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The top 10 Christmas TV picks

Here’s 10 shows to look forward to this Christmas.

From series specials to full-on episodes there is something for everyone in this run-down on sowzs on the boz this xmas.

1. Doctor WhoBBC1

Doctor Who will be a 
big part of the fun on
Christmas Day with Peter Capaldi, and Matt Lucas returning to his role as Nardole, River Song’s former assistant, writes TV editor Alison Graham. Apparently, the Christmas special, The Return of Doctor Mysterio, will have a superhero theme… who is that masked man?

2. Maigret’s Dead Man – ITV

ITV had a hit this year with an adaptation of one of Georges Simenon’s fine crime stories. I worried it was a bit creaky, but audiences took quiet, clever Chief Inspector Jules Maigret (played by Rowan Atkinson) to their hearts in droves. Here, police pull out all the stops after a series of murderous attacks on farms in Picardy. Apart from Maigret, who is preoccupied by the killing of an anonymous Parisian.

3. The Great Christmas Bake Off – BBC1

There’s added poignancy to these two Christmas specials as the gang (including Paul Hollywood) do what they do best, together, for the very last time. The low point of my television year was the BBC’s loss of The Great British Bake Off. It was dismantled overnight and will be resurrected by Channel 4, though of course without its key regulars Mel and Sue, and Mary Berry.

4. Peter Pan Goes Wrong – BBC1

David Suchet narrates a TV version of this Olivier-nominated West End show, which follows the chaotic attempts of an amateur dramatics group to mount an ambitious pantomime.

5. Witness for the Prosecution – BBC1

You might have seen Billy Wilder’s 1957 film version of this Agatha Christie short story. You might even remember the twist. Here it gets the full Big Christmas Drama treatment from Mammoth Screen, the company that gave us Poldark and last year’s huge Christie hit, And Then There Were None.

Sarah Phelps, who wrote that brilliant, atmospheric and terrifically spooky adaptation, fleshes out what was originally a 23-page story set
in 1920s London. There’s a brutal murder in a chic London townhouse, the victim is the wealthy, glamorous Emily
French (Kim Cattrall, right). 
In court Emily’s housekeeper
 Janet (Monica Dolan) points
the finger at a young chancer.
 Toby Jones and Andrea Riseborough co-star.

6. The Brontë Sisters – BBC1

I spoke to Sally Wainwright as she was working on this biography of the Brontë sisters, their father Patrick and brother Branwell, and her enthusiasm for telling the story of life at the Parsonage was infectious. These are hard times for the Brontë family, closeted in that grim house in Haworth by the moors. Their dad (Jonathan Pryce) is the local vicar while brother Branwell (Adam Nagaitis) is a clever but reckless, even dangerous, young man. Meanwhile, Anne, Emily and Charlotte (Charlie Murphy, Chloe Pirrie and Finn Atkins, below) overcome obstacles and obscurity to secure their places in the pantheon of English literature.

7. Sherlock – BBC1

There’s something so thrilling about a new Sherlock story. It’s the sense of occasion. In an age when everyone can watch anything, whenever they want, and however often they want, we must all wait for and anticipate the return of Sherlock, John and the gang.

So on New Year’s Day, though your Mind Palace might be a bit fugged, we can be sure that Sherlock’s intellect will be as sharp and poised as ever. Or will it… He looks a bit distressed and dishevelled in the trailers. Maybe he’s been diverted from his personal grooming regime by the reappearance of Moriarty? Or is it because he must take on the splendid Toby Jones as giggling villain Culverton Smith? Whatever, we can be sure it will a stylish and completely absorbing ride into one man’s big brain.

8. The Last Dragonslayer – Sky 1

Sky 1 was as pleased as pie when it announced its big family drama for Christmas Day — anadaptation of the first of Jasper Fforde’s series of fantasy novels. Ellise Chappell stars as orphan Jennifer Strange, a young inhabitant of the Ununited Kingdoms, who discovers that her destiny is to become the last Dragonslayer. It’s a blend, we are told, of “past and present, medieval and modern.”

9. Revolting Rhymes – BBC1

Roald Dahl’s witty fairy-tale collection has been turned into a two-part animation featuring the voices of David Walliams, Dominic West and Tamsin Greig. Another favourite picked up by the BBC is
Ethel & Ernest, a hand-drawn animation
based on the book by Raymond Briggs.
It’s an affectionate look at the lives of
his parents (voiced by Brenda Blethyn
and Jim Broadbent).

And Channel 4 has adapted We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, Michael Rosen’s much-loved story, with Olivia Colman and Mark Williams among the voices.

10. Alan Bennett’s Diaries – BBC2

The latest volume of the Greatest Living Yorkshireman’s diaries reveal that he’s still on fine, curmudgeonly, mutinous form, railing at the Conservatives, campaigning against library closures and addressing the Occupy anti-capitalist camp. With any luck Keeping On Keeping On will be that breeze-block- sized parcel weighing down your Christmas stocking this year. Enjoy our finest writer in all his grumpy majesty, whether he’s being mistaken for David Hockney (which he is, a lot) or filming The Lady in the Van.

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