Christmas TV Preview: Doctor Who, Downton Abbey, Soap Spoilers & more

by Lisa McGarry

Christmas TV Preview Part One: Drama and Soaps

So the countdown begins we’re less than five weeks removed from the big day and most of the channels have released word of their Christmas schedules. As I’m good to you I’ve put all these together in one handy guide so you can decide what you want to watch early and ultimately get hold on the remote control, which as we all know is the most important thing about Christmas! 

Downton Abbey (ITV1) 

We’ve got to kick off with the goliath hit that is Downton Abbey after a successful season two, who’s final episode eclipsed both that week’s X-Factor and Strictly shows, they finish things off with a Christmas special. From what we know so far the events will take part in 1920 and as the last series finished in 1919 who knows what we’ll see. There have been rumours circulating about a possible Christmas romance between Matthew and Lady Mary which would certainly warm the Downton fans up if it is a particularly cold Christmas however with Lady Mary set to marry Richard Carlisle and Matthew still mourning the death of Lavinia will this romance be feasible? Aside from this will we learn the fate of Bates and will Lady Sybil feature after she left for a new life in Ireland with Branson the chauffer? What we do know is that Nigel Havers will guest star as Lord Hepworth and Samantha Bond will reprise her role as Lady Rosamund. Whatever the plotline though Downton Abbey feels like an ideal fit for the Christmas schedules and could certainly give the BBC a run for its money if it is aired on Christmas Day itself.

Great Expectations (BBC1)

While ITV have given us their ratings winner as their costume drama of choice the BBC have chosen to go classic and present another adaptation of Dickens’ Great Expectations. I would imagine that this will be shown in several parts over the festive season and is the start of the BBC’s celebration of the bicentenary of Dickens’ birth. The cast is led by Douglas Booth, as the older Pip, best known for his role as Boy George in last year’s Worried About the Boy while relative small screen newcomer Vanessa Kirby will play the older Estella. However Great Expectations is best known for its colourful supporting characters including convict Abel Magwitch and the ghostly Miss Haversham. Ray Winstone will be playing Magwitch and I doubt playing a convict will be a stretch for him while Gillian Anderson will play Miss Haversham and another Dickens adaptation to her CV after already winning a BAFTA for her role in Bleak House. Completing the cast is David Suchet playing the crafty lawyer Jaggers as well Oscar Kennedy and Izzy Meikle-Small who will play young Pip and Estella respectively. I have to say I do love a good costume drama and Great Expectations is possibly my favourite Dickens novel so I hope the BBC do justice to it and kick of their Dickens season well.

The Borrowers (BBC1)

A second adaptation of a classic text and also one that the BBC has tackled before as Mary Norton’s timeless children’s tale is bought to the screen once again. If you’re as old as me then you will remember the BBC’s version of The Borrowers back in the early 1990s which starred Ian Holm and Penelope Wilton however this time BBC1 have gone all out with a star-studded cast. Christopher Eccleston and Sharon Horgan will play Borrower parents Pod and Homily Clock who are desperate to keep their daughter Arietty, played by Aisling Loftus, out of trouble however she ends up befriending the young boy who lives in the house above their family and jeopardising their safety. Meanwhile upstairs there are humans who want to capture them including Stephen Fry’s Professor Mildeye who is desperate to prove the existence of The Borrowers and Victoria Wood’s Grandma Driver who wants to banish the little people from her house. This will be a programme that all the family can gather together and watch, a rarity in our multi-TV household era, and for 90 minutes be entranced by this beautiful story.

Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Clocks (ITV1)

Sticking with the literary adaptations we have the obligatory Agatha Christie story and once again David Suchet’s Belgian detective is on a special case. This time he has to come and investigate the dead body at a mysterious house that has been found by a young secretary played by Jaime Winstone. Winstone’s character had been asked for by name by a woman she’d never met before and travels to house that she doesn’t recognise where she finds the aforementioned body and finds all the clocks have stopped at 4:13. Starring alongside Suchet and Winstone are Phil Daniels as Inspector Hardcastle as well as Geoffrey Palmer, Lesley Sharp and the late Anna Massey. These type of murder mystery shows are synomous with Christmas and I’m surprised that we haven’t got more of them, I was at least expecting one Marple, that being said they’re not my sort of thing so I’ll doubt I’ll be catching this when it airs during Christmas week.
Just Henry (ITV1)
Another period piece this time set just after the Second World War and starring Nowhere Boy’s Josh Bolt as Henry a boy trying to come to terms with his father’s death and his mother’s remarriage. When his father’s war medal is posted through the door he starts to wonder if he is actually dead and he starts to blame classmate Paul’s father for the murder. Meanwhile at school his teacher tries to encourage his passion for film by getting him involved in a special project. As well as Bolt the programme stars Ashes to Ashes’ Dean Andrews as the step-father, Harper’s Island’s Elaine Cassidy as his mother as well as Stephen Campbell Moore, Barbara Flynn and the legend that is Sheila Hancock. This one-off film does sound very intriguing and I feel that this will be slotted somewhere between Christmas and New Year and if nothing clashes with it I will definitely be watching.

The Lost Christmas (BBC1)

Taking things back to the modern day with this Manchester-set fairytale which is strictly one for the kids but hey at Christmas time aren’t we all just big kids? Eddie Izzard stars as Anthony a strange man who wakes up on the streets of Manchester on the run up to Christmas not knowing where he is or why he’s there. It soon transpires that Anthony has a special power to bring back the lost and wouldn’t you just know it that he soon comes into contact whose lives have been affected by losing loved ones. But the big question here is are Anthony’s powers real or is it all just an illusion? As well as Izzard the cast is set to include Jason Flemyng and sounds like the type of heartwarming kid-friendly story that you’d expect to find among the Christmas televisual treats.

