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 Thursday 28 Friday 29 Wednesday 27 December 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. Saturday 30 December Comedy of errors: Derek Jacobi (centre) heads the cast Credit: BBC A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong BBC One, 7.10pm It begins like many other starchy BBC period dramas: with a knight of the realm declaiming familiar dialogue while teetering dangerously close to self-parody. In this case, the latter is entirely deliberate. Derek Jacobi’s take on Scrooge is rapidly hijacked by members of the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society, still smarting from their disastrous staging of Peter Pan last Christmas on BBC One (in which David Suchet was the thespian gamely offering himself up for ritual humiliation). Needless to say, the cast disputes and professional incompetence remain very much intact. A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong is the Mischief Theatre Company’s latest diligently staged, intricately planned catastrophe, steered once again by Henry Lewis, Henry Shields and Jonathan Sayer. Unlike Peter Pan Goes Wrong, this has been created specifically for television, so the team makes hay with technological disasters and broadcasting faux pas, while Jacobi and Diana Rigg (playing the narrator and no less willing to send herself up) have a ball as the snooty theatrical grandees appalled at the surrounding chaos. It’s family-friendly fare, an old-fashioned, uproarious and good-natured farce. Gabriel Tate Premiership Rugby Union: Harlequins v Northampton Saints Channel 5, 3.30pm Big Game 10 heads to Twickenham as Harlequins host Northampton. Both of these sides have had indifferent starts to their campaigns, and will be looking for a morale-boosting victory here. When they met back in September, the Saints came out on top, winning 30-22. Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway Presents: Who Shot Simon Cowell? ITV, 6.30pm Cobbling together the skits from 2016’s run of Saturday Night Takeaway, this half-hour special recounts the indefatigable pair’s attempts to clear their name after the music mogul is shot at a party. Guess the Star ITV, 7.00pm Jonathan Ross hosts this new game show in which three celebrity teams (led by Coronation Street’s Anthony Cotton, Eamonn Holmes and Diversity’s Jordan Banjo) must guess which famous faces are busking as Bruno Mars, Lemmy, Freddie Mercury, and many more. Grand Tours of Scotland’s Lochs BBC Two, 8.30pm; not NI Paul Murton resumes his travels north of the border by exploring the wilds surrounding Loch Etive, watching kayakers negotiating the Falls of Lora and camping on high to catch a spectacular sunset. Feud: Bette and Joan BBC Two, 9.00pm & 9.45pm; NI, 10.45pm & 11.30pm Ryan Murphy’s hysterical and ludicrously enjoyable melodrama approaches its climax as Oscar season arrives. The rivalry between Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange) and Bette Davis’s (Susan Sarandon) hits new heights as Crawford attempts to thwart her Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? co-star hopes of bagging an award. GT Spiral BBC Four, 9.00pm & 10.00pm When we last saw harried Parisian cop Laure Berthaud (Caroline Proust), she was heavily pregnant and had been stabbed and half-drowned. As we return for a welcome sixth series of the superbly knotty and harsh policier, Berthaud has since had her baby but is returning to work a mere four weeks later, enticed by the discovery of a dismembered corpse in a skip. Liam Gallagher: Live in New York Sky Arts, 9.00pm Liam Gallagher’s return is one of 2017’s more unlikely musical comebacks, and it is documented in this, his first solo concert in the US. Expect hits such as Morning Glory, Rock ’n’ Roll Star and Wall of Glass. 2017: a Year in the Life of a Year BBC Four, 11.05pm This enjoyably puerile, scattershot spoof from Rhys Thomas joins the dots between Jeremy Corbyn, CBeebies and King Kong. GT WTA Tennis: Shenzhen Open Saturday, BT Sport/ESPN, 5.00am The road to the Australian Open, the first grand slam of 2018, begins at the Shenzhen Longgang Tennis Centre, with world number one Simona Halep leading a field, that includes five-time Grand Slam winner Maria Sharapova. All About Eve (1950, b/w) ★★★★★ BBC Two, 3.20pm One of Hollywood’s greatest films explores Tinseltown’s inherent ageism towards its female stars. Bette Davis gives a riveting performance as fortysomething actress Margo Channing, whose ascendancy is usurped by ingénue Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter). The film oozes wit as Margo puts on a brave face with lines that have since become classics, such as, “Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.” Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 8.00pm Joss Whedon’s superhero film gives you a pop-culture sugar rush, stacking characters, conflicts, subplots and background treats. But the structure holds and the film flies past at speed, perhaps because Whedon values humour as much as a spectacular set-piece. This time the all-star Avengers (Iron Man, Captain America, etc) do battle with the all-powerful Ultron. Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964, b/w) ★★★☆☆ BBC Two, 10.30pm; not Northern Ireland The rivalry between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford continued on set of this heady horror film, with Davis having a Coca-Cola machine placed on film lot to infuriate Crawford, who was married to the CEO of Pepsi. But Crawford bowed out due to illness and was replaced by Olivia de Havilland. The story follows two cousins warring over an inheritance. New Year’s Eve Going out with a bang: the New Year fireworks in London Credit: Getty Images Countdown to 2018 BBC One, BBC Two & ITV, from 11.20pm More than ever the field for these shared national events is left clear for the BBC, which offers two choices to ring in 2018, both beginning at 11.20pm. On BBC One, there’s Nile Rodgers & Chic: Good Times, a live relay from London of the American funk outfit’s concert at Westminster’s Central Hall, getting the celebrations off to an upbeat start with disco classics such as Everybody Dance, Le Freak and Good Times. There’s a break, at 11.55pm, for the annual New Year’s Eve Fireworks from the River Thames and a round of Auld Lang Syne as Big Ben strikes the midnight hour, before the band starts up again. On BBC Two, the year-end staple Jools’ Annual Hootenanny sees pop megastar Ed Sheeran headline the celebrations, with performances also from erstwhile Gossip frontwoman Beth Ditto, and a selection of vintage gospel, soul and R’n’B stars including Mavis Staples, Soul II Soul, George McCrae and Ruby Turner, among others. The pipes and drums of the Scots Guards will play in the New Year. And if music is not to your change-ringing taste, there’s always ITV’s more sober offer: a news bulletin at 11.45pm, followed by the bongs. Happy New Year! Gerard O’Donovan Bee Gees: Live in Melbourne 1989 Sky Arts, 5.15pm From the group’s One for All world tour in 1989, this packed out stadium concert sees the brothers Gibb yodel a full slate of hits, from New York Mining Disaster 1941 and Massachusetts to Jive Talkin’ and Stayin’ Alive. CBeebies Bedtime Stories CBeebies, 6.50pm Queen of country music Dolly Parton pays a return visit for the seasonal storytelling series, reading Garry Parsons and Jane Clarke’s delightful tale Stuck in the Mud. Robot Wars Special 2017: the world series BBC Two, 7.00pm Dara O Briain and Angela Scanlon present a special “world series” edition in which four of the UK’s top battle bots thrash it out with an international team of champions from Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium and Portugal. Andre Rieu: New Year’s Eve in Vienna Sky Arts, 7.30pm Where better than the banks of the Danube for the king of waltz and his Johann Strauss Orchestra to ring in the New Year. The year in question was, admittedly, 2005, but no matter, it’s a timeless mix of Viennese favourites. And if you simply can’t get enough strings, his 2003 Hanover concert Andre Rieu’s New Year’s Eve Punch follows at 9.45pm. GO Antiques Roadshow BBC One, 8.00pm This showbiz special from the Albert Square set of EastEnders in Elstree focuses largely on TV and film memorabilia – an original Muffin the Mule puppet, a key script from Doctor Who and a staggeringly valuable collection of discarded props – plus items relating to Andy Warhol, Marc Bolan and Jimi Hendrix. World Darts Championship Monday, Sky Sports Main Event / Sky Sports Darts, 8.00pm After 15 days on the oche, the biggest tournament in darts comes to an end with its final at Alexandra Palace in London. There is £400,000 waiting for the eventual champion, alongside the Sid Waddell Trophy. Sixteen-time world champion Phil Taylor made a record 29th consecutive appearance at a world championship as he brings an end to his glittering career. Last year, world number one Michael van Gerwen won his second world championship title by defeating two-times defending champion Gary Anderson 7-3. Alan Carr’s New Year Specstacular 2017 Channel 4, 9.00pm The chat show host’s annual New Year’s bash is bigger and louder than ever with Caroline Flack, Keith Lemon, Jonnie Peacock and Alex Brooker among those participating in madcap sketches and party games, plus music from The Voice star Becky Hill with Pete Tong and the Heritage Orchestra. The Graham Norton Show BBC One, 10.20pm Helping to get us in the mood for the bongs is an all-actor line up with guests Hugh Jackman, Suranne Jones, Gary Oldman, Zendaya and Zac Efron, plus music from West End stars The Leading Ladies, Beverley Knight, Amber Riley and Cassidy Janson. GO Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 1.40pm; Scotland, 2.10pm Three Cockney orphans are billeted in an English village with apprentice witch Angela Lansbury in this delightful live-action Disney yarn set during the Second World War. Along with charlatan magician David Tomlinson, they visit Portobello Road on a flying bed and watch an all-animal football match before a magical showdown with sneaky German invaders. Into the Woods (2014) ★★★☆☆ BBC Two, 8.00pm Stephen Sondheim’s 1987 musical, which sees the likes of Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) and Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy) cross paths, gets the Hollywood treatment. James Corden plays the baker who must find several items (red cape, golden slipper, lock of hair) so that he and his wife can have a child. Meryl Streep is the archetypal old crone. It’s wonderful, wintry fun. An American Werewolf in London (1981) ★★★★☆ Film4, 11.35pm Scary/funny is a hard one to pull off but John Landis does so impressively in this witty horror that scares and amuses in equal measure. David Naughton and Griffin Dunne play American backpackers attacked by a beast on the Yorkshire Moors. One boy survives, only to undergo a terrifying transformation. What follows is eerie music and some creative dream sequences. New Year’s Day Family connections: Maria Shukshina and James Norton Credit: BBC McMafia BBC One, 9.00pm This slick, smart thriller about Russian gangsters, banking greed and the globalisation of organised crime is the BBC’s flagship drama for the new year – and deservedly so. Taking Misha Glenny’s fascinating account of the spread of crime since the break-up of the Soviet bloc as its starting point, the addictive McMafia spins a tense web of lies, betrayals and deceit revolving around James Norton’s Alex Godman, the English-raised, private-school educated son of Russian exiles who has turned his back on his family’s less-than-reputable past to forge a “respectable” career in banking. When that past comes rushing in, Alex soon discovers that he’s not the man that he thought he was – can he break free of family ties or will he lose everything that he’s worked for? It would be easy to see McMafia as another glossy thriller in the same mode as The Night Manager, but it’s more interesting than that. Hossein Amini (who wrote the film Drive) and James Watkins’s subtle script delves deep into the realities of being an outsider and Norton makes for a charismatic, complex leading man. Watkins also directs with verve, allowing us to see that far more is at stake than one man’s soul. Sarah Hughes Grandpa’s Great Escape BBC One, 6.55pm There’s just time to squeeze in one last festive treat with this lovely adaptation of one of David Walliams’s most enjoyable books. Tom Courtenay plays the eponymous Grandpa, a former Second World War pilot living with Alzheimer’s disease and stuck in a dreadful care home. Can grandson Jack (Kit Connor) help him mount one final escape? New Year’s Day Concert from Vienna 2018 BBC Four, 7.00pm The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra’s New Year’s concert is one of the highlights of the classical music year and this year’s should be no exception. Riccardo Muti conducts a performance of polkas, waltzes and marches composed by the Strauss family and their contemporaries. Followed by two performances from the Vienna State Ballet to mark 100 years since the death of Austrian architect Otto Wagner. The Great Festive Bake Off Channel 4, 7.40pm They’re still wringing every last drop of Bake Off goodwill from a successful season. The second of two specials sees former contestants, Benjamina, Rob, Rav and Sandy take on winter-wonderland challenges. The Two Ronnies: In Their Own Words Channel 5, 8.00pm They used to dominate Christmas schedules so what better time of year to honour The Two Ronnies than on New Year’s Day? This is a straightforward recap of the careers of Messrs Barker and Corbett featuring best moments and contributions from family and friends. Sue Perkins and the Chimp Sanctuary BBC Two, 9.00pm This week Perkins travels to the US to examine laws on using chimpanzees in medical research, a practice only recently outlawed. She is rightly outraged, particularly after spending time the chimps in question. SH The Story of Bohemian Rhapsody BBC Four, 9.00pm BBC Four gives over the rest of the evening to a celebration of Queen. First up is a 2004 documentary on the story behind the band’s best-known song with rare footage of Freddie Mercury. That’s followed by Queen: Rock the World, which looks at the band’s 1977 tour of North America, and Queen: The Legendary 1975 Concert, which sees the band performing at London’s Hammersmith Odeon. SH Shrek Forever After (2010) ★★★☆☆ BBC One, 2.05pm The fourth and final episode in DreamWorks’ green ogre franchise is an animated variation on It’s a Wonderful Life, with Shrek conned into signing away the day of his own birth; his wife and friends no longer know who he is, and the land of Far Far Away is ruled by the evil Rumpelstiltskin. It’s no classic, but more fun than Shrek the Third and an entertaining flourish to finish the franchise. Maleficent (2014) ★★★☆☆ BBC One, 5.00pm Angelina Jolie stars as the titular Maleficent in Disney’s live-action reimagining of Sleeping Beauty, which follows her from a young, carefree fairy to Mistress of All Evil, muddling the distinction between hero and villain. Maleficent is happy in a kingdom of peculiar CGI beasts until her heart is broken by Stefan (Sharlto Copley), who inherits the throne. Seeking vengeance, she curses his baby, Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning). Spectre (2015) ★★★★★ ITV, 8.00pm The 24th movie of the James Bond franchise is a swaggering show of confidence from director Sam Mendes. It combines hold-your-breath action and ghosts of Bond films past, trailing tingles of nostalgic pleasure in their wake. A cryptic message leads Bond (Daniel Craig) to Mexico City and Rome, where he uncovers the existence of the sinister organisation Spectre. Tuesday 2 January A blazing talent: Prince, who died in 2016 Credit: Getty Images Prince: Last Year of a Legend Channel 4, 10.00pm Confidants, famous fans and protégés pay tribute to a musical genius in this peculiar documentary which has plenty of good material but only a sketchy idea of what to do with it all; the strain of trying to understand such a studied enigma is tangible. Proceeding from April 2015 through the following 12 months of frenetic gigging (including jamming with Stevie Wonder at the White House) and recording to his death from an accidental overdose of painkillers, Last Year of a Legend is from the show-and-tell school of documentary making. Zawe Ashton’s narration is a case in point: “Prince plays his famous rock anthem, uniting and inspiring his audience,” we’re told, over footage of the singer performing Purple Rain to a demonstrably rapt crowd. Nothing Compares 2 U is described thus: “Often appearing on lists of the greatest songs, it’s a testament to Prince’s skill as a songwriter”. It then takes a curious turn into true-crime territory as “Prince’s last hours turn murky”. Yet it’s essential viewing for fans, both for the behind-the-scenes peak at the singer’s home Paisley Park and for the reminder, courtesy of scintillating concert footage, of what a blazing talent we have lost. Gabriel Tate Sex, Drugs and Murder: a Year in the Red Light Zone BBC Three, from 10.00am Here’s another excellent new documentary from BBC Three. This one follows the lives of sex workers in the Holbeck area of Leeds and exposes some grim truths about life on the margins. Kate Humble: Off the Beaten Track BBC Two, 7.00pm Kate Humble and her sheepdog, Teg, learn about old-style shepherding, mushroom-picking, skinny-dipping and life-saving as they travel from mainland Wales’s most northerly farm through Snowdonia in the first episode of a new series. The Greatest TV Moments of All Time ITV, 8.00pm It’s pure bathos as Paddy McGuinness, of all people, hosts this two-hour rundown of classic small-screen moments as voted for by viewers. Guests include Keith Lemon and Holly Willoughby. Harry Hill’s Tea-Time Sky One, 8.30pm The closest vehicle yet to Harry Hill recapturing that indefinable TV Burp magic, spoof cookery show Tea Time returns for a second series. Trevor McDonald is the first game celebrity guest, who belts out songs and makes sausages. The Real T. Rex with Chris Packham BBC Two, 9.00pm Naturalist Chris Packham travels the globe to gain a greater understanding of the Tyrannosaurus Rex through fossils, CGI reconstructions and the dinosaur’s nearest living descendants. Was it a pea-brained scavenger or sophisticated predator? Packham’s conclusions