TV1's Christmas Cracker (TV1, 7.00pm). Russian sensation Yulia appears in this Christmas music special, but the real star is Sir Jon Trimmer, who dances a short piece from Coppelia with Katie Hurst-Saxon. The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra provides the music, along with Tim Beveridge, Shaun Dixon and April-Marie Neho. Other Christmas highlights on TV1 include Christmas with Kiri Te Kanawa - Carols from Coventry Cathedral (2.30pm) and HM the Queen's Christmas Message 2004 (6.50pm). TV2 and TV3 have lots of Christmas movies and programmes for the kids, too.
Shortland Street (TV2, 7.00pm). It has been a good year for Shortie and, having eschewed the usual end-of-year life-or-death cliffhanger, our favourite soap goes for that other tradition, a wedding, and on Christmas Day. After many comings and goings, Tama and Shannon are set for the altar at last, despite Te Hana doing her best wicked-witch impression. The question is, will Victor be out of jail in time to attend? It's also time for a bit of a knees-up at the Christmas panto, in which (are we ready for this?) Chris Warner sings. Christmas viewing has got a lot better, hasn't it?
Monarch of the Glen Hogmanay 2004 (TV1, 8.00pm). Further festive fun, even if hogmanay means New Year's Eve. This special episode of Monarch of the Glen also serves to hand over Glen-bogle to the new laird of the estate, Paul (Lloyd Owen), because Archie - or, rather, actor Alastair MacKenzie - left during series five. Paul is not too sure about his new responsibilities, of course, being a working-class lad from Yorkshire, but, somewhat conveniently, an ancestral connection to Glenbogle is revealed as he investigates his past. As well, Golly tells a ghost story and there are a few spooky pranks being played. Series six of Monarch has screened in the UK, by the way, and guest stars have included Tom Baker, who plays Hector's long-lost brother Donald McDonald, and Anthony Head, who plays a poultry millionaire. Something to look forward to next year.
Christmas Lights (TV1, 9.00pm). It's comedy enough that Robson Green and Mark Benton play brothers in this show; you may know Green as the handsome romantic lead in many a British drama, while Benton plays Father McBride in Murphy's Law and looks, to be polite, nothing at all like Robson. The characters fight like cats and dogs, culminating in all-out war over whose Christmas lights are the best.
MONDAY December 27
French & Saunders Actually (TV3, 7.30pm). Even an average French & Saunders skit show is better than most of what passes for comedy, and we have high hopes for this special from 2003. Some highlights: Dawn plays Britney, on the run from the Mother of Music, Madonna. Later, Madonna invites Missy "Miss Dawn French" Elliot to promote Gap with her. The pair take the red pill for a go at the Matrix, and the Queen of Wales, Catherine Zeta-Jones, reads her message to the nation. Coincidentally, Rosemary and Thyme gets the French & Saunders treatment: you can watch the real thing, which stars Pam Ferris and Felicity Kendall, on TV1 on Friday.
Without a Trace (TV2, 8.30pm). The procedural drama has become huge in the US, with its recent season three opener making a dog's dinner of the perennial ER. Season two wraps up for us this week, as Jack - the fabulous Aussie Anthony LaPaglia - searches for a billionaire's estranged wife and two children. The cliffhanger is that Jack looks set to move to Chicago with his family - or will he?
TUESDAY December 28
MTV Europe Music Awards (TV3, 9.30pm). Long gone, and already played on C4, but if you missed them the first time, the music awards are a fun couple of hours' entertainment. They were in Rome, hosted by rapper Xzibit - although Destiny's Child, via satellite, thought he was Will Smith, to which he signed off, "Let's hear it for Boyz 2 Men!" Highlights include Eminem doing a medley of "Toy Soldiers" and "Just Lose It" with a tank on the stage, the Beastie Boys ripping through "Open Letter to NYC" with skaters and bike-riders, and Gwen Stefani being lowered from the ceiling underneath a giant clock. Apparently, the hug between Anastacia and guest host Sarah Michelle Geller is something for the blokes to remember as well.
THURSDAY December 30
Dr Phil: Family First (TV3, 7.30pm). Warning: contains scenes that may offend some people.
NEW YEAR'S EVE
The Year in Review (TV1, 8.35pm). "May you live in interesting times" goes the saying, and we have had an interesting year, from the dizzy heights of Oscar and Olympic glory, to shearing a damn sheep on TV. Tonight reporter Hugh Sundae, recently in Mongolia on an Intrepid Journey, takes a two-hour look back on the hikoi, spies, speeches, illnesses and idols of 2004. Later, TV1 sees out the year with a tribute concert to Ray Charles, while over on TV2, they've got a Top of the Pops New Year's Special that will look back on local and international highlights from the year.
WHERE ..... THE LAUGHS ARE
FRENCH & SAUNDERS ACTUALLY, TV3, MONDAY, 7.30PM
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
"They're absolute tossers. They know nothing."
MIKE KING, ON FRONTSEAT, THINKS TV EXECUTIVES DON'T KNOW THEIR COMEDY FROM THEIR ELBOW
WEBSITE WE LOVE
All our local TV stations have websites, some more comprehensive than others - TVNZ's revamped site at http://tvnz.co.nz is the busiest (and now includes an enormous banner ad). Maori Television's website is easy to navigate, gives short explanations of the programmes and people and includes tuning-in info. Ka pai. Others of interest: www.primetv.co.nz, www.skytv.co.nz, www.c4tv.co.nz and www.tv3.co.nz.
Blackadder Marathon (UK TV, 6.30am, Christmas Day). At least UK TV are getting into the festive spirit of the Saviour's birthday. The very funny Blackadder series runs from present unwrapping time on the Saturday to 9.00am on Sunday. Then, more of Rowan Atkinson, as the Mr Bean Marathon starts up immediately after and chugs through till 6.30am on the Monday.
World Review 2004 (BBC, 11.30am, Christmas Day). The end-of-year wrap up of the year's news stories. Sadly, there has been lots of news this year. This is just part one; it goes for at least four more parts.
The Queen's Christmas Message 2004 (BBC, Sunday, 5.20am). To get the full impact of Her Majesty's proclamation one must watch this on the BBC, wearing a suit and standing up. What ever will she say? Any bets on "This is an immoral war and the House of Windsor wishes to divorce its crown from any act or statement that will legitimise it" or "Our eyes have recently been opened to the great wisdom contained in the British Communist Party Manifesto"? More probably along the lines of "Family's well, boys growing up, Charles met someone new, hope this finds you in good nick." But she is lovely.
The Best of Discovery (Discovery Channel, Sunday, 9.30am). A 12-hour review of the things Discovery liked about itself this year. The theme seems to be "putting stuff together" - so, among other things, we have the Monster Garage people turning a Chevy Impala into a Zamboni; the British building the titanic Queen Mary 2; American doctors plugging bullet holes in people; and American motorbike makers yelling at and pushing each other, posing manfully and eventually making a motorbike.
J K Rowling: Harry Potter and Me (BBC, Sunday, 10.10 pm). Joanne Rowling (Ltd) tells of the genesis and subsequent unimaginably stupendously humungous runaway success of her series of Harry Potter books.