BBC UNVEIL CHRISTMAS 2017 HIGHLIGHTS 158

Christmas is the perfect time to reunite with old friends as French & Saunders celebrate 30 years together, The League of Gentlemen are back in business and Mary Berry is joined by Mel and Sue for a Big Christmas Thank You.

There’s animated adventures and family fun with Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s The Highway Rat and David Walliams’ Grandpa’s Great Escape; as well as brand new drama with Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, a haunting period adaptation of The Miniaturist and gritty global thriller McMafia, inspired by Misha Glenny’s bestselling book.

Judi Dench uncovers the mysteries about one of her greatest passions – trees; and there are familiar BBC One Christmas favourites galore including specials from Call The Midwife, Doctor Who, Mrs Brown’s Boys, EastEnders and Strictly Come Dancing.

From the stage there’s Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella and A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong; and natural history programming brings us frozen action in The Reindeer Family and Me and Snow Bears.

With Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Saunders learning about their favourite tipple in Absolutely Champers, there are an abundance of Christmas specials for all the family to enjoy.

Charlotte Moore, Director of BBC Content says: “Christmas is all about togetherness, and we’ve lined up a magical mix of programmes that will bring everyone together over the festive season. Reuniting a host of our favourite faces and showcasing an unparalleled level of world-class talent; whether you’re looking for laughter, edge of your seat drama or to quench your thirst for knowledge, there’s entertainment for everyone to share on the BBC this Christmas time.”

The award-winning writer of Call The Midwife, Heidi Thomas, is the creative force behind the three-part drama adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel Little Women. Starring Dame Angela Lansbury, Sir Michael Gambon and Emily Watson, the universal coming-of-age story sees the iconic March sisters navigate their way from childhood to adulthood.

Over in Albert Square, things are set to explode in catastrophic style this Christmas. Secrets and lies are exposed and families are torn apart forever as Max Branning finds himself a man on the edge in EastEnders.

Peter Capaldi’s epic final journey sees him reunited with companion Bill as they team up with the first ever Doctor to battle the enchanted glass people before he regenerates into the 13th Doctor in the Doctor Who Christmas special.

A large snowfall causes havoc for the residents of Poplar in this year’s Call The Midwife, one of our best loved dramas.

Haunting period thriller The Miniaturist, adapted from Jessie Burton’s acclaimed debut novel, tells the story of a house where, beneath the lavish beauty and privilege, lies forbidden passions and dangerous secrets.

BBC One’s epic new drama, McMafia, is a global thriller that charts James Norton’s character Alex Godman drawn into the world of organised crime. When his family’s past returns to threaten them, Alex is forced to confront his values to protect those he loves.

Animated adventure The Highway Rat sees authors Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s magical world come to life starring the voice talents of David Tennant, Rob Brydon, Nina Sosanya, Frances de le Tour and Tom Hollander. There’s more family fun with Grandpa’s Great Escape, adapted from David Walliams’ book and starring Tom Courtneay, Jennifer Saunders and Kit Conner.

Amongst a raft of comedy and entertainment specials, Michael McIntyre’s Big Christmas Show returns once more with performances from soul sensation Seal and fellow comedian Bill Bailey.

More fantastic comedy is in store with the return of Mrs Brown’s Boys for two festive episodes as well as Christmas specials of Not Going Out, Tim Vine Travels Through Time and Still Open All Hours.

Six celebrities from previous series take to the floor in the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special after the nation has chosen its champion for 2017 in the Strictly Come Dancing Grand Final, and more winners will be crowned with Sports Personality of the Year and The Apprentice Final.

After last year’s hilarious Peter Pan Goes Wrong, the Olivier Award-winning Mischief Theatre Company returns with their take on Dickens’ famous festive fable in A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong.

Even Better Than the Real Thing is back with a fun filled Christmas Special hosted by Paddy McGuinness with five more of the best professional Tribute acts in the world in a night to remember.

On BBC One, 300 Years of French & Saunders reunites the comedy double act for the first time in 10 years for a special anniversary episode and the incomparable Victoria Wood’s legacy is remembered in an extended episode of Our Friend Victoria.

