this is nevertheless morally provocative. Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (2013) ★★★☆☆ BBC Two, 11.30pm Films based on sitcoms tend to play broader than the real series, and this cinema outing for Steve Coogan’s fading media gasbag is no exception. The plot has Alan held hostage at a radio station in Norfolk. Old friends, such as his assistant Lynn (Felicity Montagu), join in and viewers hoping for new catchphrases will be happy, but Partridge loses his Pooterish potency when moving from talk to action. Friday 29 December Bob Mortimer and Vic Reeves Credit: BBC Vic & Bob’s Big Night Out BBC Two, 9.00pm Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer return for this one-off Christmas edition of their sketch show, 27 years after it first aired as Vic Reeves Big Night Out. Fans will be pleased to hear that age has not dimmed the comedians’ energy – in this half-hour they bounce around the studio in the same vein as their younger selves, which gives the show a rapid-fire pace.  The pair’s chemistry is undeniable and they frequently make each other laugh, as well as a raucous studio audience. There is a sense that Reeves and Mortimer are now improvising much of their material, which may explain why some of the jokes here are a touch below par. But many of the sketches are excellent, such as their parody of Channel 4 dating show First Dates, in which they play jokey gay Yorkshiremen. In another, Vic sells wigs made of body parts.  Nostalgia comes in the form of a cameo from Matt Lucas, forever associated with his George Dawes character in Shooting Stars, and the revival of character Graham Lister (played by Bob) in the talent show parody sketch Novelty Island. This brief return reminds us that, with their corny jokes and surreal sense of humour, there’s nobody quite like Vic and Bob. Vicki Power Tim Vine Travels Through Time Christmas Special BBC One, 7.30pm Prepare for a barrage of seasonal puns as Tim Vine’s comedy show returns. Emma Bunton and Reverend Richard Coles join Vine on a jaunt to Tudor times. Eric & Ernie’s Home Movies BBC Two, 8.00pm Those ghosts of Christmas past, Morecambe and Wise, are revisited in this charming documentary showcasing the double act via some newly discovered home movies. Look out also for a repeat of Morecambe & Wise: Leading Ladies (BBC Two, 7.00pm) and Eric, Ernie & Me (BBC Four, 9.00pm), a drama exploring their relationship with writer Eddie Braben. Victoria Wood by her friends Channel 5, 9.00pm This tribute to the late comedian covers much the same ground, and includes some identical contributors, as BBC One’s Our Friend Victoria, but it’s still a treat to be reminded of Wood’s talents. Her 1997 stand-up show, Victoria Wood: Live 1997, follows.   Delicious Sky One, 9.00pm Sky dishes up a second series of this frothy Cornwall-set drama. Chef Gina (Dawn French) has now joined forces with Sam (Emilia Fox) to run the Penrose Hotel, as the man that they were both once married to, Leo (Iain Glen), narrates from beyond the grave. But it turns out tensions haven’t died with him, and their spats bring a pinch of spice to the drama. Tonight, Franco Nero arrives as Gina’s ne’er-do-well father to stir up trouble. Frankie Boyle’s 2017 New Year World Order BBC Two, 10.00pm; not NI This year’s absence of Charlie Brooker’s Wipe is mitigated somewhat by Frankie Boyle’s return for this end-of-year round-up. And certainly somebody needs to help make sense of this crazy year. VP Elvis: The Rebirth of the King BBC Four, 10.00pm This compelling film seeks to overturn the enduring image of Elvis Presley’s Vegas years as a tragic nadir of his career. It argues that Presley’s musical renaissance in a 1968 Christmas TV special saw the King reach new creative heights that he carried into his Vegas shows, before disillusionment and drugs took over. Fantastic archive footage and commentary from his former collaborators, including Elvis’s backing singers, make a convincing case. VP Up (2009) ★★★★★ BBC One, 2.25pm Possibly Pixar’s finest film, Up has a captivating story that realises the vividness of a childlike imagination. Only those with a heart of stone wouldn’t be moved by the story of Ed Asner (voiced by Carl Fredricksen), who tries to fulfil his dream of building a house next to Paradise Falls in South America. His odyssey brings him more than he bargained for, including a young, hyperactive Wilderness Explorer called Russell. Brave (2012) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 4.20pm The first of Pixar’s films to have a female protagonist won an Oscar and there’s a bewitching craftsmanship to its storytelling. It’s set in the Highlands during the feudal period. Kelly MacDonald plays the flame-haired Merida, who would rather ride her horse than play the role of simpering princess; unable to sway her mother (Emma Thompson), she seeks the help of a witch (Julie Walters). Gone Girl (2014) ★★★☆☆ BBC One, 9.15pm; N Ireland, 9.45pm Cold and controlled, yet fun, this drama, directed by David Fincher, is based on Gillian Flynn’s novel of the same name. Rosamund Pike is Amy Elliott-Dunne, who disappears one morning, much to the apparent surprise of her husband (Ben Affleck). The media sniff around and soon the couple’s secrets come to the surface. Darkly suspenseful at first, the story soon turns into blood-drenched self-parody. The Great Gatsby (2013) ★★★☆☆ BBC Two, 11.15pm Baz Luhrmann lays on a cinematic buffet of such sense-addling brazenness that it takes a while before you notice the film is finger-food and nothing more. Leonardo DiCaprio is Jay Gatsby, a newly minted millionaire, and Carey Mulligan is Daisy Buchanan, the lost love he longs to win back. On the rare occasions Luhrmann gives them space to act in the pulsating frenzy of his Jazz Age world, both do a wonderful job. Television previewers Toby Dantzic, Catherine Gee, Simon Horsford, Sarah Hughes, Clive Morgan, Gerard O'Donovan, Vicki Power, Patrick Smith, Gabriel Tate and Rachel Ward

What's on TV tonight: The League of Gentlemen returns and Mary Berry’s Christmas Party

Monday 18 December The League of Gentlemen BBC Two, 10.00pm This is undoubtedly one of the highlights of the festive season for comedy fans. The influential freak show sitcom set in the blighted fictional town of Royston Vasey returns for a three-part run to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its award-winning debut on Radio 4 (the transfer to TV didn’t occur until 1999).  Reviving once-popular comedy is a risky business – just look at the recent Porridge fiasco – but Mark Gatiss, Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton have gone on to bigger, if not always better, things in the intervening years and they return here as if they were never away. Still performing all the major characters on screen (with the group’s fourth member, Jeremy Dyson, sharing the writing duties) they update the stories and characters without losing the demonic humour of the original.  Most of the best characters make a reappearance – Tubbs and Edward, Barbra the trans taxi driver, Herr Lipp, Pauline Campbell-Jones and Mr Chinnery the vet – as Royston Vasey faces its greatest existential threat. Val Denton, meanwhile, sets the tone decisivelyin an opening scene memorable for all the wrong reasons. Gerard O’Donovan Father Brown BBC One, 1.45pm Mark Williams returns for a sixth series as GK Chesterton’s crime-fighting Catholic priest. It’s Christmas in Kembleford but when a dog makes a gruesome discovery in the woods, Father Brown sets out to reverse a terrible miscarriage of justice. Mary Berry’s Christmas Party BBC One, 8.30pm Tips, recipes and full-on merriment as the BBC’s queen of baking invites a handful of famous faces round for a Christmas party cook-in: Alex Jones shows off her rissoles, Darcey Bussell crafts a dance-inspired dessert, while Adil Ray handles the canapés. Plus there’s ginger glazed ham, white chocolate cherry brandy cake, and much more. The Art That Made Mexico: Paradise, Power and Prayers BBC Four, 9.00pm Artist Alinka Echeverria concludes her series by exploring the influence of faith on Mexican culture and how the conquistadors’ Catholic notions of venerating the divine through art found fertile ground thanks to earlier Mayan beliefs. Birds of a Feather Christmas special ITV, 9.00pm Marks and Gran’s long-running sitcom creaks back for another festive special, with Tracey’s (Linda Robson) Yuletide plans upsetting both Sharon (Pauline Quirke) and Dorien (Lesley Joseph). Abba: When All Is Said and Done Channel 5, 9.00pm An Abba double whammy starts with this docudrama exploring the very different stories of the Swedish supergroup’s singers Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad through their own words. Abba: Live in Concert follows at 11.05pm, recorded at the group’s peak in 1979. GO Andre Rieu: Christmas In London 2016 Sky Arts, 9.00pm Rieu entertains with everything festive from Jingle Bells to White Christmas and O Holy Night, bringing his infectious blend of glitter, frills and massed violin strings to boost the seasonal mood. Private Lives of The Monarchs Yesterday, 9.00pm There’s more to Henry VIII than the image of a roistering glutton whose obsession with siring a male heir led to England’s break with Catholicism. So says historian Tracy Borman, painting a picture of a thoughtful young king driven to tyranny by personal demons. GO Carry On Cleo (1964) ★★★☆☆ Channel 4, 12.20pm “Infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it in for me!” So says Kenneth Williams’s waspish Caesar in this, one of the best in the long-running series of cheap and cheerful comedies. Set in ancient Rome, it’s hardly Shakespeare but at least the gags come thick and fast. Watch out for an early appearance from Coronation Street’s Amanda Barrie as a doe-eyed Cleopatra, up to her ears in ass’s milk and political intrigue. First Blood (1982) ★★★★☆ ITV4, 9.00pm Based on David Morrell’s novel, this is the first and best of the Rambo action-movie franchise – it’s more sensitive than the sequels. Sylvester Stallone has become synonymous with Rambo, a maladjusted ex-Green Beret who, after having some Vietnam flashbacks, goes on a one-man war against a crooked small-town sheriff (Brian Dennehy). It’s pacy and raw with a moving climax. Part II is on Tuesday. The Woman in Black (2012) ★★★★☆ Channel 4, 12.10am Thanks to its almost hyper-Edwardian setting and some canny plot alterations, this feels less like a remake of Susan Hill’s ghost story than a new reading of an old tale, trembling with freshly terrifying resonances. Daniel Radcliffe gives a grown-up performance, while director James Watkins uses shadows and empty spaces to create a percolating sense of dread. Tuesday 19 December Faye Marsey as Sarah Credit: Channel 4 Shamed Channel 4, 9.00pm It’s not the most Christmassy of fare but Anthony Philipson’s (My Mad Fat Diary) dark, theatrical one-off drama is worth checking out. Featuring an intense central performance from Faye Marsay (who seems to be everywhere right now, with Bancroft last week and the BBC thriller McMafia to come), Shamed tells the story of 27-year-old Sarah, who suddenly decides to kidnap and imprison two apparently unconnected men: the seemingly perfect just-about-to-get-married Nathan (Nick Blood) and cocky player Mani (Ryan McKen). Both claim never to have met each other or Sarah before. However there’s a method behind her madness, and one which, when revealed, opens up wider questions about how different events can resonate in different ways. Philipson’s tight script keeps you guessing about the connection until near the end before spilling out into violence and debates about the difference between guilt and shame.  It’s not perfect – Mani is underwritten and the rushed ending is a little forced – but Shamed makes some thoughtful points about our attitudes toward sex and the way in which certain people can stride through life without acknowledging the damage they trail behind. Sarah Hughes The Royal Variety Performance 2017 ITV, 7.30pm Miranda Hart hosts this year’s Royal Variety Performance, attended by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, with guests ranging from the obvious (Michael Ball, Alfie Boe) to the incongruous (Kelsey Grammer, Seal). Jamie’s Italian Christmas Channel 4, 8.00pm Another week, another Christmas cookery show. Our chef tonight is the ubiquitous Jamie Oliver who has holed up in a log cabin with his mentor Gennaro Contaldo and hopes to teach us to give the traditional British Christmas an Italian twist. U2 at the BBC BBC One, 9.00pm The Irish band continue their quest for world domination with this film centred on new album Songs of Experience. The action takes place at Abbey Road Studios, where they perform some of their biggest hits and squeeze in a quick chat with Cat Deeley.    Invasion! With Sam Willis BBC Four, 9.00pm The final part of this engaging series sees historian Sam Willis examine one of the more unusual military ideas in history: Napoleon’s plan to use a fleet of balloons as part of his invasion plans during the War of the Third Coalition. The French first crossed the English Channel by hot air balloon in 1785 and Napoleon appointed aeronaut Sophie Blanchard as air service chief to carry out the idea. The plans ultimately came to nothing, but that didn’t stop stories and caricatures of balloons carrying arms, men and even horses spreading through the media.  The First Silent Night Yesterday, 9.00pm The mournful Silent Night is one of the world’s most beloved carols, and was declared an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2011. This film follows actor Simon Callow as he heads to the Austrian village of Oberndorf to uncover its origins before considering why this carol above all others resonates so strongly. SH Extraordinary Teens: Young, Gifted and Broke Channel 4, 10.00pm Pianist and composer Shane Thomas hit the headlines aged only 10 when his precocious talent saw him hailed as the British Mozart. Seven years later his career has stalled. What emerges is a depressing but well-told story of ambition tampered by poverty and a system in which privilege and connections count as much, if not more than raw talent. SH Sword of Sherwood Forest (1960) ★★★☆☆ Film4, 5.05pm Terence Fisher teamed up with Hammer Films for this child-friendly spin-off from The Adventures of Robin Hood TV series, with Richard Greene, who reprises his role here. Peter Cushing stars as the dastardly Sheriff of Nottingham out to murder the Archbishop of Canterbury. It’s a cheap and cheerful affair that remains true to the spirit of the original. Smurfs: The Lost Village (2017) ★★☆☆☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 6.15pm The third of the big-screen outings for The Smurfs is a trippy treat for under-eights, for everyone else the blues. This Smurfs contains double the number of Smurfs ever previously seen, thanks to the discovery of an all-female enclave somewhere deep in the woods. Demi Lovato, Mandy Patinkin, Michelle Rodriguez and Julia Roberts are among those lending their voices. Carol (2015) ★★★★★ Film4, 9.00pm Todd Haynes’s adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 novel is gorgeous, gently groundbreaking, and quite possibly be the saddest thing that you’ll ever see. It tells the story of a photographer (Rooney Mara) who has a relationship with an older woman (Cate Blanchett) in New York. Haynes’ film concludes that love is the riskiest but most necessary gamble. Wednesday 20 December Dame Judi Dench Credit: BBC Judi Dench: My Passion for Trees BBC One, 8.00pm When this one-off documentary was announced, some predictably invoked Alan Partridge’s hapless pitch of Youth Hostelling with Chris Eubank. Certainly, it’s hard to imagine many other celebrities managing to get this made, and even harder to imagine any who could have made it so watchable. A look of astonished delight is plastered over Dame Judi’s face throughout the hour, as she makes all manner of unexpected discoveries about the trees that she loves. There is also a rare peek into her personal life and relationship with her “chap”, David Mills. This may lack the forensic camerawork and high-spec CGI of most BBC nature documentaries, but there are rewarding revelations amid the occasional dose of Botany 101. “I think of my trees as part of my extended family,” says Dench – not the absurd piece of sentimentality you might suspect, as she plants a tree in her back garden for each friend or relative who has died. And trees, it transpires, are also remarkably sociable in their way, an arboreal community connected by spidery threads of fungus and able to call for help if under attack by aphids. Charming and subtly educational. Gabriel Tate What Makes You Tic? BBC Three, from 10.00am Vlogger Lewis “QBall” Nickell aims to conquer his Tourette’s Syndrome and launch a career as a talk-show host, meeting The Vamps and Girls Aloud alumna Nadine Coyle as part of his efforts to raise awareness. Carabao Cup: Bristol City v Manchester United Sky Sports Main Event, 7.30pm We’re at Ashton Gate for this quarter-final clash, as the Robins look to produce and upset against holders Manchester United. The hosts have already claimed two Premier League scalps in Watford and Stoke City, but United are clear favourites here.  The Real Marigold on Tour BBC One, 9.00pm When you see the lives the Marigold pensioners are leading who wouldn’t be envious? This week, Sheila Ferguson, Rustie Lee, Paul Nicholas and Dennis Taylor head to Iceland. There, they go whale watching in the fishing village of Hausavik, and try aqua aerobics and gymnastics in Reykjavik. Elsewhere, Sheila goes on a date with an Icelandic man. Peaky Blinders BBC Two, 9.00pm Perhaps the best series yet comes to a punishing climax with the night of the big fight and yet another reckoning for the Shelbys, this time courtesy of Changretta (Adrien Brody) and once-trusted allies. A Night for the Emergency Services ITV, 9.00pm Presenting a sort of 999’s Got Talent, Ashley Banjo and Diversity introduce a showcase for the firefighters, police and hospital workers who demonstrate skills far beyond their professional capabilities. These include magicians, dancers and a Michael Bublé impersonator, along with appearances from a few special guests. Taskmaster Champion of Champions  Dave, 9.00pm One of the funniest series on TV comes to a spectacular climax as the ultimate Taskmaster champion is crowned, with previous winners Josh Widdicombe, Katherine Ryan, Noel Fielding, Rob Beckett and Bob Mortimer all in the running. Dian Fossey: Secrets in the Mist  National Geographic, 9.00pm After a lifetime of conservation work and, campaigning against poaching, primatologist Dian Fossey was killed in her Rwandan cabin in 1985 – a crime that remains unsolved. The final part of this gripping series examines possible motives. GT Male Rape: Breaking the Silence BBC One, 10.45pm; Scot & Wales, 11.10pm; NI, 11.40pm First shown on BBC Three, this grim but necessary film hears from three men who are among the estimated one-in-six to have been victims of rape. GT Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) ★★★★★ BBC One, 1.45pm Steven Spielberg’s rollicking adventure film, with a very scary end, won four Oscars and created a new action hero in Dr Henry “Indiana” Jones (Harrison Ford). Jones is an archaeologist hired by the US government in 1936 to seek out the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis find it. The ensuing events provide a rollercoaster of thrills. The Temple of Doom and The Last Crusade follow over the next two night. Chicken Run (2000) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 3.35pm Aardman Animations, the studio behind many of Nick Park’s triumphs, conjures up another stop-motion corker that fairly swarms with clever little jokes and details. Our heroes here are a group of jauntily anthropomorphic chickens; they’re plotting their escape to freedom from the tyrannical Mr and Mrs Tweedy, who run the farm on which they live. The voice cast boasts Julia Sawalha, Jane Horrocks and Mel Gibson. The Phantom of the Opera (2004) ★★★☆☆ Sky Arts, 9.00pm Impressed by his use of music in The Lost Boys, Andrew Lloyd Webber hired director Joel Schumacher to bring his hit musical, the longest-running Broadway show in history, about a disfigured genius who lives hidden in the Paris Opera House and who develops a crush on a chorus girl, to the big screen. The score has all the faux-gothic pomp required, but Gerard Butler’s Phantom fails to spook. Thursday 21 December Darcey Bussell Credit: BBC Darcey Bussell: Looking for Fred Astaire BBC One, 10.45pm One dance star explores another in this unpretentious profile of Fred Astaire. Darcey Bussell traces Astaire’s journey from his hometown in Nebraska to New York, London and Los Angeles to examine his ascent to film stardom, achieved after nearly three decades as a professional dancer. She puts forward that he owed much of his success to three women – his mother, his sister and dancing partner Adele, and his first wife Phyllis – but wisely doesn’t labour the point.  Bussell peruses memorabilia and film footage – there’s a delightful clip of Astaire dancing with his long-time collaborator, Hermes Pan – and discusses with historians Astaire’s early life, work ethic and personality clash with Ginger Rogers. The commentary doesn’t uncover much that an Astaire fan wouldn’t already know, but Bussell is an enthusiastic guide and the clips are terrific. Strictly professionals Aljaz Skorjanec and Janette Manrara are touring a successful stage show called Remembering Fred – this film also reminds us of Astaire’s immeasurable contribution to dance, though it wouldn’t harm for it to air at an hour more suited to the ballroom dance-loving demographic. Vicki Power MasterChef: The Professionals: The Finals BBC Two, 8.00pm It’s ladles at dawn for the three finalists as they tackle their last challenge. They’ll cook a three-course meal in three hours for the formidable judging trio of Wareing, Galetti and Wallace, who’ll then choose their champ. Joanna & Jennifer: Absolutely Champers BBC Two, 9.00pm On the flimsy premise of celebrating 25 years since the birth of Absolutely Fabulous, Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley take a fizz-fuelled jolly to France to tour vineyards. They neck vats of bubbly in a travelogue as meandering as Patsy’s gait after an evening spent swigging Bolly. Gordon, Gino and Fred’s Great Christmas Roast ITV, 9.00pm It’s Celtic vigour versus Italian passion in this feelgood cookery special. TV chefs Gordon Ramsay and Gino D’Acampo compete, with a team of celebrity helpers, to create the best Christmas banquet for 100 emergency services workers. First Dates’ maître d’ Fred Sirieux presents. Donny Osmond’s Easy Listening Christmas Channel 5, 9.00pm This Val Doonican-style one-off sees Donny Osmond counting down his 25 favourite festive songs, exploring their geneses and comparing classic renditions to cover versions. VP The Tunnel: Vengeance Sky Atlantic, 9.00pm The symbiosis between Anglo-French cop partners Karl and Elise (Stephen Dillane and Clémence Poésy) in this murder mystery shows us a cheering flipside to Brexit. Their touching, humorous relationship is affecting, even if the series overall lacks the Scandinavian-style eeriness of The Bridge, on which it’s based. Here, the cross-channel cops make a breakthrough in the search for the missing children. The Galaxy Britain Built: Droids, Darth Vader and Lightsaber/Hollywood’s Master of Myth BBC Four, 10.00pm and 11.00pm In celebration of the release of The Last Jedi, these documentaries look at the ingredients that helped shape the Star Wars phenomenon. The first focuses on the film crew who created George Lucas’s fictional galaxy. The second, from 1999, explores the work of US academic Joseph Campbell, whom Lucas has credited with inspiring his plot. VP The Dark Crystal (1982) ★★★☆☆ Film4, 1.05pm Muppets creator Jim Henson stepped out from the comfort of children’s TV to make this dark fantasy tale about a pair of creatures who must find a missing shard of crystal in order to defeat the evil Skeksis. The superbly designed puppets and sets add a surreal quality but it lacks the sense of humour which made Labyrinth, Henson’s next cinema release, so popular. Frank Oz, fellow puppeteer and the voice of Yoda, co-directs. Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 3.35pm Nick Park’s plucky Plasticine pair set about rescuing a village whose annual vegetable competition is in jeopardy because of rabbits eating up the contents of everyone’s gardens. But their bunny brainwashing goes wrong and they accidentally create a mutant rabbit. Beautifully shot, charming, and very silly, it deservedly won the Oscar for Best Animation. Candyman (1992) ★★★★☆ Film4, 11.15pm Virginia Madsen does powerhouse work as a student of folklore lured into fascination with a hook-handed killer who appears when you say his name five times in front of a mirror. She ignores all warnings but is soon blamed for his crimes when a series of horrible murders begin. Majestic direction from Bernard Rose transforms this into a resoundingly epic and gory fable. Friday 22 December Bruno Tonioli  Credit: BBC Saturday Night Fever: The Ultimate Disco Movie BBC Two, 9.00pm Long before he became a household name as a Strictly Come Dancing judge, Bruno Tonioli had a successful career as a choreographer to the stars, arranging dance for music videos, stage shows and tours for Tina Turner, Sting, Elton John and many others. Here he looks back 40 years to when he was a young dancer in New York and got caught up in the global phenomenon that was Saturday Night Fever.  It’s a great story, told with typical Tonioli verve, of how a low-budget film starring the then unknown John Travolta and using the music of a failing band of high-pitched popsters, the Bee Gees, became one of the biggest box office draws of all time and gave half the world “disco fever”. It also shows how – to give credit where it is due – much of its success was down to the visionary genius and unstoppable determination of the Bee Gees’ manager, the late Robert Stigwood, impresario behind some of the most popular stars, and hit stage and film musicals (Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, Grease, Bugsy Malone) of the Seventies. Contributors include Travolta. Gerard O’Donovan The Toys That Made Us Netflix, from today Toys of the Eighties are the focus of this series taking an in-depth look at the nostalgia and collecting fervour that surrounds eight of the biggest selling toy brands of that decade: Transformers, Stars Wars, He-Man, GI Joe, Barbie, Star Trek, Hello Kitty and Lego. Premier League Football: Arsenal v Liverpool Sky Sports Main Event, 7.00pm Action from the Emirates Stadium, as Arsenal  look to avenge a 4-0 defeat in August, when Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, Mo Salah and Daniel Sturridge all found the net for Liverpool. TOTP4 Christmas 2017 BBC Four, 7.30pm Get into the Christmas party spirit with Mark Radcliffe’s countdown of classic festive hits from Top of the Pops’s glitter-spattered archive, with The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl, Wizzard, Slade, The Darkness and Ed Sheeran among the acts featured. Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast Christmas Special Channel 4, 8.00pm Jamie Oliver and Jimmy Doherty welcome actress Liv Tyler to the pier café to make her favourite takeaway, pork dim sum. Oliver also whips up a cracking kedgeree, and Doherty builds a home-made wood-fired oven. Al Murray’s Make Christmas Great Again ITV, 9.00pm Al Murray’s gloriously unreconstructed pub landlord invites an audience to a lock-in at the Reindeer’s Head where he bends ears on such matters as how Christmas is losing its Britishness while whipping up anti-PC seasonal singalongs and remonstrating with celebrity guests. George Michael to Tom Petty: a Tribute Sky Arts, 9.00pm Chuck Berry, Fats Domino and David Cassidy are just some of the musicians and performers who, along with George Michael and Tom Petty, we lost in the past 12 months – as affectionately remembered in this 90-minute tribute. GO Les Dawson: In His Own Words Channel 5, 10.00pm Comedians didn’t come more old school than Les Dawson, with his bluff Northern style, rubber face and mother-in-law jokes. But he was one of the most original comedians of his generation, as proved by this terrific documentary that raids the archives for his funniest work. The Graham Norton Show BBC One, 10.40pm Grahm Norton’s line-up offers a good mix of interest: Hollywood star Will Smith, Victoria’s Jenna Coleman, chef Jamie Oliver and former Keane frontman Tom Chaplin. GO Bright (2017) Netflix, from today This Netflix Original – a $100 million special-effects blockbuster from David Ayer, director of Suicide Squad – sounds like a mash-up of Lethal Weapon and Lord of the Rings. In an alternate Los Angeles where elves and witches walk the streets, Will Smith’s tough NYPD officer finds himself partnered with an orc (Joel Edgerton). Considering its hefty price tag and star-studded soundtrack (Migos, Rag’n’Bone Man, Camila Cabello), this could be Netflix’s biggest mistake yet Puss in Boots (2011) ★★☆☆☆ BBC One, 3.40pm DreamWorks Animation’s Shrek spin-off follows Puss in Boots’s life before he became the green ogre’s sidekick. With the help of Kitty Softpaws (voiced by Salma Hayek) and Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis), the swashbuckling feline (Antonio Banderas) becomes a hero after saving his town. Like the CGI ogre’s last two films, Shrek the Third and Shrek Forever After, the animation is more impressive than the jokes. Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001) ★★★★☆ ITV, 10.40pm American actress Renée Zellweger perfects her English accent to play the Chardonnay-swigging, chain-smoking, lovelorn Bridget in this adaptation of Helen Fielding’s novel, which remains a solid favourite. Love interests Hugh Grant and Colin Firth are excellent as her roguish boss Daniel Cleaver and the stuffy-but-handsome (even in a Christmas jumper) lawyer Mark Darcy. Saturday 23 December A Christmas Tree in Manger Square, Bethlehem Credit: Channel 4 The World’s Best Christmas Lights: From Liverpool to Bethlehem Channel 4, 8.00pm It is amazing what you can build a successful, multi-million-pound, internationally renowned business from. Liverpool-based company The Christmas Decorators specialise in the commercial design and installation of large-scale Christmas lights and decorations – the kind you see in every shop, street and town square. This entertaining film, one of the more offbeat of the season, follows a rather surprising commission: to install the lights and decorations at what many might consider the birthplace of Christmas – Manger Square in Bethlehem. In fact, they’ve been doing it every year since 2012, bringing every single bulb and bauble with them from their warehouse in the UK.  It’s a huge logistical effort, which is also a possibly tricky one, if customs or security in, say, Istanbul take exception to the Bethlehem-bound consignment as it passes through. Director of operations GED Comerford leads the four-person installation team on the trek from Liverpool. It’s fraught with hitches and glitches – even a home-baked Christmas cake is regarded with suspicion by local security – but all the more entertaining for that. Gerard O’Donovan Smashie’s Xmastastic Playlist Christmas Gold, 4.00pm Getting the Christmas party off to an early start from his fab-tastic hideaway at Radio Hush, The Fast Show’s Mike Smash (Paul Whitehouse) brings his off-kilter pop-DJ insights to an hour of festive hits from Wizzard to Johnny Mathis via McCartney, Dylan and Springsteen.  Elf: The Musical Channel 5, 5.00pm There’s seasonal song, dance and fun in the stage musical version of Will Ferrell’s much-loved comedy from the Lowry Theatre in Salford. Ben Forster, who won ITV’s Superstar talent search in 2012, leads the cast as Buddy, a human orphan who was raised by Santa’s elves in the North Pole and returns to New York in search of his family. Michael Buble’s Christmas in New York Sky Arts, 5.00pm At the Radio City Music Hall the crooner sings a selection of seasonal classics, along with a sparkling line-up of special guests including Barbra Streisand, Ariana Grande and The Muppets’ Miss Piggy. It is repeated on Sky One at 12.15am. Pointless Celebrities Christmas Special BBC One, 6.15pm Some of the contestants in this festive edition of the quiz could themselves be pointless answers in a round on Christmas hits. Jona Lewie, Jimmy Osmond and Ben Haenow are among those answering Alexander Armstrong questions. Blind Date Christmas Special Channel 5, 8.00pm There’s a fairy-tale spin to this edition of Paul O’Grady’s matchmaking show, as a Prince Charming has to choose between fellow panto actors Cinderella, Snow White and Tinkerbell. It’s Christmas Live from the Royal Albert Hall Sky One, 8.00pm The Royal Albert Hall is transformed to a rock ’n’ roll winter wonderland as Jason Manford introduces performances by Holly Johnson, Marc Almond, Chrissie Hynde and Shakin’ Stevens, among many others. GO Feud: Bette and Joan BBC Two, from 9.00pm; NI, from 9.30pm Ryan Murphy’s stylish and scathingly catty dramatisation of the Hollywood feud between Bette Davis (Susan Sarandon) and Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange) reaches the moment that the actresses’ mutual loathing went off the scale – while working on the 1962 classic What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (which follows). GO Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001) ★★★☆☆ ITV, 1.35pm  From today to New Year’s Day, ITV are screening all of the Harry Potter films – one film a day, except on Boxing Day. This first adaptation of J K Rowling’s novel was, for a while, the second highest-grossing film ever. Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint are endearing (and very young) in the lead roles but the film lacks the original book’s compulsiveness. Frozen (2013) ★★★★★ BBC One, 2.50pm Disney’s 53rd feature is an enchanting combination of fairy-tale derring-do and heart-popping musical numbers that has left children and adults powerless to its charms. Elsa (Idina Menzel) is a shy princess driven into exile when her magical powers are discovered. Her sister Anna (Kristen Bell) gallops off to fetch her from her beautiful ice palace. Spin-off Olaf’s Frozen Adventure is on Christmas Day. Bill (2015) ★★★★☆ BBC Two, 6.00pm Intelligent children and immature adults will love this mock-biopic from the Horrible Histories troupe that follows the young William Shakespeare (Mathew Baynton) as he ascends from quill-scraping zero to literary hero. Some of the best moments (a running joke about false moustaches is one) are full-bloodedly Pythonesque, although occasionally a kind of student-revue smarminess creeps in. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962, b/w) ★★★★★ BBC Two, 10.35pm; not N Ireland Robert Aldrich’s classic slice of American Grotesque, starring two of cinema’s greatest screen divas, started a trend for casting ageing actresses in campy Gothic horror movies. Joan Crawford and Bette Davis play reclusive sisters locked in an abusive relationship in their crumbling Hollywood mansion.  Christmas Eve Sue Perkins, Mary Berry and Mel Giedroyc Credit: BBC Mary, Mel and Sue’s Big Christmas Thank You BBC One, 7.00pm Anyone looking for some extra festive cheer should look no further than this exuberant Christmas special which sees former Great British Bake-Off stars Mary Berry, Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc join forces to help out at a community centre in the Rhondda Valley in Wales.  Initially, it seems as though this is one of those rather forced shows in which celebrities dispense good cheer and bad jokes, but an emotional story of community spirit in the face of despair swiftly emerges. “We’ve lost our library, our butchers, both banks have closed and there’s no school,” states Elizabeth “Buffy” Williams. Working with her friend Lynne, Buffy has attempted to combat that by opening a community centre offering meals, bingo and after-school classes. Now they want to throw a special Christmas meal for the whole community but it’s tough: the kitchen is small, money is tight and Lynne freely admits that she hates cooking. Enter the indomitable Mrs Berry, who rolls up her sleeves, corrals Daffyd, a 16-year-old with a GCSE in catering, into becoming her sous chef and helps Lynne tackle her phobia. The final celebration should bring a tear to even the most cynical of eyes. Sarah Hughes Premiership Rugby Union: Leicester Tigers v Saracens BT Sport 1, 2.30pm Below-par this season, Leicester will be hoping a win here at Welford Park against third-placed Saracens will give them fresh momentum going into the new year.  Countryfile BBC One, 6.00pm The team head to the Peak District for this special which sees John Craven exploring Longshaw Estate, Anita Rani experiencing a Nativity play with a difference and Matt Baker venturing into Peak Cavern for a carol concert.  Christmas University Challenge 2017 BBC Two, 8.00pm; Scotland, 5.45pm There’s something addictive about the University Challenge’s specials, possibly because they allow us to see celebrities in a new light. The opener sees a team from Durham University, including actor Nick Mohammed, take on a Keble College side featuring Katy Brand. Child Genius vs Celebrities Christmas Special Channel 4, 8.00pm Richard Osman is our host for this Christmas special, which sees past child geniuses take on, among others, Catastrophe star Rob Delaney and broadcaster Janet Street Porter. Will youth or experience win out?  Michael McIntyre’s Big Christmas Show BBC One, 8.30pm The comedian returns for a festive edition in which Alesha Dixon risks social disaster by handing over her phone in Celebrity Send-to-All, plus there’s stand-up from Bill Bailey and music from Seal.  Maigret in Montmartre ITV, 8.30pm Critics haven’t always been kind to ITV’s reboot of Georges Simenon’s Maigret featuring Rowan Atkinson. Yet there’s actually a lot to like here. Atkinson underplays the role nicely, the plots are serviceable and the whole thing is entertaining if undemanding fare. This episode sees Maigret drawn in to the murder of a showgirl. SH M R James evening BBC Four, from 9.00pm Shut the doors, draw the curtains and prepare to be thoroughly spooked as BBC Four dedicates an evening to ghost writer supreme M R James. First up, long-time James fan Mark Gatiss looks at how this diffident Anglican bachelor created stories that still send a tingle down the spine a century after they were written. It’s followed at 10pm by two adaptations of James’s work: The Tractate Middoth, a chilling story about vengeance from beyond the grave, starring Sacha Dhawan and John Castle, and No 13, featuring Greg Wise as an academic who uncovers more than he bargains for in a small medieval town. Billy Elliot: the Musical Sky Arts, 9.00pm Anyone who hasn’t managed to catch Stephen Daldry’s big-hearted musical take on his film about a miner’s son who just wants to dance can find out what all the fuss is about with this performance from 2014 starring Ruthie Henshall and Elliott Hanna. SH Gone with the Wind (1939) ★★★★★ Channel 5, 9.20am Hollywood’s highest-grossing movie until The Sound of Music in 1966, this was the film for which the word “epic” was invented. Vivien Leigh became a star as Scarlett O’Hara, the spoilt Southern belle whose life is turned upside down by the US Civil War. Clark Gable and Leslie Howard are her lovers. It’s brash and self-indulgent, but frankly we don’t give a damn. The Lego Batman Movie (2017) ★★★★☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 1.25pm and 7.00pm Don’t tell Ben Affleck – who plays Actual Batman – but the actor has been made surplus to requirements by one and a half inches of moulded plastic. Lego Batman’s debut solo feature, spun off from a cameo in The Lego Movie, is frantically and relentlessly funny as a new police commissioner (Rosario Dawson) threatens to make the Caped Crusader redundant. Guys and Dolls (1955) ★★★★☆ BBC Two, 3.20pm The 1955 film adaptation of the Broadway classic holds up rather well. The stellar casting certainly helps: Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra in one film – as the rival New York gamblers (and gangsters) Sky Masterson and Nathan Detroit, who place a bet on compromising the virtue of a pious Salvation Army woman, Sarah Brown (played by Jean Simmons). The musical numbers are still a delight. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) ★★★★★ Channel 4, 6.30pm Tiny Tim is a small green frog, Mrs Cratchit is a bad-tempered pig and Charles Dickens himself is portrayed by Gonzo, enormous blue nose and all. And yet, there are few better, or more affecting versions of A Christmas Carol than this musical adaptation. Michael Caine is ideal as the miserly Scrooge, the laughs are aplenty and the finale is as rousing as they come. Christmas Day Peter Capaldi and David Bradley Credit: BBC Doctor Who BBC One, 5.30pm While it’s not unusual for Doctor Who to begin with a “Previously…”, this one takes things all the way back to William Hartnell’s First Doctor, having faced the Cybermen at the South Pole and refused to regenerate. After necessarily metamorphosing into David Bradley (who played Hartnell in Mark Gatiss’s docudrama An Adventure in Space and Time), he duly encounters Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor, in a similar fix. Throw in Mark Gatiss’s doomed British army captain, transported from the Western Front at the moment of death with stiff upper lip wobbling, a mysterious glass woman (Nikki Amuka-Bird) with the power to freeze time, the return of Bill (Pearl Mackie) and a few other surprises, and you have another of Steven Moffat’s self-imposed riddles to unravel. Given that this is Moffat’s own last stand, and with Jodie Whitaker due to make her bow at the end of the episode, you might anticipate a tsunami of self-indulgence and sentimentality, but no. Capaldi and Mackie’s snappy, affectionate chemistry precludes such easy options, Gatiss is restrained and funny and Moffat’s musing on war and peace is enough to bear the wit and self-referentiality. A dignified farewell. Gabriel Tate The Highway Rat BBC One, 4.45pm Rob Brydon narrates and David Tennant voices the eponymous anti-hero in another enchanting adaptation of a Julia Donaldson/Axel Scheffler picture book, this time depicting the comeuppance for a selfish, swashbuckling rat and his long-suffering steed.. The Royal Opera: Puccini’s La Boheme BBC Four, 7.00pm Clemency Burton-Hill introduces Richard Jones’s production of Puccini’s tale of love and loss among bohemians in 19th-century Paris, conducted by Antonio Pappano and starring tenor Michael Fabiano and soprano Nicole Car as star-crossed lovers Rodolfo and Mimi. Jones’s production has a wintry charm that should see it sit very comfortably in today’s schedules.  Olaf’s Frozen Adventure Sky Cinema Premiere/On Demand, 7.30pm Perhaps better suited to television after a brief run in cinemas that saw parents complaining about it delaying screenings of Coco, this Frozen spin-off finds the cheerful snowman Olaf (voiced by Josh Gad) joining his reindeer, Sven, on a mission for their royal highnesses Elsa (Idina Menzel) and Anna (Kristen Bell) who are desperate to create their own Christmas tradition. Expect four catchy new songs to be ringing around your head. GT  Call the Midwife BBC One, 7.40pm Call the Midwife pulls out all the stops for this astoundingly gloomy affair as a Boxing Day freeze descends, stranding Valerie (Jennifer Kirby) in a caravan for an ad hoc delivery and accounting for a popular old timer with a very dark secret. The Great Christmas bake off Channel 4, 7.40pm Val and Selasi from last year, Paul Jagger (he of 2015’s bread lion) and Welsh Beca, a 2013 semi-finalist, return to compete for Star Baker, introduced and judged by the new Fab Four. There’s more of the same on New Year’s Day. Victoria ITV, 9.00pm The Queen (Jenna Coleman) is pregnant again and missing her governess, leaving Albert (Tom Hughes) in the unlikely role of Christmas merrymaker-in-chief. It’s a festive special by numbers, but affecting and easy on the eye. Ashes Cricket: Australia v England BT Sport 1, 10.30pm It’s been a fraught series, on and off the field, for England, with their players’ professionalism frequently called into question. This signals the start of the fourth Test, played at Melbourne Cricket Ground. Can Joe Root’s beleaguered side salvage some dignity? Or will the Aussies continue to have a field day? 300 Years of French & Saunders BBC One, 10.35pm Unseen footage, much-loved sketches and of course Lulu feature in this one-off, which sees the duo back together on TV for the first time in a decade. The new material is intermittently inspired and vigorously performed, with The Handmaid’s Tale, the Kardashians and Poldark all subjected to their attentions. GT Singin’ in the Rain (1952) ★★★★★ Channel 5, 1.05pm There are few movie scenes more memorable than Gene Kelly’s rain-soaked Singin’ in the Rain sequence, or many more jaw-dropping than Donald O’Connor’s walk up the wall. But more than song and dance, this film contains real satire as it recounts the introduction of the “talkie” and the superficial nature of the US film industry. Debbie Reynolds (who died a year ago, one day after daughter Carrie Fisher) co-stars as the Hollywood ingénue. Cinderella (2015) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 3.10pm Kenneth Branagh’s twinkling, live-action Cinderella sticks doggedly to Disney’s 1950 animated version (Cinders’s rodent companions are present) and favours sparkle over wit. However, Cate Blanchett is marvellous as the Wicked Stepmother and Helena Bonham Carter makes a jolly good Fairy Godmother. Princess-obsessed little girls will find it irresistible and the costumes are stunning. Oliver! (1968) ★★★★☆ Channel 5, 3.10pm Carol Reed, who had previously directed The Third Man, won an Oscar for his superior version of Lionel Bart’s musical of the classic Charles Dickens tale (Reed’s only ever attempt at the musical genre). Eight-year-old Mark Lester is sweet as Oliver Twist but it was Ron Moody as Fagin who received the Oscar nod. Reed’s nephew, another Oliver, is a brooding and brutal Bill Sikes and still has the potential to shock. Dumbo (1941) ★★★★★ Channel 4. 4.30pm It may be one of Disney’s shortest animated films, but it is also one of its most loved. Baby elephant Dumbo is born with unfeasibly large ears, is separated from his mother and becomes ostracised by his fellow circus animals. It is only when Timothy Mouse encourages Dumbo to make the most of his ears that he discovers he can fly. This remains an undisputed masterpiece from Disney’s golden age of animation. Boxing Day Willa Fitzgerald, Kathryn Newton, Maya Hawke and Annes Elwy Credit: BBC Little Women BBC One, 8.00pm One suspects that this beautiful adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s much-loved coming-of-age novel (published in 1868) was due a less prominent airing until the BBC had to shelve its flagship festive Agatha Christie adaptation Ordeal by Innocence due to sexual assault allegations against one of the stars. That seems no great loss now, as this sparkling gem of a drama – scripted by Call the Midwife creator Heidi Thomas – more than deserves a Boxing Day prime-time slot.  Told in three parts, it follows the lives of the March sisters – Jo (Maya Hawke), Meg (Willa Fitzgerald), Beth (Annes Elwy), and Amy (Kathryn Newton) – as they progress from adolescence to adulthood under the protective eye of their mother, Marmee (Emily Watson), while their father is away in the American Civil War.  As life-affirming a tale as you could want this time of year, it’s full of high spirits and loving kindness. There are nice cameo performances by Michael Gambon and Angela Lansbury, but in the opening part, the acting laurels go to Hawke for her spot-on portrayal of tomboyish proto-feminist Jo, and Jonah Hauer-King, as boy next door Laurie Laurence. Gerard O’Donovan Todd Barry: Spicy Honey Netflix, from today Stand-up Todd Barry is best known in the US for his bone-dry wit. Anyone seeking relief from the festive season’s more saccharine shows will be sure to find it in this one-off recording from his latest tour. Premier League Football: Tottenham Hotspur v Southampton Sky Sports Main Event, 12.00noon Spurs won both of their matches against the Saints last season, including a 2-1 victory in one of their final home matches at White Hart Lane. Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli both scored in the first half, with James Ward-Prowse pulling one back for Southampton in the second. Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella BBC Two, 5.35pm From Sadler’s Wells, a treat for dance fans in this dazzling Blitz-era reworking of Prokofiev’s classic ballet, performed by Bourne’s New Adventures company.  Snow Bears BBC One, 6.30pm Kate Winslet narrates this documentary following a pack of polar bears as they embark on an eventful 400-mile journey to reach the pack ice where they hunt. Surprisingly charming. Discovering: Julie Andrews Sky Arts, 7.00pm A look at the life and career of an actress and singer more associated with Christmas than most, thanks to endless festive repeats of Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music. But there’s much more to Julie Andrews than that, as shown in this beautifully put-together profile.  Reindeer Family and Me BBC Two, 8.00pm Wildlife film-maker Gordon Buchanan’s festive offering focuses on Santa’s favourite quadruped. In Lapland, Buchanan settles in with the nomadic Sami people to learn the ways of the herder, before setting out with a single reindeer to capture the Northern Lights as they’ve never been filmed before. Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 2017: The Language OF life BBC Four, 8.00pm This year’s theme, The Language of Life, sees cognitive neuroscientist Professor Sophie Scott of UCL embark on an exploration of the urge to communicate. In the opener, she unpicks the evolution of the human voice. GO The Miniaturist BBC One, 9.00pm An absorbing adaptation of Jessie Burton’s bestseller about a young woman thrust into an arranged marriage with a perplexing merchant in 17th-century Amsterdam. It looks exquisite, although the constant quest to shoot each frame as if it were a Vermeer painting doesn’t help the pace. Anna Taylor-Joy plays 18-year-old Nella with suitable bafflement, Alex Hassell intrigues as Johannes, while Romola Garai steals the show as his sister, Marin. Concludes tomorrow. Big Fat Quiz of the Year 2017 Channel 4, 9.00pm Jimmy Carr hosts C4’s alternative comedy quiz looking back at the year in the news, with guests including Richard Ayoade, Noel Fielding, David Mitchell and Katherine Ryan. GO Mary Poppins (1964) ★★★★★ BBC One, 3.45pm This is the popular story of a magical nanny (Julie Andrews) who takes over a London home, transforming the lives of its inhabitants. Dick Van Dyke may affect the worst cockney accent ever heard on film, but the combination of the catchy songs, sumptuous live action and colourful animation makes this one of the most enduring children’s films, and a staple of the festive schedules. The film was nominated for 13 Oscars. Beauty and the Beast (2017) ★★★★☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 10.55am and 5.50pm Emma Watson dazzles in Disney’s show-stopping, live-action, chocolate box remake. The film’s songs – which include three new ones – by Alan Menken are the pulse, the purpose and the headline draw, while Ewan McGregor is delightful as Lumière, Luke Evans perfect as Gaston, and Dan Stevens, in digital fur, is the Prince. The Little Mermaid (1989) ★★★★☆ Channel 4, 4.20pm This vivacious retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale began a rich vein of form for Disney animations (Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King followed). A combination of unforgettable characters, including Sebastian the singing Jamaican crab and the delightfully evil baddie Ursula (based on drag queen Divine), and catchy songs makes Ariel’s journey to dry land a magical thing. Jurassic World (2015) ★★★★☆ ITV, 6.40pm Can modern audiences still be wowed by computer-generated dinosaurs? This long-awaited Jurassic Park sequel (the original movie was released in 1993) proves that they can. A new attraction at the dinosaur theme park, created to re-spark visitor interest, gravely backfires and it’s left to Chris Pratt’s raptor trainer and Bryce Dallas Howard’s scientist to save the day. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is out next year. Wednesday 27 December Steve Coogan as Alan Partidge Credit: BBC Alan Partridge: Why, When, Where, How and Whom? BBC Two, 9.00pm Unfortunately, there were no previews available for this palate-cleansing documentary ahead of Alan Partridge’s return to the BBC for a new series next year, which co-creator Steve Coogan promises will include the sometime Radio Norwich presenter’s take on that most contentious of topics, Brexit. It’s been 25 years since he and Armando Iannucci created the hapless Partridge, described by Iannucci as “a kind of social X-ray of male middle-aged Middle England”, a bombastic, self-important local presenter with an unwavering belief in the importance of the highway code and “imperial leisurewear”.  Now this documentary attempts to explain why this character, above all others, has touched such a nerve. Among those contributing are Coogan and Iannucci, Patrick Marber, Peter Baynham, Rebecca Front, David Schneider and Doon Mackichan, and we’re also promised unseen archive footage. The real secret to Alan’s lasting appeal is a simple one, however: he’s a fully realised character and a very English monster in the same vein as Basil Fawlty. Even as we laugh at him, we’re moved by his increasing self-awareness. Sarah Hughes Celebrity Mastermind BBC One, 7.00pm Actor Jack Ashton, comedian Rich Hall, Match of the Day commentator Guy Mowbray and poet Pam Ayres join John Humphrys for a new run of the celebrity edition. Among the specialist subjects tonight are Tennessee Williams, Iron Maiden and Ashes Cricket.  Agatha Christie vs Hercule Poirot Sky Arts, 7.30pm Pierre Bayar presents this interesting deconstruction of one of Agatha Christie’s most celebrated novels, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, in which he alleges a miscarriage of justice by Poirot.  Six Robots & Us BBC Two, 8.00pm Psychologist Dr Caroline Jay and robotics specialist Prof Jonathan Rossiter join forces in this fascinating experiment which aims to uncover how helpful the latest innovations in robotics truly are. To find out the team deliver four very different robots to families around the UK.  Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 2017: the language of life BBC Four, 8.00pm Professor Sophie Scott, UCL’s Head of the Speech Communications Group, gives this year’s lecture, looking at silent communication and why our body language and smells can say as much if not more than our words and sounds.   World’s Strongest Man 2017 Channel 5, 8.00pm Channel 5 brings us all the action from the World’s Strongest Man competition in Botswana. All eyes are on the USA’s Brian Shaw, the defending champion, who is hoping to win for a record firth time.  Turtle, Eagle, Cheetah: A Slow Odyssey BBC Four, 9.00pm BBC Four’s latest foray into the enticing world of slow TV is this nature documentary which focuses on the different views of a cheetah on the African savannah, a green turtle in the Indonesia reefs and a white-tailed eagle in Scotland. SH Miranda Does Christmas Channel 4, 9.00pm Like many an institution before her, Miranda Hart has swapped the BBC for Channel 4 on her return to the small screen. Here, Hart hosts a “raucous Christmas party” with guests including David Tennant, Sam Smith and Prue Leith. SH The Red Shoes (1948) ★★★★★ BBC Two, 12.10pm Powell and Pressburger’s seminal musical tragedy is one of cinema’s great wonders. It’s about a talented ballet dancer (Moira Shearer), her romance with a struggling composer (Marius Goring) and her loyalty to the ballet that he wrote and in which she is meant to star. The film’s theme of the pre-eminent call of creative passion is thought to be an allegory for P & P’s devotion to their craft. Big Hero 6 (2014) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 4.10pm This Disney animation is an East-meets-West adventure with buckets of heart and soul – and quite possibly Disney at its adorable, huggable, and most visually extravagant best. Hiro Hamada, a 14-year-old orphan living in the city of San Fransokyo, befriends Baymax, a 10-foot-tall, bright, white inflatable robot invented by his elder brother, who’s killed in a mysterious fire at his laboratory. Scrooged (1988) ★★★★☆ Film4, 4.35pm 9+Bill Murray plays a mean-spirited network TV president who sees the light after he experiences ghostly visitations – including Carol Kane as a happy-slapping fairy in a tutu – in this droll comic update of Dickens’s tale. Murray is on deadpan, cynical form (“Have you tried staples?”) and Robert Mitchum contributes a priceless cameo as a fellow executive with plans to produce TV shows for cats and dogs. Oasis: Supersonic (2016) ★★★☆☆ BBC Two, 10.00pm Oasis’s glory-days documentary indulges Noel and Liam Gallagher’s bad behaviour. Mat Whitecross’s film starts and ends with the pair of dates when Oasis debatably peaked, at Knebworth in 1996, and goes to excessive length to detail stories of their excess. Few rock stars, in fairness, have a habit of being so amusingly and brutally honest about their failings, and Whitecross is content to let them have the last word. Thursday 28 December David Attenborough Credit: BBC Attenborough and the Empire of the Ants BBC Two, 9.30pm Back on dry land after Blue Planet II, David Attenborough travels to the Jura Mountains on the Swiss-French border to investigate the methods used by two different communities of wood ants to survive and thrive. One adopts a familiar strategy of territorial aggression, with a family dominated by a single queen and chemical warfare on rival communities conducted with liberal distribution of formic acid. The other appears to defy the rules of evolution as they are currently understood, forming a supercolony consisting of several communities cooperating for the greater good in a manner reminiscent of early man’s first steps to eventual supremacy. Queens, sentries and workers labour alongside each other in a manner which sounds far-fetched, but the cameras capture this extraordinary behaviour in mesmerising detail, from hunting to breeding to self-preservation.  The now-customary behind-the-scenes postscript sees Attenborough almost as amazed by the new technology that allows such access to nature (in this case, the “FrankenCam”) as by nature itself. It’s not Blue Planet II, but it’s the sort of fascinating deeper dive that Natural World does so well. Gabriel Tate Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 2017: The Language OF life BBC Four, 8.00pm Sophie Scott brings her series of lectures to an close with an examination of language and comprehension in the animal kingdom. Are we humans really as far advanced as we believe, or might primates and even birds be able to communicate with comparable sophistication? The Secret Life of 5 Year Olds On Holiday Channel 4, 8.30pm Familiar faces from the most recent series head to Cyprus to enjoy flying, swimming and local delicacies, while the professionals watch on and deliver their analyses of childhood behaviour. What Britain Bought in 2017 Channel 4, 9.00pm Mary Portas assesses whether this year has been as dismal as expected for high-street retailers, and examines a few unlikely trends: unicorns, gin and, she suggests, big knickers. Clint Eastwood: a Life in Film Sky Arts, 9.00pm Whether you love or loathe his hardline politics, few would dispute the astonishing consistency of Clint Eastwood’s work. For such a prolific actor and director, there are few duds on his CV and plenty of masterpieces, from Unforgiven to Once Upon a Time in the West. Made in 2007, the year of his ambitious wartime diptych Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima, this excellent programme finds Eastwood in good-humoured form as he talks Michael Henry Wilson through his 50-year career. GT Bruno Mars: Live in Harlem BBC One, 10.25pm; NI, 11.25pm Harlem’s Apollo Theatre launched the careers of James Brown, Ella Fitzgerald and Lauryn Hill, among many others. Bruno Mars pays tribute to the building’s history and rolls out the hits – Uptown Funk, Just the Way You Are et al – along with some dazzling choreography for a hard partying crowd. Romesh Ranganathan: Irrational Live BBC Two, 10.30pm Perhaps rivalled only by Katherine Ryan for small-screen ubiquity this year, Romesh Ranganathan has proved himself an accomplished stand-up comedian. This special, recorded at London’s Hammersmith Apollo in 2016, captures the comedian’s jaundiced but very funny musings on family life. GT The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! (2012) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 9.00am This claymation Aardman romp is a delight. The impasto of non-stop gags, comic detail and slapstick action should appeal to all the family. Hugh Grant plays the Pirate Captain, who needs more booty if he is to stand a chance of winning the title of Pirate of the Year. The plot takes in Darwin, the last dodo and Queen Victoria (voiced by Imelda Staunton). Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 (2017) ★★★★☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 11.00am and 8.00pm Marvel’s playful space sequel looks like an explosion in a nursery school craft cupboard – every scene comes caked in rainbows, glitter and gunge. The core crew returns, led by Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), but the story only really begins with the arrival of a benign and bearded mystic called Ego (Kurt Russell), who has big news for Peter about his earthly origins. Flight (2012) ★★★☆☆ Channel 5, 9.00pm Robert Zemeckis’s film, starring Denzel Washington as alcoholic commercial pilot Whip Whitaker, is a long, earnest, sporadically brilliant drama. On a routine hop from Florida to Atlanta, Whip’s plane starts to tumble out of the sky – a dramatic sequence that will turn nervous fliers’ stomachs – and the pilot must fight to save the lives of those on board. Dull in parts, this is nevertheless morally provocative. Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (2013) ★★★☆☆ BBC Two, 11.30pm Films based on sitcoms tend to play broader than the real series, and this cinema outing for Steve Coogan’s fading media gasbag is no exception. The plot has Alan held hostage at a radio station in Norfolk. Old friends, such as his assistant Lynn (Felicity Montagu), join in and viewers hoping for new catchphrases will be happy, but Partridge loses his Pooterish potency when moving from talk to action. Friday 29 December Bob Mortimer and Vic Reeves Credit: BBC Vic & Bob’s Big Night Out BBC Two, 9.00pm Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer return for this one-off Christmas edition of their sketch show, 27 years after it first aired as Vic Reeves Big Night Out. Fans will be pleased to hear that age has not dimmed the comedians’ energy – in this half-hour they bounce around the studio in the same vein as their younger selves, which gives the show a rapid-fire pace.  The pair’s chemistry is undeniable and they frequently make each other laugh, as well as a raucous studio audience. There is a sense that Reeves and Mortimer are now improvising much of their material, which may explain why some of the jokes here are a touch below par. But many of the sketches are excellent, such as their parody of Channel 4 dating show First Dates, in which they play jokey gay Yorkshiremen. In another, Vic sells wigs made of body parts.  Nostalgia comes in the form of a cameo from Matt Lucas, forever associated with his George Dawes character in Shooting Stars, and the revival of character Graham Lister (played by Bob) in the talent show parody sketch Novelty Island. This brief return reminds us that, with their corny jokes and surreal sense of humour, there’s nobody quite like Vic and Bob. Vicki Power Tim Vine Travels Through Time Christmas Special BBC One, 7.30pm Prepare for a barrage of seasonal puns as Tim Vine’s comedy show returns. Emma Bunton and Reverend Richard Coles join Vine on a jaunt to Tudor times. Eric & Ernie’s Home Movies BBC Two, 8.00pm Those ghosts of Christmas past, Morecambe and Wise, are revisited in this charming documentary showcasing the double act via some newly discovered home movies. Look out also for a repeat of Morecambe & Wise: Leading Ladies (BBC Two, 7.00pm) and Eric, Ernie & Me (BBC Four, 9.00pm), a drama exploring their relationship with writer Eddie Braben. Victoria Wood by her friends Channel 5, 9.00pm This tribute to the late comedian covers much the same ground, and includes some identical contributors, as BBC One’s Our Friend Victoria, but it’s still a treat to be reminded of Wood’s talents. Her 1997 stand-up show, Victoria Wood: Live 1997, follows.   Delicious Sky One, 9.00pm Sky dishes up a second series of this frothy Cornwall-set drama. Chef Gina (Dawn French) has now joined forces with Sam (Emilia Fox) to run the Penrose Hotel, as the man that they were both once married to, Leo (Iain Glen), narrates from beyond the grave. But it turns out tensions haven’t died with him, and their spats bring a pinch of spice to the drama. Tonight, Franco Nero arrives as Gina’s ne’er-do-well father to stir up trouble. Frankie Boyle’s 2017 New Year World Order BBC Two, 10.00pm; not NI This year’s absence of Charlie Brooker’s Wipe is mitigated somewhat by Frankie Boyle’s return for this end-of-year round-up. And certainly somebody needs to help make sense of this crazy year. VP Elvis: The Rebirth of the King BBC Four, 10.00pm This compelling film seeks to overturn the enduring image of Elvis Presley’s Vegas years as a tragic nadir of his career. It argues that Presley’s musical renaissance in a 1968 Christmas TV special saw the King reach new creative heights that he carried into his Vegas shows, before disillusionment and drugs took over. Fantastic archive footage and commentary from his former collaborators, including Elvis’s backing singers, make a convincing case. VP Up (2009) ★★★★★ BBC One, 2.25pm Possibly Pixar’s finest film, Up has a captivating story that realises the vividness of a childlike imagination. Only those with a heart of stone wouldn’t be moved by the story of Ed Asner (voiced by Carl Fredricksen), who tries to fulfil his dream of building a house next to Paradise Falls in South America. His odyssey brings him more than he bargained for, including a young, hyperactive Wilderness Explorer called Russell. Brave (2012) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 4.20pm The first of Pixar’s films to have a female protagonist won an Oscar and there’s a bewitching craftsmanship to its storytelling. It’s set in the Highlands during the feudal period. Kelly MacDonald plays the flame-haired Merida, who would rather ride her horse than play the role of simpering princess; unable to sway her mother (Emma Thompson), she seeks the help of a witch (Julie Walters). Gone Girl (2014) ★★★☆☆ BBC One, 9.15pm; N Ireland, 9.45pm Cold and controlled, yet fun, this drama, directed by David Fincher, is based on Gillian Flynn’s novel of the same name. Rosamund Pike is Amy Elliott-Dunne, who disappears one morning, much to the apparent surprise of her husband (Ben Affleck). The media sniff around and soon the couple’s secrets come to the surface. Darkly suspenseful at first, the story soon turns into blood-drenched self-parody. The Great Gatsby (2013) ★★★☆☆ BBC Two, 11.15pm Baz Luhrmann lays on a cinematic buffet of such sense-addling brazenness that it takes a while before you notice the film is finger-food and nothing more. Leonardo DiCaprio is Jay Gatsby, a newly minted millionaire, and Carey Mulligan is Daisy Buchanan, the lost love he longs to win back. On the rare occasions Luhrmann gives them space to act in the pulsating frenzy of his Jazz Age world, both do a wonderful job. Television previewers Toby Dantzic, Catherine Gee, Simon Horsford, Sarah Hughes, Clive Morgan, Gerard O'Donovan, Vicki Power, Patrick Smith, Gabriel Tate and Rachel Ward

What's on TV tonight: The League of Gentlemen returns and Mary Berry’s Christmas Party

