Genuinely good Boxing Day TV: 14 shows to watch during the festive season

We got our mitts on some of the biggest shows arriving on our screens over the next few weeks, and here’s what we thought…

Tuesday 27 December 2022 12:50 GMT
Clockwise from top left: ‘Without Sin’, ‘I Hate Suzie Too’, ‘Vardy v Rooney’, ‘Happy Valley’
Clockwise from top left: ‘Without Sin’, ‘I Hate Suzie Too’, ‘Vardy v Rooney’, ‘Happy Valley’ (ITV, Sky, Channel 4, BBC)

For the first time since 2019 BC (Before Covid), Christmas is starting to look like Christmas again. Employees will humiliate themselves at festive work parties. Families will guiltlessly gather around the dinner table. For a few years now, these traditions have been out of reach, but the thing that’s been a constant, and is back again this year, is Christmas TV. Whether it’s worth watching, though, is less of a sure thing.

As a festive gift from us to you, we’ve watched a selection of some of the biggest shows that are on the way, so we can help you choose what to prioritise between glasses of sherry and naps on the couch. From the return of Happy Valley after a six-year hiatus and the arrival of new drama Without Sin, to the court-case-inspired comedy Vardy v Rooney, here’s what you can expect on your screens this Christmas…

I Hate Suzie Too

On Sky Atlantic and NOW on 20 December

The actual truth is that no one hates Suzie. Because Billie Piper and Lucy Prebble’s Bafta-nominated series about the post-divorce adult life of child star Suzie Pickles is wonderful. Happily, a second series is arriving in time for Christmas and it’s just as good as the first one. OK, the fact it starts with Suzie self-administering a home abortion isn’t massively festive, but her quest for redemption on a celeb TV dance show is a hoot. It’s kaleidoscopic, smart, and still full of excellent fluffy jumpers. Jessie Thompson


On BBC Two and iPlayer on Boxing Day

Mackenzie Crook’s eminently endearing sitcom, about the lives of two metal detectorists who comb the English countryside for treasure, returns for a one-off Christmas special on BBC Two. Eschewing a festive backdrop for a more evergreen approach, the episode sees Lance (Toby Jones) and Andy (Crook) stumble upon a find of potential archaeological significance. Rachael Stirling, meanwhile, turns in a reliably winning performance as Andy’s wife, Becky. Diehard fans may be left pining for more, but the gentle, off-beat humour that defined the first three seasons of Detectorists is neatly decanted into this 75-minute-long swansong. Louis Chilton


On ITVX on 22 December

Hugh Quarshie running the show in ‘Riches’
Hugh Quarshie running the show in ‘Riches’ (David Hindley/Prime Video)

For many, Christmas often comes with a healthy side serving of family quarrelling. Riches provides the fictional kind in droves. With a wealthy, fragmented clan at its centre, this six-part drama from Inventing Anna screenwriter Abby Ajayi introduces the Richards family, who are rocked by the sudden death of patriarch Stephen (Hugh Quarshie). As the CEO of family-run Black haircare business Flair and Glory, Stephen’s demise sets off a battle royale for control over the company. From Dynasty to Succession, we’ve seen rich relatives go toe-to-toe in the boardroom many times over. Riches isn’t exactly reinventing the wheel, but it could be just the ticket if you’re after some light, soapy silliness. Nicole Vassell

Happy Valley

On BBC One and iPlayer on New Year’s Day

Any fear that Catherine Cawood (Sarah Lancashire) had lost any of her pithy bite in the six years she’s been off the screen are dispelled mere seconds into episode one of the third and final series of Happy Valley. The show, written by Sally Wainwright, is back at long last – and, we’re thankful to report, is as watchable as ever. It’s equally as tense, too, with the series exploring Tommy Lee Royce’s (James Norton) tightening hold over his now-teenage son, Catherine’s grandson Ryan, played by Rhys Connah. If this really is Happy Valley’s final hurrah, it seems it’ll be going out on a high. Jacob Stolworthy