Reece Shearsmith, Steve Pemberton, Mark Gatiss and Jeremy Dyson reunite to celebrate their twentieth anniversary at the BBC with three brand-new episodes in The League of Gentlemen Anniversary Specials on BBC Two.

There’s plenty more comedy on BBC Two with a retrospective documentary from Alan Partridge, Two Doors Down, and a Christmas special from Upstart Crow, featuring none other than screen royalty Emma Thompson playing Queen Elizabeth I.

Also reuniting this Christmas on BBC Two are Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Saunders as they head to the beautiful Champagne region in France to learn all about how their favourite tipple is made in Joanna & Jennifer: Absolutely Champers.

Clip show meets sketch show with voices from the comedy world in Doodlebugs, and Charlie Brooker attempts to cram his views on the events of the past 12 months into 2017 Wipe.

Alexander Armstrong, Richard Osman and John Humphrys are all set to test celebrities’ grey cells in Pointless Celebrities and Celebrity Mastermind.

There’s plenty of festive food inspiration as Nigella’s Christmas Table heads to the countryside for her cosiest Christmas yet whilst Mary Berry opens her kitchen up to some of TV’s best-loved faces in Mary Berry’s Christmas Party. Mary is also being reunited with Mel & Sue in a Big Christmas Thank You as they sprinkle some festive magic on a well-deserving community in South Wales.

From candy canes and yule logs to Christmas cakes, there are more delicious treats being served up as Gregg Wallace, Cherry Healey and Ruth Goodman explore 24 hour production at a cake factory in Inside the Factory and treats of Christmas past are recreated by four modern confectioners in The Sweet Makers.

In natural history programming; Gordon Buchanan travels to the frozen north, deep inside the Arctic Circle, in The Reindeer Family and Me; and Snow Bears follows polar bear cubs as they learn how to survive in their frozen world. Dame Judi Dench embarks on a magical journey to uncover the mysteries about one of her greatest passions – trees. Meanwhile, World’s Weirdest Winter showcases snowboarding crows, seemingly suicidal penguins and snownados that come from nowhere.

The arts are celebrated this festive season with Darcey Bussell: Looking for Fred Astaire alongside Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella, Puccini’s La Bohème and Bruno Tonioli celebrating the 40th anniversary of Saturday Night Fever.

On BBC Four; the Natural History Unit’s unmatched expertise present the natural world as it is lived in a 90 minute Slow TV special revealing animal behaviour on land, sea and sky in Wild Wanderings: Turtle, Eagle, Cheetah; Star Wars super-fan David Whiteley tells the story of how the most famous galaxy in movie history was created just off the M25; Elvis: Rebirth of The King tracks the king’s five year renaissance in Vegas; and Eric, Ernie & Me features Stephen Tompkinson as Eddie Braben, the man behind Morecambe and Wise’s greatest successes which showcases the pressure and pain he went through to help create the screen work of Britain’s most beloved double act. Their unforgettable double act is also celebrated in BBC Two’s Eric & Ernie’s Home Movies.

For music lovers, Top of the Pops once again returns on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, as does Jools Holland with his annual Hootenanny. Music legend Nile Rodgers and his sensational band CHIC will be lighting up this New Year’s Eve live on BBC One as they bring some of the biggest hits ever to an unmissable music and firework spectacular in London. Over on BBC Two, Gospel Christmas marries classic spiritual songs with contemporary influences and brings in 2018 with the New Year’s Day Concert from Vienna.
Songs of Praise gathers together inspiring stories culminating in The Christmas Big Sing – a symphony of 5000 joyous voices at the Royal Albert Hall.

The Queen’s Christmas Message will as ever be a highlight of Christmas Day. And this year Christmas worship on BBC One will broadcast live from two magnificent settings: Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve from Leeds Cathedral and Christmas Day Service from All Saints Church in Fulham. BBC Two celebrates the festive season with the return of much-loved Christmas Eve tradition, Carols From King’s where the world-famous Choir, directed by Stephen Cleobury, sing carols old and new.

BBC ONE HIGHLIGHTS

Call The Midwife

Boxing Day brings a large snowfall that covers the country. The adverse weather causes major disruption across Poplar as roads become blocked and pipes freeze. The milk float struggles to make its deliveries and families must queue outside for water from standpipes. Trixie’s holiday with Christopher is cancelled due to the snow. Valerie helps Linda and Selwyn, an unmarried couple living in a caravan, prepare for their baby. As the labour progresses, unforeseen complications knock Valerie’s confidence in her ability as a midwife.