Monday 18 December The League of Gentlemen BBC Two, 10.00pm This is undoubtedly one of the highlights of the festive season for comedy fans. The influential freak show sitcom set in the blighted fictional town of Royston Vasey returns for a three-part run to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its award-winning debut on Radio 4 (the transfer to TV didn’t occur until 1999).  Reviving once-popular comedy is a risky business – just look at the recent Porridge fiasco – but Mark Gatiss, Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton have gone on to bigger, if not always better, things in the intervening years and they return here as if they were never away. Still performing all the major characters on screen (with the group’s fourth member, Jeremy Dyson, sharing the writing duties) they update the stories and characters without losing the demonic humour of the original.  Most of the best characters make a reappearance – Tubbs and Edward, Barbra the trans taxi driver, Herr Lipp, Pauline Campbell-Jones and Mr Chinnery the vet – as Royston Vasey faces its greatest existential threat. Val Denton, meanwhile, sets the tone decisivelyin an opening scene memorable for all the wrong reasons. Gerard O’Donovan Father Brown BBC One, 1.45pm Mark Williams returns for a sixth series as GK Chesterton’s crime-fighting Catholic priest. It’s Christmas in Kembleford but when a dog makes a gruesome discovery in the woods, Father Brown sets out to reverse a terrible miscarriage of justice. Mary Berry’s Christmas Party BBC One, 8.30pm Tips, recipes and full-on merriment as the BBC’s queen of baking invites a handful of famous faces round for a Christmas party cook-in: Alex Jones shows off her rissoles, Darcey Bussell crafts a dance-inspired dessert, while Adil Ray handles the canapés. Plus there’s ginger glazed ham, white chocolate cherry brandy cake, and much more. The Art That Made Mexico: Paradise, Power and Prayers BBC Four, 9.00pm Artist Alinka Echeverria concludes her series by exploring the influence of faith on Mexican culture and how the conquistadors’ Catholic notions of venerating the divine through art found fertile ground thanks to earlier Mayan beliefs. Birds of a Feather Christmas special ITV, 9.00pm Marks and Gran’s long-running sitcom creaks back for another festive special, with Tracey’s (Linda Robson) Yuletide plans upsetting both Sharon (Pauline Quirke) and Dorien (Lesley Joseph). Abba: When All Is Said and Done Channel 5, 9.00pm An Abba double whammy starts with this docudrama exploring the very different stories of the Swedish supergroup’s singers Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad through their own words. Abba: Live in Concert follows at 11.05pm, recorded at the group’s peak in 1979. GO Andre Rieu: Christmas In London 2016 Sky Arts, 9.00pm Rieu entertains with everything festive from Jingle Bells to White Christmas and O Holy Night, bringing his infectious blend of glitter, frills and massed violin strings to boost the seasonal mood. Private Lives of The Monarchs Yesterday, 9.00pm There’s more to Henry VIII than the image of a roistering glutton whose obsession with siring a male heir led to England’s break with Catholicism. So says historian Tracy Borman, painting a picture of a thoughtful young king driven to tyranny by personal demons. GO Carry On Cleo (1964) ★★★☆☆ Channel 4, 12.20pm “Infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it in for me!” So says Kenneth Williams’s waspish Caesar in this, one of the best in the long-running series of cheap and cheerful comedies. Set in ancient Rome, it’s hardly Shakespeare but at least the gags come thick and fast. Watch out for an early appearance from Coronation Street’s Amanda Barrie as a doe-eyed Cleopatra, up to her ears in ass’s milk and political intrigue. First Blood (1982) ★★★★☆ ITV4, 9.00pm Based on David Morrell’s novel, this is the first and best of the Rambo action-movie franchise – it’s more sensitive than the sequels. Sylvester Stallone has become synonymous with Rambo, a maladjusted ex-Green Beret who, after having some Vietnam flashbacks, goes on a one-man war against a crooked small-town sheriff (Brian Dennehy). It’s pacy and raw with a moving climax. Part II is on Tuesday. The Woman in Black (2012) ★★★★☆ Channel 4, 12.10am Thanks to its almost hyper-Edwardian setting and some canny plot alterations, this feels less like a remake of Susan Hill’s ghost story than a new reading of an old tale, trembling with freshly terrifying resonances. Daniel Radcliffe gives a grown-up performance, while director James Watkins uses shadows and empty spaces to create a percolating sense of dread. Tuesday 19 December Faye Marsey as Sarah Credit: Channel 4 Shamed Channel 4, 9.00pm It’s not the most Christmassy of fare but Anthony Philipson’s (My Mad Fat Diary) dark, theatrical one-off drama is worth checking out. Featuring an intense central performance from Faye Marsay (who seems to be everywhere right now, with Bancroft last week and the BBC thriller McMafia to come), Shamed tells the story of 27-year-old Sarah, who suddenly decides to kidnap and imprison two apparently unconnected men: the seemingly perfect just-about-to-get-married Nathan (Nick Blood) and cocky player Mani (Ryan McKen). Both claim never to have met each other or Sarah before. However there’s a method behind her madness, and one which, when revealed, opens up wider questions about how different events can resonate in different ways. Philipson’s tight script keeps you guessing about the connection until near the end before spilling out into violence and debates about the difference between guilt and shame.  It’s not perfect – Mani is underwritten and the rushed ending is a little forced – but Shamed makes some thoughtful points about our attitudes toward sex and the way in which certain people can stride through life without acknowledging the damage they trail behind. Sarah Hughes The Royal Variety Performance 2017 ITV, 7.30pm Miranda Hart hosts this year’s Royal Variety Performance, attended by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, with guests ranging from the obvious (Michael Ball, Alfie Boe) to the incongruous (Kelsey Grammer, Seal). Jamie’s Italian Christmas Channel 4, 8.00pm Another week, another Christmas cookery show. Our chef tonight is the ubiquitous Jamie Oliver who has holed up in a log cabin with his mentor Gennaro Contaldo and hopes to teach us to give the traditional British Christmas an Italian twist. U2 at the BBC BBC One, 9.00pm The Irish band continue their quest for world domination with this film centred on new album Songs of Experience. The action takes place at Abbey Road Studios, where they perform some of their biggest hits and squeeze in a quick chat with Cat Deeley.    Invasion! With Sam Willis BBC Four, 9.00pm The final part of this engaging series sees historian Sam Willis examine one of the more unusual military ideas in history: Napoleon’s plan to use a fleet of balloons as part of his invasion plans during the War of the Third Coalition. The French first crossed the English Channel by hot air balloon in 1785 and Napoleon appointed aeronaut Sophie Blanchard as air service chief to carry out the idea. The plans ultimately came to nothing, but that didn’t stop stories and caricatures of balloons carrying arms, men and even horses spreading through the media.  The First Silent Night Yesterday, 9.00pm The mournful Silent Night is one of the world’s most beloved carols, and was declared an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2011. This film follows actor Simon Callow as he heads to the Austrian village of Oberndorf to uncover its origins before considering why this carol above all others resonates so strongly. SH Extraordinary Teens: Young, Gifted and Broke Channel 4, 10.00pm Pianist and composer Shane Thomas hit the headlines aged only 10 when his precocious talent saw him hailed as the British Mozart. Seven years later his career has stalled. What emerges is a depressing but well-told story of ambition tampered by poverty and a system in which privilege and connections count as much, if not more than raw talent. SH Sword of Sherwood Forest (1960) ★★★☆☆ Film4, 5.05pm Terence Fisher teamed up with Hammer Films for this child-friendly spin-off from The Adventures of Robin Hood TV series, with Richard Greene, who reprises his role here. Peter Cushing stars as the dastardly Sheriff of Nottingham out to murder the Archbishop of Canterbury. It’s a cheap and cheerful affair that remains true to the spirit of the original. Smurfs: The Lost Village (2017) ★★☆☆☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 6.15pm The third of the big-screen outings for The Smurfs is a trippy treat for under-eights, for everyone else the blues. This Smurfs contains double the number of Smurfs ever previously seen, thanks to the discovery of an all-female enclave somewhere deep in the woods. Demi Lovato, Mandy Patinkin, Michelle Rodriguez and Julia Roberts are among those lending their voices. Carol (2015) ★★★★★ Film4, 9.00pm Todd Haynes’s adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 novel is gorgeous, gently groundbreaking, and quite possibly be the saddest thing that you’ll ever see. It tells the story of a photographer (Rooney Mara) who has a relationship with an older woman (Cate Blanchett) in New York. Haynes’ film concludes that love is the riskiest but most necessary gamble. Wednesday 20 December Dame Judi Dench Credit: BBC Judi Dench: My Passion for Trees BBC One, 8.00pm When this one-off documentary was announced, some predictably invoked Alan Partridge’s hapless pitch of Youth Hostelling with Chris Eubank. Certainly, it’s hard to imagine many other celebrities managing to get this made, and even harder to imagine any who could have made it so watchable. A look of astonished delight is plastered over Dame Judi’s face throughout the hour, as she makes all manner of unexpected discoveries about the trees that she loves. There is also a rare peek into her personal life and relationship with her “chap”, David Mills. This may lack the forensic camerawork and high-spec CGI of most BBC nature documentaries, but there are rewarding revelations amid the occasional dose of Botany 101. “I think of my trees as part of my extended family,” says Dench – not the absurd piece of sentimentality you might suspect, as she plants a tree in her back garden for each friend or relative who has died. And trees, it transpires, are also remarkably sociable in their way, an arboreal community connected by spidery threads of fungus and able to call for help if under attack by aphids. Charming and subtly educational. Gabriel Tate What Makes You Tic? BBC Three, from 10.00am Vlogger Lewis “QBall” Nickell aims to conquer his Tourette’s Syndrome and launch a career as a talk-show host, meeting The Vamps and Girls Aloud alumna Nadine Coyle as part of his efforts to raise awareness. Carabao Cup: Bristol City v Manchester United Sky Sports Main Event, 7.30pm We’re at Ashton Gate for this quarter-final clash, as the Robins look to produce and upset against holders Manchester United. The hosts have already claimed two Premier League scalps in Watford and Stoke City, but United are clear favourites here.  The Real Marigold on Tour BBC One, 9.00pm When you see the lives the Marigold pensioners are leading who wouldn’t be envious? This week, Sheila Ferguson, Rustie Lee, Paul Nicholas and Dennis Taylor head to Iceland. There, they go whale watching in the fishing village of Hausavik, and try aqua aerobics and gymnastics in Reykjavik. Elsewhere, Sheila goes on a date with an Icelandic man. Peaky Blinders BBC Two, 9.00pm Perhaps the best series yet comes to a punishing climax with the night of the big fight and yet another reckoning for the Shelbys, this time courtesy of Changretta (Adrien Brody) and once-trusted allies. A Night for the Emergency Services ITV, 9.00pm Presenting a sort of 999’s Got Talent, Ashley Banjo and Diversity introduce a showcase for the firefighters, police and hospital workers who demonstrate skills far beyond their professional capabilities. These include magicians, dancers and a Michael Bublé impersonator, along with appearances from a few special guests. Taskmaster Champion of Champions  Dave, 9.00pm One of the funniest series on TV comes to a spectacular climax as the ultimate Taskmaster champion is crowned, with previous winners Josh Widdicombe, Katherine Ryan, Noel Fielding, Rob Beckett and Bob Mortimer all in the running. Dian Fossey: Secrets in the Mist  National Geographic, 9.00pm After a lifetime of conservation work and, campaigning against poaching, primatologist Dian Fossey was killed in her Rwandan cabin in 1985 – a crime that remains unsolved. The final part of this gripping series examines possible motives. GT Male Rape: Breaking the Silence BBC One, 10.45pm; Scot & Wales, 11.10pm; NI, 11.40pm First shown on BBC Three, this grim but necessary film hears from three men who are among the estimated one-in-six to have been victims of rape. GT Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) ★★★★★ BBC One, 1.45pm Steven Spielberg’s rollicking adventure film, with a very scary end, won four Oscars and created a new action hero in Dr Henry “Indiana” Jones (Harrison Ford). Jones is an archaeologist hired by the US government in 1936 to seek out the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis find it. The ensuing events provide a rollercoaster of thrills. The Temple of Doom and The Last Crusade follow over the next two night. Chicken Run (2000) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 3.35pm Aardman Animations, the studio behind many of Nick Park’s triumphs, conjures up another stop-motion corker that fairly swarms with clever little jokes and details. Our heroes here are a group of jauntily anthropomorphic chickens; they’re plotting their escape to freedom from the tyrannical Mr and Mrs Tweedy, who run the farm on which they live. The voice cast boasts Julia Sawalha, Jane Horrocks and Mel Gibson. The Phantom of the Opera (2004) ★★★☆☆ Sky Arts, 9.00pm Impressed by his use of music in The Lost Boys, Andrew Lloyd Webber hired director Joel Schumacher to bring his hit musical, the longest-running Broadway show in history, about a disfigured genius who lives hidden in the Paris Opera House and who develops a crush on a chorus girl, to the big screen. The score has all the faux-gothic pomp required, but Gerard Butler’s Phantom fails to spook. Thursday 21 December Darcey Bussell Credit: BBC Darcey Bussell: Looking for Fred Astaire BBC One, 10.45pm One dance star explores another in this unpretentious profile of Fred Astaire. Darcey Bussell traces Astaire’s journey from his hometown in Nebraska to New York, London and Los Angeles to examine his ascent to film stardom, achieved after nearly three decades as a professional dancer. She puts forward that he owed much of his success to three women – his mother, his sister and dancing partner Adele, and his first wife Phyllis – but wisely doesn’t labour the point.  Bussell peruses memorabilia and film footage – there’s a delightful clip of Astaire dancing with his long-time collaborator, Hermes Pan – and discusses with historians Astaire’s early life, work ethic and personality clash with Ginger Rogers. The commentary doesn’t uncover much that an Astaire fan wouldn’t already know, but Bussell is an enthusiastic guide and the clips are terrific. Strictly professionals Aljaz Skorjanec and Janette Manrara are touring a successful stage show called Remembering Fred – this film also reminds us of Astaire’s immeasurable contribution to dance, though it wouldn’t harm for it to air at an hour more suited to the ballroom dance-loving demographic. Vicki Power MasterChef: The Professionals: The Finals BBC Two, 8.00pm It’s ladles at dawn for the three finalists as they tackle their last challenge. They’ll cook a three-course meal in three hours for the formidable judging trio of Wareing, Galetti and Wallace, who’ll then choose their champ. Joanna & Jennifer: Absolutely Champers BBC Two, 9.00pm On the flimsy premise of celebrating 25 years since the birth of Absolutely Fabulous, Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley take a fizz-fuelled jolly to France to tour vineyards. They neck vats of bubbly in a travelogue as meandering as Patsy’s gait after an evening spent swigging Bolly. Gordon, Gino and Fred’s Great Christmas Roast ITV, 9.00pm It’s Celtic vigour versus Italian passion in this feelgood cookery special. TV chefs Gordon Ramsay and Gino D’Acampo compete, with a team of celebrity helpers, to create the best Christmas banquet for 100 emergency services workers. First Dates’ maître d’ Fred Sirieux presents. Donny Osmond’s Easy Listening Christmas Channel 5, 9.00pm This Val Doonican-style one-off sees Donny Osmond counting down his 25 favourite festive songs, exploring their geneses and comparing classic renditions to cover versions. VP The Tunnel: Vengeance Sky Atlantic, 9.00pm The symbiosis between Anglo-French cop partners Karl and Elise (Stephen Dillane and Clémence Poésy) in this murder mystery shows us a cheering flipside to Brexit. Their touching, humorous relationship is affecting, even if the series overall lacks the Scandinavian-style eeriness of The Bridge, on which it’s based. Here, the cross-channel cops make a breakthrough in the search for the missing children. The Galaxy Britain Built: Droids, Darth Vader and Lightsaber/Hollywood’s Master of Myth BBC Four, 10.00pm and 11.00pm In celebration of the release of The Last Jedi, these documentaries look at the ingredients that helped shape the Star Wars phenomenon. The first focuses on the film crew who created George Lucas’s fictional galaxy. The second, from 1999, explores the work of US academic Joseph Campbell, whom Lucas has credited with inspiring his plot. VP The Dark Crystal (1982) ★★★☆☆ Film4, 1.05pm Muppets creator Jim Henson stepped out from the comfort of children’s TV to make this dark fantasy tale about a pair of creatures who must find a missing shard of crystal in order to defeat the evil Skeksis. The superbly designed puppets and sets add a surreal quality but it lacks the sense of humour which made Labyrinth, Henson’s next cinema release, so popular. Frank Oz, fellow puppeteer and the voice of Yoda, co-directs. Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 3.35pm Nick Park’s plucky Plasticine pair set about rescuing a village whose annual vegetable competition is in jeopardy because of rabbits eating up the contents of everyone’s gardens. But their bunny brainwashing goes wrong and they accidentally create a mutant rabbit. Beautifully shot, charming, and very silly, it deservedly won the Oscar for Best Animation. Candyman (1992) ★★★★☆ Film4, 11.15pm Virginia Madsen does powerhouse work as a student of folklore lured into fascination with a hook-handed killer who appears when you say his name five times in front of a mirror. She ignores all warnings but is soon blamed for his crimes when a series of horrible murders begin. Majestic direction from Bernard Rose transforms this into a resoundingly epic and gory fable. Friday 22 December Bruno Tonioli  Credit: BBC Saturday Night Fever: The Ultimate Disco Movie BBC Two, 9.00pm Long before he became a household name as a Strictly Come Dancing judge, Bruno Tonioli had a successful career as a choreographer to the stars, arranging dance for music videos, stage shows and tours for Tina Turner, Sting, Elton John and many others. Here he looks back 40 years to when he was a young dancer in New York and got caught up in the global phenomenon that was Saturday Night Fever.  It’s a great story, told with typical Tonioli verve, of how a low-budget film starring the then unknown John Travolta and using the music of a failing band of high-pitched popsters, the Bee Gees, became one of the biggest box office draws of all time and gave half the world “disco fever”. It also shows how – to give credit where it is due – much of its success was down to the visionary genius and unstoppable determination of the Bee Gees’ manager, the late Robert Stigwood, impresario behind some of the most popular stars, and hit stage and film musicals (Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, Grease, Bugsy Malone) of the Seventies. Contributors include Travolta. Gerard O’Donovan The Toys That Made Us Netflix, from today Toys of the Eighties are the focus of this series taking an in-depth look at the nostalgia and collecting fervour that surrounds eight of the biggest selling toy brands of that decade: Transformers, Stars Wars, He-Man, GI Joe, Barbie, Star Trek, Hello Kitty and Lego. Premier League Football: Arsenal v Liverpool Sky Sports Main Event, 7.00pm Action from the Emirates Stadium, as Arsenal  look to avenge a 4-0 defeat in August, when Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, Mo Salah and Daniel Sturridge all found the net for Liverpool. TOTP4 Christmas 2017 BBC Four, 7.30pm Get into the Christmas party spirit with Mark Radcliffe’s countdown of classic festive hits from Top of the Pops’s glitter-spattered archive, with The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl, Wizzard, Slade, The Darkness and Ed Sheeran among the acts featured. Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast Christmas Special Channel 4, 8.00pm Jamie Oliver and Jimmy Doherty welcome actress Liv Tyler to the pier café to make her favourite takeaway, pork dim sum. Oliver also whips up a cracking kedgeree, and Doherty builds a home-made wood-fired oven. Al Murray’s Make Christmas Great Again ITV, 9.00pm Al Murray’s gloriously unreconstructed pub landlord invites an audience to a lock-in at the Reindeer’s Head where he bends ears on such matters as how Christmas is losing its Britishness while whipping up anti-PC seasonal singalongs and remonstrating with celebrity guests. George Michael to Tom Petty: a Tribute Sky Arts, 9.00pm Chuck Berry, Fats Domino and David Cassidy are just some of the musicians and performers who, along with George Michael and Tom Petty, we lost in the past 12 months – as affectionately remembered in this 90-minute tribute. GO Les Dawson: In His Own Words Channel 5, 10.00pm Comedians didn’t come more old school than Les Dawson, with his bluff Northern style, rubber face and mother-in-law jokes. But he was one of the most original comedians of his generation, as proved by this terrific documentary that raids the archives for his funniest work. The Graham Norton Show BBC One, 10.40pm Grahm Norton’s line-up offers a good mix of interest: Hollywood star Will Smith, Victoria’s Jenna Coleman, chef Jamie Oliver and former Keane frontman Tom Chaplin. GO Bright (2017) Netflix, from today This Netflix Original – a $100 million special-effects blockbuster from David Ayer, director of Suicide Squad – sounds like a mash-up of Lethal Weapon and Lord of the Rings. In an alternate Los Angeles where elves and witches walk the streets, Will Smith’s tough NYPD officer finds himself partnered with an orc (Joel Edgerton). Considering its hefty price tag and star-studded soundtrack (Migos, Rag’n’Bone Man, Camila Cabello), this could be Netflix’s biggest mistake yet Puss in Boots (2011) ★★☆☆☆ BBC One, 3.40pm DreamWorks Animation’s Shrek spin-off follows Puss in Boots’s life before he became the green ogre’s sidekick. With the help of Kitty Softpaws (voiced by Salma Hayek) and Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis), the swashbuckling feline (Antonio Banderas) becomes a hero after saving his town. Like the CGI ogre’s last two films, Shrek the Third and Shrek Forever After, the animation is more impressive than the jokes. Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001) ★★★★☆ ITV, 10.40pm American actress Renée Zellweger perfects her English accent to play the Chardonnay-swigging, chain-smoking, lovelorn Bridget in this adaptation of Helen Fielding’s novel, which remains a solid favourite. Love interests Hugh Grant and Colin Firth are excellent as her roguish boss Daniel Cleaver and the stuffy-but-handsome (even in a Christmas jumper) lawyer Mark Darcy. Saturday 23 December A Christmas Tree in Manger Square, Bethlehem Credit: Channel 4 The World’s Best Christmas Lights: From Liverpool to Bethlehem Channel 4, 8.00pm It is amazing what you can build a successful, multi-million-pound, internationally renowned business from. Liverpool-based company The Christmas Decorators specialise in the commercial design and installation of large-scale Christmas lights and decorations – the kind you see in every shop, street and town square. This entertaining film, one of the more offbeat of the season, follows a rather surprising commission: to install the lights and decorations at what many might consider the birthplace of Christmas – Manger Square in Bethlehem. In fact, they’ve been doing it every year since 2012, bringing every single bulb and bauble with them from their warehouse in the UK.  It’s a huge logistical effort, which is also a possibly tricky one, if customs or security in, say, Istanbul take exception to the Bethlehem-bound consignment as it passes through. Director of operations GED Comerford leads the four-person installation team on the trek from Liverpool. It’s fraught with hitches and glitches – even a home-baked Christmas cake is regarded with suspicion by local security – but all the more entertaining for that. Gerard O’Donovan Smashie’s Xmastastic Playlist Christmas Gold, 4.00pm Getting the Christmas party off to an early start from his fab-tastic hideaway at Radio Hush, The Fast Show’s Mike Smash (Paul Whitehouse) brings his off-kilter pop-DJ insights to an hour of festive hits from Wizzard to Johnny Mathis via McCartney, Dylan and Springsteen.  Elf: The Musical Channel 5, 5.00pm There’s seasonal song, dance and fun in the stage musical version of Will Ferrell’s much-loved comedy from the Lowry Theatre in Salford. Ben Forster, who won ITV’s Superstar talent search in 2012, leads the cast as Buddy, a human orphan who was raised by Santa’s elves in the North Pole and returns to New York in search of his family. Michael Buble’s Christmas in New York Sky Arts, 5.00pm At the Radio City Music Hall the crooner sings a selection of seasonal classics, along with a sparkling line-up of special guests including Barbra Streisand, Ariana Grande and The Muppets’ Miss Piggy. It is repeated on Sky One at 12.15am. Pointless Celebrities Christmas Special BBC One, 6.15pm Some of the contestants in this festive edition of the quiz could themselves be pointless answers in a round on Christmas hits. Jona Lewie, Jimmy Osmond and Ben Haenow are among those answering Alexander Armstrong questions. Blind Date Christmas Special Channel 5, 8.00pm There’s a fairy-tale spin to this edition of Paul O’Grady’s matchmaking show, as a Prince Charming has to choose between fellow panto actors Cinderella, Snow White and Tinkerbell. It’s Christmas Live from the Royal Albert Hall Sky One, 8.00pm The Royal Albert Hall is transformed to a rock ’n’ roll winter wonderland as Jason Manford introduces performances by Holly Johnson, Marc Almond, Chrissie Hynde and Shakin’ Stevens, among many others. GO Feud: Bette and Joan BBC Two, from 9.00pm; NI, from 9.30pm Ryan Murphy’s stylish and scathingly catty dramatisation of the Hollywood feud between Bette Davis (Susan Sarandon) and Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange) reaches the moment that the actresses’ mutual loathing went off the scale – while working on the 1962 classic What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (which follows). GO Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001) ★★★☆☆ ITV, 1.35pm  From today to New Year’s Day, ITV are screening all of the Harry Potter films – one film a day, except on Boxing Day. This first adaptation of J K Rowling’s novel was, for a while, the second highest-grossing film ever. Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint are endearing (and very young) in the lead roles but the film lacks the original book’s compulsiveness. Frozen (2013) ★★★★★ BBC One, 2.50pm Disney’s 53rd feature is an enchanting combination of fairy-tale derring-do and heart-popping musical numbers that has left children and adults powerless to its charms. Elsa (Idina Menzel) is a shy princess driven into exile when her magical powers are discovered. Her sister Anna (Kristen Bell) gallops off to fetch her from her beautiful ice palace. Spin-off Olaf’s Frozen Adventure is on Christmas Day. Bill (2015) ★★★★☆ BBC Two, 6.00pm Intelligent children and immature adults will love this mock-biopic from the Horrible Histories troupe that follows the young William Shakespeare (Mathew Baynton) as he ascends from quill-scraping zero to literary hero. Some of the best moments (a running joke about false moustaches is one) are full-bloodedly Pythonesque, although occasionally a kind of student-revue smarminess creeps in. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962, b/w) ★★★★★ BBC Two, 10.35pm; not N Ireland Robert Aldrich’s classic slice of American Grotesque, starring two of cinema’s greatest screen divas, started a trend for casting ageing actresses in campy Gothic horror movies. Joan Crawford and Bette Davis play reclusive sisters locked in an abusive relationship in their crumbling Hollywood mansion.  Christmas Eve Sue Perkins, Mary Berry and Mel Giedroyc Credit: BBC Mary, Mel and Sue’s Big Christmas Thank You BBC One, 7.00pm Anyone looking for some extra festive cheer should look no further than this exuberant Christmas special which sees former Great British Bake-Off stars Mary Berry, Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc join forces to help out at a community centre in the Rhondda Valley in Wales.  Initially, it seems as though this is one of those rather forced shows in which celebrities dispense good cheer and bad jokes, but an emotional story of community spirit in the face of despair swiftly emerges. “We’ve lost our library, our butchers, both banks have closed and there’s no school,” states Elizabeth “Buffy” Williams. Working with her friend Lynne, Buffy has attempted to combat that by opening a community centre offering meals, bingo and after-school classes. Now they want to throw a special Christmas meal for the whole community but it’s tough: the kitchen is small, money is tight and Lynne freely admits that she hates cooking. Enter the indomitable Mrs Berry, who rolls up her sleeves, corrals Daffyd, a 16-year-old with a GCSE in catering, into becoming her sous chef and helps Lynne tackle her phobia. The final celebration should bring a tear to even the most cynical of eyes. Sarah Hughes Premiership Rugby Union: Leicester Tigers v Saracens BT Sport 1, 2.30pm Below-par this season, Leicester will be hoping a win here at Welford Park against third-placed Saracens will give them fresh momentum going into the new year.  Countryfile BBC One, 6.00pm The team head to the Peak District for this special which sees John Craven exploring Longshaw Estate, Anita Rani experiencing a Nativity play with a difference and Matt Baker venturing into Peak Cavern for a carol concert.  Christmas University Challenge 2017 BBC Two, 8.00pm; Scotland, 5.45pm There’s something addictive about the University Challenge’s specials, possibly because they allow us to see celebrities in a new light. The opener sees a team from Durham University, including actor Nick Mohammed, take on a Keble College side featuring Katy Brand. Child Genius vs Celebrities Christmas Special Channel 4, 8.00pm Richard Osman is our host for this Christmas special, which sees past child geniuses take on, among others, Catastrophe star Rob Delaney and broadcaster Janet Street Porter. Will youth or experience win out?  Michael McIntyre’s Big Christmas Show BBC One, 8.30pm The comedian returns for a festive edition in which Alesha Dixon risks social disaster by handing over her phone in Celebrity Send-to-All, plus there’s stand-up from Bill Bailey and music from Seal.  Maigret in Montmartre ITV, 8.30pm Critics haven’t always been kind to ITV’s reboot of Georges Simenon’s Maigret featuring Rowan Atkinson. Yet there’s actually a lot to like here. Atkinson underplays the role nicely, the plots are serviceable and the whole thing is entertaining if undemanding fare. This episode sees Maigret drawn in to the murder of a showgirl. SH M R James evening BBC Four, from 9.00pm Shut the doors, draw the curtains and prepare to be thoroughly spooked as BBC Four dedicates an evening to ghost writer supreme M R James. First up, long-time James fan Mark Gatiss looks at how this diffident Anglican bachelor created stories that still send a tingle down the spine a century after they were written. It’s followed at 10pm by two adaptations of James’s work: The Tractate Middoth, a chilling story about vengeance from beyond the grave, starring Sacha Dhawan and John Castle, and No 13, featuring Greg Wise as an academic who uncovers more than he bargains for in a small medieval town. Billy Elliot: the Musical Sky Arts, 9.00pm Anyone who hasn’t managed to catch Stephen Daldry’s big-hearted musical take on his film about a miner’s son who just wants to dance can find out what all the fuss is about with this performance from 2014 starring Ruthie Henshall and Elliott Hanna. SH Gone with the Wind (1939) ★★★★★ Channel 5, 9.20am Hollywood’s highest-grossing movie until The Sound of Music in 1966, this was the film for which the word “epic” was invented. Vivien Leigh became a star as Scarlett O’Hara, the spoilt Southern belle whose life is turned upside down by the US Civil War. Clark Gable and Leslie Howard are her lovers. It’s brash and self-indulgent, but frankly we don’t give a damn. The Lego Batman Movie (2017) ★★★★☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 1.25pm and 7.00pm Don’t tell Ben Affleck – who plays Actual Batman – but the actor has been made surplus to requirements by one and a half inches of moulded plastic. Lego Batman’s debut solo feature, spun off from a cameo in The Lego Movie, is frantically and relentlessly funny as a new police commissioner (Rosario Dawson) threatens to make the Caped Crusader redundant. Guys and Dolls (1955) ★★★★☆ BBC Two, 3.20pm The 1955 film adaptation of the Broadway classic holds up rather well. The stellar casting certainly helps: Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra in one film – as the rival New York gamblers (and gangsters) Sky Masterson and Nathan Detroit, who place a bet on compromising the virtue of a pious Salvation Army woman, Sarah Brown (played by Jean Simmons). The musical numbers are still a delight. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) ★★★★★ Channel 4, 6.30pm Tiny Tim is a small green frog, Mrs Cratchit is a bad-tempered pig and Charles Dickens himself is portrayed by Gonzo, enormous blue nose and all. And yet, there are few better, or more affecting versions of A Christmas Carol than this musical adaptation. Michael Caine is ideal as the miserly Scrooge, the laughs are aplenty and the finale is as rousing as they come. Christmas Day Peter Capaldi and David Bradley Credit: BBC Doctor Who BBC One, 5.30pm While it’s not unusual for Doctor Who to begin with a “Previously…”, this one takes things all the way back to William Hartnell’s First Doctor, having faced the Cybermen at the South Pole and refused to regenerate. After necessarily metamorphosing into David Bradley (who played Hartnell in Mark Gatiss’s docudrama An Adventure in Space and Time), he duly encounters Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor, in a similar fix. Throw in Mark Gatiss’s doomed British army captain, transported from the Western Front at the moment of death with stiff upper lip wobbling, a mysterious glass woman (Nikki Amuka-Bird) with the power to freeze time, the return of Bill (Pearl Mackie) and a few other surprises, and you have another of Steven Moffat’s self-imposed riddles to unravel. Given that this is Moffat’s own last stand, and with Jodie Whitaker due to make her bow at the end of the episode, you might anticipate a tsunami of self-indulgence and sentimentality, but no. Capaldi and Mackie’s snappy, affectionate chemistry precludes such easy options, Gatiss is restrained and funny and Moffat’s musing on war and peace is enough to bear the wit and self-referentiality. A dignified farewell. Gabriel Tate The Highway Rat BBC One, 4.45pm Rob Brydon narrates and David Tennant voices the eponymous anti-hero in another enchanting adaptation of a Julia Donaldson/Axel Scheffler picture book, this time depicting the comeuppance for a selfish, swashbuckling rat and his long-suffering steed.. The Royal Opera: Puccini’s La Boheme BBC Four, 7.00pm Clemency Burton-Hill introduces Richard Jones’s production of Puccini’s tale of love and loss among bohemians in 19th-century Paris, conducted by Antonio Pappano and starring tenor Michael Fabiano and soprano Nicole Car as star-crossed lovers Rodolfo and Mimi. Jones’s production has a wintry charm that should see it sit very comfortably in today’s schedules.  Olaf’s Frozen Adventure Sky Cinema Premiere/On Demand, 7.30pm Perhaps better suited to television after a brief run in cinemas that saw parents complaining about it delaying screenings of Coco, this Frozen spin-off finds the cheerful snowman Olaf (voiced by Josh Gad) joining his reindeer, Sven, on a mission for their royal highnesses Elsa (Idina Menzel) and Anna (Kristen Bell) who are desperate to create their own Christmas tradition. Expect four catchy new songs to be ringing around your head. GT  Call the Midwife BBC One, 7.40pm Call the Midwife pulls out all the stops for this astoundingly gloomy affair as a Boxing Day freeze descends, stranding Valerie (Jennifer Kirby) in a caravan for an ad hoc delivery and accounting for a popular old timer with a very dark secret. The Great Christmas bake off Channel 4, 7.40pm Val and Selasi from last year, Paul Jagger (he of 2015’s bread lion) and Welsh Beca, a 2013 semi-finalist, return to compete for Star Baker, introduced and judged by the new Fab Four. There’s more of the same on New Year’s Day. Victoria ITV, 9.00pm The Queen (Jenna Coleman) is pregnant again and missing her governess, leaving Albert (Tom Hughes) in the unlikely role of Christmas merrymaker-in-chief. It’s a festive special by numbers, but affecting and easy on the eye. Ashes Cricket: Australia v England BT Sport 1, 10.30pm It’s been a fraught series, on and off the field, for England, with their players’ professionalism frequently called into question. This signals the start of the fourth Test, played at Melbourne Cricket Ground. Can Joe Root’s beleaguered side salvage some dignity? Or will the Aussies continue to have a field day? 300 Years of French & Saunders BBC One, 10.35pm Unseen footage, much-loved sketches and of course Lulu feature in this one-off, which sees the duo back together on TV for the first time in a decade. The new material is intermittently inspired and vigorously performed, with The Handmaid’s Tale, the Kardashians and Poldark all subjected to their attentions. GT Singin’ in the Rain (1952) ★★★★★ Channel 5, 1.05pm There are few movie scenes more memorable than Gene Kelly’s rain-soaked Singin’ in the Rain sequence, or many more jaw-dropping than Donald O’Connor’s walk up the wall. But more than song and dance, this film contains real satire as it recounts the introduction of the “talkie” and the superficial nature of the US film industry. Debbie Reynolds (who died a year ago, one day after daughter Carrie Fisher) co-stars as the Hollywood ingénue. Cinderella (2015) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 3.10pm Kenneth Branagh’s twinkling, live-action Cinderella sticks doggedly to Disney’s 1950 animated version (Cinders’s rodent companions are present) and favours sparkle over wit. However, Cate Blanchett is marvellous as the Wicked Stepmother and Helena Bonham Carter makes a jolly good Fairy Godmother. Princess-obsessed little girls will find it irresistible and the costumes are stunning. Oliver! (1968) ★★★★☆ Channel 5, 3.10pm Carol Reed, who had previously directed The Third Man, won an Oscar for his superior version of Lionel Bart’s musical of the classic Charles Dickens tale (Reed’s only ever attempt at the musical genre). Eight-year-old Mark Lester is sweet as Oliver Twist but it was Ron Moody as Fagin who received the Oscar nod. Reed’s nephew, another Oliver, is a brooding and brutal Bill Sikes and still has the potential to shock. Dumbo (1941) ★★★★★ Channel 4. 4.30pm It may be one of Disney’s shortest animated films, but it is also one of its most loved. Baby elephant Dumbo is born with unfeasibly large ears, is separated from his mother and becomes ostracised by his fellow circus animals. It is only when Timothy Mouse encourages Dumbo to make the most of his ears that he discovers he can fly. This remains an undisputed masterpiece from Disney’s golden age of animation. Boxing Day Willa Fitzgerald, Kathryn Newton, Maya Hawke and Annes Elwy Credit: BBC Little Women BBC One, 8.00pm One suspects that this beautiful adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s much-loved coming-of-age novel (published in 1868) was due a less prominent airing until the BBC had to shelve its flagship festive Agatha Christie adaptation Ordeal by Innocence due to sexual assault allegations against one of the stars. That seems no great loss now, as this sparkling gem of a drama – scripted by Call the Midwife creator Heidi Thomas – more than deserves a Boxing Day prime-time slot.  Told in three parts, it follows the lives of the March sisters – Jo (Maya Hawke), Meg (Willa Fitzgerald), Beth (Annes Elwy), and Amy (Kathryn Newton) – as they progress from adolescence to adulthood under the protective eye of their mother, Marmee (Emily Watson), while their father is away in the American Civil War.  As life-affirming a tale as you could want this time of year, it’s full of high spirits and loving kindness. There are nice cameo performances by Michael Gambon and Angela Lansbury, but in the opening part, the acting laurels go to Hawke for her spot-on portrayal of tomboyish proto-feminist Jo, and Jonah Hauer-King, as boy next door Laurie Laurence. Gerard O’Donovan Todd Barry: Spicy Honey Netflix, from today Stand-up Todd Barry is best known in the US for his bone-dry wit. Anyone seeking relief from the festive season’s more saccharine shows will be sure to find it in this one-off recording from his latest tour. Premier League Football: Tottenham Hotspur v Southampton Sky Sports Main Event, 12.00noon Spurs won both of their matches against the Saints last season, including a 2-1 victory in one of their final home matches at White Hart Lane. Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli both scored in the first half, with James Ward-Prowse pulling one back for Southampton in the second. Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella BBC Two, 5.35pm From Sadler’s Wells, a treat for dance fans in this dazzling Blitz-era reworking of Prokofiev’s classic ballet, performed by Bourne’s New Adventures company.  Snow Bears BBC One, 6.30pm Kate Winslet narrates this documentary following a pack of polar bears as they embark on an eventful 400-mile journey to reach the pack ice where they hunt. Surprisingly charming. Discovering: Julie Andrews Sky Arts, 7.00pm A look at the life and career of an actress and singer more associated with Christmas than most, thanks to endless festive repeats of Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music. But there’s much more to Julie Andrews than that, as shown in this beautifully put-together profile.  Reindeer Family and Me BBC Two, 8.00pm Wildlife film-maker Gordon Buchanan’s festive offering focuses on Santa’s favourite quadruped. In Lapland, Buchanan settles in with the nomadic Sami people to learn the ways of the herder, before setting out with a single reindeer to capture the Northern Lights as they’ve never been filmed before. Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 2017: The Language OF life BBC Four, 8.00pm This year’s theme, The Language of Life, sees cognitive neuroscientist Professor Sophie Scott of UCL embark on an exploration of the urge to communicate. In the opener, she unpicks the evolution of the human voice. GO The Miniaturist BBC One, 9.00pm An absorbing adaptation of Jessie Burton’s bestseller about a young woman thrust into an arranged marriage with a perplexing merchant in 17th-century Amsterdam. It looks exquisite, although the constant quest to shoot each frame as if it were a Vermeer painting doesn’t help the pace. Anna Taylor-Joy plays 18-year-old Nella with suitable bafflement, Alex Hassell intrigues as Johannes, while Romola Garai steals the show as his sister, Marin. Concludes tomorrow. Big Fat Quiz of the Year 2017 Channel 4, 9.00pm Jimmy Carr hosts C4’s alternative comedy quiz looking back at the year in the news, with guests including Richard Ayoade, Noel Fielding, David Mitchell and Katherine Ryan. GO Mary Poppins (1964) ★★★★★ BBC One, 3.45pm This is the popular story of a magical nanny (Julie Andrews) who takes over a London home, transforming the lives of its inhabitants. Dick Van Dyke may affect the worst cockney accent ever heard on film, but the combination of the catchy songs, sumptuous live action and colourful animation makes this one of the most enduring children’s films, and a staple of the festive schedules. The film was nominated for 13 Oscars. Beauty and the Beast (2017) ★★★★☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 10.55am and 5.50pm Emma Watson dazzles in Disney’s show-stopping, live-action, chocolate box remake. The film’s songs – which include three new ones – by Alan Menken are the pulse, the purpose and the headline draw, while Ewan McGregor is delightful as Lumière, Luke Evans perfect as Gaston, and Dan Stevens, in digital fur, is the Prince. The Little Mermaid (1989) ★★★★☆ Channel 4, 4.20pm This vivacious retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale began a rich vein of form for Disney animations (Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King followed). A combination of unforgettable characters, including Sebastian the singing Jamaican crab and the delightfully evil baddie Ursula (based on drag queen Divine), and catchy songs makes Ariel’s journey to dry land a magical thing. Jurassic World (2015) ★★★★☆ ITV, 6.40pm Can modern audiences still be wowed by computer-generated dinosaurs? This long-awaited Jurassic Park sequel (the original movie was released in 1993) proves that they can. A new attraction at the dinosaur theme park, created to re-spark visitor interest, gravely backfires and it’s left to Chris Pratt’s raptor trainer and Bryce Dallas Howard’s scientist to save the day. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is out next year. Wednesday 27 December Steve Coogan as Alan Partidge Credit: BBC Alan Partridge: Why, When, Where, How and Whom? BBC Two, 9.00pm Unfortunately, there were no previews available for this palate-cleansing documentary ahead of Alan Partridge’s return to the BBC for a new series next year, which co-creator Steve Coogan promises will include the sometime Radio Norwich presenter’s take on that most contentious of topics, Brexit. It’s been 25 years since he and Armando Iannucci created the hapless Partridge, described by Iannucci as “a kind of social X-ray of male middle-aged Middle England”, a bombastic, self-important local presenter with an unwavering belief in the importance of the highway code and “imperial leisurewear”.  Now this documentary attempts to explain why this character, above all others, has touched such a nerve. Among those contributing are Coogan and Iannucci, Patrick Marber, Peter Baynham, Rebecca Front, David Schneider and Doon Mackichan, and we’re also promised unseen archive footage. The real secret to Alan’s lasting appeal is a simple one, however: he’s a fully realised character and a very English monster in the same vein as Basil Fawlty. Even as we laugh at him, we’re moved by his increasing self-awareness. Sarah Hughes Celebrity Mastermind BBC One, 7.00pm Actor Jack Ashton, comedian Rich Hall, Match of the Day commentator Guy Mowbray and poet Pam Ayres join John Humphrys for a new run of the celebrity edition. Among the specialist subjects tonight are Tennessee Williams, Iron Maiden and Ashes Cricket.  Agatha Christie vs Hercule Poirot Sky Arts, 7.30pm Pierre Bayar presents this interesting deconstruction of one of Agatha Christie’s most celebrated novels, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, in which he alleges a miscarriage of justice by Poirot.  Six Robots & Us BBC Two, 8.00pm Psychologist Dr Caroline Jay and robotics specialist Prof Jonathan Rossiter join forces in this fascinating experiment which aims to uncover how helpful the latest innovations in robotics truly are. To find out the team deliver four very different robots to families around the UK.  Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 2017: the language of life BBC Four, 8.00pm Professor Sophie Scott, UCL’s Head of the Speech Communications Group, gives this year’s lecture, looking at silent communication and why our body language and smells can say as much if not more than our words and sounds.   World’s Strongest Man 2017 Channel 5, 8.00pm Channel 5 brings us all the action from the World’s Strongest Man competition in Botswana. All eyes are on the USA’s Brian Shaw, the defending champion, who is hoping to win for a record firth time.  Turtle, Eagle, Cheetah: A Slow Odyssey BBC Four, 9.00pm BBC Four’s latest foray into the enticing world of slow TV is this nature documentary which focuses on the different views of a cheetah on the African savannah, a green turtle in the Indonesia reefs and a white-tailed eagle in Scotland. SH Miranda Does Christmas Channel 4, 9.00pm Like many an institution before her, Miranda Hart has swapped the BBC for Channel 4 on her return to the small screen. Here, Hart hosts a “raucous Christmas party” with guests including David Tennant, Sam Smith and Prue Leith. SH The Red Shoes (1948) ★★★★★ BBC Two, 12.10pm Powell and Pressburger’s seminal musical tragedy is one of cinema’s great wonders. It’s about a talented ballet dancer (Moira Shearer), her romance with a struggling composer (Marius Goring) and her loyalty to the ballet that he wrote and in which she is meant to star. The film’s theme of the pre-eminent call of creative passion is thought to be an allegory for P & P’s devotion to their craft. Big Hero 6 (2014) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 4.10pm This Disney animation is an East-meets-West adventure with buckets of heart and soul – and quite possibly Disney at its adorable, huggable, and most visually extravagant best. Hiro Hamada, a 14-year-old orphan living in the city of San Fransokyo, befriends Baymax, a 10-foot-tall, bright, white inflatable robot invented by his elder brother, who’s killed in a mysterious fire at his laboratory. Scrooged (1988) ★★★★☆ Film4, 4.35pm 9+Bill Murray plays a mean-spirited network TV president who sees the light after he experiences ghostly visitations – including Carol Kane as a happy-slapping fairy in a tutu – in this droll comic update of Dickens’s tale. Murray is on deadpan, cynical form (“Have you tried staples?”) and Robert Mitchum contributes a priceless cameo as a fellow executive with plans to produce TV shows for cats and dogs. Oasis: Supersonic (2016) ★★★☆☆ BBC Two, 10.00pm Oasis’s glory-days documentary indulges Noel and Liam Gallagher’s bad behaviour. Mat Whitecross’s film starts and ends with the pair of dates when Oasis debatably peaked, at Knebworth in 1996, and goes to excessive length to detail stories of their excess. Few rock stars, in fairness, have a habit of being so amusingly and brutally honest about their failings, and Whitecross is content to let them have the last word. Thursday 28 December David Attenborough Credit: BBC Attenborough and the Empire of the Ants BBC Two, 9.30pm Back on dry land after Blue Planet II, David Attenborough travels to the Jura Mountains on the Swiss-French border to investigate the methods used by two different communities of wood ants to survive and thrive. One adopts a familiar strategy of territorial aggression, with a family dominated by a single queen and chemical warfare on rival communities conducted with liberal distribution of formic acid. The other appears to defy the rules of evolution as they are currently understood, forming a supercolony consisting of several communities cooperating for the greater good in a manner reminiscent of early man’s first steps to eventual supremacy. Queens, sentries and workers labour alongside each other in a manner which sounds far-fetched, but the cameras capture this extraordinary behaviour in mesmerising detail, from hunting to breeding to self-preservation.  The now-customary behind-the-scenes postscript sees Attenborough almost as amazed by the new technology that allows such access to nature (in this case, the “FrankenCam”) as by nature itself. It’s not Blue Planet II, but it’s the sort of fascinating deeper dive that Natural World does so well. Gabriel Tate Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 2017: The Language OF life BBC Four, 8.00pm Sophie Scott brings her series of lectures to an close with an examination of language and comprehension in the animal kingdom. Are we humans really as far advanced as we believe, or might primates and even birds be able to communicate with comparable sophistication? The Secret Life of 5 Year Olds On Holiday Channel 4, 8.30pm Familiar faces from the most recent series head to Cyprus to enjoy flying, swimming and local delicacies, while the professionals watch on and deliver their analyses of childhood behaviour. What Britain Bought in 2017 Channel 4, 9.00pm Mary Portas assesses whether this year has been as dismal as expected for high-street retailers, and examines a few unlikely trends: unicorns, gin and, she suggests, big knickers. Clint Eastwood: a Life in Film Sky Arts, 9.00pm Whether you love or loathe his hardline politics, few would dispute the astonishing consistency of Clint Eastwood’s work. For such a prolific actor and director, there are few duds on his CV and plenty of masterpieces, from Unforgiven to Once Upon a Time in the West. Made in 2007, the year of his ambitious wartime diptych Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima, this excellent programme finds Eastwood in good-humoured form as he talks Michael Henry Wilson through his 50-year career. GT Bruno Mars: Live in Harlem BBC One, 10.25pm; NI, 11.25pm Harlem’s Apollo Theatre launched the careers of James Brown, Ella Fitzgerald and Lauryn Hill, among many others. Bruno Mars pays tribute to the building’s history and rolls out the hits – Uptown Funk, Just the Way You Are et al – along with some dazzling choreography for a hard partying crowd. Romesh Ranganathan: Irrational Live BBC Two, 10.30pm Perhaps rivalled only by Katherine Ryan for small-screen ubiquity this year, Romesh Ranganathan has proved himself an accomplished stand-up comedian. This special, recorded at London’s Hammersmith Apollo in 2016, captures the comedian’s jaundiced but very funny musings on family life. GT The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! (2012) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 9.00am This claymation Aardman romp is a delight. The impasto of non-stop gags, comic detail and slapstick action should appeal to all the family. Hugh Grant plays the Pirate Captain, who needs more booty if he is to stand a chance of winning the title of Pirate of the Year. The plot takes in Darwin, the last dodo and Queen Victoria (voiced by Imelda Staunton). Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 (2017) ★★★★☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 11.00am and 8.00pm Marvel’s playful space sequel looks like an explosion in a nursery school craft cupboard – every scene comes caked in rainbows, glitter and gunge. The core crew returns, led by Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), but the story only really begins with the arrival of a benign and bearded mystic called Ego (Kurt Russell), who has big news for Peter about his earthly origins. Flight (2012) ★★★☆☆ Channel 5, 9.00pm Robert Zemeckis’s film, starring Denzel Washington as alcoholic commercial pilot Whip Whitaker, is a long, earnest, sporadically brilliant drama. On a routine hop from Florida to Atlanta, Whip’s plane starts to tumble out of the sky – a dramatic sequence that will turn nervous fliers’ stomachs – and the pilot must fight to save the lives of those on board. Dull in parts, this is nevertheless morally provocative. Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (2013) ★★★☆☆ BBC Two, 11.30pm Films based on sitcoms tend to play broader than the real series, and this cinema outing for Steve Coogan’s fading media gasbag is no exception. The plot has Alan held hostage at a radio station in Norfolk. Old friends, such as his assistant Lynn (Felicity Montagu), join in and viewers hoping for new catchphrases will be happy, but Partridge loses his Pooterish potency when moving from talk to action. Friday 29 December Bob Mortimer and Vic Reeves Credit: BBC Vic & Bob’s Big Night Out BBC Two, 9.00pm Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer return for this one-off Christmas edition of their sketch show, 27 years after it first aired as Vic Reeves Big Night Out. Fans will be pleased to hear that age has not dimmed the comedians’ energy – in this half-hour they bounce around the studio in the same vein as their younger selves, which gives the show a rapid-fire pace.  The pair’s chemistry is undeniable and they frequently make each other laugh, as well as a raucous studio audience. There is a sense that Reeves and Mortimer are now improvising much of their material, which may explain why some of the jokes here are a touch below par. But many of the sketches are excellent, such as their parody of Channel 4 dating show First Dates, in which they play jokey gay Yorkshiremen. In another, Vic sells wigs made of body parts.  Nostalgia comes in the form of a cameo from Matt Lucas, forever associated with his George Dawes character in Shooting Stars, and the revival of character Graham Lister (played by Bob) in the talent show parody sketch Novelty Island. This brief return reminds us that, with their corny jokes and surreal sense of humour, there’s nobody quite like Vic and Bob. Vicki Power Tim Vine Travels Through Time Christmas Special BBC One, 7.30pm Prepare for a barrage of seasonal puns as Tim Vine’s comedy show returns. Emma Bunton and Reverend Richard Coles join Vine on a jaunt to Tudor times. Eric & Ernie’s Home Movies BBC Two, 8.00pm Those ghosts of Christmas past, Morecambe and Wise, are revisited in this charming documentary showcasing the double act via some newly discovered home movies. Look out also for a repeat of Morecambe & Wise: Leading Ladies (BBC Two, 7.00pm) and Eric, Ernie & Me (BBC Four, 9.00pm), a drama exploring their relationship with writer Eddie Braben. Victoria Wood by her friends Channel 5, 9.00pm This tribute to the late comedian covers much the same ground, and includes some identical contributors, as BBC One’s Our Friend Victoria, but it’s still a treat to be reminded of Wood’s talents. Her 1997 stand-up show, Victoria Wood: Live 1997, follows.   Delicious Sky One, 9.00pm Sky dishes up a second series of this frothy Cornwall-set drama. Chef Gina (Dawn French) has now joined forces with Sam (Emilia Fox) to run the Penrose Hotel, as the man that they were both once married to, Leo (Iain Glen), narrates from beyond the grave. But it turns out tensions haven’t died with him, and their spats bring a pinch of spice to the drama. Tonight, Franco Nero arrives as Gina’s ne’er-do-well father to stir up trouble. Frankie Boyle’s 2017 New Year World Order BBC Two, 10.00pm; not NI This year’s absence of Charlie Brooker’s Wipe is mitigated somewhat by Frankie Boyle’s return for this end-of-year round-up. And certainly somebody needs to help make sense of this crazy year. VP Elvis: The Rebirth of the King BBC Four, 10.00pm This compelling film seeks to overturn the enduring image of Elvis Presley’s Vegas years as a tragic nadir of his career. It argues that Presley’s musical renaissance in a 1968 Christmas TV special saw the King reach new creative heights that he carried into his Vegas shows, before disillusionment and drugs took over. Fantastic archive footage and commentary from his former collaborators, including Elvis’s backing singers, make a convincing case. VP Up (2009) ★★★★★ BBC One, 2.25pm Possibly Pixar’s finest film, Up has a captivating story that realises the vividness of a childlike imagination. Only those with a heart of stone wouldn’t be moved by the story of Ed Asner (voiced by Carl Fredricksen), who tries to fulfil his dream of building a house next to Paradise Falls in South America. His odyssey brings him more than he bargained for, including a young, hyperactive Wilderness Explorer called Russell. Brave (2012) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 4.20pm The first of Pixar’s films to have a female protagonist won an Oscar and there’s a bewitching craftsmanship to its storytelling. It’s set in the Highlands during the feudal period. Kelly MacDonald plays the flame-haired Merida, who would rather ride her horse than play the role of simpering princess; unable to sway her mother (Emma Thompson), she seeks the help of a witch (Julie Walters). Gone Girl (2014) ★★★☆☆ BBC One, 9.15pm; N Ireland, 9.45pm Cold and controlled, yet fun, this drama, directed by David Fincher, is based on Gillian Flynn’s novel of the same name. Rosamund Pike is Amy Elliott-Dunne, who disappears one morning, much to the apparent surprise of her husband (Ben Affleck). The media sniff around and soon the couple’s secrets come to the surface. Darkly suspenseful at first, the story soon turns into blood-drenched self-parody. The Great Gatsby (2013) ★★★☆☆ BBC Two, 11.15pm Baz Luhrmann lays on a cinematic buffet of such sense-addling brazenness that it takes a while before you notice the film is finger-food and nothing more. Leonardo DiCaprio is Jay Gatsby, a newly minted millionaire, and Carey Mulligan is Daisy Buchanan, the lost love he longs to win back. On the rare occasions Luhrmann gives them space to act in the pulsating frenzy of his Jazz Age world, both do a wonderful job. Television previewers Toby Dantzic, Catherine Gee, Simon Horsford, Sarah Hughes, Clive Morgan, Gerard O'Donovan, Vicki Power, Patrick Smith, Gabriel Tate and Rachel Ward

What's on TV tonight: The League of Gentlemen returns and Mary Berry’s Christmas Party

