Unreality Advent: 1st of the Christmas TV Highlights

by Lynn Connolly

royle family

So, the first of the advent calendar doors can legitimately be opened today – though if your kids are like mine were when they were little, most of the doors have probably been opened and the chocolate therein devoured.

However, we thought we’d give you a round-up of what’s coming up on telly this Christmas from the main terrestrial channels – except Channel 4 who haven’t released the full line-up as yet – and for me, the biggest and best Chrimbo episode news is that the Royle Family are back for another festive episode! Yippee!

It’s entitled, The Royle Family – The Golden Eggcup, and there’s a new buzz in the Royle Family household as it’s a special time for Jim and Barbara, and a celebration (including Twiglets and scotch eggs) is planned…

Jim and Barbara have received the gift of money from their loving children but what to do with it? Barbara wants to go abroad for the first time, having only been away once on their honeymoon to Ormskirk. Will Jim persuade Barbara that a satellite HD box is a more appropriate way of spending their children’s generous gift?

Tension mounts, a family discussion ensues and the question is: Where will they go? Down to the shops as Jim suggests or on Barbara’s dream holiday to the Bermuda Triangle?

The Royle Family – The Golden Eggcup stars Caroline Aherne as Denise Best, Craig Cash as Dave Best, Ricky Tomlinson as Jim Royle, Sue Johnston as Barbara Royle, Ralf Little as Anthony Royle, Jessica Hynes as Cheryl Carroll and Peter Martin as Joe Carroll.

Oh the Christmassy joy! And, in a new one-off comedy drama written by Caroline Aherne for ITV, Timothy Spall plays Georgie Godwin, The Fattest Man in Britain alongside his agent and sidekick, Morris Morrissey, played by Bobby Ball. I can’t wait to see that one too; anything that Caroline Aherne writes gets my vote.


Other shows on ITV form a pretty impressive line-up which will include an Ant and Dec’s Christmas Special, in which the nation’s favourite Geordie duo host a special festive show featuring sketches, performances and some surprise guests, all filmed in front of a live studio audience.

In drama, John Hurt again plays English eccentric, Quentin Crisp, in An Englishman in New York,

Julia McKenzie will return to the role of Agatha Christie’s Marple alongside what ITV describe as “a stellar cast” for the Christie classic, They Do It With Mirrors. There’s also the return of Hercule Poirot in Appointment With Death.

For some obscure reason, ITV have gathered together the “best-loved television adverts” of the noughties in, Ad of the Decade. I bet the Cadbury’s gorilla will be in there, and I sincerely hope that Alexander and Sergei of Compare the Meerkat are winners.

Piers Morgan – who’s like poop in a field at the moment; you can’t avoid the man – will look back at 2009 in Piers Morgan’s Review of The Year, and Harry Hill will offer an “alternative perspective” in the TV Burp Review of the Year.

In The All Star Impression Show, Stephen Mulhern will bring together big names from stage and screen to transform themselves into versions of some of the world’s other biggest names. So that’ll be supremely pointless, but if you’ve had a few mulled wines, possibly worth a squiz.


There’ll also be Take That: The Circus Live following the band’s performance at Wembley earlier this year, and, in The Nolans – In the Mood for Dancing, we’ll get to hear all about the singing family’s history; from their early days in Blackpool through to their comeback tour. Riveting stuff…

A Night of Heroes will be broadcast exclusively on ITV1 and will showcase The Sun Military Awards 2009 which rewards the bravery of members of the UK’s Armed forces. The programme is part of a special week of shows under the heading, Far From Home, which will focus on British troops abroad over Christmas.

There are also a host of special editions of ITV shows including All Star Mr & Mrs with Joan Collins and her husband, Percy Gibson, and Emma Bunton and her partner, Jade Jones. An All Star Family Fortunes special features the Webster family from Coronation Street taking on Emmerdale’s King family and there’s a festive You’ve Been Framed episode too.