are characteristically forthright. Inside No 9 BBC Two, 10.00pm Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith’s wonderful comic-horror anthology returns for a fourth series with another estimable ensemble cast: Rory Kinnear, Hattie Morahan and Kevin Eldon are among those checking into a luxury hotel for a night that brings rather more than anticipated. GT Trollied Sky One, 10.00pm Following last week’s Christmas special, the sitcom begins its seventh series proper with budget supermarket Valco facing radical upheaval with poor grace as the CEO (Simon Delaney) pays a surprise visit. A fine ensemble, led by Jason Watkins and Sarah Parish, keep things watchable. GT A Monster in Paris (2011) ★★★☆☆ E4, 9.00am In 1910 Paris, an experiment goes wrong and results in a flea growing until it’s seven feet tall. As it turns out, the flea’s also a fantastic guitar player and becomes a cabaret act with a beautiful singer, Lucille (voiced by Vanessa Paradis in both the French and English versions). Very cute and surprisingly cheeky in parts, this 3D animation, directed by Bibo Bergeron and produced by Luc Besson, is a treat. Die Hard 2 (1990) ★★★☆☆ Film4, 9.00pm Bruce Willis returns as humble-yet-invincible cop John McClane in this action film sequel. Once again, it falls to McClane to save the day (and a skyscraper full of executives, and an airport of hapless tourists) from terrorists. It’s not a patch on its 1988 predecessor, but there’s one-liners and violence abound and it remains streets ahead of the more recent efforts from the franchise. Yippee-ki-yay, indeed. Clueless (1995) ★★★★☆ ITV, 11.10pm Loosely based on Jane Austen’s Emma, this gently amusing high-school satire launched the Hollywood careers of Alicia Silverstone, Brittany Murphy and the ubiquitous Paul Rudd. The plot follows the travails of Cher (Silverstone), a bubbly 15-year-old shopaholic who is the most popular girl at Beverly Hills High and wants to make the world a better place. Jam-packed with pop culture gags, Clueless has become a cult classic. Wednesday 3 January Zoe Wanamaker, Phyllis Logan and Miranda Richardson Credit: ITV Girlfriends ITV, 9.00pm Writer Kay Mellor has been busy: hard on the heels of BBC One’s Love, Lies & Records, here comes another new six-part drama, this one exploring the tangled lives and relationships of three middle-aged friends. It’s not entirely clear how such different personalities as Linda (Phyllis Logan), Gail (Zoë Wanamaker) and Sue (Miranda Richardson) came to be such fast friends, other than in vague references to meeting at Greenham Common protest camp in the early Eighties. No matter, as homemaker Linda, lollipop lady Gail and magazine features editor Sue have drifted apart over the years anyway. The set-up here is how tragedy brings them back together and forces them to take a more active interest in each other’s life trials and family problems once again. Linda has money troubles, Gail has a nice-but-dim criminal son, and Sue is struggling with ageism at work and a soulless ex-lover who happens to be both her employer and the father of her child. There’s nothing subtle about it – Richardson’s portrayal of overwrought journalist Sue is magnificently hammed up – but it grips from the start with a twist-packed storyline that tugs the heartstrings. Gerard O’Donovan Premier League: Arsenal v Chelsea Wednesday, Sky Sports Main Event, 7.00pm Arsenal go head to head with rivals Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium. Both of the previous meetings between the sides this season have ended in draws in regulation play, though Arsenal did go on to win the Community Shield on penalties back in August. They also claimed a 3-0 win when the sides met here last season when Alexis Sanchez, Theo Walcott and Mesut Ozil all scored in a dazzling first-half performance for the Gunners. Tom Kerridge’s Lose Weight For Good BBC Two, 8.00pm Having lost 12-stone, chef Tom Kerridge has certainly walked the dieting walk. He did so by “cutting out carbs, kicking the booze and hitting the gym”. But that wouldn’t make a great TV series (or, indeed, a tie-in book) so he’s come up with some “mouth-watering calorie-controlled recipes” for those keen to eat well while dieting. Rather handy in January, too. Kirstie and Phil’s Love It or List It Channel 4, 8.00pm New year, new house? Allsopp and Spencer return with the show that challenges people to renovate their home before deciding to move. Chasing the Nazis Yesterday, 8.00pm A harrowing two-part documentary telling the story of Simon Wiesenthal, a survivor of the concentration camps who dedicated his life to tracking down fugitive Nazi war criminals and responsible for bringing many of the most prominent, among them Adolf Eichmann and Josef Mengele, to justice. Trust Me I’m a Doctor BBC Two, 8.30pm Michael Mosely’s medical magazine brings good tidings for diabetics with news of a new artificial pancreas, why fizzy drinks make you hungrier, new treatments for baldness, plus a guide to obsessive-compulsive disorder. Hunting Down A Stitch in Time BBC Four, 8.30pm Art, dressmaking and politics combine engagingly as historian Amber Butchart explores – and recreates – how people have expressed wealth, power and politics in the way that they dress, beginning with that well known Restoration clothes horse, King Charles II. Miriam’s Big American Adventure BBC One, 9.00pm; Scotland, 10.45pm Leaving her Real Marigold Hotel chums behind, actress Miriam Margolyes heads across the pond for a terrifically entertaining two-month road trip through the heart of Middle America. “I go with an open mind, a warm heart and a beady eye,” she says, putting the latter to particularly good use in Chicago where she begins her journey. GO The Complaints Department More4, 10.00pm New Watchdog-style show with Harry Wallop and a team of product testers taking on companies on behalf of consumers stuck with faulty goods, such as a wedding dress that fell apart. GO Live Ashes Test Cricket: Australia v England BT Sport 1, 10.30pm Having already relinquished the Ashes to the Australia, England continue to play for pride as they head into the first day of play in the fifth Test, at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Made in Dagenham (2010) ★★★★☆ BBC Four, 9.00pm Industrial action in pursuit of equal pay for women doesn’t sound too thrillinga subject, but Nigel Cole’s (Calendar Girls) film, based around the real-life strike from 1968, turns out to be a rousing crowd-pleaser. Sally Hawkins plays the reluctant ringleader of the workers who sew car seats at Ford’s Dagenham plant; Bob Hoskins is a union rep; Miranda Richardson is wonderful as Labour MP Barbara Castle. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011) ★★★☆☆ ITV2, 9.00pm Guy Ritchie’s vigorously silly second Sherlock film has next to nothing in common with Arthur Conan Doyle’s work save a handful of character names and the odd pipe, but what it lacks in authenticity it makes up for in sheer swashbuckling brio. The action set pieces plus Holmes (Robert Downey Jnr) and Watson’s (Jude Law) camp squabbling more than sustain it. Pretty Woman (1990) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 10.45pm; Scotland, 11.45pm Initially intended as a dark drama about prostitution in Nineties Los Angeles, this romcom has been a huge success. Edward (Richard Gere), a millionaire mogul, takes a wrong turn in his Lotus Esprit and asks for directions from Vivian (Julia Roberts), a carefree call-girl. She steers him back to his hotel, he pays her $3,000 to be his escort for the week and they, improbably, fall head over heels in love. Thursday 4 January Word on the street: David Olusoga in Liverpool Credit: BBC A House Through Time BBC Two, 9.00pm The best ideas are often the most deceptively simple. So it proves with this wonderful new four-part documentary series from David Olusoga, which aims to trace the history of 62 Falkner Street, an ordinary terraced house in Liverpool, from its creation in the 1840s until the present day. The choice of Liverpool is an astute one – this bustling city has seen both boom and bust many times over the course of history and the stories that Olusoga, patiently trawling through records and archives, uncovers about the house’s many occupants illustrate that. Among the highlights are Richard Glenton, an ill-starred wastrel son who lived life on the high until the funds dried up, and the astute, sharp-minded James Orr, who climbed the social ladder from butler to businessman and left his wife a fortune when he died. “History isn’t just about what happens in battlefields and in palaces, it is also the story of millions of ordinary people who lived in houses just like this,” says Olusoga. He’s right and the great joy of this series is the way it not only illuminates the lives of those who lived in this particular house but also the history of city and a time. Sarah Hughes Wartime Crime Yesterday, 8.00pm Yesterday’s latest documentary series sets its focus on violence and bloodshed on the home front with a look at the criminals who flourished during the Second World War. The first episode (of six) takes place in London, where petty robber Billy Hill expanded into wide-scale organised crime. Death in Paradise BBC One, 9.00pm Ardal O’Hanlon’s relocation to the fictional Caribbean island of Saint Marie in the long-running detective show was met with mixed reviews. But he’s back for the new series as DI Jack Mooney, and is soon investigating the death of a billionaire’s fiancée inside a room locked from the inside. Hunted Channel 4, 9.00pm Celebrity Hunted was fun but the original is the real deal. This new series has some great candidates including competitive Sandra, chatty Carlene, and Magid, who is also the deputy Lord Mayor of Sheffield. Best of all, though are father-and-son team Bob and Alex, whose conversations about Alex’s depression are genuinely moving. The Secret Life of Sue Townsend (Aged 68 3/4) BBC Four, 10.00pm A welcome repeat for this engaging profile of Sue Townsend, the celebrated creator of Adrian Mole. Narrated by Julie Walters, the film is both heartbreaking and hilarious, an honest account of an often-difficult life, and one blighted with poor health. Townsend was a struggling mother of three living on a Leicester council estate when she wrote her first novel, The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 and ¾. It would go on to become one of the bestselling and most-loved books of the Eighties. Few authors have deserved the success more. SH Derry Girls Channel 4, 10.00pm Lisa McGee’s sprightly comedy is set in Northern Ireland towards the end of the Troubles in the Nineties and provides a welcome antidote to the standard depictions. The heroine is 16-year-old Erin (Saoirse-Monica Jackson), who’s more concerned with navigating school than with the bombs that make up her everyday life. Great Art ITV, 10.45pm ITV returns to highbrow arts programming with this promising new series which profiles some of the world’s great artists, and is presented by Tim Marlow. It begins with Venetian master Canaletto. SH The Boss Baby (2017) ★★☆☆☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 3.55pm Based on a 40-page children’s book about a taxing tot (here voiced by Alec Baldwin) who treats his parents like zero-hour flunkeys, Tom McGrath’s film is charming for as long as it can keep that premise spinning without embellishment, which is around 15 minutes. Rackety 3D antics is the only item on the agenda, with tired pop-culture nods and moderate toilet humour. Dumb and Dumber To (2014) ★★☆☆☆ Film4, 9.00pm This sequel to Dumb and Dumber finds Jeff Daniels and Jim Carrey older, no wiser and much less funny. Harry (Daniels) and Lloyd (Carrey) are back, gurning, grinding and punching one another in the groin. There’s a storyline of sorts, in which Harry hunts down his daughter (Rachel Melvin) because he needs a kidney transplant, which in turn sees them become embroiled in a poisoning plot. 22 Jump Street (2014) ★★★★☆ ITV2, 9.00pm Channing Tatum’s charisma and the best malapropisms ever make this sequel to 21 Jump Street a joy. Instead of infiltrating high school to arrest the suppliers of a drug, Jonah Hill’s Schmidt and Tatum’s Jenko infiltrate college to do… exactly the same, and their chemistry is sublime. The film is directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (The Lego Movie), who are becoming the handiest duo since the Coen brothers. Friday 5 January Double act: Andrew Graham-Dixon and Giorgio Locatelli Credit: BBC Rome Unpacked BBC Two, 9.00pm; Wales, 9.30pm “I cannot imagine anything in life better to do than this,” says the chef Giorgio Locatelli as he speeds around Rome on a Vespa with art critic Andrew Graham-Dixon. Here they return for another of their Italian jaunts, this time taking in the culture and cooking of the Italian capital, and its “divided, opinionated, passionate and unpredictable” inhabitants. The pair make an engaging double act: effervescent, witty and knowledgable. Their journey opens at Rome’s Capitoline Hill, the ancient meeting place of the “great and powerful and the mob”, as Graham-Dixon and Locatelli marvel at the work of Michelangelo before visiting that magnificent display of papal showmanship, the Trevi fountain. “As famous as Italian cream,” says Graham-Dixon, who adds that it was Federico Fellini who gave the fountain cinematic resonance in La Dolce Vita, before he explores how another artist, Caravaggio, captured the city’s soul. Never far behind with a quip or insight, Locatelli comes into his own in the market of San Giovanni di Dio, where he prepares a staple Roman dish – skate with broccoli soup. “This is Rome,” says Graham-Dixon. “Intenso.” Simon Horsford Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency Netflix, from 8.00am This US adaptation of Douglas Adams’s outlandish detective stories returns for a second season with Dirk Gently (Samuel Barnett) on the run from the CIA, while his sidekick Todd (Elijah Wood) attempts to save him. Live FA Cup Football: Liverpool v Everton BBC One, 7.30pm Four weeks after they met at Anfield in the Premier League, Merseyside rivals Liverpool take on Everton once again, this time in the FA Cup third round. The previous match finished in a 1-1 draw and Toffees manager Sam Allardyce believes that his side are capable of claiming a place in European football’s club competitions, as well as reaching the domestic cup finals. But first he must steer his side past their cross-city rivals. That may be easier said than done, as Liverpool have been on fine form going forward, scoring five goals in their last game alone. But for as good as they are going forward, the Kop have been inconsistent at the back – which is something that manager Jurgen Klopp is keen to rectify. River Monsters ITV, 8.00pm; not UTV or Wales Fearless host Jeremy Wade heads to New Britain in Papua New Guinea, where he hears from fisherman about a mysterious big-headed black fish that has on occasion attacked them. Costa Del Celebrity Channel 5, 8.00pm Celebrities used to present “travel” documentaries on their own – now they do it in groups. The latest on the treadmill sees Anne Diamond, Nick Owen, Ainsley Harriott, Christine Hamilton and Vicki Michelle head to the Costa Blanca. Breaking a Monster Sky Arts, 9.00pm A charming rockumentary detailing the machinations of the music industry and the rise of three African-American children in Brooklyn, from heavy-metal street band to securing a million dollar record deal. Luke Meyer’s film follows the remarkable ascent of Unlocking the Truth, a personable bunch of seventh graders with distinctive personalities. Will & Grace Channel 5, 10.00pm American sitcom Will & Grace was groundbreaking for its depiction of gay characters on TV. It now returns after an 11-year absence to a very different world. The question is, does it match up? To an extent, it does. Will (Eric McCormack), Grace (Debra Messing), Jack (Sean Hayes) and Karen (Megan Mullally) deliver with the same zest, but with added relevance – there are references to Grindr, Melania Trump, and fake news. In the first episode, Will and Grace’s political beliefs are put to the test. Graham Norton’s Good Guest Guide BBC One, 10.35pm Graham Norton has a knack for attracting “A-listers” to his sofa but what makes a good guest? Here he gives his advice to the stars. SH Radio 2 in Concert: Tears for Fears BBC Four, 11.00pm Jo Whiley presents as the Eighties synth-pop masters perform a set at London’s BBC Radio Theatre. It includes such era-defining hits as Mad World and Shout. SH Triple Cross (1966) ★★★☆☆ BBC Two, 12.10pm This slow-paced Second World War drama is loosely based on the exploits and autobiography of Eddie Chapman (Christopher Plummer), a British safe-cracker who offered both the Third Reich and British Intelligence his services as a spy while he was a prisoner in the Channel Islands. The lack of suspense makes you wonder if this is really the same director – Terence Young – who did the quick-fire early James Bond films. The Beatles: Eight Days a Week: The Touring Years (2016) ★★★☆☆ Channel 4, 9.00pm While you watch this peppy documentary from Ron Howard, which focuses on the band’s notoriously hectic touring period, from 1962-66, you feel pop history whistling past at speed. “We were force-grown, like rhubarb,” John Lennon observes in one of many well-chosen snippets. It’s a line that chimes with every step Howard shows us the band taking. Bridesmaids (2011) ★★★★★ ITV2, 9.00pm This sharply written and hilarious comedy combining bad taste with good humour is a valiant backlash against sugary chick flicks, but also a poignant evocation of loneliness. Annie (Kristen Wiig) agrees to be her best friend Lillian’s (Maya Rudolph) maid of honour, but finds herself competing with a richer, more elegant bridesmaid (Rose Byrne) when it comes to plea 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: Alan Partridge and Miranda Does Christmas