Elsewhere, the freezing weather takes the life of Dr Turner’s patient, Percy Tillerson. Sister Julienne must inform the family of his death and uncovers an uncomfortable truth about the chirpy late Percy. Tom is offered a new position in Birmingham but it would mean him and Barbara leaving Poplar for at least six months. It’s all hands on deck to help during the weather crisis so Shelagh comes back to work. Nurse Crane meets her match in Sergeant Woolf as he challenges her driving ability and Akela leadership. Proving him wrong, Nurse Crane is instrumental in bringing the milk float back to Poplar.

Death in Paradise

Pulling in a record audience of over nine million last year, award-winning crime drama Death in Paradise returns to BBC One for a seventh series in the New Year. Ardal O’Hanlon reprises his role as DI Jack Mooney joining series regulars Josephine Jobert, Danny John-Jules, Tobi Bakare, Elizabeth Bourgine and Don Warrington plus an exciting line-up of guest stars for more baffling murder cases and warm hearted Caribbean fun.

Set on the idyllic tropical island of Saint Marie, Death in Paradise will continue to keep audiences guessing with intriguing mysteries and cunning plot twists at every turn. This new series sees Jack adapting to island life while also playing poker masterminds at their own game and uncovering secrets and lies within a famous reggae band. Meanwhile, Dwayne finally meets his match and a secret from JP’s past returns to haunt him.

Doctor Who

The magical final chapter of the Twelfth Doctor’s (Peter Capaldi) journey sees the Time Lord team up with his former self, the first ever Doctor (David Bradley – Harry Potter, Game of Thrones) and a returning Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie), for one last adventure.

Two Doctors stranded in an Arctic snowscape, refusing to face regeneration. Enchanted glass people, stealing their victims from frozen time. And a World War One captain destined to die on the battlefield, but taken from the trenches to play his part in the Doctor’s story.

An uplifting new tale about the power of hope in humanity’s darkest hours, Twice Upon A Time marks the end of an era. But as the Doctor must face his past to decide his future, his journey is only just beginning…

Twice Upon A Time is written by Steven Moffat, directed by Rachel Talalay, and executive produced by Brian Minchin. The 60 minute special guest stars Mark Gatiss as The Captain and Nikki Amuka-Bird as the voice of the glass woman, and will see Peter Capaldi’s Doctor regenerate into the Thirteenth Doctor (Jodie Whittaker).

EastEnders

With Christmas rapidly approaching in Albert Square, things are set to explode in catastrophic style. Secrets and lies are exposed and families are torn apart forever.

With his revenge plan unravelling at an alarming speed, Max finds himself a man on the edge as he desperately tries to claw himself out of an impossible situation. Increasingly unhinged, Max takes matters into his own hands and unfortunately for Ian and Phil, Max only has murder in mind. However, Max soon finds himself in the arms of his very own angel this Christmas but just when he thinks he can find his own saviour, an unearthed piece of evidence looks set to trigger Max Branning’s ultimate downfall in an apocalyptic scale that will destroy the Branning family forever.

With the Carters set to lose their beloved Queen Victoria, Mick and Linda put everything behind them to make their last year in Albert Square their best Christmas yet. Determined not to go down without a fight, they throw everything into their vow renewal.

However just as Mick thinks all is lost, step forward Aidan McGuire, who offers Mick a cracker of a gift. If Mick chooses to accept, he could see all of his problems blown away but the risks come with deadly consequences. Just how far is Mick Carter prepared to go to in order to save the roof over his families heads and not just one for himself at her majesty’s pleasure?

Aidan’s plan does not just involve wanting Mick Carter on his job but also others that he has carefully chosen for their own, well “skills”… Top of his list are Phil Mitchell and Vincent Hubbard to name just two. But with simmering tensions within the group from the outset, is Aidan’s job as fool proof as he claims? One thing is for sure, cross Aidan McGuire and be prepared to have your baubles hanging decoratively on your Christmas tree.

This Christmas is set to be the most explosive yuletide in Albert Square’s history, taking us through to a New Year which goes off with a bang. Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind? That’s a question only those in Albert Square can answer.