Monday 18 December The League of Gentlemen BBC Two, 10.00pm This is undoubtedly one of the highlights of the festive season for comedy fans. The influential freak show sitcom set in the blighted fictional town of Royston Vasey returns for a three-part run to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its award-winning debut on Radio 4 (the transfer to TV didn’t occur until 1999).  Reviving once-popular comedy is a risky business – just look at the recent Porridge fiasco – but Mark Gatiss, Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton have gone on to bigger, if not always better, things in the intervening years and they return here as if they were never away. Still performing all the major characters on screen (with the group’s fourth member, Jeremy Dyson, sharing the writing duties) they update the stories and characters without losing the demonic humour of the original.  Most of the best characters make a reappearance – Tubbs and Edward, Barbra the trans taxi driver, Herr Lipp, Pauline Campbell-Jones and Mr Chinnery the vet – as Royston Vasey faces its greatest existential threat. Val Denton, meanwhile, sets the tone decisivelyin an opening scene memorable for all the wrong reasons. Gerard O’Donovan Father Brown BBC One, 1.45pm Mark Williams returns for a sixth series as GK Chesterton’s crime-fighting Catholic priest. It’s Christmas in Kembleford but when a dog makes a gruesome discovery in the woods, Father Brown sets out to reverse a terrible miscarriage of justice. Mary Berry’s Christmas Party BBC One, 8.30pm Tips, recipes and full-on merriment as the BBC’s queen of baking invites a handful of famous faces round for a Christmas party cook-in: Alex Jones shows off her rissoles, Darcey Bussell crafts a dance-inspired dessert, while Adil Ray handles the canapés. Plus there’s ginger glazed ham, white chocolate cherry brandy cake, and much more. The Art That Made Mexico: Paradise, Power and Prayers BBC Four, 9.00pm Artist Alinka Echeverria concludes her series by exploring the influence of faith on Mexican culture and how the conquistadors’ Catholic notions of venerating the divine through art found fertile ground thanks to earlier Mayan beliefs. Birds of a Feather Christmas special ITV, 9.00pm Marks and Gran’s long-running sitcom creaks back for another festive special, with Tracey’s (Linda Robson) Yuletide plans upsetting both Sharon (Pauline Quirke) and Dorien (Lesley Joseph). Abba: When All Is Said and Done Channel 5, 9.00pm An Abba double whammy starts with this docudrama exploring the very different stories of the Swedish supergroup’s singers Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad through their own words. Abba: Live in Concert follows at 11.05pm, recorded at the group’s peak in 1979. GO Andre Rieu: Christmas In London 2016 Sky Arts, 9.00pm Rieu entertains with everything festive from Jingle Bells to White Christmas and O Holy Night, bringing his infectious blend of glitter, frills and massed violin strings to boost the seasonal mood. Private Lives of The Monarchs Yesterday, 9.00pm There’s more to Henry VIII than the image of a roistering glutton whose obsession with siring a male heir led to England’s break with Catholicism. So says historian Tracy Borman, painting a picture of a thoughtful young king driven to tyranny by personal demons. GO Carry On Cleo (1964) ★★★☆☆ Channel 4, 12.20pm “Infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it in for me!” So says Kenneth Williams’s waspish Caesar in this, one of the best in the long-running series of cheap and cheerful comedies. Set in ancient Rome, it’s hardly Shakespeare but at least the gags come thick and fast. Watch out for an early appearance from Coronation Street’s Amanda Barrie as a doe-eyed Cleopatra, up to her ears in ass’s milk and political intrigue. First Blood (1982) ★★★★☆ ITV4, 9.00pm Based on David Morrell’s novel, this is the first and best of the Rambo action-movie franchise – it’s more sensitive than the sequels. Sylvester Stallone has become synonymous with Rambo, a maladjusted ex-Green Beret who, after having some Vietnam flashbacks, goes on a one-man war against a crooked small-town sheriff (Brian Dennehy). It’s pacy and raw with a moving climax. Part II is on Tuesday. The Woman in Black (2012) ★★★★☆ Channel 4, 12.10am Thanks to its almost hyper-Edwardian setting and some canny plot alterations, this feels less like a remake of Susan Hill’s ghost story than a new reading of an old tale, trembling with freshly terrifying resonances. Daniel Radcliffe gives a grown-up performance, while director James Watkins uses shadows and empty spaces to create a percolating sense of dread. Tuesday 19 December Faye Marsey as Sarah Credit: Channel 4 Shamed Channel 4, 9.00pm It’s not the most Christmassy of fare but Anthony Philipson’s (My Mad Fat Diary) dark, theatrical one-off drama is worth checking out. Featuring an intense central performance from Faye Marsay (who seems to be everywhere right now, with Bancroft last week and the BBC thriller McMafia to come), Shamed tells the story of 27-year-old Sarah, who suddenly decides to kidnap and imprison two apparently unconnected men: the seemingly perfect just-about-to-get-married Nathan (Nick Blood) and cocky player Mani (Ryan McKen). Both claim never to have met each other or Sarah before. However there’s a method behind her madness, and one which, when revealed, opens up wider questions about how different events can resonate in different ways. Philipson’s tight script keeps you guessing about the connection until near the end before spilling out into violence and debates about the difference between guilt and shame.  It’s not perfect – Mani is underwritten and the rushed ending is a little forced – but Shamed makes some thoughtful points about our attitudes toward sex and the way in which certain people can stride through life without acknowledging the damage they trail behind. Sarah Hughes The Royal Variety Performance 2017 ITV, 7.30pm Miranda Hart hosts this year’s Royal Variety Performance, attended by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, with guests ranging from the obvious (Michael Ball, Alfie Boe) to the incongruous (Kelsey Grammer, Seal). Jamie’s Italian Christmas Channel 4, 8.00pm Another week, another Christmas cookery show. Our chef tonight is the ubiquitous Jamie Oliver who has holed up in a log cabin with his mentor Gennaro Contaldo and hopes to teach us to give the traditional British Christmas an Italian twist. U2 at the BBC BBC One, 9.00pm The Irish band continue their quest for world domination with this film centred on new album Songs of Experience. The action takes place at Abbey Road Studios, where they perform some of their biggest hits and squeeze in a quick chat with Cat Deeley.    Invasion! With Sam Willis BBC Four, 9.00pm The final part of this engaging series sees historian Sam Willis examine one of the more unusual military ideas in history: Napoleon’s plan to use a fleet of balloons as part of his invasion plans during the War of the Third Coalition. The French first crossed the English Channel by hot air balloon in 1785 and Napoleon appointed aeronaut Sophie Blanchard as air service chief to carry out the idea. The plans ultimately came to nothing, but that didn’t stop stories and caricatures of balloons carrying arms, men and even horses spreading through the media.  The First Silent Night Yesterday, 9.00pm The mournful Silent Night is one of the world’s most beloved carols, and was declared an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2011. This film follows actor Simon Callow as he heads to the Austrian village of Oberndorf to uncover its origins before considering why this carol above all others resonates so strongly. SH Extraordinary Teens: Young, Gifted and Broke Channel 4, 10.00pm Pianist and composer Shane Thomas hit the headlines aged only 10 when his precocious talent saw him hailed as the British Mozart. Seven years later his career has stalled. What emerges is a depressing but well-told story of ambition tampered by poverty and a system in which privilege and connections count as much, if not more than raw talent. SH Sword of Sherwood Forest (1960) ★★★☆☆ Film4, 5.05pm Terence Fisher teamed up with Hammer Films for this child-friendly spin-off from The Adventures of Robin Hood TV series, with Richard Greene, who reprises his role here. Peter Cushing stars as the dastardly Sheriff of Nottingham out to murder the Archbishop of Canterbury. It’s a cheap and cheerful affair that remains true to the spirit of the original. Smurfs: The Lost Village (2017) ★★☆☆☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 6.15pm The third of the big-screen outings for The Smurfs is a trippy treat for under-eights, for everyone else the blues. This Smurfs contains double the number of Smurfs ever previously seen, thanks to the discovery of an all-female enclave somewhere deep in the woods. Demi Lovato, Mandy Patinkin, Michelle Rodriguez and Julia Roberts are among those lending their voices. Carol (2015) ★★★★★ Film4, 9.00pm Todd Haynes’s adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 novel is gorgeous, gently groundbreaking, and quite possibly be the saddest thing that you’ll ever see. It tells the story of a photographer (Rooney Mara) who has a relationship with an older woman (Cate Blanchett) in New York. Haynes’ film concludes that love is the riskiest but most necessary gamble. Wednesday 20 December Dame Judi Dench Credit: BBC Judi Dench: My Passion for Trees BBC One, 8.00pm When this one-off documentary was announced, some predictably invoked Alan Partridge’s hapless pitch of Youth Hostelling with Chris Eubank. Certainly, it’s hard to imagine many other celebrities managing to get this made, and even harder to imagine any who could have made it so watchable. A look of astonished delight is plastered over Dame Judi’s face throughout the hour, as she makes all manner of unexpected discoveries about the trees that she loves. There is also a rare peek into her personal life and relationship with her “chap”, David Mills. This may lack the forensic camerawork and high-spec CGI of most BBC nature documentaries, but there are rewarding revelations amid the occasional dose of Botany 101. “I think of my trees as part of my extended family,” says Dench – not the absurd piece of sentimentality you might suspect, as she plants a tree in her back garden for each friend or relative who has died. And trees, it transpires, are also remarkably sociable in their way, an arboreal community connected by spidery threads of fungus and able to call for help if under attack by aphids. Charming and subtly educational. Gabriel Tate What Makes You Tic? BBC Three, from 10.00am Vlogger Lewis “QBall” Nickell aims to conquer his Tourette’s Syndrome and launch a career as a talk-show host, meeting The Vamps and Girls Aloud alumna Nadine Coyle as part of his efforts to raise awareness. Carabao Cup: Bristol City v Manchester United Sky Sports Main Event, 7.30pm We’re at Ashton Gate for this quarter-final clash, as the Robins look to produce and upset against holders Manchester United. The hosts have already claimed two Premier League scalps in Watford and Stoke City, but United are clear favourites here.  The Real Marigold on Tour BBC One, 9.00pm When you see the lives the Marigold pensioners are leading who wouldn’t be envious? This week, Sheila Ferguson, Rustie Lee, Paul Nicholas and Dennis Taylor head to Iceland. There, they go whale watching in the fishing village of Hausavik, and try aqua aerobics and gymnastics in Reykjavik. Elsewhere, Sheila goes on a date with an Icelandic man. Peaky Blinders BBC Two, 9.00pm Perhaps the best series yet comes to a punishing climax with the night of the big fight and yet another reckoning for the Shelbys, this time courtesy of Changretta (Adrien Brody) and once-trusted allies. A Night for the Emergency Services ITV, 9.00pm Presenting a sort of 999’s Got Talent, Ashley Banjo and Diversity introduce a showcase for the firefighters, police and hospital workers who demonstrate skills far beyond their professional capabilities. These include magicians, dancers and a Michael Bublé impersonator, along with appearances from a few special guests. Taskmaster Champion of Champions  Dave, 9.00pm One of the funniest series on TV comes to a spectacular climax as the ultimate Taskmaster champion is crowned, with previous winners Josh Widdicombe, Katherine Ryan, Noel Fielding, Rob Beckett and Bob Mortimer all in the running. Dian Fossey: Secrets in the Mist  National Geographic, 9.00pm After a lifetime of conservation work and, campaigning against poaching, primatologist Dian Fossey was killed in her Rwandan cabin in 1985 – a crime that remains unsolved. The final part of this gripping series examines possible motives. GT Male Rape: Breaking the Silence BBC One, 10.45pm; Scot & Wales, 11.10pm; NI, 11.40pm First shown on BBC Three, this grim but necessary film hears from three men who are among the estimated one-in-six to have been victims of rape. GT Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) ★★★★★ BBC One, 1.45pm Steven Spielberg’s rollicking adventure film, with a very scary end, won four Oscars and created a new action hero in Dr Henry “Indiana” Jones (Harrison Ford). Jones is an archaeologist hired by the US government in 1936 to seek out the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis find it. The ensuing events provide a rollercoaster of thrills. The Temple of Doom and The Last Crusade follow over the next two night. Chicken Run (2000) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 3.35pm Aardman Animations, the studio behind many of Nick Park’s triumphs, conjures up another stop-motion corker that fairly swarms with clever little jokes and details. Our heroes here are a group of jauntily anthropomorphic chickens; they’re plotting their escape to freedom from the tyrannical Mr and Mrs Tweedy, who run the farm on which they live. The voice cast boasts Julia Sawalha, Jane Horrocks and Mel Gibson. The Phantom of the Opera (2004) ★★★☆☆ Sky Arts, 9.00pm Impressed by his use of music in The Lost Boys, Andrew Lloyd Webber hired director Joel Schumacher to bring his hit musical, the longest-running Broadway show in history, about a disfigured genius who lives hidden in the Paris Opera House and who develops a crush on a chorus girl, to the big screen. The score has all the faux-gothic pomp required, but Gerard Butler’s Phantom fails to spook. Thursday 21 December Darcey Bussell Credit: BBC Darcey Bussell: Looking for Fred Astaire BBC One, 10.45pm One dance star explores another in this unpretentious profile of Fred Astaire. Darcey Bussell traces Astaire’s journey from his hometown in Nebraska to New York, London and Los Angeles to examine his ascent to film stardom, achieved after nearly three decades as a professional dancer. She puts forward that he owed much of his success to three women – his mother, his sister and dancing partner Adele, and his first wife Phyllis – but wisely doesn’t labour the point.  Bussell peruses memorabilia and film footage – there’s a delightful clip of Astaire dancing with his long-time collaborator, Hermes Pan – and discusses with historians Astaire’s early life, work ethic and personality clash with Ginger Rogers. The commentary doesn’t uncover much that an Astaire fan wouldn’t already know, but Bussell is an enthusiastic guide and the clips are terrific. Strictly professionals Aljaz Skorjanec and Janette Manrara are touring a successful stage show called Remembering Fred – this film also reminds us of Astaire’s immeasurable contribution to dance, though it wouldn’t harm for it to air at an hour more suited to the ballroom dance-loving demographic. Vicki Power MasterChef: The Professionals: The Finals BBC Two, 8.00pm It’s ladles at dawn for the three finalists as they tackle their last challenge. They’ll cook a three-course meal in three hours for the formidable judging trio of Wareing, Galetti and Wallace, who’ll then choose their champ. Joanna & Jennifer: Absolutely Champers BBC Two, 9.00pm On the flimsy premise of celebrating 25 years since the birth of Absolutely Fabulous, Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley take a fizz-fuelled jolly to France to tour vineyards. They neck vats of bubbly in a travelogue as meandering as Patsy’s gait after an evening spent swigging Bolly. Gordon, Gino and Fred’s Great Christmas Roast ITV, 9.00pm It’s Celtic vigour versus Italian passion in this feelgood cookery special. TV chefs Gordon Ramsay and Gino D’Acampo compete, with a team of celebrity helpers, to create the best Christmas banquet for 100 emergency services workers. First Dates’ maître d’ Fred Sirieux presents. Donny Osmond’s Easy Listening Christmas Channel 5, 9.00pm This Val Doonican-style one-off sees Donny Osmond counting down his 25 favourite festive songs, exploring their geneses and comparing classic renditions to cover versions. VP The Tunnel: Vengeance Sky Atlantic, 9.00pm The symbiosis between Anglo-French cop partners Karl and Elise (Stephen Dillane and Clémence Poésy) in this murder mystery shows us a cheering flipside to Brexit. Their touching, humorous relationship is affecting, even if the series overall lacks the Scandinavian-style eeriness of The Bridge, on which it’s based. Here, the cross-channel cops make a breakthrough in the search for the missing children. The Galaxy Britain Built: Droids, Darth Vader and Lightsaber/Hollywood’s Master of Myth BBC Four, 10.00pm and 11.00pm In celebration of the release of The Last Jedi, these documentaries look at the ingredients that helped shape the Star Wars phenomenon. The first focuses on the film crew who created George Lucas’s fictional galaxy. The second, from 1999, explores the work of US academic Joseph Campbell, whom Lucas has credited with inspiring his plot. VP The Dark Crystal (1982) ★★★☆☆ Film4, 1.05pm Muppets creator Jim Henson stepped out from the comfort of children’s TV to make this dark fantasy tale about a pair of creatures who must find a missing shard of crystal in order to defeat the evil Skeksis. The superbly designed puppets and sets add a surreal quality but it lacks the sense of humour which made Labyrinth, Henson’s next cinema release, so popular. Frank Oz, fellow puppeteer and the voice of Yoda, co-directs. Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 3.35pm Nick Park’s plucky Plasticine pair set about rescuing a village whose annual vegetable competition is in jeopardy because of rabbits eating up the contents of everyone’s gardens. But their bunny brainwashing goes wrong and they accidentally create a mutant rabbit. Beautifully shot, charming, and very silly, it deservedly won the Oscar for Best Animation. Candyman (1992) ★★★★☆ Film4, 11.15pm Virginia Madsen does powerhouse work as a student of folklore lured into fascination with a hook-handed killer who appears when you say his name five times in front of a mirror. She ignores all warnings but is soon blamed for his crimes when a series of horrible murders begin. Majestic direction from Bernard Rose transforms this into a resoundingly epic and gory fable. Friday 22 December Bruno Tonioli  Credit: BBC Saturday Night Fever: The Ultimate Disco Movie BBC Two, 9.00pm Long before he became a household name as a Strictly Come Dancing judge, Bruno Tonioli had a successful career as a choreographer to the stars, arranging dance for music videos, stage shows and tours for Tina Turner, Sting, Elton John and many others. Here he looks back 40 years to when he was a young dancer in New York and got caught up in the global phenomenon that was Saturday Night Fever.  It’s a great story, told with typical Tonioli verve, of how a low-budget film starring the then unknown John Travolta and using the music of a failing band of high-pitched popsters, the Bee Gees, became one of the biggest box office draws of all time and gave half the world “disco fever”. It also shows how – to give credit where it is due – much of its success was down to the visionary genius and unstoppable determination of the Bee Gees’ manager, the late Robert Stigwood, impresario behind some of the most popular stars, and hit stage and film musicals (Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, Grease, Bugsy Malone) of the Seventies. Contributors include Travolta. Gerard O’Donovan The Toys That Made Us Netflix, from today Toys of the Eighties are the focus of this series taking an in-depth look at the nostalgia and collecting fervour that surrounds eight of the biggest selling toy brands of that decade: Transformers, Stars Wars, He-Man, GI Joe, Barbie, Star Trek, Hello Kitty and Lego. Premier League Football: Arsenal v Liverpool Sky Sports Main Event, 7.00pm Action from the Emirates Stadium, as Arsenal  look to avenge a 4-0 defeat in August, when Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, Mo Salah and Daniel Sturridge all found the net for Liverpool. TOTP4 Christmas 2017 BBC Four, 7.30pm Get into the Christmas party spirit with Mark Radcliffe’s countdown of classic festive hits from Top of the Pops’s glitter-spattered archive, with The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl, Wizzard, Slade, The Darkness and Ed Sheeran among the acts featured. Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast Christmas Special Channel 4, 8.00pm Jamie Oliver and Jimmy Doherty welcome actress Liv Tyler to the pier café to make her favourite takeaway, pork dim sum. Oliver also whips up a cracking kedgeree, and Doherty builds a home-made wood-fired oven. Al Murray’s Make Christmas Great Again ITV, 9.00pm Al Murray’s gloriously unreconstructed pub landlord invites an audience to a lock-in at the Reindeer’s Head where he bends ears on such matters as how Christmas is losing its Britishness while whipping up anti-PC seasonal singalongs and remonstrating with celebrity guests. George Michael to Tom Petty: a Tribute Sky Arts, 9.00pm Chuck Berry, Fats Domino and David Cassidy are just some of the musicians and performers who, along with George Michael and Tom Petty, we lost in the past 12 months – as affectionately remembered in this 90-minute tribute. GO Les Dawson: In His Own Words Channel 5, 10.00pm Comedians didn’t come more old school than Les Dawson, with his bluff Northern style, rubber face and mother-in-law jokes. But he was one of the most original comedians of his generation, as proved by this terrific documentary that raids the archives for his funniest work. The Graham Norton Show BBC One, 10.40pm Grahm Norton’s line-up offers a good mix of interest: Hollywood star Will Smith, Victoria’s Jenna Coleman, chef Jamie Oliver and former Keane frontman Tom Chaplin. GO Bright (2017) Netflix, from today This Netflix Original – a $100 million special-effects blockbuster from David Ayer, director of Suicide Squad – sounds like a mash-up of Lethal Weapon and Lord of the Rings. In an alternate Los Angeles where elves and witches walk the streets, Will Smith’s tough NYPD officer finds himself partnered with an orc (Joel Edgerton). Considering its hefty price tag and star-studded soundtrack (Migos, Rag’n’Bone Man, Camila Cabello), this could be Netflix’s biggest mistake yet Puss in Boots (2011) ★★☆☆☆ BBC One, 3.40pm DreamWorks Animation’s Shrek spin-off follows Puss in Boots’s life before he became the green ogre’s sidekick. With the help of Kitty Softpaws (voiced by Salma Hayek) and Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis), the swashbuckling feline (Antonio Banderas) becomes a hero after saving his town. Like the CGI ogre’s last two films, Shrek the Third and Shrek Forever After, the animation is more impressive than the jokes. Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001) ★★★★☆ ITV, 10.40pm American actress Renée Zellweger perfects her English accent to play the Chardonnay-swigging, chain-smoking, lovelorn Bridget in this adaptation of Helen Fielding’s novel, which remains a solid favourite. Love interests Hugh Grant and Colin Firth are excellent as her roguish boss Daniel Cleaver and the stuffy-but-handsome (even in a Christmas jumper) lawyer Mark Darcy. Saturday 23 December A Christmas Tree in Manger Square, Bethlehem Credit: Channel 4 The World’s Best Christmas Lights: From Liverpool to Bethlehem Channel 4, 8.00pm It is amazing what you can build a successful, multi-million-pound, internationally renowned business from. Liverpool-based company The Christmas Decorators specialise in the commercial design and installation of large-scale Christmas lights and decorations – the kind you see in every shop, street and town square. This entertaining film, one of the more offbeat of the season, follows a rather surprising commission: to install the lights and decorations at what many might consider the birthplace of Christmas – Manger Square in Bethlehem. In fact, they’ve been doing it every year since 2012, bringing every single bulb and bauble with them from their warehouse in the UK.  It’s a huge logistical effort, which is also a possibly tricky one, if customs or security in, say, Istanbul take exception to the Bethlehem-bound consignment as it passes through. Director of operations GED Comerford leads the four-person installation team on the trek from Liverpool. It’s fraught with hitches and glitches – even a home-baked Christmas cake is regarded with suspicion by local security – but all the more entertaining for that. Gerard O’Donovan Smashie’s Xmastastic Playlist Christmas Gold, 4.00pm Getting the Christmas party off to an early start from his fab-tastic hideaway at Radio Hush, The Fast Show’s Mike Smash (Paul Whitehouse) brings his off-kilter pop-DJ insights to an hour of festive hits from Wizzard to Johnny Mathis via McCartney, Dylan and Springsteen.  Elf: The Musical Channel 5, 5.00pm There’s seasonal song, dance and fun in the stage musical version of Will Ferrell’s much-loved comedy from the Lowry Theatre in Salford. Ben Forster, who won ITV’s Superstar talent search in 2012, leads the cast as Buddy, a human orphan who was raised by Santa’s elves in the North Pole and returns to New York in search of his family. Michael Buble’s Christmas in New York Sky Arts, 5.00pm At the Radio City Music Hall the crooner sings a selection of seasonal classics, along with a sparkling line-up of special guests including Barbra Streisand, Ariana Grande and The Muppets’ Miss Piggy. It is repeated on Sky One at 12.15am. Pointless Celebrities Christmas Special BBC One, 6.15pm Some of the contestants in this festive edition of the quiz could themselves be pointless answers in a round on Christmas hits. Jona Lewie, Jimmy Osmond and Ben Haenow are among those answering Alexander Armstrong questions. Blind Date Christmas Special Channel 5, 8.00pm There’s a fairy-tale spin to this edition of Paul O’Grady’s matchmaking show, as a Prince Charming has to choose between fellow panto actors Cinderella, Snow White and Tinkerbell. It’s Christmas Live from the Royal Albert Hall Sky One, 8.00pm The Royal Albert Hall is transformed to a rock ’n’ roll winter wonderland as Jason Manford introduces performances by Holly Johnson, Marc Almond, Chrissie Hynde and Shakin’ Stevens, among many others. GO Feud: Bette and Joan BBC Two, from 9.00pm; NI, from 9.30pm Ryan Murphy’s stylish and scathingly catty dramatisation of the Hollywood feud between Bette Davis (Susan Sarandon) and Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange) reaches the moment that the actresses’ mutual loathing went off the scale – while working on the 1962 classic What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (which follows). GO Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001) ★★★☆☆ ITV, 1.35pm  From today to New Year’s Day, ITV are screening all of the Harry Potter films – one film a day, except on Boxing Day. This first adaptation of J K Rowling’s novel was, for a while, the second highest-grossing film ever. Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint are endearing (and very young) in the lead roles but the film lacks the original book’s compulsiveness. Frozen (2013) ★★★★★ BBC One, 2.50pm Disney’s 53rd feature is an enchanting combination of fairy-tale derring-do and heart-popping musical numbers that has left children and adults powerless to its charms. Elsa (Idina Menzel) is a shy princess driven into exile when her magical powers are discovered. Her sister Anna (Kristen Bell) gallops off to fetch her from her beautiful ice palace. Spin-off Olaf’s Frozen Adventure is on Christmas Day. Bill (2015) ★★★★☆ BBC Two, 6.00pm Intelligent children and immature adults will love this mock-biopic from the Horrible Histories troupe that follows the young William Shakespeare (Mathew Baynton) as he ascends from quill-scraping zero to literary hero. Some of the best moments (a running joke about false moustaches is one) are full-bloodedly Pythonesque, although occasionally a kind of student-revue smarminess creeps in. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962, b/w) ★★★★★ BBC Two, 10.35pm; not N Ireland Robert Aldrich’s classic slice of American Grotesque, starring two of cinema’s greatest screen divas, started a trend for casting ageing actresses in campy Gothic horror movies. Joan Crawford and Bette Davis play reclusive sisters locked in an abusive relationship in their crumbling Hollywood mansion.  Christmas Eve Sue Perkins, Mary Berry and Mel Giedroyc Credit: BBC Mary, Mel and Sue’s Big Christmas Thank You BBC One, 7.00pm Anyone looking for some extra festive cheer should look no further than this exuberant Christmas special which sees former Great British Bake-Off stars Mary Berry, Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc join forces to help out at a community centre in the Rhondda Valley in Wales.  Initially, it seems as though this is one of those rather forced shows in which celebrities dispense good cheer and bad jokes, but an emotional story of community spirit in the face of despair swiftly emerges. “We’ve lost our library, our butchers, both banks have closed and there’s no school,” states Elizabeth “Buffy” Williams. Working with her friend Lynne, Buffy has attempted to combat that by opening a community centre offering meals, bingo and after-school classes. Now they want to throw a special Christmas meal for the whole community but it’s tough: the kitchen is small, money is tight and Lynne freely admits that she hates cooking. Enter the indomitable Mrs Berry, who rolls up her sleeves, corrals Daffyd, a 16-year-old with a GCSE in catering, into becoming her sous chef and helps Lynne tackle her phobia. The final celebration should bring a tear to even the most cynical of eyes. Sarah Hughes Premiership Rugby Union: Leicester Tigers v Saracens BT Sport 1, 2.30pm Below-par this season, Leicester will be hoping a win here at Welford Park against third-placed Saracens will give them fresh momentum going into the new year.  Countryfile BBC One, 6.00pm The team head to the Peak District for this special which sees John Craven exploring Longshaw Estate, Anita Rani experiencing a Nativity play with a difference and Matt Baker venturing into Peak Cavern for a carol concert.  Christmas University Challenge 2017 BBC Two, 8.00pm; Scotland, 5.45pm There’s something addictive about the University Challenge’s specials, possibly because they allow us to see celebrities in a new light. The opener sees a team from Durham University, including actor Nick Mohammed, take on a Keble College side featuring Katy Brand. Child Genius vs Celebrities Christmas Special Channel 4, 8.00pm Richard Osman is our host for this Christmas special, which sees past child geniuses take on, among others, Catastrophe star Rob Delaney and broadcaster Janet Street Porter. Will youth or experience win out?  Michael McIntyre’s Big Christmas Show BBC One, 8.30pm The comedian returns for a festive edition in which Alesha Dixon risks social disaster by handing over her phone in Celebrity Send-to-All, plus there’s stand-up from Bill Bailey and music from Seal.  Maigret in Montmartre ITV, 8.30pm Critics haven’t always been kind to ITV’s reboot of Georges Simenon’s Maigret featuring Rowan Atkinson. Yet there’s actually a lot to like here. Atkinson underplays the role nicely, the plots are serviceable and the whole thing is entertaining if undemanding fare. This episode sees Maigret drawn in to the murder of a showgirl. SH M R James evening BBC Four, from 9.00pm Shut the doors, draw the curtains and prepare to be thoroughly spooked as BBC Four dedicates an evening to ghost writer supreme M R James. First up, long-time James fan Mark Gatiss looks at how this diffident Anglican bachelor created stories that still send a tingle down the spine a century after they were written. It’s followed at 10pm by two adaptations of James’s work: The Tractate Middoth, a chilling story about vengeance from beyond the grave, starring Sacha Dhawan and John Castle, and No 13, featuring Greg Wise as an academic who uncovers more than he bargains for in a small medieval town. Billy Elliot: the Musical Sky Arts, 9.00pm Anyone who hasn’t managed to catch Stephen Daldry’s big-hearted musical take on his film about a miner’s son who just wants to dance can find out what all the fuss is about with this performance from 2014 starring Ruthie Henshall and Elliott Hanna. SH Gone with the Wind (1939) ★★★★★ Channel 5, 9.20am Hollywood’s highest-grossing movie until The Sound of Music in 1966, this was the film for which the word “epic” was invented. Vivien Leigh became a star as Scarlett O’Hara, the spoilt Southern belle whose life is turned upside down by the US Civil War. Clark Gable and Leslie Howard are her lovers. It’s brash and self-indulgent, but frankly we don’t give a damn. The Lego Batman Movie (2017) ★★★★☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 1.25pm and 7.00pm Don’t tell Ben Affleck – who plays Actual Batman – but the actor has been made surplus to requirements by one and a half inches of moulded plastic. Lego Batman’s debut solo feature, spun off from a cameo in The Lego Movie, is frantically and relentlessly funny as a new police commissioner (Rosario Dawson) threatens to make the Caped Crusader redundant. Guys and Dolls (1955) ★★★★☆ BBC Two, 3.20pm The 1955 film adaptation of the Broadway classic holds up rather well. The stellar casting certainly helps: Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra in one film – as the rival New York gamblers (and gangsters) Sky Masterson and Nathan Detroit, who place a bet on compromising the virtue of a pious Salvation Army woman, Sarah Brown (played by Jean Simmons). The musical numbers are still a delight. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) ★★★★★ Channel 4, 6.30pm Tiny Tim is a small green frog, Mrs Cratchit is a bad-tempered pig and Charles Dickens himself is portrayed by Gonzo, enormous blue nose and all. And yet, there are few better, or more affecting versions of A Christmas Carol than this musical adaptation. Michael Caine is ideal as the miserly Scrooge, the laughs are aplenty and the finale is as rousing as they come. Christmas Day Peter Capaldi and David Bradley Credit: BBC Doctor Who BBC One, 5.30pm While it’s not unusual for Doctor Who to begin with a “Previously…”, this one takes things all the way back to William Hartnell’s First Doctor, having faced the Cybermen at the South Pole and refused to regenerate. After necessarily metamorphosing into David Bradley (who played Hartnell in Mark Gatiss’s docudrama An Adventure in Space and Time), he duly encounters Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor, in a similar fix. Throw in Mark Gatiss’s doomed British army captain, transported from the Western Front at the moment of death with stiff upper lip wobbling, a mysterious glass woman (Nikki Amuka-Bird) with the power to freeze time, the return of Bill (Pearl Mackie) and a few other surprises, and you have another of Steven Moffat’s self-imposed riddles to unravel. Given that this is Moffat’s own last stand, and with Jodie Whitaker due to make her bow at the end of the episode, you might anticipate a tsunami of self-indulgence and sentimentality, but no. Capaldi and Mackie’s snappy, affectionate chemistry precludes such easy options, Gatiss is restrained and funny and Moffat’s musing on war and peace is enough to bear the wit and self-referentiality. A dignified farewell. Gabriel Tate The Highway Rat BBC One, 4.45pm Rob Brydon narrates and David Tennant voices the eponymous anti-hero in another enchanting adaptation of a Julia Donaldson/Axel Scheffler picture book, this time depicting the comeuppance for a selfish, swashbuckling rat and his long-suffering steed.. The Royal Opera: Puccini’s La Boheme BBC Four, 7.00pm Clemency Burton-Hill introduces Richard Jones’s production of Puccini’s tale of love and loss among bohemians in 19th-century Paris, conducted by Antonio Pappano and starring tenor Michael Fabiano and soprano Nicole Car as star-crossed lovers Rodolfo and Mimi. Jones’s production has a wintry charm that should see it sit very comfortably in today’s schedules.  Olaf’s Frozen Adventure Sky Cinema Premiere/On Demand, 7.30pm Perhaps better suited to television after a brief run in cinemas that saw parents complaining about it delaying screenings of Coco, this Frozen spin-off finds the cheerful snowman Olaf (voiced by Josh Gad) joining his reindeer, Sven, on a mission for their royal highnesses Elsa (Idina Menzel) and Anna (Kristen Bell) who are desperate to create their own Christmas tradition. Expect four catchy new songs to be ringing around your head. GT  Call the Midwife BBC One, 7.40pm Call the Midwife pulls out all the stops for this astoundingly gloomy affair as a Boxing Day freeze descends, stranding Valerie (Jennifer Kirby) in a caravan for an ad hoc delivery and accounting for a popular old timer with a very dark secret. The Great Christmas bake off Channel 4, 7.40pm Val and Selasi from last year, Paul Jagger (he of 2015’s bread lion) and Welsh Beca, a 2013 semi-finalist, return to compete for Star Baker, introduced and judged by the new Fab Four. There’s more of the same on New Year’s Day. Victoria ITV, 9.00pm The Queen (Jenna Coleman) is pregnant again and missing her governess, leaving Albert (Tom Hughes) in the unlikely role of Christmas merrymaker-in-chief. It’s a festive special by numbers, but affecting and easy on the eye. Ashes Cricket: Australia v England BT Sport 1, 10.30pm It’s been a fraught series, on and off the field, for England, with their players’ professionalism frequently called into question. This signals the start of the fourth Test, played at Melbourne Cricket Ground. Can Joe Root’s beleaguered side salvage some dignity? Or will the Aussies continue to have a field day? 300 Years of French & Saunders BBC One, 10.35pm Unseen footage, much-loved sketches and of course Lulu feature in this one-off, which sees the duo back together on TV for the first time in a decade. The new material is intermittently inspired and vigorously performed, with The Handmaid’s Tale, the Kardashians and Poldark all subjected to their attentions. GT Singin’ in the Rain (1952) ★★★★★ Channel 5, 1.05pm There are few movie scenes more memorable than Gene Kelly’s rain-soaked Singin’ in the Rain sequence, or many more jaw-dropping than Donald O’Connor’s walk up the wall. But more than song and dance, this film contains real satire as it recounts the introduction of the “talkie” and the superficial nature of the US film industry. Debbie Reynolds (who died a year ago, one day after daughter Carrie Fisher) co-stars as the Hollywood ingénue. Cinderella (2015) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 3.10pm Kenneth Branagh’s twinkling, live-action Cinderella sticks doggedly to Disney’s 1950 animated version (Cinders’s rodent companions are present) and favours sparkle over wit. However, Cate Blanchett is marvellous as the Wicked Stepmother and Helena Bonham Carter makes a jolly good Fairy Godmother. Princess-obsessed little girls will find it irresistible and the costumes are stunning. Oliver! (1968) ★★★★☆ Channel 5, 3.10pm Carol Reed, who had previously directed The Third Man, won an Oscar for his superior version of Lionel Bart’s musical of the classic Charles Dickens tale (Reed’s only ever attempt at the musical genre). Eight-year-old Mark Lester is sweet as Oliver Twist but it was Ron Moody as Fagin who received the Oscar nod. Reed’s nephew, another Oliver, is a brooding and brutal Bill Sikes and still has the potential to shock. Dumbo (1941) ★★★★★ Channel 4. 4.30pm It may be one of Disney’s shortest animated films, but it is also one of its most loved. Baby elephant Dumbo is born with unfeasibly large ears, is separated from his mother and becomes ostracised by his fellow circus animals. It is only when Timothy Mouse encourages Dumbo to make the most of his ears that he discovers he can fly. This remains an undisputed masterpiece from Disney’s golden age of animation. Boxing Day Willa Fitzgerald, Kathryn Newton, Maya Hawke and Annes Elwy Credit: BBC Little Women BBC One, 8.00pm One suspects that this beautiful adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s much-loved coming-of-age novel (published in 1868) was due a less prominent airing until the BBC had to shelve its flagship festive Agatha Christie adaptation Ordeal by Innocence due to sexual assault allegations against one of the stars. That seems no great loss now, as this sparkling gem of a drama – scripted by Call the Midwife creator Heidi Thomas – more than deserves a Boxing Day prime-time slot.  Told in three parts, it follows the lives of the March sisters – Jo (Maya Hawke), Meg (Willa Fitzgerald), Beth (Annes Elwy), and Amy (Kathryn Newton) – as they progress from adolescence to adulthood under the protective eye of their mother, Marmee (Emily Watson), while their father is away in the American Civil War.  As life-affirming a tale as you could want this time of year, it’s full of high spirits and loving kindness. There are nice cameo performances by Michael Gambon and Angela Lansbury, but in the opening part, the acting laurels go to Hawke for her spot-on portrayal of tomboyish proto-feminist Jo, and Jonah Hauer-King, as boy next door Laurie Laurence. Gerard O’Donovan Todd Barry: Spicy Honey Netflix, from today Stand-up Todd Barry is best known in the US for his bone-dry wit. Anyone seeking relief from the festive season’s more saccharine shows will be sure to find it in this one-off recording from his latest tour. Premier League Football: Tottenham Hotspur v Southampton Sky Sports Main Event, 12.00noon Spurs won both of their matches against the Saints last season, including a 2-1 victory in one of their final home matches at White Hart Lane. Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli both scored in the first half, with James Ward-Prowse pulling one back for Southampton in the second. Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella BBC Two, 5.35pm From Sadler’s Wells, a treat for dance fans in this dazzling Blitz-era reworking of Prokofiev’s classic ballet, performed by Bourne’s New Adventures company.  Snow Bears BBC One, 6.30pm Kate Winslet narrates this documentary following a pack of polar bears as they embark on an eventful 400-mile journey to reach the pack ice where they hunt. Surprisingly charming. Discovering: Julie Andrews Sky Arts, 7.00pm A look at the life and career of an actress and singer more associated with Christmas than most, thanks to endless festive repeats of Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music. But there’s much more to Julie Andrews than that, as shown in this beautifully put-together profile.  Reindeer Family and Me BBC Two, 8.00pm Wildlife film-maker Gordon Buchanan’s festive offering focuses on Santa’s favourite quadruped. In Lapland, Buchanan settles in with the nomadic Sami people to learn the ways of the herder, before setting out with a single reindeer to capture the Northern Lights as they’ve never been filmed before. Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 2017: The Language OF life BBC Four, 8.00pm This year’s theme, The Language of Life, sees cognitive neuroscientist Professor Sophie Scott of UCL embark on an exploration of the urge to communicate. In the opener, she unpicks the evolution of the human voice. GO The Miniaturist BBC One, 9.00pm An absorbing adaptation of Jessie Burton’s bestseller about a young woman thrust into an arranged marriage with a perplexing merchant in 17th-century Amsterdam. It looks exquisite, although the constant quest to shoot each frame as if it were a Vermeer painting doesn’t help the pace. Anna Taylor-Joy plays 18-year-old Nella with suitable bafflement, Alex Hassell intrigues as Johannes, while Romola Garai steals the show as his sister, Marin. Concludes tomorrow. Big Fat Quiz of the Year 2017 Channel 4, 9.00pm Jimmy Carr hosts C4’s alternative comedy quiz looking back at the year in the news, with guests including Richard Ayoade, Noel Fielding, David Mitchell and Katherine Ryan. GO Mary Poppins (1964) ★★★★★ BBC One, 3.45pm This is the popular story of a magical nanny (Julie Andrews) who takes over a London home, transforming the lives of its inhabitants. Dick Van Dyke may affect the worst cockney accent ever heard on film, but the combination of the catchy songs, sumptuous live action and colourful animation makes this one of the most enduring children’s films, and a staple of the festive schedules. The film was nominated for 13 Oscars. Beauty and the Beast (2017) ★★★★☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 10.55am and 5.50pm Emma Watson dazzles in Disney’s show-stopping, live-action, chocolate box remake. The film’s songs – which include three new ones – by Alan Menken are the pulse, the purpose and the headline draw, while Ewan McGregor is delightful as Lumière, Luke Evans perfect as Gaston, and Dan Stevens, in digital fur, is the Prince. The Little Mermaid (1989) ★★★★☆ Channel 4, 4.20pm This vivacious retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale began a rich vein of form for Disney animations (Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King followed). A combination of unforgettable characters, including Sebastian the singing Jamaican crab and the delightfully evil baddie Ursula (based on drag queen Divine), and catchy songs makes Ariel’s journey to dry land a magical thing. Jurassic World (2015) ★★★★☆ ITV, 6.40pm Can modern audiences still be wowed by computer-generated dinosaurs? This long-awaited Jurassic Park sequel (the original movie was released in 1993) proves that they can. A new attraction at the dinosaur theme park, created to re-spark visitor interest, gravely backfires and it’s left to Chris Pratt’s raptor trainer and Bryce Dallas Howard’s scientist to save the day. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is out next year. Wednesday 27 December Steve Coogan as Alan Partidge Credit: BBC Alan Partridge: Why, When, Where, How and Whom? BBC Two, 9.00pm Unfortunately, there were no previews available for this palate-cleansing documentary ahead of Alan Partridge’s return to the BBC for a new series next year, which co-creator Steve Coogan promises will include the sometime Radio Norwich presenter’s take on that most contentious of topics, Brexit. It’s been 25 years since he and Armando Iannucci created the hapless Partridge, described by Iannucci as “a kind of social X-ray of male middle-aged Middle England”, a bombastic, self-important local presenter with an unwavering belief in the importance of the highway code and “imperial leisurewear”.  Now this documentary attempts to explain why this character, above all others, has touched such a nerve. Among those contributing are Coogan and Iannucci, Patrick Marber, Peter Baynham, Rebecca Front, David Schneider and Doon Mackichan, and we’re also promised unseen archive footage. The real secret to Alan’s lasting appeal is a simple one, however: he’s a fully realised character and a very English monster in the same vein as Basil Fawlty. Even as we laugh at him, we’re moved by his increasing self-awareness. Sarah Hughes Celebrity Mastermind BBC One, 7.00pm Actor Jack Ashton, comedian Rich Hall, Match of the Day commentator Guy Mowbray and poet Pam Ayres join John Humphrys for a new run of the celebrity edition. Among the specialist subjects tonight are Tennessee Williams, Iron Maiden and Ashes Cricket.  Agatha Christie vs Hercule Poirot Sky Arts, 7.30pm Pierre Bayar presents this interesting deconstruction of one of Agatha Christie’s most celebrated novels, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, in which he alleges a miscarriage of justice by Poirot.  Six Robots & Us BBC Two, 8.00pm Psychologist Dr Caroline Jay and robotics specialist Prof Jonathan Rossiter join forces in this fascinating experiment which aims to uncover how helpful the latest innovations in robotics truly are. To find out the team deliver four very different robots to families around the UK.  Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 2017: the language of life BBC Four, 8.00pm Professor Sophie Scott, UCL’s Head of the Speech Communications Group, gives this year’s lecture, looking at silent communication and why our body language and smells can say as much if not more than our words and sounds.   World’s Strongest Man 2017 Channel 5, 8.00pm Channel 5 brings us all the action from the World’s Strongest Man competition in Botswana. All eyes are on the USA’s Brian Shaw, the defending champion, who is hoping to win for a record firth time.  Turtle, Eagle, Cheetah: A Slow Odyssey BBC Four, 9.00pm BBC Four’s latest foray into the enticing world of slow TV is this nature documentary which focuses on the different views of a cheetah on the African savannah, a green turtle in the Indonesia reefs and a white-tailed eagle in Scotland. SH Miranda Does Christmas Channel 4, 9.00pm Like many an institution before her, Miranda Hart has swapped the BBC for Channel 4 on her return to the small screen. Here, Hart hosts a “raucous Christmas party” with guests including David Tennant, Sam Smith and Prue Leith. SH The Red Shoes (1948) ★★★★★ BBC Two, 12.10pm Powell and Pressburger’s seminal musical tragedy is one of cinema’s great wonders. It’s about a talented ballet dancer (Moira Shearer), her romance with a struggling composer (Marius Goring) and her loyalty to the ballet that he wrote and in which she is meant to star. The film’s theme of the pre-eminent call of creative passion is thought to be an allegory for P & P’s devotion to their craft. Big Hero 6 (2014) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 4.10pm This Disney animation is an East-meets-West adventure with buckets of heart and soul – and quite possibly Disney at its adorable, huggable, and most visually extravagant best. Hiro Hamada, a 14-year-old orphan living in the city of San Fransokyo, befriends Baymax, a 10-foot-tall, bright, white inflatable robot invented by his elder brother, who’s killed in a mysterious fire at his laboratory. Scrooged (1988) ★★★★☆ Film4, 4.35pm 9+Bill Murray plays a mean-spirited network TV president who sees the light after he experiences ghostly visitations – including Carol Kane as a happy-slapping fairy in a tutu – in this droll comic update of Dickens’s tale. Murray is on deadpan, cynical form (“Have you tried staples?”) and Robert Mitchum contributes a priceless cameo as a fellow executive with plans to produce TV shows for cats and dogs. Oasis: Supersonic (2016) ★★★☆☆ BBC Two, 10.00pm Oasis’s glory-days documentary indulges Noel and Liam Gallagher’s bad behaviour. Mat Whitecross’s film starts and ends with the pair of dates when Oasis debatably peaked, at Knebworth in 1996, and goes to excessive length to detail stories of their excess. Few rock stars, in fairness, have a habit of being so amusingly and brutally honest about their failings, and Whitecross is content to let them have the last word. Thursday 28 December David Attenborough Credit: BBC Attenborough and the Empire of the Ants BBC Two, 9.30pm Back on dry land after Blue Planet II, David Attenborough travels to the Jura Mountains on the Swiss-French border to investigate the methods used by two different communities of wood ants to survive and thrive. One adopts a familiar strategy of territorial aggression, with a family dominated by a single queen and chemical warfare on rival communities conducted with liberal distribution of formic acid. The other appears to defy the rules of evolution as they are currently understood, forming a supercolony consisting of several communities cooperating for the greater good in a manner reminiscent of early man’s first steps to eventual supremacy. Queens, sentries and workers labour alongside each other in a manner which sounds far-fetched, but the cameras capture this extraordinary behaviour in mesmerising detail, from hunting to breeding to self-preservation.  The now-customary behind-the-scenes postscript sees Attenborough almost as amazed by the new technology that allows such access to nature (in this case, the “FrankenCam”) as by nature itself. It’s not Blue Planet II, but it’s the sort of fascinating deeper dive that Natural World does so well. Gabriel Tate Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 2017: The Language OF life BBC Four, 8.00pm Sophie Scott brings her series of lectures to an close with an examination of language and comprehension in the animal kingdom. Are we humans really as far advanced as we believe, or might primates and even birds be able to communicate with comparable sophistication? The Secret Life of 5 Year Olds On Holiday Channel 4, 8.30pm Familiar faces from the most recent series head to Cyprus to enjoy flying, swimming and local delicacies, while the professionals watch on and deliver their analyses of childhood behaviour. What Britain Bought in 2017 Channel 4, 9.00pm Mary Portas assesses whether this year has been as dismal as expected for high-street retailers, and examines a few unlikely trends: unicorns, gin and, she suggests, big knickers. Clint Eastwood: a Life in Film Sky Arts, 9.00pm Whether you love or loathe his hardline politics, few would dispute the astonishing consistency of Clint Eastwood’s work. For such a prolific actor and director, there are few duds on his CV and plenty of masterpieces, from Unforgiven to Once Upon a Time in the West. Made in 2007, the year of his ambitious wartime diptych Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima, this excellent programme finds Eastwood in good-humoured form as he talks Michael Henry Wilson through his 50-year career. GT Bruno Mars: Live in Harlem BBC One, 10.25pm; NI, 11.25pm Harlem’s Apollo Theatre launched the careers of James Brown, Ella Fitzgerald and Lauryn Hill, among many others. Bruno Mars pays tribute to the building’s history and rolls out the hits – Uptown Funk, Just the Way You Are et al – along with some dazzling choreography for a hard partying crowd. Romesh Ranganathan: Irrational Live BBC Two, 10.30pm Perhaps rivalled only by Katherine Ryan for small-screen ubiquity this year, Romesh Ranganathan has proved himself an accomplished stand-up comedian. This special, recorded at London’s Hammersmith Apollo in 2016, captures the comedian’s jaundiced but very funny musings on family life. GT The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! (2012) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 9.00am This claymation Aardman romp is a delight. The impasto of non-stop gags, comic detail and slapstick action should appeal to all the family. Hugh Grant plays the Pirate Captain, who needs more booty if he is to stand a chance of winning the title of Pirate of the Year. The plot takes in Darwin, the last dodo and Queen Victoria (voiced by Imelda Staunton). Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 (2017) ★★★★☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 11.00am and 8.00pm Marvel’s playful space sequel looks like an explosion in a nursery school craft cupboard – every scene comes caked in rainbows, glitter and gunge. The core crew returns, led by Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), but the story only really begins with the arrival of a benign and bearded mystic called Ego (Kurt Russell), who has big news for Peter about his earthly origins. Flight (2012) ★★★☆☆ Channel 5, 9.00pm Robert Zemeckis’s film, starring Denzel Washington as alcoholic commercial pilot Whip Whitaker, is a long, earnest, sporadically brilliant drama. On a routine hop from Florida to Atlanta, Whip’s plane starts to tumble out of the sky – a dramatic sequence that will turn nervous fliers’ stomachs – and the pilot must fight to save the lives of those on board. Dull in parts, this is nevertheless morally provocative. Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (2013) ★★★☆☆ BBC Two, 11.30pm Films based on sitcoms tend to play broader than the real series, and this cinema outing for Steve Coogan’s fading media gasbag is no exception. The plot has Alan held hostage at a radio station in Norfolk. Old friends, such as his assistant Lynn (Felicity Montagu), join in and viewers hoping for new catchphrases will be happy, but Partridge loses his Pooterish potency when moving from talk to action. Friday 29 December Bob Mortimer and Vic Reeves Credit: BBC Vic & Bob’s Big Night Out BBC Two, 9.00pm Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer return for this one-off Christmas edition of their sketch show, 27 years after it first aired as Vic Reeves Big Night Out. Fans will be pleased to hear that age has not dimmed the comedians’ energy – in this half-hour they bounce around the studio in the same vein as their younger selves, which gives the show a rapid-fire pace.  The pair’s chemistry is undeniable and they frequently make each other laugh, as well as a raucous studio audience. There is a sense that Reeves and Mortimer are now improvising much of their material, which may explain why some of the jokes here are a touch below par. But many of the sketches are excellent, such as their parody of Channel 4 dating show First Dates, in which they play jokey gay Yorkshiremen. In another, Vic sells wigs made of body parts.  Nostalgia comes in the form of a cameo from Matt Lucas, forever associated with his George Dawes character in Shooting Stars, and the revival of character Graham Lister (played by Bob) in the talent show parody sketch Novelty Island. This brief return reminds us that, with their corny jokes and surreal sense of humour, there’s nobody quite like Vic and Bob. Vicki Power Tim Vine Travels Through Time Christmas Special BBC One, 7.30pm Prepare for a barrage of seasonal puns as Tim Vine’s comedy show returns. Emma Bunton and Reverend Richard Coles join Vine on a jaunt to Tudor times. Eric & Ernie’s Home Movies BBC Two, 8.00pm Those ghosts of Christmas past, Morecambe and Wise, are revisited in this charming documentary showcasing the double act via some newly discovered home movies. Look out also for a repeat of Morecambe & Wise: Leading Ladies (BBC Two, 7.00pm) and Eric, Ernie & Me (BBC Four, 9.00pm), a drama exploring their relationship with writer Eddie Braben. Victoria Wood by her friends Channel 5, 9.00pm This tribute to the late comedian covers much the same ground, and includes some identical contributors, as BBC One’s Our Friend Victoria, but it’s still a treat to be reminded of Wood’s talents. Her 1997 stand-up show, Victoria Wood: Live 1997, follows.   Delicious Sky One, 9.00pm Sky dishes up a second series of this frothy Cornwall-set drama. Chef Gina (Dawn French) has now joined forces with Sam (Emilia Fox) to run the Penrose Hotel, as the man that they were both once married to, Leo (Iain Glen), narrates from beyond the grave. But it turns out tensions haven’t died with him, and their spats bring a pinch of spice to the drama. Tonight, Franco Nero arrives as Gina’s ne’er-do-well father to stir up trouble. Frankie Boyle’s 2017 New Year World Order BBC Two, 10.00pm; not NI This year’s absence of Charlie Brooker’s Wipe is mitigated somewhat by Frankie Boyle’s return for this end-of-year round-up. And certainly somebody needs to help make sense of this crazy year. VP Elvis: The Rebirth of the King BBC Four, 10.00pm This compelling film seeks to overturn the enduring image of Elvis Presley’s Vegas years as a tragic nadir of his career. It argues that Presley’s musical renaissance in a 1968 Christmas TV special saw the King reach new creative heights that he carried into his Vegas shows, before disillusionment and drugs took over. Fantastic archive footage and commentary from his former collaborators, including Elvis’s backing singers, make a convincing case. VP Up (2009) ★★★★★ BBC One, 2.25pm Possibly Pixar’s finest film, Up has a captivating story that realises the vividness of a childlike imagination. Only those with a heart of stone wouldn’t be moved by the story of Ed Asner (voiced by Carl Fredricksen), who tries to fulfil his dream of building a house next to Paradise Falls in South America. His odyssey brings him more than he bargained for, including a young, hyperactive Wilderness Explorer called Russell. Brave (2012) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 4.20pm The first of Pixar’s films to have a female protagonist won an Oscar and there’s a bewitching craftsmanship to its storytelling. It’s set in the Highlands during the feudal period. Kelly MacDonald plays the flame-haired Merida, who would rather ride her horse than play the role of simpering princess; unable to sway her mother (Emma Thompson), she seeks the help of a witch (Julie Walters). Gone Girl (2014) ★★★☆☆ BBC One, 9.15pm; N Ireland, 9.45pm Cold and controlled, yet fun, this drama, directed by David Fincher, is based on Gillian Flynn’s novel of the same name. Rosamund Pike is Amy Elliott-Dunne, who disappears one morning, much to the apparent surprise of her husband (Ben Affleck). The media sniff around and soon the couple’s secrets come to the surface. Darkly suspenseful at first, the story soon turns into blood-drenched self-parody. The Great Gatsby (2013) ★★★☆☆ BBC Two, 11.15pm Baz Luhrmann lays on a cinematic buffet of such sense-addling brazenness that it takes a while before you notice the film is finger-food and nothing more. Leonardo DiCaprio is Jay Gatsby, a newly minted millionaire, and Carey Mulligan is Daisy Buchanan, the lost love he longs to win back. On the rare occasions Luhrmann gives them space to act in the pulsating frenzy of his Jazz Age world, both do a wonderful job. Television previewers Toby Dantzic, Catherine Gee, Simon Horsford, Sarah Hughes, Clive Morgan, Gerard O'Donovan, Vicki Power, Patrick Smith, Gabriel Tate and Rachel Ward

What's on TV tonight: The League of Gentlemen returns and Mary Berry’s Christmas Party

