The BBC is treating viewers to a wealth of festive sparkle and yuletide entertainment over the holiday season, spreading good cheer, and a little mystery, across the nation this Christmas and New Year.
From a huge array of brand new shows and specials, to festive editions of your favourites, there is something for everyone on the BBC this Christmas, featuring a host of big name stars, much-loved faces, and a very popular little sheep. From the best in drama, comedy and entertainment, to factual, arts, music and religion programming, the offer from the BBC this year promises to enchant and delight.
The spectacular line-up is available live or on-demand on BBC iPlayer and across our channels alongside a vast range of box sets, so viewers can choose when and where they want to watch Christmas on the BBC.
Charlotte Moore, BBC’s Chief Content Officer says: “Christmas 2021 is a time to reunite with friends and family once more, and this year’s line-up of must-see shows will bring everyone together to share the festive season on the BBC. There’s a stocking full of special programmes to enthral and enchant featuring your favourite stars and characters, whatever your mood. The BBC is the place to be entertained this Christmas and New Year.”
The world’s favourite sheep returns to the BBC this year in a ‘Santastic’ adventure Shaun the Sheep: The Flight Before Christmas, which sees Shaun’s seasonal excitement turn to dismay as everyone learns the true value of Christmas. There’s more animated adventures in the adaptation of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s beloved story Superworm narrated by Olivia Colman with Matt Smith playing the hero with other voices including Patricia Allison and Rob Brydon.
Get ready to escape into other worlds over the festive season in a selection of gripping new dramas; Sarah Phelps’ A Very British Scandal, starring Claire Foy and Paul Bettany as the Duke and Duchess of Argyll, recounts one of the most notorious legal cases of the 20th century. Psychological thriller The Girl Before, adapted from the novel of the same name by JP Delaney, tells the story of Jane, played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw who moves into a strange house designed by an enigmatic architect played by David Oyelowo.
Around the World in 80 Days is a brand new adaptation of the classic novel from Jules Verne and stars David Tennant, Ibrahim Koma and Leonie Benesch as the intrepid threesome Phileas Fogg, Passepartout and Abigail ‘Fix’ Fortescue. Mystery packed thriller The Tourist starring Jamie Dornan charts one man’s search for his identity through the vast and unforgiving Australian outback in a character-driven drama full of shocking, surprising, funny and brutal turns.
For the first time ever, Death In Paradise fans are in for a Christmas treat as Danny John-Jules returns to the Saint Marie police force to assist DI Neville Parker (Ralf Little) in another mystery on the sun soaked Caribbean island; and the nuns of Nonnatus House are preparing for a winter wedding between Lucille and Cyril (Leonie Elliott and Zephryn Taitte) as well as having an influx of expectant mums in Call the Midwife.
Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor Who will be joined by a host of guest stars including Aisling Bea, Adjani Salmon and Pauline McLynn for a spectacular New Year’s Day special; and Worzel Gummidge makes a welcome return in two brand new episodes – Twitchers and Calliope Jane – created by and starring Mackenzie Crook, alongside Bill Bailey as Mr Peregrine and Nneka Okoye as Calliope Jane.
Over in Albert Square, love is in the air as two couples prepare to marry. Denise and Jack, (Diane Parish and Scott Maslen) and Chelsea and Gray (Zaraah Abrahams and Toby-Alexander Smith) head to the registry office, but as always in EastEnders, the road to wedded bliss is anything but smooth.
Natural history lovers are treated with not one but two brand new films from Sir David Attenborough – Attenborough’s Wonder of Song in which David chooses some of his favourite recordings from the natural world; and Attenborough and the Mammoth Graveyard where he is joined by Professor Ben Garrod and a team of archaeologists at a quarry in Swindon.
Amongst a raft of sensational comedy and entertainment specials, The Weakest Link makes a spectacular return to BBC One this year. With brand new host Romesh Ranganathan, there will be a Christmas special in which he is joined by eight celebrities hoping to win £50,000 for their chosen charity, and an additional four episodes stripped across a week.
Michael McIntyre’s Christmas Wheel features Danny Dyer, Zoe Ball and David Walliams competing with the help of seven celebrity experts to win money for their chosen charity. Blankety Blank, hosted by Bradley Walsh, has fast become a firm favourite with viewers and this special will feature more famous faces as contestants vie to not win the iconic cheque book and pen. Paddy McGuinness hosts a celebrity edition of I Can See Your Voice, featuring guest Leona Lewis alongside the Celebrity Investigators Jimmy Carr, Alison Hammond and Amanda Holden.