Little Women

Based on Louisa May Alcott’s universally beloved novel, Little Women, is a new three-part series, adapted by award-winning creator of Call the Midwife Heidi Thomas and directed by Vanessa Caswill (Thirteen).

Set against the backdrop of a country divided, the story follows the four March sisters: Jo (Maya Hawke), Meg (Willa Fitzgerald), Beth (Annes Elwy), and Amy (Kathryn Newton) on their journey from childhood to adulthood while their father (Dylan Baker) is away at war. Under the guidance of their mother Marmee (Emily Watson), the girls navigate what it means to be a young woman: from gender roles to sibling rivalry, first love, loss and marriage. Accompanied by the charming boy next door Laurie Laurence (Jonah Hauer-King), their cantankerous wealthy Aunt March (Angela Lansbury) and benevolent neighbour Mr. Laurence (Michael Gambon), Little Women is a coming of age story that is as relevant and engaging today as it was on its original publication in 1868.

McMafia

BBC One’s ground-breaking new international thriller McMafia is an eight-part series created by Hossein Amini and James Watkins and inspired by Misha Glenny’s best-selling book of the same name.

It charts Alex Godman’s (James Norton) journey as he is drawn deeper and deeper into the world of organised crime.

As the English-raised son of Russian exiles with a mafia history, Alex has spent his life trying to escape the shadow of that criminal past, building his own legitimate business and forging a life with his girlfriend Rebecca (Juliet Rylance). But when his family’s past returns to threaten them, Alex is forced to confront his values to protect those he loves. What starts out as a story of survival and revenge becomes an epic tale of a man’s struggle against the lures of corruption in the modern world and in himself. McMafia is impressive and intimate, glamorous and gritty, global in scale and forensic in detail.

Further cast include David Strathairn, Faye Marsay, Aleksey Serebryakov, Maria Shukshina and Merab Ninidze.

The Highway Rat

This enchanting half hour animated special from Magic Light Pictures brings to life another magical world from the UK’s number one picture book duo Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler.

The festive family highlight will be voiced by a stellar cast of British acting talent, featuring David Tennant as the Highway Rat, Rob Brydon as the narrator, Nina Sosanya as the Duck, Tom Hollander as the Squirrel and Frances de le Tour as the Rabbit.

First published in 2011, The Highway Rat is about a ravenous rat who craves buns, biscuits and all sweet things. Tearing along the highway, he searches for sugary treats to steal, until his sweet tooth leads him to a sticky end. A swashbuckling tale of bandits and biscuits the whole family will enjoy!

The Miniaturist

Set in 1686, 18 year-old Nella Oortman knocks at the door of a grand house in the wealthiest quarter of Amsterdam. Full of hopes and dreams, she has come from the country to begin a new life as the wife of wealthy merchant, Johannes Brandt. But instead of Johannes, she’s met by his cold sister Marin and quickly realises that nothing is as it seems in the Brandt household.

When Johannes finally appears he presents her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a dolls house replica of their home. It is to be furnished by an elusive miniaturist, whose tiny creations mirror what is happening within the house in unexpected ways and seem to be predicting and unravelling the future with unsettling accuracy. As Nella begins to uncover its secrets and those of the Brandt household she realizes the escalating dangers that await them all. Does the miniaturist hold their fate in her hands? And will she be the key to their salvation or the architect of their downfall?

A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong
After last year’s hilarious Peter Pan Goes Wrong, the Olivier Award-winning Mischief Theatre Company – the brains behind the hugely successful The Play That Goes Wrong and The Comedy About A Bank Robbery in the West End – return to the small screen with their take on Dickens’ famous festive fable this Christmas on BBC One.

Blacklisted by the BBC after ruining Peter Pan, the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society are not taking their ban lying down and force themselves back on the BBC by hijacking the jewel the Christmas schedule – a ‘live’ production of A Christmas Carol staged by a professional cast.

The following hour finds the Cornley gang trying to make the show work on ‘live’ television where they soon realise they are completely out of their depth with no idea how to direct a live studio or handle special effects and are having their own internal rivalries revealed on television. Plus, there’s an angry professional cast trying to get back into the studio.