Monday 18 December The League of Gentlemen BBC Two, 10.00pm This is undoubtedly one of the highlights of the festive season for comedy fans. The influential freak show sitcom set in the blighted fictional town of Royston Vasey returns for a three-part run to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its award-winning debut on Radio 4 (the transfer to TV didn’t occur until 1999).  Reviving once-popular comedy is a risky business – just look at the recent Porridge fiasco – but Mark Gatiss, Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton have gone on to bigger, if not always better, things in the intervening years and they return here as if they were never away. Still performing all the major characters on screen (with the group’s fourth member, Jeremy Dyson, sharing the writing duties) they update the stories and characters without losing the demonic humour of the original.  Most of the best characters make a reappearance – Tubbs and Edward, Barbra the trans taxi driver, Herr Lipp, Pauline Campbell-Jones and Mr Chinnery the vet – as Royston Vasey faces its greatest existential threat. Val Denton, meanwhile, sets the tone decisivelyin an opening scene memorable for all the wrong reasons. Gerard O’Donovan Father Brown BBC One, 1.45pm Mark Williams returns for a sixth series as GK Chesterton’s crime-fighting Catholic priest. It’s Christmas in Kembleford but when a dog makes a gruesome discovery in the woods, Father Brown sets out to reverse a terrible miscarriage of justice. Mary Berry’s Christmas Party BBC One, 8.30pm Tips, recipes and full-on merriment as the BBC’s queen of baking invites a handful of famous faces round for a Christmas party cook-in: Alex Jones shows off her rissoles, Darcey Bussell crafts a dance-inspired dessert, while Adil Ray handles the canapés. Plus there’s ginger glazed ham, white chocolate cherry brandy cake, and much more. The Art That Made Mexico: Paradise, Power and Prayers BBC Four, 9.00pm Artist Alinka Echeverria concludes her series by exploring the influence of faith on Mexican culture and how the conquistadors’ Catholic notions of venerating the divine through art found fertile ground thanks to earlier Mayan beliefs. Birds of a Feather Christmas special ITV, 9.00pm Marks and Gran’s long-running sitcom creaks back for another festive special, with Tracey’s (Linda Robson) Yuletide plans upsetting both Sharon (Pauline Quirke) and Dorien (Lesley Joseph). Abba: When All Is Said and Done Channel 5, 9.00pm An Abba double whammy starts with this docudrama exploring the very different stories of the Swedish supergroup’s singers Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad through their own words. Abba: Live in Concert follows at 11.05pm, recorded at the group’s peak in 1979. GO Andre Rieu: Christmas In London 2016 Sky Arts, 9.00pm Rieu entertains with everything festive from Jingle Bells to White Christmas and O Holy Night, bringing his infectious blend of glitter, frills and massed violin strings to boost the seasonal mood. Private Lives of The Monarchs Yesterday, 9.00pm There’s more to Henry VIII than the image of a roistering glutton whose obsession with siring a male heir led to England’s break with Catholicism. So says historian Tracy Borman, painting a picture of a thoughtful young king driven to tyranny by personal demons. GO Carry On Cleo (1964) ★★★☆☆ Channel 4, 12.20pm “Infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it in for me!” So says Kenneth Williams’s waspish Caesar in this, one of the best in the long-running series of cheap and cheerful comedies. Set in ancient Rome, it’s hardly Shakespeare but at least the gags come thick and fast. Watch out for an early appearance from Coronation Street’s Amanda Barrie as a doe-eyed Cleopatra, up to her ears in ass’s milk and political intrigue. First Blood (1982) ★★★★☆ ITV4, 9.00pm Based on David Morrell’s novel, this is the first and best of the Rambo action-movie franchise – it’s more sensitive than the sequels. Sylvester Stallone has become synonymous with Rambo, a maladjusted ex-Green Beret who, after having some Vietnam flashbacks, goes on a one-man war against a crooked small-town sheriff (Brian Dennehy). It’s pacy and raw with a moving climax. Part II is on Tuesday. The Woman in Black (2012) ★★★★☆ Channel 4, 12.10am Thanks to its almost hyper-Edwardian setting and some canny plot alterations, this feels less like a remake of Susan Hill’s ghost story than a new reading of an old tale, trembling with freshly terrifying resonances. Daniel Radcliffe gives a grown-up performance, while director James Watkins uses shadows and empty spaces to create a percolating sense of dread. Tuesday 19 December Faye Marsey as Sarah Credit: Channel 4 Shamed Channel 4, 9.00pm It’s not the most Christmassy of fare but Anthony Philipson’s (My Mad Fat Diary) dark, theatrical one-off drama is worth checking out. Featuring an intense central performance from Faye Marsay (who seems to be everywhere right now, with Bancroft last week and the BBC thriller McMafia to come), Shamed tells the story of 27-year-old Sarah, who suddenly decides to kidnap and imprison two apparently unconnected men: the seemingly perfect just-about-to-get-married Nathan (Nick Blood) and cocky player Mani (Ryan McKen). Both claim never to have met each other or Sarah before. However there’s a method behind her madness, and one which, when revealed, opens up wider questions about how different events can resonate in different ways. Philipson’s tight script keeps you guessing about the connection until near the end before spilling out into violence and debates about the difference between guilt and shame.  It’s not perfect – Mani is underwritten and the rushed ending is a little forced – but Shamed makes some thoughtful points about our attitudes toward sex and the way in which certain people can stride through life without acknowledging the damage they trail behind. Sarah Hughes The Royal Variety Performance 2017 ITV, 7.30pm Miranda Hart hosts this year’s Royal Variety Performance, attended by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, with guests ranging from the obvious (Michael Ball, Alfie Boe) to the incongruous (Kelsey Grammer, Seal). Jamie’s Italian Christmas Channel 4, 8.00pm Another week, another Christmas cookery show. Our chef tonight is the ubiquitous Jamie Oliver who has holed up in a log cabin with his mentor Gennaro Contaldo and hopes to teach us to give the traditional British Christmas an Italian twist. U2 at the BBC BBC One, 9.00pm The Irish band continue their quest for world domination with this film centred on new album Songs of Experience. The action takes place at Abbey Road Studios, where they perform some of their biggest hits and squeeze in a quick chat with Cat Deeley.    Invasion! With Sam Willis BBC Four, 9.00pm The final part of this engaging series sees historian Sam Willis examine one of the more unusual military ideas in history: Napoleon’s plan to use a fleet of balloons as part of his invasion plans during the War of the Third Coalition. The French first crossed the English Channel by hot air balloon in 1785 and Napoleon appointed aeronaut Sophie Blanchard as air service chief to carry out the idea. The plans ultimately came to nothing, but that didn’t stop stories and caricatures of balloons carrying arms, men and even horses spreading through the media.  The First Silent Night Yesterday, 9.00pm The mournful Silent Night is one of the world’s most beloved carols, and was declared an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2011. This film follows actor Simon Callow as he heads to the Austrian village of Oberndorf to uncover its origins before considering why this carol above all others resonates so strongly. SH Extraordinary Teens: Young, Gifted and Broke Channel 4, 10.00pm Pianist and composer Shane Thomas hit the headlines aged only 10 when his precocious talent saw him hailed as the British Mozart. Seven years later his career has stalled. What emerges is a depressing but well-told story of ambition tampered by poverty and a system in which privilege and connections count as much, if not more than raw talent. SH Sword of Sherwood Forest (1960) ★★★☆☆ Film4, 5.05pm Terence Fisher teamed up with Hammer Films for this child-friendly spin-off from The Adventures of Robin Hood TV series, with Richard Greene, who reprises his role here. Peter Cushing stars as the dastardly Sheriff of Nottingham out to murder the Archbishop of Canterbury. It’s a cheap and cheerful affair that remains true to the spirit of the original. Smurfs: The Lost Village (2017) ★★☆☆☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 6.15pm The third of the big-screen outings for The Smurfs is a trippy treat for under-eights, for everyone else the blues. This Smurfs contains double the number of Smurfs ever previously seen, thanks to the discovery of an all-female enclave somewhere deep in the woods. Demi Lovato, Mandy Patinkin, Michelle Rodriguez and Julia Roberts are among those lending their voices. Carol (2015) ★★★★★ Film4, 9.00pm Todd Haynes’s adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 novel is gorgeous, gently groundbreaking, and quite possibly be the saddest thing that you’ll ever see. It tells the story of a photographer (Rooney Mara) who has a relationship with an older woman (Cate Blanchett) in New York. Haynes’ film concludes that love is the riskiest but most necessary gamble. Wednesday 20 December Dame Judi Dench Credit: BBC Judi Dench: My Passion for Trees BBC One, 8.00pm When this one-off documentary was announced, some predictably invoked Alan Partridge’s hapless pitch of Youth Hostelling with Chris Eubank. Certainly, it’s hard to imagine many other celebrities managing to get this made, and even harder to imagine any who could have made it so watchable. A look of astonished delight is plastered over Dame Judi’s face throughout the hour, as she makes all manner of unexpected discoveries about the trees that she loves. There is also a rare peek into her personal life and relationship with her “chap”, David Mills. This may lack the forensic camerawork and high-spec CGI of most BBC nature documentaries, but there are rewarding revelations amid the occasional dose of Botany 101. “I think of my trees as part of my extended family,” says Dench – not the absurd piece of sentimentality you might suspect, as she plants a tree in her back garden for each friend or relative who has died. And trees, it transpires, are also remarkably sociable in their way, an arboreal community connected by spidery threads of fungus and able to call for help if under attack by aphids. Charming and subtly educational. Gabriel Tate What Makes You Tic? BBC Three, from 10.00am Vlogger Lewis “QBall” Nickell aims to conquer his Tourette’s Syndrome and launch a career as a talk-show host, meeting The Vamps and Girls Aloud alumna Nadine Coyle as part of his efforts to raise awareness. Carabao Cup: Bristol City v Manchester United Sky Sports Main Event, 7.30pm We’re at Ashton Gate for this quarter-final clash, as the Robins look to produce and upset against holders Manchester United. The hosts have already claimed two Premier League scalps in Watford and Stoke City, but United are clear favourites here.  The Real Marigold on Tour BBC One, 9.00pm When you see the lives the Marigold pensioners are leading who wouldn’t be envious? This week, Sheila Ferguson, Rustie Lee, Paul Nicholas and Dennis Taylor head to Iceland. There, they go whale watching in the fishing village of Hausavik, and try aqua aerobics and gymnastics in Reykjavik. Elsewhere, Sheila goes on a date with an Icelandic man. Peaky Blinders BBC Two, 9.00pm Perhaps the best series yet comes to a punishing climax with the night of the big fight and yet another reckoning for the Shelbys, this time courtesy of Changretta (Adrien Brody) and once-trusted allies. A Night for the Emergency Services ITV, 9.00pm Presenting a sort of 999’s Got Talent, Ashley Banjo and Diversity introduce a showcase for the firefighters, police and hospital workers who demonstrate skills far beyond their professional capabilities. These include magicians, dancers and a Michael Bublé impersonator, along with appearances from a few special guests. Taskmaster Champion of Champions  Dave, 9.00pm One of the funniest series on TV comes to a spectacular climax as the ultimate Taskmaster champion is crowned, with previous winners Josh Widdicombe, Katherine Ryan, Noel Fielding, Rob Beckett and Bob Mortimer all in the running. Dian Fossey: Secrets in the Mist  National Geographic, 9.00pm After a lifetime of conservation work and, campaigning against poaching, primatologist Dian Fossey was killed in her Rwandan cabin in 1985 – a crime that remains unsolved. The final part of this gripping series examines possible motives. GT Male Rape: Breaking the Silence BBC One, 10.45pm; Scot & Wales, 11.10pm; NI, 11.40pm First shown on BBC Three, this grim but necessary film hears from three men who are among the estimated one-in-six to have been victims of rape. GT Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) ★★★★★ BBC One, 1.45pm Steven Spielberg’s rollicking adventure film, with a very scary end, won four Oscars and created a new action hero in Dr Henry “Indiana” Jones (Harrison Ford). Jones is an archaeologist hired by the US government in 1936 to seek out the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis find it. The ensuing events provide a rollercoaster of thrills. The Temple of Doom and The Last Crusade follow over the next two night. Chicken Run (2000) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 3.35pm Aardman Animations, the studio behind many of Nick Park’s triumphs, conjures up another stop-motion corker that fairly swarms with clever little jokes and details. Our heroes here are a group of jauntily anthropomorphic chickens; they’re plotting their escape to freedom from the tyrannical Mr and Mrs Tweedy, who run the farm on which they live. The voice cast boasts Julia Sawalha, Jane Horrocks and Mel Gibson. The Phantom of the Opera (2004) ★★★☆☆ Sky Arts, 9.00pm Impressed by his use of music in The Lost Boys, Andrew Lloyd Webber hired director Joel Schumacher to bring his hit musical, the longest-running Broadway show in history, about a disfigured genius who lives hidden in the Paris Opera House and who develops a crush on a chorus girl, to the big screen. The score has all the faux-gothic pomp required, but Gerard Butler’s Phantom fails to spook. Thursday 21 December Darcey Bussell Credit: BBC Darcey Bussell: Looking for Fred Astaire BBC One, 10.45pm One dance star explores another in this unpretentious profile of Fred Astaire. Darcey Bussell traces Astaire’s journey from his hometown in Nebraska to New York, London and Los Angeles to examine his ascent to film stardom, achieved after nearly three decades as a professional dancer. She puts forward that he owed much of his success to three women – his mother, his sister and dancing partner Adele, and his first wife Phyllis – but wisely doesn’t labour the point.  Bussell peruses memorabilia and film footage – there’s a delightful clip of Astaire dancing with his long-time collaborator, Hermes Pan – and discusses with historians Astaire’s early life, work ethic and personality clash with Ginger Rogers. The commentary doesn’t uncover much that an Astaire fan wouldn’t already know, but Bussell is an enthusiastic guide and the clips are terrific. Strictly professionals Aljaz Skorjanec and Janette Manrara are touring a successful stage show called Remembering Fred – this film also reminds us of Astaire’s immeasurable contribution to dance, though it wouldn’t harm for it to air at an hour more suited to the ballroom dance-loving demographic. Vicki Power MasterChef: The Professionals: The Finals BBC Two, 8.00pm It’s ladles at dawn for the three finalists as they tackle their last challenge. They’ll cook a three-course meal in three hours for the formidable judging trio of Wareing, Galetti and Wallace, who’ll then choose their champ. Joanna & Jennifer: Absolutely Champers BBC Two, 9.00pm On the flimsy premise of celebrating 25 years since the birth of Absolutely Fabulous, Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley take a fizz-fuelled jolly to France to tour vineyards. They neck vats of bubbly in a travelogue as meandering as Patsy’s gait after an evening spent swigging Bolly. Gordon, Gino and Fred’s Great Christmas Roast ITV, 9.00pm It’s Celtic vigour versus Italian passion in this feelgood cookery special. TV chefs Gordon Ramsay and Gino D’Acampo compete, with a team of celebrity helpers, to create the best Christmas banquet for 100 emergency services workers. First Dates’ maître d’ Fred Sirieux presents. Donny Osmond’s Easy Listening Christmas Channel 5, 9.00pm This Val Doonican-style one-off sees Donny Osmond counting down his 25 favourite festive songs, exploring their geneses and comparing classic renditions to cover versions. VP The Tunnel: Vengeance Sky Atlantic, 9.00pm The symbiosis between Anglo-French cop partners Karl and Elise (Stephen Dillane and Clémence Poésy) in this murder mystery shows us a cheering flipside to Brexit. Their touching, humorous relationship is affecting, even if the series overall lacks the Scandinavian-style eeriness of The Bridge, on which it’s based. Here, the cross-channel cops make a breakthrough in the search for the missing children. The Galaxy Britain Built: Droids, Darth Vader and Lightsaber/Hollywood’s Master of Myth BBC Four, 10.00pm and 11.00pm In celebration of the release of The Last Jedi, these documentaries look at the ingredients that helped shape the Star Wars phenomenon. The first focuses on the film crew who created George Lucas’s fictional galaxy. The second, from 1999, explores the work of US academic Joseph Campbell, whom Lucas has credited with inspiring his plot. VP The Dark Crystal (1982) ★★★☆☆ Film4, 1.05pm Muppets creator Jim Henson stepped out from the comfort of children’s TV to make this dark fantasy tale about a pair of creatures who must find a missing shard of crystal in order to defeat the evil Skeksis. The superbly designed puppets and sets add a surreal quality but it lacks the sense of humour which made Labyrinth, Henson’s next cinema release, so popular. Frank Oz, fellow puppeteer and the voice of Yoda, co-directs. Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 3.35pm Nick Park’s plucky Plasticine pair set about rescuing a village whose annual vegetable competition is in jeopardy because of rabbits eating up the contents of everyone’s gardens. But their bunny brainwashing goes wrong and they accidentally create a mutant rabbit. Beautifully shot, charming, and very silly, it deservedly won the Oscar for Best Animation. Candyman (1992) ★★★★☆ Film4, 11.15pm Virginia Madsen does powerhouse work as a student of folklore lured into fascination with a hook-handed killer who appears when you say his name five times in front of a mirror. She ignores all warnings but is soon blamed for his crimes when a series of horrible murders begin. Majestic direction from Bernard Rose transforms this into a resoundingly epic and gory fable. Friday 22 December Bruno Tonioli  Credit: BBC Saturday Night Fever: The Ultimate Disco Movie BBC Two, 9.00pm Long before he became a household name as a Strictly Come Dancing judge, Bruno Tonioli had a successful career as a choreographer to the stars, arranging dance for music videos, stage shows and tours for Tina Turner, Sting, Elton John and many others. Here he looks back 40 years to when he was a young dancer in New York and got caught up in the global phenomenon that was Saturday Night Fever.  It’s a great story, told with typical Tonioli verve, of how a low-budget film starring the then unknown John Travolta and using the music of a failing band of high-pitched popsters, the Bee Gees, became one of the biggest box office draws of all time and gave half the world “disco fever”. It also shows how – to give credit where it is due – much of its success was down to the visionary genius and unstoppable determination of the Bee Gees’ manager, the late Robert Stigwood, impresario behind some of the most popular stars, and hit stage and film musicals (Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, Grease, Bugsy Malone) of the Seventies. Contributors include Travolta. Gerard O’Donovan The Toys That Made Us Netflix, from today Toys of the Eighties are the focus of this series taking an in-depth look at the nostalgia and collecting fervour that surrounds eight of the biggest selling toy brands of that decade: Transformers, Stars Wars, He-Man, GI Joe, Barbie, Star Trek, Hello Kitty and Lego. Premier League Football: Arsenal v Liverpool Sky Sports Main Event, 7.00pm Action from the Emirates Stadium, as Arsenal  look to avenge a 4-0 defeat in August, when Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, Mo Salah and Daniel Sturridge all found the net for Liverpool. TOTP4 Christmas 2017 BBC Four, 7.30pm Get into the Christmas party spirit with Mark Radcliffe’s countdown of classic festive hits from Top of the Pops’s glitter-spattered archive, with The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl, Wizzard, Slade, The Darkness and Ed Sheeran among the acts featured. Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast Christmas Special Channel 4, 8.00pm Jamie Oliver and Jimmy Doherty welcome actress Liv Tyler to the pier café to make her favourite takeaway, pork dim sum. Oliver also whips up a cracking kedgeree, and Doherty builds a home-made wood-fired oven. Al Murray’s Make Christmas Great Again ITV, 9.00pm Al Murray’s gloriously unreconstructed pub landlord invites an audience to a lock-in at the Reindeer’s Head where he bends ears on such matters as how Christmas is losing its Britishness while whipping up anti-PC seasonal singalongs and remonstrating with celebrity guests. George Michael to Tom Petty: a Tribute Sky Arts, 9.00pm Chuck Berry, Fats Domino and David Cassidy are just some of the musicians and performers who, along with George Michael and Tom Petty, we lost in the past 12 months – as affectionately remembered in this 90-minute tribute. GO Les Dawson: In His Own Words Channel 5, 10.00pm Comedians didn’t come more old school than Les Dawson, with his bluff Northern style, rubber face and mother-in-law jokes. But he was one of the most original comedians of his generation, as proved by this terrific documentary that raids the archives for his funniest work. The Graham Norton Show BBC One, 10.40pm Grahm Norton’s line-up offers a good mix of interest: Hollywood star Will Smith, Victoria’s Jenna Coleman, chef Jamie Oliver and former Keane frontman Tom Chaplin. GO Bright (2017) Netflix, from today This Netflix Original – a $100 million special-effects blockbuster from David Ayer, director of Suicide Squad – sounds like a mash-up of Lethal Weapon and Lord of the Rings. In an alternate Los Angeles where elves and witches walk the streets, Will Smith’s tough NYPD officer finds himself partnered with an orc (Joel Edgerton). Considering its hefty price tag and star-studded soundtrack (Migos, Rag’n’Bone Man, Camila Cabello), this could be Netflix’s biggest mistake yet Puss in Boots (2011) ★★☆☆☆ BBC One, 3.40pm DreamWorks Animation’s Shrek spin-off follows Puss in Boots’s life before he became the green ogre’s sidekick. With the help of Kitty Softpaws (voiced by Salma Hayek) and Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis), the swashbuckling feline (Antonio Banderas) becomes a hero after saving his town. Like the CGI ogre’s last two films, Shrek the Third and Shrek Forever After, the animation is more impressive than the jokes. Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001) ★★★★☆ ITV, 10.40pm American actress Renée Zellweger perfects her English accent to play the Chardonnay-swigging, chain-smoking, lovelorn Bridget in this adaptation of Helen Fielding’s novel, which remains a solid favourite. Love interests Hugh Grant and Colin Firth are excellent as her roguish boss Daniel Cleaver and the stuffy-but-handsome (even in a Christmas jumper) lawyer Mark Darcy. Saturday 23 December A Christmas Tree in Manger Square, Bethlehem Credit: Channel 4 The World’s Best Christmas Lights: From Liverpool to Bethlehem Channel 4, 8.00pm It is amazing what you can build a successful, multi-million-pound, internationally renowned business from. Liverpool-based company The Christmas Decorators specialise in the commercial design and installation of large-scale Christmas lights and decorations – the kind you see in every shop, street and town square. This entertaining film, one of the more offbeat of the season, follows a rather surprising commission: to install the lights and decorations at what many might consider the birthplace of Christmas – Manger Square in Bethlehem. In fact, they’ve been doing it every year since 2012, bringing every single bulb and bauble with them from their warehouse in the UK.  It’s a huge logistical effort, which is also a possibly tricky one, if customs or security in, say, Istanbul take exception to the Bethlehem-bound consignment as it passes through. Director of operations GED Comerford leads the four-person installation team on the trek from Liverpool. It’s fraught with hitches and glitches – even a home-baked Christmas cake is regarded with suspicion by local security – but all the more entertaining for that. Gerard O’Donovan Smashie’s Xmastastic Playlist Christmas Gold, 4.00pm Getting the Christmas party off to an early start from his fab-tastic hideaway at Radio Hush, The Fast Show’s Mike Smash (Paul Whitehouse) brings his off-kilter pop-DJ insights to an hour of festive hits from Wizzard to Johnny Mathis via McCartney, Dylan and Springsteen.  Elf: The Musical Channel 5, 5.00pm There’s seasonal song, dance and fun in the stage musical version of Will Ferrell’s much-loved comedy from the Lowry Theatre in Salford. Ben Forster, who won ITV’s Superstar talent search in 2012, leads the cast as Buddy, a human orphan who was raised by Santa’s elves in the North Pole and returns to New York in search of his family. Michael Buble’s Christmas in New York Sky Arts, 5.00pm At the Radio City Music Hall the crooner sings a selection of seasonal classics, along with a sparkling line-up of special guests including Barbra Streisand, Ariana Grande and The Muppets’ Miss Piggy. It is repeated on Sky One at 12.15am. Pointless Celebrities Christmas Special BBC One, 6.15pm Some of the contestants in this festive edition of the quiz could themselves be pointless answers in a round on Christmas hits. Jona Lewie, Jimmy Osmond and Ben Haenow are among those answering Alexander Armstrong questions. Blind Date Christmas Special Channel 5, 8.00pm There’s a fairy-tale spin to this edition of Paul O’Grady’s matchmaking show, as a Prince Charming has to choose between fellow panto actors Cinderella, Snow White and Tinkerbell. It’s Christmas Live from the Royal Albert Hall Sky One, 8.00pm The Royal Albert Hall is transformed to a rock ’n’ roll winter wonderland as Jason Manford introduces performances by Holly Johnson, Marc Almond, Chrissie Hynde and Shakin’ Stevens, among many others. GO Feud: Bette and Joan BBC Two, from 9.00pm; NI, from 9.30pm Ryan Murphy’s stylish and scathingly catty dramatisation of the Hollywood feud between Bette Davis (Susan Sarandon) and Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange) reaches the moment that the actresses’ mutual loathing went off the scale – while working on the 1962 classic What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (which follows). GO Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001) ★★★☆☆ ITV, 1.35pm  From today to New Year’s Day, ITV are screening all of the Harry Potter films – one film a day, except on Boxing Day. This first adaptation of J K Rowling’s novel was, for a while, the second highest-grossing film ever. Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint are endearing (and very young) in the lead roles but the film lacks the original book’s compulsiveness. Frozen (2013) ★★★★★ BBC One, 2.50pm Disney’s 53rd feature is an enchanting combination of fairy-tale derring-do and heart-popping musical numbers that has left children and adults powerless to its charms. Elsa (Idina Menzel) is a shy princess driven into exile when her magical powers are discovered. Her sister Anna (Kristen Bell) gallops off to fetch her from her beautiful ice palace. Spin-off Olaf’s Frozen Adventure is on Christmas Day. Bill (2015) ★★★★☆ BBC Two, 6.00pm Intelligent children and immature adults will love this mock-biopic from the Horrible Histories troupe that follows the young William Shakespeare (Mathew Baynton) as he ascends from quill-scraping zero to literary hero. Some of the best moments (a running joke about false moustaches is one) are full-bloodedly Pythonesque, although occasionally a kind of student-revue smarminess creeps in. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962, b/w) ★★★★★ BBC Two, 10.35pm; not N Ireland Robert Aldrich’s classic slice of American Grotesque, starring two of cinema’s greatest screen divas, started a trend for casting ageing actresses in campy Gothic horror movies. Joan Crawford and Bette Davis play reclusive sisters locked in an abusive relationship in their crumbling Hollywood mansion.  Christmas Eve Sue Perkins, Mary Berry and Mel Giedroyc Credit: BBC Mary, Mel and Sue’s Big Christmas Thank You BBC One, 7.00pm Anyone looking for some extra festive cheer should look no further than this exuberant Christmas special which sees former Great British Bake-Off stars Mary Berry, Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc join forces to help out at a community centre in the Rhondda Valley in Wales.  Initially, it seems as though this is one of those rather forced shows in which celebrities dispense good cheer and bad jokes, but an emotional story of community spirit in the face of despair swiftly emerges. “We’ve lost our library, our butchers, both banks have closed and there’s no school,” states Elizabeth “Buffy” Williams. Working with her friend Lynne, Buffy has attempted to combat that by opening a community centre offering meals, bingo and after-school classes. Now they want to throw a special Christmas meal for the whole community but it’s tough: the kitchen is small, money is tight and Lynne freely admits that she hates cooking. Enter the indomitable Mrs Berry, who rolls up her sleeves, corrals Daffyd, a 16-year-old with a GCSE in catering, into becoming her sous chef and helps Lynne tackle her phobia. The final celebration should bring a tear to even the most cynical of eyes. Sarah Hughes Premiership Rugby Union: Leicester Tigers v Saracens BT Sport 1, 2.30pm Below-par this season, Leicester will be hoping a win here at Welford Park against third-placed Saracens will give them fresh momentum going into the new year.  Countryfile BBC One, 6.00pm The team head to the Peak District for this special which sees John Craven exploring Longshaw Estate, Anita Rani experiencing a Nativity play with a difference and Matt Baker venturing into Peak Cavern for a carol concert.  Christmas University Challenge 2017 BBC Two, 8.00pm; Scotland, 5.45pm There’s something addictive about the University Challenge’s specials, possibly because they allow us to see celebrities in a new light. The opener sees a team from Durham University, including actor Nick Mohammed, take on a Keble College side featuring Katy Brand. Child Genius vs Celebrities Christmas Special Channel 4, 8.00pm Richard Osman is our host for this Christmas special, which sees past child geniuses take on, among others, Catastrophe star Rob Delaney and broadcaster Janet Street Porter. Will youth or experience win out?  Michael McIntyre’s Big Christmas Show BBC One, 8.30pm The comedian returns for a festive edition in which Alesha Dixon risks social disaster by handing over her phone in Celebrity Send-to-All, plus there’s stand-up from Bill Bailey and music from Seal.  Maigret in Montmartre ITV, 8.30pm Critics haven’t always been kind to ITV’s reboot of Georges Simenon’s Maigret featuring Rowan Atkinson. Yet there’s actually a lot to like here. Atkinson underplays the role nicely, the plots are serviceable and the whole thing is entertaining if undemanding fare. This episode sees Maigret drawn in to the murder of a showgirl. SH M R James evening BBC Four, from 9.00pm Shut the doors, draw the curtains and prepare to be thoroughly spooked as BBC Four dedicates an evening to ghost writer supreme M R James. First up, long-time James fan Mark Gatiss looks at how this diffident Anglican bachelor created stories that still send a tingle down the spine a century after they were written. It’s followed at 10pm by two adaptations of James’s work: The Tractate Middoth, a chilling story about vengeance from beyond the grave, starring Sacha Dhawan and John Castle, and No 13, featuring Greg Wise as an academic who uncovers more than he bargains for in a small medieval town. Billy Elliot: the Musical Sky Arts, 9.00pm Anyone who hasn’t managed to catch Stephen Daldry’s big-hearted musical take on his film about a miner’s son who just wants to dance can find out what all the fuss is about with this performance from 2014 starring Ruthie Henshall and Elliott Hanna. SH Gone with the Wind (1939) ★★★★★ Channel 5, 9.20am Hollywood’s highest-grossing movie until The Sound of Music in 1966, this was the film for which the word “epic” was invented. Vivien Leigh became a star as Scarlett O’Hara, the spoilt Southern belle whose life is turned upside down by the US Civil War. Clark Gable and Leslie Howard are her lovers. It’s brash and self-indulgent, but frankly we don’t give a damn. The Lego Batman Movie (2017) ★★★★☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 1.25pm and 7.00pm Don’t tell Ben Affleck – who plays Actual Batman – but the actor has been made surplus to requirements by one and a half inches of moulded plastic. Lego Batman’s debut solo feature, spun off from a cameo in The Lego Movie, is frantically and relentlessly funny as a new police commissioner (Rosario Dawson) threatens to make the Caped Crusader redundant. Guys and Dolls (1955) ★★★★☆ BBC Two, 3.20pm The 1955 film adaptation of the Broadway classic holds up rather well. The stellar casting certainly helps: Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra in one film – as the rival New York gamblers (and gangsters) Sky Masterson and Nathan Detroit, who place a bet on compromising the virtue of a pious Salvation Army woman, Sarah Brown (played by Jean Simmons). The musical numbers are still a delight. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) ★★★★★ Channel 4, 6.30pm Tiny Tim is a small green frog, Mrs Cratchit is a bad-tempered pig and Charles Dickens himself is portrayed by Gonzo, enormous blue nose and all. And yet, there are few better, or more affecting versions of A Christmas Carol than this musical adaptation. Michael Caine is ideal as the miserly Scrooge, the laughs are aplenty and the finale is as rousing as they come. Christmas Day Peter Capaldi and David Bradley Credit: BBC Doctor Who BBC One, 5.30pm While it’s not unusual for Doctor Who to begin with a “Previously…”, this one takes things all the way back to William Hartnell’s First Doctor, having faced the Cybermen at the South Pole and refused to regenerate. After necessarily metamorphosing into David Bradley (who played Hartnell in Mark Gatiss’s docudrama An Adventure in Space and Time), he duly encounters Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor, in a similar fix. Throw in Mark Gatiss’s doomed British army captain, transported from the Western Front at the moment of death with stiff upper lip wobbling, a mysterious glass woman (Nikki Amuka-Bird) with the power to freeze time, the return of Bill (Pearl Mackie) and a few other surprises, and you have another of Steven Moffat’s self-imposed riddles to unravel. Given that this is Moffat’s own last stand, and with Jodie Whitaker due to make her bow at the end of the episode, you might anticipate a tsunami of self-indulgence and sentimentality, but no. Capaldi and Mackie’s snappy, affectionate chemistry precludes such easy options, Gatiss is restrained and funny and Moffat’s musing on war and peace is enough to bear the wit and self-referentiality. A dignified farewell. Gabriel Tate The Highway Rat BBC One, 4.45pm Rob Brydon narrates and David Tennant voices the eponymous anti-hero in another enchanting adaptation of a Julia Donaldson/Axel Scheffler picture book, this time depicting the comeuppance for a selfish, swashbuckling rat and his long-suffering steed.. The Royal Opera: Puccini’s La Boheme BBC Four, 7.00pm Clemency Burton-Hill introduces Richard Jones’s production of Puccini’s tale of love and loss among bohemians in 19th-century Paris, conducted by Antonio Pappano and starring tenor Michael Fabiano and soprano Nicole Car as star-crossed lovers Rodolfo and Mimi. Jones’s production has a wintry charm that should see it sit very comfortably in today’s schedules.  Olaf’s Frozen Adventure Sky Cinema Premiere/On Demand, 7.30pm Perhaps better suited to television after a brief run in cinemas that saw parents complaining about it delaying screenings of Coco, this Frozen spin-off finds the cheerful snowman Olaf (voiced by Josh Gad) joining his reindeer, Sven, on a mission for their royal highnesses Elsa (Idina Menzel) and Anna (Kristen Bell) who are desperate to create their own Christmas tradition. Expect four catchy new songs to be ringing around your head. GT  Call the Midwife BBC One, 7.40pm Call the Midwife pulls out all the stops for this astoundingly gloomy affair as a Boxing Day freeze descends, stranding Valerie (Jennifer Kirby) in a caravan for an ad hoc delivery and accounting for a popular old timer with a very dark secret. The Great Christmas bake off Channel 4, 7.40pm Val and Selasi from last year, Paul Jagger (he of 2015’s bread lion) and Welsh Beca, a 2013 semi-finalist, return to compete for Star Baker, introduced and judged by the new Fab Four. There’s more of the same on New Year’s Day. Victoria ITV, 9.00pm The Queen (Jenna Coleman) is pregnant again and missing her governess, leaving Albert (Tom Hughes) in the unlikely role of Christmas merrymaker-in-chief. It’s a festive special by numbers, but affecting and easy on the eye. Ashes Cricket: Australia v England BT Sport 1, 10.30pm It’s been a fraught series, on and off the field, for England, with their players’ professionalism frequently called into question. This signals the start of the fourth Test, played at Melbourne Cricket Ground. Can Joe Root’s beleaguered side salvage some dignity? Or will the Aussies continue to have a field day? 300 Years of French & Saunders BBC One, 10.35pm Unseen footage, much-loved sketches and of course Lulu feature in this one-off, which sees the duo back together on TV for the first time in a decade. The new material is intermittently inspired and vigorously performed, with The Handmaid’s Tale, the Kardashians and Poldark all subjected to their attentions. GT Singin’ in the Rain (1952) ★★★★★ Channel 5, 1.05pm There are few movie scenes more memorable than Gene Kelly’s rain-soaked Singin’ in the Rain sequence, or many more jaw-dropping than Donald O’Connor’s walk up the wall. But more than song and dance, this film contains real satire as it recounts the introduction of the “talkie” and the superficial nature of the US film industry. Debbie Reynolds (who died a year ago, one day after daughter Carrie Fisher) co-stars as the Hollywood ingénue. Cinderella (2015) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 3.10pm Kenneth Branagh’s twinkling, live-action Cinderella sticks doggedly to Disney’s 1950 animated version (Cinders’s rodent companions are present) and favours sparkle over wit. However, Cate Blanchett is marvellous as the Wicked Stepmother and Helena Bonham Carter makes a jolly good Fairy Godmother. Princess-obsessed little girls will find it irresistible and the costumes are stunning. Oliver! (1968) ★★★★☆ Channel 5, 3.10pm Carol Reed, who had previously directed The Third Man, won an Oscar for his superior version of Lionel Bart’s musical of the classic Charles Dickens tale (Reed’s only ever attempt at the musical genre). Eight-year-old Mark Lester is sweet as Oliver Twist but it was Ron Moody as Fagin who received the Oscar nod. Reed’s nephew, another Oliver, is a brooding and brutal Bill Sikes and still has the potential to shock. Dumbo (1941) ★★★★★ Channel 4. 4.30pm It may be one of Disney’s shortest animated films, but it is also one of its most loved. Baby elephant Dumbo is born with unfeasibly large ears, is separated from his mother and becomes ostracised by his fellow circus animals. It is only when Timothy Mouse encourages Dumbo to make the most of his ears that he discovers he can fly. This remains an undisputed masterpiece from Disney’s golden age of animation. Boxing Day Willa Fitzgerald, Kathryn Newton, Maya Hawke and Annes Elwy Credit: BBC Little Women BBC One, 8.00pm One suspects that this beautiful adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s much-loved coming-of-age novel (published in 1868) was due a less prominent airing until the BBC had to shelve its flagship festive Agatha Christie adaptation Ordeal by Innocence due to sexual assault allegations against one of the stars. That seems no great loss now, as this sparkling gem of a drama – scripted by Call the Midwife creator Heidi Thomas – more than deserves a Boxing Day prime-time slot.  Told in three parts, it follows the lives of the March sisters – Jo (Maya Hawke), Meg (Willa Fitzgerald), Beth (Annes Elwy), and Amy (Kathryn Newton) – as they progress from adolescence to adulthood under the protective eye of their mother, Marmee (Emily Watson), while their father is away in the American Civil War.  As life-affirming a tale as you could want this time of year, it’s full of high spirits and loving kindness. There are nice cameo performances by Michael Gambon and Angela Lansbury, but in the opening part, the acting laurels go to Hawke for her spot-on portrayal of tomboyish proto-feminist Jo, and Jonah Hauer-King, as boy next door Laurie Laurence. Gerard O’Donovan Todd Barry: Spicy Honey Netflix, from today Stand-up Todd Barry is best known in the US for his bone-dry wit. Anyone seeking relief from the festive season’s more saccharine shows will be sure to find it in this one-off recording from his latest tour. Premier League Football: Tottenham Hotspur v Southampton Sky Sports Main Event, 12.00noon Spurs won both of their matches against the Saints last season, including a 2-1 victory in one of their final home matches at White Hart Lane. Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli both scored in the first half, with James Ward-Prowse pulling one back for Southampton in the second. Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella BBC Two, 5.35pm From Sadler’s Wells, a treat for dance fans in this dazzling Blitz-era reworking of Prokofiev’s classic ballet, performed by Bourne’s New Adventures company.  Snow Bears BBC One, 6.30pm Kate Winslet narrates this documentary following a pack of polar bears as they embark on an eventful 400-mile journey to reach the pack ice where they hunt. Surprisingly charming. Discovering: Julie Andrews Sky Arts, 7.00pm A look at the life and career of an actress and singer more associated with Christmas than most, thanks to endless festive repeats of Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music. But there’s much more to Julie Andrews than that, as shown in this beautifully put-together profile.  Reindeer Family and Me BBC Two, 8.00pm Wildlife film-maker Gordon Buchanan’s festive offering focuses on Santa’s favourite quadruped. In Lapland, Buchanan settles in with the nomadic Sami people to learn the ways of the herder, before setting out with a single reindeer to capture the Northern Lights as they’ve never been filmed before. Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 2017: The Language OF life BBC Four, 8.00pm This year’s theme, The Language of Life, sees cognitive neuroscientist Professor Sophie Scott of UCL embark on an exploration of the urge to communicate. In the opener, she unpicks the evolution of the human voice. GO The Miniaturist BBC One, 9.00pm An absorbing adaptation of Jessie Burton’s bestseller about a young woman thrust into an arranged marriage with a perplexing merchant in 17th-century Amsterdam. It looks exquisite, although the constant quest to shoot each frame as if it were a Vermeer painting doesn’t help the pace. Anna Taylor-Joy plays 18-year-old Nella with suitable bafflement, Alex Hassell intrigues as Johannes, while Romola Garai steals the show as his sister, Marin. Concludes tomorrow. Big Fat Quiz of the Year 2017 Channel 4, 9.00pm Jimmy Carr hosts C4’s alternative comedy quiz looking back at the year in the news, with guests including Richard Ayoade, Noel Fielding, David Mitchell and Katherine Ryan. GO Mary Poppins (1964) ★★★★★ BBC One, 3.45pm This is the popular story of a magical nanny (Julie Andrews) who takes over a London home, transforming the lives of its inhabitants. Dick Van Dyke may affect the worst cockney accent ever heard on film, but the combination of the catchy songs, sumptuous live action and colourful animation makes this one of the most enduring children’s films, and a staple of the festive schedules. The film was nominated for 13 Oscars. Beauty and the Beast (2017) ★★★★☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 10.55am and 5.50pm Emma Watson dazzles in Disney’s show-stopping, live-action, chocolate box remake. The film’s songs – which include three new ones – by Alan Menken are the pulse, the purpose and the headline draw, while Ewan McGregor is delightful as Lumière, Luke Evans perfect as Gaston, and Dan Stevens, in digital fur, is the Prince. The Little Mermaid (1989) ★★★★☆ Channel 4, 4.20pm This vivacious retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale began a rich vein of form for Disney animations (Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King followed). A combination of unforgettable characters, including Sebastian the singing Jamaican crab and the delightfully evil baddie Ursula (based on drag queen Divine), and catchy songs makes Ariel’s journey to dry land a magical thing. Jurassic World (2015) ★★★★☆ ITV, 6.40pm Can modern audiences still be wowed by computer-generated dinosaurs? This long-awaited Jurassic Park sequel (the original movie was released in 1993) proves that they can. A new attraction at the dinosaur theme park, created to re-spark visitor interest, gravely backfires and it’s left to Chris Pratt’s raptor trainer and Bryce Dallas Howard’s scientist to save the day. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is out next year. Wednesday 27 December Steve Coogan as Alan Partidge Credit: BBC Alan Partridge: Why, When, Where, How and Whom? BBC Two, 9.00pm Unfortunately, there were no previews available for this palate-cleansing documentary ahead of Alan Partridge’s return to the BBC for a new series next year, which co-creator Steve Coogan promises will include the sometime Radio Norwich presenter’s take on that most contentious of topics, Brexit. It’s been 25 years since he and Armando Iannucci created the hapless Partridge, described by Iannucci as “a kind of social X-ray of male middle-aged Middle England”, a bombastic, self-important local presenter with an unwavering belief in the importance of the highway code and “imperial leisurewear”.  Now this documentary attempts to explain why this character, above all others, has touched such a nerve. Among those contributing are Coogan and Iannucci, Patrick Marber, Peter Baynham, Rebecca Front, David Schneider and Doon Mackichan, and we’re also promised unseen archive footage. The real secret to Alan’s lasting appeal is a simple one, however: he’s a fully realised character and a very English monster in the same vein as Basil Fawlty. Even as we laugh at him, we’re moved by his increasing self-awareness. Sarah Hughes Celebrity Mastermind BBC One, 7.00pm Actor Jack Ashton, comedian Rich Hall, Match of the Day commentator Guy Mowbray and poet Pam Ayres join John Humphrys for a new run of the celebrity edition. Among the specialist subjects tonight are Tennessee Williams, Iron Maiden and Ashes Cricket.  Agatha Christie vs Hercule Poirot Sky Arts, 7.30pm Pierre Bayar presents this interesting deconstruction of one of Agatha Christie’s most celebrated novels, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, in which he alleges a miscarriage of justice by Poirot.  Six Robots & Us BBC Two, 8.00pm Psychologist Dr Caroline Jay and robotics specialist Prof Jonathan Rossiter join forces in this fascinating experiment which aims to uncover how helpful the latest innovations in robotics truly are. To find out the team deliver four very different robots to families around the UK.  Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 2017: the language of life BBC Four, 8.00pm Professor Sophie Scott, UCL’s Head of the Speech Communications Group, gives this year’s lecture, looking at silent communication and why our body language and smells can say as much if not more than our words and sounds.   World’s Strongest Man 2017 Channel 5, 8.00pm Channel 5 brings us all the action from the World’s Strongest Man competition in Botswana. All eyes are on the USA’s Brian Shaw, the defending champion, who is hoping to win for a record firth time.  Turtle, Eagle, Cheetah: A Slow Odyssey BBC Four, 9.00pm BBC Four’s latest foray into the enticing world of slow TV is this nature documentary which focuses on the different views of a cheetah on the African savannah, a green turtle in the Indonesia reefs and a white-tailed eagle in Scotland. SH Miranda Does Christmas Channel 4, 9.00pm Like many an institution before her, Miranda Hart has swapped the BBC for Channel 4 on her return to the small screen. Here, Hart hosts a “raucous Christmas party” with guests including David Tennant, Sam Smith and Prue Leith. SH The Red Shoes (1948) ★★★★★ BBC Two, 12.10pm Powell and Pressburger’s seminal musical tragedy is one of cinema’s great wonders. It’s about a talented ballet dancer (Moira Shearer), her romance with a struggling composer (Marius Goring) and her loyalty to the ballet that he wrote and in which she is meant to star. The film’s theme of the pre-eminent call of creative passion is thought to be an allegory for P & P’s devotion to their craft. Big Hero 6 (2014) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 4.10pm This Disney animation is an East-meets-West adventure with buckets of heart and soul – and quite possibly Disney at its adorable, huggable, and most visually extravagant best. Hiro Hamada, a 14-year-old orphan living in the city of San Fransokyo, befriends Baymax, a 10-foot-tall, bright, white inflatable robot invented by his elder brother, who’s killed in a mysterious fire at his laboratory. Scrooged (1988) ★★★★☆ Film4, 4.35pm 9+Bill Murray plays a mean-spirited network TV president who sees the light after he experiences ghostly visitations – including Carol Kane as a happy-slapping fairy in a tutu – in this droll comic update of Dickens’s tale. Murray is on deadpan, cynical form (“Have you tried staples?”) and Robert Mitchum contributes a priceless cameo as a fellow executive with plans to produce TV shows for cats and dogs. Oasis: Supersonic (2016) ★★★☆☆ BBC Two, 10.00pm Oasis’s glory-days documentary indulges Noel and Liam Gallagher’s bad behaviour. Mat Whitecross’s film starts and ends with the pair of dates when Oasis debatably peaked, at Knebworth in 1996, and goes to excessive length to detail stories of their excess. Few rock stars, in fairness, have a habit of being so amusingly and brutally honest about their failings, and Whitecross is content to let them have the last word. Thursday 28 December David Attenborough Credit: BBC Attenborough and the Empire of the Ants BBC Two, 9.30pm Back on dry land after Blue Planet II, David Attenborough travels to the Jura Mountains on the Swiss-French border to investigate the methods used by two different communities of wood ants to survive and thrive. One adopts a familiar strategy of territorial aggression, with a family dominated by a single queen and chemical warfare on rival communities conducted with liberal distribution of formic acid. The other appears to defy the rules of evolution as they are currently understood, forming a supercolony consisting of several communities cooperating for the greater good in a manner reminiscent of early man’s first steps to eventual supremacy. Queens, sentries and workers labour alongside each other in a manner which sounds far-fetched, but the cameras capture this extraordinary behaviour in mesmerising detail, from hunting to breeding to self-preservation.  The now-customary behind-the-scenes postscript sees Attenborough almost as amazed by the new technology that allows such access to nature (in this case, the “FrankenCam”) as by nature itself. It’s not Blue Planet II, but it’s the sort of fascinating deeper dive that Natural World does so well. Gabriel Tate Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 2017: The Language OF life BBC Four, 8.00pm Sophie Scott brings her series of lectures to an close with an examination of language and comprehension in the animal kingdom. Are we humans really as far advanced as we believe, or might primates and even birds be able to communicate with comparable sophistication? The Secret Life of 5 Year Olds On Holiday Channel 4, 8.30pm Familiar faces from the most recent series head to Cyprus to enjoy flying, swimming and local delicacies, while the professionals watch on and deliver their analyses of childhood behaviour. What Britain Bought in 2017 Channel 4, 9.00pm Mary Portas assesses whether this year has been as dismal as expected for high-street retailers, and examines a few unlikely trends: unicorns, gin and, she suggests, big knickers. Clint Eastwood: a Life in Film Sky Arts, 9.00pm Whether you love or loathe his hardline politics, few would dispute the astonishing consistency of Clint Eastwood’s work. For such a prolific actor and director, there are few duds on his CV and plenty of masterpieces, from Unforgiven to Once Upon a Time in the West. Made in 2007, the year of his ambitious wartime diptych Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima, this excellent programme finds Eastwood in good-humoured form as he talks Michael Henry Wilson through his 50-year career. GT Bruno Mars: Live in Harlem BBC One, 10.25pm; NI, 11.25pm Harlem’s Apollo Theatre launched the careers of James Brown, Ella Fitzgerald and Lauryn Hill, among many others. Bruno Mars pays tribute to the building’s history and rolls out the hits – Uptown Funk, Just the Way You Are et al – along with some dazzling choreography for a hard partying crowd. Romesh Ranganathan: Irrational Live BBC Two, 10.30pm Perhaps rivalled only by Katherine Ryan for small-screen ubiquity this year, Romesh Ranganathan has proved himself an accomplished stand-up comedian. This special, recorded at London’s Hammersmith Apollo in 2016, captures the comedian’s jaundiced but very funny musings on family life. GT The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! (2012) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 9.00am This claymation Aardman romp is a delight. The impasto of non-stop gags, comic detail and slapstick action should appeal to all the family. Hugh Grant plays the Pirate Captain, who needs more booty if he is to stand a chance of winning the title of Pirate of the Year. The plot takes in Darwin, the last dodo and Queen Victoria (voiced by Imelda Staunton). Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 (2017) ★★★★☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 11.00am and 8.00pm Marvel’s playful space sequel looks like an explosion in a nursery school craft cupboard – every scene comes caked in rainbows, glitter and gunge. The core crew returns, led by Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), but the story only really begins with the arrival of a benign and bearded mystic called Ego (Kurt Russell), who has big news for Peter about his earthly origins. Flight (2012) ★★★☆☆ Channel 5, 9.00pm Robert Zemeckis’s film, starring Denzel Washington as alcoholic commercial pilot Whip Whitaker, is a long, earnest, sporadically brilliant drama. On a routine hop from Florida to Atlanta, Whip’s plane starts to tumble out of the sky – a dramatic sequence that will turn nervous fliers’ stomachs – and the pilot must fight to save the lives of those on board. Dull in parts, this is nevertheless morally provocative. Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (2013) ★★★☆☆ BBC Two, 11.30pm Films based on sitcoms tend to play broader than the real series, and this cinema outing for Steve Coogan’s fading media gasbag is no exception. The plot has Alan held hostage at a radio station in Norfolk. Old friends, such as his assistant Lynn (Felicity Montagu), join in and viewers hoping for new catchphrases will be happy, but Partridge loses his Pooterish potency when moving from talk to action. Friday 29 December Bob Mortimer and Vic Reeves Credit: BBC Vic & Bob’s Big Night Out BBC Two, 9.00pm Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer return for this one-off Christmas edition of their sketch show, 27 years after it first aired as Vic Reeves Big Night Out. Fans will be pleased to hear that age has not dimmed the comedians’ energy – in this half-hour they bounce around the studio in the same vein as their younger selves, which gives the show a rapid-fire pace.  The pair’s chemistry is undeniable and they frequently make each other laugh, as well as a raucous studio audience. There is a sense that Reeves and Mortimer are now improvising much of their material, which may explain why some of the jokes here are a touch below par. But many of the sketches are excellent, such as their parody of Channel 4 dating show First Dates, in which they play jokey gay Yorkshiremen. In another, Vic sells wigs made of body parts.  Nostalgia comes in the form of a cameo from Matt Lucas, forever associated with his George Dawes character in Shooting Stars, and the revival of character Graham Lister (played by Bob) in the talent show parody sketch Novelty Island. This brief return reminds us that, with their corny jokes and surreal sense of humour, there’s nobody quite like Vic and Bob. Vicki Power Tim Vine Travels Through Time Christmas Special BBC One, 7.30pm Prepare for a barrage of seasonal puns as Tim Vine’s comedy show returns. Emma Bunton and Reverend Richard Coles join Vine on a jaunt to Tudor times. Eric & Ernie’s Home Movies BBC Two, 8.00pm Those ghosts of Christmas past, Morecambe and Wise, are revisited in this charming documentary showcasing the double act via some newly discovered home movies. Look out also for a repeat of Morecambe & Wise: Leading Ladies (BBC Two, 7.00pm) and Eric, Ernie & Me (BBC Four, 9.00pm), a drama exploring their relationship with writer Eddie Braben. Victoria Wood by her friends Channel 5, 9.00pm This tribute to the late comedian covers much the same ground, and includes some identical contributors, as BBC One’s Our Friend Victoria, but it’s still a treat to be reminded of Wood’s talents. Her 1997 stand-up show, Victoria Wood: Live 1997, follows.   Delicious Sky One, 9.00pm Sky dishes up a second series of this frothy Cornwall-set drama. Chef Gina (Dawn French) has now joined forces with Sam (Emilia Fox) to run the Penrose Hotel, as the man that they were both once married to, Leo (Iain Glen), narrates from beyond the grave. But it turns out tensions haven’t died with him, and their spats bring a pinch of spice to the drama. Tonight, Franco Nero arrives as Gina’s ne’er-do-well father to stir up trouble. Frankie Boyle’s 2017 New Year World Order BBC Two, 10.00pm; not NI This year’s absence of Charlie Brooker’s Wipe is mitigated somewhat by Frankie Boyle’s return for this end-of-year round-up. And certainly somebody needs to help make sense of this crazy year. VP Elvis: The Rebirth of the King BBC Four, 10.00pm This compelling film seeks to overturn the enduring image of Elvis Presley’s Vegas years as a tragic nadir of his career. It argues that Presley’s musical renaissance in a 1968 Christmas TV special saw the King reach new creative heights that he carried into his Vegas shows, before disillusionment and drugs took over. Fantastic archive footage and commentary from his former collaborators, including Elvis’s backing singers, make a convincing case. VP Up (2009) ★★★★★ BBC One, 2.25pm Possibly Pixar’s finest film, Up has a captivating story that realises the vividness of a childlike imagination. Only those with a heart of stone wouldn’t be moved by the story of Ed Asner (voiced by Carl Fredricksen), who tries to fulfil his dream of building a house next to Paradise Falls in South America. His odyssey brings him more than he bargained for, including a young, hyperactive Wilderness Explorer called Russell. Brave (2012) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 4.20pm The first of Pixar’s films to have a female protagonist won an Oscar and there’s a bewitching craftsmanship to its storytelling. It’s set in the Highlands during the feudal period. Kelly MacDonald plays the flame-haired Merida, who would rather ride her horse than play the role of simpering princess; unable to sway her mother (Emma Thompson), she seeks the help of a witch (Julie Walters). Gone Girl (2014) ★★★☆☆ BBC One, 9.15pm; N Ireland, 9.45pm Cold and controlled, yet fun, this drama, directed by David Fincher, is based on Gillian Flynn’s novel of the same name. Rosamund Pike is Amy Elliott-Dunne, who disappears one morning, much to the apparent surprise of her husband (Ben Affleck). The media sniff around and soon the couple’s secrets come to the surface. Darkly suspenseful at first, the story soon turns into blood-drenched self-parody. The Great Gatsby (2013) ★★★☆☆ BBC Two, 11.15pm Baz Luhrmann lays on a cinematic buffet of such sense-addling brazenness that it takes a while before you notice the film is finger-food and nothing more. Leonardo DiCaprio is Jay Gatsby, a newly minted millionaire, and Carey Mulligan is Daisy Buchanan, the lost love he longs to win back. On the rare occasions Luhrmann gives them space to act in the pulsating frenzy of his Jazz Age world, both do a wonderful job. Television previewers Toby Dantzic, Catherine Gee, Simon Horsford, Sarah Hughes, Clive Morgan, Gerard O'Donovan, Vicki Power, Patrick Smith, Gabriel Tate and Rachel Ward

What's on TV tonight: The League of Gentlemen returns and Mary Berry’s Christmas Party