Fast Freddie, the Widow and Me (ITV1)

This is one that I could imagine ITV putting on sometime in the week before Christmas and reminds me of their previous festive dramas Come Rain Come Shine and The Fattest Man in Britain. Here Laurence Fox stars as Jonathan a wealthy car salesman who is caught drink driving and is sentenced to Community Service in The Moonbeam Club a support centre for young adults. It is here he meets Freddie, played by Waterloo Road’s Jack McMullen, who has terminal cancer the two soon form a bond and eventually Jonathan promises to give Freddie his perfect Christmas. The one-off drama also stars Wallander’s Sarah Smart, as a worker and The Moonbeam who thinks Jonathan’s idea is a bad one, alongside Tamzin Outhwaite, Judy Flynn and Bill Patterson. This honestly does sound like my sort of thing although it does have an element of corniness about it I think it will be on the right side of schmaltzy and be a little gem among ITV’s Christmas output.

This is England ’88 (C4)

If everything so far has sounded a little bit too twee for you then maybe you’ll be looking forward to the return of Shane Meadows’ gang of eighties layabouts as they return two years removed from when we last saw them. Channel 4 claims that the new three-parter in the This is England saga will have shades of a Christmas Carol however I feel this will be about as far removed from Dickens as you could possibly get. The story sees Lol and Woody still trying to deal with the fact that Lol killed her own father eighteen months after it happened. Meanwhile Shaun is finding out for the first time that sometimes love can really hurt. Although I feel this will be powerful, emotional stuff, This is England as always been known for its humour as well and I reckon Gadget, Smell, Meggy and Banjo will supply the festive cheer to a series that may be lacking it elsewhere.

Doctor Who (BBC1)

Don’t worry I didn’t forget about him and we do know for certain that the Doctor will once again pop up again on Christmas Day in what has now become an annual tradition. The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe obviously shares parallels with CS Lewis’ book with a similar title in so much as it sees children go on wild adventures will be evacuated to the country. Outnumbered star Claire Skinner stars as Madge Arwell who, along with children Lily and Cryil, have relocated to the Dorset countryside and as you can imagine it’s not long before they meet The Doctor. From the trailer that played during Children in Need we can ascertain that this once again a classic Whovian story but with a Christmas twist thrown in to satisfy all the purists. Alongside Skinner the cast seems rather fun this time around with Bill Bailey, Alexander Armstrong and Arabella Weir all jumping aboard the Tardis as well. Doctor Who is always a good show to watch as you let your turkey go down and once again I don’t think Matt Smith and co. will disappoint.

Soap round-up
As we all know Christmas is a time in which the soaps go all guns blazing and they have provided us with many memorable births, deaths and exits over the years so here’s a quick rundown of what we know so far.

Obviously the biggest story in Eastenders is the death of Pat Butcher after 25 years of letting Albert Square see her brilliant earring collection. We all know she’s going to die but the producers have filmed three different endings – one in which she slips away to the afterlife after finally succumbing to cancer, one where she has a massive heart attack and one which we will get to shortly. Personally I would like to see her just slip away as we are promised more dramatic scenes in another storyline however that may not be the case. One thing we do know is Pat’s final scenes will usher in the returns of Patsy Palmer and Sid Owen as Bianca and Ricky as well as Michael French as her son David and possibly Nick Berry as other son Simon. Whatever eventually happens Pat’s exit should respect the impact that the character has had during her quarter of a century on E20.

Pat’s death may also come in the dramatic fire at Kim’s B&B started by evil Doctor Yusef as a reminder to what happened to Zainab at the hands of his family. It has already been confirmed that Yusef will meet his maker in the fire but also that Tamwar will suffer horrible burns as a result. The only question mark hanging over this is will Pat be there too?

Over on Coronation Street it seems we have yet another Weatherfield kid who will be celebrating a Christmas week birthday as Katy gives birth on Christmas Eve while the baby’s father Chesney is out selling Christmas trees dressed as an elf. Katy meanwhile is watching a nativity play and gives birth to new baby Joseph near the manger while Chesney rushes across town.

Also on Corrie we know they’ll be trauma for Sophie and Sian as actress Sacha Parkinson took a picture of her last day on the set with the street covered in snow. Although the teen lovers are supposed to be getting married, Sophie’s kiss with Amber will no doubt throw a spanner in the works and once again we’ll have to wait and see.

And more teen trauma in Emmerdale as troubled youngster Amy gives birth to her secret baby over Christmas. This couldn’t come at a worst time as Emmerdale’s other storyline sees dastardly Cain Dingle being attacked by a mystery assailant, could the two be linked? Perhaps, you’ll have to tune in over Christmas to find out.

And finally in Hollyoaks Warren Fox will leave the village alledgelly for the last time. Seeing as Warren’s last exit came courtesy of a fire at The Loft this time he will have to go a long way to match it, maybe alien abduction? We’ve been told this is the last time we’ll see Warren, at least until actor Jamie Lomas needs another pay day that is.

OK let me know which dramas you’re looking forward to and which soap storylines you are anticipating. 
I’ll return soon with part two that looks at Comedy and Entertainment including Strictly, Ab Fab, Michael McIntyre and much more.

This post was written by me, guest blogger Matt Donnelly!

Follow me on Twitter: @mattstvworld and read my blog