A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong will be produced by BBC Studios and will feature soon to be announced guest stars and the Mischief Theatre Company fresh from their Broadway triumph of The Play That Goes Wrong.

300 Years of French & Saunders

Dragged up all the way from the ocean bed, national treasures Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders are back together this festive season for a special 30th anniversary clip show bursting with brand new material, greatest hits, hilarious rarities, and even some never before seen footage. Reuniting for their first TV show together in 10 years, the huge comedy talents that brought the world Absolutely Fabulous and The Vicar of Dibley promise to be on top form where nothing is out of bounds and no-one is safe. With special appearances from Joanna Lumley, Lulu and one of the presenters from Spotlight South West.

Our Friend Victoria – Christmas Special

This extended episode of Our Friend Victoria, which celebrates Victoria Wood’s huge back-catalogue, looks at all things festive!

This episode is hosted by one of Victoria’s long-term collaborators, Anne Reid. Victoria had a huge impact on Anne’s career, taking her from serious drama to comedy – Anne reveals how she spotted her knack for comedy and for that she is eternally grateful.

Anne has known Victoria since the late 70s when her late husband, Peter Eckersley, spotted Victoria performing in her self-written play Talent at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre. He asked her to recreate it for television – this was Victoria’s big break and from there she never looked back.

The episode kicks off with some classic stand-up from Victoria perfectly summing up the downsides of Christmas – over spending, over indulgence and all too tiring. But Victoria’s close friends, including Julie Walters and Dan Rigby reveal how the opposite was in fact true. Their best friend absolutely adored Christmas!

Also in this episode, Victoria’s friends – including memories from Celia Imrie, Richard E. Grant and Reece Shearsmith – look back at their favourite sketches chosen from all of her Christmas episodes.

As ever the show finishes with a song. Ted Robbins and sister Kate, reminisce about the huge production values and time taken to pull off this particular Christmas musical spectacular. While former Shadow Home Secretary, Ann Widdecombe, recalls the conversations she had with Victoria prior to production of this spoof show stopper entitled, Ann Widdecombe. She also reveals her thoughts on watching it for the first time.

Mrs Brown’s Boys – Christmas and New Year’s Specials

Brendan O’Carroll’s comedy sensation returns to BBC One with two new Christmas Specials.

Episode 1: Mayhem in the Brown household again this year. Grandad thinks the house is haunted, Cathy’s got a new internet date and Rory is undergoing plastic surgery. At least Agnes has been given a special Christmas tree from Buster Brady to cheer her up – what could possibly go wrong?

Episode 2: Father Damien convenes a Neighbourhood Watch patrol to tackle the rising amount of crime in Finglas, but catching criminals isn’t necessarily something Agnes and Winnie are cut out to do.

Meanwhile Cathy has had yet another disastrous internet date so Agnes takes some unorthodox steps to put her daughter’s man troubles to rest once and for all.

Michael McIntyre’s Big Christmas Show

Michael McIntyre’s annual festive special returns to BBC One this Christmas, stuffed with big stars, big laughs and big surprises!

Recorded at a packed Theatre Royal Drury Lane, in London’s West End, Michael McIntyre’s Big Show is overflowing with performances from soul sensation Seal and comedy virtuoso Bill Bailey, as well as unmissable new stand-up material from Michael himself.

Plus a very special guest will be bravely handing over their phone in Celebrity Send To All and Father Christmas gets the surprise of his life before delivering a spine-tingling finale as the Unexpected Star.

Not Going Out – Christmas Special

The BBC’s multi-award winning primetime sitcom Not Going Out, written by and starring the British Comedy Award and BAFTA-winning comedian Lee Mack, returns for a much anticipated Christmas special.

Viewers last saw Lee (Lee Mack) and Lucy (Sally Bretton) showcase their chaotic parenting skills as they tackled the challenges of raising seven year old Charlie, five year old twins Benji and Molly, AND keep the romance alive in their marriage.

