I still long for the days when there were only two TV listings magazines, and Christmas began on the night when my father would return home from working at the chocolate factory (no, really) on a frosty December evening clutching copies of the double issue Radio Times and TV Times. Christmas didn’t start until this moment of high anticipation, and was a real treat, seeing as we weren’t allowed either magazine for every other week of the year. It’s probably just my memory playing tricks, but as my brother and I sat there, ringing our most desired viewing choices with a red pen, I’m sure there was the delicious smell of mulled wine and tangerines in the air.
It’s down to this memory that my love of Christmas TV has never dissipated, and I still look forward to it with a childlike glee that makes the writing of this (belated) Square Eyes festive special a real pleasure.
Merry Christmas, and don’t forget to go and vote in the very first TV Today awards…
Girls Aloud: Loud and Lovely (1.05pm, C4)
Erm… just kidding!
Peter and the Wolf (4.30pm, C4)
One for the kids (although it’s a bit spooky, so mum may want to be on hand for some handholding) with this lovely stop-frame animation to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Prokoviev’s famous piece. Very evocative, very stylised, and all designed to get us in the mood for Santa’s arrival later on tonight.
EastEnders/Coronation Street (8.00/8.30pm, BBC1/ITV1)
As EastEnders serves Billy up with some more angst as little Petal undergoes surgery, Corrie gives us Les Battersby in a bath of peas. I know which one I’m watching…
Casualty (8.30pm, BBC1)
Oh, alright then. It’s the Casualty Christmas special, continuing last night’s opener, and you’ll be on the edge of your seat… probably. Josh, the longest serving paramedic in TV history (I wouldn’t have been surprised to see him pop in Casualty 1906 a couple of weeks back) has been stabbed, and this could be it! If Manimal can’t save him with all the medical skill at his disposal, we could be saying goodbye to one of the last remaining Holby ravens. Without Josh, that would leave Charlie as the last remaining original cast member, and if he ever left, I’m convinced Holby A+E would crumble to dust.
Doctor Who: The Runaway Bride (7pm, BBC1)
I’ll try not to get too gushing here, but it’ll be hard. At the end of the last series, Catherine Tate appeared in the TARDIS wearing a wedding dress, to much gnashing of teeth from the on-line hoards of Who fans. How dare this light entertainment hack sully the good name of their series!?! Well, this barnstorming piece of Christmas entertainment will not do much to sooth their fevered brows as the Doctor and runaway bride Donna take on the Empress of Racnoss (an unrecognisable Sarah Parish). The good news is, the rest of the audience will love it, so settle down with the family gathered around you for some fun, some scares, some laughs, and the craziest car chase you will ever lay on eyes on. Just wait and see…
Emmerdale (7pm, ITV1)
The other big soap death of the day sees the murder of Tom King on his wedding day to Rosemary. The list of suspects is as long as Jack Sugden’s frown, and this storyline will have legs well into the New Year. Whether the kids will let mum watch this with Doctor Who on the other side remains to be seen…
EastEnders (6.30/9pm, BBC1)
As always, ‘Enders pulls its biggest cracker of the year by saving the departure of Pauline Fowler for Christmas Day. Whatever ups and downs Albert Square has endured this year, both on and off-screen, this bowing out for the legendary mistress of the laundrette will be hard to resist for even the most hardened of EastEnders’ detractors. Will it be all smiles as Pauline packs to go and live with Michelle, or is there more hurt on the way courtesy of Sonia and Martin?
Doc Martin (9pm ITV1)
ITV seem to have thrown the towel in this year on the festive ratings battle, and while Doc Martin has some bums-on-seat clout behind it, this two-hour edition of the Martin Clunes comedy drama feels lack-lustre and devoid of any Christmas cheer. Shame really, as it’s usually a good laugh.
The Vicar of Dibley (9.30pm, BBC1)
The penultimate-ever episode of The Vicar of Dibley, with the last-ever to follow on New Year’s Day. No. Really. It is.
Challenge Anneke (8pm, ITV1)
Yes, you did read that right. Is there nothing that TV execs won’t exhume from the archives? This is a one-off special ahead of a new series in 2007. Anneke’s back, and she’s here to stay.
After Thomas (9pm, ITV1)
Oh, at least there’s some snow in this, bringing some sense of Christmas to the ITV schedules. Keeley Hawes and Ben Miles play the parents of the severely autistic Kyle. The strain on bringing him up is crippling, but then Thomas, a golden retriever dog, comes bounding into their lives, and everything changes. Heartwarming – even more so considering the script is based on real-life events.
Faking It (9pm, C4)
Faking it departs from the schedules with this often moving piece about the body-conscious Sharon Pallister, a cleaner from Wales. She has taken on the task of becoming a sexy burlesque dancer, which is an emotional prospect as it will mean showing the scar on her tummy that forces her to face up to her past. Will she able to convince, swapping a smock for a basque?