The Big Issue’s bumper preview for 12 days of Christmas television

Deck the halls and fill your belly, fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la. ‘Tis the season to watch telly, fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la – here’s a rundown of a show a day for the entire festive season

There’s no Doctor Who on Christmas Day this year. But there’s a whole lot of small-screen fun. Here’s our rundown of daily highlights from the festive schedule.

From the heroic rabbits of Watership Down to drag superstar Courtney Act’s Christmas Extravaganza via the high class drama of The ABC Murders and Bruce Springsteen on Broadway, all of television life is here. Why not get stuck in…

16 December

Springsteen on Broadway

“I’ve never seen the inside of a factory and yet it’s all I’ve written about”. From the streets of Asbury Park to a sell-out run on Broadway, Bruce Springsteen’s triumphant performance at the Walter Kerr Theatre begins with the Boss explaining what it takes to be a rock and roll star. What follows is an unmissable, career-spanning masterpiece. Available now on Netflix

17 December

Romesh’s Look Back To The Future 


In 2018, Romesh Ranganathan, has been a ubiquitous small-screen presence. Who would have predicted that? Well, at the end of last year, the fantastic funnyman enlisted a group of big thinkers – namely Richard Osman, Katherine Ryan and friend-of-the-Big Issue, Danny Dyer – to make predictions for 2018. Did anyone predicted the political events of the last 12 months? In a nutshell – no they probably didn’t. But thanks to the miracle of modern technology we can watch them interact with themselves of 12 months ago – which makes this a fun and funny flashback over a rather remarkable year. Available now on Now TV

18 December

The Long Song

Tamara Lawrance stars as subversive young slave July in this wonderful adaptation of Andrea Levy’s novel. Set in the last days of slavery in Jamaica, we see love and hope survive a shameful period of British history. With Hayley Atwell playing July’s obnoxious owner and Sir Lenny Henry, rising star Jack Lowden and Arinzé Kene among the cast, this could be as good as the Beeb’s last Levy adapatation, Small Island, in 2009. BBC1, 18-20 December, 9pm

Ellen Degeneres: Relateable 

File under Super Stand-up! Long before she was a talk show host and gay icon, Ellen Degeneres was a stand-up comedian. Here, she goes back to her roots while pondering her journey. Next year is set to be a big one for stand-up on Netflix – and Ellen is not a bad warm-up act. Available on Netflix from 18 December

20 December

Bear’s Mission with Gareth Southgate  

Yes, England football manager Gareth Southgate does wear a camouflage waistcoat as he frolics around in the wilds of Dartmoor with the intrepid Bear Grylls – in what reads like something from Alan Partridge’s imagination. ITV, 20 December, 9pm

Mark Kermode’s Christmas Cinema Secrets

Featuring everyone from Bing Crosby to Bill Murray, Barbara Stanwyck to Macauley Culkin, Keira Knightley and James Stewart, top critic Mark Kermode tells the story of the finest festive films of all time. Beginning, as it should, with It’s a Wonderful Life – and what it and other films owes to Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol – this is a treat for movie lovers. But will it include Die Hard…? BBC4, 20 December, 10pm

21 December


With Mr Tumble (aka Justin Fletcher) as Mrs Toad and Katrina Bryan from Nina and The Neurons in the title role as everyone’s favourite tiny dancer, this is a joyous adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s tale. With fab Sixties sounds and colourful creatures galore, this treat for smaller viewers was recorded live at the Regents Theatre in Stoke. CBeebies, 21 December, 5pm or  iPlayer.

22 December

Watership Down

Harrowing for bunny-lovers everywhere, Richard Adams’s tale of embattled rabbits caught in the developers’ headlights has haunted the dreams of millions for years. Now a new generation can relive the horror as Hazel (James McAvoy), Fiver (Nicholas Hoult), Strawberry (Olivia Colman) and co are voiced by some of the finest actors in the business. A star-studded sob story for the ages. Part one airs on BBC1, 22 December, 7pm. Part two airs BBC1, 23 December, 7.20pm

23 December

BROS: After The Screaming Stops

At the end of the 1980s, Bros were the biggest band in the land. Luke and Matt Goss (plus Craig ‘Ken’ Logan) were pop pin-ups with the most devoted of fandoms, selling out Wembley Stadium for 19 consecutive nights. Almost three decades on, the Goss twins seemed happy and fulfilled in their new careers, but decided to go on a comeback tour. This 90-minute, fly-on-the-wall film shows what happened next. A sad indictment of the way the pop business can damage its young stars but grimly compelling. BBC4, December 23, 10pm

Christmas Eve

The Dead Room

Written and directed by Mark Gatiss, this Christmas Eve ghost story stars Simon Callow as a veteran voice actor. A haunted horror story set in a radio studio, this could have ghoulish echoes of Inside No.9’s live Halloween spooktacular… BBC4, Christmas Eve, 10pm

Courtney Act’s Christmas Extravaganza

Pop culture icon and global drag superstar Courtney Act hosts a sensational old-school variety show that’s as camp as Christmas, featuring Little Mix, Leona Lewis, some Drag Race faves and Paralympic ace Jonnie Peacock like you’ve never seem him before. File under late night Christmas Eve realness – not to be missed. C4, Christmas Eve, 11.05pm.

