Christmas drama highlights: The best specials and new series to watch this festive season

From special seasonal episodes of much-loved favourites to brand new thrillers to see you into the New Year, here’s our pick of the TV dramas to enjoy this Christmas.

By Rhys Lewis Published: 16 December 2021 - 10.42am
ITV The Larkins at Christmas

Whether you're sitting down with the family to watch the Christmas special of your favourite show or looking for a gripping new drama to enjoy between the big day and the New Year, the 2021 Christmas schedules have it all.

Discover our pick of the Christmas specials and new series to enjoy this festive season. 

Christmas TV: Your complete guide to what to watch this Christmas >

All Creatures Great and Small

All Creatures Great and Small Playground Television

It’s Christmas in Darrowby, and Helen and James realise they haven’t agreed on where they’re spending Christmas Day. Mrs Hall is expecting them at Skeldale and Jenny is expecting them at Heston Grange, and the pair are reluctant to disappoint either of them.

When Mrs Pumphrey’s beloved pooch Tricki Woo is taken seriously ill, Siegfried has to bring it into the practice for emergency treatment. In the face of such an emergency, Helen ends up feeling like a spare part at the Skeldale Christmas party.

Tristan learns that it might be time to take himself more seriously and reveals some important news, while a card from James’s father asking him to phone them on Christmas Day leaves James on tenterhooks about whether he can make amends with his family.

Watch the All Creatures Great and Small Christmas Special on Channel 5 at 9pm on Christmas Eve.

A Ghost Story for Christmas: The Mezzotint

A Ghost Story for Christmas: The Mezzotint BBC

It’s 1923, and Edward Williams, gentleman and amateur golfer, lives an untroubled life as the curator of a small university museum. When an art dealer sends him details of an interesting engraving - a mezzotint - of an old country house, he’s intrigued.

When the picture arrives, however, it seems perfectly ordinary - until Williams notices a figure in the picture where there was none before. A cloaked figure, with a skull-like head and legs that are horribly thin. Soon, within the mezzotint, the figure seems to be on the move across the moonlit lawn towards the house with murderous intent.

Long-forgotten secrets rise to the surface as Williams and his friends summon all the rational forces at their command to confront the impossible.

Director Mark Gatiss (Sherlock, Dracula) has adapted The Mezzotint from MR James’ short story. Stars Rory Kinnear, Robert Bathurst and Frances Barber.

Watch A Ghost Story for Christmas: The Mezzotint on BBC One at 10.30pm on Christmas Eve.

Call the Midwife

Call The Midwife BBC

It’s December 1966, and good tidings are in the air at Nonnatus House. Following a long engagement, Lucille and Cyril are excited about their upcoming nuptials and can’t wait to get married on Boxing Day. However, as the day approaches, nothing seems to run smoothly, and the wedding ceremony itself is put in jeopardy.

While Nancy focuses on her final midwifery examinations, it is all hands on deck as the Nonnatus team prepare for what will inevitably be a busy Christmas. The maternity home is filled with expectant mums-to-be, each with their own challenging case.

Stars Jenny Agutter, Linda Bassett, Judy Parfitt, Helen George and Miriam Margolyes.

Watch the Call the Midwife Christmas special on BBC One at 8pm on Christmas Day.

The Larkins at Christmas

The Larkins at Christmas ITV

Hot on the heels of the first series of this adaptation of HE Bates’ Darling Buds of May books, we join Pop, Ma and family preparing for the festive season.

In the village all the talk is of the pantomime and an ongoing spate of burglaries — Miss Pilchester, the Normans and Johnny Delamere are amongst the victims. 

At the farm, Pop and Ma are overjoyed to have Mariette and Charley back for Christmas, but when Charley’s parents arrive to meet the Larkin clan, and the entire village is left without lighting and heating following a power cut, chaos descends on the Larkins farm.

Starring Bradley Walsh, Joanna Scanlan, Sabrina Bartlett and Tok Stephen.

Watch The Larkins at Christmas on ITV at 9pm on Christmas Day.

The Larkins: Meet the cast and characters

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Around the World in 80 Days

Around the World in 80 Days BBC

Jules Verne’s classic tale of Victorian exploration returns in an eight-part adaptation starring David Tennant, Ibrahim Koma and Leonie Benesch.

