The Independent's Christmas television guide

iWallace & Gromit, Shooting Stars and The Krypton Factor: some old friends are back on the box, discovers a delighted Rob Sharp

The star of Christmas television this year isn't an overweight man crammed into red pyjamas, though he is as well loved by the British public, and his garb is equally eye-opening.

He sports a pea-green woollen tank top, a red tie, and what appear to be brown slacks topped with an elasticated waist. He is often to be seen with a doe-eyed, beige beagle in tow.

Sound familiar? It should, for this year's Yuletide television schedules are headed up by claymation's favourite character, Wallace, paired up with long-time canine sidekick Gromit. The national treasures make a welcome return to the small screen in A Matter of Loaf and Death on Christmas Day (BBC1, 8.30pm).

This offering sums up the programmers' attitudes to seasonal broadcasting: stick to eel-good sentimentality combined with cockle-warming humour; wheel out the big guns; and sit back and enjoy the results, mince pie in hand.

It's the first Wallace and Gromit project since Aardman's acclaimed 2005 feature film Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (also showing on BBC1 on Christmas Day, at 4.30pm), and the pair's first short since A Close Shave in 1995. Wallace (Peter Sallis) and Gromit now run a bakery business. It is called Top Bun, though the characters still land up in a doughy mess. Gromit learns that bakers have been mysteriously disappearing and tries to sniff out the cause before Wallace ends up a victim.

Typical roller-coaster action ensues in the half-hour episode, as Wallace is held prisoner and meets a new love interest, Piella Bakewell, a bread enthusiast, voiced by the former Coronation Street actress Sally Lindsay. The project, one year in production, would have been a hot Oscar tip had it not missed the deadline. Expect typically witty results, not least in Wallace's Heath Robinson-style inventions and screenwriting parodies of the Batman and Aliens blockbuster films .

The same day, also on BBC1, is this year's Doctor Who special. The Next Doctor (BBC1, 6pm), plots how the dimension-bending adventurer (David Tennant) time-travels his way into the path of fellow Time Lord David Morrissey. Like that electronic book you're hankering after for Christmas, details of the plot are under wraps, though the Cybermen are expected to clunk their way back into town. Trivia spot: the episode is the metallic monsters' first appearance in two-and-a-half years. When they faced the show's first doctor, William Hartnell, they came out of the snow. According to Russell T Davies, writing in the Radio Times, this new episode will feature a homage to that original 1963 appearance. It was Davies, of course, who spearheaded Doctor Who's reinvention in 2005.

From one load of celebrity shufflers to another: stay with the terrestrial broadcaster for Strictly Come Dancing (BBC1, 7pm), for three of the series' celebrity successes – Kelly Brook, Alesha Dixon and Jill Halfpenny – pitting their salsas, rumbas and tangos against another three pairs of dancers. Expect jokes from long-time host Bruce Forsyth about Tess Daly's similarities to a "Christmas cracker".

Strictly joins a cornucopia of BBC silliness in the form of a QI Christmas Special (22 December, BBC1, 9pm), with know-it-all talents Rob Brydon, Clive Anderson and Dom Joly appearing alongside host Stephen Fry. On the other side, the mind-body-spirit-crushing game show The Krypton Factor returns to screens for the first time since being axed in 1995 (New Year's Day, ITV1, 7.30pm). Celebrity Big Brother, love it or hate it, will be back early in the new year (2 January, Channel 4, 9pm).

Comedy is a big winner this year. On Christmas Day, both Alan Carr (10.35pm) and Lee Evans (11.40pm) will be shown doing stand-up on Channel 4. The most-recent series of Peep Show is screened in its entirety (E4, 27 December, from 10pm). Also make efforts to join in with All New Shooting Stars (30 December, BBC2, 10pm, for fans of Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer's surreal student-beloved brand of humour), as well as the Morecambe and Wise 1975 Christmas Special (Boxing Day, BBC2, 9.30pm), The Royle Family (Christmas Day, BBC1, 9.30pm) and, most importantly, Harry Hill's TV Burp Review of the Year (Boxing Day, ITV1, 7pm). Gavin and Stacey, the critics' favourite comedy show (Christmas Eve, BBC1, 10pm) floats the idea that Gavin (Mathew Horne) might be taking a job back in Cardiff, where Stacey (Joanna Page) comes from.

On the serious drama front, there's the new BBC version of The 39 Steps (28 December, BBC1, 8pm), with Rupert Penry-Jones (Spooks), as the hero Richard Hannay. Many of the features of Alfred Hitchcock's classic 1935 film have been cast aside (for example, his film based on John Buchan's 1915 novel was set between the world wars, whereas this is in the run-up to the First World War, as Buchan had it). Screenwriter Lizzie Mickery, who co-wrote the 2006 TV thriller The State Within, says she's refused to be influenced by earlier versions. "I didn't let myself think about it. I was immediately caught up in the story and I just set off," she said in an interview. "I have added fun and romance, I hope, and a bit of oomph." And the best films? Slim pickings for viewers over 10, but you could do worse than Pan's Labyrinth (22 December, Film 4, 9pm), Con Air (23 December, BBC1, 10.35pm), and The Bridge on the River Kwai (Boxing Day, More4, 6.45pm).

One gripe about the 2008 Christmas schedules: over the BBC's two main channels, there will be 270 hours of re-runs over the two-week season. "While there will be no repeats in peak time on BBC1 on Christmas Day, we are happy to be able to offer viewers the chance to see some of the BBC's best programmes again, and our research shows they really appreciate this," said a BBC spokesperson. Something for everybody, almost. As long as you don't mind that you've probably seen it before.

PRESENTING OUR FESTIVE TELEVISION HIGHLIGHTS...

Five best sitcoms
Gavin and Stacey (Christmas Eve, BBC1, 10pm)
The Royle Family (Christmas Day, BBC1, 9.30pm)
Blackadder Rides Again (Christmas Day, BBC1, 10.30pm)
The IT Crowd (Boxing Day, Channel 4, 9.50pm)
Peep Show (27 December, E4, from 10pm)

Five Best Films
Pan's Labyrinth (22 December, Film4, 9pm)
Con Air (23 December, BBC1, 10.35pm)
The Day after Tomorrow (Boxing Day, Film4, 6.40pm)
The Bridge on the River Kwai (Boxing Day, More4, 6.45pm)
Lions for Lambs (27 December, Sky Movies Premiere, 10.30pm)

Five best specials
Top of the Pops (Christmas Day, BBC1, 2pm)
Doctor Who (Christmas Day, BBC1, 6pm)
Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death (Christmas Day, BBC1, 8.30pm)
Jools's Annual Hootenanny (31 December, BBC2, 10.55pm)
Celebrity Big Brother: Live Launch (2 January, Channel 4, 9pm)

Five best dramas
Coronation Street (Boxing Day, ITV1, 7.30pm & 8.30pm)
The 39 Steps (28 December, BBC1, 8pm)
The Curse of Steptoe (28 December, BBC4, 10.30pm)
Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking (29 December, BBC2, 9pm)
Jonathan Creek (New Year's Day, BBC1, 9pm)

Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat

Arts and Entertainment
Fake Banksy stencil given to artist Alex Jakob-Whitworth

art

Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is heading to Norwich for Radio 1's Big Weekend

music
Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
film
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

music
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

film
Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee