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.


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
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
Arts and Entertainment
Iain reacts to his GBBO disaster

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash

Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Led Zeppelin

Arts and Entertainment
Radio presenter Scott Mills will be hitting the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

    ... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
    Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

    Europe's biggest steampunk convention

    Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

    The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
    She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

    Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

    The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
    American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

    Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

    James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
    Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

    Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

    Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

    Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

    Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
    The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

    The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

    If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution