Don’t buy the Radio Times! Here’s our guide to the pick of Xmas TV

In these cash strapped times there really is no need to hand over your hard-earned dosh for a copy of Radio Times (other listings magazines are available), because we’ve bought a copy and have worked out which are the best shows over the holidays. It’s our Xmas gift to you.

QI: Jingle Bells

Stephen ‘National Treasure’ Fry hosts a Christmassy edition of the show with guests Sarah Millican, Danny Baker, Phill Jupitus and regular sidekick Alan Davies. Go on, admit it, the show has now been on TV for so long that most of the things you know you learned from QI.

Friday 21st December BBC2 10PM

The Snowman And The Snowdog

Altogether now: ‘We’re walking in the aaaaair. With a dog’. The long-anticipated sequel to The Snowman features a snowman and his dog. Or something. We’ve not properly looked into it because we don’t want the surprise spoilt. It’ll be ace whatever happens. Monday 24th December Channel 4 8PM

Friday Night Dinner

Christmas with the Goodmans – a truly nerve-tingling proposition. Robert Popper’s magnificent sitcom gets its first festive special, if you’ve not got into FND yet this is the perfect opportunity.

Monday 24th December Channel 4 10.30PM

Doctor Who

You’d have thought it impossible for Doc Who’s producers to replace Karen Gillan but they seem to have done a fantastic job with Louise Coleman. Here she makes her debut proper in a storyline that sees her and the doctor take on some funny/ fearsome-looking snowmen. Tuesday 25th December BBC1 5.15PM

Call The Midwife

Miranda Hart, Jessica Raine, Jenny Agutter et al are back for some Xmas midwifery antics. TV’s most visceral period drama follows the midwives of 50’s East London as they deliver a load of post war sprogs called Carol and Noel. Probably. Tuesday 25th December 25 BBC1 7.30PM

Downton Abbey

Xmas. Downton. Downton. Xmas. Was there ever a time when these two words were not synonymous? One day they will stop making Downton Abbey. Now there’s a thought to chill the soul.

Tuesday 25th December ITV1 8.45PM

The Royle Family

Let’s be honest, the Royle Family Xmas special has always been a bit hit and miss. But we’ll all still be sat in front of it in the hope that it’s a vintage year. After all, it’s the Royle Family, innit?

Tuesday 25th December 25 BBC1 9.45PM

Miranda

Oh look, it’s Miranda Hart again. This time not in period costume and not delivering babies but talking to camera and falling over a lot. At Christmas.

Wednesday 26th December BBC1 9PM

TV Review: The Doctor Who Prom, BBC One, New Year’s Day, 1.50pm

Murray Gold’s music for Doctor Who often gets a bit of a critical bashing, whether for being too intrusive, too overly-dramatic or too derivative. This summer, though, the BBC and it’s Philharmonic Orchestra threw its weight behind him by dedicating a whole Proms performance to his work – and judging by the cut-down version broadcast this afternoon, they had every right.

The night, it has to be said, looks like it was a real hoot. Presented by Freema Agyeman, the show was made into an event thanks to the inclusion of Cybermen, Daleks, Davros, and Sontarans all being brought into the Royal Albert Hall auditorium and interacting with the kids, most of whom looked completely awestruck to the point of genuine terror. Good stuff.

There was also a cleverly done pre-recorded mini-episode with David Tennant, called Music Of The Spheres, in which he passed music he’d written through a portal in the Tardis into the auditorium for the orchestra to play. Catherine Tate and Murray Gold himself also made appearances, but in the end, it truly was the music itself which was the star of the show.

I’ve no doubt that it’s the association we make with certain scenes that made the renditions of the likes of Rose’s Theme, Doomsday, This Is Gallifrey and The Doctor Forever so affecting, but it can’t all be down to that – those themes are also genuinely haunting in and of themselves. Combine that with screens showing some of the best scenes from New Who – Rose using the power of the Tardis in Parting Of The Ways, her separation from and eventual reunion with the Doctor, the Master’s regeneration, and so on – and you’ve got a hugely powerful performance.

It was a joy to watch it on the TV, so I can only imagine that it was magical to be there on the night itself.

Happy New Year from all at TV Scoop

What an incredible year it’s been. Quite aside from the politics, the credit crunch and my unhealthy obsession with Cherry Diet Coke, there has been some top TV. Great dramas, quality documentaries (as well as not so quality docs), some decent comedy and lots else in between. We here at TV Scoop have thoroughly enjoyed sharing our views on it all and, gratifyingly, we’ve had our best year yet, with more and more people reading and interacting with us. We’ve interviewed so many of the top people you see on the television (from Hugh Dennis and Andrea Riseborough to Harry from Spooks, My Name Is Earl’s Nadine Velasquez and Jack Dee), which has been brilliant fun. We hope you’ve enjoyed your TV watching year and our output, and all at TV Scoop wish you and your families and happy and healthy 2009. And, of course, some top TV! The site is nothing without you and your input, so a big thanks to those of you who have stopped by. Let’s do it all again!