Inspired by a news story, Phileas Fogg (Tennant) is goaded into betting that he can circle the globe in just 80 days, despite never having been abroad before. He sets off with his new valet, Jean Passepartout (Koma), and finds that journalist Abigail Fix (Benesch), the daughter of his friend Fortescue (Jason Watkins), is joining him to document the journey.

When they reach Paris, they find the city in the middle of a riot. Passepartout is reunited with his revolutionary brother, who leads him and Fix into the heart of the unrest. Meanwhile, Fogg nearly falls at the first hurdle. Is he really cut out for this adventure?

Around the World in 80 Days begins on BBC One at 5.50pm on Boxing Day.

Cast, characters and plot: All you need to know about Around the World in 80 Days

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Death in Paradise

Death In Paradise BBC

After 10 years on our screens, the Caribbean whodunnit gets its first ever feature-length Christmas special.

In the 90-minute episode, a wealthy shipping magnate is found dead at a Christmas party, and things get stranger when a minicab driver in London receives a mysterious Christmas card connected to the victim’s death.

DI Neville Parker (Ralf Little) cancels his trip home to Manchester and calls in retired officer - and Death in Paradise favourite – Dwayne Myers (Danny John-Jules) to help him solve the case. Meanwhile Neville’s romance with Florence (Josephine Jobert) is at a crossroads.

Series regulars Don Warrington, Elizabeth Bourgine and Tahj Miles all appear, along with guest stars Mathew Baynton, Juliet Stevenson, Stanley Townsend and Jocelyn Jee Esien.

Watch Death in Paradise on BBC One at 7.30pm on Boxing Day.

A Very British Scandal

A Very British Scandal BBC

Claire Foy and Paul Bettany star in a three-part drama about the scandal surrounding the tumultuous, brutal and very public divorce of the Duke and Duchess of Argyll in 1963.

Considered the most beautiful debutante of the 1930s, the charismatic Margaret Sweeny (Foy) frequently made the front pages following her second marriage to Ian, Duke of Argyll (Bettany). An air of mistrust soon fell upon the marriage – forgery, theft, violence, drug-taking and bribery were all alleged - and in filing for divorce, the Duke accused his wife of infidelity and produced a set of notorious photographs of Margaret, naked, with another man.

The separation, played out in the glare of a ravenous press, sees Margaret decide whether to go away quietly or fight for her side of the story to finally be heard.

A Very British Scandal begins on BBC One at 9pm on Boxing Day, with episodes 2 and 3 following at the same time on December 27 and 28.

Doctor Who: Eve of the Daleks

Doctor Who: Eve of the Daleks BBC

Jodie Whittaker begins her final spell as the Doctor with Eve of the Daleks, billed by showrunner Chris Chibnall as “an intimate, time-loop romantic comedy... with Daleks”.

Sarah (Aisling Bea) owns and runs ELF storage, and Nick (Adjani Salmon) is a customer who visits his unit every year on New Year’s Eve, read the BBC episode synopsis.

This year, however, their night turns out to be a little different than planned. Why is an executioner Dalek targeting these two people, in this place, on this night? Why are they having to live through the same moments again? Can the Doctor, Yaz and Dan save them and survive into the New Year?

Mandip Gill and John Bishop return as companions Yaz and Dan in the first of Whittaker’s final three specials as the Thirteenth Doctor, to be aired during 2022.

Watch Doctor Who on BBC One on New Year’s Day.

The Tourist

The Tourist BBC

A new six-part thriller from The Missing creators Jack and Harry Williams casts Jamie Dornan as The Man (Dornan), a Brit who is chased off the road by an ominous tank truck in the Australian outback.

When he awakes in hospital he has no idea who he is. The Man’s search for answers takes him back through the unforgiving outback, while frightening figures from his past pursue his every move.

As The Man starts to rediscover himself, he’s also faced with the question of who he’s become – a question he’ll need to find answers to fast. Can he unlock the secrets of his identity before he’s captured and killed?

Co-stars Danielle Macdonald (Dumplin’), Shalom Brune-Franklin (Line of Duty), Ólafur Darri Ólafsson (Trapped), Alex Dimitriades (The Cry) and Damon Herriman (Mindhunter).

Watch the first and second episodes of The Tourist on BBC One on New Year’s Day. 

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