Monday 18 December The League of Gentlemen BBC Two, 10.00pm This is undoubtedly one of the highlights of the festive season for comedy fans. The influential freak show sitcom set in the blighted fictional town of Royston Vasey returns for a three-part run to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its award-winning debut on Radio 4 (the transfer to TV didn’t occur until 1999).  Reviving once-popular comedy is a risky business – just look at the recent Porridge fiasco – but Mark Gatiss, Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton have gone on to bigger, if not always better, things in the intervening years and they return here as if they were never away. Still performing all the major characters on screen (with the group’s fourth member, Jeremy Dyson, sharing the writing duties) they update the stories and characters without losing the demonic humour of the original.  Most of the best characters make a reappearance – Tubbs and Edward, Barbra the trans taxi driver, Herr Lipp, Pauline Campbell-Jones and Mr Chinnery the vet – as Royston Vasey faces its greatest existential threat. Val Denton, meanwhile, sets the tone decisivelyin an opening scene memorable for all the wrong reasons. Gerard O’Donovan Father Brown BBC One, 1.45pm Mark Williams returns for a sixth series as GK Chesterton’s crime-fighting Catholic priest. It’s Christmas in Kembleford but when a dog makes a gruesome discovery in the woods, Father Brown sets out to reverse a terrible miscarriage of justice. Mary Berry’s Christmas Party BBC One, 8.30pm Tips, recipes and full-on merriment as the BBC’s queen of baking invites a handful of famous faces round for a Christmas party cook-in: Alex Jones shows off her rissoles, Darcey Bussell crafts a dance-inspired dessert, while Adil Ray handles the canapés. Plus there’s ginger glazed ham, white chocolate cherry brandy cake, and much more. The Art That Made Mexico: Paradise, Power and Prayers BBC Four, 9.00pm Artist Alinka Echeverria concludes her series by exploring the influence of faith on Mexican culture and how the conquistadors’ Catholic notions of venerating the divine through art found fertile ground thanks to earlier Mayan beliefs. Birds of a Feather Christmas special ITV, 9.00pm Marks and Gran’s long-running sitcom creaks back for another festive special, with Tracey’s (Linda Robson) Yuletide plans upsetting both Sharon (Pauline Quirke) and Dorien (Lesley Joseph). Abba: When All Is Said and Done Channel 5, 9.00pm An Abba double whammy starts with this docudrama exploring the very different stories of the Swedish supergroup’s singers Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad through their own words. Abba: Live in Concert follows at 11.05pm, recorded at the group’s peak in 1979. GO Andre Rieu: Christmas In London 2016 Sky Arts, 9.00pm Rieu entertains with everything festive from Jingle Bells to White Christmas and O Holy Night, bringing his infectious blend of glitter, frills and massed violin strings to boost the seasonal mood. Private Lives of The Monarchs Yesterday, 9.00pm There’s more to Henry VIII than the image of a roistering glutton whose obsession with siring a male heir led to England’s break with Catholicism. So says historian Tracy Borman, painting a picture of a thoughtful young king driven to tyranny by personal demons. GO Carry On Cleo (1964) ★★★☆☆ Channel 4, 12.20pm “Infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it in for me!” So says Kenneth Williams’s waspish Caesar in this, one of the best in the long-running series of cheap and cheerful comedies. Set in ancient Rome, it’s hardly Shakespeare but at least the gags come thick and fast. Watch out for an early appearance from Coronation Street’s Amanda Barrie as a doe-eyed Cleopatra, up to her ears in ass’s milk and political intrigue. First Blood (1982) ★★★★☆ ITV4, 9.00pm Based on David Morrell’s novel, this is the first and best of the Rambo action-movie franchise – it’s more sensitive than the sequels. Sylvester Stallone has become synonymous with Rambo, a maladjusted ex-Green Beret who, after having some Vietnam flashbacks, goes on a one-man war against a crooked small-town sheriff (Brian Dennehy). It’s pacy and raw with a moving climax. Part II is on Tuesday. The Woman in Black (2012) ★★★★☆ Channel 4, 12.10am Thanks to its almost hyper-Edwardian setting and some canny plot alterations, this feels less like a remake of Susan Hill’s ghost story than a new reading of an old tale, trembling with freshly terrifying resonances. Daniel Radcliffe gives a grown-up performance, while director James Watkins uses shadows and empty spaces to create a percolating sense of dread. Tuesday 19 December Faye Marsey as Sarah Credit: Channel 4 Shamed Channel 4, 9.00pm It’s not the most Christmassy of fare but Anthony Philipson’s (My Mad Fat Diary) dark, theatrical one-off drama is worth checking out. Featuring an intense central performance from Faye Marsay (who seems to be everywhere right now, with Bancroft last week and the BBC thriller McMafia to come), Shamed tells the story of 27-year-old Sarah, who suddenly decides to kidnap and imprison two apparently unconnected men: the seemingly perfect just-about-to-get-married Nathan (Nick Blood) and cocky player Mani (Ryan McKen). Both claim never to have met each other or Sarah before. However there’s a method behind her madness, and one which, when revealed, opens up wider questions about how different events can resonate in different ways. Philipson’s tight script keeps you guessing about the connection until near the end before spilling out into violence and debates about the difference between guilt and shame.  It’s not perfect – Mani is underwritten and the rushed ending is a little forced – but Shamed makes some thoughtful points about our attitudes toward sex and the way in which certain people can stride through life without acknowledging the damage they trail behind. Sarah Hughes The Royal Variety Performance 2017 ITV, 7.30pm Miranda Hart hosts this year’s Royal Variety Performance, attended by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, with guests ranging from the obvious (Michael Ball, Alfie Boe) to the incongruous (Kelsey Grammer, Seal). Jamie’s Italian Christmas Channel 4, 8.00pm Another week, another Christmas cookery show. Our chef tonight is the ubiquitous Jamie Oliver who has holed up in a log cabin with his mentor Gennaro Contaldo and hopes to teach us to give the traditional British Christmas an Italian twist. U2 at the BBC BBC One, 9.00pm The Irish band continue their quest for world domination with this film centred on new album Songs of Experience. The action takes place at Abbey Road Studios, where they perform some of their biggest hits and squeeze in a quick chat with Cat Deeley.    Invasion! With Sam Willis BBC Four, 9.00pm The final part of this engaging series sees historian Sam Willis examine one of the more unusual military ideas in history: Napoleon’s plan to use a fleet of balloons as part of his invasion plans during the War of the Third Coalition. The French first crossed the English Channel by hot air balloon in 1785 and Napoleon appointed aeronaut Sophie Blanchard as air service chief to carry out the idea. The plans ultimately came to nothing, but that didn’t stop stories and caricatures of balloons carrying arms, men and even horses spreading through the media.  The First Silent Night Yesterday, 9.00pm The mournful Silent Night is one of the world’s most beloved carols, and was declared an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2011. This film follows actor Simon Callow as he heads to the Austrian village of Oberndorf to uncover its origins before considering why this carol above all others resonates so strongly. SH Extraordinary Teens: Young, Gifted and Broke Channel 4, 10.00pm Pianist and composer Shane Thomas hit the headlines aged only 10 when his precocious talent saw him hailed as the British Mozart. Seven years later his career has stalled. What emerges is a depressing but well-told story of ambition tampered by poverty and a system in which privilege and connections count as much, if not more than raw talent. SH Sword of Sherwood Forest (1960) ★★★☆☆ Film4, 5.05pm Terence Fisher teamed up with Hammer Films for this child-friendly spin-off from The Adventures of Robin Hood TV series, with Richard Greene, who reprises his role here. Peter Cushing stars as the dastardly Sheriff of Nottingham out to murder the Archbishop of Canterbury. It’s a cheap and cheerful affair that remains true to the spirit of the original. Smurfs: The Lost Village (2017) ★★☆☆☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 6.15pm The third of the big-screen outings for The Smurfs is a trippy treat for under-eights, for everyone else the blues. This Smurfs contains double the number of Smurfs ever previously seen, thanks to the discovery of an all-female enclave somewhere deep in the woods. Demi Lovato, Mandy Patinkin, Michelle Rodriguez and Julia Roberts are among those lending their voices. Carol (2015) ★★★★★ Film4, 9.00pm Todd Haynes’s adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 novel is gorgeous, gently groundbreaking, and quite possibly be the saddest thing that you’ll ever see. It tells the story of a photographer (Rooney Mara) who has a relationship with an older woman (Cate Blanchett) in New York. Haynes’ film concludes that love is the riskiest but most necessary gamble. Wednesday 20 December Dame Judi Dench Credit: BBC Judi Dench: My Passion for Trees BBC One, 8.00pm When this one-off documentary was announced, some predictably invoked Alan Partridge’s hapless pitch of Youth Hostelling with Chris Eubank. Certainly, it’s hard to imagine many other celebrities managing to get this made, and even harder to imagine any who could have made it so watchable. A look of astonished delight is plastered over Dame Judi’s face throughout the hour, as she makes all manner of unexpected discoveries about the trees that she loves. There is also a rare peek into her personal life and relationship with her “chap”, David Mills. This may lack the forensic camerawork and high-spec CGI of most BBC nature documentaries, but there are rewarding revelations amid the occasional dose of Botany 101. “I think of my trees as part of my extended family,” says Dench – not the absurd piece of sentimentality you might suspect, as she plants a tree in her back garden for each friend or relative who has died. And trees, it transpires, are also remarkably sociable in their way, an arboreal community connected by spidery threads of fungus and able to call for help if under attack by aphids. Charming and subtly educational. Gabriel Tate What Makes You Tic? BBC Three, from 10.00am Vlogger Lewis “QBall” Nickell aims to conquer his Tourette’s Syndrome and launch a career as a talk-show host, meeting The Vamps and Girls Aloud alumna Nadine Coyle as part of his efforts to raise awareness. Carabao Cup: Bristol City v Manchester United Sky Sports Main Event, 7.30pm We’re at Ashton Gate for this quarter-final clash, as the Robins look to produce and upset against holders Manchester United. The hosts have already claimed two Premier League scalps in Watford and Stoke City, but United are clear favourites here.  The Real Marigold on Tour BBC One, 9.00pm When you see the lives the Marigold pensioners are leading who wouldn’t be envious? This week, Sheila Ferguson, Rustie Lee, Paul Nicholas and Dennis Taylor head to Iceland. There, they go whale watching in the fishing village of Hausavik, and try aqua aerobics and gymnastics in Reykjavik. Elsewhere, Sheila goes on a date with an Icelandic man. Peaky Blinders BBC Two, 9.00pm Perhaps the best series yet comes to a punishing climax with the night of the big fight and yet another reckoning for the Shelbys, this time courtesy of Changretta (Adrien Brody) and once-trusted allies. A Night for the Emergency Services ITV, 9.00pm Presenting a sort of 999’s Got Talent, Ashley Banjo and Diversity introduce a showcase for the firefighters, police and hospital workers who demonstrate skills far beyond their professional capabilities. These include magicians, dancers and a Michael Bublé impersonator, along with appearances from a few special guests. Taskmaster Champion of Champions  Dave, 9.00pm One of the funniest series on TV comes to a spectacular climax as the ultimate Taskmaster champion is crowned, with previous winners Josh Widdicombe, Katherine Ryan, Noel Fielding, Rob Beckett and Bob Mortimer all in the running. Dian Fossey: Secrets in the Mist  National Geographic, 9.00pm After a lifetime of conservation work and, campaigning against poaching, primatologist Dian Fossey was killed in her Rwandan cabin in 1985 – a crime that remains unsolved. The final part of this gripping series examines possible motives. GT Male Rape: Breaking the Silence BBC One, 10.45pm; Scot & Wales, 11.10pm; NI, 11.40pm First shown on BBC Three, this grim but necessary film hears from three men who are among the estimated one-in-six to have been victims of rape. GT Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) ★★★★★ BBC One, 1.45pm Steven Spielberg’s rollicking adventure film, with a very scary end, won four Oscars and created a new action hero in Dr Henry “Indiana” Jones (Harrison Ford). Jones is an archaeologist hired by the US government in 1936 to seek out the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis find it. The ensuing events provide a rollercoaster of thrills. The Temple of Doom and The Last Crusade follow over the next two night. Chicken Run (2000) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 3.35pm Aardman Animations, the studio behind many of Nick Park’s triumphs, conjures up another stop-motion corker that fairly swarms with clever little jokes and details. Our heroes here are a group of jauntily anthropomorphic chickens; they’re plotting their escape to freedom from the tyrannical Mr and Mrs Tweedy, who run the farm on which they live. The voice cast boasts Julia Sawalha, Jane Horrocks and Mel Gibson. The Phantom of the Opera (2004) ★★★☆☆ Sky Arts, 9.00pm Impressed by his use of music in The Lost Boys, Andrew Lloyd Webber hired director Joel Schumacher to bring his hit musical, the longest-running Broadway show in history, about a disfigured genius who lives hidden in the Paris Opera House and who develops a crush on a chorus girl, to the big screen. The score has all the faux-gothic pomp required, but Gerard Butler’s Phantom fails to spook. Thursday 21 December Darcey Bussell Credit: BBC Darcey Bussell: Looking for Fred Astaire BBC One, 10.45pm One dance star explores another in this unpretentious profile of Fred Astaire. Darcey Bussell traces Astaire’s journey from his hometown in Nebraska to New York, London and Los Angeles to examine his ascent to film stardom, achieved after nearly three decades as a professional dancer. She puts forward that he owed much of his success to three women – his mother, his sister and dancing partner Adele, and his first wife Phyllis – but wisely doesn’t labour the point.  Bussell peruses memorabilia and film footage – there’s a delightful clip of Astaire dancing with his long-time collaborator, Hermes Pan – and discusses with historians Astaire’s early life, work ethic and personality clash with Ginger Rogers. The commentary doesn’t uncover much that an Astaire fan wouldn’t already know, but Bussell is an enthusiastic guide and the clips are terrific. Strictly professionals Aljaz Skorjanec and Janette Manrara are touring a successful stage show called Remembering Fred – this film also reminds us of Astaire’s immeasurable contribution to dance, though it wouldn’t harm for it to air at an hour more suited to the ballroom dance-loving demographic. Vicki Power MasterChef: The Professionals: The Finals BBC Two, 8.00pm It’s ladles at dawn for the three finalists as they tackle their last challenge. They’ll cook a three-course meal in three hours for the formidable judging trio of Wareing, Galetti and Wallace, who’ll then choose their champ. Joanna & Jennifer: Absolutely Champers BBC Two, 9.00pm On the flimsy premise of celebrating 25 years since the birth of Absolutely Fabulous, Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley take a fizz-fuelled jolly to France to tour vineyards. They neck vats of bubbly in a travelogue as meandering as Patsy’s gait after an evening spent swigging Bolly. Gordon, Gino and Fred’s Great Christmas Roast ITV, 9.00pm It’s Celtic vigour versus Italian passion in this feelgood cookery special. TV chefs Gordon Ramsay and Gino D’Acampo compete, with a team of celebrity helpers, to create the best Christmas banquet for 100 emergency services workers. First Dates’ maître d’ Fred Sirieux presents. Donny Osmond’s Easy Listening Christmas Channel 5, 9.00pm This Val Doonican-style one-off sees Donny Osmond counting down his 25 favourite festive songs, exploring their geneses and comparing classic renditions to cover versions. VP The Tunnel: Vengeance Sky Atlantic, 9.00pm The symbiosis between Anglo-French cop partners Karl and Elise (Stephen Dillane and Clémence Poésy) in this murder mystery shows us a cheering flipside to Brexit. Their touching, humorous relationship is affecting, even if the series overall lacks the Scandinavian-style eeriness of The Bridge, on which it’s based. Here, the cross-channel cops make a breakthrough in the search for the missing children. The Galaxy Britain Built: Droids, Darth Vader and Lightsaber/Hollywood’s Master of Myth BBC Four, 10.00pm and 11.00pm In celebration of the release of The Last Jedi, these documentaries look at the ingredients that helped shape the Star Wars phenomenon. The first focuses on the film crew who created George Lucas’s fictional galaxy. The second, from 1999, explores the work of US academic Joseph Campbell, whom Lucas has credited with inspiring his plot. VP The Dark Crystal (1982) ★★★☆☆ Film4, 1.05pm Muppets creator Jim Henson stepped out from the comfort of children’s TV to make this dark fantasy tale about a pair of creatures who must find a missing shard of crystal in order to defeat the evil Skeksis. The superbly designed puppets and sets add a surreal quality but it lacks the sense of humour which made Labyrinth, Henson’s next cinema release, so popular. Frank Oz, fellow puppeteer and the voice of Yoda, co-directs. Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 3.35pm Nick Park’s plucky Plasticine pair set about rescuing a village whose annual vegetable competition is in jeopardy because of rabbits eating up the contents of everyone’s gardens. But their bunny brainwashing goes wrong and they accidentally create a mutant rabbit. Beautifully shot, charming, and very silly, it deservedly won the Oscar for Best Animation. Candyman (1992) ★★★★☆ Film4, 11.15pm Virginia Madsen does powerhouse work as a student of folklore lured into fascination with a hook-handed killer who appears when you say his name five times in front of a mirror. She ignores all warnings but is soon blamed for his crimes when a series of horrible murders begin. Majestic direction from Bernard Rose transforms this into a resoundingly epic and gory fable. Friday 22 December Bruno Tonioli  Credit: BBC Saturday Night Fever: The Ultimate Disco Movie BBC Two, 9.00pm Long before he became a household name as a Strictly Come Dancing judge, Bruno Tonioli had a successful career as a choreographer to the stars, arranging dance for music videos, stage shows and tours for Tina Turner, Sting, Elton John and many others. Here he looks back 40 years to when he was a young dancer in New York and got caught up in the global phenomenon that was Saturday Night Fever.  It’s a great story, told with typical Tonioli verve, of how a low-budget film starring the then unknown John Travolta and using the music of a failing band of high-pitched popsters, the Bee Gees, became one of the biggest box office draws of all time and gave half the world “disco fever”. It also shows how – to give credit where it is due – much of its success was down to the visionary genius and unstoppable determination of the Bee Gees’ manager, the late Robert Stigwood, impresario behind some of the most popular stars, and hit stage and film musicals (Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, Grease, Bugsy Malone) of the Seventies. Contributors include Travolta. Gerard O’Donovan The Toys That Made Us Netflix, from today Toys of the Eighties are the focus of this series taking an in-depth look at the nostalgia and collecting fervour that surrounds eight of the biggest selling toy brands of that decade: Transformers, Stars Wars, He-Man, GI Joe, Barbie, Star Trek, Hello Kitty and Lego. Premier League Football: Arsenal v Liverpool Sky Sports Main Event, 7.00pm Action from the Emirates Stadium, as Arsenal  look to avenge a 4-0 defeat in August, when Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, Mo Salah and Daniel Sturridge all found the net for Liverpool. TOTP4 Christmas 2017 BBC Four, 7.30pm Get into the Christmas party spirit with Mark Radcliffe’s countdown of classic festive hits from Top of the Pops’s glitter-spattered archive, with The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl, Wizzard, Slade, The Darkness and Ed Sheeran among the acts featured. Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast Christmas Special Channel 4, 8.00pm Jamie Oliver and Jimmy Doherty welcome actress Liv Tyler to the pier café to make her favourite takeaway, pork dim sum. Oliver also whips up a cracking kedgeree, and Doherty builds a home-made wood-fired oven. Al Murray’s Make Christmas Great Again ITV, 9.00pm Al Murray’s gloriously unreconstructed pub landlord invites an audience to a lock-in at the Reindeer’s Head where he bends ears on such matters as how Christmas is losing its Britishness while whipping up anti-PC seasonal singalongs and remonstrating with celebrity guests. George Michael to Tom Petty: a Tribute Sky Arts, 9.00pm Chuck Berry, Fats Domino and David Cassidy are just some of the musicians and performers who, along with George Michael and Tom Petty, we lost in the past 12 months – as affectionately remembered in this 90-minute tribute. GO Les Dawson: In His Own Words Channel 5, 10.00pm Comedians didn’t come more old school than Les Dawson, with his bluff Northern style, rubber face and mother-in-law jokes. But he was one of the most original comedians of his generation, as proved by this terrific documentary that raids the archives for his funniest work. The Graham Norton Show BBC One, 10.40pm Grahm Norton’s line-up offers a good mix of interest: Hollywood star Will Smith, Victoria’s Jenna Coleman, chef Jamie Oliver and former Keane frontman Tom Chaplin. GO Bright (2017) Netflix, from today This Netflix Original – a $100 million special-effects blockbuster from David Ayer, director of Suicide Squad – sounds like a mash-up of Lethal Weapon and Lord of the Rings. In an alternate Los Angeles where elves and witches walk the streets, Will Smith’s tough NYPD officer finds himself partnered with an orc (Joel Edgerton). Considering its hefty price tag and star-studded soundtrack (Migos, Rag’n’Bone Man, Camila Cabello), this could be Netflix’s biggest mistake yet Puss in Boots (2011) ★★☆☆☆ BBC One, 3.40pm DreamWorks Animation’s Shrek spin-off follows Puss in Boots’s life before he became the green ogre’s sidekick. With the help of Kitty Softpaws (voiced by Salma Hayek) and Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis), the swashbuckling feline (Antonio Banderas) becomes a hero after saving his town. Like the CGI ogre’s last two films, Shrek the Third and Shrek Forever After, the animation is more impressive than the jokes. Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001) ★★★★☆ ITV, 10.40pm American actress Renée Zellweger perfects her English accent to play the Chardonnay-swigging, chain-smoking, lovelorn Bridget in this adaptation of Helen Fielding’s novel, which remains a solid favourite. Love interests Hugh Grant and Colin Firth are excellent as her roguish boss Daniel Cleaver and the stuffy-but-handsome (even in a Christmas jumper) lawyer Mark Darcy. Saturday 23 December A Christmas Tree in Manger Square, Bethlehem Credit: Channel 4 The World’s Best Christmas Lights: From Liverpool to Bethlehem Channel 4, 8.00pm It is amazing what you can build a successful, multi-million-pound, internationally renowned business from. Liverpool-based company The Christmas Decorators specialise in the commercial design and installation of large-scale Christmas lights and decorations – the kind you see in every shop, street and town square. This entertaining film, one of the more offbeat of the season, follows a rather surprising commission: to install the lights and decorations at what many might consider the birthplace of Christmas – Manger Square in Bethlehem. In fact, they’ve been doing it every year since 2012, bringing every single bulb and bauble with them from their warehouse in the UK.  It’s a huge logistical effort, which is also a possibly tricky one, if customs or security in, say, Istanbul take exception to the Bethlehem-bound consignment as it passes through. Director of operations GED Comerford leads the four-person installation team on the trek from Liverpool. It’s fraught with hitches and glitches – even a home-baked Christmas cake is regarded with suspicion by local security – but all the more entertaining for that. Gerard O’Donovan Smashie’s Xmastastic Playlist Christmas Gold, 4.00pm Getting the Christmas party off to an early start from his fab-tastic hideaway at Radio Hush, The Fast Show’s Mike Smash (Paul Whitehouse) brings his off-kilter pop-DJ insights to an hour of festive hits from Wizzard to Johnny Mathis via McCartney, Dylan and Springsteen.  Elf: The Musical Channel 5, 5.00pm There’s seasonal song, dance and fun in the stage musical version of Will Ferrell’s much-loved comedy from the Lowry Theatre in Salford. Ben Forster, who won ITV’s Superstar talent search in 2012, leads the cast as Buddy, a human orphan who was raised by Santa’s elves in the North Pole and returns to New York in search of his family. Michael Buble’s Christmas in New York Sky Arts, 5.00pm At the Radio City Music Hall the crooner sings a selection of seasonal classics, along with a sparkling line-up of special guests including Barbra Streisand, Ariana Grande and The Muppets’ Miss Piggy. It is repeated on Sky One at 12.15am. Pointless Celebrities Christmas Special BBC One, 6.15pm Some of the contestants in this festive edition of the quiz could themselves be pointless answers in a round on Christmas hits. Jona Lewie, Jimmy Osmond and Ben Haenow are among those answering Alexander Armstrong questions. Blind Date Christmas Special Channel 5, 8.00pm There’s a fairy-tale spin to this edition of Paul O’Grady’s matchmaking show, as a Prince Charming has to choose between fellow panto actors Cinderella, Snow White and Tinkerbell. It’s Christmas Live from the Royal Albert Hall Sky One, 8.00pm The Royal Albert Hall is transformed to a rock ’n’ roll winter wonderland as Jason Manford introduces performances by Holly Johnson, Marc Almond, Chrissie Hynde and Shakin’ Stevens, among many others. GO Feud: Bette and Joan BBC Two, from 9.00pm; NI, from 9.30pm Ryan Murphy’s stylish and scathingly catty dramatisation of the Hollywood feud between Bette Davis (Susan Sarandon) and Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange) reaches the moment that the actresses’ mutual loathing went off the scale – while working on the 1962 classic What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (which follows). GO Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001) ★★★☆☆ ITV, 1.35pm  From today to New Year’s Day, ITV are screening all of the Harry Potter films – one film a day, except on Boxing Day. This first adaptation of J K Rowling’s novel was, for a while, the second highest-grossing film ever. Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint are endearing (and very young) in the lead roles but the film lacks the original book’s compulsiveness. Frozen (2013) ★★★★★ BBC One, 2.50pm Disney’s 53rd feature is an enchanting combination of fairy-tale derring-do and heart-popping musical numbers that has left children and adults powerless to its charms. Elsa (Idina Menzel) is a shy princess driven into exile when her magical powers are discovered. Her sister Anna (Kristen Bell) gallops off to fetch her from her beautiful ice palace. Spin-off Olaf’s Frozen Adventure is on Christmas Day. Bill (2015) ★★★★☆ BBC Two, 6.00pm Intelligent children and immature adults will love this mock-biopic from the Horrible Histories troupe that follows the young William Shakespeare (Mathew Baynton) as he ascends from quill-scraping zero to literary hero. Some of the best moments (a running joke about false moustaches is one) are full-bloodedly Pythonesque, although occasionally a kind of student-revue smarminess creeps in. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962, b/w) ★★★★★ BBC Two, 10.35pm; not N Ireland Robert Aldrich’s classic slice of American Grotesque, starring two of cinema’s greatest screen divas, started a trend for casting ageing actresses in campy Gothic horror movies. Joan Crawford and Bette Davis play reclusive sisters locked in an abusive relationship in their crumbling Hollywood mansion.  Christmas Eve Sue Perkins, Mary Berry and Mel Giedroyc Credit: BBC Mary, Mel and Sue’s Big Christmas Thank You BBC One, 7.00pm Anyone looking for some extra festive cheer should look no further than this exuberant Christmas special which sees former Great British Bake-Off stars Mary Berry, Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc join forces to help out at a community centre in the Rhondda Valley in Wales.  Initially, it seems as though this is one of those rather forced shows in which celebrities dispense good cheer and bad jokes, but an emotional story of community spirit in the face of despair swiftly emerges. “We’ve lost our library, our butchers, both banks have closed and there’s no school,” states Elizabeth “Buffy” Williams. Working with her friend Lynne, Buffy has attempted to combat that by opening a community centre offering meals, bingo and after-school classes. Now they want to throw a special Christmas meal for the whole community but it’s tough: the kitchen is small, money is tight and Lynne freely admits that she hates cooking. Enter the indomitable Mrs Berry, who rolls up her sleeves, corrals Daffyd, a 16-year-old with a GCSE in catering, into becoming her sous chef and helps Lynne tackle her phobia. The final celebration should bring a tear to even the most cynical of eyes. Sarah Hughes Premiership Rugby Union: Leicester Tigers v Saracens BT Sport 1, 2.30pm Below-par this season, Leicester will be hoping a win here at Welford Park against third-placed Saracens will give them fresh momentum going into the new year.  Countryfile BBC One, 6.00pm The team head to the Peak District for this special which sees John Craven exploring Longshaw Estate, Anita Rani experiencing a Nativity play with a difference and Matt Baker venturing into Peak Cavern for a carol concert.  Christmas University Challenge 2017 BBC Two, 8.00pm; Scotland, 5.45pm There’s something addictive about the University Challenge’s specials, possibly because they allow us to see celebrities in a new light. The opener sees a team from Durham University, including actor Nick Mohammed, take on a Keble College side featuring Katy Brand. Child Genius vs Celebrities Christmas Special Channel 4, 8.00pm Richard Osman is our host for this Christmas special, which sees past child geniuses take on, among others, Catastrophe star Rob Delaney and broadcaster Janet Street Porter. Will youth or experience win out?  Michael McIntyre’s Big Christmas Show BBC One, 8.30pm The comedian returns for a festive edition in which Alesha Dixon risks social disaster by handing over her phone in Celebrity Send-to-All, plus there’s stand-up from Bill Bailey and music from Seal.  Maigret in Montmartre ITV, 8.30pm Critics haven’t always been kind to ITV’s reboot of Georges Simenon’s Maigret featuring Rowan Atkinson. Yet there’s actually a lot to like here. Atkinson underplays the role nicely, the plots are serviceable and the whole thing is entertaining if undemanding fare. This episode sees Maigret drawn in to the murder of a showgirl. SH M R James evening BBC Four, from 9.00pm Shut the doors, draw the curtains and prepare to be thoroughly spooked as BBC Four dedicates an evening to ghost writer supreme M R James. First up, long-time James fan Mark Gatiss looks at how this diffident Anglican bachelor created stories that still send a tingle down the spine a century after they were written. It’s followed at 10pm by two adaptations of James’s work: The Tractate Middoth, a chilling story about vengeance from beyond the grave, starring Sacha Dhawan and John Castle, and No 13, featuring Greg Wise as an academic who uncovers more than he bargains for in a small medieval town. Billy Elliot: the Musical Sky Arts, 9.00pm Anyone who hasn’t managed to catch Stephen Daldry’s big-hearted musical take on his film about a miner’s son who just wants to dance can find out what all the fuss is about with this performance from 2014 starring Ruthie Henshall and Elliott Hanna. SH Gone with the Wind (1939) ★★★★★ Channel 5, 9.20am Hollywood’s highest-grossing movie until The Sound of Music in 1966, this was the film for which the word “epic” was invented. Vivien Leigh became a star as Scarlett O’Hara, the spoilt Southern belle whose life is turned upside down by the US Civil War. Clark Gable and Leslie Howard are her lovers. It’s brash and self-indulgent, but frankly we don’t give a damn. The Lego Batman Movie (2017) ★★★★☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 1.25pm and 7.00pm Don’t tell Ben Affleck – who plays Actual Batman – but the actor has been made surplus to requirements by one and a half inches of moulded plastic. Lego Batman’s debut solo feature, spun off from a cameo in The Lego Movie, is frantically and relentlessly funny as a new police commissioner (Rosario Dawson) threatens to make the Caped Crusader redundant. Guys and Dolls (1955) ★★★★☆ BBC Two, 3.20pm The 1955 film adaptation of the Broadway classic holds up rather well. The stellar casting certainly helps: Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra in one film – as the rival New York gamblers (and gangsters) Sky Masterson and Nathan Detroit, who place a bet on compromising the virtue of a pious Salvation Army woman, Sarah Brown (played by Jean Simmons). The musical numbers are still a delight. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) ★★★★★ Channel 4, 6.30pm Tiny Tim is a small green frog, Mrs Cratchit is a bad-tempered pig and Charles Dickens himself is portrayed by Gonzo, enormous blue nose and all. And yet, there are few better, or more affecting versions of A Christmas Carol than this musical adaptation. Michael Caine is ideal as the miserly Scrooge, the laughs are aplenty and the finale is as rousing as they come. Christmas Day Peter Capaldi and David Bradley Credit: BBC Doctor Who BBC One, 5.30pm While it’s not unusual for Doctor Who to begin with a “Previously…”, this one takes things all the way back to William Hartnell’s First Doctor, having faced the Cybermen at the South Pole and refused to regenerate. After necessarily metamorphosing into David Bradley (who played Hartnell in Mark Gatiss’s docudrama An Adventure in Space and Time), he duly encounters Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor, in a similar fix. Throw in Mark Gatiss’s doomed British army captain, transported from the Western Front at the moment of death with stiff upper lip wobbling, a mysterious glass woman (Nikki Amuka-Bird) with the power to freeze time, the return of Bill (Pearl Mackie) and a few other surprises, and you have another of Steven Moffat’s self-imposed riddles to unravel. Given that this is Moffat’s own last stand, and with Jodie Whitaker due to make her bow at the end of the episode, you might anticipate a tsunami of self-indulgence and sentimentality, but no. Capaldi and Mackie’s snappy, affectionate chemistry precludes such easy options, Gatiss is restrained and funny and Moffat’s musing on war and peace is enough to bear the wit and self-referentiality. A dignified farewell. Gabriel Tate The Highway Rat BBC One, 4.45pm Rob Brydon narrates and David Tennant voices the eponymous anti-hero in another enchanting adaptation of a Julia Donaldson/Axel Scheffler picture book, this time depicting the comeuppance for a selfish, swashbuckling rat and his long-suffering steed.. The Royal Opera: Puccini’s La Boheme BBC Four, 7.00pm Clemency Burton-Hill introduces Richard Jones’s production of Puccini’s tale of love and loss among bohemians in 19th-century Paris, conducted by Antonio Pappano and starring tenor Michael Fabiano and soprano Nicole Car as star-crossed lovers Rodolfo and Mimi. Jones’s production has a wintry charm that should see it sit very comfortably in today’s schedules.  Olaf’s Frozen Adventure Sky Cinema Premiere/On Demand, 7.30pm Perhaps better suited to television after a brief run in cinemas that saw parents complaining about it delaying screenings of Coco, this Frozen spin-off finds the cheerful snowman Olaf (voiced by Josh Gad) joining his reindeer, Sven, on a mission for their royal highnesses Elsa (Idina Menzel) and Anna (Kristen Bell) who are desperate to create their own Christmas tradition. Expect four catchy new songs to be ringing around your head. GT  Call the Midwife BBC One, 7.40pm Call the Midwife pulls out all the stops for this astoundingly gloomy affair as a Boxing Day freeze descends, stranding Valerie (Jennifer Kirby) in a caravan for an ad hoc delivery and accounting for a popular old timer with a very dark secret. The Great Christmas bake off Channel 4, 7.40pm Val and Selasi from last year, Paul Jagger (he of 2015’s bread lion) and Welsh Beca, a 2013 semi-finalist, return to compete for Star Baker, introduced and judged by the new Fab Four. There’s more of the same on New Year’s Day. Victoria ITV, 9.00pm The Queen (Jenna Coleman) is pregnant again and missing her governess, leaving Albert (Tom Hughes) in the unlikely role of Christmas merrymaker-in-chief. It’s a festive special by numbers, but affecting and easy on the eye. Ashes Cricket: Australia v England BT Sport 1, 10.30pm It’s been a fraught series, on and off the field, for England, with their players’ professionalism frequently called into question. This signals the start of the fourth Test, played at Melbourne Cricket Ground. Can Joe Root’s beleaguered side salvage some dignity? Or will the Aussies continue to have a field day? 300 Years of French & Saunders BBC One, 10.35pm Unseen footage, much-loved sketches and of course Lulu feature in this one-off, which sees the duo back together on TV for the first time in a decade. The new material is intermittently inspired and vigorously performed, with The Handmaid’s Tale, the Kardashians and Poldark all subjected to their attentions. GT Singin’ in the Rain (1952) ★★★★★ Channel 5, 1.05pm There are few movie scenes more memorable than Gene Kelly’s rain-soaked Singin’ in the Rain sequence, or many more jaw-dropping than Donald O’Connor’s walk up the wall. But more than song and dance, this film contains real satire as it recounts the introduction of the “talkie” and the superficial nature of the US film industry. Debbie Reynolds (who died a year ago, one day after daughter Carrie Fisher) co-stars as the Hollywood ingénue. Cinderella (2015) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 3.10pm Kenneth Branagh’s twinkling, live-action Cinderella sticks doggedly to Disney’s 1950 animated version (Cinders’s rodent companions are present) and favours sparkle over wit. However, Cate Blanchett is marvellous as the Wicked Stepmother and Helena Bonham Carter makes a jolly good Fairy Godmother. Princess-obsessed little girls will find it irresistible and the costumes are stunning. Oliver! (1968) ★★★★☆ Channel 5, 3.10pm Carol Reed, who had previously directed The Third Man, won an Oscar for his superior version of Lionel Bart’s musical of the classic Charles Dickens tale (Reed’s only ever attempt at the musical genre). Eight-year-old Mark Lester is sweet as Oliver Twist but it was Ron Moody as Fagin who received the Oscar nod. Reed’s nephew, another Oliver, is a brooding and brutal Bill Sikes and still has the potential to shock. Dumbo (1941) ★★★★★ Channel 4. 4.30pm It may be one of Disney’s shortest animated films, but it is also one of its most loved. Baby elephant Dumbo is born with unfeasibly large ears, is separated from his mother and becomes ostracised by his fellow circus animals. It is only when Timothy Mouse encourages Dumbo to make the most of his ears that he discovers he can fly. This remains an undisputed masterpiece from Disney’s golden age of animation. Boxing Day Willa Fitzgerald, Kathryn Newton, Maya Hawke and Annes Elwy Credit: BBC Little Women BBC One, 8.00pm One suspects that this beautiful adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s much-loved coming-of-age novel (published in 1868) was due a less prominent airing until the BBC had to shelve its flagship festive Agatha Christie adaptation Ordeal by Innocence due to sexual assault allegations against one of the stars. That seems no great loss now, as this sparkling gem of a drama – scripted by Call the Midwife creator Heidi Thomas – more than deserves a Boxing Day prime-time slot.  Told in three parts, it follows the lives of the March sisters – Jo (Maya Hawke), Meg (Willa Fitzgerald), Beth (Annes Elwy), and Amy (Kathryn Newton) – as they progress from adolescence to adulthood under the protective eye of their mother, Marmee (Emily Watson), while their father is away in the American Civil War.  As life-affirming a tale as you could want this time of year, it’s full of high spirits and loving kindness. There are nice cameo performances by Michael Gambon and Angela Lansbury, but in the opening part, the acting laurels go to Hawke for her spot-on portrayal of tomboyish proto-feminist Jo, and Jonah Hauer-King, as boy next door Laurie Laurence. Gerard O’Donovan Todd Barry: Spicy Honey Netflix, from today Stand-up Todd Barry is best known in the US for his bone-dry wit. Anyone seeking relief from the festive season’s more saccharine shows will be sure to find it in this one-off recording from his latest tour. Premier League Football: Tottenham Hotspur v Southampton Sky Sports Main Event, 12.00noon Spurs won both of their matches against the Saints last season, including a 2-1 victory in one of their final home matches at White Hart Lane. Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli both scored in the first half, with James Ward-Prowse pulling one back for Southampton in the second. Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella BBC Two, 5.35pm From Sadler’s Wells, a treat for dance fans in this dazzling Blitz-era reworking of Prokofiev’s classic ballet, performed by Bourne’s New Adventures company.  Snow Bears BBC One, 6.30pm Kate Winslet narrates this documentary following a pack of polar bears as they embark on an eventful 400-mile journey to reach the pack ice where they hunt. Surprisingly charming. Discovering: Julie Andrews Sky Arts, 7.00pm A look at the life and career of an actress and singer more associated with Christmas than most, thanks to endless festive repeats of Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music. But there’s much more to Julie Andrews than that, as shown in this beautifully put-together profile.  Reindeer Family and Me BBC Two, 8.00pm Wildlife film-maker Gordon Buchanan’s festive offering focuses on Santa’s favourite quadruped. In Lapland, Buchanan settles in with the nomadic Sami people to learn the ways of the herder, before setting out with a single reindeer to capture the Northern Lights as they’ve never been filmed before. Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 2017: The Language OF life BBC Four, 8.00pm This year’s theme, The Language of Life, sees cognitive neuroscientist Professor Sophie Scott of UCL embark on an exploration of the urge to communicate. In the opener, she unpicks the evolution of the human voice. GO The Miniaturist BBC One, 9.00pm An absorbing adaptation of Jessie Burton’s bestseller about a young woman thrust into an arranged marriage with a perplexing merchant in 17th-century Amsterdam. It looks exquisite, although the constant quest to shoot each frame as if it were a Vermeer painting doesn’t help the pace. Anna Taylor-Joy plays 18-year-old Nella with suitable bafflement, Alex Hassell intrigues as Johannes, while Romola Garai steals the show as his sister, Marin. Concludes tomorrow. Big Fat Quiz of the Year 2017 Channel 4, 9.00pm Jimmy Carr hosts C4’s alternative comedy quiz looking back at the year in the news, with guests including Richard Ayoade, Noel Fielding, David Mitchell and Katherine Ryan. GO Mary Poppins (1964) ★★★★★ BBC One, 3.45pm This is the popular story of a magical nanny (Julie Andrews) who takes over a London home, transforming the lives of its inhabitants. Dick Van Dyke may affect the worst cockney accent ever heard on film, but the combination of the catchy songs, sumptuous live action and colourful animation makes this one of the most enduring children’s films, and a staple of the festive schedules. The film was nominated for 13 Oscars. Beauty and the Beast (2017) ★★★★☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 10.55am and 5.50pm Emma Watson dazzles in Disney’s show-stopping, live-action, chocolate box remake. The film’s songs – which include three new ones – by Alan Menken are the pulse, the purpose and the headline draw, while Ewan McGregor is delightful as Lumière, Luke Evans perfect as Gaston, and Dan Stevens, in digital fur, is the Prince. The Little Mermaid (1989) ★★★★☆ Channel 4, 4.20pm This vivacious retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale began a rich vein of form for Disney animations (Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King followed). A combination of unforgettable characters, including Sebastian the singing Jamaican crab and the delightfully evil baddie Ursula (based on drag queen Divine), and catchy songs makes Ariel’s journey to dry land a magical thing. Jurassic World (2015) ★★★★☆ ITV, 6.40pm Can modern audiences still be wowed by computer-generated dinosaurs? This long-awaited Jurassic Park sequel (the original movie was released in 1993) proves that they can. A new attraction at the dinosaur theme park, created to re-spark visitor interest, gravely backfires and it’s left to Chris Pratt’s raptor trainer and Bryce Dallas Howard’s scientist to save the day. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is out next year. Wednesday 27 December Steve Coogan as Alan Partidge Credit: BBC Alan Partridge: Why, When, Where, How and Whom? BBC Two, 9.00pm Unfortunately, there were no previews available for this palate-cleansing documentary ahead of Alan Partridge’s return to the BBC for a new series next year, which co-creator Steve Coogan promises will include the sometime Radio Norwich presenter’s take on that most contentious of topics, Brexit. It’s been 25 years since he and Armando Iannucci created the hapless Partridge, described by Iannucci as “a kind of social X-ray of male middle-aged Middle England”, a bombastic, self-important local presenter with an unwavering belief in the importance of the highway code and “imperial leisurewear”.  Now this documentary attempts to explain why this character, above all others, has touched such a nerve. Among those contributing are Coogan and Iannucci, Patrick Marber, Peter Baynham, Rebecca Front, David Schneider and Doon Mackichan, and we’re also promised unseen archive footage. The real secret to Alan’s lasting appeal is a simple one, however: he’s a fully realised character and a very English monster in the same vein as Basil Fawlty. Even as we laugh at him, we’re moved by his increasing self-awareness. Sarah Hughes Celebrity Mastermind BBC One, 7.00pm Actor Jack Ashton, comedian Rich Hall, Match of the Day commentator Guy Mowbray and poet Pam Ayres join John Humphrys for a new run of the celebrity edition. Among the specialist subjects tonight are Tennessee Williams, Iron Maiden and Ashes Cricket.  Agatha Christie vs Hercule Poirot Sky Arts, 7.30pm Pierre Bayar presents this interesting deconstruction of one of Agatha Christie’s most celebrated novels, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, in which he alleges a miscarriage of justice by Poirot.  Six Robots & Us BBC Two, 8.00pm Psychologist Dr Caroline Jay and robotics specialist Prof Jonathan Rossiter join forces in this fascinating experiment which aims to uncover how helpful the latest innovations in robotics truly are. To find out the team deliver four very different robots to families around the UK.  Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 2017: the language of life BBC Four, 8.00pm Professor Sophie Scott, UCL’s Head of the Speech Communications Group, gives this year’s lecture, looking at silent communication and why our body language and smells can say as much if not more than our words and sounds.   World’s Strongest Man 2017 Channel 5, 8.00pm Channel 5 brings us all the action from the World’s Strongest Man competition in Botswana. All eyes are on the USA’s Brian Shaw, the defending champion, who is hoping to win for a record firth time.  Turtle, Eagle, Cheetah: A Slow Odyssey BBC Four, 9.00pm BBC Four’s latest foray into the enticing world of slow TV is this nature documentary which focuses on the different views of a cheetah on the African savannah, a green turtle in the Indonesia reefs and a white-tailed eagle in Scotland. SH Miranda Does Christmas Channel 4, 9.00pm Like many an institution before her, Miranda Hart has swapped the BBC for Channel 4 on her return to the small screen. Here, Hart hosts a “raucous Christmas party” with guests including David Tennant, Sam Smith and Prue Leith. SH The Red Shoes (1948) ★★★★★ BBC Two, 12.10pm Powell and Pressburger’s seminal musical tragedy is one of cinema’s great wonders. It’s about a talented ballet dancer (Moira Shearer), her romance with a struggling composer (Marius Goring) and her loyalty to the ballet that he wrote and in which she is meant to star. The film’s theme of the pre-eminent call of creative passion is thought to be an allegory for P & P’s devotion to their craft. Big Hero 6 (2014) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 4.10pm This Disney animation is an East-meets-West adventure with buckets of heart and soul – and quite possibly Disney at its adorable, huggable, and most visually extravagant best. Hiro Hamada, a 14-year-old orphan living in the city of San Fransokyo, befriends Baymax, a 10-foot-tall, bright, white inflatable robot invented by his elder brother, who’s killed in a mysterious fire at his laboratory. Scrooged (1988) ★★★★☆ Film4, 4.35pm 9+Bill Murray plays a mean-spirited network TV president who sees the light after he experiences ghostly visitations – including Carol Kane as a happy-slapping fairy in a tutu – in this droll comic update of Dickens’s tale. Murray is on deadpan, cynical form (“Have you tried staples?”) and Robert Mitchum contributes a priceless cameo as a fellow executive with plans to produce TV shows for cats and dogs. Oasis: Supersonic (2016) ★★★☆☆ BBC Two, 10.00pm Oasis’s glory-days documentary indulges Noel and Liam Gallagher’s bad behaviour. Mat Whitecross’s film starts and ends with the pair of dates when Oasis debatably peaked, at Knebworth in 1996, and goes to excessive length to detail stories of their excess. Few rock stars, in fairness, have a habit of being so amusingly and brutally honest about their failings, and Whitecross is content to let them have the last word. Thursday 28 December David Attenborough Credit: BBC Attenborough and the Empire of the Ants BBC Two, 9.30pm Back on dry land after Blue Planet II, David Attenborough travels to the Jura Mountains on the Swiss-French border to investigate the methods used by two different communities of wood ants to survive and thrive. One adopts a familiar strategy of territorial aggression, with a family dominated by a single queen and chemical warfare on rival communities conducted with liberal distribution of formic acid. The other appears to defy the rules of evolution as they are currently understood, forming a supercolony consisting of several communities cooperating for the greater good in a manner reminiscent of early man’s first steps to eventual supremacy. Queens, sentries and workers labour alongside each other in a manner which sounds far-fetched, but the cameras capture this extraordinary behaviour in mesmerising detail, from hunting to breeding to self-preservation.  The now-customary behind-the-scenes postscript sees Attenborough almost as amazed by the new technology that allows such access to nature (in this case, the “FrankenCam”) as by nature itself. It’s not Blue Planet II, but it’s the sort of fascinating deeper dive that Natural World does so well. Gabriel Tate Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 2017: The Language OF life BBC Four, 8.00pm Sophie Scott brings her series of lectures to an close with an examination of language and comprehension in the animal kingdom. Are we humans really as far advanced as we believe, or might primates and even birds be able to communicate with comparable sophistication? The Secret Life of 5 Year Olds On Holiday Channel 4, 8.30pm Familiar faces from the most recent series head to Cyprus to enjoy flying, swimming and local delicacies, while the professionals watch on and deliver their analyses of childhood behaviour. What Britain Bought in 2017 Channel 4, 9.00pm Mary Portas assesses whether this year has been as dismal as expected for high-street retailers, and examines a few unlikely trends: unicorns, gin and, she suggests, big knickers. Clint Eastwood: a Life in Film Sky Arts, 9.00pm Whether you love or loathe his hardline politics, few would dispute the astonishing consistency of Clint Eastwood’s work. For such a prolific actor and director, there are few duds on his CV and plenty of masterpieces, from Unforgiven to Once Upon a Time in the West. Made in 2007, the year of his ambitious wartime diptych Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima, this excellent programme finds Eastwood in good-humoured form as he talks Michael Henry Wilson through his 50-year career. GT Bruno Mars: Live in Harlem BBC One, 10.25pm; NI, 11.25pm Harlem’s Apollo Theatre launched the careers of James Brown, Ella Fitzgerald and Lauryn Hill, among many others. Bruno Mars pays tribute to the building’s history and rolls out the hits – Uptown Funk, Just the Way You Are et al – along with some dazzling choreography for a hard partying crowd. Romesh Ranganathan: Irrational Live BBC Two, 10.30pm Perhaps rivalled only by Katherine Ryan for small-screen ubiquity this year, Romesh Ranganathan has proved himself an accomplished stand-up comedian. This special, recorded at London’s Hammersmith Apollo in 2016, captures the comedian’s jaundiced but very funny musings on family life. GT The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! (2012) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 9.00am This claymation Aardman romp is a delight. The impasto of non-stop gags, comic detail and slapstick action should appeal to all the family. Hugh Grant plays the Pirate Captain, who needs more booty if he is to stand a chance of winning the title of Pirate of the Year. The plot takes in Darwin, the last dodo and Queen Victoria (voiced by Imelda Staunton). Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 (2017) ★★★★☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 11.00am and 8.00pm Marvel’s playful space sequel looks like an explosion in a nursery school craft cupboard – every scene comes caked in rainbows, glitter and gunge. The core crew returns, led by Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), but the story only really begins with the arrival of a benign and bearded mystic called Ego (Kurt Russell), who has big news for Peter about his earthly origins. Flight (2012) ★★★☆☆ Channel 5, 9.00pm Robert Zemeckis’s film, starring Denzel Washington as alcoholic commercial pilot Whip Whitaker, is a long, earnest, sporadically brilliant drama. On a routine hop from Florida to Atlanta, Whip’s plane starts to tumble out of the sky – a dramatic sequence that will turn nervous fliers’ stomachs – and the pilot must fight to save the lives of those on board. Dull in parts, this is nevertheless morally provocative. Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (2013) ★★★☆☆ BBC Two, 11.30pm Films based on sitcoms tend to play broader than the real series, and this cinema outing for Steve Coogan’s fading media gasbag is no exception. The plot has Alan held hostage at a radio station in Norfolk. Old friends, such as his assistant Lynn (Felicity Montagu), join in and viewers hoping for new catchphrases will be happy, but Partridge loses his Pooterish potency when moving from talk to action. Friday 29 December Bob Mortimer and Vic Reeves Credit: BBC Vic & Bob’s Big Night Out BBC Two, 9.00pm Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer return for this one-off Christmas edition of their sketch show, 27 years after it first aired as Vic Reeves Big Night Out. Fans will be pleased to hear that age has not dimmed the comedians’ energy – in this half-hour they bounce around the studio in the same vein as their younger selves, which gives the show a rapid-fire pace.  The pair’s chemistry is undeniable and they frequently make each other laugh, as well as a raucous studio audience. There is a sense that Reeves and Mortimer are now improvising much of their material, which may explain why some of the jokes here are a touch below par. But many of the sketches are excellent, such as their parody of Channel 4 dating show First Dates, in which they play jokey gay Yorkshiremen. In another, Vic sells wigs made of body parts.  Nostalgia comes in the form of a cameo from Matt Lucas, forever associated with his George Dawes character in Shooting Stars, and the revival of character Graham Lister (played by Bob) in the talent show parody sketch Novelty Island. This brief return reminds us that, with their corny jokes and surreal sense of humour, there’s nobody quite like Vic and Bob. Vicki Power Tim Vine Travels Through Time Christmas Special BBC One, 7.30pm Prepare for a barrage of seasonal puns as Tim Vine’s comedy show returns. Emma Bunton and Reverend Richard Coles join Vine on a jaunt to Tudor times. Eric & Ernie’s Home Movies BBC Two, 8.00pm Those ghosts of Christmas past, Morecambe and Wise, are revisited in this charming documentary showcasing the double act via some newly discovered home movies. Look out also for a repeat of Morecambe & Wise: Leading Ladies (BBC Two, 7.00pm) and Eric, Ernie & Me (BBC Four, 9.00pm), a drama exploring their relationship with writer Eddie Braben. Victoria Wood by her friends Channel 5, 9.00pm This tribute to the late comedian covers much the same ground, and includes some identical contributors, as BBC One’s Our Friend Victoria, but it’s still a treat to be reminded of Wood’s talents. Her 1997 stand-up show, Victoria Wood: Live 1997, follows.   Delicious Sky One, 9.00pm Sky dishes up a second series of this frothy Cornwall-set drama. Chef Gina (Dawn French) has now joined forces with Sam (Emilia Fox) to run the Penrose Hotel, as the man that they were both once married to, Leo (Iain Glen), narrates from beyond the grave. But it turns out tensions haven’t died with him, and their spats bring a pinch of spice to the drama. Tonight, Franco Nero arrives as Gina’s ne’er-do-well father to stir up trouble. Frankie Boyle’s 2017 New Year World Order BBC Two, 10.00pm; not NI This year’s absence of Charlie Brooker’s Wipe is mitigated somewhat by Frankie Boyle’s return for this end-of-year round-up. And certainly somebody needs to help make sense of this crazy year. VP Elvis: The Rebirth of the King BBC Four, 10.00pm This compelling film seeks to overturn the enduring image of Elvis Presley’s Vegas years as a tragic nadir of his career. It argues that Presley’s musical renaissance in a 1968 Christmas TV special saw the King reach new creative heights that he carried into his Vegas shows, before disillusionment and drugs took over. Fantastic archive footage and commentary from his former collaborators, including Elvis’s backing singers, make a convincing case. VP Up (2009) ★★★★★ BBC One, 2.25pm Possibly Pixar’s finest film, Up has a captivating story that realises the vividness of a childlike imagination. Only those with a heart of stone wouldn’t be moved by the story of Ed Asner (voiced by Carl Fredricksen), who tries to fulfil his dream of building a house next to Paradise Falls in South America. His odyssey brings him more than he bargained for, including a young, hyperactive Wilderness Explorer called Russell. Brave (2012) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 4.20pm The first of Pixar’s films to have a female protagonist won an Oscar and there’s a bewitching craftsmanship to its storytelling. It’s set in the Highlands during the feudal period. Kelly MacDonald plays the flame-haired Merida, who would rather ride her horse than play the role of simpering princess; unable to sway her mother (Emma Thompson), she seeks the help of a witch (Julie Walters). Gone Girl (2014) ★★★☆☆ BBC One, 9.15pm; N Ireland, 9.45pm Cold and controlled, yet fun, this drama, directed by David Fincher, is based on Gillian Flynn’s novel of the same name. Rosamund Pike is Amy Elliott-Dunne, who disappears one morning, much to the apparent surprise of her husband (Ben Affleck). The media sniff around and soon the couple’s secrets come to the surface. Darkly suspenseful at first, the story soon turns into blood-drenched self-parody. The Great Gatsby (2013) ★★★☆☆ BBC Two, 11.15pm Baz Luhrmann lays on a cinematic buffet of such sense-addling brazenness that it takes a while before you notice the film is finger-food and nothing more. Leonardo DiCaprio is Jay Gatsby, a newly minted millionaire, and Carey Mulligan is Daisy Buchanan, the lost love he longs to win back. On the rare occasions Luhrmann gives them space to act in the pulsating frenzy of his Jazz Age world, both do a wonderful job. Television previewers Toby Dantzic, Catherine Gee, Simon Horsford, Sarah Hughes, Clive Morgan, Gerard O'Donovan, Vicki Power, Patrick Smith, Gabriel Tate and Rachel Ward

What's on TV tonight: The League of Gentlemen returns and Mary Berry’s Christmas Party

Monday 18 December The League of Gentlemen BBC Two, 10.00pm This is undoubtedly one of the highlights of the festive season for comedy fans. The influential freak show sitcom set in the blighted fictional town of Royston Vasey returns for a three-part run to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its award-winning debut on Radio 4 (the transfer to TV didn’t occur until 1999).  Reviving once-popular comedy is a risky business – just look at the recent Porridge fiasco – but Mark Gatiss, Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton have gone on to bigger, if not always better, things in the intervening years and they return here as if they were never away. Still performing all the major characters on screen (with the group’s fourth member, Jeremy Dyson, sharing the writing duties) they update the stories and characters without losing the demonic humour of the original.  Most of the best characters make a reappearance – Tubbs and Edward, Barbra the trans taxi driver, Herr Lipp, Pauline Campbell-Jones and Mr Chinnery the vet – as Royston Vasey faces its greatest existential threat. Val Denton, meanwhile, sets the tone decisivelyin an opening scene memorable for all the wrong reasons. Gerard O’Donovan Father Brown BBC One, 1.45pm Mark Williams returns for a sixth series as GK Chesterton’s crime-fighting Catholic priest. It’s Christmas in Kembleford but when a dog makes a gruesome discovery in the woods, Father Brown sets out to reverse a terrible miscarriage of justice. Mary Berry’s Christmas Party BBC One, 8.30pm Tips, recipes and full-on merriment as the BBC’s queen of baking invites a handful of famous faces round for a Christmas party cook-in: Alex Jones shows off her rissoles, Darcey Bussell crafts a dance-inspired dessert, while Adil Ray handles the canapés. Plus there’s ginger glazed ham, white chocolate cherry brandy cake, and much more. The Art That Made Mexico: Paradise, Power and Prayers BBC Four, 9.00pm Artist Alinka Echeverria concludes her series by exploring the influence of faith on Mexican culture and how the conquistadors’ Catholic notions of venerating the divine through art found fertile ground thanks to earlier Mayan beliefs. Birds of a Feather Christmas special ITV, 9.00pm Marks and Gran’s long-running sitcom creaks back for another festive special, with Tracey’s (Linda Robson) Yuletide plans upsetting both Sharon (Pauline Quirke) and Dorien (Lesley Joseph). Abba: When All Is Said and Done Channel 5, 9.00pm An Abba double whammy starts with this docudrama exploring the very different stories of the Swedish supergroup’s singers Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad through their own words. Abba: Live in Concert follows at 11.05pm, recorded at the group’s peak in 1979. GO Andre Rieu: Christmas In London 2016 Sky Arts, 9.00pm Rieu entertains with everything festive from Jingle Bells to White Christmas and O Holy Night, bringing his infectious blend of glitter, frills and massed violin strings to boost the seasonal mood. Private Lives of The Monarchs Yesterday, 9.00pm There’s more to Henry VIII than the image of a roistering glutton whose obsession with siring a male heir led to England’s break with Catholicism. So says historian Tracy Borman, painting a picture of a thoughtful young king driven to tyranny by personal demons. GO Carry On Cleo (1964) ★★★☆☆ Channel 4, 12.20pm “Infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it in for me!” So says Kenneth Williams’s waspish Caesar in this, one of the best in the long-running series of cheap and cheerful comedies. Set in ancient Rome, it’s hardly Shakespeare but at least the gags come thick and fast. Watch out for an early appearance from Coronation Street’s Amanda Barrie as a doe-eyed Cleopatra, up to her ears in ass’s milk and political intrigue. First Blood (1982) ★★★★☆ ITV4, 9.00pm Based on David Morrell’s novel, this is the first and best of the Rambo action-movie franchise – it’s more sensitive than the sequels. Sylvester Stallone has become synonymous with Rambo, a maladjusted ex-Green Beret who, after having some Vietnam flashbacks, goes on a one-man war against a crooked small-town sheriff (Brian Dennehy). It’s pacy and raw with a moving climax. Part II is on Tuesday. The Woman in Black (2012) ★★★★☆ Channel 4, 12.10am Thanks to its almost hyper-Edwardian setting and some canny plot alterations, this feels less like a remake of Susan Hill’s ghost story than a new reading of an old tale, trembling with freshly terrifying resonances. Daniel Radcliffe gives a grown-up performance, while director James Watkins uses shadows and empty spaces to create a percolating sense of dread. Tuesday 19 December Faye Marsey as Sarah Credit: Channel 4 Shamed Channel 4, 9.00pm It’s not the most Christmassy of fare but Anthony Philipson’s (My Mad Fat Diary) dark, theatrical one-off drama is worth checking out. Featuring an intense central performance from Faye Marsay (who seems to be everywhere right now, with Bancroft last week and the BBC thriller McMafia to come), Shamed tells the story of 27-year-old Sarah, who suddenly decides to kidnap and imprison two apparently unconnected men: the seemingly perfect just-about-to-get-married Nathan (Nick Blood) and cocky player Mani (Ryan McKen). Both claim never to have met each other or Sarah before. However there’s a method behind her madness, and one which, when revealed, opens up wider questions about how different events can resonate in different ways. Philipson’s tight script keeps you guessing about the connection until near the end before spilling out into violence and debates about the difference between guilt and shame.  It’s not perfect – Mani is underwritten and the rushed ending is a little forced – but Shamed makes some thoughtful points about our attitudes toward sex and the way in which certain people can stride through life without acknowledging the damage they trail behind. Sarah Hughes The Royal Variety Performance 2017 ITV, 7.30pm Miranda Hart hosts this year’s Royal Variety Performance, attended by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, with guests ranging from the obvious (Michael Ball, Alfie Boe) to the incongruous (Kelsey Grammer, Seal). Jamie’s Italian Christmas Channel 4, 8.00pm Another week, another Christmas cookery show. Our chef tonight is the ubiquitous Jamie Oliver who has holed up in a log cabin with his mentor Gennaro Contaldo and hopes to teach us to give the traditional British Christmas an Italian twist. U2 at the BBC BBC One, 9.00pm The Irish band continue their quest for world domination with this film centred on new album Songs of Experience. The action takes place at Abbey Road Studios, where they perform some of their biggest hits and squeeze in a quick chat with Cat Deeley.    Invasion! With Sam Willis BBC Four, 9.00pm The final part of this engaging series sees historian Sam Willis examine one of the more unusual military ideas in history: Napoleon’s plan to use a fleet of balloons as part of his invasion plans during the War of the Third Coalition. The French first crossed the English Channel by hot air balloon in 1785 and Napoleon appointed aeronaut Sophie Blanchard as air service chief to carry out the idea. The plans ultimately came to nothing, but that didn’t stop stories and caricatures of balloons carrying arms, men and even horses spreading through the media.  The First Silent Night Yesterday, 9.00pm The mournful Silent Night is one of the world’s most beloved carols, and was declared an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2011. This film follows actor Simon Callow as he heads to the Austrian village of Oberndorf to uncover its origins before considering why this carol above all others resonates so strongly. SH Extraordinary Teens: Young, Gifted and Broke Channel 4, 10.00pm Pianist and composer Shane Thomas hit the headlines aged only 10 when his precocious talent saw him hailed as the British Mozart. Seven years later his career has stalled. What emerges is a depressing but well-told story of ambition tampered by poverty and a system in which privilege and connections count as much, if not more than raw talent. SH Sword of Sherwood Forest (1960) ★★★☆☆ Film4, 5.05pm Terence Fisher teamed up with Hammer Films for this child-friendly spin-off from The Adventures of Robin Hood TV series, with Richard Greene, who reprises his role here. Peter Cushing stars as the dastardly Sheriff of Nottingham out to murder the Archbishop of Canterbury. It’s a cheap and cheerful affair that remains true to the spirit of the original. Smurfs: The Lost Village (2017) ★★☆☆☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 6.15pm The third of the big-screen outings for The Smurfs is a trippy treat for under-eights, for everyone else the blues. This Smurfs contains double the number of Smurfs ever previously seen, thanks to the discovery of an all-female enclave somewhere deep in the woods. Demi Lovato, Mandy Patinkin, Michelle Rodriguez and Julia Roberts are among those lending their voices. Carol (2015) ★★★★★ Film4, 9.00pm Todd Haynes’s adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 novel is gorgeous, gently groundbreaking, and quite possibly be the saddest thing that you’ll ever see. It tells the story of a photographer (Rooney Mara) who has a relationship with an older woman (Cate Blanchett) in New York. Haynes’ film concludes that love is the riskiest but most necessary gamble. Wednesday 20 December Dame Judi Dench Credit: BBC Judi Dench: My Passion for Trees BBC One, 8.00pm When this one-off documentary was announced, some predictably invoked Alan Partridge’s hapless pitch of Youth Hostelling with Chris Eubank. Certainly, it’s hard to imagine many other celebrities managing to get this made, and even harder to imagine any who could have made it so watchable. A look of astonished delight is plastered over Dame Judi’s face throughout the hour, as she makes all manner of unexpected discoveries about the trees that she loves. There is also a rare peek into her personal life and relationship with her “chap”, David Mills. This may lack the forensic camerawork and high-spec CGI of most BBC nature documentaries, but there are rewarding revelations amid the occasional dose of Botany 101. “I think of my trees as part of my extended family,” says Dench – not the absurd piece of sentimentality you might suspect, as she plants a tree in her back garden for each friend or relative who has died. And trees, it transpires, are also remarkably sociable in their way, an arboreal community connected by spidery threads of fungus and able to call for help if under attack by aphids. Charming and subtly educational. Gabriel Tate What Makes You Tic? BBC Three, from 10.00am Vlogger Lewis “QBall” Nickell aims to conquer his Tourette’s Syndrome and launch a career as a talk-show host, meeting The Vamps and Girls Aloud alumna Nadine Coyle as part of his efforts to raise awareness. Carabao Cup: Bristol City v Manchester United Sky Sports Main Event, 7.30pm We’re at Ashton Gate for this quarter-final clash, as the Robins look to produce and upset against holders Manchester United. The hosts have already claimed two Premier League scalps in Watford and Stoke City, but United are clear favourites here.  The Real Marigold on Tour BBC One, 9.00pm When you see the lives the Marigold pensioners are leading who wouldn’t be envious? This week, Sheila Ferguson, Rustie Lee, Paul Nicholas and Dennis Taylor head to Iceland. There, they go whale watching in the fishing village of Hausavik, and try aqua aerobics and gymnastics in Reykjavik. Elsewhere, Sheila goes on a date with an Icelandic man. Peaky Blinders BBC Two, 9.00pm Perhaps the best series yet comes to a punishing climax with the night of the big fight and yet another reckoning for the Shelbys, this time courtesy of Changretta (Adrien Brody) and once-trusted allies. A Night for the Emergency Services ITV, 9.00pm Presenting a sort of 999’s Got Talent, Ashley Banjo and Diversity introduce a showcase for the firefighters, police and hospital workers who demonstrate skills far beyond their professional capabilities. These include magicians, dancers and a Michael Bublé impersonator, along with appearances from a few special guests. Taskmaster Champion of Champions  Dave, 9.00pm One of the funniest series on TV comes to a spectacular climax as the ultimate Taskmaster champion is crowned, with previous winners Josh Widdicombe, Katherine Ryan, Noel Fielding, Rob Beckett and Bob Mortimer all in the running. Dian Fossey: Secrets in the Mist  National Geographic, 9.00pm After a lifetime of conservation work and, campaigning against poaching, primatologist Dian Fossey was killed in her Rwandan cabin in 1985 – a crime that remains unsolved. The final part of this gripping series examines possible motives. GT Male Rape: Breaking the Silence BBC One, 10.45pm; Scot & Wales, 11.10pm; NI, 11.40pm First shown on BBC Three, this grim but necessary film hears from three men who are among the estimated one-in-six to have been victims of rape. GT Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) ★★★★★ BBC One, 1.45pm Steven Spielberg’s rollicking adventure film, with a very scary end, won four Oscars and created a new action hero in Dr Henry “Indiana” Jones (Harrison Ford). Jones is an archaeologist hired by the US government in 1936 to seek out the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis find it. The ensuing events provide a rollercoaster of thrills. The Temple of Doom and The Last Crusade follow over the next two night. Chicken Run (2000) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 3.35pm Aardman Animations, the studio behind many of Nick Park’s triumphs, conjures up another stop-motion corker that fairly swarms with clever little jokes and details. Our heroes here are a group of jauntily anthropomorphic chickens; they’re plotting their escape to freedom from the tyrannical Mr and Mrs Tweedy, who run the farm on which they live. The voice cast boasts Julia Sawalha, Jane Horrocks and Mel Gibson. The Phantom of the Opera (2004) ★★★☆☆ Sky Arts, 9.00pm Impressed by his use of music in The Lost Boys, Andrew Lloyd Webber hired director Joel Schumacher to bring his hit musical, the longest-running Broadway show in history, about a disfigured genius who lives hidden in the Paris Opera House and who develops a crush on a chorus girl, to the big screen. The score has all the faux-gothic pomp required, but Gerard Butler’s Phantom fails to spook. Thursday 21 December Darcey Bussell Credit: BBC Darcey Bussell: Looking for Fred Astaire BBC One, 10.45pm One dance star explores another in this unpretentious profile of Fred Astaire. Darcey Bussell traces Astaire’s journey from his hometown in Nebraska to New York, London and Los Angeles to examine his ascent to film stardom, achieved after nearly three decades as a professional dancer. She puts forward that he owed much of his success to three women – his mother, his sister and dancing partner Adele, and his first wife Phyllis – but wisely doesn’t labour the point.  Bussell peruses memorabilia and film footage – there’s a delightful clip of Astaire dancing with his long-time collaborator, Hermes Pan – and discusses with historians Astaire’s early life, work ethic and personality clash with Ginger Rogers. The commentary doesn’t uncover much that an Astaire fan wouldn’t already know, but Bussell is an enthusiastic guide and the clips are terrific. Strictly professionals Aljaz Skorjanec and Janette Manrara are touring a successful stage show called Remembering Fred – this film also reminds us of Astaire’s immeasurable contribution to dance, though it wouldn’t harm for it to air at an hour more suited to the ballroom dance-loving demographic. Vicki Power MasterChef: The Professionals: The Finals BBC Two, 8.00pm It’s ladles at dawn for the three finalists as they tackle their last challenge. They’ll cook a three-course meal in three hours for the formidable judging trio of Wareing, Galetti and Wallace, who’ll then choose their champ. Joanna & Jennifer: Absolutely Champers BBC Two, 9.00pm On the flimsy premise of celebrating 25 years since the birth of Absolutely Fabulous, Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley take a fizz-fuelled jolly to France to tour vineyards. They neck vats of bubbly in a travelogue as meandering as Patsy’s gait after an evening spent swigging Bolly. Gordon, Gino and Fred’s Great Christmas Roast ITV, 9.00pm It’s Celtic vigour versus Italian passion in this feelgood cookery special. TV chefs Gordon Ramsay and Gino D’Acampo compete, with a team of celebrity helpers, to create the best Christmas banquet for 100 emergency services workers. First Dates’ maître d’ Fred Sirieux presents. Donny Osmond’s Easy Listening Christmas Channel 5, 9.00pm This Val Doonican-style one-off sees Donny Osmond counting down his 25 favourite festive songs, exploring their geneses and comparing classic renditions to cover versions. VP The Tunnel: Vengeance Sky Atlantic, 9.00pm The symbiosis between Anglo-French cop partners Karl and Elise (Stephen Dillane and Clémence Poésy) in this murder mystery shows us a cheering flipside to Brexit. Their touching, humorous relationship is affecting, even if the series overall lacks the Scandinavian-style eeriness of The Bridge, on which it’s based. Here, the cross-channel cops make a breakthrough in the search for the missing children. The Galaxy Britain Built: Droids, Darth Vader and Lightsaber/Hollywood’s Master of Myth BBC Four, 10.00pm and 11.00pm In celebration of the release of The Last Jedi, these documentaries look at the ingredients that helped shape the Star Wars phenomenon. The first focuses on the film crew who created George Lucas’s fictional galaxy. The second, from 1999, explores the work of US academic Joseph Campbell, whom Lucas has credited with inspiring his plot. VP The Dark Crystal (1982) ★★★☆☆ Film4, 1.05pm Muppets creator Jim Henson stepped out from the comfort of children’s TV to make this dark fantasy tale about a pair of creatures who must find a missing shard of crystal in order to defeat the evil Skeksis. The superbly designed puppets and sets add a surreal quality but it lacks the sense of humour which made Labyrinth, Henson’s next cinema release, so popular. Frank Oz, fellow puppeteer and the voice of Yoda, co-directs. Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 3.35pm Nick Park’s plucky Plasticine pair set about rescuing a village whose annual vegetable competition is in jeopardy because of rabbits eating up the contents of everyone’s gardens. But their bunny brainwashing goes wrong and they accidentally create a mutant rabbit. Beautifully shot, charming, and very silly, it deservedly won the Oscar for Best Animation. Candyman (1992) ★★★★☆ Film4, 11.15pm Virginia Madsen does powerhouse work as a student of folklore lured into fascination with a hook-handed killer who appears when you say his name five times in front of a mirror. She ignores all warnings but is soon blamed for his crimes when a series of horrible murders begin. Majestic direction from Bernard Rose transforms this into a resoundingly epic and gory fable. Friday 22 December Bruno Tonioli  Credit: BBC Saturday Night Fever: The Ultimate Disco Movie BBC Two, 9.00pm Long before he became a household name as a Strictly Come Dancing judge, Bruno Tonioli had a successful career as a choreographer to the stars, arranging dance for music videos, stage shows and tours for Tina Turner, Sting, Elton John and many others. Here he looks back 40 years to when he was a young dancer in New York and got caught up in the global phenomenon that was Saturday Night Fever.  It’s a great story, told with typical Tonioli verve, of how a low-budget film starring the then unknown John Travolta and using the music of a failing band of high-pitched popsters, the Bee Gees, became one of the biggest box office draws of all time and gave half the world “disco fever”. It also shows how – to give credit where it is due – much of its success was down to the visionary genius and unstoppable determination of the Bee Gees’ manager, the late Robert Stigwood, impresario behind some of the most popular stars, and hit stage and film musicals (Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, Grease, Bugsy Malone) of the Seventies. Contributors include Travolta. Gerard O’Donovan The Toys That Made Us Netflix, from today Toys of the Eighties are the focus of this series taking an in-depth look at the nostalgia and collecting fervour that surrounds eight of the biggest selling toy brands of that decade: Transformers, Stars Wars, He-Man, GI Joe, Barbie, Star Trek, Hello Kitty and Lego. Premier League Football: Arsenal v Liverpool Sky Sports Main Event, 7.00pm Action from the Emirates Stadium, as Arsenal  look to avenge a 4-0 defeat in August, when Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, Mo Salah and Daniel Sturridge all found the net for Liverpool. TOTP4 Christmas 2017 BBC Four, 7.30pm Get into the Christmas party spirit with Mark Radcliffe’s countdown of classic festive hits from Top of the Pops’s glitter-spattered archive, with The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl, Wizzard, Slade, The Darkness and Ed Sheeran among the acts featured. Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast Christmas Special Channel 4, 8.00pm Jamie Oliver and Jimmy Doherty welcome actress Liv Tyler to the pier café to make her favourite takeaway, pork dim sum. Oliver also whips up a cracking kedgeree, and Doherty builds a home-made wood-fired oven. Al Murray’s Make Christmas Great Again ITV, 9.00pm Al Murray’s gloriously unreconstructed pub landlord invites an audience to a lock-in at the Reindeer’s Head where he bends ears on such matters as how Christmas is losing its Britishness while whipping up anti-PC seasonal singalongs and remonstrating with celebrity guests. George Michael to Tom Petty: a Tribute Sky Arts, 9.00pm Chuck Berry, Fats Domino and David Cassidy are just some of the musicians and performers who, along with George Michael and Tom Petty, we lost in the past 12 months – as affectionately remembered in this 90-minute tribute. GO Les Dawson: In His Own Words Channel 5, 10.00pm Comedians didn’t come more old school than Les Dawson, with his bluff Northern style, rubber face and mother-in-law jokes. But he was one of the most original comedians of his generation, as proved by this terrific documentary that raids the archives for his funniest work. The Graham Norton Show BBC One, 10.40pm Grahm Norton’s line-up offers a good mix of interest: Hollywood star Will Smith, Victoria’s Jenna Coleman, chef Jamie Oliver and former Keane frontman Tom Chaplin. GO Bright (2017) Netflix, from today This Netflix Original – a $100 million special-effects blockbuster from David Ayer, director of Suicide Squad – sounds like a mash-up of Lethal Weapon and Lord of the Rings. In an alternate Los Angeles where elves and witches walk the streets, Will Smith’s tough NYPD officer finds himself partnered with an orc (Joel Edgerton). Considering its hefty price tag and star-studded soundtrack (Migos, Rag’n’Bone Man, Camila Cabello), this could be Netflix’s biggest mistake yet Puss in Boots (2011) ★★☆☆☆ BBC One, 3.40pm DreamWorks Animation’s Shrek spin-off follows Puss in Boots’s life before he became the green ogre’s sidekick. With the help of Kitty Softpaws (voiced by Salma Hayek) and Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis), the swashbuckling feline (Antonio Banderas) becomes a hero after saving his town. Like the CGI ogre’s last two films, Shrek the Third and Shrek Forever After, the animation is more impressive than the jokes. Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001) ★★★★☆ ITV, 10.40pm American actress Renée Zellweger perfects her English accent to play the Chardonnay-swigging, chain-smoking, lovelorn Bridget in this adaptation of Helen Fielding’s novel, which remains a solid favourite. Love interests Hugh Grant and Colin Firth are excellent as her roguish boss Daniel Cleaver and the stuffy-but-handsome (even in a Christmas jumper) lawyer Mark Darcy. Saturday 23 December A Christmas Tree in Manger Square, Bethlehem Credit: Channel 4 The World’s Best Christmas Lights: From Liverpool to Bethlehem Channel 4, 8.00pm It is amazing what you can build a successful, multi-million-pound, internationally renowned business from. Liverpool-based company The Christmas Decorators specialise in the commercial design and installation of large-scale Christmas lights and decorations – the kind you see in every shop, street and town square. This entertaining film, one of the more offbeat of the season, follows a rather surprising commission: to install the lights and decorations at what many might consider the birthplace of Christmas – Manger Square in Bethlehem. In fact, they’ve been doing it every year since 2012, bringing every single bulb and bauble with them from their warehouse in the UK.  It’s a huge logistical effort, which is also a possibly tricky one, if customs or security in, say, Istanbul take exception to the Bethlehem-bound consignment as it passes through. Director of operations GED Comerford leads the four-person installation team on the trek from Liverpool. It’s fraught with hitches and glitches – even a home-baked Christmas cake is regarded with suspicion by local security – but all the more entertaining for that. Gerard O’Donovan Smashie’s Xmastastic Playlist Christmas Gold, 4.00pm Getting the Christmas party off to an early start from his fab-tastic hideaway at Radio Hush, The Fast Show’s Mike Smash (Paul Whitehouse) brings his off-kilter pop-DJ insights to an hour of festive hits from Wizzard to Johnny Mathis via McCartney, Dylan and Springsteen.  Elf: The Musical Channel 5, 5.00pm There’s seasonal song, dance and fun in the stage musical version of Will Ferrell’s much-loved comedy from the Lowry Theatre in Salford. Ben Forster, who won ITV’s Superstar talent search in 2012, leads the cast as Buddy, a human orphan who was raised by Santa’s elves in the North Pole and returns to New York in search of his family. Michael Buble’s Christmas in New York Sky Arts, 5.00pm At the Radio City Music Hall the crooner sings a selection of seasonal classics, along with a sparkling line-up of special guests including Barbra Streisand, Ariana Grande and The Muppets’ Miss Piggy. It is repeated on Sky One at 12.15am. Pointless Celebrities Christmas Special BBC One, 6.15pm Some of the contestants in this festive edition of the quiz could themselves be pointless answers in a round on Christmas hits. Jona Lewie, Jimmy Osmond and Ben Haenow are among those answering Alexander Armstrong questions. Blind Date Christmas Special Channel 5, 8.00pm There’s a fairy-tale spin to this edition of Paul O’Grady’s matchmaking show, as a Prince Charming has to choose between fellow panto actors Cinderella, Snow White and Tinkerbell. It’s Christmas Live from the Royal Albert Hall Sky One, 8.00pm The Royal Albert Hall is transformed to a rock ’n’ roll winter wonderland as Jason Manford introduces performances by Holly Johnson, Marc Almond, Chrissie Hynde and Shakin’ Stevens, among many others. GO Feud: Bette and Joan BBC Two, from 9.00pm; NI, from 9.30pm Ryan Murphy’s stylish and scathingly catty dramatisation of the Hollywood feud between Bette Davis (Susan Sarandon) and Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange) reaches the moment that the actresses’ mutual loathing went off the scale – while working on the 1962 classic What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (which follows). GO Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001) ★★★☆☆ ITV, 1.35pm  From today to New Year’s Day, ITV are screening all of the Harry Potter films – one film a day, except on Boxing Day. This first adaptation of J K Rowling’s novel was, for a while, the second highest-grossing film ever. Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint are endearing (and very young) in the lead roles but the film lacks the original book’s compulsiveness. Frozen (2013) ★★★★★ BBC One, 2.50pm Disney’s 53rd feature is an enchanting combination of fairy-tale derring-do and heart-popping musical numbers that has left children and adults powerless to its charms. Elsa (Idina Menzel) is a shy princess driven into exile when her magical powers are discovered. Her sister Anna (Kristen Bell) gallops off to fetch her from her beautiful ice palace. Spin-off Olaf’s Frozen Adventure is on Christmas Day. Bill (2015) ★★★★☆ BBC Two, 6.00pm Intelligent children and immature adults will love this mock-biopic from the Horrible Histories troupe that follows the young William Shakespeare (Mathew Baynton) as he ascends from quill-scraping zero to literary hero. Some of the best moments (a running joke about false moustaches is one) are full-bloodedly Pythonesque, although occasionally a kind of student-revue smarminess creeps in. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962, b/w) ★★★★★ BBC Two, 10.35pm; not N Ireland Robert Aldrich’s classic slice of American Grotesque, starring two of cinema’s greatest screen divas, started a trend for casting ageing actresses in campy Gothic horror movies. Joan Crawford and Bette Davis play reclusive sisters locked in an abusive relationship in their crumbling Hollywood mansion.  Christmas Eve Sue Perkins, Mary Berry and Mel Giedroyc Credit: BBC Mary, Mel and Sue’s Big Christmas Thank You BBC One, 7.00pm Anyone looking for some extra festive cheer should look no further than this exuberant Christmas special which sees former Great British Bake-Off stars Mary Berry, Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc join forces to help out at a community centre in the Rhondda Valley in Wales.  Initially, it seems as though this is one of those rather forced shows in which celebrities dispense good cheer and bad jokes, but an emotional story of community spirit in the face of despair swiftly emerges. “We’ve lost our library, our butchers, both banks have closed and there’s no school,” states Elizabeth “Buffy” Williams. Working with her friend Lynne, Buffy has attempted to combat that by opening a community centre offering meals, bingo and after-school classes. Now they want to throw a special Christmas meal for the whole community but it’s tough: the kitchen is small, money is tight and Lynne freely admits that she hates cooking. Enter the indomitable Mrs Berry, who rolls up her sleeves, corrals Daffyd, a 16-year-old with a GCSE in catering, into becoming her sous chef and helps Lynne tackle her phobia. The final celebration should bring a tear to even the most cynical of eyes. Sarah Hughes Premiership Rugby Union: Leicester Tigers v Saracens BT Sport 1, 2.30pm Below-par this season, Leicester will be hoping a win here at Welford Park against third-placed Saracens will give them fresh momentum going into the new year.  Countryfile BBC One, 6.00pm The team head to the Peak District for this special which sees John Craven exploring Longshaw Estate, Anita Rani experiencing a Nativity play with a difference and Matt Baker venturing into Peak Cavern for a carol concert.  Christmas University Challenge 2017 BBC Two, 8.00pm; Scotland, 5.45pm There’s something addictive about the University Challenge’s specials, possibly because they allow us to see celebrities in a new light. The opener sees a team from Durham University, including actor Nick Mohammed, take on a Keble College side featuring Katy Brand. Child Genius vs Celebrities Christmas Special Channel 4, 8.00pm Richard Osman is our host for this Christmas special, which sees past child geniuses take on, among others, Catastrophe star Rob Delaney and broadcaster Janet Street Porter. Will youth or experience win out?  Michael McIntyre’s Big Christmas Show BBC One, 8.30pm The comedian returns for a festive edition in which Alesha Dixon risks social disaster by handing over her phone in Celebrity Send-to-All, plus there’s stand-up from Bill Bailey and music from Seal.  Maigret in Montmartre ITV, 8.30pm Critics haven’t always been kind to ITV’s reboot of Georges Simenon’s Maigret featuring Rowan Atkinson. Yet there’s actually a lot to like here. Atkinson underplays the role nicely, the plots are serviceable and the whole thing is entertaining if undemanding fare. This episode sees Maigret drawn in to the murder of a showgirl. SH M R James evening BBC Four, from 9.00pm Shut the doors, draw the curtains and prepare to be thoroughly spooked as BBC Four dedicates an evening to ghost writer supreme M R James. First up, long-time James fan Mark Gatiss looks at how this diffident Anglican bachelor created stories that still send a tingle down the spine a century after they were written. It’s followed at 10pm by two adaptations of James’s work: The Tractate Middoth, a chilling story about vengeance from beyond the grave, starring Sacha Dhawan and John Castle, and No 13, featuring Greg Wise as an academic who uncovers more than he bargains for in a small medieval town. Billy Elliot: the Musical Sky Arts, 9.00pm Anyone who hasn’t managed to catch Stephen Daldry’s big-hearted musical take on his film about a miner’s son who just wants to dance can find out what all the fuss is about with this performance from 2014 starring Ruthie Henshall and Elliott Hanna. SH Gone with the Wind (1939) ★★★★★ Channel 5, 9.20am Hollywood’s highest-grossing movie until The Sound of Music in 1966, this was the film for which the word “epic” was invented. Vivien Leigh became a star as Scarlett O’Hara, the spoilt Southern belle whose life is turned upside down by the US Civil War. Clark Gable and Leslie Howard are her lovers. It’s brash and self-indulgent, but frankly we don’t give a damn. The Lego Batman Movie (2017) ★★★★☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 1.25pm and 7.00pm Don’t tell Ben Affleck – who plays Actual Batman – but the actor has been made surplus to requirements by one and a half inches of moulded plastic. Lego Batman’s debut solo feature, spun off from a cameo in The Lego Movie, is frantically and relentlessly funny as a new police commissioner (Rosario Dawson) threatens to make the Caped Crusader redundant. Guys and Dolls (1955) ★★★★☆ BBC Two, 3.20pm The 1955 film adaptation of the Broadway classic holds up rather well. The stellar casting certainly helps: Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra in one film – as the rival New York gamblers (and gangsters) Sky Masterson and Nathan Detroit, who place a bet on compromising the virtue of a pious Salvation Army woman, Sarah Brown (played by Jean Simmons). The musical numbers are still a delight. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) ★★★★★ Channel 4, 6.30pm Tiny Tim is a small green frog, Mrs Cratchit is a bad-tempered pig and Charles Dickens himself is portrayed by Gonzo, enormous blue nose and all. And yet, there are few better, or more affecting versions of A Christmas Carol than this musical adaptation. Michael Caine is ideal as the miserly Scrooge, the laughs are aplenty and the finale is as rousing as they come. Christmas Day Peter Capaldi and David Bradley Credit: BBC Doctor Who BBC One, 5.30pm While it’s not unusual for Doctor Who to begin with a “Previously…”, this one takes things all the way back to William Hartnell’s First Doctor, having faced the Cybermen at the South Pole and refused to regenerate. After necessarily metamorphosing into David Bradley (who played Hartnell in Mark Gatiss’s docudrama An Adventure in Space and Time), he duly encounters Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor, in a similar fix. Throw in Mark Gatiss’s doomed British army captain, transported from the Western Front at the moment of death with stiff upper lip wobbling, a mysterious glass woman (Nikki Amuka-Bird) with the power to freeze time, the return of Bill (Pearl Mackie) and a few other surprises, and you have another of Steven Moffat’s self-imposed riddles to unravel. Given that this is Moffat’s own last stand, and with Jodie Whitaker due to make her bow at the end of the episode, you might anticipate a tsunami of self-indulgence and sentimentality, but no. Capaldi and Mackie’s snappy, affectionate chemistry precludes such easy options, Gatiss is restrained and funny and Moffat’s musing on war and peace is enough to bear the wit and self-referentiality. A dignified farewell. Gabriel Tate The Highway Rat BBC One, 4.45pm Rob Brydon narrates and David Tennant voices the eponymous anti-hero in another enchanting adaptation of a Julia Donaldson/Axel Scheffler picture book, this time depicting the comeuppance for a selfish, swashbuckling rat and his long-suffering steed.. The Royal Opera: Puccini’s La Boheme BBC Four, 7.00pm Clemency Burton-Hill introduces Richard Jones’s production of Puccini’s tale of love and loss among bohemians in 19th-century Paris, conducted by Antonio Pappano and starring tenor Michael Fabiano and soprano Nicole Car as star-crossed lovers Rodolfo and Mimi. Jones’s production has a wintry charm that should see it sit very comfortably in today’s schedules.  Olaf’s Frozen Adventure Sky Cinema Premiere/On Demand, 7.30pm Perhaps better suited to television after a brief run in cinemas that saw parents complaining about it delaying screenings of Coco, this Frozen spin-off finds the cheerful snowman Olaf (voiced by Josh Gad) joining his reindeer, Sven, on a mission for their royal highnesses Elsa (Idina Menzel) and Anna (Kristen Bell) who are desperate to create their own Christmas tradition. Expect four catchy new songs to be ringing around your head. GT  Call the Midwife BBC One, 7.40pm Call the Midwife pulls out all the stops for this astoundingly gloomy affair as a Boxing Day freeze descends, stranding Valerie (Jennifer Kirby) in a caravan for an ad hoc delivery and accounting for a popular old timer with a very dark secret. The Great Christmas bake off Channel 4, 7.40pm Val and Selasi from last year, Paul Jagger (he of 2015’s bread lion) and Welsh Beca, a 2013 semi-finalist, return to compete for Star Baker, introduced and judged by the new Fab Four. There’s more of the same on New Year’s Day. Victoria ITV, 9.00pm The Queen (Jenna Coleman) is pregnant again and missing her governess, leaving Albert (Tom Hughes) in the unlikely role of Christmas merrymaker-in-chief. It’s a festive special by numbers, but affecting and easy on the eye. Ashes Cricket: Australia v England BT Sport 1, 10.30pm It’s been a fraught series, on and off the field, for England, with their players’ professionalism frequently called into question. This signals the start of the fourth Test, played at Melbourne Cricket Ground. Can Joe Root’s beleaguered side salvage some dignity? Or will the Aussies continue to have a field day? 300 Years of French & Saunders BBC One, 10.35pm Unseen footage, much-loved sketches and of course Lulu feature in this one-off, which sees the duo back together on TV for the first time in a decade. The new material is intermittently inspired and vigorously performed, with The Handmaid’s Tale, the Kardashians and Poldark all subjected to their attentions. GT Singin’ in the Rain (1952) ★★★★★ Channel 5, 1.05pm There are few movie scenes more memorable than Gene Kelly’s rain-soaked Singin’ in the Rain sequence, or many more jaw-dropping than Donald O’Connor’s walk up the wall. But more than song and dance, this film contains real satire as it recounts the introduction of the “talkie” and the superficial nature of the US film industry. Debbie Reynolds (who died a year ago, one day after daughter Carrie Fisher) co-stars as the Hollywood ingénue. Cinderella (2015) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 3.10pm Kenneth Branagh’s twinkling, live-action Cinderella sticks doggedly to Disney’s 1950 animated version (Cinders’s rodent companions are present) and favours sparkle over wit. However, Cate Blanchett is marvellous as the Wicked Stepmother and Helena Bonham Carter makes a jolly good Fairy Godmother. Princess-obsessed little girls will find it irresistible and the costumes are stunning. Oliver! (1968) ★★★★☆ Channel 5, 3.10pm Carol Reed, who had previously directed The Third Man, won an Oscar for his superior version of Lionel Bart’s musical of the classic Charles Dickens tale (Reed’s only ever attempt at the musical genre). Eight-year-old Mark Lester is sweet as Oliver Twist but it was Ron Moody as Fagin who received the Oscar nod. Reed’s nephew, another Oliver, is a brooding and brutal Bill Sikes and still has the potential to shock. Dumbo (1941) ★★★★★ Channel 4. 4.30pm It may be one of Disney’s shortest animated films, but it is also one of its most loved. Baby elephant Dumbo is born with unfeasibly large ears, is separated from his mother and becomes ostracised by his fellow circus animals. It is only when Timothy Mouse encourages Dumbo to make the most of his ears that he discovers he can fly. This remains an undisputed masterpiece from Disney’s golden age of animation. Boxing Day Willa Fitzgerald, Kathryn Newton, Maya Hawke and Annes Elwy Credit: BBC Little Women BBC One, 8.00pm One suspects that this beautiful adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s much-loved coming-of-age novel (published in 1868) was due a less prominent airing until the BBC had to shelve its flagship festive Agatha Christie adaptation Ordeal by Innocence due to sexual assault allegations against one of the stars. That seems no great loss now, as this sparkling gem of a drama – scripted by Call the Midwife creator Heidi Thomas – more than deserves a Boxing Day prime-time slot.  Told in three parts, it follows the lives of the March sisters – Jo (Maya Hawke), Meg (Willa Fitzgerald), Beth (Annes Elwy), and Amy (Kathryn Newton) – as they progress from adolescence to adulthood under the protective eye of their mother, Marmee (Emily Watson), while their father is away in the American Civil War.  As life-affirming a tale as you could want this time of year, it’s full of high spirits and loving kindness. There are nice cameo performances by Michael Gambon and Angela Lansbury, but in the opening part, the acting laurels go to Hawke for her spot-on portrayal of tomboyish proto-feminist Jo, and Jonah Hauer-King, as boy next door Laurie Laurence. Gerard O’Donovan Todd Barry: Spicy Honey Netflix, from today Stand-up Todd Barry is best known in the US for his bone-dry wit. Anyone seeking relief from the festive season’s more saccharine shows will be sure to find it in this one-off recording from his latest tour. Premier League Football: Tottenham Hotspur v Southampton Sky Sports Main Event, 12.00noon Spurs won both of their matches against the Saints last season, including a 2-1 victory in one of their final home matches at White Hart Lane. Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli both scored in the first half, with James Ward-Prowse pulling one back for Southampton in the second. Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella BBC Two, 5.35pm From Sadler’s Wells, a treat for dance fans in this dazzling Blitz-era reworking of Prokofiev’s classic ballet, performed by Bourne’s New Adventures company.  Snow Bears BBC One, 6.30pm Kate Winslet narrates this documentary following a pack of polar bears as they embark on an eventful 400-mile journey to reach the pack ice where they hunt. Surprisingly charming. Discovering: Julie Andrews Sky Arts, 7.00pm A look at the life and career of an actress and singer more associated with Christmas than most, thanks to endless festive repeats of Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music. But there’s much more to Julie Andrews than that, as shown in this beautifully put-together profile.  Reindeer Family and Me BBC Two, 8.00pm Wildlife film-maker Gordon Buchanan’s festive offering focuses on Santa’s favourite quadruped. In Lapland, Buchanan settles in with the nomadic Sami people to learn the ways of the herder, before setting out with a single reindeer to capture the Northern Lights as they’ve never been filmed before. Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 2017: The Language OF life BBC Four, 8.00pm This year’s theme, The Language of Life, sees cognitive neuroscientist Professor Sophie Scott of UCL embark on an exploration of the urge to communicate. In the opener, she unpicks the evolution of the human voice. GO The Miniaturist BBC One, 9.00pm An absorbing adaptation of Jessie Burton’s bestseller about a young woman thrust into an arranged marriage with a perplexing merchant in 17th-century Amsterdam. It looks exquisite, although the constant quest to shoot each frame as if it were a Vermeer painting doesn’t help the pace. Anna Taylor-Joy plays 18-year-old Nella with suitable bafflement, Alex Hassell intrigues as Johannes, while Romola Garai steals the show as his sister, Marin. Concludes tomorrow. Big Fat Quiz of the Year 2017 Channel 4, 9.00pm Jimmy Carr hosts C4’s alternative comedy quiz looking back at the year in the news, with guests including Richard Ayoade, Noel Fielding, David Mitchell and Katherine Ryan. GO Mary Poppins (1964) ★★★★★ BBC One, 3.45pm This is the popular story of a magical nanny (Julie Andrews) who takes over a London home, transforming the lives of its inhabitants. Dick Van Dyke may affect the worst cockney accent ever heard on film, but the combination of the catchy songs, sumptuous live action and colourful animation makes this one of the most enduring children’s films, and a staple of the festive schedules. The film was nominated for 13 Oscars. Beauty and the Beast (2017) ★★★★☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 10.55am and 5.50pm Emma Watson dazzles in Disney’s show-stopping, live-action, chocolate box remake. The film’s songs – which include three new ones – by Alan Menken are the pulse, the purpose and the headline draw, while Ewan McGregor is delightful as Lumière, Luke Evans perfect as Gaston, and Dan Stevens, in digital fur, is the Prince. The Little Mermaid (1989) ★★★★☆ Channel 4, 4.20pm This vivacious retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale began a rich vein of form for Disney animations (Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King followed). A combination of unforgettable characters, including Sebastian the singing Jamaican crab and the delightfully evil baddie Ursula (based on drag queen Divine), and catchy songs makes Ariel’s journey to dry land a magical thing. Jurassic World (2015) ★★★★☆ ITV, 6.40pm Can modern audiences still be wowed by computer-generated dinosaurs? This long-awaited Jurassic Park sequel (the original movie was released in 1993) proves that they can. A new attraction at the dinosaur theme park, created to re-spark visitor interest, gravely backfires and it’s left to Chris Pratt’s raptor trainer and Bryce Dallas Howard’s scientist to save the day. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is out next year. Wednesday 27 December Steve Coogan as Alan Partidge Credit: BBC Alan Partridge: Why, When, Where, How and Whom? BBC Two, 9.00pm Unfortunately, there were no previews available for this palate-cleansing documentary ahead of Alan Partridge’s return to the BBC for a new series next year, which co-creator Steve Coogan promises will include the sometime Radio Norwich presenter’s take on that most contentious of topics, Brexit. It’s been 25 years since he and Armando Iannucci created the hapless Partridge, described by Iannucci as “a kind of social X-ray of male middle-aged Middle England”, a bombastic, self-important local presenter with an unwavering belief in the importance of the highway code and “imperial leisurewear”.  Now this documentary attempts to explain why this character, above all others, has touched such a nerve. Among those contributing are Coogan and Iannucci, Patrick Marber, Peter Baynham, Rebecca Front, David Schneider and Doon Mackichan, and we’re also promised unseen archive footage. The real secret to Alan’s lasting appeal is a simple one, however: he’s a fully realised character and a very English monster in the same vein as Basil Fawlty. Even as we laugh at him, we’re moved by his increasing self-awareness. Sarah Hughes Celebrity Mastermind BBC One, 7.00pm Actor Jack Ashton, comedian Rich Hall, Match of the Day commentator Guy Mowbray and poet Pam Ayres join John Humphrys for a new run of the celebrity edition. Among the specialist subjects tonight are Tennessee Williams, Iron Maiden and Ashes Cricket.  Agatha Christie vs Hercule Poirot Sky Arts, 7.30pm Pierre Bayar presents this interesting deconstruction of one of Agatha Christie’s most celebrated novels, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, in which he alleges a miscarriage of justice by Poirot.  Six Robots & Us BBC Two, 8.00pm Psychologist Dr Caroline Jay and robotics specialist Prof Jonathan Rossiter join forces in this fascinating experiment which aims to uncover how helpful the latest innovations in robotics truly are. To find out the team deliver four very different robots to families around the UK.  Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 2017: the language of life BBC Four, 8.00pm Professor Sophie Scott, UCL’s Head of the Speech Communications Group, gives this year’s lecture, looking at silent communication and why our body language and smells can say as much if not more than our words and sounds.   World’s Strongest Man 2017 Channel 5, 8.00pm Channel 5 brings us all the action from the World’s Strongest Man competition in Botswana. All eyes are on the USA’s Brian Shaw, the defending champion, who is hoping to win for a record firth time.  Turtle, Eagle, Cheetah: A Slow Odyssey BBC Four, 9.00pm BBC Four’s latest foray into the enticing world of slow TV is this nature documentary which focuses on the different views of a cheetah on the African savannah, a green turtle in the Indonesia reefs and a white-tailed eagle in Scotland. SH Miranda Does Christmas Channel 4, 9.00pm Like many an institution before her, Miranda Hart has swapped the BBC for Channel 4 on her return to the small screen. Here, Hart hosts a “raucous Christmas party” with guests including David Tennant, Sam Smith and Prue Leith. SH The Red Shoes (1948) ★★★★★ BBC Two, 12.10pm Powell and Pressburger’s seminal musical tragedy is one of cinema’s great wonders. It’s about a talented ballet dancer (Moira Shearer), her romance with a struggling composer (Marius Goring) and her loyalty to the ballet that he wrote and in which she is meant to star. The film’s theme of the pre-eminent call of creative passion is thought to be an allegory for P & P’s devotion to their craft. Big Hero 6 (2014) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 4.10pm This Disney animation is an East-meets-West adventure with buckets of heart and soul – and quite possibly Disney at its adorable, huggable, and most visually extravagant best. Hiro Hamada, a 14-year-old orphan living in the city of San Fransokyo, befriends Baymax, a 10-foot-tall, bright, white inflatable robot invented by his elder brother, who’s killed in a mysterious fire at his laboratory. Scrooged (1988) ★★★★☆ Film4, 4.35pm 9+Bill Murray plays a mean-spirited network TV president who sees the light after he experiences ghostly visitations – including Carol Kane as a happy-slapping fairy in a tutu – in this droll comic update of Dickens’s tale. Murray is on deadpan, cynical form (“Have you tried staples?”) and Robert Mitchum contributes a priceless cameo as a fellow executive with plans to produce TV shows for cats and dogs. Oasis: Supersonic (2016) ★★★☆☆ BBC Two, 10.00pm Oasis’s glory-days documentary indulges Noel and Liam Gallagher’s bad behaviour. Mat Whitecross’s film starts and ends with the pair of dates when Oasis debatably peaked, at Knebworth in 1996, and goes to excessive length to detail stories of their excess. Few rock stars, in fairness, have a habit of being so amusingly and brutally honest about their failings, and Whitecross is content to let them have the last word. Thursday 28 December David Attenborough Credit: BBC Attenborough and the Empire of the Ants BBC Two, 9.30pm Back on dry land after Blue Planet II, David Attenborough travels to the Jura Mountains on the Swiss-French border to investigate the methods used by two different communities of wood ants to survive and thrive. One adopts a familiar strategy of territorial aggression, with a family dominated by a single queen and chemical warfare on rival communities conducted with liberal distribution of formic acid. The other appears to defy the rules of evolution as they are currently understood, forming a supercolony consisting of several communities cooperating for the greater good in a manner reminiscent of early man’s first steps to eventual supremacy. Queens, sentries and workers labour alongside each other in a manner which sounds far-fetched, but the cameras capture this extraordinary behaviour in mesmerising detail, from hunting to breeding to self-preservation.  The now-customary behind-the-scenes postscript sees Attenborough almost as amazed by the new technology that allows such access to nature (in this case, the “FrankenCam”) as by nature itself. It’s not Blue Planet II, but it’s the sort of fascinating deeper dive that Natural World does so well. Gabriel Tate Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 2017: The Language OF life BBC Four, 8.00pm Sophie Scott brings her series of lectures to an close with an examination of language and comprehension in the animal kingdom. Are we humans really as far advanced as we believe, or might primates and even birds be able to communicate with comparable sophistication? The Secret Life of 5 Year Olds On Holiday Channel 4, 8.30pm Familiar faces from the most recent series head to Cyprus to enjoy flying, swimming and local delicacies, while the professionals watch on and deliver their analyses of childhood behaviour. What Britain Bought in 2017 Channel 4, 9.00pm Mary Portas assesses whether this year has been as dismal as expected for high-street retailers, and examines a few unlikely trends: unicorns, gin and, she suggests, big knickers. Clint Eastwood: a Life in Film Sky Arts, 9.00pm Whether you love or loathe his hardline politics, few would dispute the astonishing consistency of Clint Eastwood’s work. For such a prolific actor and director, there are few duds on his CV and plenty of masterpieces, from Unforgiven to Once Upon a Time in the West. Made in 2007, the year of his ambitious wartime diptych Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima, this excellent programme finds Eastwood in good-humoured form as he talks Michael Henry Wilson through his 50-year career. GT Bruno Mars: Live in Harlem BBC One, 10.25pm; NI, 11.25pm Harlem’s Apollo Theatre launched the careers of James Brown, Ella Fitzgerald and Lauryn Hill, among many others. Bruno Mars pays tribute to the building’s history and rolls out the hits – Uptown Funk, Just the Way You Are et al – along with some dazzling choreography for a hard partying crowd. Romesh Ranganathan: Irrational Live BBC Two, 10.30pm Perhaps rivalled only by Katherine Ryan for small-screen ubiquity this year, Romesh Ranganathan has proved himself an accomplished stand-up comedian. This special, recorded at London’s Hammersmith Apollo in 2016, captures the comedian’s jaundiced but very funny musings on family life. GT The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! (2012) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 9.00am This claymation Aardman romp is a delight. The impasto of non-stop gags, comic detail and slapstick action should appeal to all the family. Hugh Grant plays the Pirate Captain, who needs more booty if he is to stand a chance of winning the title of Pirate of the Year. The plot takes in Darwin, the last dodo and Queen Victoria (voiced by Imelda Staunton). Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 (2017) ★★★★☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 11.00am and 8.00pm Marvel’s playful space sequel looks like an explosion in a nursery school craft cupboard – every scene comes caked in rainbows, glitter and gunge. The core crew returns, led by Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), but the story only really begins with the arrival of a benign and bearded mystic called Ego (Kurt Russell), who has big news for Peter about his earthly origins. Flight (2012) ★★★☆☆ Channel 5, 9.00pm Robert Zemeckis’s film, starring Denzel Washington as alcoholic commercial pilot Whip Whitaker, is a long, earnest, sporadically brilliant drama. On a routine hop from Florida to Atlanta, Whip’s plane starts to tumble out of the sky – a dramatic sequence that will turn nervous fliers’ stomachs – and the pilot must fight to save the lives of those on board. Dull in parts, this is nevertheless morally provocative. Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (2013) ★★★☆☆ BBC Two, 11.30pm Films based on sitcoms tend to play broader than the real series, and this cinema outing for Steve Coogan’s fading media gasbag is no exception. The plot has Alan held hostage at a radio station in Norfolk. Old friends, such as his assistant Lynn (Felicity Montagu), join in and viewers hoping for new catchphrases will be happy, but Partridge loses his Pooterish potency when moving from talk to action. Friday 29 December Bob Mortimer and Vic Reeves Credit: BBC Vic & Bob’s Big Night Out BBC Two, 9.00pm Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer return for this one-off Christmas edition of their sketch show, 27 years after it first aired as Vic Reeves Big Night Out. Fans will be pleased to hear that age has not dimmed the comedians’ energy – in this half-hour they bounce around the studio in the same vein as their younger selves, which gives the show a rapid-fire pace.  The pair’s chemistry is undeniable and they frequently make each other laugh, as well as a raucous studio audience. There is a sense that Reeves and Mortimer are now improvising much of their material, which may explain why some of the jokes here are a touch below par. But many of the sketches are excellent, such as their parody of Channel 4 dating show First Dates, in which they play jokey gay Yorkshiremen. In another, Vic sells wigs made of body parts.  Nostalgia comes in the form of a cameo from Matt Lucas, forever associated with his George Dawes character in Shooting Stars, and the revival of character Graham Lister (played by Bob) in the talent show parody sketch Novelty Island. This brief return reminds us that, with their corny jokes and surreal sense of humour, there’s nobody quite like Vic and Bob. Vicki Power Tim Vine Travels Through Time Christmas Special BBC One, 7.30pm Prepare for a barrage of seasonal puns as Tim Vine’s comedy show returns. Emma Bunton and Reverend Richard Coles join Vine on a jaunt to Tudor times. Eric & Ernie’s Home Movies BBC Two, 8.00pm Those ghosts of Christmas past, Morecambe and Wise, are revisited in this charming documentary showcasing the double act via some newly discovered home movies. Look out also for a repeat of Morecambe & Wise: Leading Ladies (BBC Two, 7.00pm) and Eric, Ernie & Me (BBC Four, 9.00pm), a drama exploring their relationship with writer Eddie Braben. Victoria Wood by her friends Channel 5, 9.00pm This tribute to the late comedian covers much the same ground, and includes some identical contributors, as BBC One’s Our Friend Victoria, but it’s still a treat to be reminded of Wood’s talents. Her 1997 stand-up show, Victoria Wood: Live 1997, follows.   Delicious Sky One, 9.00pm Sky dishes up a second series of this frothy Cornwall-set drama. Chef Gina (Dawn French) has now joined forces with Sam (Emilia Fox) to run the Penrose Hotel, as the man that they were both once married to, Leo (Iain Glen), narrates from beyond the grave. But it turns out tensions haven’t died with him, and their spats bring a pinch of spice to the drama. Tonight, Franco Nero arrives as Gina’s ne’er-do-well father to stir up trouble. Frankie Boyle’s 2017 New Year World Order BBC Two, 10.00pm; not NI This year’s absence of Charlie Brooker’s Wipe is mitigated somewhat by Frankie Boyle’s return for this end-of-year round-up. And certainly somebody needs to help make sense of this crazy year. VP Elvis: The Rebirth of the King BBC Four, 10.00pm This compelling film seeks to overturn the enduring image of Elvis Presley’s Vegas years as a tragic nadir of his career. It argues that Presley’s musical renaissance in a 1968 Christmas TV special saw the King reach new creative heights that he carried into his Vegas shows, before disillusionment and drugs took over. Fantastic archive footage and commentary from his former collaborators, including Elvis’s backing singers, make a convincing case. VP Up (2009) ★★★★★ BBC One, 2.25pm Possibly Pixar’s finest film, Up has a captivating story that realises the vividness of a childlike imagination. Only those with a heart of stone wouldn’t be moved by the story of Ed Asner (voiced by Carl Fredricksen), who tries to fulfil his dream of building a house next to Paradise Falls in South America. His odyssey brings him more than he bargained for, including a young, hyperactive Wilderness Explorer called Russell. Brave (2012) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 4.20pm The first of Pixar’s films to have a female protagonist won an Oscar and there’s a bewitching craftsmanship to its storytelling. It’s set in the Highlands during the feudal period. Kelly MacDonald plays the flame-haired Merida, who would rather ride her horse than play the role of simpering princess; unable to sway her mother (Emma Thompson), she seeks the help of a witch (Julie Walters). Gone Girl (2014) ★★★☆☆ BBC One, 9.15pm; N Ireland, 9.45pm Cold and controlled, yet fun, this drama, directed by David Fincher, is based on Gillian Flynn’s novel of the same name. Rosamund Pike is Amy Elliott-Dunne, who disappears one morning, much to the apparent surprise of her husband (Ben Affleck). The media sniff around and soon the couple’s secrets come to the surface. Darkly suspenseful at first, the story soon turns into blood-drenched self-parody. The Great Gatsby (2013) ★★★☆☆ BBC Two, 11.15pm Baz Luhrmann lays on a cinematic buffet of such sense-addling brazenness that it takes a while before you notice the film is finger-food and nothing more. Leonardo DiCaprio is Jay Gatsby, a newly minted millionaire, and Carey Mulligan is Daisy Buchanan, the lost love he longs to win back. On the rare occasions Luhrmann gives them space to act in the pulsating frenzy of his Jazz Age world, both do a wonderful job. Television previewers Toby Dantzic, Catherine Gee, Simon Horsford, Sarah Hughes, Clive Morgan, Gerard O'Donovan, Vicki Power, Patrick Smith, Gabriel Tate and Rachel Ward