Thursday 28 Friday 29 Wednesday 27 December 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. Saturday 30 December Comedy of errors: Derek Jacobi (centre) heads the cast Credit: BBC A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong BBC One, 7.10pm It begins like many other starchy BBC period dramas: with a knight of the realm declaiming familiar dialogue while teetering dangerously close to self-parody. In this case, the latter is entirely deliberate. Derek Jacobi’s take on Scrooge is rapidly hijacked by members of the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society, still smarting from their disastrous staging of Peter Pan last Christmas on BBC One (in which David Suchet was the thespian gamely offering himself up for ritual humiliation). Needless to say, the cast disputes and professional incompetence remain very much intact. A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong is the Mischief Theatre Company’s latest diligently staged, intricately planned catastrophe, steered once again by Henry Lewis, Henry Shields and Jonathan Sayer. Unlike Peter Pan Goes Wrong, this has been created specifically for television, so the team makes hay with technological disasters and broadcasting faux pas, while Jacobi and Diana Rigg (playing the narrator and no less willing to send herself up) have a ball as the snooty theatrical grandees appalled at the surrounding chaos. It’s family-friendly fare, an old-fashioned, uproarious and good-natured farce. Gabriel Tate Premiership Rugby Union: Harlequins v Northampton Saints Channel 5, 3.30pm Big Game 10 heads to Twickenham as Harlequins host Northampton. Both of these sides have had indifferent starts to their campaigns, and will be looking for a morale-boosting victory here. When they met back in September, the Saints came out on top, winning 30-22. Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway Presents: Who Shot Simon Cowell? ITV, 6.30pm Cobbling together the skits from 2016’s run of Saturday Night Takeaway, this half-hour special recounts the indefatigable pair’s attempts to clear their name after the music mogul is shot at a party. Guess the Star ITV, 7.00pm Jonathan Ross hosts this new game show in which three celebrity teams (led by Coronation Street’s Anthony Cotton, Eamonn Holmes and Diversity’s Jordan Banjo) must guess which famous faces are busking as Bruno Mars, Lemmy, Freddie Mercury, and many more. Grand Tours of Scotland’s Lochs BBC Two, 8.30pm; not NI Paul Murton resumes his travels north of the border by exploring the wilds surrounding Loch Etive, watching kayakers negotiating the Falls of Lora and camping on high to catch a spectacular sunset. Feud: Bette and Joan BBC Two, 9.00pm & 9.45pm; NI, 10.45pm & 11.30pm Ryan Murphy’s hysterical and ludicrously enjoyable melodrama approaches its climax as Oscar season arrives. The rivalry between Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange) and Bette Davis’s (Susan Sarandon) hits new heights as Crawford attempts to thwart her Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? co-star hopes of bagging an award. GT Spiral BBC Four, 9.00pm & 10.00pm When we last saw harried Parisian cop Laure Berthaud (Caroline Proust), she was heavily pregnant and had been stabbed and half-drowned. As we return for a welcome sixth series of the superbly knotty and harsh policier, Berthaud has since had her baby but is returning to work a mere four weeks later, enticed by the discovery of a dismembered corpse in a skip. Liam Gallagher: Live in New York Sky Arts, 9.00pm Liam Gallagher’s return is one of 2017’s more unlikely musical comebacks, and it is documented in this, his first solo concert in the US. Expect hits such as Morning Glory, Rock ’n’ Roll Star and Wall of Glass. 2017: a Year in the Life of a Year BBC Four, 11.05pm This enjoyably puerile, scattershot spoof from Rhys Thomas joins the dots between Jeremy Corbyn, CBeebies and King Kong. GT WTA Tennis: Shenzhen Open Saturday, BT Sport/ESPN, 5.00am The road to the Australian Open, the first grand slam of 2018, begins at the Shenzhen Longgang Tennis Centre, with world number one Simona Halep leading a field, that includes five-time Grand Slam winner Maria Sharapova. All About Eve (1950, b/w) ★★★★★ BBC Two, 3.20pm One of Hollywood’s greatest films explores Tinseltown’s inherent ageism towards its female stars. Bette Davis gives a riveting performance as fortysomething actress Margo Channing, whose ascendancy is usurped by ingénue Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter). The film oozes wit as Margo puts on a brave face with lines that have since become classics, such as, “Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.” Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 8.00pm Joss Whedon’s superhero film gives you a pop-culture sugar rush, stacking characters, conflicts, subplots and background treats. But the structure holds and the film flies past at speed, perhaps because Whedon values humour as much as a spectacular set-piece. This time the all-star Avengers (Iron Man, Captain America, etc) do battle with the all-powerful Ultron. Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964, b/w) ★★★☆☆ BBC Two, 10.30pm; not Northern Ireland The rivalry between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford continued on set of this heady horror film, with Davis having a Coca-Cola machine placed on film lot to infuriate Crawford, who was married to the CEO of Pepsi. But Crawford bowed out due to illness and was replaced by Olivia de Havilland. The story follows two cousins warring over an inheritance. New Year’s Eve Going out with a bang: the New Year fireworks in London Credit: Getty Images Countdown to 2018 BBC One, BBC Two & ITV, from 11.20pm More than ever the field for these shared national events is left clear for the BBC, which offers two choices to ring in 2018, both beginning at 11.20pm. On BBC One, there’s Nile Rodgers & Chic: Good Times, a live relay from London of the American funk outfit’s concert at Westminster’s Central Hall, getting the celebrations off to an upbeat start with disco classics such as Everybody Dance, Le Freak and Good Times. There’s a break, at 11.55pm, for the annual New Year’s Eve Fireworks from the River Thames and a round of Auld Lang Syne as Big Ben strikes the midnight hour, before the band starts up again. On BBC Two, the year-end staple Jools’ Annual Hootenanny sees pop megastar Ed Sheeran headline the celebrations, with performances also from erstwhile Gossip frontwoman Beth Ditto, and a selection of vintage gospel, soul and R’n’B stars including Mavis Staples, Soul II Soul, George McCrae and Ruby Turner, among others. The pipes and drums of the Scots Guards will play in the New Year. And if music is not to your change-ringing taste, there’s always ITV’s more sober offer: a news bulletin at 11.45pm, followed by the bongs. Happy New Year! Gerard O’Donovan Bee Gees: Live in Melbourne 1989 Sky Arts, 5.15pm From the group’s One for All world tour in 1989, this packed out stadium concert sees the brothers Gibb yodel a full slate of hits, from New York Mining Disaster 1941 and Massachusetts to Jive Talkin’ and Stayin’ Alive. CBeebies Bedtime Stories CBeebies, 6.50pm Queen of country music Dolly Parton pays a return visit for the seasonal storytelling series, reading Garry Parsons and Jane Clarke’s delightful tale Stuck in the Mud. Robot Wars Special 2017: the world series BBC Two, 7.00pm Dara O Briain and Angela Scanlon present a special “world series” edition in which four of the UK’s top battle bots thrash it out with an international team of champions from Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium and Portugal. Andre Rieu: New Year’s Eve in Vienna Sky Arts, 7.30pm Where better than the banks of the Danube for the king of waltz and his Johann Strauss Orchestra to ring in the New Year. The year in question was, admittedly, 2005, but no matter, it’s a timeless mix of Viennese favourites. And if you simply can’t get enough strings, his 2003 Hanover concert Andre Rieu’s New Year’s Eve Punch follows at 9.45pm. GO Antiques Roadshow BBC One, 8.00pm This showbiz special from the Albert Square set of EastEnders in Elstree focuses largely on TV and film memorabilia – an original Muffin the Mule puppet, a key script from Doctor Who and a staggeringly valuable collection of discarded props – plus items relating to Andy Warhol, Marc Bolan and Jimi Hendrix. World Darts Championship Monday, Sky Sports Main Event / Sky Sports Darts, 8.00pm After 15 days on the oche, the biggest tournament in darts comes to an end with its final at Alexandra Palace in London. There is £400,000 waiting for the eventual champion, alongside the Sid Waddell Trophy. Sixteen-time world champion Phil Taylor made a record 29th consecutive appearance at a world championship as he brings an end to his glittering career. Last year, world number one Michael van Gerwen won his second world championship title by defeating two-times defending champion Gary Anderson 7-3. Alan Carr’s New Year Specstacular 2017 Channel 4, 9.00pm The chat show host’s annual New Year’s bash is bigger and louder than ever with Caroline Flack, Keith Lemon, Jonnie Peacock and Alex Brooker among those participating in madcap sketches and party games, plus music from The Voice star Becky Hill with Pete Tong and the Heritage Orchestra. The Graham Norton Show BBC One, 10.20pm Helping to get us in the mood for the bongs is an all-actor line up with guests Hugh Jackman, Suranne Jones, Gary Oldman, Zendaya and Zac Efron, plus music from West End stars The Leading Ladies, Beverley Knight, Amber Riley and Cassidy Janson. GO Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 1.40pm; Scotland, 2.10pm Three Cockney orphans are billeted in an English village with apprentice witch Angela Lansbury in this delightful live-action Disney yarn set during the Second World War. Along with charlatan magician David Tomlinson, they visit Portobello Road on a flying bed and watch an all-animal football match before a magical showdown with sneaky German invaders. Into the Woods (2014) ★★★☆☆ BBC Two, 8.00pm Stephen Sondheim’s 1987 musical, which sees the likes of Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) and Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy) cross paths, gets the Hollywood treatment. James Corden plays the baker who must find several items (red cape, golden slipper, lock of hair) so that he and his wife can have a child. Meryl Streep is the archetypal old crone. It’s wonderful, wintry fun. An American Werewolf in London (1981) ★★★★☆ Film4, 11.35pm Scary/funny is a hard one to pull off but John Landis does so impressively in this witty horror that scares and amuses in equal measure. David Naughton and Griffin Dunne play American backpackers attacked by a beast on the Yorkshire Moors. One boy survives, only to undergo a terrifying transformation. What follows is eerie music and some creative dream sequences. New Year’s Day Family connections: Maria Shukshina and James Norton Credit: BBC McMafia BBC One, 9.00pm This slick, smart thriller about Russian gangsters, banking greed and the globalisation of organised crime is the BBC’s flagship drama for the new year – and deservedly so. Taking Misha Glenny’s fascinating account of the spread of crime since the break-up of the Soviet bloc as its starting point, the addictive McMafia spins a tense web of lies, betrayals and deceit revolving around James Norton’s Alex Godman, the English-raised, private-school educated son of Russian exiles who has turned his back on his family’s less-than-reputable past to forge a “respectable” career in banking. When that past comes rushing in, Alex soon discovers that he’s not the man that he thought he was – can he break free of family ties or will he lose everything that he’s worked for? It would be easy to see McMafia as another glossy thriller in the same mode as The Night Manager, but it’s more interesting than that. Hossein Amini (who wrote the film Drive) and James Watkins’s subtle script delves deep into the realities of being an outsider and Norton makes for a charismatic, complex leading man. Watkins also directs with verve, allowing us to see that far more is at stake than one man’s soul. Sarah Hughes Grandpa’s Great Escape BBC One, 6.55pm There’s just time to squeeze in one last festive treat with this lovely adaptation of one of David Walliams’s most enjoyable books. Tom Courtenay plays the eponymous Grandpa, a former Second World War pilot living with Alzheimer’s disease and stuck in a dreadful care home. Can grandson Jack (Kit Connor) help him mount one final escape? New Year’s Day Concert from Vienna 2018 BBC Four, 7.00pm The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra’s New Year’s concert is one of the highlights of the classical music year and this year’s should be no exception. Riccardo Muti conducts a performance of polkas, waltzes and marches composed by the Strauss family and their contemporaries. Followed by two performances from the Vienna State Ballet to mark 100 years since the death of Austrian architect Otto Wagner. The Great Festive Bake Off Channel 4, 7.40pm They’re still wringing every last drop of Bake Off goodwill from a successful season. The second of two specials sees former contestants, Benjamina, Rob, Rav and Sandy take on winter-wonderland challenges. The Two Ronnies: In Their Own Words Channel 5, 8.00pm They used to dominate Christmas schedules so what better time of year to honour The Two Ronnies than on New Year’s Day? This is a straightforward recap of the careers of Messrs Barker and Corbett featuring best moments and contributions from family and friends. Sue Perkins and the Chimp Sanctuary BBC Two, 9.00pm This week Perkins travels to the US to examine laws on using chimpanzees in medical research, a practice only recently outlawed. She is rightly outraged, particularly after spending time the chimps in question. SH The Story of Bohemian Rhapsody BBC Four, 9.00pm BBC Four gives over the rest of the evening to a celebration of Queen. First up is a 2004 documentary on the story behind the band’s best-known song with rare footage of Freddie Mercury. That’s followed by Queen: Rock the World, which looks at the band’s 1977 tour of North America, and Queen: The Legendary 1975 Concert, which sees the band performing at London’s Hammersmith Odeon. SH Shrek Forever After (2010) ★★★☆☆ BBC One, 2.05pm The fourth and final episode in DreamWorks’ green ogre franchise is an animated variation on It’s a Wonderful Life, with Shrek conned into signing away the day of his own birth; his wife and friends no longer know who he is, and the land of Far Far Away is ruled by the evil Rumpelstiltskin. It’s no classic, but more fun than Shrek the Third and an entertaining flourish to finish the franchise. Maleficent (2014) ★★★☆☆ BBC One, 5.00pm Angelina Jolie stars as the titular Maleficent in Disney’s live-action reimagining of Sleeping Beauty, which follows her from a young, carefree fairy to Mistress of All Evil, muddling the distinction between hero and villain. Maleficent is happy in a kingdom of peculiar CGI beasts until her heart is broken by Stefan (Sharlto Copley), who inherits the throne. Seeking vengeance, she curses his baby, Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning). Spectre (2015) ★★★★★ ITV, 8.00pm The 24th movie of the James Bond franchise is a swaggering show of confidence from director Sam Mendes. It combines hold-your-breath action and ghosts of Bond films past, trailing tingles of nostalgic pleasure in their wake. A cryptic message leads Bond (Daniel Craig) to Mexico City and Rome, where he uncovers the existence of the sinister organisation Spectre. Tuesday 2 January A blazing talent: Prince, who died in 2016 Credit: Getty Images Prince: Last Year of a Legend Channel 4, 10.00pm Confidants, famous fans and protégés pay tribute to a musical genius in this peculiar documentary which has plenty of good material but only a sketchy idea of what to do with it all; the strain of trying to understand such a studied enigma is tangible. Proceeding from April 2015 through the following 12 months of frenetic gigging (including jamming with Stevie Wonder at the White House) and recording to his death from an accidental overdose of painkillers, Last Year of a Legend is from the show-and-tell school of documentary making. Zawe Ashton’s narration is a case in point: “Prince plays his famous rock anthem, uniting and inspiring his audience,” we’re told, over footage of the singer performing Purple Rain to a demonstrably rapt crowd. Nothing Compares 2 U is described thus: “Often appearing on lists of the greatest songs, it’s a testament to Prince’s skill as a songwriter”. It then takes a curious turn into true-crime territory as “Prince’s last hours turn murky”. Yet it’s essential viewing for fans, both for the behind-the-scenes peak at the singer’s home Paisley Park and for the reminder, courtesy of scintillating concert footage, of what a blazing talent we have lost. Gabriel Tate Sex, Drugs and Murder: a Year in the Red Light Zone BBC Three, from 10.00am Here’s another excellent new documentary from BBC Three. This one follows the lives of sex workers in the Holbeck area of Leeds and exposes some grim truths about life on the margins. Kate Humble: Off the Beaten Track BBC Two, 7.00pm Kate Humble and her sheepdog, Teg, learn about old-style shepherding, mushroom-picking, skinny-dipping and life-saving as they travel from mainland Wales’s most northerly farm through Snowdonia in the first episode of a new series. The Greatest TV Moments of All Time ITV, 8.00pm It’s pure bathos as Paddy McGuinness, of all people, hosts this two-hour rundown of classic small-screen moments as voted for by viewers. Guests include Keith Lemon and Holly Willoughby. Harry Hill’s Tea-Time Sky One, 8.30pm The closest vehicle yet to Harry Hill recapturing that indefinable TV Burp magic, spoof cookery show Tea Time returns for a second series. Trevor McDonald is the first game celebrity guest, who belts out songs and makes sausages. The Real T. Rex with Chris Packham BBC Two, 9.00pm Naturalist Chris Packham travels the globe to gain a greater understanding of the Tyrannosaurus Rex through fossils, CGI reconstructions and the dinosaur’s nearest living descendants. Was it a pea-brained scavenger or sophisticated predator? Packham’s conclusions are characteristically forthright. Inside No 9 BBC Two, 10.00pm Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith’s wonderful comic-horror anthology returns for a fourth series with another estimable ensemble cast: Rory Kinnear, Hattie Morahan and Kevin Eldon are among those checking into a luxury hotel for a night that brings rather more than anticipated. GT Trollied Sky One, 10.00pm Following last week’s Christmas special, the sitcom begins its seventh series proper with budget supermarket Valco facing radical