For fans of Mrs Brown’s Boys there are two visits to Finglas this season. At Christmas, Agnes (Brendan O’Carroll) has become a non-singing member of the choir, and Dermot (Paddy Houlihan) and Buster (Danny O’Carroll) have organised a benefit night for a rather unusual cause; whilst New Year brings about fresh starts in the Brown house, and an unexpected visitor has a unique investment opportunity.
Lee Mack’s Not Going Out sees Lee and Lucy (Sally Bretton) take a visit to the Panto, the star of which is Lucy’s teenage crush, Jason Donovan; and The Ghosts of Button House think Santa has stopped off early when Mike and Alison (Kiell Smith-Bynoe and Charlotte Ritchie) find a man sleeping in a tent in the grounds.
Strictly Come Dancing, will see couples compete in some fab-yule-ous routines for the Christmas glitterball, alongside dazzling group numbers and performances from Jamie Cullum, Sheridan Smith and Gary Barlow.
Three teams of famous faces – Tamzin Outhwaite and Jake Wood; Gareth Malone and Yolanda Brown; and Alex Brooker and Ellie Taylor, who each hope to win £10,000 for their chosen charity, join Marvin and Rochelle Humes in The Hit List; and Danny Dyer returns to host two seasonal episodes of The Wall vs Celebrities, with questions once again posed by Angela Rippon.
Even though it’s Christmas, the tall tales don’t stop in Would I Lie For You? where Rob Brydon is joined by team captains David Mitchell and Lee Mack alongside Jim Broadbent, Rose Mattafeo, Angela Rippon and Ardal O’Hanlon.
It’s Secret Santa time for the presenters of Top Gear – Driving Home For Christmas, as Paddy, Freddie and Chris each buy surprise cars for each other, before setting off a Christmas themed road trip from Bethlehem (in Wales…)
As is traditional, a lone chorister of King’s College Cambridge sings the opening verse of Once in Royal David’s City, heralding the service of music, readings and prayer in Carols From Kings; and this year’s Midnight Mass will come from St. Chad’s Cathedral in Birmingham, presided over by the Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Rev. Bernard Longley. The Christmas Day Eucharist will come live from the beautiful Coventry Cathedral, and there will be offerings from Songs of Praise, including Rev. Kate Bottley at a Christmas market held in the shadow of Lincoln Cathedral, and Katherine Jenkins will host a celebration of Christmas from Westminster Abbey. On 1st January, the Most Rev. Justin Welby will reflect on a challenging 12 months, as well as meeting inspirational people, in The Archbishop of Canterbury’s New Year Message.
It’s holiday season at The Repair Shop, where the dedicated team of craftspeople are ready to lovingly restore some treasured Christmas keepsakes; and brand new host Sarah Pascoe sets challenges for some well-known faces in two episodes of The Great British Sewing Bee under the watchful gaze of judges Esme Young and Patrick Grant.
And there are three yuletide outings for MasterChef this year – MasterChef: The Professionals Rematch Special pits four of the chefs from previous series against each other to win challenges judged by Monica Galetti, Marcus Wareing and Gregg Wallace; ten previously judged celebrities return for a MasterChef Christmas Cook-Off, hosted by Gregg and John Torode; and a Champions Special sees five of the winners from the amateur series return to show how far they have progressed since winning the series.
And BBC Sports Personality of the Year will take place in Media City Salford, celebrating achievement in sport from unsung heroes to more well known faces.
The year on BBC One rounds off with the starriest celebrities on The Graham Norton Show; and then it’s off for fireworks and a music extravaganza in the New Year’s Eve Concert.
Over on BBC Two, M.R. James’ The Mezzotint, adapted by Mark Gatiss, stars Rory Kinnear, Robert Bathurst, Frances Barber, John Hopkins, Emma Cunniliffe, and Nikesh Patel. This haunting tale, set in an old English college in 1922, it is guaranteed to bring some eerie fear to the audience.