ITV2 will revisit four classic pantomimes; Jack & the Beanstalk, Cinderella, Dick Whittington and Aladdin.

the gruffalo

The BBC has some good offerings too including The Gruffalo featuring the voices of Robbie Coltrane, James Corden, John Hurt, Rob Brydon, Helena Bonham Carter and Tom Wilkinson.

dr who

Doctor Who – The End Of Time will see David Tennant embarking on his final journey as the Tenth Doctor in this two-part special which guest stars John Simm as The Master as well as Bernard Cribbins, Catherine Tate, Timothy Dalton, David Harewood and June Whitfield. David Tennant will also be starring in the title role of the Bard’s great tragedy in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s award-winning production of Hamlet.

catherine tate

In comedy, the brilliant Catherine Tate will be back too with Nan’s Christmas Carol in which Nan’s acid-tongued insults catch up with her when the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future pay an unexpected visit. in this year’s festive special from Catherine Tate.

Victoria Wood’s back on the BBC with a one-off special entitled, Mid-Life Christmas which will feature parodies such as Lark Pies To Cranchesterford and the further adventures of soap star Bo Beaumont, played by Julie.

And of course, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas anymore without Cranford in which the shadow of the railway is still looming over the town as Dame Judi Dench, Julia McKenzie, Deborah Findlay and Imelda Staunton return for a two-part special

There’s also a final festive episode of Gavin & Stacey, and Stacey has some life-changing news for Gavin; Nessa’s wedding day dawns; and Smithy wishes her all the best in the final two episodes of the last series.

There’s an Outnumbered Christmas Special and Father Christmas isn’t the only one who’s visited the Brockmans as Hugh Dennis and Claire Skinner return in a Christmas special of the award-winning comedy that captures the turbulent chaos of family life.

Speaking of which, there’s a new My Family Christmas Special. It’s December 2039 and the Harpers gather together to celebrate Christmas.

my family

Thirty years in the future, the family’s appearance may have changed somewhat but their love/hate relationships are still very much alive.Ben is in now in his eighties, a little slower than he used to be but still as grumpy as ever and causing grief for Susan – who, thanks to “a little moisturiser” hasn’t aged a bit.

To say that Janey has gained a little weight is an understatement, as she now weighs in at a whopping 20 stone. Michael, meanwhile, is doing a very bad job of hiding his baldness with an unconvincing wig and, following a disastrous trip to the zoo, Roger is now merely a head in a glass dome.

Susan is put out by the fact that grandson Kenzo, now 38 years old, hasn’t come to visit the family for Christmas Day. Ben is quick to point out that the Harpers have had some of the worst Christmases ever, and the family are reminded of some of their Christmas disasters.

Two years stand out in particular – back when they were all a lot younger, and Janey was a lot lighter, the usual arguments over presents were exacerbated by Susan’s fun, new game – the Greed Gift Exchange. But, when Kenzo finally arrives, he points out that the year Uncle Richard came to stay was just as traumatic for him.

In drama, there’s The Turn Of The Screw in which Michelle Dockery and Sue Johnston are the stars of Sandy Welch’s adaptation of Henry James’s chilling ghost story about a young governess sent to a country house to take charge of two orphans.

The Tsarina’s Slippers features the Royal Opera staging Tchaikovsky’s opera for the first time, based on a Christmas story by Gogol that mixes folktale with fairytale fantasy.

On Five, Justin Lee Collins’ first show for Five, since signing an exclusive two-year contract with the channel, is the centrepiece of its Christmas schedule this year.

In a major programming event Justin’s new game show, Heads or Tails, will be screened across 11 consecutive nights in December with contestants competing to win £1m on the toss of a coin. The series will also include a celebrity special with Denise Van Outen and Coronation Street’s John Thomson competing to win £1m for their chosen charities.

A two-hour festive special, Most Shocking Celeb Moments of the Year, will do exactly what it says on the tin with a bang up to date look at the star stories that have stunned the nation in 2009 including Jordan’s jungle storm out.

Michael Jackson fans will be able to remember the superstar with a screening of his 30th anniversary concert and during the afternoons over the festive season, Five will feature a season of what they say are “star–studded big budget mini-series” including, Robinson Crusoe; David Copperfield; Merlin; Jason and the Argonauts; Alice in Wonderland and Titanic.

On Fiver, a series of afternoon family films will include Stuart Little and Matilda and a back to back screening of all ten episodes screened so far of Five’s smash-hit US series, FlashForward.


Five USA will be screening a special Women of CSI season and a series of Christmas Comedy films including Bad Santa and Christmas With The Kranks.

It’s shaping up to be a good telly Christmas isn’t it? More news on scheduling and programmes as we get it. In the meantime, White Rabbits to you!

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Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.