Christmas TV guide 2014: Best family friendly shows from The Boy in the Dress to Esio Trot

From David Walliams' new drama to Esio Trot starring Judi Dench and Dustin Hoffman, there's plenty of wholesome family fare to watch this Christmas

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The Boy in the Dress (BBC1)

David Walliams' children's book The Boy in the Dress has been adapted for Christmas telly

A David Walliams (Gangsta Granny, Mr Stink) adaptation is a fast and deservedly becoming a new BBC Christmas institution and the latest is his tale of cross-dressing 12-year-old Dennis Sims. Newcomer Billy Kennedy takes the title role, Jennifer Saunders co-stars, and Kate Moss – a chum of Walliams’ catwalk-model wife Lara Stone – has a cameo.

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Esio Trot (BBC1)

Dustin Hoffman and Judi Dench star in the BBC adaptation of Roal Dahl's Esio Trot

Dustin Hoffman and Dame Judi Dench bring some seriously high-wattage star-power to Richard Curtis’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s children’s classic about a shy old bachelor, Mr Hoppy, and his plan to win over a tortoise-loving neighbour (Dench). Whatever next – Tom Cruise reads Jackanory?

On Angel Wings (BBC1)

Produced by the same team who made The Snowman back in 1982 – and repeated every year since – this animation is based on the book by War Horse author Michael Morpurgo. A reworking of the nativity story, the voices include those of Michael Gambon and Juliet Stevenson.

Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special (BBC1)

Strictly Come Dancing will be back for a Christmas special

Everyone seems to agree that it was refreshing to see two women presenting the latest series instead of the usual older man-younger woman combo, but Christmas sees the return of Sir Bruce Forsyth and his hoary gags. Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Lisa Riley, Louis Smith and Russell Grant are among the former celebrity contestants working their way through the ballroom repertoire.


David Attenborough’s Conquest of the Skies (Sky1)

Anyone who has just unwrapped a 3D-ready TV set will be able to appreciate this latest family-friendly wildlife special from the Bafta-winning team behind Natural History Museum Alive and Flying Monsters – as Attenborough celebrates his 88th Christmas on planet Earth by taking a 3D look at the creatures who defy gravity in one way or another.

The Snowman and the Snowdog (Channel 4)

After 30 years as a Christmas TV fixture, Raymond Briggs’s animated, air-walking lump of frozen precipitation was joined by a snow-mutt in 2012, and together they are fast becoming a new Christmas TV fixture as Channel 4 screens this pleasingly retro hand-drawn cartoon for yet another year.