There are laughs and stars a plenty in Beauty and the Beast: A Comic Relief Pantomime for Christmas, an adaptation of the classic tale written by Ben Crocker and The Dawson Bros.; in an extended (by one minute) episode of Mandy, starring Diane Morgan, she tries to discover the true meaning of Christmas; whilst in Latimer Crescent, Michelle and Alan’s (Joy McAvoy and Graeme ‘Grado’ Staveley) Christmas plans go awry as neighbours get on each other’s nerves in Two Doors Down, also featuring Arabella Weir and Alex Norton. And ‘lost’ since 1970, an episode of the Morecambe & Wise Show will be broadcast for the first time in 50 years
Live at the Apollo has always highlighted some of the brightest comedy talent, and this seasonal special is no different, as host Jason Manford introduces Maisie Adam and Nabil Abdulrashid; and the QI elves will be featuring a sparkly S for this year’s show, hosted by Sandi Toksvig, alongside regular panellist Alan Davies, Bonnie Langford, Joe Lycett and Sally Phillips. And Frankie Boyle’s New World Order returns, where Frankie will be joined by guests to look back on some of the biggest stories in what has been a baffling year. And across 10 festive episodes, Jeremy Paxman will gather some familiar graduates to compete in Christmas University Challenge.
Romesh Ranganathan, and of course his mum Shanti, will return for his look at modern Britain alongside some celebrity guests in The Ranganation. And Only Connect, hosted by Victoria Coren Mitchell will be accompanied by cheese, wine and two teams from previous series try to figure out what connects Ben, Phillip Schofield, The Ivy and Cricket.
This festive season, Gareth Malone is heading to Blackburn, where he discovers a huge amount of amateur musical talent as he puts on a Christmas concert celebrating the work of the NHS staff and other keyworkers from the region. And Gregg Wallace will pay a visit to a Christmas card factory for Inside the Factory.
Paul Whitehouse and Bob Mortimer, along with Ted the fishing dog and some fantastic surprises, head to the rivers Eden and Tyne where their mission is to catch an elusive English salmon for Mortimer and Whitehouse: Gone Christmas Fishing; and Si King and Dave Myers are also heading back home to celebrate with their families in The Hairy Bikers Go North For Christmas.
Andi Oliver’s Taste of Home Christmas Special sees the chef in the city of Glasgow, where she will help three households shop and prepare their family recipes for some celebratory feasts.
Sir Quentin Blake remains one of the most iconic illustrators, and for this very special programme, Quentin Blake: The Drawing of My Life, he will fill a 30 foot canvas with some of the most-loved characters and key moments from his career. Featuring contributions from a host of famous faces, Joanna Lumley, Ore Oduba and Peter Capaldi will also read passages from some of the many books he has illustrated.
The seven musically gifted siblings of the Kanneh-Mason family will perform some of their favourite Christmas music as they prepare their Nottingham home for the holiday season in A Musical Family Christmas With The Kanneh-Masons; and no New Year would be complete without Jools’ Annual Hootenanny, where Jools and his Rhythm & Blues Orchestra will be joined by guest performers for the countdown to midnight. And the traditional Vienna Philharmonic’s New Year’s Day Concert from Vienna will come from the Golden Hall of the Musikverein.
Music always captivates the audience at Christmas, and this year BBC Two is treating the audience to some of the concerts from the vaults, including Adele; Madonna; and Lady Gaga, all At the BBC. And Madonna: Truth or Dare takes a behind-the-scenes look at the 1990 Blonde Ambition tour.
On BBC Four, Professor Jonathan Van Tam will be joined by scientists who have all had vital roles to play in the Covid-19 pandemic in the 2021 Christmas Lectures from The Royal Institution; and a unique performance of Winter Journey – or Winterreise – will be staged in a tower built at the 2300m summit of the Julierpasse in south-east Switzerland, from filmmaker John Bridcut and performances from Benjamin Appl accompanied by pianist James Baillieu.
And of course the little ones aren’t forgotten, as CBeebies and CBBC welcome some favourite faces to the screens over the Christmas season, including Justin Fletcher in The Night Before Christmas; Bluey tries to be good and kind; Tish Tash is responsible for decorating the Christmas tree; and there are festive editions of Numberblocks and Alphablocks – Letters to Santa.
Andy and the Band are tasked with trying to save Christmas; Jess and Tracy rediscover the meaning of Christmas in The Beaker Girls; and the Horrible Histories gang put their own spin on Christmas; Blue Peter, hosted by Adam, Mwaksy, Richie and Henry the dog, will be packed with special studio guests and letters from badge winners; and in celebration of Jacqueline Wilson’s Wonderful World, from the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the multimedia adventure will be broadcast on iPlayer as well as Radio 3 and Radio 4.
And if all that weren’t enough, there will be lots of classic Christmas box set programming to stream on BBC iPlayer from much-loved shows like The Royle Family, The Vicar of Dibley, Call the Midwife, Doctor Who, Miranda, Absolutely Fabulous, Mrs Brown’s Boys, Not Going Out and My Family.
The full line up of this year’s Religion programming is available here.