TV Scoop’s Best TV Moments of 2008: Britain’s Missing Top Model, BBC Three

Here’s a clip from the most dramatic eviction from one of the better TV talent shows of the year – Britain’s Missing Top Model. In it, you’ll see Jenny (who had just made someone cry, and was featured in the episode flirting ill-advisedly with one of the judges) getting booted off. Wayne wasn’t pleased, neither was Mark. The fact they weren’t pleased with each other is the key here. There’s the clip after the jump.

For all our Britain’s Missing Top Model news, reviews and interviews go here. For our Top 50 run down go here.

TV Scoop’s Best TV Moments of 2008: Dexter, FX

Dexter has been marvellous this year (we voted it as number three in our end-of-year Top 50), and some bright spark has put the entire finale episode of series two online (albeit a shortened version). It was a great episode – the fate of Lila was decided, as was the future course of Dexter, everyone’s favourite serial killer. So sit back, have a look over the jump and fill your boots.

For all our Dexter news and reviews, go here. For our Top 50 run down go here.

TV Scoop’s Best TV Moments of 2008: Gavin And Stacey, BBC One

As Our Keris said in her surmising of Gavin And Stacey – coming in at number five in our Top 50 – the show is a masterpiece of ensemble comedy. This clip, over the jump, shows you why. It’s breakfast time at the Shipmans, and sausage is on the menu. Upstairs, sausage is also on the menu. Laugh out loud here at Alison Steadman. She’s great, it’s great!

For all our Gavin & Stacey stuff go here, for our Top 50 stuff go here.

What To Watch This Christmas

Christmas! It’s here! It even says it in the day! Christmas eve! Anyway you look at it, good times are upon us because it’s a day off we wouldn’t normally have, or, if you’re not a Christian, you have the chance to exploit the double-time wages at work! Anyway, Christmas is all about one thing… and that thing I learned from watching Charlie Brown’s Christmas… Christmas is all about watching telly…

Tonight: Gavin and Stacey Christmas Special, BBC One, 10pm

James Corden and Ruth Jones have come up with an extraordinary sitcom that somehow appeals to just about anyone with a beating heart and a laugh-gland. Tonight, we get an hour-long special that sees Smithy wrapping presents in tin-foil, Nessa grooming regime and everyone getting together in Billericay for Christmas Day. Hell will break loose, we’ll all have a laugh and no doubt Rob Brydon will steal the whole show as usual.

Read over for the best of the Christmas telly

Christmas Day: Doctor Who, BBC One, 6pm

The Next Doctor? Yup, it’s Christmas Eve, 1851 and Cybermen are going around being all evil! Thankfully, our Doctor meets another Doctor and the two combine forces to stop the rise of the CyberKing! Thrills for all ages!

Christmas Day: The Royle Family, BBC One, 9.30pm

We’ve missed this ragtag bunch on our screens, so it’s welcome that their back in time for a Christmas full of farts and a dubious sounding ‘yuletide log’ from Jim. All the family are there… so what could possibly go wrong? Absolutely everything, that’s what.

Christmas Day: Blackadder Rides Again, BBC One, 10.30pm

The entire cast of Blackadder appear together in a documentary for the first time ever as the celebrate 25 years of the show. Rowan Atkinson talks for the first time about his experiences making the show, and also, we’ll get Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Tony Robinson, Rik Mayall, Ben Elton and Richard Curtis.

Boxing Day: Harry Hill’s TV Burp Review of the Year, ITV1, 7pm

Showing that the BBC doesn’t have the monopoly on Christmas, Harry will head-up a special edition of TV Burp, which will guarantee belly laughs galore. Watch out for Joss Stone singing out the show accompanied by a cat on piano. Marvellous.

Merry Christmas to all TV Scoop readers!

Here’s our Christmas message to you, our readers. From all the team at TV Scoop and Shiny Media, we wish you all a very merry Christmas. We hope your festive period is filled with good times, wonderful family and friends, and enormous amounts of amazing, festive TV. Our team will be out and about over Christmas but we’ll still be bringing you some reviews, some news and a little bit of left-over action. Have a great time! Here’s a man playing a Christmas carol on a bit of broccoli.