upheaval with poor grace as the CEO (Simon Delaney) pays a surprise visit. A fine ensemble, led by Jason Watkins and Sarah Parish, keep things watchable. GT A Monster in Paris (2011) ★★★☆☆ E4, 9.00am In 1910 Paris, an experiment goes wrong and results in a flea growing until it’s seven feet tall. As it turns out, the flea’s also a fantastic guitar player and becomes a cabaret act with a beautiful singer, Lucille (voiced by Vanessa Paradis in both the French and English versions). Very cute and surprisingly cheeky in parts, this 3D animation, directed by Bibo Bergeron and produced by Luc Besson, is a treat. Die Hard 2 (1990) ★★★☆☆ Film4, 9.00pm Bruce Willis returns as humble-yet-invincible cop John McClane in this action film sequel. Once again, it falls to McClane to save the day (and a skyscraper full of executives, and an airport of hapless tourists) from terrorists. It’s not a patch on its 1988 predecessor, but there’s one-liners and violence abound and it remains streets ahead of the more recent efforts from the franchise. Yippee-ki-yay, indeed. Clueless (1995) ★★★★☆ ITV, 11.10pm Loosely based on Jane Austen’s Emma, this gently amusing high-school satire launched the Hollywood careers of Alicia Silverstone, Brittany Murphy and the ubiquitous Paul Rudd. The plot follows the travails of Cher (Silverstone), a bubbly 15-year-old shopaholic who is the most popular girl at Beverly Hills High and wants to make the world a better place. Jam-packed with pop culture gags, Clueless has become a cult classic. Wednesday 3 January Zoe Wanamaker, Phyllis Logan and Miranda Richardson Credit: ITV Girlfriends ITV, 9.00pm Writer Kay Mellor has been busy: hard on the heels of BBC One’s Love, Lies & Records, here comes another new six-part drama, this one exploring the tangled lives and relationships of three middle-aged friends. It’s not entirely clear how such different personalities as Linda (Phyllis Logan), Gail (Zoë Wanamaker) and Sue (Miranda Richardson) came to be such fast friends, other than in vague references to meeting at Greenham Common protest camp in the early Eighties. No matter, as homemaker Linda, lollipop lady Gail and magazine features editor Sue have drifted apart over the years anyway. The set-up here is how tragedy brings them back together and forces them to take a more active interest in each other’s life trials and family problems once again. Linda has money troubles, Gail has a nice-but-dim criminal son, and Sue is struggling with ageism at work and a soulless ex-lover who happens to be both her employer and the father of her child. There’s nothing subtle about it – Richardson’s portrayal of overwrought journalist Sue is magnificently hammed up – but it grips from the start with a twist-packed storyline that tugs the heartstrings. Gerard O’Donovan Premier League: Arsenal v Chelsea Wednesday, Sky Sports Main Event, 7.00pm Arsenal go head to head with rivals Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium. Both of the previous meetings between the sides this season have ended in draws in regulation play, though Arsenal did go on to win the Community Shield on penalties back in August. They also claimed a 3-0 win when the sides met here last season when Alexis Sanchez, Theo Walcott and Mesut Ozil all scored in a dazzling first-half performance for the Gunners. Tom Kerridge’s Lose Weight For Good BBC Two, 8.00pm Having lost 12-stone, chef Tom Kerridge has certainly walked the dieting walk. He did so by “cutting out carbs, kicking the booze and hitting the gym”. But that wouldn’t make a great TV series (or, indeed, a tie-in book) so he’s come up with some “mouth-watering calorie-controlled recipes” for those keen to eat well while dieting. Rather handy in January, too. Kirstie and Phil’s Love It or List It Channel 4, 8.00pm New year, new house? Allsopp and Spencer return with the show that challenges people to renovate their home before deciding to move. Chasing the Nazis Yesterday, 8.00pm A harrowing two-part documentary telling the story of Simon Wiesenthal, a survivor of the concentration camps who dedicated his life to tracking down fugitive Nazi war criminals and responsible for bringing many of the most prominent, among them Adolf Eichmann and Josef Mengele, to justice. Trust Me I’m a Doctor BBC Two, 8.30pm Michael Mosely’s medical magazine brings good tidings for diabetics with news of a new artificial pancreas, why fizzy drinks make you hungrier, new treatments for baldness, plus a guide to obsessive-compulsive disorder. Hunting Down A Stitch in Time BBC Four, 8.30pm Art, dressmaking and politics combine engagingly as historian Amber Butchart explores – and recreates – how people have expressed wealth, power and politics in the way that they dress, beginning with that well known Restoration clothes horse, King Charles II. Miriam’s Big American Adventure BBC One, 9.00pm; Scotland, 10.45pm Leaving her Real Marigold Hotel chums behind, actress Miriam Margolyes heads across the pond for a terrifically entertaining two-month road trip through the heart of Middle America. “I go with an open mind, a warm heart and a beady eye,” she says, putting the latter to particularly good use in Chicago where she begins her journey. GO The Complaints Department More4, 10.00pm New Watchdog-style show with Harry Wallop and a team of product testers taking on companies on behalf of consumers stuck with faulty goods, such as a wedding dress that fell apart. GO Live Ashes Test Cricket: Australia v England BT Sport 1, 10.30pm Having already relinquished the Ashes to the Australia, England continue to play for pride as they head into the first day of play in the fifth Test, at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Made in Dagenham (2010) ★★★★☆ BBC Four, 9.00pm Industrial action in pursuit of equal pay for women doesn’t sound too thrillinga subject, but Nigel Cole’s (Calendar Girls) film, based around the real-life strike from 1968, turns out to be a rousing crowd-pleaser. Sally Hawkins plays the reluctant ringleader of the workers who sew car seats at Ford’s Dagenham plant; Bob Hoskins is a union rep; Miranda Richardson is wonderful as Labour MP Barbara Castle. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011) ★★★☆☆ ITV2, 9.00pm Guy Ritchie’s vigorously silly second Sherlock film has next to nothing in common with Arthur Conan Doyle’s work save a handful of character names and the odd pipe, but what it lacks in authenticity it makes up for in sheer swashbuckling brio. The action set pieces plus Holmes (Robert Downey Jnr) and Watson’s (Jude Law) camp squabbling more than sustain it. Pretty Woman (1990) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 10.45pm; Scotland, 11.45pm Initially intended as a dark drama about prostitution in Nineties Los Angeles, this romcom has been a huge success. Edward (Richard Gere), a millionaire mogul, takes a wrong turn in his Lotus Esprit and asks for directions from Vivian (Julia Roberts), a carefree call-girl. She steers him back to his hotel, he pays her $3,000 to be his escort for the week and they, improbably, fall head over heels in love. Thursday 4 January Word on the street: David Olusoga in Liverpool Credit: BBC A House Through Time BBC Two, 9.00pm The best ideas are often the most deceptively simple. So it proves with this wonderful new four-part documentary series from David Olusoga, which aims to trace the history of 62 Falkner Street, an ordinary terraced house in Liverpool, from its creation in the 1840s until the present day. The choice of Liverpool is an astute one – this bustling city has seen both boom and bust many times over the course of history and the stories that Olusoga, patiently trawling through records and archives, uncovers about the house’s many occupants illustrate that. Among the highlights are Richard Glenton, an ill-starred wastrel son who lived life on the high until the funds dried up, and the astute, sharp-minded James Orr, who climbed the social ladder from butler to businessman and left his wife a fortune when he died. “History isn’t just about what happens in battlefields and in palaces, it is also the story of millions of ordinary people who lived in houses just like this,” says Olusoga. He’s right and the great joy of this series is the way it not only illuminates the lives of those who lived in this particular house but also the history of city and a time. Sarah Hughes Wartime Crime Yesterday, 8.00pm Yesterday’s latest documentary series sets its focus on violence and bloodshed on the home front with a look at the criminals who flourished during the Second World War. The first episode (of six) takes place in London, where petty robber Billy Hill expanded into wide-scale organised crime. Death in Paradise BBC One, 9.00pm Ardal O’Hanlon’s relocation to the fictional Caribbean island of Saint Marie in the long-running detective show was met with mixed reviews. But he’s back for the new series as DI Jack Mooney, and is soon investigating the death of a billionaire’s fiancée inside a room locked from the inside. Hunted Channel 4, 9.00pm Celebrity Hunted was fun but the original is the real deal. This new series has some great candidates including competitive Sandra, chatty Carlene, and Magid, who is also the deputy Lord Mayor of Sheffield. Best of all, though are father-and-son team Bob and Alex, whose conversations about Alex’s depression are genuinely moving. The Secret Life of Sue Townsend (Aged 68 3/4) BBC Four, 10.00pm A welcome repeat for this engaging profile of Sue Townsend, the celebrated creator of Adrian Mole. Narrated by Julie Walters, the film is both heartbreaking and hilarious, an honest account of an often-difficult life, and one blighted with poor health. Townsend was a struggling mother of three living on a Leicester council estate when she wrote her first novel, The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 and ¾. It would go on to become one of the bestselling and most-loved books of the Eighties. Few authors have deserved the success more. SH Derry Girls Channel 4, 10.00pm Lisa McGee’s sprightly comedy is set in Northern Ireland towards the end of the Troubles in the Nineties and provides a welcome antidote to the standard depictions. The heroine is 16-year-old Erin (Saoirse-Monica Jackson), who’s more concerned with navigating school than with the bombs that make up her everyday life. Great Art ITV, 10.45pm ITV returns to highbrow arts programming with this promising new series which profiles some of the world’s great artists, and is presented by Tim Marlow. It begins with Venetian master Canaletto. SH The Boss Baby (2017) ★★☆☆☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 3.55pm Based on a 40-page children’s book about a taxing tot (here voiced by Alec Baldwin) who treats his parents like zero-hour flunkeys, Tom McGrath’s film is charming for as long as it can keep that premise spinning without embellishment, which is around 15 minutes. Rackety 3D antics is the only item on the agenda, with tired pop-culture nods and moderate toilet humour. Dumb and Dumber To (2014) ★★☆☆☆ Film4, 9.00pm This sequel to Dumb and Dumber finds Jeff Daniels and Jim Carrey older, no wiser and much less funny. Harry (Daniels) and Lloyd (Carrey) are back, gurning, grinding and punching one another in the groin. There’s a storyline of sorts, in which Harry hunts down his daughter (Rachel Melvin) because he needs a kidney transplant, which in turn sees them become embroiled in a poisoning plot. 22 Jump Street (2014) ★★★★☆ ITV2, 9.00pm Channing Tatum’s charisma and the best malapropisms ever make this sequel to 21 Jump Street a joy. Instead of infiltrating high school to arrest the suppliers of a drug, Jonah Hill’s Schmidt and Tatum’s Jenko infiltrate college to do… exactly the same, and their chemistry is sublime. The film is directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (The Lego Movie), who are becoming the handiest duo since the Coen brothers. Friday 5 January Double act: Andrew Graham-Dixon and Giorgio Locatelli Credit: BBC Rome Unpacked BBC Two, 9.00pm; Wales, 9.30pm “I cannot imagine anything in life better to do than this,” says the chef Giorgio Locatelli as he speeds around Rome on a Vespa with art critic Andrew Graham-Dixon. Here they return for another of their Italian jaunts, this time taking in the culture and cooking of the Italian capital, and its “divided, opinionated, passionate and unpredictable” inhabitants. The pair make an engaging double act: effervescent, witty and knowledgable. Their journey opens at Rome’s Capitoline Hill, the ancient meeting place of the “great and powerful and the mob”, as Graham-Dixon and Locatelli marvel at the work of Michelangelo before visiting that magnificent display of papal showmanship, the Trevi fountain. “As famous as Italian cream,” says Graham-Dixon, who adds that it was Federico Fellini who gave the fountain cinematic resonance in La Dolce Vita, before he explores how another artist, Caravaggio, captured the city’s soul. Never far behind with a quip or insight, Locatelli comes into his own in the market of San Giovanni di Dio, where he prepares a staple Roman dish – skate with broccoli soup. “This is Rome,” says Graham-Dixon. “Intenso.” Simon Horsford Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency Netflix, from 8.00am This US adaptation of Douglas Adams’s outlandish detective stories returns for a second season with Dirk Gently (Samuel Barnett) on the run from the CIA, while his sidekick Todd (Elijah Wood) attempts to save him. Live FA Cup Football: Liverpool v Everton BBC One, 7.30pm Four weeks after they met at Anfield in the Premier League, Merseyside rivals Liverpool take on Everton once again, this time in the FA Cup third round. The previous match finished in a 1-1 draw and Toffees manager Sam Allardyce believes that his side are capable of claiming a place in European football’s club competitions, as well as reaching the domestic cup finals. But first he must steer his side past their cross-city rivals. That may be easier said than done, as Liverpool have been on fine form going forward, scoring five goals in their last game alone. But for as good as they are going forward, the Kop have been inconsistent at the back – which is something that manager Jurgen Klopp is keen to rectify. River Monsters ITV, 8.00pm; not UTV or Wales Fearless host Jeremy Wade heads to New Britain in Papua New Guinea, where he hears from fisherman about a mysterious big-headed black fish that has on occasion attacked them. Costa Del Celebrity Channel 5, 8.00pm Celebrities used to present “travel” documentaries on their own – now they do it in groups. The latest on the treadmill sees Anne Diamond, Nick Owen, Ainsley Harriott, Christine Hamilton and Vicki Michelle head to the Costa Blanca. Breaking a Monster Sky Arts, 9.00pm A charming rockumentary detailing the machinations of the music industry and the rise of three African-American children in Brooklyn, from heavy-metal street band to securing a million dollar record deal. Luke Meyer’s film follows the remarkable ascent of Unlocking the Truth, a personable bunch of seventh graders with distinctive personalities. Will & Grace Channel 5, 10.00pm American sitcom Will & Grace was groundbreaking for its depiction of gay characters on TV. It now returns after an 11-year absence to a very different world. The question is, does it match up? To an extent, it does. Will (Eric McCormack), Grace (Debra Messing), Jack (Sean Hayes) and Karen (Megan Mullally) deliver with the same zest, but with added relevance – there are references to Grindr, Melania Trump, and fake news. In the first episode, Will and Grace’s political beliefs are put to the test. Graham Norton’s Good Guest Guide BBC One, 10.35pm Graham Norton has a knack for attracting “A-listers” to his sofa but what makes a good guest? Here he gives his advice to the stars. SH Radio 2 in Concert: Tears for Fears BBC Four, 11.00pm Jo Whiley presents as the Eighties synth-pop masters perform a set at London’s BBC Radio Theatre. It includes such era-defining hits as Mad World and Shout. SH Triple Cross (1966) ★★★☆☆ BBC Two, 12.10pm This slow-paced Second World War drama is loosely based on the exploits and autobiography of Eddie Chapman (Christopher Plummer), a British safe-cracker who offered both the Third Reich and British Intelligence his services as a spy while he was a prisoner in the Channel Islands. The lack of suspense makes you wonder if this is really the same director – Terence Young – who did the quick-fire early James Bond films. The Beatles: Eight Days a Week: The Touring Years (2016) ★★★☆☆ Channel 4, 9.00pm While you watch this peppy documentary from Ron Howard, which focuses on the band’s notoriously hectic touring period, from 1962-66, you feel pop history whistling past at speed. “We were force-grown, like rhubarb,” John Lennon observes in one of many well-chosen snippets. It’s a line that chimes with every step Howard shows us the band taking. Bridesmaids (2011) ★★★★★ ITV2, 9.00pm This sharply written and hilarious comedy combining bad taste with good humour is a valiant backlash against sugary chick flicks, but also a poignant evocation of loneliness. Annie (Kristen Wiig) agrees to be her best friend Lillian’s (Maya Rudolph) maid of honour, but finds herself competing with a richer, more elegant bridesmaid (Rose Byrne) when it comes to plea Television previewers Toby Dantzic, Catherine Gee, Simon Horsford, Sarah Hughes, Clive Morgan, Gerard O'Donovan, Vicki Power, Patrick Smith, Gabriel Tate and Rachel Ward