What's on TV tonight: The League of Gentlemen returns and Mary Berry’s Christmas Party

Monday 18 December The League of Gentlemen BBC Two, 10.00pm This is undoubtedly one of the highlights of the festive season for comedy fans. The influential freak show sitcom set in the blighted fictional town of Royston Vasey returns for a three-part run to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its award-winning debut on Radio 4 (the transfer to TV didn’t occur until 1999).  Reviving once-popular comedy is a risky business – just look at the recent Porridge fiasco – but Mark Gatiss, Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton have gone on to bigger, if not always better, things in the intervening years and they return here as if they were never away. Still performing all the major characters on screen (with the group’s fourth member, Jeremy Dyson, sharing the writing duties) they update the stories and characters without losing the demonic humour of the original.  Most of the best characters make a reappearance – Tubbs and Edward, Barbra the trans taxi driver, Herr Lipp, Pauline Campbell-Jones and Mr Chinnery the vet – as Royston Vasey faces its greatest existential threat. Val Denton, meanwhile, sets the tone decisivelyin an opening scene memorable for all the wrong reasons. Gerard O’Donovan Father Brown BBC One, 1.45pm Mark Williams returns for a sixth series as GK Chesterton’s crime-fighting Catholic priest. It’s Christmas in Kembleford but when a dog makes a gruesome discovery in the woods, Father Brown sets out to reverse a terrible miscarriage of justice. Mary Berry’s Christmas Party BBC One, 8.30pm Tips, recipes and full-on merriment as the BBC’s queen of baking invites a handful of famous faces round for a Christmas party cook-in: Alex Jones shows off her rissoles, Darcey Bussell crafts a dance-inspired dessert, while Adil Ray handles the canapés. Plus there’s ginger glazed ham, white chocolate cherry brandy cake, and much more. The Art That Made Mexico: Paradise, Power and Prayers BBC Four, 9.00pm Artist Alinka Echeverria concludes her series by exploring the influence of faith on Mexican culture and how the conquistadors’ Catholic notions of venerating the divine through art found fertile ground thanks to earlier Mayan beliefs. Birds of a Feather Christmas special ITV, 9.00pm Marks and Gran’s long-running sitcom creaks back for another festive special, with Tracey’s (Linda Robson) Yuletide plans upsetting both Sharon (Pauline Quirke) and Dorien (Lesley Joseph). Abba: When All Is Said and Done Channel 5, 9.00pm An Abba double whammy starts with this docudrama exploring the very different stories of the Swedish supergroup’s singers Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad through their own words. Abba: Live in Concert follows at 11.05pm, recorded at the group’s peak in 1979. GO Andre Rieu: Christmas In London 2016 Sky Arts, 9.00pm Rieu entertains with everything festive from Jingle Bells to White Christmas and O Holy Night, bringing his infectious blend of glitter, frills and massed violin strings to boost the seasonal mood. Private Lives of The Monarchs Yesterday, 9.00pm There’s more to Henry VIII than the image of a roistering glutton whose obsession with siring a male heir led to England’s break with Catholicism. So says historian Tracy Borman, painting a picture of a thoughtful young king driven to tyranny by personal demons. GO Carry On Cleo (1964) ★★★☆☆ Channel 4, 12.20pm “Infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it in for me!” So says Kenneth Williams’s waspish Caesar in this, one of the best in the long-running series of cheap and cheerful comedies. Set in ancient Rome, it’s hardly Shakespeare but at least the gags come thick and fast. Watch out for an early appearance from Coronation Street’s Amanda Barrie as a doe-eyed Cleopatra, up to her ears in ass’s milk and political intrigue. First Blood (1982) ★★★★☆ ITV4, 9.00pm Based on David Morrell’s novel, this is the first and best of the Rambo action-movie franchise – it’s more sensitive than the sequels. Sylvester Stallone has become synonymous with Rambo, a maladjusted ex-Green Beret who, after having some Vietnam flashbacks, goes on a one-man war against a crooked small-town sheriff (Brian Dennehy). It’s pacy and raw with a moving climax. Part II is on Tuesday. The Woman in Black (2012) ★★★★☆ Channel 4, 12.10am Thanks to its almost hyper-Edwardian setting and some canny plot alterations, this feels less like a remake of Susan Hill’s ghost story than a new reading of an old tale, trembling with freshly terrifying resonances. Daniel Radcliffe gives a grown-up performance, while director James Watkins uses shadows and empty spaces to create a percolating sense of dread. Tuesday 19 December Faye Marsey as Sarah Credit: Channel 4 Shamed Channel 4, 9.00pm It’s not the most Christmassy of fare but Anthony Philipson’s (My Mad Fat Diary) dark, theatrical one-off drama is worth checking out. Featuring an intense central performance from Faye Marsay (who seems to be everywhere right now, with Bancroft last week and the BBC thriller McMafia to come), Shamed tells the story of 27-year-old Sarah, who suddenly decides to kidnap and imprison two apparently unconnected men: the seemingly perfect just-about-to-get-married Nathan (Nick Blood) and cocky player Mani (Ryan McKen). Both claim never to have met each other or Sarah before. However there’s a method behind her madness, and one which, when revealed, opens up wider questions about how different events can resonate in different ways. Philipson’s tight script keeps you guessing about the connection until near the end before spilling out into violence and debates about the difference between guilt and shame.  It’s not perfect – Mani is underwritten and the rushed ending is a little forced – but Shamed makes some thoughtful points about our attitudes toward sex and the way in which certain people can stride through life without acknowledging the damage they trail behind. Sarah Hughes The Royal Variety Performance 2017 ITV, 7.30pm Miranda Hart hosts this year’s Royal Variety Performance, attended by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, with guests ranging from the obvious (Michael Ball, Alfie Boe) to the incongruous (Kelsey Grammer, Seal). Jamie’s Italian Christmas Channel 4, 8.00pm Another week, another Christmas cookery show. Our chef tonight is the ubiquitous Jamie Oliver who has holed up in a log cabin with his mentor Gennaro Contaldo and hopes to teach us to give the traditional British Christmas an Italian twist. U2 at the BBC BBC One, 9.00pm The Irish band continue their quest for world domination with this film centred on new album Songs of Experience. The action takes place at Abbey Road Studios, where they perform some of their biggest hits and squeeze in a quick chat with Cat Deeley.    Invasion! With Sam Willis BBC Four, 9.00pm The final part of this engaging series sees historian Sam Willis examine one of the more unusual military ideas in history: Napoleon’s plan to use a fleet of balloons as part of his invasion plans during the War of the Third Coalition. The French first crossed the English Channel by hot air balloon in 1785 and Napoleon appointed aeronaut Sophie Blanchard as air service chief to carry out the idea. The plans ultimately came to nothing, but that didn’t stop stories and caricatures of balloons carrying arms, men and even horses spreading through the media.  The First Silent Night Yesterday, 9.00pm The mournful Silent Night is one of the world’s most beloved carols, and was declared an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2011. This film follows actor Simon Callow as he heads to the Austrian village of Oberndorf to uncover its origins before considering why this carol above all others resonates so strongly. SH Extraordinary Teens: Young, Gifted and Broke Channel 4, 10.00pm Pianist and composer Shane Thomas hit the headlines aged only 10 when his precocious talent saw him hailed as the British Mozart. Seven years later his career has stalled. What emerges is a depressing but well-told story of ambition tampered by poverty and a system in which privilege and connections count as much, if not more than raw talent. SH Sword of Sherwood Forest (1960) ★★★☆☆ Film4, 5.05pm Terence Fisher teamed up with Hammer Films for this child-friendly spin-off from The Adventures of Robin Hood TV series, with Richard Greene, who reprises his role here. Peter Cushing stars as the dastardly Sheriff of Nottingham out to murder the Archbishop of Canterbury. It’s a cheap and cheerful affair that remains true to the spirit of the original. Smurfs: The Lost Village (2017) ★★☆☆☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 6.15pm The third of the big-screen outings for The Smurfs is a trippy treat for under-eights, for everyone else the blues. This Smurfs contains double the number of Smurfs ever previously seen, thanks to the discovery of an all-female enclave somewhere deep in the woods. Demi Lovato, Mandy Patinkin, Michelle Rodriguez and Julia Roberts are among those lending their voices. Carol (2015) ★★★★★ Film4, 9.00pm Todd Haynes’s adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 novel is gorgeous, gently groundbreaking, and quite possibly be the saddest thing that you’ll ever see. It tells the story of a photographer (Rooney Mara) who has a relationship with an older woman (Cate Blanchett) in New York. Haynes’ film concludes that love is the riskiest but most necessary gamble. Wednesday 20 December Dame Judi Dench Credit: BBC Judi Dench: My Passion for Trees BBC One, 8.00pm When this one-off documentary was announced, some predictably invoked Alan Partridge’s hapless pitch of Youth Hostelling with Chris Eubank. Certainly, it’s hard to imagine many other celebrities managing to get this made, and even harder to imagine any who could have made it so watchable. A look of astonished delight is plastered over Dame Judi’s face throughout the hour, as she makes all manner of unexpected discoveries about the trees that she loves. There is also a rare peek into her personal life and relationship with her “chap”, David Mills. This may lack the forensic camerawork and high-spec CGI of most BBC nature documentaries, but there are rewarding revelations amid the occasional dose of Botany 101. “I think of my trees as part of my extended family,” says Dench – not the absurd piece of sentimentality you might suspect, as she plants a tree in her back garden for each friend or relative who has died. And trees, it transpires, are also remarkably sociable in their way, an arboreal community connected by spidery threads of fungus and able to call for help if under attack by aphids. Charming and subtly educational. Gabriel Tate What Makes You Tic? BBC Three, from 10.00am Vlogger Lewis “QBall” Nickell aims to conquer his Tourette’s Syndrome and launch a career as a talk-show host, meeting The Vamps and Girls Aloud alumna Nadine Coyle as part of his efforts to raise awareness. Carabao Cup: Bristol City v Manchester United Sky Sports Main Event, 7.30pm We’re at Ashton Gate for this quarter-final clash, as the Robins look to produce and upset against holders Manchester United. The hosts have already claimed two Premier League scalps in Watford and Stoke City, but United are clear favourites here.  The Real Marigold on Tour BBC One, 9.00pm When you see the lives the Marigold pensioners are leading who wouldn’t be envious? This week, Sheila Ferguson, Rustie Lee, Paul Nicholas and Dennis Taylor head to Iceland. There, they go whale watching in the fishing village of Hausavik, and try aqua aerobics and gymnastics in Reykjavik. Elsewhere, Sheila goes on a date with an Icelandic man. Peaky Blinders BBC Two, 9.00pm Perhaps the best series yet comes to a punishing climax with the night of the big fight and yet another reckoning for the Shelbys, this time courtesy of Changretta (Adrien Brody) and once-trusted allies. A Night for the Emergency Services ITV, 9.00pm Presenting a sort of 999’s Got Talent, Ashley Banjo and Diversity introduce a showcase for the firefighters, police and hospital workers who demonstrate skills far beyond their professional capabilities. These include magicians, dancers and a Michael Bublé impersonator, along with appearances from a few special guests. Taskmaster Champion of Champions  Dave, 9.00pm One of the funniest series on TV comes to a spectacular climax as the ultimate Taskmaster champion is crowned, with previous winners Josh Widdicombe, Katherine Ryan, Noel Fielding, Rob Beckett and Bob Mortimer all in the running. Dian Fossey: Secrets in the Mist  National Geographic, 9.00pm After a lifetime of conservation work and, campaigning against poaching, primatologist Dian Fossey was killed in her Rwandan cabin in 1985 – a crime that remains unsolved. The final part of this gripping series examines possible motives. GT Male Rape: Breaking the Silence BBC One, 10.45pm; Scot & Wales, 11.10pm; NI, 11.40pm First shown on BBC Three, this grim but necessary film hears from three men who are among the estimated one-in-six to have been victims of rape. GT Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) ★★★★★ BBC One, 1.45pm Steven Spielberg’s rollicking adventure film, with a very scary end, won four Oscars and created a new action hero in Dr Henry “Indiana” Jones (Harrison Ford). Jones is an archaeologist hired by the US government in 1936 to seek out the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis find it. The ensuing events provide a rollercoaster of thrills. The Temple of Doom and The Last Crusade follow over the next two night. Chicken Run (2000) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 3.35pm Aardman Animations, the studio behind many of Nick Park’s triumphs, conjures up another stop-motion corker that fairly swarms with clever little jokes and details. Our heroes here are a group of jauntily anthropomorphic chickens; they’re plotting their escape to freedom from the tyrannical Mr and Mrs Tweedy, who run the farm on which they live. The voice cast boasts Julia Sawalha, Jane Horrocks and Mel Gibson. The Phantom of the Opera (2004) ★★★☆☆ Sky Arts, 9.00pm Impressed by his use of music in The Lost Boys, Andrew Lloyd Webber hired director Joel Schumacher to bring his hit musical, the longest-running Broadway show in history, about a disfigured genius who lives hidden in the Paris Opera House and who develops a crush on a chorus girl, to the big screen. The score has all the faux-gothic pomp required, but Gerard Butler’s Phantom fails to spook. Thursday 21 December Darcey Bussell Credit: BBC Darcey Bussell: Looking for Fred Astaire BBC One, 10.45pm One dance star explores another in this unpretentious profile of Fred Astaire. Darcey Bussell traces Astaire’s journey from his hometown in Nebraska to New York, London and Los Angeles to examine his ascent to film stardom, achieved after nearly three decades as a professional dancer. She puts forward that he owed much of his success to three women – his mother, his sister and dancing partner Adele, and his first wife Phyllis – but wisely doesn’t labour the point.  Bussell peruses memorabilia and film footage – there’s a delightful clip of Astaire dancing with his long-time collaborator, Hermes Pan – and discusses with historians Astaire’s early life, work ethic and personality clash with Ginger Rogers. The commentary doesn’t uncover much that an Astaire fan wouldn’t already know, but Bussell is an enthusiastic guide and the clips are terrific. Strictly professionals Aljaz Skorjanec and Janette Manrara are touring a successful stage show called Remembering Fred – this film also reminds us of Astaire’s immeasurable contribution to dance, though it wouldn’t harm for it to air at an hour more suited to the ballroom dance-loving demographic. Vicki Power MasterChef: The Professionals: The Finals BBC Two, 8.00pm It’s ladles at dawn for the three finalists as they tackle their last challenge. They’ll cook a three-course meal in three hours for the formidable judging trio of Wareing, Galetti and Wallace, who’ll then choose their champ. Joanna & Jennifer: Absolutely Champers BBC Two, 9.00pm On the flimsy premise of celebrating 25 years since the birth of Absolutely Fabulous, Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley take a fizz-fuelled jolly to France to tour vineyards. They neck vats of bubbly in a travelogue as meandering as Patsy’s gait after an evening spent swigging Bolly. Gordon, Gino and Fred’s Great Christmas Roast ITV, 9.00pm It’s Celtic vigour versus Italian passion in this feelgood cookery special. TV chefs Gordon Ramsay and Gino D’Acampo compete, with a team of celebrity helpers, to create the best Christmas banquet for 100 emergency services workers. First Dates’ maître d’ Fred Sirieux presents. Donny Osmond’s Easy Listening Christmas Channel 5, 9.00pm This Val Doonican-style one-off sees Donny Osmond counting down his 25 favourite festive songs, exploring their geneses and comparing classic renditions to cover versions. VP The Tunnel: Vengeance Sky Atlantic, 9.00pm The symbiosis between Anglo-French cop partners Karl and Elise (Stephen Dillane and Clémence Poésy) in this murder mystery shows us a cheering flipside to Brexit. Their touching, humorous relationship is affecting, even if the series overall lacks the Scandinavian-style eeriness of The Bridge, on which it’s based. Here, the cross-channel cops make a breakthrough in the search for the missing children. The Galaxy Britain Built: Droids, Darth Vader and Lightsaber/Hollywood’s Master of Myth BBC Four, 10.00pm and 11.00pm In celebration of the release of The Last Jedi, these documentaries look at the ingredients that helped shape the Star Wars phenomenon. The first focuses on the film crew who created George Lucas’s fictional galaxy. The second, from 1999, explores the work of US academic Joseph Campbell, whom Lucas has credited with inspiring his plot. VP The Dark Crystal (1982) ★★★☆☆ Film4, 1.05pm Muppets creator Jim Henson stepped out from the comfort of children’s TV to make this dark fantasy tale about a pair of creatures who must find a missing shard of crystal in order to defeat the evil Skeksis. The superbly designed puppets and sets add a surreal quality but it lacks the sense of humour which made Labyrinth, Henson’s next cinema release, so popular. Frank Oz, fellow puppeteer and the voice of Yoda, co-directs. Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 3.35pm Nick Park’s plucky Plasticine pair set about rescuing a village whose annual vegetable competition is in jeopardy because of rabbits eating up the contents of everyone’s gardens. But their bunny brainwashing goes wrong and they accidentally create a mutant rabbit. Beautifully shot, charming, and very silly, it deservedly won the Oscar for Best Animation. Candyman (1992) ★★★★☆ Film4, 11.15pm Virginia Madsen does powerhouse work as a student of folklore lured into fascination with a hook-handed killer who appears when you say his name five times in front of a mirror. She ignores all warnings but is soon blamed for his crimes when a series of horrible murders begin. Majestic direction from Bernard Rose transforms this into a resoundingly epic and gory fable. Friday 22 December Bruno Tonioli  Credit: BBC Saturday Night Fever: The Ultimate Disco Movie BBC Two, 9.00pm Long before he became a household name as a Strictly Come Dancing judge, Bruno Tonioli had a successful career as a choreographer to the stars, arranging dance for music videos, stage shows and tours for Tina Turner, Sting, Elton John and many others. Here he looks back 40 years to when he was a young dancer in New York and got caught up in the global phenomenon that was Saturday Night Fever.  It’s a great story, told with typical Tonioli verve, of how a low-budget film starring the then unknown John Travolta and using the music of a failing band of high-pitched popsters, the Bee Gees, became one of the biggest box office draws of all time and gave half the world “disco fever”. It also shows how – to give credit where it is due – much of its success was down to the visionary genius and unstoppable determination of the Bee Gees’ manager, the late Robert Stigwood, impresario behind some of the most popular stars, and hit stage and film musicals (Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, Grease, Bugsy Malone) of the Seventies. Contributors include Travolta. Gerard O’Donovan The Toys That Made Us Netflix, from today Toys of the Eighties are the focus of this series taking an in-depth look at the nostalgia and collecting fervour that surrounds eight of the biggest selling toy brands of that decade: Transformers, Stars Wars, He-Man, GI Joe, Barbie, Star Trek, Hello Kitty and Lego. Premier League Football: Arsenal v Liverpool Sky Sports Main Event, 7.00pm Action from the Emirates Stadium, as Arsenal  look to avenge a 4-0 defeat in August, when Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, Mo Salah and Daniel Sturridge all found the net for Liverpool. TOTP4 Christmas 2017 BBC Four, 7.30pm Get into the Christmas party spirit with Mark Radcliffe’s countdown of classic festive hits from Top of the Pops’s glitter-spattered archive, with The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl, Wizzard, Slade, The Darkness and Ed Sheeran among the acts featured. Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast Christmas Special Channel 4, 8.00pm Jamie Oliver and Jimmy Doherty welcome actress Liv Tyler to the pier café to make her favourite takeaway, pork dim sum. Oliver also whips up a cracking kedgeree, and Doherty builds a home-made wood-fired oven. Al Murray’s Make Christmas Great Again ITV, 9.00pm Al Murray’s gloriously unreconstructed pub landlord invites an audience to a lock-in at the Reindeer’s Head where he bends ears on such matters as how Christmas is losing its Britishness while whipping up anti-PC seasonal singalongs and remonstrating with celebrity guests. George Michael to Tom Petty: a Tribute Sky Arts, 9.00pm Chuck Berry, Fats Domino and David Cassidy are just some of the musicians and performers who, along with George Michael and Tom Petty, we lost in the past 12 months – as affectionately remembered in this 90-minute tribute. GO Les Dawson: In His Own Words Channel 5, 10.00pm Comedians didn’t come more old school than Les Dawson, with his bluff Northern style, rubber face and mother-in-law jokes. But he was one of the most original comedians of his generation, as proved by this terrific documentary that raids the archives for his funniest work. The Graham Norton Show BBC One, 10.40pm Grahm Norton’s line-up offers a good mix of interest: Hollywood star Will Smith, Victoria’s Jenna Coleman, chef Jamie Oliver and former Keane frontman Tom Chaplin. GO Bright (2017) Netflix, from today This Netflix Original – a $100 million special-effects blockbuster from David Ayer, director of Suicide Squad – sounds like a mash-up of Lethal Weapon and Lord of the Rings. In an alternate Los Angeles where elves and witches walk the streets, Will Smith’s tough NYPD officer finds himself partnered with an orc (Joel Edgerton). Considering its hefty price tag and star-studded soundtrack (Migos, Rag’n’Bone Man, Camila Cabello), this could be Netflix’s biggest mistake yet Puss in Boots (2011) ★★☆☆☆ BBC One, 3.40pm DreamWorks Animation’s Shrek spin-off follows Puss in Boots’s life before he became the green ogre’s sidekick. With the help of Kitty Softpaws (voiced by Salma Hayek) and Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis), the swashbuckling feline (Antonio Banderas) becomes a hero after saving his town. Like the CGI ogre’s last two films, Shrek the Third and Shrek Forever After, the animation is more impressive than the jokes. Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001) ★★★★☆ ITV, 10.40pm American actress Renée Zellweger perfects her English accent to play the Chardonnay-swigging, chain-smoking, lovelorn Bridget in this adaptation of Helen Fielding’s novel, which remains a solid favourite. Love interests Hugh Grant and Colin Firth are excellent as her roguish boss Daniel Cleaver and the stuffy-but-handsome (even in a Christmas jumper) lawyer Mark Darcy. Saturday 23 December A Christmas Tree in Manger Square, Bethlehem Credit: Channel 4 The World’s Best Christmas Lights: From Liverpool to Bethlehem Channel 4, 8.00pm It is amazing what you can build a successful, multi-million-pound, internationally renowned business from. Liverpool-based company The Christmas Decorators specialise in the commercial design and installation of large-scale Christmas lights and decorations – the kind you see in every shop, street and town square. This entertaining film, one of the more offbeat of the season, follows a rather surprising commission: to install the lights and decorations at what many might consider the birthplace of Christmas – Manger Square in Bethlehem. In fact, they’ve been doing it every year since 2012, bringing every single bulb and bauble with them from their warehouse in the UK.  It’s a huge logistical effort, which is also a possibly tricky one, if customs or security in, say, Istanbul take exception to the Bethlehem-bound consignment as it passes through. Director of operations GED Comerford leads the four-person installation team on the trek from Liverpool. It’s fraught with hitches and glitches – even a home-baked Christmas cake is regarded with suspicion by local security – but all the more entertaining for that. Gerard O’Donovan Smashie’s Xmastastic Playlist Christmas Gold, 4.00pm Getting the Christmas party off to an early start from his fab-tastic hideaway at Radio Hush, The Fast Show’s Mike Smash (Paul Whitehouse) brings his off-kilter pop-DJ insights to an hour of festive hits from Wizzard to Johnny Mathis via McCartney, Dylan and Springsteen.  Elf: The Musical Channel 5, 5.00pm There’s seasonal song, dance and fun in the stage musical version of Will Ferrell’s much-loved comedy from the Lowry Theatre in Salford. Ben Forster, who won ITV’s Superstar talent search in 2012, leads the cast as Buddy, a human orphan who was raised by Santa’s elves in the North Pole and returns to New York in search of his family. Michael Buble’s Christmas in New York Sky Arts, 5.00pm At the Radio City Music Hall the crooner sings a selection of seasonal classics, along with a sparkling line-up of special guests including Barbra Streisand, Ariana Grande and The Muppets’ Miss Piggy. It is repeated on Sky One at 12.15am. Pointless Celebrities Christmas Special BBC One, 6.15pm Some of the contestants in this festive edition of the quiz could themselves be pointless answers in a round on Christmas hits. Jona Lewie, Jimmy Osmond and Ben Haenow are among those answering Alexander Armstrong questions. Blind Date Christmas Special Channel 5, 8.00pm There’s a fairy-tale spin to this edition of Paul O’Grady’s matchmaking show, as a Prince Charming has to choose between fellow panto actors Cinderella, Snow White and Tinkerbell. It’s Christmas Live from the Royal Albert Hall Sky One, 8.00pm The Royal Albert Hall is transformed to a rock ’n’ roll winter wonderland as Jason Manford introduces performances by Holly Johnson, Marc Almond, Chrissie Hynde and Shakin’ Stevens, among many others. GO Feud: Bette and Joan BBC Two, from 9.00pm; NI, from 9.30pm Ryan Murphy’s stylish and scathingly catty dramatisation of the Hollywood feud between Bette Davis (Susan Sarandon) and Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange) reaches the moment that the actresses’ mutual loathing went off the scale – while working on the 1962 classic What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (which follows). GO Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001) ★★★☆☆ ITV, 1.35pm  From today to New Year’s Day, ITV are screening all of the Harry Potter films – one film a day, except on Boxing Day. This first adaptation of J K Rowling’s novel was, for a while, the second highest-grossing film ever. Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint are endearing (and very young) in the lead roles but the film lacks the original book’s compulsiveness. Frozen (2013) ★★★★★ BBC One, 2.50pm Disney’s 53rd feature is an enchanting combination of fairy-tale derring-do and heart-popping musical numbers that has left children and adults powerless to its charms. Elsa (Idina Menzel) is a shy princess driven into exile when her magical powers are discovered. Her sister Anna (Kristen Bell) gallops off to fetch her from her beautiful ice palace. Spin-off Olaf’s Frozen Adventure is on Christmas Day. Bill (2015) ★★★★☆ BBC Two, 6.00pm Intelligent children and immature adults will love this mock-biopic from the Horrible Histories troupe that follows the young William Shakespeare (Mathew Baynton) as he ascends from quill-scraping zero to literary hero. Some of the best moments (a running joke about false moustaches is one) are full-bloodedly Pythonesque, although occasionally a kind of student-revue smarminess creeps in. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962, b/w) ★★★★★ BBC Two, 10.35pm; not N Ireland Robert Aldrich’s classic slice of American Grotesque, starring two of cinema’s greatest screen divas, started a trend for casting ageing actresses in campy Gothic horror movies. Joan Crawford and Bette Davis play reclusive sisters locked in an abusive relationship in their crumbling Hollywood mansion.  Christmas Eve Sue Perkins, Mary Berry and Mel Giedroyc Credit: BBC Mary, Mel and Sue’s Big Christmas Thank You BBC One, 7.00pm Anyone looking for some extra festive cheer should look no further than this exuberant Christmas special which sees former Great British Bake-Off stars Mary Berry, Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc join forces to help out at a community centre in the Rhondda Valley in Wales.  Initially, it seems as though this is one of those rather forced shows in which celebrities dispense good cheer and bad jokes, but an emotional story of community spirit in the face of despair swiftly emerges. “We’ve lost our library, our butchers, both banks have closed and there’s no school,” states Elizabeth “Buffy” Williams. Working with her friend Lynne, Buffy has attempted to combat that by opening a community centre offering meals, bingo and after-school classes. Now they want to throw a special Christmas meal for the whole community but it’s tough: the kitchen is small, money is tight and Lynne freely admits that she hates cooking. Enter the indomitable Mrs Berry, who rolls up her sleeves, corrals Daffyd, a 16-year-old with a GCSE in catering, into becoming her sous chef and helps Lynne tackle her phobia. The final celebration should bring a tear to even the most cynical of eyes. Sarah Hughes Premiership Rugby Union: Leicester Tigers v Saracens BT Sport 1, 2.30pm Below-par this season, Leicester will be hoping a win here at Welford Park against third-placed Saracens will give them fresh momentum going into the new year.  Countryfile BBC One, 6.00pm The team head to the Peak District for this special which sees John Craven exploring Longshaw Estate, Anita Rani experiencing a Nativity play with a difference and Matt Baker venturing into Peak Cavern for a carol concert.  Christmas University Challenge 2017 BBC Two, 8.00pm; Scotland, 5.45pm There’s something addictive about the University Challenge’s specials, possibly because they allow us to see celebrities in a new light. The opener sees a team from Durham University, including actor Nick Mohammed, take on a Keble College side featuring Katy Brand. Child Genius vs Celebrities Christmas Special Channel 4, 8.00pm Richard Osman is our host for this Christmas special, which sees past child geniuses take on, among others, Catastrophe star Rob Delaney and broadcaster Janet Street Porter. Will youth or experience win out?  Michael McIntyre’s Big Christmas Show BBC One, 8.30pm The comedian returns for a festive edition in which Alesha Dixon risks social disaster by handing over her phone in Celebrity Send-to-All, plus there’s stand-up from Bill Bailey and music from Seal.  Maigret in Montmartre ITV, 8.30pm Critics haven’t always been kind to ITV’s reboot of Georges Simenon’s Maigret featuring Rowan Atkinson. Yet there’s actually a lot to like here. Atkinson underplays the role nicely, the plots are serviceable and the whole thing is entertaining if undemanding fare. This episode sees Maigret drawn in to the murder of a showgirl. SH M R James evening BBC Four, from 9.00pm Shut the doors, draw the curtains and prepare to be thoroughly spooked as BBC Four dedicates an evening to ghost writer supreme M R James. First up, long-time James fan Mark Gatiss looks at how this diffident Anglican bachelor created stories that still send a tingle down the spine a century after they were written. It’s followed at 10pm by two adaptations of James’s work: The Tractate Middoth, a chilling story about vengeance from beyond the grave, starring Sacha Dhawan and John Castle, and No 13, featuring Greg Wise as an academic who uncovers more than he bargains for in a small medieval town. Billy Elliot: the Musical Sky Arts, 9.00pm Anyone who hasn’t managed to catch Stephen Daldry’s big-hearted musical take on his film about a miner’s son who just wants to dance can find out what all the fuss is about with this performance from 2014 starring Ruthie Henshall and Elliott Hanna. SH Gone with the Wind (1939) ★★★★★ Channel 5, 9.20am Hollywood’s highest-grossing movie until The Sound of Music in 1966, this was the film for which the word “epic” was invented. Vivien Leigh became a star as Scarlett O’Hara, the spoilt Southern belle whose life is turned upside down by the US Civil War. Clark Gable and Leslie Howard are her lovers. It’s brash and self-indulgent, but frankly we don’t give a damn. The Lego Batman Movie (2017) ★★★★☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 1.25pm and 7.00pm Don’t tell Ben Affleck – who plays Actual Batman – but the actor has been made surplus to requirements by one and a half inches of moulded plastic. Lego Batman’s debut solo feature, spun off from a cameo in The Lego Movie, is frantically and relentlessly funny as a new police commissioner (Rosario Dawson) threatens to make the Caped Crusader redundant. Guys and Dolls (1955) ★★★★☆ BBC Two, 3.20pm The 1955 film adaptation of the Broadway classic holds up rather well. The stellar casting certainly helps: Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra in one film – as the rival New York gamblers (and gangsters) Sky Masterson and Nathan Detroit, who place a bet on compromising the virtue of a pious Salvation Army woman, Sarah Brown (played by Jean Simmons). The musical numbers are still a delight. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) ★★★★★ Channel 4, 6.30pm Tiny Tim is a small green frog, Mrs Cratchit is a bad-tempered pig and Charles Dickens himself is portrayed by Gonzo, enormous blue nose and all. And yet, there are few better, or more affecting versions of A Christmas Carol than this musical adaptation. Michael Caine is ideal as the miserly Scrooge, the laughs are aplenty and the finale is as rousing as they come. Christmas Day Peter Capaldi and David Bradley Credit: BBC Doctor Who BBC One, 5.30pm While it’s not unusual for Doctor Who to begin with a “Previously…”, this one takes things all the way back to William Hartnell’s First Doctor, having faced the Cybermen at the South Pole and refused to regenerate. After necessarily metamorphosing into David Bradley (who played Hartnell in Mark Gatiss’s docudrama An Adventure in Space and Time), he duly encounters Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor, in a similar fix. Throw in Mark Gatiss’s doomed British army captain, transported from the Western Front at the moment of death with stiff upper lip wobbling, a mysterious glass woman (Nikki Amuka-Bird) with the power to freeze time, the return of Bill (Pearl Mackie) and a few other surprises, and you have another of Steven Moffat’s self-imposed riddles to unravel. Given that this is Moffat’s own last stand, and with Jodie Whitaker due to make her bow at the end of the episode, you might anticipate a tsunami of self-indulgence and sentimentality, but no. Capaldi and Mackie’s snappy, affectionate chemistry precludes such easy options, Gatiss is restrained and funny and Moffat’s musing on war and peace is enough to bear the wit and self-referentiality. A dignified farewell. Gabriel Tate The Highway Rat BBC One, 4.45pm Rob Brydon narrates and David Tennant voices the eponymous anti-hero in another enchanting adaptation of a Julia Donaldson/Axel Scheffler picture book, this time depicting the comeuppance for a selfish, swashbuckling rat and his long-suffering steed.. The Royal Opera: Puccini’s La Boheme BBC Four, 7.00pm Clemency Burton-Hill introduces Richard Jones’s production of Puccini’s tale of love and loss among bohemians in 19th-century Paris, conducted by Antonio Pappano and starring tenor Michael Fabiano and soprano Nicole Car as star-crossed lovers Rodolfo and Mimi. Jones’s production has a wintry charm that should see it sit very comfortably in today’s schedules.  Olaf’s Frozen Adventure Sky Cinema Premiere/On Demand, 7.30pm Perhaps better suited to television after a brief run in cinemas that saw parents complaining about it delaying screenings of Coco, this Frozen spin-off finds the cheerful snowman Olaf (voiced by Josh Gad) joining his reindeer, Sven, on a mission for their royal highnesses Elsa (Idina Menzel) and Anna (Kristen Bell) who are desperate to create their own Christmas tradition. Expect four catchy new songs to be ringing around your head. GT  Call the Midwife BBC One, 7.40pm Call the Midwife pulls out all the stops for this astoundingly gloomy affair as a Boxing Day freeze descends, stranding Valerie (Jennifer Kirby) in a caravan for an ad hoc delivery and accounting for a popular old timer with a very dark secret. The Great Christmas bake off Channel 4, 7.40pm Val and Selasi from last year, Paul Jagger (he of 2015’s bread lion) and Welsh Beca, a 2013 semi-finalist, return to compete for Star Baker, introduced and judged by the new Fab Four. There’s more of the same on New Year’s Day. Victoria ITV, 9.00pm The Queen (Jenna Coleman) is pregnant again and missing her governess, leaving Albert (Tom Hughes) in the unlikely role of Christmas merrymaker-in-chief. It’s a festive special by numbers, but affecting and easy on the eye. Ashes Cricket: Australia v England BT Sport 1, 10.30pm It’s been a fraught series, on and off the field, for England, with their players’ professionalism frequently called into question. This signals the start of the fourth Test, played at Melbourne Cricket Ground. Can Joe Root’s beleaguered side salvage some dignity? Or will the Aussies continue to have a field day? 300 Years of French & Saunders BBC One, 10.35pm Unseen footage, much-loved sketches and of course Lulu feature in this one-off, which sees the duo back together on TV for the first time in a decade. The new material is intermittently inspired and vigorously performed, with The Handmaid’s Tale, the Kardashians and Poldark all subjected to their attentions. GT Singin’ in the Rain (1952) ★★★★★ Channel 5, 1.05pm There are few movie scenes more memorable than Gene Kelly’s rain-soaked Singin’ in the Rain sequence, or many more jaw-dropping than Donald O’Connor’s walk up the wall. But more than song and dance, this film contains real satire as it recounts the introduction of the “talkie” and the superficial nature of the US film industry. Debbie Reynolds (who died a year ago, one day after daughter Carrie Fisher) co-stars as the Hollywood ingénue. Cinderella (2015) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 3.10pm Kenneth Branagh’s twinkling, live-action Cinderella sticks doggedly to Disney’s 1950 animated version (Cinders’s rodent companions are present) and favours sparkle over wit. However, Cate Blanchett is marvellous as the Wicked Stepmother and Helena Bonham Carter makes a jolly good Fairy Godmother. Princess-obsessed little girls will find it irresistible and the costumes are stunning. Oliver! (1968) ★★★★☆ Channel 5, 3.10pm Carol Reed, who had previously directed The Third Man, won an Oscar for his superior version of Lionel Bart’s musical of the classic Charles Dickens tale (Reed’s only ever attempt at the musical genre). Eight-year-old Mark Lester is sweet as Oliver Twist but it was Ron Moody as Fagin who received the Oscar nod. Reed’s nephew, another Oliver, is a brooding and brutal Bill Sikes and still has the potential to shock. Dumbo (1941) ★★★★★ Channel 4. 4.30pm It may be one of Disney’s shortest animated films, but it is also one of its most loved. Baby elephant Dumbo is born with unfeasibly large ears, is separated from his mother and becomes ostracised by his fellow circus animals. It is only when Timothy Mouse encourages Dumbo to make the most of his ears that he discovers he can fly. This remains an undisputed masterpiece from Disney’s golden age of animation. Boxing Day Willa Fitzgerald, Kathryn Newton, Maya Hawke and Annes Elwy Credit: BBC Little Women BBC One, 8.00pm One suspects that this beautiful adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s much-loved coming-of-age novel (published in 1868) was due a less prominent airing until the BBC had to shelve its flagship festive Agatha Christie adaptation Ordeal by Innocence due to sexual assault allegations against one of the stars. That seems no great loss now, as this sparkling gem of a drama – scripted by Call the Midwife creator Heidi Thomas – more than deserves a Boxing Day prime-time slot.  Told in three parts, it follows the lives of the March sisters – Jo (Maya Hawke), Meg (Willa Fitzgerald), Beth (Annes Elwy), and Amy (Kathryn Newton) – as they progress from adolescence to adulthood under the protective eye of their mother, Marmee (Emily Watson), while their father is away in the American Civil War.  As life-affirming a tale as you could want this time of year, it’s full of high spirits and loving kindness. There are nice cameo performances by Michael Gambon and Angela Lansbury, but in the opening part, the acting laurels go to Hawke for her spot-on portrayal of tomboyish proto-feminist Jo, and Jonah Hauer-King, as boy next door Laurie Laurence. Gerard O’Donovan Todd Barry: Spicy Honey Netflix, from today Stand-up Todd Barry is best known in the US for his bone-dry wit. Anyone seeking relief from the festive season’s more saccharine shows will be sure to find it in this one-off recording from his latest tour. Premier League Football: Tottenham Hotspur v Southampton Sky Sports Main Event, 12.00noon Spurs won both of their matches against the Saints last season, including a 2-1 victory in one of their final home matches at White Hart Lane. Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli both scored in the first half, with James Ward-Prowse pulling one back for Southampton in the second. Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella BBC Two, 5.35pm From Sadler’s Wells, a treat for dance fans in this dazzling Blitz-era reworking of Prokofiev’s classic ballet, performed by Bourne’s New Adventures company.  Snow Bears BBC One, 6.30pm Kate Winslet narrates this documentary following a pack of polar bears as they embark on an eventful 400-mile journey to reach the pack ice where they hunt. Surprisingly charming. Discovering: Julie Andrews Sky Arts, 7.00pm A look at the life and career of an actress and singer more associated with Christmas than most, thanks to endless festive repeats of Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music. But there’s much more to Julie Andrews than that, as shown in this beautifully put-together profile.  Reindeer Family and Me BBC Two, 8.00pm Wildlife film-maker Gordon Buchanan’s festive offering focuses on Santa’s favourite quadruped. In Lapland, Buchanan settles in with the nomadic Sami people to learn the ways of the herder, before setting out with a single reindeer to capture the Northern Lights as they’ve never been filmed before. Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 2017: The Language OF life BBC Four, 8.00pm This year’s theme, The Language of Life, sees cognitive neuroscientist Professor Sophie Scott of UCL embark on an exploration of the urge to communicate. In the opener, she unpicks the evolution of the human voice. GO The Miniaturist BBC One, 9.00pm An absorbing adaptation of Jessie Burton’s bestseller about a young woman thrust into an arranged marriage with a perplexing merchant in 17th-century Amsterdam. It looks exquisite, although the constant quest to shoot each frame as if it were a Vermeer painting doesn’t help the pace. Anna Taylor-Joy plays 18-year-old Nella with suitable bafflement, Alex Hassell intrigues as Johannes, while Romola Garai steals the show as his sister, Marin. Concludes tomorrow. Big Fat Quiz of the Year 2017 Channel 4, 9.00pm Jimmy Carr hosts C4’s alternative comedy quiz looking back at the year in the news, with guests including Richard Ayoade, Noel Fielding, David Mitchell and Katherine Ryan. GO Mary Poppins (1964) ★★★★★ BBC One, 3.45pm This is the popular story of a magical nanny (Julie Andrews) who takes over a London home, transforming the lives of its inhabitants. Dick Van Dyke may affect the worst cockney accent ever heard on film, but the combination of the catchy songs, sumptuous live action and colourful animation makes this one of the most enduring children’s films, and a staple of the festive schedules. The film was nominated for 13 Oscars. Beauty and the Beast (2017) ★★★★☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 10.55am and 5.50pm Emma Watson dazzles in Disney’s show-stopping, live-action, chocolate box remake. The film’s songs – which include three new ones – by Alan Menken are the pulse, the purpose and the headline draw, while Ewan McGregor is delightful as Lumière, Luke Evans perfect as Gaston, and Dan Stevens, in digital fur, is the Prince. The Little Mermaid (1989) ★★★★☆ Channel 4, 4.20pm This vivacious retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale began a rich vein of form for Disney animations (Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King followed). A combination of unforgettable characters, including Sebastian the singing Jamaican crab and the delightfully evil baddie Ursula (based on drag queen Divine), and catchy songs makes Ariel’s journey to dry land a magical thing. Jurassic World (2015) ★★★★☆ ITV, 6.40pm Can modern audiences still be wowed by computer-generated dinosaurs? This long-awaited Jurassic Park sequel (the original movie was released in 1993) proves that they can. A new attraction at the dinosaur theme park, created to re-spark visitor interest, gravely backfires and it’s left to Chris Pratt’s raptor trainer and Bryce Dallas Howard’s scientist to save the day. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is out next year. Wednesday 27 December Steve Coogan as Alan Partidge Credit: BBC Alan Partridge: Why, When, Where, How and Whom? BBC Two, 9.00pm Unfortunately, there were no previews available for this palate-cleansing documentary ahead of Alan Partridge’s return to the BBC for a new series next year, which co-creator Steve Coogan promises will include the sometime Radio Norwich presenter’s take on that most contentious of topics, Brexit. It’s been 25 years since he and Armando Iannucci created the hapless Partridge, described by Iannucci as “a kind of social X-ray of male middle-aged Middle England”, a bombastic, self-important local presenter with an unwavering belief in the importance of the highway code and “imperial leisurewear”.  Now this documentary attempts to explain why this character, above all others, has touched such a nerve. Among those contributing are Coogan and Iannucci, Patrick Marber, Peter Baynham, Rebecca Front, David Schneider and Doon Mackichan, and we’re also promised unseen archive footage. The real secret to Alan’s lasting appeal is a simple one, however: he’s a fully realised character and a very English monster in the same vein as Basil Fawlty. Even as we laugh at him, we’re moved by his increasing self-awareness. Sarah Hughes Celebrity Mastermind BBC One, 7.00pm Actor Jack Ashton, comedian Rich Hall, Match of the Day commentator Guy Mowbray and poet Pam Ayres join John Humphrys for a new run of the celebrity edition. Among the specialist subjects tonight are Tennessee Williams, Iron Maiden and Ashes Cricket.  Agatha Christie vs Hercule Poirot Sky Arts, 7.30pm Pierre Bayar presents this interesting deconstruction of one of Agatha Christie’s most celebrated novels, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, in which he alleges a miscarriage of justice by Poirot.  Six Robots & Us BBC Two, 8.00pm Psychologist Dr Caroline Jay and robotics specialist Prof Jonathan Rossiter join forces in this fascinating experiment which aims to uncover how helpful the latest innovations in robotics truly are. To find out the team deliver four very different robots to families around the UK.  Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 2017: the language of life BBC Four, 8.00pm Professor Sophie Scott, UCL’s Head of the Speech Communications Group, gives this year’s lecture, looking at silent communication and why our body language and smells can say as much if not more than our words and sounds.   World’s Strongest Man 2017 Channel 5, 8.00pm Channel 5 brings us all the action from the World’s Strongest Man competition in Botswana. All eyes are on the USA’s Brian Shaw, the defending champion, who is hoping to win for a record firth time.  Turtle, Eagle, Cheetah: A Slow Odyssey BBC Four, 9.00pm BBC Four’s latest foray into the enticing world of slow TV is this nature documentary which focuses on the different views of a cheetah on the African savannah, a green turtle in the Indonesia reefs and a white-tailed eagle in Scotland. SH Miranda Does Christmas Channel 4, 9.00pm Like many an institution before her, Miranda Hart has swapped the BBC for Channel 4 on her return to the small screen. Here, Hart hosts a “raucous Christmas party” with guests including David Tennant, Sam Smith and Prue Leith. SH The Red Shoes (1948) ★★★★★ BBC Two, 12.10pm Powell and Pressburger’s seminal musical tragedy is one of cinema’s great wonders. It’s about a talented ballet dancer (Moira Shearer), her romance with a struggling composer (Marius Goring) and her loyalty to the ballet that he wrote and in which she is meant to star. The film’s theme of the pre-eminent call of creative passion is thought to be an allegory for P & P’s devotion to their craft. Big Hero 6 (2014) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 4.10pm This Disney animation is an East-meets-West adventure with buckets of heart and soul – and quite possibly Disney at its adorable, huggable, and most visually extravagant best. Hiro Hamada, a 14-year-old orphan living in the city of San Fransokyo, befriends Baymax, a 10-foot-tall, bright, white inflatable robot invented by his elder brother, who’s killed in a mysterious fire at his laboratory. Scrooged (1988) ★★★★☆ Film4, 4.35pm 9+Bill Murray plays a mean-spirited network TV president who sees the light after he experiences ghostly visitations – including Carol Kane as a happy-slapping fairy in a tutu – in this droll comic update of Dickens’s tale. Murray is on deadpan, cynical form (“Have you tried staples?”) and Robert Mitchum contributes a priceless cameo as a fellow executive with plans to produce TV shows for cats and dogs. Oasis: Supersonic (2016) ★★★☆☆ BBC Two, 10.00pm Oasis’s glory-days documentary indulges Noel and Liam Gallagher’s bad behaviour. Mat Whitecross’s film starts and ends with the pair of dates when Oasis debatably peaked, at Knebworth in 1996, and goes to excessive length to detail stories of their excess. Few rock stars, in fairness, have a habit of being so amusingly and brutally honest about their failings, and Whitecross is content to let them have the last word. Thursday 28 December David Attenborough Credit: BBC Attenborough and the Empire of the Ants BBC Two, 9.30pm Back on dry land after Blue Planet II, David Attenborough travels to the Jura Mountains on the Swiss-French border to investigate the methods used by two different communities of wood ants to survive and thrive. One adopts a familiar strategy of territorial aggression, with a family dominated by a single queen and chemical warfare on rival communities conducted with liberal distribution of formic acid. The other appears to defy the rules of evolution as they are currently understood, forming a supercolony consisting of several communities cooperating for the greater good in a manner reminiscent of early man’s first steps to eventual supremacy. Queens, sentries and workers labour alongside each other in a manner which sounds far-fetched, but the cameras capture this extraordinary behaviour in mesmerising detail, from hunting to breeding to self-preservation.  The now-customary behind-the-scenes postscript sees Attenborough almost as amazed by the new technology that allows such access to nature (in this case, the “FrankenCam”) as by nature itself. It’s not Blue Planet II, but it’s the sort of fascinating deeper dive that Natural World does so well. Gabriel Tate Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 2017: The Language OF life BBC Four, 8.00pm Sophie Scott brings her series of lectures to an close with an examination of language and comprehension in the animal kingdom. Are we humans really as far advanced as we believe, or might primates and even birds be able to communicate with comparable sophistication? The Secret Life of 5 Year Olds On Holiday Channel 4, 8.30pm Familiar faces from the most recent series head to Cyprus to enjoy flying, swimming and local delicacies, while the professionals watch on and deliver their analyses of childhood behaviour. What Britain Bought in 2017 Channel 4, 9.00pm Mary Portas assesses whether this year has been as dismal as expected for high-street retailers, and examines a few unlikely trends: unicorns, gin and, she suggests, big knickers. Clint Eastwood: a Life in Film Sky Arts, 9.00pm Whether you love or loathe his hardline politics, few would dispute the astonishing consistency of Clint Eastwood’s work. For such a prolific actor and director, there are few duds on his CV and plenty of masterpieces, from Unforgiven to Once Upon a Time in the West. Made in 2007, the year of his ambitious wartime diptych Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima, this excellent programme finds Eastwood in good-humoured form as he talks Michael Henry Wilson through his 50-year career. GT Bruno Mars: Live in Harlem BBC One, 10.25pm; NI, 11.25pm Harlem’s Apollo Theatre launched the careers of James Brown, Ella Fitzgerald and Lauryn Hill, among many others. Bruno Mars pays tribute to the building’s history and rolls out the hits – Uptown Funk, Just the Way You Are et al – along with some dazzling choreography for a hard partying crowd. Romesh Ranganathan: Irrational Live BBC Two, 10.30pm Perhaps rivalled only by Katherine Ryan for small-screen ubiquity this year, Romesh Ranganathan has proved himself an accomplished stand-up comedian. This special, recorded at London’s Hammersmith Apollo in 2016, captures the comedian’s jaundiced but very funny musings on family life. GT The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! (2012) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 9.00am This claymation Aardman romp is a delight. The impasto of non-stop gags, comic detail and slapstick action should appeal to all the family. Hugh Grant plays the Pirate Captain, who needs more booty if he is to stand a chance of winning the title of Pirate of the Year. The plot takes in Darwin, the last dodo and Queen Victoria (voiced by Imelda Staunton). Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 (2017) ★★★★☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 11.00am and 8.00pm Marvel’s playful space sequel looks like an explosion in a nursery school craft cupboard – every scene comes caked in rainbows, glitter and gunge. The core crew returns, led by Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), but the story only really begins with the arrival of a benign and bearded mystic called Ego (Kurt Russell), who has big news for Peter about his earthly origins. Flight (2012) ★★★☆☆ Channel 5, 9.00pm Robert Zemeckis’s film, starring Denzel Washington as alcoholic commercial pilot Whip Whitaker, is a long, earnest, sporadically brilliant drama. On a routine hop from Florida to Atlanta, Whip’s plane starts to tumble out of the sky – a dramatic sequence that will turn nervous fliers’ stomachs – and the pilot must fight to save the lives of those on board. Dull in parts, this is nevertheless morally provocative. Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (2013) ★★★☆☆ BBC Two, 11.30pm Films based on sitcoms tend to play broader than the real series, and this cinema outing for Steve Coogan’s fading media gasbag is no exception. The plot has Alan held hostage at a radio station in Norfolk. Old friends, such as his assistant Lynn (Felicity Montagu), join in and viewers hoping for new catchphrases will be happy, but Partridge loses his Pooterish potency when moving from talk to action. Friday 29 December Bob Mortimer and Vic Reeves Credit: BBC Vic & Bob’s Big Night Out BBC Two, 9.00pm Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer return for this one-off Christmas edition of their sketch show, 27 years after it first aired as Vic Reeves Big Night Out. Fans will be pleased to hear that age has not dimmed the comedians’ energy – in this half-hour they bounce around the studio in the same vein as their younger selves, which gives the show a rapid-fire pace.  The pair’s chemistry is undeniable and they frequently make each other laugh, as well as a raucous studio audience. There is a sense that Reeves and Mortimer are now improvising much of their material, which may explain why some of the jokes here are a touch below par. But many of the sketches are excellent, such as their parody of Channel 4 dating show First Dates, in which they play jokey gay Yorkshiremen. In another, Vic sells wigs made of body parts.  Nostalgia comes in the form of a cameo from Matt Lucas, forever associated with his George Dawes character in Shooting Stars, and the revival of character Graham Lister (played by Bob) in the talent show parody sketch Novelty Island. This brief return reminds us that, with their corny jokes and surreal sense of humour, there’s nobody quite like Vic and Bob. Vicki Power Tim Vine Travels Through Time Christmas Special BBC One, 7.30pm Prepare for a barrage of seasonal puns as Tim Vine’s comedy show returns. Emma Bunton and Reverend Richard Coles join Vine on a jaunt to Tudor times. Eric & Ernie’s Home Movies BBC Two, 8.00pm Those ghosts of Christmas past, Morecambe and Wise, are revisited in this charming documentary showcasing the double act via some newly discovered home movies. Look out also for a repeat of Morecambe & Wise: Leading Ladies (BBC Two, 7.00pm) and Eric, Ernie & Me (BBC Four, 9.00pm), a drama exploring their relationship with writer Eddie Braben. Victoria Wood by her friends Channel 5, 9.00pm This tribute to the late comedian covers much the same ground, and includes some identical contributors, as BBC One’s Our Friend Victoria, but it’s still a treat to be reminded of Wood’s talents. Her 1997 stand-up show, Victoria Wood: Live 1997, follows.   Delicious Sky One, 9.00pm Sky dishes up a second series of this frothy Cornwall-set drama. Chef Gina (Dawn French) has now joined forces with Sam (Emilia Fox) to run the Penrose Hotel, as the man that they were both once married to, Leo (Iain Glen), narrates from beyond the grave. But it turns out tensions haven’t died with him, and their spats bring a pinch of spice to the drama. Tonight, Franco Nero arrives as Gina’s ne’er-do-well father to stir up trouble. Frankie Boyle’s 2017 New Year World Order BBC Two, 10.00pm; not NI This year’s absence of Charlie Brooker’s Wipe is mitigated somewhat by Frankie Boyle’s return for this end-of-year round-up. And certainly somebody needs to help make sense of this crazy year. VP Elvis: The Rebirth of the King BBC Four, 10.00pm This compelling film seeks to overturn the enduring image of Elvis Presley’s Vegas years as a tragic nadir of his career. It argues that Presley’s musical renaissance in a 1968 Christmas TV special saw the King reach new creative heights that he carried into his Vegas shows, before disillusionment and drugs took over. Fantastic archive footage and commentary from his former collaborators, including Elvis’s backing singers, make a convincing case. VP Up (2009) ★★★★★ BBC One, 2.25pm Possibly Pixar’s finest film, Up has a captivating story that realises the vividness of a childlike imagination. Only those with a heart of stone wouldn’t be moved by the story of Ed Asner (voiced by Carl Fredricksen), who tries to fulfil his dream of building a house next to Paradise Falls in South America. His odyssey brings him more than he bargained for, including a young, hyperactive Wilderness Explorer called Russell. Brave (2012) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 4.20pm The first of Pixar’s films to have a female protagonist won an Oscar and there’s a bewitching craftsmanship to its storytelling. It’s set in the Highlands during the feudal period. Kelly MacDonald plays the flame-haired Merida, who would rather ride her horse than play the role of simpering princess; unable to sway her mother (Emma Thompson), she seeks the help of a witch (Julie Walters). Gone Girl (2014) ★★★☆☆ BBC One, 9.15pm; N Ireland, 9.45pm Cold and controlled, yet fun, this drama, directed by David Fincher, is based on Gillian Flynn’s novel of the same name. Rosamund Pike is Amy Elliott-Dunne, who disappears one morning, much to the apparent surprise of her husband (Ben Affleck). The media sniff around and soon the couple’s secrets come to the surface. Darkly suspenseful at first, the story soon turns into blood-drenched self-parody. The Great Gatsby (2013) ★★★☆☆ BBC Two, 11.15pm Baz Luhrmann lays on a cinematic buffet of such sense-addling brazenness that it takes a while before you notice the film is finger-food and nothing more. Leonardo DiCaprio is Jay Gatsby, a newly minted millionaire, and Carey Mulligan is Daisy Buchanan, the lost love he longs to win back. On the rare occasions Luhrmann gives them space to act in the pulsating frenzy of his Jazz Age world, both do a wonderful job. Television previewers Toby Dantzic, Catherine Gee, Simon Horsford, Sarah Hughes, Clive Morgan, Gerard O'Donovan, Vicki Power, Patrick Smith, Gabriel Tate and Rachel Ward