Top Ten festive films revealed

I do like a bit of festive film action, but how do you judge what a Christmas films is? Has there been any films truly about Christmas or has Christmas acted as a backdrop for the main story? Who knows, but Disney Cinematic HD, to celebrate its channel launch, has undertaken a poll to find out what the country’s favourite festive family film is. And the least favourite festive family film, and also the nation’s favourite Santa. I’m not really one to give oxygen to these sort of polls, but it’s Christmas and I’m in the mood. To find out the results of the polls, have a look after the jump.

1. Home Alone
2. The Snowman
3. It’s a Wonderful Life
4. Miracle on 34th Street (1994 version)
5. Mary Poppins
6. Santa Claus: The Movie
7. The Wizard of Oz
8. The Muppet Christmas Carol
9. Back to the Future
10. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

The Nation’s Festive Family Flops:
1. Santa With Muscles
2. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
3. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
4. Love Actually
5. Bad Santa (2003)

The nation’s Favourite Santas:
1. Lord Richard Attenborough (Miracle on 34th Street – 1994)
2. Tim Allen (The Santa Clause – 1994)
3. David Huddleston (Santa Claus: the Movie – 1985)
4. Tom Hanks (The Polar Express – 2004)
5. Billy Bob Thornton (Bad Santa – 2003)

Set The Video: Crooked House (BBC Four over three nights – see below)

Regular readers will know that it’s our firm belief on here that TV has, to say the least, a patchy history when it comes to horror. But if there’s one sub-genre that’s always been successful it’s the Christmas ghost story. Last year I had a good old moan about there not having been a good Christmas spine-tingler for some time. This year, Mark Gatiss has taken up the cudgel, and presents Crooked House over three nights next week.

The BBC are still clearly embarrassed to be broadcasting ghost stories. In the past when they had only two channels, the chillers were tucked away at midnight on BBC2, the most unwelcoming part of the schedule available to them. Don’t give me any of that guff about ghostly tales having to be shown at midnight for full effect. It was embarrassment I tellya!

Fast forward to 2008, and the Beeb have far more channels at their disposal, so their dark chillers have slipped even further from view, hidden away as they are on BBC Four. If you’re anything like me, and I admit that’s not likely, then you barely flick through the listings of the minor channels. At least, never in a paper listings mag, and only rarely on my EPG. Maybe that’s because I’m a child of the 60s and I still haven’t really internalised the fact that there are more than 4 channels on offer.

Anyway, lest you missed it, Crooked House is “a haunting tale of three spine-chilling ghost stories, woven together for a spooky festive treat.” That brief extract from the publicity blurb sounds like it was written by someone who never watched a ghost story in his/her entire life. But Mark Gatiss may well be a kindred spirit. Read what he says about his inspiration for Crooked House:

“I’ve always loved ghost stories and, as a child, I was particularly enthralled by Lawrence Gordon Clark’s classic Seventies adaptations for the BBC. Christmas and ghosts go together so well!”

Yes! Way to go Mark! Well if those seminal stories were your inspiration I have great hopes for Crooked House. Great hopes. Gatiss is, of course, no stranger to dark stories. The League of Gentlemen was extremely scary in places and his two stories for Doctor Who – The Idiot’s Lantern and The Unquiet Dead – rank among the most chilling of the modern era. So what’s this Crooked House all about?

Gatiss plays a museum curator with an in-depth knowledge of the history of the fictional Geap Manor. It started as a single, 30-minute ghost story, but encouraged by BBC Four to make it a more traditional “Christmas ghost story event” he wrote two more and also managed, by joining the three together in a 90-minute version, to pay tribute to the portmanteau-style horror films which he loves.

Ben, a schoolteacher, has found an ancient door-knocker in his garden. The curator believes it came from Geap Manor, a place with a ghostly reputation which has long since been demolished. Ben asks if there are any ‘juicy stories’ to be told and thus begins the narration of the first two stories.

In The Wainscoting, self-made man Joseph Bloxham Esq has used his ill-gotten gains to buy the old house and pays no heed to the warnings of his friends, Noakes and Duncalfe. It doesn’t take long though before he finds something very nasty lurking in the walls.

The second story – Something Old – is set in the Twenties, when a lavish costume ball is being held at the Manor. Felix de Momery announces his engagement to Ruth but the happy couple’s destiny seems to be inextricably linked with another tragic wedding day and a ghostly bride who stalks the corridors.

Finally in The Knocker, Ben himself discovers that, though demolished, Geap Manor casts a long shadow. Recently split from his girlfriend, he finds the cosy blandness of his modern house rudely violated by events from the distant past, and by the sinister figure of Sir Roger Widdowson.

Crooked House: The Wainscoting: BBC Four, Monday 22 December, 10.30pm Crooked House: Something Old: BBC Four, Tuesday 23 December, 10.30pm Crooked House: The Knocker: BBC Four, Wednesday 24 December, 10.30pm