Christmas TV schedule 2021: 15 best shows on BBC, ITV and Sky - from A Boy Called Christmas to Doctor Who

Christmas is a time for family fun, festive feasts and TV marathons, as loved ones come together around the Christmas table.

As the nights get longer and the weather gets colder, days spent on the sofa, sipping hot chocolate means we all find ourselves flicking through the channels for Christmas classics and bingeable shows.

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Here, NationalWorld highlights 15 of the best shows airing across BBC, ITV and Sky this Winter, from festive specials to what to watch when you need a break from all things Santa.

For the kids and Big Kids

A Boy Called Christmas (2021)

Sky Cinema and NOW TV, 26 November

A Boy Called Christmas is the latest festive family feel good movie, released this November (Picture: Sky)

Released on 26 November, this highly anticipated, stunningly festive, heartwarming and uplifting story is a must watch for all the family.

The movie follows a young boy, Nikolas (Henry Lawful; Les Miserables), as he sets out on an adventure into the snowy north in search of his father who is on a quest to discover the fabled village of the elves, Elfhelm.

Taking with him a headstrong reindeer called Blitzen and a loyal pet mouse, Nikolas soon meets his destiny.

This highly anticipated family film is an adaptation of Matt Haig’s novel by the same name, the first in a series of five by the bestselling author.

The cast also includes Stephen Merchant (The Office, Extras) stars as Miika, Michiel Huisman (The Flight Attendant, Angela Black) as Joel, Maggie Smith (Harry Potter, Downton Abbey, Sister Act) as Aunt Ruth, Kristen Wiig (Bridesmaids) as Aunt Carlotta, Sally Hawkins (Made in Dagenham) as Mother Something, Toby Jones (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) as Father Topo and Jim Broadbent as Father Vodol.


BBC One, 25 December 2.30pm

Julia Donaldson’s Superworm is brought to life this Christmas (Picture: BBC)

This screen adaptation of The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo’s CHild author Julia Donaldson’s children’s book is told through the narration of Oscar-winning actress Olivia Coleman.

Superworm (voiced by Emmy nominated Matt Smith) is a comic hero with a difference, the super-long, super-strong and big-hearted wiggler is helping all the other garden creatures - whether he’s saving baby toad from a major road, rescuing beetle from down a well, or even becoming a skipping rope to entertain some bored bees, with the help of his Butterfly best friend.

Superworm too often takes all the credit. When the wicked Wizard Lizard hears about Superworm’s special skills, he decides to kidnap Superworm to help him find treasure. Despite everything, with her friend in deep trouble, Butterfly comes to the rescue, convincing the other creatures to help her with a daring plan.

Shaun the Sheep: The Flight Before Christmas

BBC One, 24 December 6pm and 11.25am on Christmas Day

Shaun the Sheep is back (Picture: BBC)

The Flight Before Christmas sees Shaun’s seasonal excitement turn to dismay when a farmhouse raid to get bigger stockings for the Flock inadvertently leads to Timmy going missing. Can Shaun get Timmy back before he becomes someone else’s present? Prepare for a ‘Santastic’ adventure as everyone learns the true value of Christmas!

Themes of friendship, loyalty, mischief and fun combine for a unique adventure that will appeal to all generations when families gather around the TV this Christmas.

Justin Fletcher returns as Shaun and Timmy, alongside Marcus Brigstocke as Farmer Ben, ‘agricultural brand’ and rival to The Farmer.

Hansel & Gretel: After Ever After

NOW and Sky Cinema, 23 December at 8pm.

David Walliam’s continues the story of Hansel and Gretel, in ‘After Ever After’ (Picture: Sky)

Hansel and Gretel: After Ever After is the third spin off by children’s author and comedian David Walliams, succeeding Cinderella and Jack and the Beanstalk follow ups.

The ‘after ever after’ story explores what happened once Hansel and Gretel defeated the witch and headed back home to their father (Mark Addy) and stepmother (Sophie Thompson).

When the siblings discover that they didn’t actually manage to kill the witch (Sheridan Smith) and that she’s now hungry for revenge, they return to her house for a final showdown – and meet a troll along the way.

Festive specials of TV favourites

Doctor Who New Years’ Special

New Years Day 2022

Jodie Whitaker as the 10th Doctor (Picture: BBC)

The Thirteenth Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and friends will kick-start 2022 with an action-packed spectacular episode set to air on BBC One on New Year’s Day. The festive special will feature guest stars Aisling Bea (This Way Up, Living With Yourself, Quiz), Adjani Salmon (Dreaming Whilst Black, Enterprice) and Pauline McLynn (Father Ted, Shameless).

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. This year, however, their night turns out to be a little different than planned.

Another two Doctor Who specials will air later in 2022, before the new Doctor gets to work.

Call The Midwife Christmas Special

BBC One, Christmas Day

Season 11 of Call the Midwife kicks off with a festive special (Picture: BBC)

Season 11 debuts this December, with a Christmas special set in December 1966.

Christmas promises to be a memorable one at Nonnatus House as Lucille (Leonie Elliott) and Cyril (Zephryn Taitte) prepare for their upcoming winter wedding. The Nonnatus team are faced with their busiest Christmas Day ever as the Maternity Home is filled with expectant Mums to be, each with their own challenging case. Luckily Mother Mildred (Miriam Margolyes) is on hand to support the team.

