Christmas television highlights

by Fiona Rae / 25 December, 2012
Scary snowmen in a Doctor Who Christmas Special, a Royal Variety Performance and the return of JR Ewing and Dallas.


Doctor Who Christmas Special

The Nowies (TV2, 4.00pm). What Now? hosts its own awards for the kids, with categories in sport, movies and television. Hosted by What Now? presenter Gem Knight and Nigerian-Australian rapper Timomatic.

Come Dine with Me (TV1, 8.30pm). A celebrity Christmas episode that features DJ Goldie (who is known for his gold teeth and has a boa constrictor), crooner Tony Christie, Blue Peter presenter Janet Ellis and actress Susie Amy.


Jamie’s American Road Trip (Prime, 7.30pm). A repeat, but one of Jamie Oliver’s best, because he finds all sorts of interesting food niches in that vast country. There’s every-thing from tiny restaurants run out of a house to deep-fried turkey in the South.

The Epic History of Everyday Things (History, Sky 073, 7.30pm). A doco that delves into the history of some of the small things we use and barely think about each day. Toothbrushes, neckties, forks, buttons, salt and pepper … The programme is told through a day in the life of a fortysomething man as he interacts with objects, materials and machines.

America’s Got Talent (Prime, 8.35pm). A couple of talent shows conclude this week, and America’s Got Talent wheels in some big names to entertain the troops before the winner is announced. They include Stevie Wonder, Def Leppard, LeAnn Rhimes, Tony Bennett and Queen Latifah. The winner of The Voice (TV2, Saturday, 7.30pm) will also be announced.


Michael Bublé: Home for the Holidays (TV3, 5.00pm). It seems we can’t get away from Rod Stewart lately: here he is in another variety special, along with Blake Shelton, Carly Rae Jepsen and Elmo.

Missing Christmas (TV2, 6.30pm). A local animated story for a change, about a lad called Tane who lives on the little island of Ngaro and vows to get Santa’s attention and bring Christmas to the island. Voices include Temuera Morrison, Rhys Darby, Leigh Hart, John Rhys-Davies and Teuila Blakely.

Tangiwai: A Love Story (TVNZ Heartland, Sky 017, 7.30pm). One of the past year’s most popular dramas – and a multiple award winner at this year’s TV awards, including best supporting actor for Mick Rose and best cinematography for David Paul. A sad story beautifully told about the train crash on Christmas Eve, 1953. Nerissa Love (Rose McIver) is on the train while fiancé Bob Blair (Ryan O’Kane) is in South Africa with the New Zealand cricket team. Special effects by Weta Workshop.

Homai te Pakipaki (Maori, 8.30pm). Maori Television brings te Papakipaki to Christmas with two specials based on its popular talent quest. Today, Matai Smith, Pikiteora Mura-Hita and Brent Mio reminisce about some of the year’s special performances. The second programme, on Boxing Day (8.30pm), goes behind the scenes of this year’s grand final and has performances from the winner, Hukanui Brown, as well as lovely reggae outfit 1814 and last year’s winner, Chad Chambers.


Pride and Prejudice (Vibe, Sky 007, 7.00pm). Colin Firth in a wet shirt, Jennifer Ehle in a pretty dress, Alison Steadman in a flap. Vibe plays all of the 1995 BBC adaptation of Jane Austen’s most beloved novel. Could be worse. Repeats tomorrow at noon.

The Royal Variety Performance 2012 (TV1, 7.30pm). It was a big year for the Royal Variety Performance – for the first time, the event was held at the Royal Albert Hall, but more importantly, it was celebrating its 100th anniversary. The first Royal Variety Performance was held in 1912 at the Palace Theatre in the presence of King George V and Queen Mary; performers included music hall comedian Little Tich, and singers Wilkie Bard and Cissie Loftus. Tonight’s show is presented by Little Britain’s David Walliams and includes Rod Stewart, Neil Diamond, One Direction, Kylie Minogue, Robbie Williams, Andrea Bocelli, a reunited Girls Aloud and Britain’s Got Talent winners Ashleigh and Pudsey, a dog trick act.


Top Gear Day (BBC Knowledge, Sky 074, 10.00am). My God that’s a lot of Jeremy Clarkson. A whole day of Top Gear. Perfect for dads who need to relax after the rigours of Christmas.

