“So, is there anything good to watch this Christmas?” asks the friend/colleague/relative at this year, usually in a tone that suggests that they don’t expect an affirmative answer. But the truth is that, yes, there is – except you’ll probably have to search for it beyond the predictable big-hitters.
Scroll down to see our Christmas TV picks
The attractions of Downton Abbey, Call the Midwife, Doctor Who and Strictly Come Dancing are well-known, but that doesn’t make them any less enjoyable. Downton is calling in more star power this Christmas with a guest appearance from Paul Giamatti, while over in EastEnders Danny Dyer will make his first appearance as the new landlord of the Queen Vic. In a slightly more fantastical world, theDoctor Who Christmas special promises the arrival of brand new doctor Peter Capaldi as Matt Smith hands in his bow ties.
If you are searching for something a little bit more, there are plenty of hidden gems sprinkled among the fortnight’s mass-audience “treats” - the sorts of drama, comedy or documentary smart enough to stop us turning into an intellectual equivalent of Mr Creosote, the exploding gourmand in Monty Python’s Meaning of Life.
See below for our guide of what to watch on Christmas Day.
Christmas Day big hitters
Christmas Day big hitters
1/6 Call the Midwife, Christmas Day, 6.15pm, BBC1
Amongst the usual neo-natal storylines, the plot of this year’s Call the Midwife has to incorporate the move of Nonnatus House necessitated by the (real-life) sale of the disused Jesuit college where the show’s first two series were filmed.
2/6 Doctor Who, Christmas Day, 7.30pm, BBC1
There’s a regeneration of a different sort in Doctor Who as Matt Smith gives way to Peter Capaldi. Smith’s swansong is written by Steven Moffat, who was also the excutive producer of Sherlock.
3/6 Downton Abbey, Christmas Day, 8.30pm, ITV
Over on ITV Downton Abbey sees the arrival of Paul Giamatti as Cora’s naughty brother Harold - and it says a lot about the thespian firepower in this show that the talented Sideways star doesn’t unbalance it.
4/6 EastEnders, Christmas Day, 8.30pm, BBC1
Although you should be able to avoid any serious clashes (over the remote) this Christmas, Eastenders is going head to head with Downton at 8.30pm. Danny Dyer is due to make his first appearance as the new Landlord of the Queen Vic and, as ever, it doesn't look like the residents of Albert street are going to be in for a cheerful Christmas.
5/6 The Tractate Middoth, Christmas Day, 9.30pm BBC2
Between writing his excellent drama about the birth of Doctor Who, An Adventure in Space and Time (repeated on Christmas Day, 4.30pm BBC2), and the first episode in the new series of Sherlock, Mark Gatiss found time to write and make his directing debut with a slight but effective adaptation of MR James’s ghost story about a cursed Hebrew text.
6/6 M.R James: The Ghost Writer, Christmas Day, 10.05pm, BBC2
Broadcast straight after his adaptation of The Tractate Middoth, Mark Gatiss sets off in the footsteps of its author, Monty James, a sexually-repressed Victorian with a fine taste for historic architecture and the macabre.