Now it’s Christmas Eve, and Lee and Lucy face a possible yuletide disaster when they discover the perfect present they have bought for their children has already been gifted to them by their grandparents. Lee is forced to rush out at the last minute in search of a suitable substitute. But, with all the local shops closing their doors for the festive period, the race is on for Lee to avoid the ultimate parenting fail on Christmas morning and disappoint his three excited children…

Still Open All Hours

It’s Christmas in the nation’s favourite corner shop, but some of Granville’s (Sir David Jason) most important customers have plans to leave town. Not only is Madge (Brigit Forsyth) planning to take his beloved Mavis (Maggie Ollerenshaw) away for a Christmas break but is Mr Newbold (Geoffrey Whitehead) also thinking of doing a runner, leaving Granville at the mercy of Mrs Featherstone’s (Stephanie Cole) amorous advances?

Granville has to use some of his craftiest wiles to persuade everyone not to travel at Christmas. After all, as well as wanting to stay close to Mavis, he’s also got to shift a large number of distinctly wonky Christmas Crackers.

Tim Vine Travels Through Time Christmas Special

Master of the pun Tim Vine journeys back in time to Tudor England in a quest to find a silver lion and bring Christmas to Henry VIII’s court…

It’s Christmas time at Tim’s antiques shop, and special celebrity guest Emma Bunton needs Tim’s help. Can he make this antique silver lion as good as new? Thanks to his time travelling grandfather clock, the answer is always yes!

Tim travels back to Tudor England, arriving in the court of Henry VIII just as the Christmas celebrations are getting underway. But finding a silver lion isn’t going to be as easy as it seems…Catherine of Aragon (Sally Phillips) has a new lady in waiting, Anne Boleyn (Emma Bunton), who’s desperate to impress – and save her head – by arranging a fantastic Christmas party for the king.

There’s just one problem: no one has RSVP’d! And when Tim meets the King he’s mistaken for the new court jester and immediately put in charge of the entertainment. Looks like the search for a new silver lion will have to wait…

Can Tim step up to the plate as the new court jester and pull off a party fit for a king? Can he find the silver lion and get back to his shop before Christmas? Can he fit any more puns into half an hour?! Only time travel will tell…

With celebrity guest cameos, big laughs and more puns than you can shake a stick at, Tim Vine Travels Through Time is a festive treat for the whole family.

The cast includes: Tim Vine, Emma Bunton, Sally Phillips, Danny John Jules, Reverend Richard Coles, Spencer Jones, Mandeep Dhillon, Marek Larwood and John Archer.

BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2017

Hosted by Gary Lineker, Clare Balding and Gabby Logan, BBC Sports Personality of the Year celebrates the biggest sporting achievements of 2017. The star-studded event will broadcast live on BBC One from the Echo Arena Liverpool on Sunday 17 December.

Last year saw Wimbledon champion Sir Andy Murray crowned BBC Sports Personality of the Year for a record third time, ahead of triathlete Alistair Brownlee and showjumper Nick Skelton.

In a year which has once again seen British sports stars excel on the world stage, 2017 will have no shortage of talented sports men and women vying to take home the coveted award.

Celebrity Mastermind
John Humphrys returns for another series of Britain’s toughest quiz as 40 more famous faces brave the black chair in their quest to be crowned Celebrity Mastermind.

The series will be broadcast over the Christmas fortnight on BBC One, as a whole host of people including pop stars, comedians, sports stars and presenters are put to the test on their specialist subjects and general knowledge.

With each one competing on behalf of their chosen charities, who will claim the glass trophy and the title Celebrity Mastermind?

Doodlebugs

Doodlebugs; where clip show meets sketch show and draws a funny face on it. Doodlebugs gives a voice to all that stuff in the World that doesn’t have a voice – because it can’t actually talk. Washing machines, wheelie bins, mobility scooters and suitcases at long last get a chance to air their views and opinions through voices from the comedy world, among others, Kayvan Novak, Cardinal Burns, Morgana Robinson and Spencer Jones. 6x15mins.

Even Better Than The Real Thing

Even Better Than the Real Thing is back with a fun filled Christmas Special hosted by Paddy McGuinness with five more of the best professional Tribute acts in the world in a night to remember.

The five competing acts pay tribute to music legends Michael Bublé, Michael Jackson, John Lennon, Kylie Minogue and Bruce Springsteen. They deliver breath-taking performances, each singing an iconic Christmas hit made famous by their musical idol.