 Thursday 28 Friday 29 Wednesday 27 December 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. Saturday 30 December Comedy of errors: Derek Jacobi (centre) heads the cast Credit: BBC A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong BBC One, 7.10pm It begins like many other starchy BBC period dramas: with a knight of the realm declaiming familiar dialogue while teetering dangerously close to self-parody. In this case, the latter is entirely deliberate. Derek Jacobi’s take on Scrooge is rapidly hijacked by members of the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society, still smarting from their disastrous staging of Peter Pan last Christmas on BBC One (in which David Suchet was the thespian gamely offering himself up for ritual humiliation). Needless to say, the cast disputes and professional incompetence remain very much intact. A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong is the Mischief Theatre Company’s latest diligently staged, intricately planned catastrophe, steered once again by Henry Lewis, Henry Shields and Jonathan Sayer. Unlike Peter Pan Goes Wrong, this has been created specifically for television, so the team makes hay with technological disasters and broadcasting faux pas, while Jacobi and Diana Rigg (playing the narrator and no less willing to send herself up) have a ball as the snooty theatrical grandees appalled at the surrounding chaos. It’s family-friendly fare, an old-fashioned, uproarious and good-natured farce. Gabriel Tate Premiership Rugby Union: Harlequins v Northampton Saints Channel 5, 3.30pm Big Game 10 heads to Twickenham as Harlequins host Northampton. Both of these sides have had indifferent starts to their campaigns, and will be looking for a morale-boosting victory here. When they met back in September, the Saints came out on top, winning 30-22. Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway Presents: Who Shot Simon Cowell? ITV, 6.30pm Cobbling together the skits from 2016’s run of Saturday Night Takeaway, this half-hour special recounts the indefatigable pair’s attempts to clear their name after the music mogul is shot at a party. Guess the Star ITV, 7.00pm Jonathan Ross hosts this new game show in which three celebrity teams (led by Coronation Street’s Anthony Cotton, Eamonn Holmes and Diversity’s Jordan Banjo) must guess which famous faces are busking as Bruno Mars, Lemmy, Freddie Mercury, and many more. Grand Tours of Scotland’s Lochs BBC Two, 8.30pm; not NI Paul Murton resumes his travels north of the border by exploring the wilds surrounding Loch Etive, watching kayakers negotiating the Falls of Lora and camping on high to catch a spectacular sunset. Feud: Bette and Joan BBC Two, 9.00pm & 9.45pm; NI, 10.45pm & 11.30pm Ryan Murphy’s hysterical and ludicrously enjoyable melodrama approaches its climax as Oscar season arrives. The rivalry between Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange) and Bette Davis’s (Susan Sarandon) hits new heights as Crawford attempts to thwart her Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? co-star hopes of bagging an award. GT Spiral BBC Four, 9.00pm & 10.00pm When we last saw harried Parisian cop Laure Berthaud (Caroline Proust), she was heavily pregnant and had been stabbed and half-drowned. As we return for a welcome sixth series of the superbly knotty and harsh policier, Berthaud has since had her baby but is returning to work a mere four weeks later, enticed by the discovery of a dismembered corpse in a skip. Liam Gallagher: Live in New York Sky Arts, 9.00pm Liam Gallagher’s return is one of 2017’s more unlikely musical comebacks, and it is documented in this, his first solo concert in the US. Expect hits such as Morning Glory, Rock ’n’ Roll Star and Wall of Glass. 2017: a Year in the Life of a Year BBC Four, 11.05pm This enjoyably puerile, scattershot spoof from Rhys Thomas joins the dots between Jeremy Corbyn, CBeebies and King Kong. GT WTA Tennis: Shenzhen Open Saturday, BT Sport/ESPN, 5.00am The road to the Australian Open, the first grand slam of 2018, begins at the Shenzhen Longgang Tennis Centre, with world number one Simona Halep leading a field, that includes five-time Grand Slam winner Maria Sharapova. All About Eve (1950, b/w) ★★★★★ BBC Two, 3.20pm One of Hollywood’s greatest films explores Tinseltown’s inherent ageism towards its female stars. Bette Davis gives a riveting performance as fortysomething actress Margo Channing, whose ascendancy is usurped by ingénue Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter). The film oozes wit as Margo puts on a brave face with lines that have since become classics, such as, “Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.” Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 8.00pm Joss Whedon’s superhero film gives you a pop-culture sugar rush, stacking characters, conflicts, subplots and background treats. But the structure holds and the film flies past at speed, perhaps because Whedon values humour as much as a spectacular set-piece. This time the all-star Avengers (Iron Man, Captain America, etc) do battle with the all-powerful Ultron. Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964, b/w) ★★★☆☆ BBC Two, 10.30pm; not Northern Ireland The rivalry between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford continued on set of this heady horror film, with Davis having a Coca-Cola machine placed on film lot to infuriate Crawford, who was married to the CEO of Pepsi. But Crawford bowed out due to illness and was replaced by Olivia de Havilland. The story follows two cousins warring over an inheritance. New Year’s Eve Going out with a bang: the New Year fireworks in London Credit: Getty Images Countdown to 2018 BBC One, BBC Two & ITV, from 11.20pm More than ever the field for these shared national events is left clear for the BBC, which offers two choices to ring in 2018, both beginning at 11.20pm. On BBC One, there’s Nile Rodgers & Chic: Good Times, a live relay from London of the American funk outfit’s concert at Westminster’s Central Hall, getting the celebrations off to an upbeat start with disco classics such as Everybody Dance, Le Freak and Good Times. There’s a break, at 11.55pm, for the annual New Year’s Eve Fireworks from the River Thames and a round of Auld Lang Syne as Big Ben strikes the midnight hour, before the band starts up again. On BBC Two, the year-end staple Jools’ Annual Hootenanny sees pop megastar Ed Sheeran headline the celebrations, with performances also from erstwhile Gossip frontwoman Beth Ditto, and a selection of vintage gospel, soul and R’n’B stars including Mavis Staples, Soul II Soul, George McCrae and Ruby Turner, among others. The pipes and drums of the Scots Guards will play in the New Year. And if music is not to your change-ringing taste, there’s always ITV’s more sober offer: a news bulletin at 11.45pm, followed by the bongs. Happy New Year! Gerard O’Donovan Bee Gees: Live in Melbourne 1989 Sky Arts, 5.15pm From the group’s One for All world tour in 1989, this packed out stadium concert sees the brothers Gibb yodel a full slate of hits, from New York Mining Disaster 1941 and Massachusetts to Jive Talkin’ and Stayin’ Alive. CBeebies Bedtime Stories CBeebies, 6.50pm Queen of country music Dolly Parton pays a return visit for the seasonal storytelling series, reading Garry Parsons and Jane Clarke’s delightful tale Stuck in the Mud. Robot Wars Special 2017: the world series BBC Two, 7.00pm Dara O Briain and Angela Scanlon present a special “world series” edition in which four of the UK’s top battle bots thrash it out with an international team of champions from Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium and Portugal. Andre Rieu: New Year’s Eve in Vienna Sky Arts, 7.30pm Where better than the banks of the Danube for the king of waltz and his Johann Strauss Orchestra to ring in the New Year. The year in question was, admittedly, 2005, but no matter, it’s a timeless mix of Viennese favourites. And if you simply can’t get enough strings, his 2003 Hanover concert Andre Rieu’s New Year’s Eve Punch follows at 9.45pm. GO Antiques Roadshow BBC One, 8.00pm This showbiz special from the Albert Square set of EastEnders in Elstree focuses largely on TV and film memorabilia – an original Muffin the Mule puppet, a key script from Doctor Who and a staggeringly valuable collection of discarded props – plus items relating to Andy Warhol, Marc Bolan and Jimi Hendrix. World Darts Championship Monday, Sky Sports Main Event / Sky Sports Darts, 8.00pm After 15 days on the oche, the biggest tournament in darts comes to an end with its final at Alexandra Palace in London. There is £400,000 waiting for the eventual champion, alongside the Sid Waddell Trophy. Sixteen-time world champion Phil Taylor made a record 29th consecutive appearance at a world championship as he brings an end to his glittering career. Last year, world number one Michael van Gerwen won his second world championship title by defeating two-times defending champion Gary Anderson 7-3. Alan Carr’s New Year Specstacular 2017 Channel 4, 9.00pm The chat show host’s annual New Year’s bash is bigger and louder than ever with Caroline Flack, Keith Lemon, Jonnie Peacock and Alex Brooker among those participating in madcap sketches and party games, plus music from The Voice star Becky Hill with Pete Tong and the Heritage Orchestra. The Graham Norton Show BBC One, 10.20pm Helping to get us in the mood for the bongs is an all-actor line up with guests Hugh Jackman, Suranne Jones, Gary Oldman, Zendaya and Zac Efron, plus music from West End stars The Leading Ladies, Beverley Knight, Amber Riley and Cassidy Janson. GO Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 1.40pm; Scotland, 2.10pm Three Cockney orphans are billeted in an English village with apprentice witch Angela Lansbury in this delightful live-action Disney yarn set during the Second World War. Along with charlatan magician David Tomlinson, they visit Portobello Road on a flying bed and watch an all-animal football match before a magical showdown with sneaky German invaders. Into the Woods (2014) ★★★☆☆ BBC Two, 8.00pm Stephen Sondheim’s 1987 musical, which sees the likes of Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) and Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy) cross paths, gets the Hollywood treatment. James Corden plays the baker who must find several items (red cape, golden slipper, lock of hair) so that he and his wife can have a child. Meryl Streep is the archetypal old crone. It’s wonderful, wintry fun. An American Werewolf in London (1981) ★★★★☆ Film4, 11.35pm Scary/funny is a hard one to pull off but John Landis does so impressively in this witty horror that scares and amuses in equal measure. David Naughton and Griffin Dunne play American backpackers attacked by a beast on the Yorkshire Moors. One boy survives, only to undergo a terrifying transformation. What follows is eerie music and some creative dream sequences. New Year’s Day Family connections: Maria Shukshina and James Norton Credit: BBC McMafia BBC One, 9.00pm This slick, smart thriller about Russian gangsters, banking greed and the globalisation of organised crime is the BBC’s flagship drama for the new year – and deservedly so. Taking Misha Glenny’s fascinating account of the spread of crime since the break-up of the Soviet bloc as its starting point, the addictive McMafia spins a tense web of lies, betrayals and deceit revolving around James Norton’s Alex Godman, the English-raised, private-school educated son of Russian exiles who has turned his back on his family’s less-than-reputable past to forge a “respectable” career in banking. When that past comes rushing in, Alex soon discovers that he’s not the man that he thought he was – can he break free of family ties or will he lose everything that he’s worked for? It would be easy to see McMafia as another glossy thriller in the same mode as The Night Manager, but it’s more interesting than that. Hossein Amini (who wrote the film Drive) and James Watkins’s subtle script delves deep into the realities of being an outsider and Norton makes for a charismatic, complex leading man. Watkins also directs with verve, allowing us to see that far more is at stake than one man’s soul. Sarah Hughes Grandpa’s Great Escape BBC One, 6.55pm There’s just time to squeeze in one last festive treat with this lovely adaptation of one of David Walliams’s most enjoyable books. Tom Courtenay plays the eponymous Grandpa, a former Second World War pilot living with Alzheimer’s disease and stuck in a dreadful care home. Can grandson Jack (Kit Connor) help him mount one final escape? New Year’s Day Concert from Vienna 2018 BBC Four, 7.00pm The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra’s New Year’s concert is one of the highlights of the classical music year and this year’s should be no exception. Riccardo Muti conducts a performance of polkas, waltzes and marches composed by the Strauss family and their contemporaries. Followed by two performances from the Vienna State Ballet to mark 100 years since the death of Austrian architect Otto Wagner. The Great Festive Bake Off Channel 4, 7.40pm They’re still wringing every last drop of Bake Off goodwill from a successful season. The second of two specials sees former contestants, Benjamina, Rob, Rav and Sandy take on winter-wonderland challenges. The Two Ronnies: In Their Own Words Channel 5, 8.00pm They used to dominate Christmas schedules so what better time of year to honour The Two Ronnies than on New Year’s Day? This is a straightforward recap of the careers of Messrs Barker and Corbett featuring best moments and contributions from family and friends. Sue Perkins and the Chimp Sanctuary BBC Two, 9.00pm This week Perkins travels to the US to examine laws on using chimpanzees in medical research, a practice only recently outlawed. She is rightly outraged, particularly after spending time the chimps in question. SH The Story of Bohemian Rhapsody BBC Four, 9.00pm BBC Four gives over the rest of the evening to a celebration of Queen. First up is a 2004 documentary on the story behind the band’s best-known song with rare footage of Freddie Mercury. That’s followed by Queen: Rock the World, which looks at the band’s 1977 tour of North America, and Queen: The Legendary 1975 Concert, which sees the band performing at London’s Hammersmith Odeon. SH Shrek Forever After (2010) ★★★☆☆ BBC One, 2.05pm The fourth and final episode in DreamWorks’ green ogre franchise is an animated variation on It’s a Wonderful Life, with Shrek conned into signing away the day of his own birth; his wife and friends no longer know who he is, and the land of Far Far Away is ruled by the evil Rumpelstiltskin. It’s no classic, but more fun than Shrek the Third and an entertaining flourish to finish the franchise. Maleficent (2014) ★★★☆☆ BBC One, 5.00pm Angelina Jolie stars as the titular Maleficent in Disney’s live-action reimagining of Sleeping Beauty, which follows her from a young, carefree fairy to Mistress of All Evil, muddling the distinction between hero and villain. Maleficent is happy in a kingdom of peculiar CGI beasts until her heart is broken by Stefan (Sharlto Copley), who inherits the throne. Seeking vengeance, she curses his baby, Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning). Spectre (2015) ★★★★★ ITV, 8.00pm The 24th movie of the James Bond franchise is a swaggering show of confidence from director Sam Mendes. It combines hold-your-breath action and ghosts of Bond films past, trailing tingles of nostalgic pleasure in their wake. A cryptic message leads Bond (Daniel Craig) to Mexico City and Rome, where he uncovers the existence of the sinister organisation Spectre. Tuesday 2 January A blazing talent: Prince, who died in 2016 Credit: Getty Images Prince: Last Year of a Legend Channel 4, 10.00pm Confidants, famous fans and protégés pay tribute to a musical genius in this peculiar documentary which has plenty of good material but only a sketchy idea of what to do with it all; the strain of trying to understand such a studied enigma is tangible. Proceeding from April 2015 through the following 12 months of frenetic gigging (including jamming with Stevie Wonder at the White House) and recording to his death from an accidental overdose of painkillers, Last Year of a Legend is from the show-and-tell school of documentary making. Zawe Ashton’s narration is a case in point: “Prince plays his famous rock anthem, uniting and inspiring his audience,” we’re told, over footage of the singer performing Purple Rain to a demonstrably rapt crowd. Nothing Compares 2 U is described thus: “Often appearing on lists of the greatest songs, it’s a testament to Prince’s skill as a songwriter”. It then takes a curious turn into true-crime territory as “Prince’s last hours turn murky”. Yet it’s essential viewing for fans, both for the behind-the-scenes peak at the singer’s home Paisley Park and for the reminder, courtesy of scintillating concert footage, of what a blazing talent we have lost. Gabriel Tate Sex, Drugs and Murder: a Year in the Red Light Zone BBC Three, from 10.00am Here’s another excellent new documentary from BBC Three. This one follows the lives of sex workers in the Holbeck area of Leeds and exposes some grim truths about life on the margins. Kate Humble: Off the Beaten Track BBC Two, 7.00pm Kate Humble and her sheepdog, Teg, learn about old-style shepherding, mushroom-picking, skinny-dipping and life-saving as they travel from mainland Wales’s most northerly farm through Snowdonia in the first episode of a new series. The Greatest TV Moments of All Time ITV, 8.00pm It’s pure bathos as Paddy McGuinness, of all people, hosts this two-hour rundown of classic small-screen moments as voted for by viewers. Guests include Keith Lemon and Holly Willoughby. Harry Hill’s Tea-Time Sky One, 8.30pm The closest vehicle yet to Harry Hill recapturing that indefinable TV Burp magic, spoof cookery show Tea Time returns for a second series. Trevor McDonald is the first game celebrity guest, who belts out songs and makes sausages. The Real T. Rex with Chris Packham BBC Two, 9.00pm Naturalist Chris Packham travels the globe to gain a greater understanding of the Tyrannosaurus Rex through fossils, CGI reconstructions and the dinosaur’s nearest living descendants. Was it a pea-brained scavenger or sophisticated predator? Packham’s conclusions are characteristically forthright. Inside No 9 BBC Two, 10.00pm Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith’s wonderful comic-horror anthology returns for a fourth series with another estimable ensemble cast: Rory Kinnear, Hattie Morahan and Kevin Eldon are among those checking into a luxury hotel for a night that brings rather more than anticipated. GT Trollied Sky One, 10.00pm Following last week’s Christmas special, the sitcom begins its seventh series proper with budget supermarket Valco facing radical upheaval with poor grace as the CEO (Simon Delaney) pays a surprise visit. A fine ensemble, led by Jason Watkins and Sarah Parish, keep things watchable. GT A Monster in Paris (2011) ★★★☆☆ E4, 9.00am In 1910 Paris, an experiment goes wrong and results in a flea growing until it’s seven feet tall. As it turns out, the flea’s also a fantastic guitar player and becomes a cabaret act with a beautiful singer, Lucille (voiced by Vanessa Paradis in