Downton delivers the one present its devotees wanted

Christmas TV review

I'm beginning to wonder if the Earl of Grantham is a bit dim. He lost his dog in the Downton Abbey Christmas special – because Thomas the sneak-thief footman had locked him away in the garden shed, hoping to curry favour with his Lordship with a miraculous restoration. Sadly for Thomas one of the village urchins got there first but his dastardly scheme worked anyway. Meeting Thomas returning from the woods dishevelled and empty-handed, Lord Grantham is touched by his servant's selfless diligence. "There's more true kindness in him than I'd given him credit for," he says to Carson. Might I respectfully suggest, your Lordship, that the £10 reward you promised was a more plausible motive for this blackguard's actions? And, less respectfully, that you will be putty in Thomas's scheming hands if he does actually pull off his plan to become your valet.

There's a vacancy, of course, only because poor saintly Mr Bates is languishing in chokey on a charge of murder – and helpfully providing a cliffhanger to which Julian Fellowes can cut away when any of his other storylines flag a little.

There were all kinds of little stocking-fillers for Downton devotees, with healed rifts, babies, and minor scandals. A couple of outsiders popped in to pay their respects, Nigel Havers appearing as a fortune-hunting charmer who very nearly bagged Lady Rosamund (before he was caught in flagrante with her maid) and Robert Bathurst returning as Sir Anthony, winged in the war and nobly sparing Lady Edith a commitment she has absolutely no desire to be released from. But, fittingly, Fellowes kept his really big gift until the very end, having tantalised us for months with Mary and Matthew's hopeless love. There were, naturally, a few final obstacles to clear: "I'm Tess of the d'Urbervilles to your Angel Clare," Mary said bitterly, after the exact details of her imbroglio with the Turkish attaché had been revealed. For a moment all seemed hopeless. But then Sir Richard got his marching orders and the planchette in the servant's quarters spelled out a mysterious message – "May they be happy" – and we all got what we'd wanted all along.

Christmas is a time for meeting up with friends you haven't seen for ages – but if it's been a really long time there's always a bit of anxiety about whether you'll feel the same way about them. Edina in Absolutely Fabulous was showing some signs of middle-age spread ("Every fat cell I've ever lost or gained has come back for the Fat Cell Reunion of the Year," she wailed) and the comedy itself was a little baggy too, leaning quite heavily on our fondness for the characters. Some very good gags though – including Edina's very funny attempt to talk "street" and a guest appearance by The Killing's Sarah Lund (Sofie Gråbøl) who turned up in an Edina nightmare, complete with sweater and subtitles.

Last year Stephen Moffat rewrote A Christmas Carol for his Doctor Who Christmas special; this year he borrowed from C.S. Lewis, with a story that alluded to The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Doctor Who very rarely makes me cry because its emotions of grief always seem falsely earned (you know for sure that any unbearable death will eventually be reversed). So although the Doctor himself wiped away a tear when he was reunited with the Ponds at the very end, I stayed stony. My eyes did prick a bit at the late arrival of a real Lancaster bomber, though. That was a lovely present.

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment
Relocation, relocation: Zawe Ashton travels the pathway to Northampton
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Three was launched a little over five years ago with the slogan: “Three, is a magic number, yes it is.”

BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital move

TV
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Armie Hammer in the new film of ‘The Lone Ranger’

TV
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
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 in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

    Tribal gathering

    Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

    A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
    Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

    Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

    Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
    Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

    Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

    No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
    How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

    Power of the geek Gods

    Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
    What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

    Perfect match

    What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
    10 best trays

    Get carried away with 10 best trays

    Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
    Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

    Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

    Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
    Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

    Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

    He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
    Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

    The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
    How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

    Heavy weather

    What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
    World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

    World Bodypainting Festival 2015

    Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
    alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

    Don't call us nerds

    Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high