Without Sin

On ITVX on 28 December

If you can get past Vicky McClure’s very distracting silvery wig, Without Sin might be one of the most gripping things you watch this Christmas. But it’s not very Christmassy at all. A mesmerising McClure stars as a grieving mother who, as part of a restorative justice scheme, comes face to face with the man convicted of her teenage daughter’s murder (McClure’s This is England co-star Johnny Harris). But there’s a twist. He’s not looking for forgiveness; he’s looking for the truth. Expect sad sex, missing children and howling on motorway bridges. Someone pass the sherry. Ellie Harrison

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse

On BBC One and iPlayer on Christmas Eve

Wholesome viewing: ‘The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse’
Wholesome viewing: ‘The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse’ (BBC)

If you do one thing this Christmas, watch The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse. This simple story of kindness is the much-needed antidote to flashy festive chaos. If you’re already familiar with writer and illustrator Charlie Mackesy’s book by the same title, this adapted animation of unlikely friendships brings it entirely to life. It’s not overcooked either, somehow managing to escape any cliches, despite being full to the brim with touching messages. And don’t be fooled, this isn’t just one for the kids; bundled with double meanings, this poignant story of friendship and hope cuts through the noise. “You fell, but I’ve got you,” says the horse to the boy in one tender moment. This 30-minute story will leave you feeling grounded, hopeful and probably a little teary. Megan Graye

The Witcher: Blood Origin

On Netflix on Christmas Day

The Witcher was first unveiled on Netflix ahead of Christmas 2017 and has since become a global hit for the streaming service. Unsurprisingly, then, the show has received a spin-off in the form of The Witcher: Blood Origin, which is set more than 1,000 years before the events of the main series. Will it win any new fans? Not for one second, but it deserves praise for delivering the second of two grandstanding 2022 performances from Michelle Yeoh, who looks set to earn a best actress Oscar nod for her role in Everything Everywhere All At Once. Alongside lead star Sophia Brown, she brings a magnetism to an otherwise run-of-the-mill fantasy prequel. JS

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Vardy v Rooney: A Courtroom Drama

On Channel 4 on 21 December

Wayne Rooney (Dion Lloyd) and Coleen Rooney (Chanel Cresswell) in ‘Vardy v Rooney’
Wayne Rooney (Dion Lloyd) and Coleen Rooney (Chanel Cresswell) in ‘Vardy v Rooney’ (Channel 4)

Since Coleen Rooney alleged that Rebekah Vardy’s account had been leaking her personal Instagram stories to the press in 2019, we’ve had memes, a libel trial, a West End play and now a two-part film displaying what exactly went down in the courtroom. Based on the trial transcripts, Vardy v Rooney: A Courtroom Drama shows excellent turns from Natalia Tena and Chanel Cresswell as the two Wags. While entertaining, neither performance mocks the women at the heart of the story. With Michael Sheen as Rooney’s fearsome lawyer, David Sherborne, the drama is probably the closest you can get to this tabloid’s delight of a story. That is, until Rooney’s documentary comes out next year, of course. NV


On ITVX on 2 January

There’s more than a whiff of Succession’s awkward Tom Wambsgans in Matthew Macfadyen’s new slippery snake character, John Stonehouse. This series, which is played for laughs, tells the story of how the real-life Labour politician faked his own death in the Seventies, after being blackmailed into becoming a spy for the Czech Secret Service. Macfadyen stars opposite his wife, Keeley Hawes, who plays Stonehouse’s suspicious spouse Barbara. Stonehouse is portrayed very unfavourably here, as a fool and a philanderer. It’s hard to care about what happens to him, and the Czech baddies he’s running from are mere caricatures – but it’s nice enough to look at and good fun. EH