both the French and English versions). Very cute and surprisingly cheeky in parts, this 3D animation, directed by Bibo Bergeron and produced by Luc Besson, is a treat. Die Hard 2 (1990) ★★★☆☆ Film4, 9.00pm Bruce Willis returns as humble-yet-invincible cop John McClane in this action film sequel. Once again, it falls to McClane to save the day (and a skyscraper full of executives, and an airport of hapless tourists) from terrorists. It’s not a patch on its 1988 predecessor, but there’s one-liners and violence abound and it remains streets ahead of the more recent efforts from the franchise. Yippee-ki-yay, indeed. Clueless (1995) ★★★★☆ ITV, 11.10pm Loosely based on Jane Austen’s Emma, this gently amusing high-school satire launched the Hollywood careers of Alicia Silverstone, Brittany Murphy and the ubiquitous Paul Rudd. The plot follows the travails of Cher (Silverstone), a bubbly 15-year-old shopaholic who is the most popular girl at Beverly Hills High and wants to make the world a better place. Jam-packed with pop culture gags, Clueless has become a cult classic. Wednesday 3 January Zoe Wanamaker, Phyllis Logan and Miranda Richardson Credit: ITV Girlfriends ITV, 9.00pm Writer Kay Mellor has been busy: hard on the heels of BBC One’s Love, Lies & Records, here comes another new six-part drama, this one exploring the tangled lives and relationships of three middle-aged friends. It’s not entirely clear how such different personalities as Linda (Phyllis Logan), Gail (Zoë Wanamaker) and Sue (Miranda Richardson) came to be such fast friends, other than in vague references to meeting at Greenham Common protest camp in the early Eighties. No matter, as homemaker Linda, lollipop lady Gail and magazine features editor Sue have drifted apart over the years anyway. The set-up here is how tragedy brings them back together and forces them to take a more active interest in each other’s life trials and family problems once again. Linda has money troubles, Gail has a nice-but-dim criminal son, and Sue is struggling with ageism at work and a soulless ex-lover who happens to be both her employer and the father of her child. There’s nothing subtle about it – Richardson’s portrayal of overwrought journalist Sue is magnificently hammed up – but it grips from the start with a twist-packed storyline that tugs the heartstrings. Gerard O’Donovan Premier League: Arsenal v Chelsea Wednesday, Sky Sports Main Event, 7.00pm Arsenal go head to head with rivals Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium. Both of the previous meetings between the sides this season have ended in draws in regulation play, though Arsenal did go on to win the Community Shield on penalties back in August. They also claimed a 3-0 win when the sides met here last season when Alexis Sanchez, Theo Walcott and Mesut Ozil all scored in a dazzling first-half performance for the Gunners. Tom Kerridge’s Lose Weight For Good BBC Two, 8.00pm Having lost 12-stone, chef Tom Kerridge has certainly walked the dieting walk. He did so by “cutting out carbs, kicking the booze and hitting the gym”. But that wouldn’t make a great TV series (or, indeed, a tie-in book) so he’s come up with some “mouth-watering calorie-controlled recipes” for those keen to eat well while dieting. Rather handy in January, too. Kirstie and Phil’s Love It or List It Channel 4, 8.00pm New year, new house? Allsopp and Spencer return with the show that challenges people to renovate their home before deciding to move. Chasing the Nazis Yesterday, 8.00pm A harrowing two-part documentary telling the story of Simon Wiesenthal, a survivor of the concentration camps who dedicated his life to tracking down fugitive Nazi war criminals and responsible for bringing many of the most prominent, among them Adolf Eichmann and Josef Mengele, to justice. Trust Me I’m a Doctor BBC Two, 8.30pm Michael Mosely’s medical magazine brings good tidings for diabetics with news of a new artificial pancreas, why fizzy drinks make you hungrier, new treatments for baldness, plus a guide to obsessive-compulsive disorder. Hunting Down A Stitch in Time BBC Four, 8.30pm Art, dressmaking and politics combine engagingly as historian Amber Butchart explores – and recreates – how people have expressed wealth, power and politics in the way that they dress, beginning with that well known Restoration clothes horse, King Charles II. Miriam’s Big American Adventure BBC One, 9.00pm; Scotland, 10.45pm Leaving her Real Marigold Hotel chums behind, actress Miriam Margolyes heads across the pond for a terrifically entertaining two-month road trip through the heart of Middle America. “I go with an open mind, a warm heart and a beady eye,” she says, putting the latter to particularly good use in Chicago where she begins her journey. GO The Complaints Department More4, 10.00pm New Watchdog-style show with Harry Wallop and a team of product testers taking on companies on behalf of consumers stuck with faulty goods, such as a wedding dress that fell apart. GO Live Ashes Test Cricket: Australia v England BT Sport 1, 10.30pm Having already relinquished the Ashes to the Australia, England continue to play for pride as they head into the first day of play in the fifth Test, at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Made in Dagenham (2010) ★★★★☆ BBC Four, 9.00pm Industrial action in pursuit of equal pay for women doesn’t sound too thrillinga subject, but Nigel Cole’s (Calendar Girls) film, based around the real-life strike from 1968, turns out to be a rousing crowd-pleaser. Sally Hawkins plays the reluctant ringleader of the workers who sew car seats at Ford’s Dagenham plant; Bob Hoskins is a union rep; Miranda Richardson is wonderful as Labour MP Barbara Castle. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011) ★★★☆☆ ITV2, 9.00pm Guy Ritchie’s vigorously silly second Sherlock film has next to nothing in common with Arthur Conan Doyle’s work save a handful of character names and the odd pipe, but what it lacks in authenticity it makes up for in sheer swashbuckling brio. The action set pieces plus Holmes (Robert Downey Jnr) and Watson’s (Jude Law) camp squabbling more than sustain it. Pretty Woman (1990) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 10.45pm; Scotland, 11.45pm Initially intended as a dark drama about prostitution in Nineties Los Angeles, this romcom has been a huge success. Edward (Richard Gere), a millionaire mogul, takes a wrong turn in his Lotus Esprit and asks for directions from Vivian (Julia Roberts), a carefree call-girl. She steers him back to his hotel, he pays her $3,000 to be his escort for the week and they, improbably, fall head over heels in love. Thursday 4 January Word on the street: David Olusoga in Liverpool Credit: BBC A House Through Time BBC Two, 9.00pm The best ideas are often the most deceptively simple. So it proves with this wonderful new four-part documentary series from David Olusoga, which aims to trace the history of 62 Falkner Street, an ordinary terraced house in Liverpool, from its creation in the 1840s until the present day. The choice of Liverpool is an astute one – this bustling city has seen both boom and bust many times over the course of history and the stories that Olusoga, patiently trawling through records and archives, uncovers about the house’s many occupants illustrate that. Among the highlights are Richard Glenton, an ill-starred wastrel son who lived life on the high until the funds dried up, and the astute, sharp-minded James Orr, who climbed the social ladder from butler to businessman and left his wife a fortune when he died. “History isn’t just about what happens in battlefields and in palaces, it is also the story of millions of ordinary people who lived in houses just like this,” says Olusoga. He’s right and the great joy of this series is the way it not only illuminates the lives of those who lived in this particular house but also the history of city and a time. Sarah Hughes Wartime Crime Yesterday, 8.00pm Yesterday’s latest documentary series sets its focus on violence and bloodshed on the home front with a look at the criminals who flourished during the Second World War. The first episode (of six) takes place in London, where petty robber Billy Hill expanded into wide-scale organised crime. Death in Paradise BBC One, 9.00pm Ardal O’Hanlon’s relocation to the fictional Caribbean island of Saint Marie in the long-running detective show was met with mixed reviews. But he’s back for the new series as DI Jack Mooney, and is soon investigating the death of a billionaire’s fiancée inside a room locked from the inside. Hunted Channel 4, 9.00pm Celebrity Hunted was fun but the original is the real deal. This new series has some great candidates including competitive Sandra, chatty Carlene, and Magid, who is also the deputy Lord Mayor of Sheffield. Best of all, though are father-and-son team Bob and Alex, whose conversations about Alex’s depression are genuinely moving. The Secret Life of Sue Townsend (Aged 68 3/4) BBC Four, 10.00pm A welcome repeat for this engaging profile of Sue Townsend, the celebrated creator of Adrian Mole. Narrated by Julie Walters, the film is both heartbreaking and hilarious, an honest account of an often-difficult life, and one blighted with poor health. Townsend was a struggling mother of three living on a Leicester council estate when she wrote her first novel, The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 and ¾. It would go on to become one of the bestselling and most-loved books of the Eighties. Few authors have deserved the success more. SH Derry Girls Channel 4, 10.00pm Lisa McGee’s sprightly comedy is set in Northern Ireland towards the end of the Troubles in the Nineties and provides a welcome antidote to the standard depictions. The heroine is 16-year-old Erin (Saoirse-Monica Jackson), who’s more concerned with navigating school than with the bombs that make up her everyday life. Great Art ITV, 10.45pm ITV returns to highbrow arts programming with this promising new series which profiles some of the world’s great artists, and is presented by Tim Marlow. It begins with Venetian master Canaletto. SH The Boss Baby (2017) ★★☆☆☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 3.55pm Based on a 40-page children’s book about a taxing tot (here voiced by Alec Baldwin) who treats his parents like zero-hour flunkeys, Tom McGrath’s film is charming for as long as it can keep that premise spinning without embellishment, which is around 15 minutes. Rackety 3D antics is the only item on the agenda, with tired pop-culture nods and moderate toilet humour. Dumb and Dumber To (2014) ★★☆☆☆ Film4, 9.00pm This sequel to Dumb and Dumber finds Jeff Daniels and Jim Carrey older, no wiser and much less funny. Harry (Daniels) and Lloyd (Carrey) are back, gurning, grinding and punching one another in the groin. There’s a storyline of sorts, in which Harry hunts down his daughter (Rachel Melvin) because he needs a kidney transplant, which in turn sees them become embroiled in a poisoning plot. 22 Jump Street (2014) ★★★★☆ ITV2, 9.00pm Channing Tatum’s charisma and the best malapropisms ever make this sequel to 21 Jump Street a joy. Instead of infiltrating high school to arrest the suppliers of a drug, Jonah Hill’s Schmidt and Tatum’s Jenko infiltrate college to do… exactly the same, and their chemistry is sublime. The film is directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (The Lego Movie), who are becoming the handiest duo since the Coen brothers. Friday 5 January Double act: Andrew Graham-Dixon and Giorgio Locatelli Credit: BBC Rome Unpacked BBC Two, 9.00pm; Wales, 9.30pm “I cannot imagine anything in life better to do than this,” says the chef Giorgio Locatelli as he speeds around Rome on a Vespa with art critic Andrew Graham-Dixon. Here they return for another of their Italian jaunts, this time taking in the culture and cooking of the Italian capital, and its “divided, opinionated, passionate and unpredictable” inhabitants. The pair make an engaging double act: effervescent, witty and knowledgable. Their journey opens at Rome’s Capitoline Hill, the ancient meeting place of the “great and powerful and the mob”, as Graham-Dixon and Locatelli marvel at the work of Michelangelo before visiting that magnificent display of papal showmanship, the Trevi fountain. “As famous as Italian cream,” says Graham-Dixon, who adds that it was Federico Fellini who gave the fountain cinematic resonance in La Dolce Vita, before he explores how another artist, Caravaggio, captured the city’s soul. Never far behind with a quip or insight, Locatelli comes into his own in the market of San Giovanni di Dio, where he prepares a staple Roman dish – skate with broccoli soup. “This is Rome,” says Graham-Dixon. “Intenso.” Simon Horsford Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency Netflix, from 8.00am This US adaptation of Douglas Adams’s outlandish detective stories returns for a second season with Dirk Gently (Samuel Barnett) on the run from the CIA, while his sidekick Todd (Elijah Wood) attempts to save him. Live FA Cup Football: Liverpool v Everton BBC One, 7.30pm Four weeks after they met at Anfield in the Premier League, Merseyside rivals Liverpool take on Everton once again, this time in the FA Cup third round. The previous match finished in a 1-1 draw and Toffees manager Sam Allardyce believes that his side are capable of claiming a place in European football’s club competitions, as well as reaching the domestic cup finals. But first he must steer his side past their cross-city rivals. That may be easier said than done, as Liverpool have been on fine form going forward, scoring five goals in their last game alone. But for as good as they are going forward, the Kop have been inconsistent at the back – which is something that manager Jurgen Klopp is keen to rectify. River Monsters ITV, 8.00pm; not UTV or Wales Fearless host Jeremy Wade heads to New Britain in Papua New Guinea, where he hears from fisherman about a mysterious big-headed black fish that has on occasion attacked them. Costa Del Celebrity Channel 5, 8.00pm Celebrities used to present “travel” documentaries on their own – now they do it in groups. The latest on the treadmill sees Anne Diamond, Nick Owen, Ainsley Harriott, Christine Hamilton and Vicki Michelle head to the Costa Blanca. Breaking a Monster Sky Arts, 9.00pm A charming rockumentary detailing the machinations of the music industry and the rise of three African-American children in Brooklyn, from heavy-metal street band to securing a million dollar record deal. Luke Meyer’s film follows the remarkable ascent of Unlocking the Truth, a personable bunch of seventh graders with distinctive personalities. Will & Grace Channel 5, 10.00pm American sitcom Will & Grace was groundbreaking for its depiction of gay characters on TV. It now returns after an 11-year absence to a very different world. The question is, does it match up? To an extent, it does. Will (Eric McCormack), Grace (Debra Messing), Jack (Sean Hayes) and Karen (Megan Mullally) deliver with the same zest, but with added relevance – there are references to Grindr, Melania Trump, and fake news. In the first episode, Will and Grace’s political beliefs are put to the test. Graham Norton’s Good Guest Guide BBC One, 10.35pm Graham Norton has a knack for attracting “A-listers” to his sofa but what makes a good guest? Here he gives his advice to the stars. SH Radio 2 in Concert: Tears for Fears BBC Four, 11.00pm Jo Whiley presents as the Eighties synth-pop masters perform a set at London’s BBC Radio Theatre. It includes such era-defining hits as Mad World and Shout. SH Triple Cross (1966) ★★★☆☆ BBC Two, 12.10pm This slow-paced Second World War drama is loosely based on the exploits and autobiography of Eddie Chapman (Christopher Plummer), a British safe-cracker who offered both the Third Reich and British Intelligence his services as a spy while he was a prisoner in the Channel Islands. The lack of suspense makes you wonder if this is really the same director – Terence Young – who did the quick-fire early James Bond films. The Beatles: Eight Days a Week: The Touring Years (2016) ★★★☆☆ Channel 4, 9.00pm While you watch this peppy documentary from Ron Howard, which focuses on the band’s notoriously hectic touring period, from 1962-66, you feel pop history whistling past at speed. “We were force-grown, like rhubarb,” John Lennon observes in one of many well-chosen snippets. It’s a line that chimes with every step Howard shows us the band taking. Bridesmaids (2011) ★★★★★ ITV2, 9.00pm This sharply written and hilarious comedy combining bad taste with good humour is a valiant backlash against sugary chick flicks, but also a poignant evocation of loneliness. Annie (Kristen Wiig) agrees to be her best friend Lillian’s (Maya Rudolph) maid of honour, but finds herself competing with a richer, more elegant bridesmaid (Rose Byrne) when it comes to plea 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: Alan Partridge and Miranda Does Christmas