Doctor Who Christmas Special (Prime, 8.30pm). It wouldn’t be Christmas without a Doctor Who Christmas special, which now come around like clockwork. Given this is a series about a time-travelling Time Lord, it seems only right. And why wouldn’t the BBC make event episodes? Doctor Who, along with Sherlock and Top Gear, helped BBC Worldwide, the corporation’s commercial division, make sales of nearly $2 billion in 2011-12. Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat told the Guardian in August that the series “could make money forever”. In the modern era of Doctor Who, there has been a seasonal episode every year since 2005’s The Christmas Invasion. Kylie Minogue appeared in 2007’s Titanic-themed episode, The Voyage of the Damned, and David Morrissey (currently starring in The Walking Dead) appeared in 2008’s The Next Doctor. Michael Gambon was a Scrooge-type figure in 2010’s A Christmas Carol. Moffat has a rare talent for creating monsters that reach deep into the primal regions of the brain. Monsters that can’t be seen, or are not remembered. The Weeping Angels, statues that play a frightening game of sneak-up; the Silence, aliens that are forgotten immediately; and the Vashta Nerada, microscopic carnivores that can strip a human to the bone in seconds, are all his doing. Thanks, Steven. In this year’s Doctor Who Christmas Special, Moffat has created another bunch of abominations called the Snowmen, which look rather like evil smiley faces made out of snow. He is once again looking to England’s past, setting the action in London in 1892, where the Doctor (Matt Smith) is having his own Scrooge moment. In mourning for the loss of companions Amy and Rory, “he’s withdrawn from the world”, says Moffat, “and no longer cares what happens to it”. Enter this year’s special guest star, Richard E Grant, as the evil Dr Simeon, the controller of the Snowmen. They “feed on thoughts” (argh!), but they might be just what the Doctor ordered to get him out of his funk. Also, there’s new companion Clara (Jenna Louise-Coleman, who made a surprise appearance in this season’s opener, Asylum of the Daleks). She is a governess, who tells her children stories of a man called the Doctor (another Moffat theme: the Doctor once told Amy, “We’re all just stories in the end, so make it a good one.”). Will the Doctor cheer up and save the world? Of course, but the getting there’s the fun part.

Derren Brown Investigates: The Ghosthunter (Prime, 9.50pm). Illusionist Derren Brown, God bless him, does not claim to have special powers – more Patrick Jane than Allison DuBois – and like most rational people would like to see evidence of supernatural phenomena. Perhaps he’ll be lucky with US “ghosthunter” Lou Gentile, who says he has voice recordings and photo-graphs of spirits. He takes Derren to see a possessed biker and a woman who says she has a demonic presence in her house. Lou also tapes an encounter with a ghost and shows Derren his photographs.


The Walking Dead (TV2, 10.45pm). Just because it’s Christmas it doesn’t mean the zombie fun should stop altogether, although tonight’s episode is a “mid-season finale” to make way for the holiday season. It’s been an intense eight episodes, with plenty of action, zombie kills and near-escapes, and it has been building towards tonight’s confrontation between the prison gang, headed up by Andrew Lincoln’s Rick, and the Woodbury bunch, led by David Morrissey’s Governor. Tonight, the assault on Woodbury begins, as Rick and co try to retrieve the kidnapped Glenn and Maggie. Another inevitable confrontation is coming, too, between brothers Daryl and Merle, which is going to test their loyalty to their chosen groups.


The Boy Who Was Born a Girl (TV1, 8.30pm). Even when it’s Christmas the unusual medical programmes don’t go away. The Boy Who Was Born a Girl is a 2009 documentary about a British teenager who started gender reassignment treatment at 16. Jon was brought up as Natasha, but he knew he was a boy from about six, he told the Guardian. His mother Luisa just thought he was a tomboy. She is supportive of Jon, but also has to deal with the loss of a daughter.

Superstorm 2012: Hell & High Water (Prime, 8.30pm). Here’s a cheery thought for 2013: are superstorms such as Hurricane Sandy the new normal? This doco looks into how Sandy occurred and how cities such as New York can protect themselves from future disasters.


Dallas (TV1, 8.30pm). Not a reboot of the glossy, soapy 1970s series; a “continuation”, although slightly tinged with sadness due to the death, at 81, of Larry Hagman. Reviews are good, although some critics suggested Hagman was the best thing in it (“Like a pantomime villain, he brought energy to every scene,” said the Telegraph.) Also back are Patrick Duffy and Linda Gray as Bobby and Sue Ellen, but there’s a new generation of Ewings fighting for control of Southfork Ranch, mostly JR’s son John Ross Ewing III (Josh Henderson) and Christopher Ewing (Desperate Housewives’ Jesse Metcalfe), adopted son of Bobby. Both men are in love with cook’s daughter Elena (Jordana Brewster), although Christopher is married to Rebecca (Julie Gonzalo). The stage is set, let the doublecrossing begin!

Richard Hammond’s Journey to the Centre of the Planet (Prime, 8.35pm). Perhaps inspired by last week’s Listener interviewee Brian Cox, the Hamster reveals hitherto unknown geology expertise, in a two-part exploration of how our planet works. Naturally, CGI is employed to full effect, although some of the best moments are human, such as when a volcanologist comes close to losing his moon suit, and more besides, while collecting a sample of lava on Mt Nyiragongo in the Congo. That would be in the first episode, a journey to the centre of the planet, in which Hammond explains where volcanoes come from, why earthquakes happen and where to find diamonds. In the second episode, he goes to the bottom of the ocean, albeit virtually, to see the largest natural formations on Earth.
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