On BBC One and iPlayer on 28 December

If it’s a soppy BBC drama you’re after this yuletide, Mayflies fits the bill. Childhood best friends reunite only to discover one of them has terminal cancer? That’ll do it. In this adaptation of Andrew O’Hagan’s 2020 novel, Martin Compston ditches the police badge for spectacles as a well-to-do author called home to rural Scotland by his dying pal Tully (Outlaw King’s Tony Curran). As they plan for his impending death, frequent but fleeting flashbacks call back to the mid-Eighties and we see the wild, punk-rock boys who these men once were. Nostalgia beats at the heart of Mayflies like the synth pulse of a New Order song. The young lads are played with a touching closeness by Rian Gordon and House of the Dragon’s Tom Glynn-Carney, whose Targaryen platinum tresses have been replaced by a shock of Scottish crimson. Annabel Nugent

The Rig

On Prime Video on 30 December

Martin Compston in ‘The Rig’
Martin Compston in ‘The Rig’ (Prime Video)

When you find yourself tired of all the cheerful holiday specials and in need of a genuine thrill, you’re in luck with Prime Video’s The Rig. The six-episode series follows a crew of oil rig workers who become stranded in the North Sea after a mysterious fog cuts off all communication. With all the fixings of a proper mystery, including a treacherous fight for survival amid an evolving, eerie crisis, you’re sure to find yourself invested in each character’s fate. Leading the large ensemble crew is stern-faced boss Magnus MacMillan, played brilliantly by Iain Glen, who brings a distinct brusqueness to the role. He’s joined by Schitt’s Creek’s Emily Hampshire, whose doe-eyed look serves her well as Rose Mason, and here she proves she can do more than just comedy. Equipped with Mason’s keen intellect and strong attitude, as one of the few female rig workers, she might just guide the crew to safety. Inga Parkel

Romantic Getaway

On Sky Comedy and NOW on New Year’s Day

Katherine Ryan and Romesh Ranganathan play a frisky couple who steal money to fund IVF treatment in this new comedy. “Oh, get it out. I want to see what £50,000 looks like,” says Ryan’s Allison. Ranganathan’s Deacon gets out a USB he used for the bank transfer and looks at it meaningfully. “It’s amazing to think that’s what’s going to give us a baby.” It’s clearly not a lack of sex but infertility that’s this couple’s issue. Even reversing the car is turned into a rather unfunny sexual innuendo. But the chemistry between them is fizzy and the show is upbeat enough to bring a smile to anybody desperately wanting a baby. Scenes of a miscarriage are strangely unmoving – perhaps because the rest is slapstick. Despite a paper-thin plot and cliched one-liners, by the time this show descends into a farcical Bonnie and Clyde, the couple can’t back out – and nor can I. Charlotte Cripps

Inside No 9

On BBC Two and iPlayer on 22 December

Earlier this year, the BBC announced that the anthology show from the devilish minds of Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton would return for two more series, bringing the overall series count to – you guessed it – nine. Whether or not that’ll be the end remains to be seen, but, in the meantime, the duo has brought us a Christmas gift in the form of a new festive special, titled “The Bones of St Nicholas”. It’s a creepy treat filled with enough chuckles to keep you from hiding behind your cushion altogether – and is more of a straightforward crowd-pleaser than 2017’s superior “The Devil of Christmas”. Still, Shobna Gulati and Simon Callow provide able support for the tale, which is set inside a possibly haunted church on Christmas Eve. JS

His Dark Materials season 3

On BBC One and iPlayer on 18 December

Rising star Amir Wilson in ‘His Dark Materials’
Rising star Amir Wilson in ‘His Dark Materials’ (BBC)

Netflix’s gothic fantasy Wednesday proved that, quite often, the small screen is a better fit for big imaginations. This was certainly the case with Philip Pullman’s trilogy His Dark Materials, which languished as a Hollywood blockbuster in 2007, only to thrive as a BBC series more than a decade later. In its third and final season, Tom Hooper’s drama sets teenagers Will and Lyra on a quest to help bring down the mysterious Authority, aided by a starry cast including James McAvoy, Ruth Wilson and Lin-Manuel Miranda. It’s an ambitious and spectacular conclusion that keeps the suspense on a knife’s edge. Roisin O’Connor

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