Thursday 28 Friday 29 Wednesday 27 December 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. Saturday 30 December Comedy of errors: Derek Jacobi (centre) heads the cast Credit: BBC A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong BBC One, 7.10pm It begins like many other starchy BBC period dramas: with a knight of the realm declaiming familiar dialogue while teetering dangerously close to self-parody. In this case, the latter is entirely deliberate. Derek Jacobi’s take on Scrooge is rapidly hijacked by members of the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society, still smarting from their disastrous staging of Peter Pan last Christmas on BBC One (in which David Suchet was the thespian gamely offering himself up for ritual humiliation). Needless to say, the cast disputes and professional incompetence remain very much intact. A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong is the Mischief Theatre Company’s latest diligently staged, intricately planned catastrophe, steered once again by Henry Lewis, Henry Shields and Jonathan Sayer. Unlike Peter Pan Goes Wrong, this has been created specifically for television, so the team makes hay with technological disasters and broadcasting faux pas, while Jacobi and Diana Rigg (playing the narrator and no less willing to send herself up) have a ball as the snooty theatrical grandees appalled at the surrounding chaos. It’s family-friendly fare, an old-fashioned, uproarious and good-natured farce. Gabriel Tate Premiership Rugby Union: Harlequins v Northampton Saints Channel 5, 3.30pm Big Game 10 heads to Twickenham as Harlequins host Northampton. Both of these sides have had indifferent starts to their campaigns, and will be looking for a morale-boosting victory here. When they met back in September, the Saints came out on top, winning 30-22. Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway Presents: Who Shot Simon Cowell? ITV, 6.30pm Cobbling together the skits from 2016’s run of Saturday Night Takeaway, this half-hour special recounts the indefatigable pair’s attempts to clear their name after the music mogul is shot at a party. Guess the Star ITV, 7.00pm Jonathan Ross hosts this new game show in which three celebrity teams (led by Coronation Street’s Anthony Cotton, Eamonn Holmes and Diversity’s Jordan Banjo) must guess which famous faces are busking as Bruno Mars, Lemmy, Freddie Mercury, and many more. Grand Tours of Scotland’s Lochs BBC Two, 8.30pm; not NI Paul Murton resumes his travels north of the border by exploring the wilds surrounding Loch Etive, watching kayakers negotiating the Falls of Lora and camping on high to catch a spectacular sunset. Feud: Bette and Joan BBC Two, 9.00pm & 9.45pm; NI, 10.45pm & 11.30pm Ryan Murphy’s hysterical and ludicrously enjoyable melodrama approaches its climax as Oscar season arrives. The rivalry between Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange) and Bette Davis’s (Susan Sarandon) hits new heights as Crawford attempts to thwart her Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? co-star hopes of bagging an award. GT Spiral BBC Four, 9.00pm & 10.00pm When we last saw harried Parisian cop Laure Berthaud (Caroline Proust), she was heavily pregnant and had been stabbed and half-drowned. As we return for a welcome sixth series of the superbly knotty and harsh policier, Berthaud has since had her baby but is returning to work a mere four weeks later, enticed by the discovery of a dismembered corpse in a skip. Liam Gallagher: Live in New York Sky Arts, 9.00pm Liam Gallagher’s return is one of 2017’s more unlikely musical comebacks, and it is documented in this, his first solo concert in the US. Expect hits such as Morning Glory, Rock ’n’ Roll Star and Wall of Glass. 2017: a Year in the Life of a Year BBC Four, 11.05pm This enjoyably puerile, scattershot spoof from Rhys Thomas joins the dots between Jeremy Corbyn, CBeebies and King Kong. GT WTA Tennis: Shenzhen Open Saturday, BT Sport/ESPN, 5.00am The road to the Australian Open, the first grand slam of 2018, begins at the Shenzhen Longgang Tennis Centre, with world number one Simona Halep leading a field, that includes five-time Grand Slam winner Maria Sharapova. All About Eve (1950, b/w) ★★★★★ BBC Two, 3.20pm One of Hollywood’s greatest films explores Tinseltown’s inherent ageism towards its female stars. Bette Davis gives a riveting performance as fortysomething actress Margo Channing, whose ascendancy is usurped by ingénue Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter). The film oozes wit as Margo puts on a brave face with lines that have since become classics, such as, “Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.” Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 8.00pm Joss Whedon’s superhero film gives you a pop-culture sugar rush, stacking characters, conflicts, subplots and background treats. But the structure holds and the film flies past at speed, perhaps because Whedon values humour as much as a spectacular set-piece. This time the all-star Avengers (Iron Man, Captain America, etc) do battle with the all-powerful Ultron. Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964, b/w) ★★★☆☆ BBC Two, 10.30pm; not Northern Ireland The rivalry between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford continued on set of this heady horror film, with Davis having a Coca-Cola machine placed on film lot to infuriate Crawford, who was married to the CEO of Pepsi. But Crawford bowed out due to illness and was replaced by Olivia de Havilland. The story follows two cousins warring over an inheritance. New Year’s Eve Going out with a bang: the New Year fireworks in London Credit: Getty Images Countdown to 2018 BBC One, BBC Two & ITV, from 11.20pm More than ever the field for these shared national events is left clear for the BBC, which offers two choices to ring in 2018, both beginning at 11.20pm. On BBC One, there’s Nile Rodgers & Chic: Good Times, a live relay from London of the American funk outfit’s concert at Westminster’s Central Hall, getting the celebrations off to an upbeat start with disco classics such as Everybody Dance, Le Freak and Good Times. There’s a break, at 11.55pm, for the annual New Year’s Eve Fireworks from the River Thames and a round of Auld Lang Syne as Big Ben strikes the midnight hour, before the band starts up again. On BBC Two, the year-end staple Jools’ Annual Hootenanny sees pop megastar Ed Sheeran headline the celebrations, with performances also from erstwhile Gossip frontwoman Beth Ditto, and a selection of vintage gospel, soul and R’n’B stars including Mavis Staples, Soul II Soul, George McCrae and Ruby Turner, among others. The pipes and drums of the Scots Guards will play in the New Year. And if music is not to your change-ringing taste, there’s always ITV’s more sober offer: a news bulletin at 11.45pm, followed by the bongs. Happy New Year! Gerard O’Donovan Bee Gees: Live in Melbourne 1989 Sky Arts, 5.15pm From the group’s One for All world tour in 1989, this packed out stadium concert sees the brothers Gibb yodel a full slate of hits, from New York Mining Disaster 1941 and Massachusetts to Jive Talkin’ and Stayin’ Alive. CBeebies Bedtime Stories CBeebies, 6.50pm Queen of country music Dolly Parton pays a return visit for the seasonal storytelling series, reading Garry Parsons and Jane Clarke’s delightful tale Stuck in the Mud. Robot Wars Special 2017: the world series BBC Two, 7.00pm Dara O Briain and Angela Scanlon present a special “world series” edition in which four of the UK’s top battle bots thrash it out with an international team of champions from Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium and Portugal. Andre Rieu: New Year’s Eve in Vienna Sky Arts, 7.30pm Where better than the banks of the Danube for the king of waltz and his Johann Strauss Orchestra to ring in the New Year. The year in question was, admittedly, 2005, but no matter, it’s a timeless mix of Viennese favourites. And if you simply can’t get enough strings, his 2003 Hanover concert Andre Rieu’s New Year’s Eve Punch follows at 9.45pm. GO Antiques Roadshow BBC One, 8.00pm This showbiz special from the Albert Square set of EastEnders in Elstree focuses largely on TV and film memorabilia – an original Muffin the Mule puppet, a key script from Doctor Who and a staggeringly valuable collection of discarded props – plus items relating to Andy Warhol, Marc Bolan and Jimi Hendrix. World Darts Championship Monday, Sky Sports Main Event / Sky Sports Darts, 8.00pm After 15 days on the oche, the biggest tournament in darts comes to an end with its final at Alexandra Palace in London. There is £400,000 waiting for the eventual champion, alongside the Sid Waddell Trophy. Sixteen-time world champion Phil Taylor made a record 29th consecutive appearance at a world championship as he brings an end to his glittering career. Last year, world number one Michael van Gerwen won his second world championship title by defeating two-times defending champion Gary Anderson 7-3. Alan Carr’s New Year Specstacular 2017 Channel 4, 9.00pm The chat show host’s annual New Year’s bash is bigger and louder than ever with Caroline Flack, Keith Lemon, Jonnie Peacock and Alex Brooker among those participating in madcap sketches and party games, plus music from The Voice star Becky Hill with Pete Tong and the Heritage Orchestra. The Graham Norton Show BBC One, 10.20pm Helping to get us in the mood for the bongs is an all-actor line up with guests Hugh Jackman, Suranne Jones, Gary Oldman, Zendaya and Zac Efron, plus music from West End stars The Leading Ladies, Beverley Knight, Amber Riley and Cassidy Janson. GO Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 1.40pm; Scotland, 2.10pm Three Cockney orphans are billeted in an English village with apprentice witch Angela Lansbury in this delightful live-action Disney yarn set during the Second World War. Along with charlatan magician David Tomlinson, they visit Portobello Road on a flying bed and watch an all-animal football match before a magical showdown with sneaky German invaders. Into the Woods (2014) ★★★☆☆ BBC Two, 8.00pm Stephen Sondheim’s 1987 musical, which sees the likes of Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) and Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy) cross paths, gets the Hollywood treatment. James Corden plays the baker who must find several items (red cape, golden slipper, lock of hair) so that he and his wife can have a child. Meryl Streep is the archetypal old crone. It’s wonderful, wintry fun. An American Werewolf in London (1981) ★★★★☆ Film4, 11.35pm Scary/funny is a hard one to pull off but John Landis does so impressively in this witty horror that scares and amuses in equal measure. David Naughton and Griffin Dunne play American backpackers attacked by a beast on the Yorkshire Moors. One boy survives, only to undergo a terrifying transformation. What follows is eerie music and some creative dream sequences. New Year’s Day Family connections: Maria Shukshina and James Norton Credit: BBC McMafia BBC One, 9.00pm This slick, smart thriller about Russian gangsters, banking greed and the globalisation of organised crime is the BBC’s flagship drama for the new year – and deservedly so. Taking Misha Glenny’s fascinating account of the spread of crime since the break-up of the Soviet bloc as its starting point, the addictive McMafia spins a tense web of lies, betrayals and deceit revolving around James Norton’s Alex Godman, the English-raised, private-school educated son of Russian exiles who has turned his back on his family’s less-than-reputable past to forge a “respectable” career in banking. When that past comes rushing in, Alex soon discovers that he’s not the man that he thought he was – can he break free of family ties or will he lose everything that he’s worked for? It would be easy to see McMafia as another glossy thriller in the same mode as The Night Manager, but it’s more interesting than that. Hossein Amini (who wrote the film Drive) and James Watkins’s subtle script delves deep into the realities of being an outsider and Norton makes for a charismatic, complex leading man. Watkins also directs with verve, allowing us to see that far more is at stake than one man’s soul. Sarah Hughes Grandpa’s Great Escape BBC One, 6.55pm There’s just time to squeeze in one last festive treat with this lovely adaptation of one of David Walliams’s most enjoyable books. Tom Courtenay plays the eponymous Grandpa, a former Second World War pilot living with Alzheimer’s disease and stuck in a dreadful care home. Can grandson Jack (Kit Connor) help him mount one final escape? New Year’s Day Concert from Vienna 2018 BBC Four, 7.00pm The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra’s New Year’s concert is one of the highlights of the classical music year and this year’s should be no exception. Riccardo Muti conducts a performance of polkas, waltzes and marches composed by the Strauss family and their contemporaries. Followed by two performances from the Vienna State Ballet to mark 100 years since the death of Austrian architect Otto Wagner. The Great Festive Bake Off Channel 4, 7.40pm They’re still wringing every last drop of Bake Off goodwill from a successful season. The second of two specials sees former contestants, Benjamina, Rob, Rav and Sandy take on winter-wonderland challenges. The Two Ronnies: In Their Own Words Channel 5, 8.00pm They used to dominate Christmas schedules so what better time of year to honour The Two Ronnies than on New Year’s Day? This is a straightforward recap of the careers of Messrs Barker and Corbett featuring best moments and contributions from family and friends. Sue Perkins and the Chimp Sanctuary BBC Two, 9.00pm This week Perkins travels to the US to examine laws on using chimpanzees in medical research, a practice only recently outlawed. She is rightly outraged, particularly after spending time the chimps in question. SH The Story of Bohemian Rhapsody BBC Four, 9.00pm BBC Four gives over the rest of the evening to a celebration of Queen. First up is a 2004 documentary on the story behind the band’s best-known song with rare footage of Freddie Mercury. That’s followed by Queen: Rock the World, which looks at the band’s 1977 tour of North America, and Queen: The Legendary 1975 Concert, which sees the band performing at London’s Hammersmith Odeon. SH Shrek Forever After (2010) ★★★☆☆ BBC One, 2.05pm The fourth and final episode in DreamWorks’ green ogre franchise is an animated variation on It’s a Wonderful Life, with Shrek conned into signing away the day of his own birth; his wife and friends no longer know who he is, and the land of Far Far Away is ruled by the evil Rumpelstiltskin. It’s no classic, but more fun than Shrek the Third and an entertaining flourish to finish the franchise. Maleficent (2014) ★★★☆☆ BBC One, 5.00pm Angelina Jolie stars as the titular Maleficent in Disney’s live-action reimagining of Sleeping Beauty, which follows her from a young, carefree fairy to Mistress of All Evil, muddling the distinction between hero and villain. Maleficent is happy in a kingdom of peculiar CGI beasts until her heart is broken by Stefan (Sharlto Copley), who inherits the throne. Seeking vengeance, she curses his baby, Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning). Spectre (2015) ★★★★★ ITV, 8.00pm The 24th movie of the James Bond franchise is a swaggering show of confidence from director Sam Mendes. It combines hold-your-breath action and ghosts of Bond films past, trailing tingles of nostalgic pleasure in their wake. A cryptic message leads Bond (Daniel Craig) to Mexico City and Rome, where he uncovers the existence of the sinister organisation Spectre. Tuesday 2 January A blazing talent: Prince, who died in 2016 Credit: Getty Images Prince: Last Year of a Legend Channel 4, 10.00pm Confidants, famous fans and protégés pay tribute to a musical genius in this peculiar documentary which has plenty of good material but only a sketchy idea of what to do with it all; the strain of trying to understand such a studied enigma is tangible. Proceeding from April 2015 through the following 12 months of frenetic gigging (including jamming with Stevie Wonder at the White House) and recording to his death from an accidental overdose of painkillers, Last Year of a Legend is from the show-and-tell school of documentary making. Zawe Ashton’s narration is a case in point: “Prince plays his famous rock anthem, uniting and inspiring his audience,” we’re told, over footage of the singer performing Purple Rain to a demonstrably rapt crowd. Nothing Compares 2 U is described thus: “Often appearing on lists of the greatest songs, it’s a testament to Prince’s skill as a songwriter”. It then takes a curious turn into true-crime territory as “Prince’s last hours turn murky”. Yet it’s essential viewing for fans, both for the behind-the-scenes peak at the singer’s home Paisley Park and for the reminder, courtesy of scintillating concert footage, of what a blazing talent we have lost. Gabriel Tate Sex, Drugs and Murder: a Year in the Red Light Zone BBC Three, from 10.00am Here’s another excellent new documentary from BBC Three. This one follows the lives of sex workers in the Holbeck area of Leeds and exposes some grim truths about life on the margins. Kate Humble: Off the Beaten Track BBC Two, 7.00pm Kate Humble and her sheepdog, Teg, learn about old-style shepherding, mushroom-picking, skinny-dipping and life-saving as they travel from mainland Wales’s most northerly farm through Snowdonia in the first episode of a new series. The Greatest TV Moments of All Time ITV, 8.00pm It’s pure bathos as Paddy McGuinness, of all people, hosts this two-hour rundown of classic small-screen moments as voted for by viewers. Guests include Keith Lemon and Holly Willoughby. Harry Hill’s Tea-Time Sky One, 8.30pm The closest vehicle yet to Harry Hill recapturing that indefinable TV Burp magic, spoof cookery show Tea Time returns for a second series. Trevor McDonald is the first game celebrity guest, who belts out songs and makes sausages. The Real T. Rex with Chris Packham BBC Two, 9.00pm Naturalist Chris Packham travels the globe to gain a greater understanding of the Tyrannosaurus Rex through fossils, CGI reconstructions and the dinosaur’s nearest living descendants. Was it a pea-brained scavenger or sophisticated predator? Packham’s conclusions are characteristically forthright. Inside No 9 BBC Two, 10.00pm Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith’s wonderful comic-horror anthology returns for a fourth series with another estimable ensemble cast: Rory Kinnear, Hattie Morahan and Kevin Eldon are among those checking into a luxury hotel for a night that brings rather more than anticipated. GT Trollied Sky One, 10.00pm Following last week’s Christmas special, the sitcom begins its seventh series proper with budget supermarket Valco facing radical upheaval with poor grace as the CEO (Simon Delaney) pays a surprise visit. A fine ensemble, led by Jason Watkins and Sarah Parish, keep things watchable. GT A Monster in Paris (2011) ★★★☆☆ E4, 9.00am In 1910 Paris, an experiment goes wrong and results in a flea growing until it’s seven feet tall. As it turns out, the flea’s also a fantastic guitar player and becomes a cabaret act with a beautiful singer, Lucille (voiced by Vanessa Paradis in both the French and English versions). Very cute and surprisingly cheeky in parts, this 3D animation, directed by Bibo Bergeron and produced by Luc Besson, is a treat. Die Hard 2 (1990) ★★★☆☆ Film4, 9.00pm Bruce Willis returns as humble-yet-invincible cop John McClane in this action film sequel. Once again, it falls to McClane to save the day (and a skyscraper full of executives, and an airport of hapless tourists) from terrorists. It’s not a patch on its 1988 predecessor, but there’s one-liners and violence abound and