Christmas Carols on ITV

Opera singing superstar Alfie Boe steps into Christmas Day with a special evening of festive song featuring Claire Richards and Rebecca Ferguson. Includes a special commemoration of 100 years since the end of the First World War. ITV, Christmas Eve, 11.45pm



A decade after The Gruffalo, dream duo Julia Donaldson and Axel Sheffler combined for another monster hit – and the tale of hapless Zog and his adventures at Dragon School comes to the small screen with Lenny Henry on narration duty and a cast including Tracey Ullman and Kit Harrington, plus Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again’s Hugh Skinner in the title role. Christmas Day, BBC1, 4.50pm

Torvill and Dean 

The star-studded ice-dance biopic you didn’t know you needed, telling the story of how Nottingham duo Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean went from humble insurance clerk and police constable to the world’s greatest ice-dancers. Will Tudor and Poppy Lee Friar play the iconic duo, while ex-EastEnder Anita Dobson – no stranger to show-stopping Christmas Day performances – is wonderfully cast as Jayne’s first coach, Miss Perry. Christmas Day, ITV, 9.15pm

On Christmas Night

It’s been a breakout year for Black Panther star Letitia Wright. Here, one of Britain’s finest young actors tells the story of the first Christmas in a short film that also features a cappella group Tessera singing Mary Did You Know?Christmas Day, BBC1, 11.45pm

Boxing Day


Publishing phenomenon David Walliams is a regular on the Christmas TV menu. Funnyman Walliams is back in another adaptation of one of his bestsellers – and The Midnight Gang is one of his best – as kids on a hospital ward embark on secret night-time adventures. Our young hero Tom must defy his wicked headmaster (Walliams) and stay another day on the wards to join his pals on one final adventure. BBC1, Boxing Day, 7.30pm

The ABC Murder

John Malkovich is superb as a past-his-prime Hercule Poirot in the latest cracking Agatha Christie case adapted by writer Sarah Phelps. Over consecutive nights, a murder mystery set across the length and breadth of Britain’s railway system tests the little grey cells – but this time it’s personal, with The ABC Murderer having been Poirot’s regular penpal. Freya Mayor, Tara Fitzgerald, Andrew Buchan, Twin Peaks’ Eamon Farren, Rupert Grint and Shirley Henderson complete a starry cast. BBC1, Boxing Day, 9pm

27 December

Travel Man: 96 Hours In Jordan

David Baddiel joins Richard Ayoade on a seasonal mini-break to Jordan. The funnymen follow in the footsteps of prophets, shop for gold, frankincense and myrrh, before tucking in to a festive feast. Always a joy to spend time in their company – and some of the scenery is epic. Biblical, even, you might say… Channel 4, 27 December, 10pm

Image: BBC/Watership Down


Support The Big Issue Winter Appeal

Big Issue vendors can’t work from home and with severe weather warnings on the cards, they face a very tough and uncertain Winter period ahead.

Recommended for you

Read All
Rose Ayling-Ellis: 'Suddenly it became quite cool to be deaf'
Strictly Come Dancing

Rose Ayling-Ellis: 'Suddenly it became quite cool to be deaf'

What real entrepreneurs think of The Apprentice

What real entrepreneurs think of The Apprentice

Plants are still running the world… but new David Attenborough series The Green Planet shows they need our help
Green Planet

Plants are still running the world… but new David Attenborough series The Green Planet shows they need our help

Maxine Peake on Hillsborough drama Anne: 'The criminal justice system can be a very hostile place'

Maxine Peake on Hillsborough drama Anne: 'The criminal justice system can be a very hostile place'

Most Popular

Read All
Government branded 'disgrace' after bid to strengthen Sarah Everard inquiry voted down at 12.30am

Government branded 'disgrace' after bid to strengthen Sarah Everard inquiry voted down at 12.30am

What are the Kill the Bill protests?

What are the Kill the Bill protests?

Rose Ayling-Ellis: 'Suddenly it became quite cool to be deaf'

Rose Ayling-Ellis: 'Suddenly it became quite cool to be deaf'

The Met Police is being sued for not investigating a Downing Street Christmas party

The Met Police is being sued for not investigating a Downing Street Christmas party