The Christmas Chronicles


Henry Northmore rounds up the TV highlights to look out for this festive season

S itting round watching TV in your pyjamas is one Christmas tradition we can all get behind. Thankfully there's always a load of old movies, a few perennial favourites, the odd premiere and a ton of specials to keep you entertained. So if you need a break from the family festivities, settle back, relax and stick on the telly.

DRAMA Why do murders in country manors feel like the perfect Christmas TV? There's a new Hercule Poirot in town as BBC turn to The ABC Murders for their annual Agatha Christie adaptation. A three-part murder mystery with John Malkovich making his debut as the idiosyncratic Belgian detective, the cast of suspects includes the likes of Rupert Grint, Andrew Buchan, Tara Fitzgerald and Freya Mavor. New Year is always a let-down. And Ben Wheatley (Sightseers, Kill List) taps into that schadenfreude in Happy New Year, Colin Burstead on BBC Two over Hogmanay. In this dysfunctional drama, NYE celebrations take a dark turn when Colin's (Neil Maskell) estranged brother (Sam Riley) arrives unexpectedly. Wheatley is also planning on using the same characters for a new TV series later in 2019.

Jodie Whittaker has well and truly proved herself in Doctor Who (BBC One), so it’s no surprise to see a Christmas special on the calendar. Staying with sci-i , there's a new version of HG Wells' classic The War of the Worlds (BBC One) starring Eleanor Tomlinson, Rafe Spall and Robert Carlyle. 'The version of The War of the Worlds that I wanted to make is one that's faithful to the tone and the spirit of the book,' explains writer Peter Harness, 'but which also feels contemporary, surprising and full of shocks: a collision of sci-i , period drama and horror. There is nothing cosy or predictable about Wells’ novel, and that’s what I want to capture in the show.' Meanwhile, Kurt Russell dons the furry red suit for his take on Santa in Netl ix brand new movie The Christmas Chronicles which looks like good clean family fun with a cheeky

130 THE LIST 1 Nov 2018–31 Jan 2019 130 THE LIST 1 Nov 2018–31 Jan 2019

twinkle in its eye, and will be available from November 22.

COMEDY There’s loads of Christmas specials from all your favourites. Announced so far we have episodes of Mrs Brown's Boys (BBC One), Still Open All Hours (BBC One), Upstart Crow (BBC Two), Not Going Out (BBC), Bad Move (ITV) and The Keith and Paddy Picture Show (ITV). And, of course, the panel shows get in on the action with festive editions of Would I Lie to You (BBC One), QI (BBC Two) and Mock the Week (BBC Two).

ENTERTAINMNENT Two series in and The Great British Bake Off feels totally at home on Channel 4. Prue, Paul, Noel and Sandi return for a Christmas special that's sure to be packed with cakes, puddings and all manner of indulgences. Popular family favourites Strictly Come Dancing (BBC One), The Chase (ITV) and The Crystal Maze (Channel 4) all return with special episodes. KIDS Is Watership Down (BBC One) for kids? The 1978 movie was pretty scary stuff. This new animated miniseries, based on Richard Adams book about rabbits searching for a new home, features an impressive voice cast including James McAvoy, Ben Kingsley, John Boyega, Gemma Arterton and Olivia Colman. And it wouldn't be Christmas without an adaptation of one of David Walliams’ much-loved children's books and this year we get The Midnight Gang (BBC One). There's also a brand new Julia Donaldson animated short, Zog (BBC One) starring Lenny Henry, Tracey Ullman and Kit Harington. 'The story has a lovely lyricism to it and it's been really good fun seeing the beautiful animation come together,' says Henry. 'There's a cast of brilliant actors and the story is silly, and outrageous, and surreal, and I like all of those things'.

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HIGHLIGHTS THE FIRST Channel 4, Thu 1 Nov, 9pm New sci-fi drama created by Beau Willimon (House of Cards) about the first manned trip to Mars. Starring Sean Penn, Natascha McElhone and Melissa George.

HOUSE OF CARDS SEASON 6 Netflix, Fri 2 Nov As one Willimon series begins, another finishes. Frank (Kevin Spacey) won't be back so Claire Underwood (Robin Wright) steps to the fore for the final series. HOMECOMING Amazon Prime, Fri 2 Nov Julia Roberts headlines this new psychological thriller about a case worker at a secret government facility. Based on a podcast and adapted for TV by Mr Robot’s Sam Esmail.

LOUIS THEROUX'S ALTERED STATES BBC Two, Sun 4 Nov, 9pm Another series of challenging docs from Theroux; this time he turns his eye on adoption, polygamy and euthanasia. Not always the easiest watch but fascinating and insightful. OUTLANDER SEASON 4 Amazon Prime, Mon 5 Nov The time- travelling period action moves from Scotland to the British colony of Georgia.

MARS– SEASON 2 National Geographic, Sun 11 Nov Two Mars-based series in one month. Science fact and fiction mix in this space colony drama.

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE FALLOUT DVD/Blu-ray, Mon 3 Dec The sixth instalment in Tom Cruise's espionage series was one of the most thrilling and exciting action movies of 2018. PLAYSTATION CLASSIC Sony, Mon 3 Dec Nostalgic gaming at its best. Following on the heels of the Nintendo Minis, a shrunken version of the console that launched back in 1994 with 20 games built in (including Final Fantasy VII, Ridge Racer Type 4 and Tekken 3).

WESTWORLD SEASON 2 DVD/Blu-ray, Mon 3 Dec The second season plays with time frames and ideas of consciousness and perception as the cyborgs of Westworld continue to gain sentience.

TIN STAR SEASON 2 Sky Atlantic, Jan (date tbc) Bloody revenge thriller set in the Rocky Mountains, starring Tim Roth. STAR TREK: DISCOVERY SEASON 2 Netflix, Fri 18 Jan Continuing to boldly go with weekly episodes of the Star Trek prequel series.