Death In Paradise Christmas Special

BBC One, Boxing Day 7.30pm

Death in Paradise (Picture: BBC)

This feature-length special of Death in Paradise is a Christmas Carribean treat, as the series concludes the tenth anniversary celebrations.

In the 90 minute episode, viewers will see the return of Danny John-Jules as charismatic Officer Dwayne Myers, as the story unfolds from grey damp drizzly London all the way to the warm sparkling beauty of idyllic Saint Marie.

The Larkins Christmas Special

ITV, Christmas Day 9pm

The Larkins return for a Christmas Special, set in Kent (Picture: ITV)

Bradley Walsh and Joanna Scanlan are back following a successful debut series of the Darling Buds of May reboot, for a Christmas special set in the heart of Kent.

Very little is known about the one-off festive episode, but we can confirm there will be plenty of snow and family friendly humour from the Ma, Pa and the Larkins brood.

Walsh previously confirmed the Christmas special has been filmed and its a snowy but heartwarming must watch.

A Very British Scandal

BBC One, Boxing Day 9pm

The Duchess of Argyll is played by Claire Foy (Picture: BBC)

Expected to air across the holidays,this three-part series, the story of the divorce of the Duke and Duchess of Argyll, one of the most notorious, deceitful and brutal legal cases of the 20th Century is told.

The stunningly elegant Duchess, Margaret,dominated the front pages as a divorce featuring accusations of forgery, theft, violence, drug-taking, secret recording, bribery and an explicit Polaroid picture - all played out in the white-hot glare of the 1960s media.

A Very British Scandal explores the social and political climate of post-war Britain, looking at attitudes towards women, and asking whether institutional misogyny was widespread at the time.


The Royal Variety Performance

ITV, 17 December 7.20pm

Alan Carr hosted this year’s Royal Variety Performance (Picture: PA)

Following the RVP taking place on 18 November, the night of entertainment, music and comedy will be shown on ITV this December.

Funnyman Alan Carr hosted the evening with the royals, in which he reportedly told the Duchess of Cambridge she looked “ absolutely beautiful”, before reassuring William “I am not hitting on your wife.”

The night of award-winning stars includes Ed Sheeran, Sir Rod Stewart, the cast of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Matilda The Musical and performers Cirque du Soleil.

Comedians Judi Love, Bill Bailey, Chris McCausland and Josh Widdicombe were also in attendance.

Brit Award winner James Blunt also features, as well as Grammy Award winners Gregory Porter and Elvis Costello among others.

Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special

BBC One, Christmas Day 7.10pm

Strictly Come Dancing tops the year off with a Christmas special (Picture: ITV)

Strictly Come Dancing is the gift that keeps on giving, as a Christmas special is scheduled to air just one week after the current competition ends.

The BBC One dancing competition always includes a star-studded line up, and the festive cast looks to be the star on the top of the tree.

The show is set to be a Santastic night of festive jingles, sparkling costumes and stars, as six celebrity-professional couples dancing the night away.


A League of their Own - Christmas Party

Sky Max and Now TV,

Romesh Ranganathan, Freddie Flintoff and Jamie Redknapp return for festive fun with Romesh’s mum (Picture: Sky)

Romesh Ranganathan, Freddie Flintoff and Jamie Redknapp are not letting the threat of a global pandemic ruin their festive fun, as they return for League of Their Own festive special.

This year, Romesh is arranging the Christmas get together, as the boys are joined by a range of celebrity and sporting guests as well as Romesh’s mum, who’s serving up a traditional Sri Lankan Christmas in a Wiltshire woodland treehouse.

Never Mind the Buzzcocks Christmas special

Sky Max and NOW TV, 18 December

Never mind the Buzzcocks (Picture: iTV)

Is that sweet singing in the choir I hear? No, it’s the raucous cacophony of the Buzzcocks team murdering another classic in the Intros Round.

Greg Davies hosts a special Christmas edition of the chaos-fuelled music quiz, with Noel Fielding, Daisy May Cooper and Jamali Maddix joined by Frankie Goes to Hollywood frontman Holly Johnson, broadcaster Lauren Laverne and star of People Just Do Nothing Asim Chaudhrey.

Bradley and Barney Walsh: Breaking Dad at Christmas 

ITV, Christmas Eve 9pm

The father and son duo take a winter wonderland trip to Lapland (Picture: ITV)

The hilarious father-son duo are back for another episode of ‘Breaking Dad’, only this time its all about festive fun and snowy adventures.

The one-off sees the pair travel to Iceland to explore volcanoes, glaciers and stunning winter landscapes, as they attempt to keep up the Christmas joy while competing nail biting challenges.

Bradley joked about the upcoming show: “Barney knows I hate the cold but I love Christmas, so I had to say yes to a festive road trip around Iceland. I just hope I can find somewhere to roast my chestnuts.”

Would I Lie to You? At Christmas

BBC One, 20th December 8.30pm

Rob Brydon is back in the host’s chair for a festive edition of the award-winning comedy panel show Would I Lie To You? And as ever, David Mitchell and Lee Mack are the lightning-quick team captains.

Over the course of the show, a stellar cast of celebrity guests reveal amazing stories about themselves. But are they telling the truth, or are they making it all up?

David Mitchell is joined by Jim Broadbent and Rose Matafeo while Lee Mack is joined by Angela Rippon and Ardal O’Hanlon.