What's on TV tonight: The League of Gentlemen returns and Mary Berry’s Christmas Party

Monday 18 December The League of Gentlemen BBC Two, 10.00pm This is undoubtedly one of the highlights of the festive season for comedy fans. The influential freak show sitcom set in the blighted fictional town of Royston Vasey returns for a three-part run to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its award-winning debut on Radio 4 (the transfer to TV didn’t occur until 1999).  Reviving once-popular comedy is a risky business – just look at the recent Porridge fiasco – but Mark Gatiss, Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton have gone on to bigger, if not always better, things in the intervening years and they return here as if they were never away. Still performing all the major characters on screen (with the group’s fourth member, Jeremy Dyson, sharing the writing duties) they update the stories and characters without losing the demonic humour of the original.  Most of the best characters make a reappearance – Tubbs and Edward, Barbra the trans taxi driver, Herr Lipp, Pauline Campbell-Jones and Mr Chinnery the vet – as Royston Vasey faces its greatest existential threat. Val Denton, meanwhile, sets the tone decisivelyin an opening scene memorable for all the wrong reasons. Gerard O’Donovan Father Brown BBC One, 1.45pm Mark Williams returns for a sixth series as GK Chesterton’s crime-fighting Catholic priest. It’s Christmas in Kembleford but when a dog makes a gruesome discovery in the woods, Father Brown sets out to reverse a terrible miscarriage of justice. Mary Berry’s Christmas Party BBC One, 8.30pm Tips, recipes and full-on merriment as the BBC’s queen of baking invites a handful of famous faces round for a Christmas party cook-in: Alex Jones shows off her rissoles, Darcey Bussell crafts a dance-inspired dessert, while Adil Ray handles the canapés. Plus there’s ginger glazed ham, white chocolate cherry brandy cake, and much more. The Art That Made Mexico: Paradise, Power and Prayers BBC Four, 9.00pm Artist Alinka Echeverria concludes her series by exploring the influence of faith on Mexican culture and how the conquistadors’ Catholic notions of venerating the divine through art found fertile ground thanks to earlier Mayan beliefs. Birds of a Feather Christmas special ITV, 9.00pm Marks and Gran’s long-running sitcom creaks back for another festive special, with Tracey’s (Linda Robson) Yuletide plans upsetting both Sharon (Pauline Quirke) and Dorien (Lesley Joseph). Abba: When All Is Said and Done Channel 5, 9.00pm An Abba double whammy starts with this docudrama exploring the very different stories of the Swedish supergroup’s singers Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad through their own words. Abba: Live in Concert follows at 11.05pm, recorded at the group’s peak in 1979. GO Andre Rieu: Christmas In London 2016 Sky Arts, 9.00pm Rieu entertains with everything festive from Jingle Bells to White Christmas and O Holy Night, bringing his infectious blend of glitter, frills and massed violin strings to boost the seasonal mood. Private Lives of The Monarchs Yesterday, 9.00pm There’s more to Henry VIII than the image of a roistering glutton whose obsession with siring a male heir led to England’s break with Catholicism. So says historian Tracy Borman, painting a picture of a thoughtful young king driven to tyranny by personal demons. GO Carry On Cleo (1964) ★★★☆☆ Channel 4, 12.20pm “Infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it in for me!” So says Kenneth Williams’s waspish Caesar in this, one of the best in the long-running series of cheap and cheerful comedies. Set in ancient Rome, it’s hardly Shakespeare but at least the gags come thick and fast. Watch out for an early appearance from Coronation Street’s Amanda Barrie as a doe-eyed Cleopatra, up to her ears in ass’s milk and political intrigue. First Blood (1982) ★★★★☆ ITV4, 9.00pm Based on David Morrell’s novel, this is the first and best of the Rambo action-movie franchise – it’s more sensitive than the sequels. Sylvester Stallone has become synonymous with Rambo, a maladjusted ex-Green Beret who, after having some Vietnam flashbacks, goes on a one-man war against a crooked small-town sheriff (Brian Dennehy). It’s pacy and raw with a moving climax. Part II is on Tuesday. The Woman in Black (2012) ★★★★☆ Channel 4, 12.10am Thanks to its almost hyper-Edwardian setting and some canny plot alterations, this feels less like a remake of Susan Hill’s ghost story than a new reading of an old tale, trembling with freshly terrifying resonances. Daniel Radcliffe gives a grown-up performance, while director James Watkins uses shadows and empty spaces to create a percolating sense of dread. Tuesday 19 December Faye Marsey as Sarah Credit: Channel 4 Shamed Channel 4, 9.00pm It’s not the most Christmassy of fare but Anthony Philipson’s (My Mad Fat Diary) dark, theatrical one-off drama is worth checking out. Featuring an intense central performance from Faye Marsay (who seems to be everywhere right now, with Bancroft last week and the BBC thriller McMafia to come), Shamed tells the story of 27-year-old Sarah, who suddenly decides to kidnap and imprison two apparently unconnected men: the seemingly perfect just-about-to-get-married Nathan (Nick Blood) and cocky player Mani (Ryan McKen). Both claim never to have met each other or Sarah before. However there’s a method behind her madness, and one which, when revealed, opens up wider questions about how different events can resonate in different ways. Philipson’s tight script keeps you guessing about the connection until near the end before spilling out into violence and debates about the difference between guilt and shame.  It’s not perfect – Mani is underwritten and the rushed ending is a little forced – but Shamed makes some thoughtful points about our attitudes toward sex and the way in which certain people can stride through life without acknowledging the damage they trail behind. Sarah Hughes The Royal Variety Performance 2017 ITV, 7.30pm Miranda Hart hosts this year’s Royal Variety Performance, attended by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, with guests ranging from the obvious (Michael Ball, Alfie Boe) to the incongruous (Kelsey Grammer, Seal). Jamie’s Italian Christmas Channel 4, 8.00pm Another week, another Christmas cookery show. Our chef tonight is the ubiquitous Jamie Oliver who has holed up in a log cabin with his mentor Gennaro Contaldo and hopes to teach us to give the traditional British Christmas an Italian twist. U2 at the BBC BBC One, 9.00pm The Irish band continue their quest for world domination with this film centred on new album Songs of Experience. The action takes place at Abbey Road Studios, where they perform some of their biggest hits and squeeze in a quick chat with Cat Deeley.    Invasion! With Sam Willis BBC Four, 9.00pm The final part of this engaging series sees historian Sam Willis examine one of the more unusual military ideas in history: Napoleon’s plan to use a fleet of balloons as part of his invasion plans during the War of the Third Coalition. The French first crossed the English Channel by hot air balloon in 1785 and Napoleon appointed aeronaut Sophie Blanchard as air service chief to carry out the idea. The plans ultimately came to nothing, but that didn’t stop stories and caricatures of balloons carrying arms, men and even horses spreading through the media.  The First Silent Night Yesterday, 9.00pm The mournful Silent Night is one of the world’s most beloved carols, and was declared an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2011. This film follows actor Simon Callow as he heads to the Austrian village of Oberndorf to uncover its origins before considering why this carol above all others resonates so strongly. SH Extraordinary Teens: Young, Gifted and Broke Channel 4, 10.00pm Pianist and composer Shane Thomas hit the headlines aged only 10 when his precocious talent saw him hailed as the British Mozart. Seven years later his career has stalled. What emerges is a depressing but well-told story of ambition tampered by poverty and a system in which privilege and connections count as much, if not more than raw talent. SH Sword of Sherwood Forest (1960) ★★★☆☆ Film4, 5.05pm Terence Fisher teamed up with Hammer Films for this child-friendly spin-off from The Adventures of Robin Hood TV series, with Richard Greene, who reprises his role here. Peter Cushing stars as the dastardly Sheriff of Nottingham out to murder the Archbishop of Canterbury. It’s a cheap and cheerful affair that remains true to the spirit of the original. Smurfs: The Lost Village (2017) ★★☆☆☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 6.15pm The third of the big-screen outings for The Smurfs is a trippy treat for under-eights, for everyone else the blues. This Smurfs contains double the number of Smurfs ever previously seen, thanks to the discovery of an all-female enclave somewhere deep in the woods. Demi Lovato, Mandy Patinkin, Michelle Rodriguez and Julia Roberts are among those lending their voices. Carol (2015) ★★★★★ Film4, 9.00pm Todd Haynes’s adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 novel is gorgeous, gently groundbreaking, and quite possibly be the saddest thing that you’ll ever see. It tells the story of a photographer (Rooney Mara) who has a relationship with an older woman (Cate Blanchett) in New York. Haynes’ film concludes that love is the riskiest but most necessary gamble. Wednesday 20 December Dame Judi Dench Credit: BBC Judi Dench: My Passion for Trees BBC One, 8.00pm When this one-off documentary was announced, some predictably invoked Alan Partridge’s hapless pitch of Youth Hostelling with Chris Eubank. Certainly, it’s hard to imagine many other celebrities managing to get this made, and even harder to imagine any who could have made it so watchable. A look of astonished delight is plastered over Dame Judi’s face throughout the hour, as she makes all manner of unexpected discoveries about the trees that she loves. There is also a rare peek into her personal life and relationship with her “chap”, David Mills. This may lack the forensic camerawork and high-spec CGI of most BBC nature documentaries, but there are rewarding revelations amid the occasional dose of Botany 101. “I think of my trees as part of my extended family,” says Dench – not the absurd piece of sentimentality you might suspect, as she plants a tree in her back garden for each friend or relative who has died. And trees, it transpires, are also remarkably sociable in their way, an arboreal community connected by spidery threads of fungus and able to call for help if under attack by aphids. Charming and subtly educational. Gabriel Tate What Makes You Tic? BBC Three, from 10.00am Vlogger Lewis “QBall” Nickell aims to conquer his Tourette’s Syndrome and launch a career as a talk-show host, meeting The Vamps and Girls Aloud alumna Nadine Coyle as part of his efforts to raise awareness. Carabao Cup: Bristol City v Manchester United Sky Sports Main Event, 7.30pm We’re at Ashton Gate for this quarter-final clash, as the Robins look to produce and upset against holders Manchester United. The hosts have already claimed two Premier League scalps in Watford and Stoke City, but United are clear favourites here.  The Real Marigold on Tour BBC One, 9.00pm When you see the lives the Marigold pensioners are leading who wouldn’t be envious? This week, Sheila Ferguson, Rustie Lee, Paul Nicholas and Dennis Taylor head to Iceland. There, they go whale watching in the fishing village of Hausavik, and try aqua aerobics and gymnastics in Reykjavik. Elsewhere, Sheila goes on a date with an Icelandic man. Peaky Blinders BBC Two, 9.00pm Perhaps the best series yet comes to a punishing climax with the night of the big fight and yet another reckoning for the Shelbys, this time courtesy of Changretta (Adrien Brody) and once-trusted allies. A Night for the Emergency Services ITV, 9.00pm Presenting a sort of 999’s Got Talent, Ashley Banjo and Diversity introduce a showcase for the firefighters, police and hospital workers who demonstrate skills far beyond their professional capabilities. These include magicians, dancers and a Michael Bublé impersonator, along with appearances from a few special guests. Taskmaster Champion of Champions  Dave, 9.00pm One of the funniest series on TV comes to a spectacular climax as the ultimate Taskmaster champion is crowned, with previous winners Josh Widdicombe, Katherine Ryan, Noel Fielding, Rob Beckett and Bob Mortimer all in the running. Dian Fossey: Secrets in the Mist  National Geographic, 9.00pm After a lifetime of conservation work and, campaigning against poaching, primatologist Dian Fossey was killed in her Rwandan cabin in 1985 – a crime that remains unsolved. The final part of this gripping series examines possible motives. GT Male Rape: Breaking the Silence BBC One, 10.45pm; Scot & Wales, 11.10pm; NI, 11.40pm First shown on BBC Three, this grim but necessary film hears from three men who are among the estimated one-in-six to have been victims of rape. GT Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) ★★★★★ BBC One, 1.45pm Steven Spielberg’s rollicking adventure film, with a very scary end, won four Oscars and created a new action hero in Dr Henry “Indiana” Jones (Harrison Ford). Jones is an archaeologist hired by the US government in 1936 to seek out the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis find it. The ensuing events provide a rollercoaster of thrills. The Temple of Doom and The Last Crusade follow over the next two night. Chicken Run (2000) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 3.35pm Aardman Animations, the studio behind many of Nick Park’s triumphs, conjures up another stop-motion corker that fairly swarms with clever little jokes and details. Our heroes here are a group of jauntily anthropomorphic chickens; they’re plotting their escape to freedom from the tyrannical Mr and Mrs Tweedy, who run the farm on which they live. The voice cast boasts Julia Sawalha, Jane Horrocks and Mel Gibson. The Phantom of the Opera (2004) ★★★☆☆ Sky Arts, 9.00pm Impressed by his use of music in The Lost Boys, Andrew Lloyd Webber hired director Joel Schumacher to bring his hit musical, the longest-running Broadway show in history, about a disfigured genius who lives hidden in the Paris Opera House and who develops a crush on a chorus girl, to the big screen. The score has all the faux-gothic pomp required, but Gerard Butler’s Phantom fails to spook. Thursday 21 December Darcey Bussell Credit: BBC Darcey Bussell: Looking for Fred Astaire BBC One, 10.45pm One dance star explores another in this unpretentious profile of Fred Astaire. Darcey Bussell traces Astaire’s journey from his hometown in Nebraska to New York, London and Los Angeles to examine his ascent to film stardom, achieved after nearly three decades as a professional dancer. She puts forward that he owed much of his success to three women – his mother, his sister and dancing partner Adele, and his first wife Phyllis – but wisely doesn’t labour the point.  Bussell peruses memorabilia and film footage – there’s a delightful clip of Astaire dancing with his long-time collaborator, Hermes Pan – and discusses with historians Astaire’s early life, work ethic and personality clash with Ginger Rogers. The commentary doesn’t uncover much that an Astaire fan wouldn’t already know, but Bussell is an enthusiastic guide and the clips are terrific. Strictly professionals Aljaz Skorjanec and Janette Manrara are touring a successful stage show called Remembering Fred – this film also reminds us of Astaire’s immeasurable contribution to dance, though it wouldn’t harm for it to air at an hour more suited to the ballroom dance-loving demographic. Vicki Power MasterChef: The Professionals: The Finals BBC Two, 8.00pm It’s ladles at dawn for the three finalists as they tackle their last challenge. They’ll cook a three-course meal in three hours for the formidable judging trio of Wareing, Galetti and Wallace, who’ll then choose their champ. Joanna & Jennifer: Absolutely Champers BBC Two, 9.00pm On the flimsy premise of celebrating 25 years since the birth of Absolutely Fabulous, Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley take a fizz-fuelled jolly to France to tour vineyards. They neck vats of bubbly in a travelogue as meandering as Patsy’s gait after an evening spent swigging Bolly. Gordon, Gino and Fred’s Great Christmas Roast ITV, 9.00pm It’s Celtic vigour versus Italian passion in this feelgood cookery special. TV chefs Gordon Ramsay and Gino D’Acampo compete, with a team of celebrity helpers, to create the best Christmas banquet for 100 emergency services workers. First Dates’ maître d’ Fred Sirieux presents. Donny Osmond’s Easy Listening Christmas Channel 5, 9.00pm This Val Doonican-style one-off sees Donny Osmond counting down his 25 favourite festive songs, exploring their geneses and comparing classic renditions to cover versions. VP The Tunnel: Vengeance Sky Atlantic, 9.00pm The symbiosis between Anglo-French cop partners Karl and Elise (Stephen Dillane and Clémence Poésy) in this murder mystery shows us a cheering flipside to Brexit. Their touching, humorous relationship is affecting, even if the series overall lacks the Scandinavian-style eeriness of The Bridge, on which it’s based. Here, the cross-channel cops make a breakthrough in the search for the missing children. The Galaxy Britain Built: Droids, Darth Vader and Lightsaber/Hollywood’s Master of Myth BBC Four, 10.00pm and 11.00pm In celebration of the release of The Last Jedi, these documentaries look at the ingredients that helped shape the Star Wars phenomenon. The first focuses on the film crew who created George Lucas’s fictional galaxy. The second, from 1999, explores the work of US academic Joseph Campbell, whom Lucas has credited with inspiring his plot. VP The Dark Crystal (1982) ★★★☆☆ Film4, 1.05pm Muppets creator Jim Henson stepped out from the comfort of children’s TV to make this dark fantasy tale about a pair of creatures who must find a missing shard of crystal in order to defeat the evil Skeksis. The superbly designed puppets and sets add a surreal quality but it lacks the sense of humour which made Labyrinth, Henson’s next cinema release, so popular. Frank Oz, fellow puppeteer and the voice of Yoda, co-directs. Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 3.35pm Nick Park’s plucky Plasticine pair set about rescuing a village whose annual vegetable competition is in jeopardy because of rabbits eating up the contents of everyone’s gardens. But their bunny brainwashing goes wrong and they accidentally create a mutant rabbit. Beautifully shot, charming, and very silly, it deservedly won the Oscar for Best Animation. Candyman (1992) ★★★★☆ Film4, 11.15pm Virginia Madsen does powerhouse work as a student of folklore lured into fascination with a hook-handed killer who appears when you say his name five times in front of a mirror. She ignores all warnings but is soon blamed for his crimes when a series of horrible murders begin. Majestic direction from Bernard Rose transforms this into a resoundingly epic and gory fable. Friday 22 December Bruno Tonioli  Credit: BBC Saturday Night Fever: The Ultimate Disco Movie BBC Two, 9.00pm Long before he became a household name as a Strictly Come Dancing judge, Bruno Tonioli had a successful career as a choreographer to the stars, arranging dance for music videos, stage shows and tours for Tina Turner, Sting, Elton John and many others. Here he looks back 40 years to when he was a young dancer in New York and got caught up in the global phenomenon that was Saturday Night Fever.  It’s a great story, told with typical Tonioli verve, of how a low-budget film starring the then unknown John Travolta and using the music of a failing band of high-pitched popsters, the Bee Gees, became one of the biggest box office draws of all time and gave half the world “disco fever”. It also shows how – to give credit where it is due – much of its success was down to the visionary genius and unstoppable determination of the Bee Gees’ manager, the late Robert Stigwood, impresario behind some of the most popular stars, and hit stage and film musicals (Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, Grease, Bugsy Malone) of the Seventies. Contributors include Travolta. Gerard O’Donovan The Toys That Made Us Netflix, from today Toys of the Eighties are the focus of this series taking an in-depth look at the nostalgia and collecting fervour that surrounds eight of the biggest selling toy brands of that decade: Transformers, Stars Wars, He-Man, GI Joe, Barbie, Star Trek, Hello Kitty and Lego. Premier League Football: Arsenal v Liverpool Sky Sports Main Event, 7.00pm Action from the Emirates Stadium, as Arsenal  look to avenge a 4-0 defeat in August, when Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, Mo Salah and Daniel Sturridge all found the net for Liverpool. TOTP4 Christmas 2017 BBC Four, 7.30pm Get into the Christmas party spirit with Mark Radcliffe’s countdown of classic festive hits from Top of the Pops’s glitter-spattered archive, with The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl, Wizzard, Slade, The Darkness and Ed Sheeran among the acts featured. Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast Christmas Special Channel 4, 8.00pm Jamie Oliver and Jimmy Doherty welcome actress Liv Tyler to the pier café to make her favourite takeaway, pork dim sum. Oliver also whips up a cracking kedgeree, and Doherty builds a home-made wood-fired oven. Al Murray’s Make Christmas Great Again ITV, 9.00pm Al Murray’s gloriously unreconstructed pub landlord invites an audience to a lock-in at the Reindeer’s Head where he bends ears on such matters as how Christmas is losing its Britishness while whipping up anti-PC seasonal singalongs and remonstrating with celebrity guests. George Michael to Tom Petty: a Tribute Sky Arts, 9.00pm Chuck Berry, Fats Domino and David Cassidy are just some of the musicians and performers who, along with George Michael and Tom Petty, we lost in the past 12 months – as affectionately remembered in this 90-minute tribute. GO Les Dawson: In His Own Words Channel 5, 10.00pm Comedians didn’t come more old school than Les Dawson, with his bluff Northern style, rubber face and mother-in-law jokes. But he was one of the most original comedians of his generation, as proved by this terrific documentary that raids the archives for his funniest work. The Graham Norton Show BBC One, 10.40pm Grahm Norton’s line-up offers a good mix of interest: Hollywood star Will Smith, Victoria’s Jenna Coleman, chef Jamie Oliver and former Keane frontman Tom Chaplin. GO Bright (2017) Netflix, from today This Netflix Original – a $100 million special-effects blockbuster from David Ayer, director of Suicide Squad – sounds like a mash-up of Lethal Weapon and Lord of the Rings. In an alternate Los Angeles where elves and witches walk the streets, Will Smith’s tough NYPD officer finds himself partnered with an orc (Joel Edgerton). Considering its hefty price tag and star-studded soundtrack (Migos, Rag’n’Bone Man, Camila Cabello), this could be Netflix’s biggest mistake yet Puss in Boots (2011) ★★☆☆☆ BBC One, 3.40pm DreamWorks Animation’s Shrek spin-off follows Puss in Boots’s life before he became the green ogre’s sidekick. With the help of Kitty Softpaws (voiced by Salma Hayek) and Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis), the swashbuckling feline (Antonio Banderas) becomes a hero after saving his town. Like the CGI ogre’s last two films, Shrek the Third and Shrek Forever After, the animation is more impressive than the jokes. Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001) ★★★★☆ ITV, 10.40pm American actress Renée Zellweger perfects her English accent to play the Chardonnay-swigging, chain-smoking, lovelorn Bridget in this adaptation of Helen Fielding’s novel, which remains a solid favourite. Love interests Hugh Grant and Colin Firth are excellent as her roguish boss Daniel Cleaver and the stuffy-but-handsome (even in a Christmas jumper) lawyer Mark Darcy. Saturday 23 December A Christmas Tree in Manger Square, Bethlehem Credit: Channel 4 The World’s Best Christmas Lights: From Liverpool to Bethlehem Channel 4, 8.00pm It is amazing what you can build a successful, multi-million-pound, internationally renowned business from. Liverpool-based company The Christmas Decorators specialise in the commercial design and installation of large-scale Christmas lights and decorations – the kind you see in every shop, street and town square. This entertaining film, one of the more offbeat of the season, follows a rather surprising commission: to install the lights and decorations at what many might consider the birthplace of Christmas – Manger Square in Bethlehem. In fact, they’ve been doing it every year since 2012, bringing every single bulb and bauble with them from their warehouse in the UK.  It’s a huge logistical effort, which is also a possibly tricky one, if customs or security in, say, Istanbul take exception to the Bethlehem-bound consignment as it passes through. Director of operations GED Comerford leads the four-person installation team on the trek from Liverpool. It’s fraught with hitches and glitches – even a home-baked Christmas cake is regarded with suspicion by local security – but all the more entertaining for that. Gerard O’Donovan Smashie’s Xmastastic Playlist Christmas Gold, 4.00pm Getting the Christmas party off to an early start from his fab-tastic hideaway at Radio Hush, The Fast Show’s Mike Smash (Paul Whitehouse) brings his off-kilter pop-DJ insights to an hour of festive hits from Wizzard to Johnny Mathis via McCartney, Dylan and Springsteen.  Elf: The Musical Channel 5, 5.00pm There’s seasonal song, dance and fun in the stage musical version of Will Ferrell’s much-loved comedy from the Lowry Theatre in Salford. Ben Forster, who won ITV’s Superstar talent search in 2012, leads the cast as Buddy, a human orphan who was raised by Santa’s elves in the North Pole and returns to New York in search of his family. Michael Buble’s Christmas in New York Sky Arts, 5.00pm At the Radio City Music Hall the crooner sings a selection of seasonal classics, along with a sparkling line-up of special guests including Barbra Streisand, Ariana Grande and The Muppets’ Miss Piggy. It is repeated on Sky One at 12.15am. Pointless Celebrities Christmas Special BBC One, 6.15pm Some of the contestants in this festive edition of the quiz could themselves be pointless answers in a round on Christmas hits. Jona Lewie, Jimmy Osmond and Ben Haenow are among those answering Alexander Armstrong questions. Blind Date Christmas Special Channel 5, 8.00pm There’s a fairy-tale spin to this edition of Paul O’Grady’s matchmaking show, as a Prince Charming has to choose between fellow panto actors Cinderella, Snow White and Tinkerbell. It’s Christmas Live from the Royal Albert Hall Sky One, 8.00pm The Royal Albert Hall is transformed to a rock ’n’ roll winter wonderland as Jason Manford introduces performances by Holly Johnson, Marc Almond, Chrissie Hynde and Shakin’ Stevens, among many others. GO Feud: Bette and Joan BBC Two, from 9.00pm; NI, from 9.30pm Ryan Murphy’s stylish and scathingly catty dramatisation of the Hollywood feud between Bette Davis (Susan Sarandon) and Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange) reaches the moment that the actresses’ mutual loathing went off the scale – while working on the 1962 classic What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (which follows). GO Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001) ★★★☆☆ ITV, 1.35pm  From today to New Year’s Day, ITV are screening all of the Harry Potter films – one film a day, except on Boxing Day. This first adaptation of J K Rowling’s novel was, for a while, the second highest-grossing film ever. Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint are endearing (and very young) in the lead roles but the film lacks the original book’s compulsiveness. Frozen (2013) ★★★★★ BBC One, 2.50pm Disney’s 53rd feature is an enchanting combination of fairy-tale derring-do and heart-popping musical numbers that has left children and adults powerless to its charms. Elsa (Idina Menzel) is a shy princess driven into exile when her magical powers are discovered. Her sister Anna (Kristen Bell) gallops off to fetch her from her beautiful ice palace. Spin-off Olaf’s Frozen Adventure is on Christmas Day. Bill (2015) ★★★★☆ BBC Two, 6.00pm Intelligent children and immature adults will love this mock-biopic from the Horrible Histories troupe that follows the young William Shakespeare (Mathew Baynton) as he ascends from quill-scraping zero to literary hero. Some of the best moments (a running joke about false moustaches is one) are full-bloodedly Pythonesque, although occasionally a kind of student-revue smarminess creeps in. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962, b/w) ★★★★★ BBC Two, 10.35pm; not N Ireland Robert Aldrich’s classic slice of American Grotesque, starring two of cinema’s greatest screen divas, started a trend for casting ageing actresses in campy Gothic horror movies. Joan Crawford and Bette Davis play reclusive sisters locked in an abusive relationship in their crumbling Hollywood mansion.  Christmas Eve Sue Perkins, Mary Berry and Mel Giedroyc Credit: BBC Mary, Mel and Sue’s Big Christmas Thank You BBC One, 7.00pm Anyone looking for some extra festive cheer should look no further than this exuberant Christmas special which sees former Great British Bake-Off stars Mary Berry, Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc join forces to help out at a community centre in the Rhondda Valley in Wales.  Initially, it seems as though this is one of those rather forced shows in which celebrities dispense good cheer and bad jokes, but an emotional story of community spirit in the face of despair swiftly emerges. “We’ve lost our library, our butchers, both banks have closed and there’s no school,” states Elizabeth “Buffy” Williams. Working with her friend Lynne, Buffy has attempted to combat that by opening a community centre offering meals, bingo and after-school classes. Now they want to throw a special Christmas meal for the whole community but it’s tough: the kitchen is small, money is tight and Lynne freely admits that she hates cooking. Enter the indomitable Mrs Berry, who rolls up her sleeves, corrals Daffyd, a 16-year-old with a GCSE in catering, into becoming her sous chef and helps Lynne tackle her phobia. The final celebration should bring a tear to even the most cynical of eyes. Sarah Hughes Premiership Rugby Union: Leicester Tigers v Saracens BT Sport 1, 2.30pm Below-par this season, Leicester will be hoping a win here at Welford Park against third-placed Saracens will give them fresh momentum going into the new year.  Countryfile BBC One, 6.00pm The team head to the Peak District for this special which sees John Craven exploring Longshaw Estate, Anita Rani experiencing a Nativity play with a difference and Matt Baker venturing into Peak Cavern for a carol concert.  Christmas University Challenge 2017 BBC Two, 8.00pm; Scotland, 5.45pm There’s something addictive about the University Challenge’s specials, possibly because they allow us to see celebrities in a new light. The opener sees a team from Durham University, including actor Nick Mohammed, take on a Keble College side featuring Katy Brand. Child Genius vs Celebrities Christmas Special Channel 4, 8.00pm Richard Osman is our host for this Christmas special, which sees past child geniuses take on, among others, Catastrophe star Rob Delaney and broadcaster Janet Street Porter. Will youth or experience win out?  Michael McIntyre’s Big Christmas Show BBC One, 8.30pm The comedian returns for a festive edition in which Alesha Dixon risks social disaster by handing over her phone in Celebrity Send-to-All, plus there’s stand-up from Bill Bailey and music from Seal.  Maigret in Montmartre ITV, 8.30pm Critics haven’t always been kind to ITV’s reboot of Georges Simenon’s Maigret featuring Rowan Atkinson. Yet there’s actually a lot to like here. Atkinson underplays the role nicely, the plots are serviceable and the whole thing is entertaining if undemanding fare. This episode sees Maigret drawn in to the murder of a showgirl. SH M R James evening BBC Four, from 9.00pm Shut the doors, draw the curtains and prepare to be thoroughly spooked as BBC Four dedicates an evening to ghost writer supreme M R James. First up, long-time James fan Mark Gatiss looks at how this diffident Anglican bachelor created stories that still send a tingle down the spine a century after they were written. It’s followed at 10pm by two adaptations of James’s work: The Tractate Middoth, a chilling story about vengeance from beyond the grave, starring Sacha Dhawan and John Castle, and No 13, featuring Greg Wise as an academic who uncovers more than he bargains for in a small medieval town. Billy Elliot: the Musical Sky Arts, 9.00pm Anyone who hasn’t managed to catch Stephen Daldry’s big-hearted musical take on his film about a miner’s son who just wants to dance can find out what all the fuss is about with this performance from 2014 starring Ruthie Henshall and Elliott Hanna. SH Gone with the Wind (1939) ★★★★★ Channel 5, 9.20am Hollywood’s highest-grossing movie until The Sound of Music in 1966, this was the film for which the word “epic” was invented. Vivien Leigh became a star as Scarlett O’Hara, the spoilt Southern belle whose life is turned upside down by the US Civil War. Clark Gable and Leslie Howard are her lovers. It’s brash and self-indulgent, but frankly we don’t give a damn. The Lego Batman Movie (2017) ★★★★☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 1.25pm and 7.00pm Don’t tell Ben Affleck – who plays Actual Batman – but the actor has been made surplus to requirements by one and a half inches of moulded plastic. Lego Batman’s debut solo feature, spun off from a cameo in The Lego Movie, is frantically and relentlessly funny as a new police commissioner (Rosario Dawson) threatens to make the Caped Crusader redundant. Guys and Dolls (1955) ★★★★☆ BBC Two, 3.20pm The 1955 film adaptation of the Broadway classic holds up rather well. The stellar casting certainly helps: Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra in one film – as the rival New York gamblers (and gangsters) Sky Masterson and Nathan Detroit, who place a bet on compromising the virtue of a pious Salvation Army woman, Sarah Brown (played by Jean Simmons). The musical numbers are still a delight. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) ★★★★★ Channel 4, 6.30pm Tiny Tim is a small green frog, Mrs Cratchit is a bad-tempered pig and Charles Dickens himself is portrayed by Gonzo, enormous blue nose and all. And yet, there are few better, or more affecting versions of A Christmas Carol than this musical adaptation. Michael Caine is ideal as the miserly Scrooge, the laughs are aplenty and the finale is as rousing as they come. Christmas Day Peter Capaldi and David Bradley Credit: BBC Doctor Who BBC One, 5.30pm While it’s not unusual for Doctor Who to begin with a “Previously…”, this one takes things all the way back to William Hartnell’s First Doctor, having faced the Cybermen at the South Pole and refused to regenerate. After necessarily metamorphosing into David Bradley (who played Hartnell in Mark Gatiss’s docudrama An Adventure in Space and Time), he duly encounters Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor, in a similar fix. Throw in Mark Gatiss’s doomed British army captain, transported from the Western Front at the moment of death with stiff upper lip wobbling, a mysterious glass woman (Nikki Amuka-Bird) with the power to freeze time, the return of Bill (Pearl Mackie) and a few other surprises, and you have another of Steven Moffat’s self-imposed riddles to unravel. Given that this is Moffat’s own last stand, and with Jodie Whitaker due to make her bow at the end of the episode, you might anticipate a tsunami of self-indulgence and sentimentality, but no. Capaldi and Mackie’s snappy, affectionate chemistry precludes such easy options, Gatiss is restrained and funny and Moffat’s musing on war and peace is enough to bear the wit and self-referentiality. A dignified farewell. Gabriel Tate The Highway Rat BBC One, 4.45pm Rob Brydon narrates and David Tennant voices the eponymous anti-hero in another enchanting adaptation of a Julia Donaldson/Axel Scheffler picture book, this time depicting the comeuppance for a selfish, swashbuckling rat and his long-suffering steed.. The Royal Opera: Puccini’s La Boheme BBC Four, 7.00pm Clemency Burton-Hill introduces Richard Jones’s production of Puccini’s tale of love and loss among bohemians in 19th-century Paris, conducted by Antonio Pappano and starring tenor Michael Fabiano and soprano Nicole Car as star-crossed lovers Rodolfo and Mimi. Jones’s production has a wintry charm that should see it sit very comfortably in today’s schedules.  Olaf’s Frozen Adventure Sky Cinema Premiere/On Demand, 7.30pm Perhaps better suited to television after a brief run in cinemas that saw parents complaining about it delaying screenings of Coco, this Frozen spin-off finds the cheerful snowman Olaf (voiced by Josh Gad) joining his reindeer, Sven, on a mission for their royal highnesses Elsa (Idina Menzel) and Anna (Kristen Bell) who are desperate to create their own Christmas tradition. Expect four catchy new songs to be ringing around your head. GT  Call the Midwife BBC One, 7.40pm Call the Midwife pulls out all the stops for this astoundingly gloomy affair as a Boxing Day freeze descends, stranding Valerie (Jennifer Kirby) in a caravan for an ad hoc delivery and accounting for a popular old timer with a very dark secret. The Great Christmas bake off Channel 4, 7.40pm Val and Selasi from last year, Paul Jagger (he of 2015’s bread lion) and Welsh Beca, a 2013 semi-finalist, return to compete for Star Baker, introduced and judged by the new Fab Four. There’s more of the same on New Year’s Day. Victoria ITV, 9.00pm The Queen (Jenna Coleman) is pregnant again and missing her governess, leaving Albert (Tom Hughes) in the unlikely role of Christmas merrymaker-in-chief. It’s a festive special by numbers, but affecting and easy on the eye. Ashes Cricket: Australia v England BT Sport 1, 10.30pm It’s been a fraught series, on and off the field, for England, with their players’ professionalism frequently called into question. This signals the start of the fourth Test, played at Melbourne Cricket Ground. Can Joe Root’s beleaguered side salvage some dignity? Or will the Aussies continue to have a field day? 300 Years of French & Saunders BBC One, 10.35pm Unseen footage, much-loved sketches and of course Lulu feature in this one-off, which sees the duo back together on TV for the first time in a decade. The new material is intermittently inspired and vigorously performed, with The Handmaid’s Tale, the Kardashians and Poldark all subjected to their attentions. GT Singin’ in the Rain (1952) ★★★★★ Channel 5, 1.05pm There are few movie scenes more memorable than Gene Kelly’s rain-soaked Singin’ in the Rain sequence, or many more jaw-dropping than Donald O’Connor’s walk up the wall. But more than song and dance, this film contains real satire as it recounts the introduction of the “talkie” and the superficial nature of the US film industry. Debbie Reynolds (who died a year ago, one day after daughter Carrie Fisher) co-stars as the Hollywood ingénue. Cinderella (2015) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 3.10pm Kenneth Branagh’s twinkling, live-action Cinderella sticks doggedly to Disney’s 1950 animated version (Cinders’s rodent companions are present) and favours sparkle over wit. However, Cate Blanchett is marvellous as the Wicked Stepmother and Helena Bonham Carter makes a jolly good Fairy Godmother. Princess-obsessed little girls will find it irresistible and the costumes are stunning. Oliver! (1968) ★★★★☆ Channel 5, 3.10pm Carol Reed, who had previously directed The Third Man, won an Oscar for his superior version of Lionel Bart’s musical of the classic Charles Dickens tale (Reed’s only ever attempt at the musical genre). Eight-year-old Mark Lester is sweet as Oliver Twist but it was Ron Moody as Fagin who received the Oscar nod. Reed’s nephew, another Oliver, is a brooding and brutal Bill Sikes and still has the potential to shock. Dumbo (1941) ★★★★★ Channel 4. 4.30pm It may be one of Disney’s shortest animated films, but it is also one of its most loved. Baby elephant Dumbo is born with unfeasibly large ears, is separated from his mother and becomes ostracised by his fellow circus animals. It is only when Timothy Mouse encourages Dumbo to make the most of his ears that he discovers he can fly. This remains an undisputed masterpiece from Disney’s golden age of animation. Boxing Day Willa Fitzgerald, Kathryn Newton, Maya Hawke and Annes Elwy Credit: BBC Little Women BBC One, 8.00pm One suspects that this beautiful adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s much-loved coming-of-age novel (published in 1868) was due a less prominent airing until the BBC had to shelve its flagship festive Agatha Christie adaptation Ordeal by Innocence due to sexual assault allegations against one of the stars. That seems no great loss now, as this sparkling gem of a drama – scripted by Call the Midwife creator Heidi Thomas – more than deserves a Boxing Day prime-time slot.  Told in three parts, it follows the lives of the March sisters – Jo (Maya Hawke), Meg (Willa Fitzgerald), Beth (Annes Elwy), and Amy (Kathryn Newton) – as they progress from adolescence to adulthood under the protective eye of their mother, Marmee (Emily Watson), while their father is away in the American Civil War.  As life-affirming a tale as you could want this time of year, it’s full of high spirits and loving kindness. There are nice cameo performances by Michael Gambon and Angela Lansbury, but in the opening part, the acting laurels go to Hawke for her spot-on portrayal of tomboyish proto-feminist Jo, and Jonah Hauer-King, as boy next door Laurie Laurence. Gerard O’Donovan Todd Barry: Spicy Honey Netflix, from today Stand-up Todd Barry is best known in the US for his bone-dry wit. Anyone seeking relief from the festive season’s more saccharine shows will be sure to find it in this one-off recording from his latest tour. Premier League Football: Tottenham Hotspur v Southampton Sky Sports Main Event, 12.00noon Spurs won both of their matches against the Saints last season, including a 2-1 victory in one of their final home matches at White Hart Lane. Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli both scored in the first half, with James Ward-Prowse pulling one back for Southampton in the second. Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella BBC Two, 5.35pm From Sadler’s Wells, a treat for dance fans in this dazzling Blitz-era reworking of Prokofiev’s classic ballet, performed by Bourne’s New Adventures company.  Snow Bears BBC One, 6.30pm Kate Winslet narrates this documentary following a pack of polar bears as they embark on an eventful 400-mile journey to reach the pack ice where they hunt. Surprisingly charming. Discovering: Julie Andrews Sky Arts, 7.00pm A look at the life and career of an actress and singer more associated with Christmas than most, thanks to endless festive repeats of Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music. But there’s much more to Julie Andrews than that, as shown in this beautifully put-together profile.  Reindeer Family and Me BBC Two, 8.00pm Wildlife film-maker Gordon Buchanan’s festive offering focuses on Santa’s favourite quadruped. In Lapland, Buchanan settles in with the nomadic Sami people to learn the ways of the herder, before setting out with a single reindeer to capture the Northern Lights as they’ve never been filmed before. Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 2017: The Language OF life BBC Four, 8.00pm This year’s theme, The Language of Life, sees cognitive neuroscientist Professor Sophie Scott of UCL embark on an exploration of the urge to communicate. In the opener, she unpicks the evolution of the human voice. GO The Miniaturist BBC One, 9.00pm An absorbing adaptation of Jessie Burton’s bestseller about a young woman thrust into an arranged marriage with a perplexing merchant in 17th-century Amsterdam. It looks exquisite, although the constant quest to shoot each frame as if it were a Vermeer painting doesn’t help the pace. Anna Taylor-Joy plays 18-year-old Nella with suitable bafflement, Alex Hassell intrigues as Johannes, while Romola Garai steals the show as his sister, Marin. Concludes tomorrow. Big Fat Quiz of the Year 2017 Channel 4, 9.00pm Jimmy Carr hosts C4’s alternative comedy quiz looking back at the year in the news, with guests including Richard Ayoade, Noel Fielding, David Mitchell and Katherine Ryan. GO Mary Poppins (1964) ★★★★★ BBC One, 3.45pm This is the popular story of a magical nanny (Julie Andrews) who takes over a London home, transforming the lives of its inhabitants. Dick Van Dyke may affect the worst cockney accent ever heard on film, but the combination of the catchy songs, sumptuous live action and colourful animation makes this one of the most enduring children’s films, and a staple of the festive schedules. The film was nominated for 13 Oscars. Beauty and the Beast (2017) ★★★★☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 10.55am and 5.50pm Emma Watson dazzles in Disney’s show-stopping, live-action, chocolate box remake. The film’s songs – which include three new ones – by Alan Menken are the pulse, the purpose and the headline draw, while Ewan McGregor is delightful as Lumière, Luke Evans perfect as Gaston, and Dan Stevens, in digital fur, is the Prince. The Little Mermaid (1989) ★★★★☆ Channel 4, 4.20pm This vivacious retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale began a rich vein of form for Disney animations (Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King followed). A combination of unforgettable characters, including Sebastian the singing Jamaican crab and the delightfully evil baddie Ursula (based on drag queen Divine), and catchy songs makes Ariel’s journey to dry land a magical thing. Jurassic World (2015) ★★★★☆ ITV, 6.40pm Can modern audiences still be wowed by computer-generated dinosaurs? This long-awaited Jurassic Park sequel (the original movie was released in 1993) proves that they can. A new attraction at the dinosaur theme park, created to re-spark visitor interest, gravely backfires and it’s left to Chris Pratt’s raptor trainer and Bryce Dallas Howard’s scientist to save the day. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is out next year. Wednesday 27 December Steve Coogan as Alan Partidge Credit: BBC Alan Partridge: Why, When, Where, How and Whom? BBC Two, 9.00pm Unfortunately, there were no previews available for this palate-cleansing documentary ahead of Alan Partridge’s return to the BBC for a new series next year, which co-creator Steve Coogan promises will include the sometime Radio Norwich presenter’s take on that most contentious of topics, Brexit. It’s been 25 years since he and Armando Iannucci created the hapless Partridge, described by Iannucci as “a kind of social X-ray of male middle-aged Middle England”, a bombastic, self-important local presenter with an unwavering belief in the importance of the highway code and “imperial leisurewear”.  Now this documentary attempts to explain why this character, above all others, has touched such a nerve. Among those contributing are Coogan and Iannucci, Patrick Marber, Peter Baynham, Rebecca Front, David Schneider and Doon Mackichan, and we’re also promised unseen archive footage. The real secret to Alan’s lasting appeal is a simple one, however: he’s a fully realised character and a very English monster in the same vein as Basil Fawlty. Even as we laugh at him, we’re moved by his increasing self-awareness. Sarah Hughes Celebrity Mastermind BBC One, 7.00pm Actor Jack Ashton, comedian Rich Hall, Match of the Day commentator Guy Mowbray and poet Pam Ayres join John Humphrys for a new run of the celebrity edition. Among the specialist subjects tonight are Tennessee Williams, Iron Maiden and Ashes Cricket.  Agatha Christie vs Hercule Poirot Sky Arts, 7.30pm Pierre Bayar presents this interesting deconstruction of one of Agatha Christie’s most celebrated novels, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, in which he alleges a miscarriage of justice by Poirot.  Six Robots & Us BBC Two, 8.00pm Psychologist Dr Caroline Jay and robotics specialist Prof Jonathan Rossiter join forces in this fascinating experiment which aims to uncover how helpful the latest innovations in robotics truly are. To find out the team deliver four very different robots to families around the UK.  Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 2017: the language of life BBC Four, 8.00pm Professor Sophie Scott, UCL’s Head of the Speech Communications Group, gives this year’s lecture, looking at silent communication and why our body language and smells can say as much if not more than our words and sounds.   World’s Strongest Man 2017 Channel 5, 8.00pm Channel 5 brings us all the action from the World’s Strongest Man competition in Botswana. All eyes are on the USA’s Brian Shaw, the defending champion, who is hoping to win for a record firth time.  Turtle, Eagle, Cheetah: A Slow Odyssey BBC Four, 9.00pm BBC Four’s latest foray into the enticing world of slow TV is this nature documentary which focuses on the different views of a cheetah on the African savannah, a green turtle in the Indonesia reefs and a white-tailed eagle in Scotland. SH Miranda Does Christmas Channel 4, 9.00pm Like many an institution before her, Miranda Hart has swapped the BBC for Channel 4 on her return to the small screen. Here, Hart hosts a “raucous Christmas party” with guests including David Tennant, Sam Smith and Prue Leith. SH The Red Shoes (1948) ★★★★★ BBC Two, 12.10pm Powell and Pressburger’s seminal musical tragedy is one of cinema’s great wonders. It’s about a talented ballet dancer (Moira Shearer), her romance with a struggling composer (Marius Goring) and her loyalty to the ballet that he wrote and in which she is meant to star. The film’s theme of the pre-eminent call of creative passion is thought to be an allegory for P & P’s devotion to their craft. Big Hero 6 (2014) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 4.10pm This Disney animation is an East-meets-West adventure with buckets of heart and soul – and quite possibly Disney at its adorable, huggable, and most visually extravagant best. Hiro Hamada, a 14-year-old orphan living in the city of San Fransokyo, befriends Baymax, a 10-foot-tall, bright, white inflatable robot invented by his elder brother, who’s killed in a mysterious fire at his laboratory. Scrooged (1988) ★★★★☆ Film4, 4.35pm 9+Bill Murray plays a mean-spirited network TV president who sees the light after he experiences ghostly visitations – including Carol Kane as a happy-slapping fairy in a tutu – in this droll comic update of Dickens’s tale. Murray is on deadpan, cynical form (“Have you tried staples?”) and Robert Mitchum contributes a priceless cameo as a fellow executive with plans to produce TV shows for cats and dogs. Oasis: Supersonic (2016) ★★★☆☆ BBC Two, 10.00pm Oasis’s glory-days documentary indulges Noel and Liam Gallagher’s bad behaviour. Mat Whitecross’s film starts and ends with the pair of dates when Oasis debatably peaked, at Knebworth in 1996, and goes to excessive length to detail stories of their excess. Few rock stars, in fairness, have a habit of being so amusingly and brutally honest about their failings, and Whitecross is content to let them have the last word. Thursday 28 December David Attenborough Credit: BBC Attenborough and the Empire of the Ants BBC Two, 9.30pm Back on dry land after Blue Planet II, David Attenborough travels to the Jura Mountains on the Swiss-French border to investigate the methods used by two different communities of wood ants to survive and thrive. One adopts a familiar strategy of territorial aggression, with a family dominated by a single queen and chemical warfare on rival communities conducted with liberal distribution of formic acid. The other appears to defy the rules of evolution as they are currently understood, forming a supercolony consisting of several communities cooperating for the greater good in a manner reminiscent of early man’s first steps to eventual supremacy. Queens, sentries and workers labour alongside each other in a manner which sounds far-fetched, but the cameras capture this extraordinary behaviour in mesmerising detail, from hunting to breeding to self-preservation.  The now-customary behind-the-scenes postscript sees Attenborough almost as amazed by the new technology that allows such access to nature (in this case, the “FrankenCam”) as by nature itself. It’s not Blue Planet II, but it’s the sort of fascinating deeper dive that Natural World does so well. Gabriel Tate Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 2017: The Language OF life BBC Four, 8.00pm Sophie Scott brings her series of lectures to an close with an examination of language and comprehension in the animal kingdom. Are we humans really as far advanced as we believe, or might primates and even birds be able to communicate with comparable sophistication? The Secret Life of 5 Year Olds On Holiday Channel 4, 8.30pm Familiar faces from the most recent series head to Cyprus to enjoy flying, swimming and local delicacies, while the professionals watch on and deliver their analyses of childhood behaviour. What Britain Bought in 2017 Channel 4, 9.00pm Mary Portas assesses whether this year has been as dismal as expected for high-street retailers, and examines a few unlikely trends: unicorns, gin and, she suggests, big knickers. Clint Eastwood: a Life in Film Sky Arts, 9.00pm Whether you love or loathe his hardline politics, few would dispute the astonishing consistency of Clint Eastwood’s work. For such a prolific actor and director, there are few duds on his CV and plenty of masterpieces, from Unforgiven to Once Upon a Time in the West. Made in 2007, the year of his ambitious wartime diptych Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima, this excellent programme finds Eastwood in good-humoured form as he talks Michael Henry Wilson through his 50-year career. GT Bruno Mars: Live in Harlem BBC One, 10.25pm; NI, 11.25pm Harlem’s Apollo Theatre launched the careers of James Brown, Ella Fitzgerald and Lauryn Hill, among many others. Bruno Mars pays tribute to the building’s history and rolls out the hits – Uptown Funk, Just the Way You Are et al – along with some dazzling choreography for a hard partying crowd. Romesh Ranganathan: Irrational Live BBC Two, 10.30pm Perhaps rivalled only by Katherine Ryan for small-screen ubiquity this year, Romesh Ranganathan has proved himself an accomplished stand-up comedian. This special, recorded at London’s Hammersmith Apollo in 2016, captures the comedian’s jaundiced but very funny musings on family life. GT The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! (2012) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 9.00am This claymation Aardman romp is a delight. The impasto of non-stop gags, comic detail and slapstick action should appeal to all the family. Hugh Grant plays the Pirate Captain, who needs more booty if he is to stand a chance of winning the title of Pirate of the Year. The plot takes in Darwin, the last dodo and Queen Victoria (voiced by Imelda Staunton). Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 (2017) ★★★★☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 11.00am and 8.00pm Marvel’s playful space sequel looks like an explosion in a nursery school craft cupboard – every scene comes caked in rainbows, glitter and gunge. The core crew returns, led by Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), but the story only really begins with the arrival of a benign and bearded mystic called Ego (Kurt Russell), who has big news for Peter about his earthly origins. Flight (2012) ★★★☆☆ Channel 5, 9.00pm Robert Zemeckis’s film, starring Denzel Washington as alcoholic commercial pilot Whip Whitaker, is a long, earnest, sporadically brilliant drama. On a routine hop from Florida to Atlanta, Whip’s plane starts to tumble out of the sky – a dramatic sequence that will turn nervous fliers’ stomachs – and the pilot must fight to save the lives of those on board. Dull in parts, this is nevertheless morally provocative. Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (2013) ★★★☆☆ BBC Two, 11.30pm Films based on sitcoms tend to play broader than the real series, and this cinema outing for Steve Coogan’s fading media gasbag is no exception. The plot has Alan held hostage at a radio station in Norfolk. Old friends, such as his assistant Lynn (Felicity Montagu), join in and viewers hoping for new catchphrases will be happy, but Partridge loses his Pooterish potency when moving from talk to action. Friday 29 December Bob Mortimer and Vic Reeves Credit: BBC Vic & Bob’s Big Night Out BBC Two, 9.00pm Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer return for this one-off Christmas edition of their sketch show, 27 years after it first aired as Vic Reeves Big Night Out. Fans will be pleased to hear that age has not dimmed the comedians’ energy – in this half-hour they bounce around the studio in the same vein as their younger selves, which gives the show a rapid-fire pace.  The pair’s chemistry is undeniable and they frequently make each other laugh, as well as a raucous studio audience. There is a sense that Reeves and Mortimer are now improvising much of their material, which may explain why some of the jokes here are a touch below par. But many of the sketches are excellent, such as their parody of Channel 4 dating show First Dates, in which they play jokey gay Yorkshiremen. In another, Vic sells wigs made of body parts.  Nostalgia comes in the form of a cameo from Matt Lucas, forever associated with his George Dawes character in Shooting Stars, and the revival of character Graham Lister (played by Bob) in the talent show parody sketch Novelty Island. This brief return reminds us that, with their corny jokes and surreal sense of humour, there’s nobody quite like Vic and Bob. Vicki Power Tim Vine Travels Through Time Christmas Special BBC One, 7.30pm Prepare for a barrage of seasonal puns as Tim Vine’s comedy show returns. Emma Bunton and Reverend Richard Coles join Vine on a jaunt to Tudor times. Eric & Ernie’s Home Movies BBC Two, 8.00pm Those ghosts of Christmas past, Morecambe and Wise, are revisited in this charming documentary showcasing the double act via some newly discovered home movies. Look out also for a repeat of Morecambe & Wise: Leading Ladies (BBC Two, 7.00pm) and Eric, Ernie & Me (BBC Four, 9.00pm), a drama exploring their relationship with writer Eddie Braben. Victoria Wood by her friends Channel 5, 9.00pm This tribute to the late comedian covers much the same ground, and includes some identical contributors, as BBC One’s Our Friend Victoria, but it’s still a treat to be reminded of Wood’s talents. Her 1997 stand-up show, Victoria Wood: Live 1997, follows.   Delicious Sky One, 9.00pm Sky dishes up a second series of this frothy Cornwall-set drama. Chef Gina (Dawn French) has now joined forces with Sam (Emilia Fox) to run the Penrose Hotel, as the man that they were both once married to, Leo (Iain Glen), narrates from beyond the grave. But it turns out tensions haven’t died with him, and their spats bring a pinch of spice to the drama. Tonight, Franco Nero arrives as Gina’s ne’er-do-well father to stir up trouble. Frankie Boyle’s 2017 New Year World Order BBC Two, 10.00pm; not NI This year’s absence of Charlie Brooker’s Wipe is mitigated somewhat by Frankie Boyle’s return for this end-of-year round-up. And certainly somebody needs to help make sense of this crazy year. VP Elvis: The Rebirth of the King BBC Four, 10.00pm This compelling film seeks to overturn the enduring image of Elvis Presley’s Vegas years as a tragic nadir of his career. It argues that Presley’s musical renaissance in a 1968 Christmas TV special saw the King reach new creative heights that he carried into his Vegas shows, before disillusionment and drugs took over. Fantastic archive footage and commentary from his former collaborators, including Elvis’s backing singers, make a convincing case. VP Up (2009) ★★★★★ BBC One, 2.25pm Possibly Pixar’s finest film, Up has a captivating story that realises the vividness of a childlike imagination. Only those with a heart of stone wouldn’t be moved by the story of Ed Asner (voiced by Carl Fredricksen), who tries to fulfil his dream of building a house next to Paradise Falls in South America. His odyssey brings him more than he bargained for, including a young, hyperactive Wilderness Explorer called Russell. Brave (2012) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 4.20pm The first of Pixar’s films to have a female protagonist won an Oscar and there’s a bewitching craftsmanship to its storytelling. It’s set in the Highlands during the feudal period. Kelly MacDonald plays the flame-haired Merida, who would rather ride her horse than play the role of simpering princess; unable to sway her mother (Emma Thompson), she seeks the help of a witch (Julie Walters). Gone Girl (2014) ★★★☆☆ BBC One, 9.15pm; N Ireland, 9.45pm Cold and controlled, yet fun, this drama, directed by David Fincher, is based on Gillian Flynn’s novel of the same name. Rosamund Pike is Amy Elliott-Dunne, who disappears one morning, much to the apparent surprise of her husband (Ben Affleck). The media sniff around and soon the couple’s secrets come to the surface. Darkly suspenseful at first, the story soon turns into blood-drenched self-parody. The Great Gatsby (2013) ★★★☆☆ BBC Two, 11.15pm Baz Luhrmann lays on a cinematic buffet of such sense-addling brazenness that it takes a while before you notice the film is finger-food and nothing more. Leonardo DiCaprio is Jay Gatsby, a newly minted millionaire, and Carey Mulligan is Daisy Buchanan, the lost love he longs to win back. On the rare occasions Luhrmann gives them space to act in the pulsating frenzy of his Jazz Age world, both do a wonderful job. Television previewers Toby Dantzic, Catherine Gee, Simon Horsford, Sarah Hughes, Clive Morgan, Gerard O'Donovan, Vicki Power, Patrick Smith, Gabriel Tate and Rachel Ward