it remains streets ahead of the more recent efforts from the franchise. Yippee-ki-yay, indeed. Clueless (1995) ★★★★☆ ITV, 11.10pm Loosely based on Jane Austen’s Emma, this gently amusing high-school satire launched the Hollywood careers of Alicia Silverstone, Brittany Murphy and the ubiquitous Paul Rudd. The plot follows the travails of Cher (Silverstone), a bubbly 15-year-old shopaholic who is the most popular girl at Beverly Hills High and wants to make the world a better place. Jam-packed with pop culture gags, Clueless has become a cult classic. Wednesday 3 January Zoe Wanamaker, Phyllis Logan and Miranda Richardson Credit: ITV Girlfriends ITV, 9.00pm Writer Kay Mellor has been busy: hard on the heels of BBC One’s Love, Lies & Records, here comes another new six-part drama, this one exploring the tangled lives and relationships of three middle-aged friends. It’s not entirely clear how such different personalities as Linda (Phyllis Logan), Gail (Zoë Wanamaker) and Sue (Miranda Richardson) came to be such fast friends, other than in vague references to meeting at Greenham Common protest camp in the early Eighties. No matter, as homemaker Linda, lollipop lady Gail and magazine features editor Sue have drifted apart over the years anyway. The set-up here is how tragedy brings them back together and forces them to take a more active interest in each other’s life trials and family problems once again. Linda has money troubles, Gail has a nice-but-dim criminal son, and Sue is struggling with ageism at work and a soulless ex-lover who happens to be both her employer and the father of her child. There’s nothing subtle about it – Richardson’s portrayal of overwrought journalist Sue is magnificently hammed up – but it grips from the start with a twist-packed storyline that tugs the heartstrings. Gerard O’Donovan Premier League: Arsenal v Chelsea Wednesday, Sky Sports Main Event, 7.00pm Arsenal go head to head with rivals Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium. Both of the previous meetings between the sides this season have ended in draws in regulation play, though Arsenal did go on to win the Community Shield on penalties back in August. They also claimed a 3-0 win when the sides met here last season when Alexis Sanchez, Theo Walcott and Mesut Ozil all scored in a dazzling first-half performance for the Gunners. Tom Kerridge’s Lose Weight For Good BBC Two, 8.00pm Having lost 12-stone, chef Tom Kerridge has certainly walked the dieting walk. He did so by “cutting out carbs, kicking the booze and hitting the gym”. But that wouldn’t make a great TV series (or, indeed, a tie-in book) so he’s come up with some “mouth-watering calorie-controlled recipes” for those keen to eat well while dieting. Rather handy in January, too. Kirstie and Phil’s Love It or List It Channel 4, 8.00pm New year, new house? Allsopp and Spencer return with the show that challenges people to renovate their home before deciding to move. Chasing the Nazis Yesterday, 8.00pm A harrowing two-part documentary telling the story of Simon Wiesenthal, a survivor of the concentration camps who dedicated his life to tracking down fugitive Nazi war criminals and responsible for bringing many of the most prominent, among them Adolf Eichmann and Josef Mengele, to justice. Trust Me I’m a Doctor BBC Two, 8.30pm Michael Mosely’s medical magazine brings good tidings for diabetics with news of a new artificial pancreas, why fizzy drinks make you hungrier, new treatments for baldness, plus a guide to obsessive-compulsive disorder. Hunting Down A Stitch in Time BBC Four, 8.30pm Art, dressmaking and politics combine engagingly as historian Amber Butchart explores – and recreates – how people have expressed wealth, power and politics in the way that they dress, beginning with that well known Restoration clothes horse, King Charles II. Miriam’s Big American Adventure BBC One, 9.00pm; Scotland, 10.45pm Leaving her Real Marigold Hotel chums behind, actress Miriam Margolyes heads across the pond for a terrifically entertaining two-month road trip through the heart of Middle America. “I go with an open mind, a warm heart and a beady eye,” she says, putting the latter to particularly good use in Chicago where she begins her journey. GO The Complaints Department More4, 10.00pm New Watchdog-style show with Harry Wallop and a team of product testers taking on companies on behalf of consumers stuck with faulty goods, such as a wedding dress that fell apart. GO Live Ashes Test Cricket: Australia v England BT Sport 1, 10.30pm Having already relinquished the Ashes to the Australia, England continue to play for pride as they head into the first day of play in the fifth Test, at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Made in Dagenham (2010) ★★★★☆ BBC Four, 9.00pm Industrial action in pursuit of equal pay for women doesn’t sound too thrillinga subject, but Nigel Cole’s (Calendar Girls) film, based around the real-life strike from 1968, turns out to be a rousing crowd-pleaser. Sally Hawkins plays the reluctant ringleader of the workers who sew car seats at Ford’s Dagenham plant; Bob Hoskins is a union rep; Miranda Richardson is wonderful as Labour MP Barbara Castle. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011) ★★★☆☆ ITV2, 9.00pm Guy Ritchie’s vigorously silly second Sherlock film has next to nothing in common with Arthur Conan Doyle’s work save a handful of character names and the odd pipe, but what it lacks in authenticity it makes up for in sheer swashbuckling brio. The action set pieces plus Holmes (Robert Downey Jnr) and Watson’s (Jude Law) camp squabbling more than sustain it. Pretty Woman (1990) ★★★★☆ BBC One, 10.45pm; Scotland, 11.45pm Initially intended as a dark drama about prostitution in Nineties Los Angeles, this romcom has been a huge success. Edward (Richard Gere), a millionaire mogul, takes a wrong turn in his Lotus Esprit and asks for directions from Vivian (Julia Roberts), a carefree call-girl. She steers him back to his hotel, he pays her $3,000 to be his escort for the week and they, improbably, fall head over heels in love. Thursday 4 January Word on the street: David Olusoga in Liverpool Credit: BBC A House Through Time BBC Two, 9.00pm The best ideas are often the most deceptively simple. So it proves with this wonderful new four-part documentary series from David Olusoga, which aims to trace the history of 62 Falkner Street, an ordinary terraced house in Liverpool, from its creation in the 1840s until the present day. The choice of Liverpool is an astute one – this bustling city has seen both boom and bust many times over the course of history and the stories that Olusoga, patiently trawling through records and archives, uncovers about the house’s many occupants illustrate that. Among the highlights are Richard Glenton, an ill-starred wastrel son who lived life on the high until the funds dried up, and the astute, sharp-minded James Orr, who climbed the social ladder from butler to businessman and left his wife a fortune when he died. “History isn’t just about what happens in battlefields and in palaces, it is also the story of millions of ordinary people who lived in houses just like this,” says Olusoga. He’s right and the great joy of this series is the way it not only illuminates the lives of those who lived in this particular house but also the history of city and a time. Sarah Hughes Wartime Crime Yesterday, 8.00pm Yesterday’s latest documentary series sets its focus on violence and bloodshed on the home front with a look at the criminals who flourished during the Second World War. The first episode (of six) takes place in London, where petty robber Billy Hill expanded into wide-scale organised crime. Death in Paradise BBC One, 9.00pm Ardal O’Hanlon’s relocation to the fictional Caribbean island of Saint Marie in the long-running detective show was met with mixed reviews. But he’s back for the new series as DI Jack Mooney, and is soon investigating the death of a billionaire’s fiancée inside a room locked from the inside. Hunted Channel 4, 9.00pm Celebrity Hunted was fun but the original is the real deal. This new series has some great candidates including competitive Sandra, chatty Carlene, and Magid, who is also the deputy Lord Mayor of Sheffield. Best of all, though are father-and-son team Bob and Alex, whose conversations about Alex’s depression are genuinely moving. The Secret Life of Sue Townsend (Aged 68 3/4) BBC Four, 10.00pm A welcome repeat for this engaging profile of Sue Townsend, the celebrated creator of Adrian Mole. Narrated by Julie Walters, the film is both heartbreaking and hilarious, an honest account of an often-difficult life, and one blighted with poor health. Townsend was a struggling mother of three living on a Leicester council estate when she wrote her first novel, The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 and ¾. It would go on to become one of the bestselling and most-loved books of the Eighties. Few authors have deserved the success more. SH Derry Girls Channel 4, 10.00pm Lisa McGee’s sprightly comedy is set in Northern Ireland towards the end of the Troubles in the Nineties and provides a welcome antidote to the standard depictions. The heroine is 16-year-old Erin (Saoirse-Monica Jackson), who’s more concerned with navigating school than with the bombs that make up her everyday life. Great Art ITV, 10.45pm ITV returns to highbrow arts programming with this promising new series which profiles some of the world’s great artists, and is presented by Tim Marlow. It begins with Venetian master Canaletto. SH The Boss Baby (2017) ★★☆☆☆ Sky Cinema Premiere, 3.55pm Based on a 40-page children’s book about a taxing tot (here voiced by Alec Baldwin) who treats his parents like zero-hour flunkeys, Tom McGrath’s film is charming for as long as it can keep that premise spinning without embellishment, which is around 15 minutes. Rackety 3D antics is the only item on the agenda, with tired pop-culture nods and moderate toilet humour. Dumb and Dumber To (2014) ★★☆☆☆ Film4, 9.00pm This sequel to Dumb and Dumber finds Jeff Daniels and Jim Carrey older, no wiser and much less funny. Harry (Daniels) and Lloyd (Carrey) are back, gurning, grinding and punching one another in the groin. There’s a storyline of sorts, in which Harry hunts down his daughter (Rachel Melvin) because he needs a kidney transplant, which in turn sees them become embroiled in a poisoning plot. 22 Jump Street (2014) ★★★★☆ ITV2, 9.00pm Channing Tatum’s charisma and the best malapropisms ever make this sequel to 21 Jump Street a joy. Instead of infiltrating high school to arrest the suppliers of a drug, Jonah Hill’s Schmidt and Tatum’s Jenko infiltrate college to do… exactly the same, and their chemistry is sublime. The film is directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (The Lego Movie), who are becoming the handiest duo since the Coen brothers. Friday 5 January Double act: Andrew Graham-Dixon and Giorgio Locatelli Credit: BBC Rome Unpacked BBC Two, 9.00pm; Wales, 9.30pm “I cannot imagine anything in life better to do than this,” says the chef Giorgio Locatelli as he speeds around Rome on a Vespa with art critic Andrew Graham-Dixon. Here they return for another of their Italian jaunts, this time taking in the culture and cooking of the Italian capital, and its “divided, opinionated, passionate and unpredictable” inhabitants. The pair make an engaging double act: effervescent, witty and knowledgable. Their journey opens at Rome’s Capitoline Hill, the ancient meeting place of the “great and powerful and the mob”, as Graham-Dixon and Locatelli marvel at the work of Michelangelo before visiting that magnificent display of papal showmanship, the Trevi fountain. “As famous as Italian cream,” says Graham-Dixon, who adds that it was Federico Fellini who gave the fountain cinematic resonance in La Dolce Vita, before he explores how another artist, Caravaggio, captured the city’s soul. Never far behind with a quip or insight, Locatelli comes into his own in the market of San Giovanni di Dio, where he prepares a staple Roman dish – skate with broccoli soup. “This is Rome,” says Graham-Dixon. “Intenso.” Simon Horsford Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency Netflix, from 8.00am This US adaptation of Douglas Adams’s outlandish detective stories returns for a second season with Dirk Gently (Samuel Barnett) on the run from the CIA, while his sidekick Todd (Elijah Wood) attempts to save him. Live FA Cup Football: Liverpool v Everton BBC One, 7.30pm Four weeks after they met at Anfield in the Premier League, Merseyside rivals Liverpool take on Everton once again, this time in the FA Cup third round. The previous match finished in a 1-1 draw and Toffees manager Sam Allardyce believes that his side are capable of claiming a place in European football’s club competitions, as well as reaching the domestic cup finals. But first he must steer his side past their cross-city rivals. That may be easier said than done, as Liverpool have been on fine form going forward, scoring five goals in their last game alone. But for as good as they are going forward, the Kop have been inconsistent at the back – which is something that manager Jurgen Klopp is keen to rectify. River Monsters ITV, 8.00pm; not UTV or Wales Fearless host Jeremy Wade heads to New Britain in Papua New Guinea, where he hears from fisherman about a mysterious big-headed black fish that has on occasion attacked them. Costa Del Celebrity Channel 5, 8.00pm Celebrities used to present “travel” documentaries on their own – now they do it in groups. The latest on the treadmill sees Anne Diamond, Nick Owen, Ainsley Harriott, Christine Hamilton and Vicki Michelle head to the Costa Blanca. Breaking a Monster Sky Arts, 9.00pm A charming rockumentary detailing the machinations of the music industry and the rise of three African-American children in Brooklyn, from heavy-metal street band to securing a million dollar record deal. Luke Meyer’s film follows the remarkable ascent of Unlocking the Truth, a personable bunch of seventh graders with distinctive personalities. Will & Grace Channel 5, 10.00pm American sitcom Will & Grace was groundbreaking for its depiction of gay characters on TV. It now returns after an 11-year absence to a very different world. The question is, does it match up? To an extent, it does. Will (Eric McCormack), Grace (Debra Messing), Jack (Sean Hayes) and Karen (Megan Mullally) deliver with the same zest, but with added relevance – there are references to Grindr, Melania Trump, and fake news. In the first episode, Will and Grace’s political beliefs are put to the test. Graham Norton’s Good Guest Guide BBC One, 10.35pm Graham Norton has a knack for attracting “A-listers” to his sofa but what makes a good guest? Here he gives his advice to the stars. SH Radio 2 in Concert: Tears for Fears BBC Four, 11.00pm Jo Whiley presents as the Eighties synth-pop masters perform a set at London’s BBC Radio Theatre. It includes such era-defining hits as Mad World and Shout. SH Triple Cross (1966) ★★★☆☆ BBC Two, 12.10pm This slow-paced Second World War drama is loosely based on the exploits and autobiography of Eddie Chapman (Christopher Plummer), a British safe-cracker who offered both the Third Reich and British Intelligence his services as a spy while he was a prisoner in the Channel Islands. The lack of suspense makes you wonder if this is really the same director – Terence Young – who did the quick-fire early James Bond films. The Beatles: Eight Days a Week: The Touring Years (2016) ★★★☆☆ Channel 4, 9.00pm While you watch this peppy documentary from Ron Howard, which focuses on the band’s notoriously hectic touring period, from 1962-66, you feel pop history whistling past at speed. “We were force-grown, like rhubarb,” John Lennon observes in one of many well-chosen snippets. It’s a line that chimes with every step Howard shows us the band taking. Bridesmaids (2011) ★★★★★ ITV2, 9.00pm This sharply written and hilarious comedy combining bad taste with good humour is a valiant backlash against sugary chick flicks, but also a poignant evocation of loneliness. Annie (Kristen Wiig) agrees to be her best friend Lillian’s (Maya Rudolph) maid of honour, but finds herself competing with a richer, more elegant bridesmaid (Rose Byrne) when it comes to plea Television previewers Toby Dantzic, Catherine Gee, Simon Horsford, Sarah Hughes, Clive Morgan, Gerard O'Donovan, Vicki Power, Patrick Smith, Gabriel Tate and Rachel Ward
Christmas Day Boxing Day Wednesday 27 Thursday 28 Friday 29 Christmas Eve 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: Mary, Mel and Sue’s Big Christmas Thank You plus Maigret in Montmartre
Christmas Day Boxing Day Wednesday 27 Thursday 28 Friday 29 Christmas Eve 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
Christmas Day Boxing Day Wednesday 27 Thursday 28 Friday 29 Christmas Eve 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: Mary, Mel and Sue’s Big Christmas Thank You plus Maigret in Montmartre
Christmas Day Boxing Day Wednesday 27 Thursday 28 Friday 29 Christmas Eve 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
Christmas Eve Christmas Day Boxing Day Wednesday 27 Thursday 28 Friday 29 Saturday 23 December 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 World’s Best Christmas Lights: From Liverpool to Bethlehem and Pointless Celebrities Christmas Special
Christmas Eve Christmas Day Boxing Day Wednesday 27 Thursday 28 Friday 29 Saturday 23 December 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
Christmas Eve Christmas Day Boxing Day Wednesday 27 Thursday 28 Friday 29 Saturday 23 December 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 World’s Best Christmas Lights: From Liverpool to Bethlehem and Pointless Celebrities Christmas Special
Christmas Eve Christmas Day Boxing Day Wednesday 27 Thursday 28 Friday 29 Saturday 23 December 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
Friday 22 December 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: Saturday Night Fever: The Ultimate Disco Movie and Jamie and Jimmy's Friday Night Feast Christmas Special
Friday 22 December 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
Friday 22 December 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: Saturday Night Fever: The Ultimate Disco Movie and Jamie and Jimmy's Friday Night Feast Christmas Special
Friday 22 December 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