What's on TV tonight: The League of Gentlemen returns and Mary Berry’s Christmas Party

Monday 18 December The League of Gentlemen BBC Two, 10.00pm This is undoubtedly one of the highlights of the festive season for comedy fans. The influential freak show sitcom set in the blighted fictional town of Royston Vasey returns for a three-part run to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its award-winning debut on Radio 4 (the transfer to TV didn’t occur until 1999).  Reviving once-popular comedy is a risky business – just look at the recent Porridge fiasco – but Mark Gatiss, Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton have gone on to bigger, if not always better, things in the intervening years and they return here as if they were never away. Still performing all the major characters on screen (with the group’s fourth member, Jeremy Dyson, sharing the writing duties) they update the stories and characters without losing the demonic humour of the original.  Most of the best characters make a reappearance – Tubbs and Edward, Barbra the trans taxi driver, Herr Lipp, Pauline Campbell-Jones and Mr Chinnery the vet – as Royston Vasey faces its greatest existential threat. Val Denton, meanwhile, sets the tone decisivelyin an opening scene memorable for all the wrong reasons. Gerard O’Donovan Father Brown BBC One, 1.45pm Mark Williams returns for a sixth series as GK Chesterton’s crime-fighting Catholic priest. It’s Christmas in Kembleford but when a dog makes a gruesome discovery in the woods, Father Brown sets out to reverse a terrible miscarriage of justice. Mary Berry’s Christmas Party BBC One, 8.30pm Tips, recipes and full-on merriment as the BBC’s queen of baking invites a handful of famous faces round for a Christmas party cook-in: Alex Jones shows off her rissoles, Darcey Bussell crafts a dance-inspired dessert, while Adil Ray handles the canapés. Plus there’s ginger glazed ham, white chocolate cherry brandy cake, and much more. The Art That Made Mexico: Paradise, Power and Prayers BBC Four, 9.00pm Artist Alinka Echeverria concludes her series by exploring the influence of faith on Mexican culture and how the conquistadors’ Catholic notions of venerating the divine through art found fertile ground thanks to earlier Mayan beliefs. Birds of a Feather Christmas special ITV, 9.00pm Marks and Gran’s long-running sitcom creaks back for another festive special, with Tracey’s (Linda Robson) Yuletide plans upsetting both Sharon (Pauline Quirke) and Dorien (Lesley Joseph). Abba: When All Is Said and Done Channel 5, 9.00pm An Abba double whammy starts with this docudrama exploring the very different stories of the Swedish supergroup’s singers Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad through their own words. Abba: Live in Concert follows at 11.05pm, recorded at the group’s peak in 1979. GO Andre Rieu: Christmas In London 2016 Sky Arts, 9.00pm Rieu entertains with everything festive from Jingle Bells to White Christmas and O Holy Night, bringing his infectious blend of glitter, frills and massed violin strings to boost the seasonal mood. Private Lives of The Monarchs Yesterday, 9.00pm There’s more to Henry VIII than the image of a roistering glutton whose obsession with siring a male heir led to England’s break with Catholicism. So says historian Tracy Borman, painting a picture of a thoughtful young king driven to tyranny by personal demons. GO Carry On Cleo (1964) ★★★☆☆ Channel 4, 12.20pm “Infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it in for me!” So says Kenneth Williams’s waspish Caesar in this, one of the best in the long-running series of cheap and cheerful comedies. Set in ancient Rome, it’s hardly Shakespeare but at least the gags come thick and fast. Watch out for an early appearance from Coronation Street’s Amanda Barrie as a doe-eyed Cleopatra, up to her ears in ass’s milk and political intrigue. First Blood (1982) ★★★★☆ ITV4, 9.00pm Based on David Morrell’s novel, this is the first and best of the Rambo action-movie franchise – it’s more sensitive than the sequels. Sylvester Stallone has become synonymous with Rambo, a maladjusted ex-Green Beret who, after having some Vietnam flashbacks, goes on a one-man war against a crooked small-town sheriff (Brian Dennehy). It’s pacy and raw with a moving climax. Part II is on Tuesday. The Woman in Black (2012) ★★★★☆ Channel 4, 12.10am Thanks to its almost hyper-Edwardian setting and some canny plot alterations, this feels less like a remake of Susan Hill’s ghost story than a new reading of an old tale, trembling with freshly terrifying resonances. Daniel Radcliffe gives a grown-up performance, while director James Watkins uses shadows and empty spaces to create a percolating sense of dread. Tuesday 19 December Faye Marsey as Sarah Credit: Channel 4 Shamed Channel 4, 9.00pm It’s not the most Christmassy of fare but Anthony Philipson’s (My Mad Fat Diary) dark, theatrical one-off drama is worth checking out. Featuring an intense central performance from Faye Marsay (who seems to be everywhere right now, with Bancroft last week and the BBC thriller McMafia to come), Shamed tells the story of 27-year-old Sarah, who suddenly decides to kidnap and imprison two apparently unconnected men: the seemingly perfect just-about-to-get-married Nathan (Nick Blood) and cocky player Mani (Ryan McKen). Both claim never to have met each other or Sarah before. However there’s a method behind her madness, and one which, when revealed, opens up wider questions about how different events can resonate in different ways. Philipson’s tight script keeps you guessing about the connection until near the end before spilling out into violence and debates about the difference between guilt and shame.  It’s not perfect – Mani is underwritten and the rushed ending is a little forced – but Shamed makes some thoughtful points about our attitudes toward sex and the way in which certain people can stride through life without acknowledging the damage they trail behind. Sarah Hughes The Royal Variety Performance 2017 ITV, 7.30pm Miranda Hart hosts this year’s Royal Variety Performance, attended by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, with guests ranging from the obvious (Michael Ball, Alfie Boe) to the incongruous (Kelsey Grammer, Seal). Jamie’s Italian Christmas Channel 4, 8.00pm Another week, another Christmas cookery show. Our chef tonight is the ubiquitous Jamie Oliver who has holed up in a log cabin with his mentor Gennaro Contaldo and hopes to teach us to give the traditional British Christmas an Italian twist. U2 at the BBC BBC One, 9.00pm The Irish band continue their quest for world domination with this film centred on new album Songs of Experience. The action takes place at Abbey Road Studios, where they perform some of their biggest hits and squeeze in a quick chat with Cat Deeley.    Invasion! With Sam Willis BBC Four, 9.00pm The final part of this engaging series sees historian Sam Willis examine one of the more unusual military ideas in history: Napoleon’s plan to use a fleet of balloons as part of his invasion plans during the War of the Third Coalition. The French first crossed the English Channel by hot air balloon in 1785 and Napoleon appointed aeronaut Sophie Blanchard as air service chief to carry out the idea. The plans ultimately came to nothing, but that didn’t stop stories and caricatures of balloons carrying arms, men and even horses spreading through the media.  The First Silent Night Yesterday, 9.00pm The mournful Silent Night is one of the world’s most beloved carols, and was declared an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2011. This film follows actor Simon Callow as he heads to the Austrian village of Oberndorf to uncover its origins before considering why this carol above all others resonates so strongly. SH Extraordinary Teens: Young, Gifted and Broke Channel 4, 10.00pm Pianist and composer Shane Thomas hit the headlines aged only 10 when his precocious talent saw him hailed as the British Mozart. Seven years later his career has stalled. What emerges is a depressing but well-told story of ambition tampered by poverty and a system in which privilege and connections count as much, if not more than raw talent. SH Sword of Sherwood Forest (1960) ★★★☆☆ Film4, 5.05pm Terence Fisher teamed up with Hammer Films for this child-friendly spin-off from The Adventures of Robin Hood TV series, with Richard Greene, who reprises his role here. Peter Cushing stars as the dastardly Sheriff of Nottingham out to murder the Archbishop of Canterbury. It’s a cheap and cheerful affair that remains true to the spirit of the original. Smurfs: The Lost Village (2017) ★★☆☆☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 6.15pm The third of the big-screen outings for The Smurfs is a trippy treat for under-eights, for everyone else the blues. This Smurfs contains double the number of Smurfs ever previously seen, thanks to the discovery of an all-female enclave somewhere deep in the woods. Demi Lovato, Mandy Patinkin, Michelle Rodriguez and Julia Roberts are among those lending their voices. Carol (2015) ★★★★★ Film4, 9.00pm Todd Haynes’s adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 novel is gorgeous, gently groundbreaking, and quite possibly be the saddest thing that you’ll ever see. It tells the story of a photographer (Rooney Mara) who has a relationship with an older woman (Cate Blanchett) in New York. Haynes’ film concludes that love is the riskiest but most necessary gamble. Wednesday 20 December Dame Judi Dench Credit: BBC Judi Dench: My Passion for Trees BBC One, 8.00pm When this one-off documentary was announced, some predictably invoked Alan Partridge’s hapless pitch of Youth Hostelling with Chris Eubank. Certainly, it’s hard to imagine many other celebrities managing to get this made, and even harder to imagine any who could have made it so watchable. A look of astonished delight is plastered over Dame Judi’s face throughout the hour, as she makes all manner of unexpected discoveries about the trees that she loves. There is also a rare peek into her personal life and relationship with her “chap”, David Mills. This may lack the forensic camerawork and high-spec CGI of most BBC nature documentaries, but there are rewarding revelations amid the occasional dose of Botany 101. “I think of my trees as part of my extended family,” says Dench – not the absurd piece of sentimentality you might suspect, as she plants a tree in her back garden for each friend or relative who has died. And trees, it transpires, are also remarkably sociable in their way, an arboreal community connected by spidery threads of fungus and able to call for help if under attack by aphids. Charming and subtly educational. Gabriel Tate What Makes You Tic? BBC Three, from 10.00am Vlogger Lewis “QBall” Nickell aims to conquer his Tourette’s Syndrome and launch a career as a talk-show host, meeting The Vamps and Girls Aloud alumna Nadine Coyle as part of his efforts to raise awareness. Carabao Cup: Bristol City v Manchester United Sky Sports Main Event, 7.30pm We’re at Ashton Gate for this quarter-final clash, as the Robins look to produce and upset against holders Manchester United. The hosts have already claimed two Premier League scalps in Watford and Stoke City, but United are clear favourites here.  The Real Marigold on Tour BBC One, 9.00pm When you see the lives the Marigold pensioners are leading who wouldn’t be envious? This week, Sheila Ferguson, Rustie Lee, Paul Nicholas and Dennis Taylor head to Iceland. There, they go whale watching in the fishing village of Hausavik, and try aqua aerobics and gymnastics in Reykjavik. Elsewhere, Sheila goes on a date with an Icelandic man. Peaky Blinders BBC Two, 9.00pm Perhaps the best series yet comes to a punishing climax with the night of the big fight and yet another reckoning for the Shelbys, this time courtesy of Changretta (Adrien Brody) and once-trusted allies. A Night for the Emergency Services ITV, 9.00pm Presenting a sort of 999’s Got Talent, Ashley Banjo and Diversity introduce a showcase for the firefighters, police and hospital workers who demonstrate skills far beyond their professional capabilities. These include magicians, dancers and a Michael Bublé impersonator, along with appearances from a few special guests. Taskmaster Champion of Champions  Dave, 9.00pm One of the funniest series on TV comes to a spectacular climax as the ultimate Taskmaster champion is crowned, with previous winners Josh Widdicombe, Katherine Ryan, Noel Fielding, Rob Beckett and Bob Mortimer all in the running. Dian Fossey: Secrets in the Mist  National Geographic, 9.00pm After a lifetime of conservation work and, campaigning against poaching, primatologist Dian Fossey was killed in her Rwandan cabin in 1985 – a crime that remains unsolved. The final part of this gripping series examines possible motives. GT Male Rape: Breaking the Silence BBC One, 10.45pm; Scot & Wales, 11.10pm; NI, 11.40pm First shown on BBC Three, this grim but necessary film hears from three men who are among the estimated one-in-six to have been victims of rape. GT Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) ★★★★★ BBC One, 1.45pm Steven Spielberg’s rollicking adventure film, with a very scary end, won four Oscars and created a new action hero in Dr Henry “Indiana” Jones (Harrison Ford). Jones is an archaeologist hired by the US government in 1936 to seek out the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis find it. The ensuing events provide a rollercoaster of thrills. The Temple of Doom and The Last Crusade follow over the next two night. Chicken Run (2000) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 3.35pm Aardman Animations, the studio behind many of Nick Park’s triumphs, conjures up another stop-motion corker that fairly swarms with clever little jokes and details. Our heroes here are a group of jauntily anthropomorphic chickens; they’re plotting their escape to freedom from the tyrannical Mr and Mrs Tweedy, who run the farm on which they live. The voice cast boasts Julia Sawalha, Jane Horrocks and Mel Gibson. The Phantom of the Opera (2004) ★★★☆☆ Sky Arts, 9.00pm Impressed by his use of music in The Lost Boys, Andrew Lloyd Webber hired director Joel Schumacher to bring his hit musical, the longest-running Broadway show in history, about a disfigured genius who lives hidden in the Paris Opera House and who develops a crush on a chorus girl, to the big screen. The score has all the faux-gothic pomp required, but Gerard Butler’s Phantom fails to spook. Thursday 21 December Darcey Bussell Credit: BBC Darcey Bussell: Looking for Fred Astaire BBC One, 10.45pm One dance star explores another in this unpretentious profile of Fred Astaire. Darcey Bussell traces Astaire’s journey from his hometown in Nebraska to New York, London and Los Angeles to examine his ascent to film stardom, achieved after nearly three decades as a professional dancer. She puts forward that he owed much of his success to three women – his mother, his sister and dancing partner Adele, and his first wife Phyllis – but wisely doesn’t labour the point.  Bussell peruses memorabilia and film footage – there’s a delightful clip of Astaire dancing with his long-time collaborator, Hermes Pan – and discusses with historians Astaire’s early life, work ethic and personality clash with Ginger Rogers. The commentary doesn’t uncover much that an Astaire fan wouldn’t already know, but Bussell is an enthusiastic guide and the clips are terrific. Strictly professionals Aljaz Skorjanec and Janette Manrara are touring a successful stage show called Remembering Fred – this film also reminds us of Astaire’s immeasurable contribution to dance, though it wouldn’t harm for it to air at an hour more suited to the ballroom dance-loving demographic. Vicki Power MasterChef: The Professionals: The Finals BBC Two, 8.00pm It’s ladles at dawn for the three finalists as they tackle their last challenge. They’ll cook a three-course meal in three hours for the formidable judging trio of Wareing, Galetti and Wallace, who’ll then choose their champ. Joanna & Jennifer: Absolutely Champers BBC Two, 9.00pm On the flimsy premise of celebrating 25 years since the birth of Absolutely Fabulous, Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley take a fizz-fuelled jolly to France to tour vineyards. They neck vats of bubbly in a travelogue as meandering as Patsy’s gait after an evening spent swigging Bolly. Gordon, Gino and Fred’s Great Christmas Roast ITV, 9.00pm It’s Celtic vigour versus Italian passion in this feelgood cookery special. TV chefs Gordon Ramsay and Gino D’Acampo compete, with a team of celebrity helpers, to create the best Christmas banquet for 100 emergency services workers. First Dates’ maître d’ Fred Sirieux presents. Donny Osmond’s Easy Listening Christmas Channel 5, 9.00pm This Val Doonican-style one-off sees Donny Osmond counting down his 25 favourite festive songs, exploring their geneses and comparing classic renditions to cover versions. VP The Tunnel: Vengeance Sky Atlantic, 9.00pm The symbiosis between Anglo-French cop partners Karl and Elise (Stephen Dillane and Clémence Poésy) in this murder mystery shows us a cheering flipside to Brexit. Their touching, humorous relationship is affecting, even if the series overall lacks the Scandinavian-style eeriness of The Bridge, on which it’s based. Here, the cross-channel cops make a breakthrough in the search for the missing children. The Galaxy Britain Built: Droids, Darth Vader and Lightsaber/Hollywood’s Master of Myth BBC Four, 10.00pm and 11.00pm In celebration of the release of The Last Jedi, these documentaries look at the ingredients that helped shape the Star Wars phenomenon. The first focuses on the film crew who created George Lucas’s fictional galaxy. The second, from 1999, explores the work of US academic Joseph Campbell, whom Lucas has credited with inspiring his plot. VP The Dark Crystal (1982) ★★★☆☆ Film4, 1.05pm Muppets creator Jim Henson stepped out from the comfort of children’s TV to make this dark fantasy tale about a pair of creatures who must find a missing shard of crystal in order to defeat the evil Skeksis. The superbly designed puppets and sets add a surreal quality but it lacks the sense of humour which made Labyrinth, Henson’s next cinema release, so popular. Frank Oz, fellow puppeteer and the voice of Yoda, co-directs. Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 3.35pm Nick Park’s plucky Plasticine pair set about rescuing a village whose annual vegetable competition is in jeopardy because of rabbits eating up the contents of everyone’s gardens. But their bunny brainwashing goes wrong and they accidentally create a mutant rabbit. Beautifully shot, charming, and very silly, it deservedly won the Oscar for Best Animation. Candyman (1992) ★★★★☆ Film4, 11.15pm Virginia Madsen does powerhouse work as a student of folklore lured into fascination with a hook-handed killer who appears when you say his name five times in front of a mirror. She ignores all warnings but is soon blamed for his crimes when a series of horrible murders begin. Majestic direction from Bernard Rose transforms this into a resoundingly epic and gory fable. Friday 22 December Bruno Tonioli  Credit: BBC Saturday Night Fever: The Ultimate Disco Movie BBC Two, 9.00pm Long before he became a household name as a Strictly Come Dancing judge, Bruno Tonioli had a successful career as a choreographer to the stars, arranging dance for music videos, stage shows and tours for Tina Turner, Sting, Elton John and many others. Here he looks back 40 years to when he was a young dancer in New York and got caught up in the global phenomenon that was Saturday Night Fever.  It’s a great story, told with typical Tonioli verve, of how a low-budget film starring the then unknown John Travolta and using the music of a failing band of high-pitched popsters, the Bee Gees, became one of the biggest box office draws of all time and gave half the world “disco fever”. It also shows how – to give credit where it is due – much of its success was down to the visionary genius and unstoppable determination of the Bee Gees’ manager, the late Robert Stigwood, impresario behind some of the most popular stars, and hit stage and film musicals (Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, Grease, Bugsy Malone) of the Seventies. Contributors include Travolta. Gerard O’Donovan The Toys That Made Us Netflix, from today Toys of the Eighties are the focus of this series taking an in-depth look at the nostalgia and collecting fervour that surrounds eight of the biggest selling toy brands of that decade: Transformers, Stars Wars, He-Man, GI Joe, Barbie, Star Trek, Hello Kitty and Lego. Premier League Football: Arsenal v Liverpool Sky Sports Main Event, 7.00pm Action from the Emirates Stadium, as Arsenal  look to avenge a 4-0 defeat in August, when Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, Mo Salah and Daniel Sturridge all found the net for Liverpool. TOTP4 Christmas 2017 BBC Four, 7.30pm Get into the Christmas party spirit with Mark Radcliffe’s countdown of classic festive hits from Top of the Pops’s glitter-spattered archive, with The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl, Wizzard, Slade, The Darkness and Ed Sheeran among the acts featured. Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast Christmas Special Channel 4, 8.00pm Jamie Oliver and Jimmy Doherty welcome actress Liv Tyler to the pier café to make her favourite takeaway, pork dim sum. Oliver also whips up a cracking kedgeree, and Doherty builds a home-made wood-fired oven. Al Murray’s Make Christmas Great Again ITV, 9.00pm Al Murray’s gloriously unreconstructed pub landlord invites an audience to a lock-in at the Reindeer’s Head where he bends ears on such matters as how Christmas is losing its Britishness while whipping up anti-PC seasonal singalongs and remonstrating with celebrity guests. George Michael to Tom Petty: a Tribute Sky Arts, 9.00pm Chuck Berry, Fats Domino and David Cassidy are just some of the musicians and performers who, along with George Michael and Tom Petty, we lost in the past 12 months – as affectionately remembered in this 90-minute tribute. GO Les Dawson: In His Own Words Channel 5, 10.00pm Comedians didn’t come more old school than Les Dawson, with his bluff Northern style, rubber face and mother-in-law jokes. But he was one of the most original comedians of his generation, as proved by this terrific documentary that raids the archives for his funniest work. The Graham Norton Show BBC One, 10.40pm Grahm Norton’s line-up offers a good mix of interest: Hollywood star Will Smith, Victoria’s Jenna Coleman, chef Jamie Oliver and former Keane frontman Tom Chaplin. GO Bright (2017) Netflix, from today This Netflix Original – a $100 million special-effects blockbuster from David Ayer, director of Suicide Squad – sounds like a mash-up of Lethal Weapon and Lord of the Rings. In an alternate Los Angeles where elves and witches walk the streets, Will Smith’s tough NYPD officer finds himself partnered with an orc (Joel Edgerton). Considering its hefty price tag and star-studded soundtrack (Migos, Rag’n’Bone Man, Camila Cabello), this could be Netflix’s biggest mistake yet Puss in Boots (2011) ★★☆☆☆ BBC One, 3.40pm DreamWorks Animation’s Shrek spin-off follows Puss in Boots’s life before he became the green ogre’s sidekick. With the help of Kitty Softpaws (voiced by Salma Hayek) and Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis), the swashbuckling feline (Antonio Banderas) becomes a hero after saving his town. Like the CGI ogre’s last two films, Shrek the Third and Shrek Forever After, the animation is more impressive than the jokes. Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001) ★★★★☆ ITV, 10.40pm American actress Renée Zellweger perfects her English accent to play the Chardonnay-swigging, chain-smoking, lovelorn Bridget in this adaptation of Helen Fielding’s novel, which remains a solid favourite. Love interests Hugh Grant and Colin Firth are excellent as her roguish boss Daniel Cleaver and the stuffy-but-handsome (even in a Christmas jumper) lawyer Mark Darcy. Saturday 23 December A Christmas Tree in Manger Square, Bethlehem Credit: Channel 4 The World’s Best Christmas Lights: From Liverpool to Bethlehem Channel 4, 8.00pm It is amazing what you can build a successful, multi-million-pound, internationally renowned business from. Liverpool-based company The Christmas Decorators specialise in the commercial design and installation of large-scale Christmas lights and decorations – the kind you see in every shop, street and town square. This entertaining film, one of the more offbeat of the season, follows a rather surprising commission: to install the lights and decorations at what many might consider the birthplace of Christmas – Manger Square in Bethlehem. In fact, they’ve been doing it every year since 2012, bringing every single bulb and bauble with them from their warehouse in the UK.  It’s a huge logistical effort, which is also a possibly tricky one, if customs or security in, say, Istanbul take exception to the Bethlehem-bound consignment as it passes through. Director of operations GED Comerford leads the four-person installation team on the trek from Liverpool. It’s fraught with hitches and glitches – even a home-baked Christmas cake is regarded with suspicion by local security – but all the more entertaining for that. Gerard O’Donovan Smashie’s Xmastastic Playlist Christmas Gold, 4.00pm Getting the Christmas party off to an early start from his fab-tastic hideaway at Radio Hush, The Fast Show’s Mike Smash (Paul Whitehouse) brings his off-kilter pop-DJ insights to an hour of festive hits from Wizzard to Johnny Mathis via McCartney, Dylan and Springsteen.  Elf: The Musical Channel 5, 5.00pm There’s seasonal song, dance and fun in the stage musical version of Will Ferrell’s much-loved comedy from the Lowry Theatre in Salford. Ben Forster, who won ITV’s Superstar talent search in 2012, leads the cast as Buddy, a human orphan who was raised by Santa’s elves in the North Pole and returns to New York in search of his family. Michael Buble’s Christmas in New York Sky Arts, 5.00pm At the Radio City Music Hall the crooner sings a selection of seasonal classics, along with a sparkling line-up of special guests including Barbra Streisand, Ariana Grande and The Muppets’ Miss Piggy. It is repeated on Sky One at 12.15am. Pointless Celebrities Christmas Special BBC One, 6.15pm Some of the contestants in this festive edition of the quiz could themselves be pointless answers in a round on Christmas hits. Jona Lewie, Jimmy Osmond and Ben Haenow are among those answering Alexander Armstrong questions. Blind Date Christmas Special Channel 5, 8.00pm There’s a fairy-tale spin to this edition of Paul O’Grady’s matchmaking show, as a Prince Charming has to choose between fellow panto actors Cinderella, Snow White and Tinkerbell. It’s Christmas Live from the Royal Albert Hall Sky One, 8.00pm The Royal Albert Hall is transformed to a rock ’n’ roll winter wonderland as Jason Manford introduces performances by Holly Johnson, Marc Almond, Chrissie Hynde and Shakin’ Stevens, among many others. GO Feud: Bette and Joan BBC Two, from 9.00pm; NI, from 9.30pm Ryan Murphy’s stylish and scathingly catty dramatisation of the Hollywood feud between Bette Davis (Susan Sarandon) and Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange) reaches the moment that the actresses’ mutual loathing went off the scale – while working on the 1962 classic What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (which follows). GO Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001) ★★★☆☆ ITV, 1.35pm  From today to New Year’s Day, ITV are screening all of the Harry Potter films – one film a day, except on Boxing Day. This first adaptation of J K Rowling’s novel was, for a while, the second highest-grossing film ever. Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint are endearing (and very young) in the lead roles but the film lacks the original book’s compulsiveness. Frozen (2013) ★★★★★ BBC One, 2.50pm Disney’s 53rd feature is an enchanting combination of fairy-tale derring-do and heart-popping musical numbers that has left children and adults powerless to its charms. Elsa (Idina Menzel) is a shy princess driven into exile when her magical powers are discovered. Her sister Anna (Kristen Bell) gallops off to fetch her from her beautiful ice palace. Spin-off Olaf’s Frozen Adventure is on Christmas Day. Bill (2015) ★★★★☆ BBC Two, 6.00pm Intelligent children and immature adults will love this mock-biopic from the Horrible Histories troupe that follows the young William Shakespeare (Mathew Baynton) as he ascends from quill-scraping zero to literary hero. Some of the best moments (a running joke about false moustaches is one) are full-bloodedly Pythonesque, although occasionally a kind of student-revue smarminess creeps in. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962, b/w) ★★★★★ BBC Two, 10.35pm; not N Ireland Robert Aldrich’s classic slice of American Grotesque, starring two of cinema’s greatest screen divas, started a trend for casting ageing actresses in campy Gothic horror movies. Joan Crawford and Bette Davis play reclusive sisters locked in an abusive relationship in their crumbling Hollywood mansion.  Christmas Eve Sue Perkins, Mary Berry and Mel Giedroyc Credit: BBC Mary, Mel and Sue’s Big Christmas Thank You BBC One, 7.00pm Anyone looking for some extra festive cheer should look no further than this exuberant Christmas special which sees former Great British Bake-Off stars Mary Berry, Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc join forces to help out at a community centre in the Rhondda Valley in Wales.  Initially, it seems as though this is one of those rather forced shows in which celebrities dispense good cheer and bad jokes, but an emotional story of community spirit in the face of despair swiftly emerges. “We’ve lost our library, our butchers, both banks have closed and there’s no school,” states Elizabeth “Buffy” Williams. Working with her friend Lynne, Buffy has attempted to combat that by opening a community centre offering meals, bingo and after-school classes. Now they want to throw a special Christmas meal for the whole community but it’s tough: the kitchen is small, money is tight and Lynne freely admits that she hates cooking. Enter the indomitable Mrs Berry, who rolls up her sleeves, corrals Daffyd, a 16-year-old with a GCSE in catering, into becoming her sous chef and helps Lynne tackle her phobia. The final celebration should bring a tear to even the most cynical of eyes. Sarah Hughes Premiership Rugby Union: Leicester Tigers v Saracens BT Sport 1, 2.30pm Below-par this season, Leicester will be hoping a win here at Welford Park against third-placed Saracens will give them fresh momentum going into the new year.  Countryfile BBC One, 6.00pm The team head to the Peak District for this special which sees John Craven exploring Longshaw Estate, Anita Rani experiencing a Nativity play with a difference and Matt Baker venturing into Peak Cavern for a carol concert.  Christmas University Challenge 2017 BBC Two, 8.00pm; Scotland, 5.45pm There’s something addictive about the University Challenge’s specials, possibly because they allow us to see celebrities in a new light. The opener sees a team from Durham University, including actor Nick Mohammed, take on a Keble College side featuring Katy Brand. Child Genius vs Celebrities Christmas Special Channel 4, 8.00pm Richard Osman is our host for this Christmas special, which sees past child geniuses take on, among others, Catastrophe star Rob Delaney and broadcaster Janet Street Porter. Will youth or experience win out?  Michael McIntyre’s Big Christmas Show BBC One, 8.30pm The comedian returns for a festive edition in which Alesha Dixon risks social disaster by handing over her phone in Celebrity Send-to-All, plus there’s stand-up from Bill Bailey and music from Seal.  Maigret in Montmartre ITV, 8.30pm Critics haven’t always been kind to ITV’s reboot of Georges Simenon’s Maigret featuring Rowan Atkinson. Yet there’s actually a lot to like here. Atkinson underplays the role nicely, the plots are serviceable and the whole thing is entertaining if undemanding fare. This episode sees Maigret drawn in to the murder of a showgirl. SH M R James evening BBC Four, from 9.00pm Shut the doors, draw the curtains and prepare to be thoroughly spooked as BBC Four dedicates an evening to ghost writer supreme M R James. First up, long-time James fan Mark Gatiss looks at how this diffident Anglican bachelor created stories that still send a tingle down the spine a century after they were written. It’s followed at 10pm by two adaptations of James’s work: The Tractate Middoth, a chilling story about vengeance from beyond the grave, starring Sacha Dhawan and John Castle, and No 13, featuring Greg Wise as an academic who uncovers more than he bargains for in a small medieval town. Billy Elliot: the Musical Sky Arts, 9.00pm Anyone who hasn’t managed to catch Stephen Daldry’s big-hearted musical take on his film about a miner’s son who just wants to dance can find out what all the fuss is about with this performance from 2014 starring Ruthie Henshall and Elliott Hanna. SH Gone with the Wind (1939) ★★★★★ Channel 5, 9.20am Hollywood’s highest-grossing movie until The Sound of Music in 1966, this was the film for which the word “epic” was invented. Vivien Leigh became a star as Scarlett O’Hara, the spoilt Southern belle whose life is turned upside down by the US Civil War. Clark Gable and Leslie Howard are her lovers. It’s brash and self-indulgent, but frankly we don’t give a damn. The Lego Batman Movie (2017) ★★★★☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 1.25pm and 7.00pm Don’t tell Ben Affleck – who plays Actual Batman – but the actor has been made surplus to requirements by one and a half inches of moulded plastic. Lego Batman’s debut solo feature, spun off from a cameo in The Lego Movie, is frantically and relentlessly funny as a new police commissioner (Rosario Dawson) threatens to make the Caped Crusader redundant. Guys and Dolls (1955) ★★★★☆ BBC Two, 3.20pm The 1955 film adaptation of the Broadway classic holds up rather well. The stellar casting certainly helps: Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra in one film – as the rival New York gamblers (and gangsters) Sky Masterson and Nathan Detroit, who place a bet on compromising the virtue of a pious Salvation Army woman, Sarah Brown (played by Jean Simmons). The musical numbers are still a delight. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) ★★★★★ Channel 4, 6.30pm Tiny Tim is a small green frog, Mrs Cratchit is a bad-tempered pig and Charles Dickens himself is portrayed by Gonzo, enormous blue nose and all. And yet, there are few better, or more affecting versions of A Christmas Carol than this musical adaptation. Michael Caine is ideal as the miserly Scrooge, the laughs are aplenty and the finale is as rousing as they come. Christmas Day Peter Capaldi and David Bradley Credit: BBC Doctor Who BBC One, 5.30pm While it’s not unusual for Doctor Who to begin with a “Previously…”, this one takes things all the way back to William Hartnell’s First Doctor, having faced the Cybermen at the South Pole and refused to regenerate. After necessarily metamorphosing into David Bradley (who played Hartnell in Mark Gatiss’s docudrama An Adventure in Space and Time), he duly encounters Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor, in a similar fix. Throw in Mark Gatiss’s doomed British army captain, transported from the Western Front at the moment of death with stiff upper lip wobbling, a mysterious glass woman (Nikki Amuka-Bird) with the power to freeze time, the return of Bill (Pearl Mackie) and a few other surprises, and you have another of Steven Moffat’s self-imposed riddles to unravel. Given that this is Moffat’s own last stand, and with Jodie Whitaker due to make her bow at the end of the episode, you might anticipate a tsunami of self-indulgence and sentimentality, but no. Capaldi and Mackie’s snappy, affectionate chemistry precludes such easy options, Gatiss is restrained and funny and Moffat’s musing on war and peace is enough to bear the wit and self-referentiality. A dignified farewell. Gabriel Tate The Highway Rat BBC One, 4.45pm Rob Brydon narrates and David Tennant voices the eponymous anti-hero in another enchanting adaptation of a Julia Donaldson/Axel Scheffler picture book, this time depicting the comeuppance for a selfish, swashbuckling rat and his long-suffering steed.. The Royal Opera: Puccini’s La Boheme BBC Four, 7.00pm Clemency Burton-Hill introduces Richard Jones’s production of Puccini’s tale of love and loss among bohemians in 19th-century Paris, conducted by Antonio Pappano and starring tenor Michael Fabiano and soprano Nicole Car as star-crossed lovers Rodolfo and Mimi. Jones’s production has a wintry charm that should see it sit very comfortably in today’s schedules.  Olaf’s Frozen Adventure Sky Cinema Premiere/On Demand, 7.30pm Perhaps better suited to television after a brief run in cinemas that saw parents complaining about it delaying screenings of Coco, this Frozen spin-off finds the cheerful snowman Olaf (voiced by Josh Gad) joining his reindeer, Sven, on a mission for their royal highnesses Elsa (Idina Menzel) and Anna (Kristen Bell) who are desperate to create their own Christmas tradition. Expect four catchy new songs to be ringing around your head. GT  Call the Midwife BBC One, 7.40pm Call the Midwife pulls out all the stops for this astoundingly gloomy affair as a Boxing Day freeze descends, stranding Valerie (Jennifer Kirby) in a caravan for an ad hoc delivery and accounting for a popular old timer with a very dark secret. The Great Christmas bake off Channel 4, 7.40pm Val and Selasi from last year, Paul Jagger (he of 2015’s bread lion) and Welsh Beca, a 2013 semi-finalist, return to compete for Star Baker, introduced and judged by the new Fab Four. There’s more of the same on New Year’s Day. Victoria ITV, 9.00pm The Queen (Jenna Coleman) is pregnant again and missing her governess, leaving Albert (Tom Hughes) in the unlikely role of Christmas merrymaker-in-chief. It’s a festive special by numbers, but affecting and easy on the eye. Ashes Cricket: Australia v England BT Sport 1, 10.30pm It’s been a fraught series, on and off the field, for England, with their players’ professionalism frequently called into question. This signals the start of the fourth Test, played at Melbourne Cricket Ground. Can Joe Root’s beleaguered side salvage some dignity? Or will the Aussies continue to have a field day? 300 Years of French & Saunders BBC One, 10.35pm Unseen footage, much-loved sketches and of course Lulu feature in this one-off, which sees the duo back together on TV for the first time in a decade. The new material is intermittently inspired and vigorously performed, with The Handmaid’s Tale, the Kardashians and Poldark all subjected to their attentions. GT Singin’ in the Rain (1952) ★★★★★ Channel 5, 1.05pm There are few movie scenes more memorable than Gene Kelly’s rain-soaked Singin’ in the Rain sequence, or many more jaw-dropping than Donald O’Connor’s walk up the wall. But more than song and dance, this film contains real satire as it recounts the introduction of the “talkie” and the superficial nature of the US film industry. Debbie Reynolds (who died a year ago, one day after daughter Carrie Fisher) co-stars as the Hollywood ingénue. Cinderella (2015) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 3.10pm Kenneth Branagh’s twinkling, live-action Cinderella sticks doggedly to Disney’s 1950 animated version (Cinders’s rodent companions are present) and favours sparkle over wit. However, Cate Blanchett is marvellous as the Wicked Stepmother and Helena Bonham Carter makes a jolly good Fairy Godmother. Princess-obsessed little girls will find it irresistible and the costumes are stunning. Oliver! (1968) ★★★★☆ Channel 5, 3.10pm Carol Reed, who had previously directed The Third Man, won an Oscar for his superior version of Lionel Bart’s musical of the classic Charles Dickens tale (Reed’s only ever attempt at the musical genre). Eight-year-old Mark Lester is sweet as Oliver Twist but it was Ron Moody as Fagin who received the Oscar nod. Reed’s nephew, another Oliver, is a brooding and brutal Bill Sikes and still has the potential to shock. Dumbo (1941) ★★★★★ Channel 4. 4.30pm It may be one of Disney’s shortest animated films, but it is also one of its most loved. Baby elephant Dumbo is born with unfeasibly large ears, is separated from his mother and becomes ostracised by his fellow circus animals. It is only when Timothy Mouse encourages Dumbo to make the most of his ears that he discovers he can fly. This remains an undisputed masterpiece from Disney’s golden age of animation. Boxing Day Willa Fitzgerald, Kathryn Newton, Maya Hawke and Annes Elwy Credit: BBC Little Women BBC One, 8.00pm One suspects that this beautiful adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s much-loved coming-of-age novel (published in 1868) was due a less prominent airing until the BBC had to shelve its flagship festive Agatha Christie adaptation Ordeal by Innocence due to sexual assault allegations against one of the stars. That seems no great loss now, as this sparkling gem of a drama – scripted by Call the Midwife creator Heidi Thomas – more than deserves a Boxing Day prime-time slot.  Told in three parts, it follows the lives of the March sisters – Jo (Maya Hawke), Meg (Willa Fitzgerald), Beth (Annes Elwy), and Amy (Kathryn Newton) – as they progress from adolescence to adulthood under the protective eye of their mother, Marmee (Emily Watson), while their father is away in the American Civil War.  As life-affirming a tale as you could want this time of year, it’s full of high spirits and loving kindness. There are nice cameo performances by Michael Gambon and Angela Lansbury, but in the opening part, the acting laurels go to Hawke for her spot-on portrayal of tomboyish proto-feminist Jo, and Jonah Hauer-King, as boy next door Laurie Laurence. Gerard O’Donovan Todd Barry: Spicy Honey Netflix, from today Stand-up Todd Barry is best known in the US for his bone-dry wit. Anyone seeking relief from the festive season’s more saccharine shows will be sure to find it in this one-off recording from his latest tour. Premier League Football: Tottenham Hotspur v Southampton Sky Sports Main Event, 12.00noon Spurs won both of their matches against the Saints last season, including a 2-1 victory in one of their final home matches at White Hart Lane. Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli both scored in the first half, with James Ward-Prowse pulling one back for Southampton in the second. Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella BBC Two, 5.35pm From Sadler’s Wells, a treat for dance fans in this dazzling Blitz-era reworking of Prokofiev’s classic ballet, performed by Bourne’s New Adventures company.  Snow Bears BBC One, 6.30pm Kate Winslet narrates this documentary following a pack of polar bears as they embark on an eventful 400-mile journey to reach the pack ice where they hunt. Surprisingly charming. Discovering: Julie Andrews Sky Arts, 7.00pm A look at the life and career of an actress and singer more associated with Christmas than most, thanks to endless festive repeats of Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music. But there’s much more to Julie Andrews than that, as shown in this beautifully put-together profile.  Reindeer Family and Me BBC Two, 8.00pm Wildlife film-maker Gordon Buchanan’s festive offering focuses on Santa’s favourite quadruped. In Lapland, Buchanan settles in with the nomadic Sami people to learn the ways of the herder, before setting out with a single reindeer to capture the Northern Lights as they’ve never been filmed before. Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 2017: The Language OF life BBC Four, 8.00pm This year’s theme, The Language of Life, sees cognitive neuroscientist Professor Sophie Scott of UCL embark on an exploration of the urge to communicate. In the opener, she unpicks the evolution of the human voice. GO The Miniaturist BBC One, 9.00pm An absorbing adaptation of Jessie Burton’s bestseller about a young woman thrust into an arranged marriage with a perplexing merchant in 17th-century Amsterdam. It looks exquisite, although the constant quest to shoot each frame as if it were a Vermeer painting doesn’t help the pace. Anna Taylor-Joy plays 18-year-old Nella with suitable bafflement, Alex Hassell intrigues as Johannes, while Romola Garai steals the show as his sister, Marin. Concludes tomorrow. Big Fat Quiz of the Year 2017 Channel 4, 9.00pm Jimmy Carr hosts C4’s alternative comedy quiz looking back at the year in the news, with guests including Richard Ayoade, Noel Fielding, David Mitchell and Katherine Ryan. GO Mary Poppins (1964) ★★★★★ BBC One, 3.45pm This is the popular story of a magical nanny (Julie Andrews) who takes over a London home, transforming the lives of its inhabitants. Dick Van Dyke may affect the worst cockney accent ever heard on film, but the combination of the catchy songs, sumptuous live action and colourful animation makes this one of the most enduring children’s films, and a staple of the festive schedules. The film was nominated for 13 Oscars. Beauty and the Beast (2017) ★★★★☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 10.55am and 5.50pm Emma Watson dazzles in Disney’s show-stopping, live-action, chocolate box remake. The film’s songs – which include three new ones – by Alan Menken are the pulse, the purpose and the headline draw, while Ewan McGregor is delightful as Lumière, Luke Evans perfect as Gaston, and Dan Stevens, in digital fur, is the Prince. The Little Mermaid (1989) ★★★★☆ Channel 4, 4.20pm This vivacious retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale began a rich vein of form for Disney animations (Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King followed). A combination of unforgettable characters, including Sebastian the singing Jamaican crab and the delightfully evil baddie Ursula (based on drag queen Divine), and catchy songs makes Ariel’s journey to dry land a magical thing. Jurassic World (2015) ★★★★☆ ITV, 6.40pm Can modern audiences still be wowed by computer-generated dinosaurs? This long-awaited Jurassic Park sequel (the original movie was released in 1993) proves that they can. A new attraction at the dinosaur theme park, created to re-spark visitor interest, gravely backfires and it’s left to Chris Pratt’s raptor trainer and Bryce Dallas Howard’s scientist to save the day. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is out next year. Wednesday 27 December Steve Coogan as Alan Partidge Credit: BBC Alan Partridge: Why, When, Where, How and Whom? BBC Two, 9.00pm Unfortunately, there were no previews available for this palate-cleansing documentary ahead of Alan Partridge’s return to the BBC for a new series next year, which co-creator Steve Coogan promises will include the sometime Radio Norwich presenter’s take on that most contentious of topics, Brexit. It’s been 25 years since he and Armando Iannucci created the hapless Partridge, described by Iannucci as “a kind of social X-ray of male middle-aged Middle England”, a bombastic, self-important local presenter with an unwavering belief in the importance of the highway code and “imperial leisurewear”.  Now this documentary attempts to explain why this character, above all others, has touched such a nerve. Among those contributing are Coogan and Iannucci, Patrick Marber, Peter Baynham, Rebecca Front, David Schneider and Doon Mackichan, and we’re also promised unseen archive footage. The real secret to Alan’s lasting appeal is a simple one, however: he’s a fully realised character and a very English monster in the same vein as Basil Fawlty. Even as we laugh at him, we’re moved by his increasing self-awareness. Sarah Hughes Celebrity Mastermind BBC One, 7.00pm Actor Jack Ashton, comedian Rich Hall, Match of the Day commentator Guy Mowbray and poet Pam Ayres join John Humphrys for a new run of the celebrity edition. Among the specialist subjects tonight are Tennessee Williams, Iron Maiden and Ashes Cricket.  Agatha Christie vs Hercule Poirot Sky Arts, 7.30pm Pierre Bayar presents this interesting deconstruction of one of Agatha Christie’s most celebrated novels, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, in which he alleges a miscarriage of justice by Poirot.  Six Robots & Us BBC Two, 8.00pm Psychologist Dr Caroline Jay and robotics specialist Prof Jonathan Rossiter join forces in this fascinating experiment which aims to uncover how helpful the latest innovations in robotics truly are. To find out the team deliver four very different robots to families around the UK.  Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 2017: the language of life BBC Four, 8.00pm Professor Sophie Scott, UCL’s Head of the Speech Communications Group, gives this year’s lecture, looking at silent communication and why our body language and smells can say as much if not more than our words and sounds.   World’s Strongest Man 2017 Channel 5, 8.00pm Channel 5 brings us all the action from the World’s Strongest Man competition in Botswana. All eyes are on the USA’s Brian Shaw, the defending champion, who is hoping to win for a record firth time.  Turtle, Eagle, Cheetah: A Slow Odyssey BBC Four, 9.00pm BBC Four’s latest foray into the enticing world of slow TV is this nature documentary which focuses on the different views of a cheetah on the African savannah, a green turtle in the Indonesia reefs and a white-tailed eagle in Scotland. SH Miranda Does Christmas Channel 4, 9.00pm Like many an institution before her, Miranda Hart has swapped the BBC for Channel 4 on her return to the small screen. Here, Hart hosts a “raucous Christmas party” with guests including David Tennant, Sam Smith and Prue Leith. SH The Red Shoes (1948) ★★★★★ BBC Two, 12.10pm Powell and Pressburger’s seminal musical tragedy is one of cinema’s great wonders. It’s about a talented ballet dancer (Moira Shearer), her romance with a struggling composer (Marius Goring) and her loyalty to the ballet that he wrote and in which she is meant to star. The film’s theme of the pre-eminent call of creative passion is thought to be an allegory for P & P’s devotion to their craft. Big Hero 6 (2014) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 4.10pm This Disney animation is an East-meets-West adventure with buckets of heart and soul – and quite possibly Disney at its adorable, huggable, and most visually extravagant best. Hiro Hamada, a 14-year-old orphan living in the city of San Fransokyo, befriends Baymax, a 10-foot-tall, bright, white inflatable robot invented by his elder brother, who’s killed in a mysterious fire at his laboratory. Scrooged (1988) ★★★★☆ Film4, 4.35pm 9+Bill Murray plays a mean-spirited network TV president who sees the light after he experiences ghostly visitations – including Carol Kane as a happy-slapping fairy in a tutu – in this droll comic update of Dickens’s tale. Murray is on deadpan, cynical form (“Have you tried staples?”) and Robert Mitchum contributes a priceless cameo as a fellow executive with plans to produce TV shows for cats and dogs. Oasis: Supersonic (2016) ★★★☆☆ BBC Two, 10.00pm Oasis’s glory-days documentary indulges Noel and Liam Gallagher’s bad behaviour. Mat Whitecross’s film starts and ends with the pair of dates when Oasis debatably peaked, at Knebworth in 1996, and goes to excessive length to detail stories of their excess. Few rock stars, in fairness, have a habit of being so amusingly and brutally honest about their failings, and Whitecross is content to let them have the last word. Thursday 28 December David Attenborough Credit: BBC Attenborough and the Empire of the Ants BBC Two, 9.30pm Back on dry land after Blue Planet II, David Attenborough travels to the Jura Mountains on the Swiss-French border to investigate the methods used by two different communities of wood ants to survive and thrive. One adopts a familiar strategy of territorial aggression, with a family dominated by a single queen and chemical warfare on rival communities conducted with liberal distribution of formic acid. The other appears to defy the rules of evolution as they are currently understood, forming a supercolony consisting of several communities cooperating for the greater good in a manner reminiscent of early man’s first steps to eventual supremacy. Queens, sentries and workers labour alongside each other in a manner which sounds far-fetched, but the cameras capture this extraordinary behaviour in mesmerising detail, from hunting to breeding to self-preservation.  The now-customary behind-the-scenes postscript sees Attenborough almost as amazed by the new technology that allows such access to nature (in this case, the “FrankenCam”) as by nature itself. It’s not Blue Planet II, but it’s the sort of fascinating deeper dive that Natural World does so well. Gabriel Tate Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 2017: The Language OF life BBC Four, 8.00pm Sophie Scott brings her series of lectures to an close with an examination of language and comprehension in the animal kingdom. Are we humans really as far advanced as we believe, or might primates and even birds be able to communicate with comparable sophistication? The Secret Life of 5 Year Olds On Holiday Channel 4, 8.30pm Familiar faces from the most recent series head to Cyprus to enjoy flying, swimming and local delicacies, while the professionals watch on and deliver their analyses of childhood behaviour. What Britain Bought in 2017 Channel 4, 9.00pm Mary Portas assesses whether this year has been as dismal as expected for high-street retailers, and examines a few unlikely trends: unicorns, gin and, she suggests, big knickers. Clint Eastwood: a Life in Film Sky Arts, 9.00pm Whether you love or loathe his hardline politics, few would dispute the astonishing consistency of Clint Eastwood’s work. For such a prolific actor and director, there are few duds on his CV and plenty of masterpieces, from Unforgiven to Once Upon a Time in the West. Made in 2007, the year of his ambitious wartime diptych Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima, this excellent programme finds Eastwood in good-humoured form as he talks Michael Henry Wilson through his 50-year career. GT Bruno Mars: Live in Harlem BBC One, 10.25pm; NI, 11.25pm Harlem’s Apollo Theatre launched the careers of James Brown, Ella Fitzgerald and Lauryn Hill, among many others. Bruno Mars pays tribute to the building’s history and rolls out the hits – Uptown Funk, Just the Way You Are et al – along with some dazzling choreography for a hard partying crowd. Romesh Ranganathan: Irrational Live BBC Two, 10.30pm Perhaps rivalled only by Katherine Ryan for small-screen ubiquity this year, Romesh Ranganathan has proved himself an accomplished stand-up comedian. This special, recorded at London’s Hammersmith Apollo in 2016, captures the comedian’s jaundiced but very funny musings on family life. GT The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! (2012) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 9.00am This claymation Aardman romp is a delight. The impasto of non-stop gags, comic detail and slapstick action should appeal to all the family. Hugh Grant plays the Pirate Captain, who needs more booty if he is to stand a chance of winning the title of Pirate of the Year. The plot takes in Darwin, the last dodo and Queen Victoria (voiced by Imelda Staunton). Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 (2017) ★★★★☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 11.00am and 8.00pm Marvel’s playful space sequel looks like an explosion in a nursery school craft cupboard – every scene comes caked in rainbows, glitter and gunge. The core crew returns, led by Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), but the story only really begins with the arrival of a benign and bearded mystic called Ego (Kurt Russell), who has big news for Peter about his earthly origins. Flight (2012) ★★★☆☆ Channel 5, 9.00pm Robert Zemeckis’s film, starring Denzel Washington as alcoholic commercial pilot Whip Whitaker, is a long, earnest, sporadically brilliant drama. On a routine hop from Florida to Atlanta, Whip’s plane starts to tumble out of the sky – a dramatic sequence that will turn nervous fliers’ stomachs – and the pilot must fight to save the lives of those on board. Dull in parts, this is nevertheless morally provocative. Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (2013) ★★★☆☆ BBC Two, 11.30pm Films based on sitcoms tend to play broader than the real series, and this cinema outing for Steve Coogan’s fading media gasbag is no exception. The plot has Alan held hostage at a radio station in Norfolk. Old friends, such as his assistant Lynn (Felicity Montagu), join in and viewers hoping for new catchphrases will be happy, but Partridge loses his Pooterish potency when moving from talk to action. Friday 29 December Bob Mortimer and Vic Reeves Credit: BBC Vic & Bob’s Big Night Out BBC Two, 9.00pm Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer return for this one-off Christmas edition of their sketch show, 27 years after it first aired as Vic Reeves Big Night Out. Fans will be pleased to hear that age has not dimmed the comedians’ energy – in this half-hour they bounce around the studio in the same vein as their younger selves, which gives the show a rapid-fire pace.  The pair’s chemistry is undeniable and they frequently make each other laugh, as well as a raucous studio audience. There is a sense that Reeves and Mortimer are now improvising much of their material, which may explain why some of the jokes here are a touch below par. But many of the sketches are excellent, such as their parody of Channel 4 dating show First Dates, in which they play jokey gay Yorkshiremen. In another, Vic sells wigs made of body parts.  Nostalgia comes in the form of a cameo from Matt Lucas, forever associated with his George Dawes character in Shooting Stars, and the revival of character Graham Lister (played by Bob) in the talent show parody sketch Novelty Island. This brief return reminds us that, with their corny jokes and surreal sense of humour, there’s nobody quite like Vic and Bob. Vicki Power Tim Vine Travels Through Time Christmas Special BBC One, 7.30pm Prepare for a barrage of seasonal puns as Tim Vine’s comedy show returns. Emma Bunton and Reverend Richard Coles join Vine on a jaunt to Tudor times. Eric & Ernie’s Home Movies BBC Two, 8.00pm Those ghosts of Christmas past, Morecambe and Wise, are revisited in this charming documentary showcasing the double act via some newly discovered home movies. Look out also for a repeat of Morecambe & Wise: Leading Ladies (BBC Two, 7.00pm) and Eric, Ernie & Me (BBC Four, 9.00pm), a drama exploring their relationship with writer Eddie Braben. Victoria Wood by her friends Channel 5, 9.00pm This tribute to the late comedian covers much the same ground, and includes some identical contributors, as BBC One’s Our Friend Victoria, but it’s still a treat to be reminded of Wood’s talents. Her 1997 stand-up show, Victoria Wood: Live 1997, follows.   Delicious Sky One, 9.00pm Sky dishes up a second series of this frothy Cornwall-set drama. Chef Gina (Dawn French) has now joined forces with Sam (Emilia Fox) to run the Penrose Hotel, as the man that they were both once married to, Leo (Iain Glen), narrates from beyond the grave. But it turns out tensions haven’t died with him, and their spats bring a pinch of spice to the drama. Tonight, Franco Nero arrives as Gina’s ne’er-do-well father to stir up trouble. Frankie Boyle’s 2017 New Year World Order BBC Two, 10.00pm; not NI This year’s absence of Charlie Brooker’s Wipe is mitigated somewhat by Frankie Boyle’s return for this end-of-year round-up. And certainly somebody needs to help make sense of this crazy year. VP Elvis: The Rebirth of the King BBC Four, 10.00pm This compelling film seeks to overturn the enduring image of Elvis Presley’s Vegas years as a tragic nadir of his career. It argues that Presley’s musical renaissance in a 1968 Christmas TV special saw the King reach new creative heights that he carried into his Vegas shows, before disillusionment and drugs took over. Fantastic archive footage and commentary from his former collaborators, including Elvis’s backing singers, make a convincing case. VP Up (2009) ★★★★★ BBC One, 2.25pm Possibly Pixar’s finest film, Up has a captivating story that realises the vividness of a childlike imagination. Only those with a heart of stone wouldn’t be moved by the story of Ed Asner (voiced by Carl Fredricksen), who tries to fulfil his dream of building a house next to Paradise Falls in South America. His odyssey brings him more than he bargained for, including a young, hyperactive Wilderness Explorer called Russell. Brave (2012) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 4.20pm The first of Pixar’s films to have a female protagonist won an Oscar and there’s a bewitching craftsmanship to its storytelling. It’s set in the Highlands during the feudal period. Kelly MacDonald plays the flame-haired Merida, who would rather ride her horse than play the role of simpering princess; unable to sway her mother (Emma Thompson), she seeks the help of a witch (Julie Walters). Gone Girl (2014) ★★★☆☆ BBC One, 9.15pm; N Ireland, 9.45pm Cold and controlled, yet fun, this drama, directed by David Fincher, is based on Gillian Flynn’s novel of the same name. Rosamund Pike is Amy Elliott-Dunne, who disappears one morning, much to the apparent surprise of her husband (Ben Affleck). The media sniff around and soon the couple’s secrets come to the surface. Darkly suspenseful at first, the story soon turns into blood-drenched self-parody. The Great Gatsby (2013) ★★★☆☆ BBC Two, 11.15pm Baz Luhrmann lays on a cinematic buffet of such sense-addling brazenness that it takes a while before you notice the film is finger-food and nothing more. Leonardo DiCaprio is Jay Gatsby, a newly minted millionaire, and Carey Mulligan is Daisy Buchanan, the lost love he longs to win back. On the rare occasions Luhrmann gives them space to act in the pulsating frenzy of his Jazz Age world, both do a wonderful job. Television previewers Toby Dantzic, Catherine Gee, Simon Horsford, Sarah Hughes, Clive Morgan, Gerard O'Donovan, Vicki Power, Patrick Smith, Gabriel Tate and Rachel Ward

Bristol City ride wave of emotion but Birmingham hit rock bottom

Bristol City ride wave of emotion but Birmingham hit rock bottom