The studio audience’s favourite acts then take part in never before seen duets to really get the Christmas party started. After the duets round, the studio audience vote one last time for their ultimate champion, the one act who is truly ‘Even Better Than the Real Thing.’

Grandpa’s Great Escape

Based on an original book by David Walliams, Grandpa’s Great Escape tells the tale of Grandpa, a World War II flying ace, who now sadly suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. When his family can no longer look after him he is moved to an old people’s home called Twilight Towers, run by Miss Dandy.

It soon becomes clear Miss Dandy is running Twilight Towers for her own ulterior motives and it is up to Grandpa and his grandson Jack to make a daring escape. Failure could have the most dire consequences but success will give Grandpa a final chance to relive his past and once again take to the sky in his beloved Spitfire.

Grandpa is played by Tom Courtenay (45 Years, Doctor Zhivago, The Dresser), his grandson Jack is played by Kit Connor (Get Santa, Mr Holmes) and Miss Dandy is played by Jennifer Saunders (French and Saunders, Absolutely Fabulous). Jack’s mum is played by Samantha Spiro (Babs, Game of Thrones) and Jack’s dad is played by David Walliams (Little Britain, Britain’s Got Talent). Miss Trifle is played by Michele Dotrice (Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em).

Nile Rodgers & CHIC: Good Times 2017/2018 and New Year’s Eve Fireworks 2017

Music Legend Nile Rodgers and his sensational band CHIC will be lighting up this New Year’s Eve live on BBC One as they bring some of the biggest hits ever to an unmissable music and firework spectacular in London.

For the fifth year running, BBC One will broadcast a special live music concert before and after the world famous fireworks display on the River Thames.

Of course, the live music is just part of the party as a festival of fireworks fills the night sky over the River Thames in London as Big Ben strikes midnight.

London’s famous firework display will be choreographed to fit a specially edited medley of music.

The celebrations along the Thames will end with a traditional rendition of Auld Lang Syne, before the action switches back inside as Nile and CHIC continue the party with a raft of hits including Good Times, Le Freak and Everybody Dance.

Pointless Celebrities Christmas Special

Tinsel? Tick. Christmas jumpers? Tick. A whole host of Pointless Celebrities with a plethora of Christmas hits between them? Double tick!

On the Pointless Celebrities Christmas Special, Alexander Armstrong and Richard Osman are joined by eight festive hit makers – including choir master Gareth Malone and his lead soloist Samantha Stevenson, who along with the rest of the Military Wives choir, achieved a Christmas number one in 2011 with Wherever You Are.

Jona Lewie, who had the perennial Christmas classic Stop The Cavalry, plays alongside Mike Batt who not only had the festive hit Wombling Merry Christmas but also co-wrote David Essex’s 1982 song A Winter’s Tale. Jimmy Osmond and his 1972 Christmas Number 1 Long-Haired Lover From Liverpool teams up with X Factor winner Ben Haenow, who also took the Christmas number 1 spot in 2014 – and the final pair, Justin & Dan Hawkins from The Darkness, not only trying to take home the Pointless Trophy but also play-out the show with their anthem Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End).

Strictly Come Dancing – The Final

The wait is finally over, and after 13 amazing weeks of glitter, excitement and sensational dance performances, the most glamourous night of TV has arrived and the Strictly Come Dancing Final comes live to BBC One.

Fifteen celebrities entered the ballroom, but now only the finalists remain. Each couple will perform in front of the judges and to the audience at home to battle it out in the ballroom for the very last time. The judges scores will be for guidance only and the winner will be decided by the viewers’ votes alone.

Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman will then reveal which celebrity and professional dancer the viewers have chosen to lift the famous Glitter Ball Trophy and be crowned the champions of Strictly Come Dancing 2017.

Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special

Six of the most-loved Strictly stars are returning to the dance floor for an all-star Christmas extravaganza special coming to BBC One on Christmas Day.

This year the leading ladies set to rock around the Christmas tree are Katie Derham (series 13); Judy Murray (series 12) and Kimberley Walsh (series 10).

The gentlemen hoping to sprinkle joy on the dancefloor are Colin Jackson (series 3); Robbie Savage (series 9) and Jeremy Vine (series 13).

Professional dancers taking part will be Brendan Cole, Neil Jones, Pasha Kovalev, Amy Dowden, Dianne Buswell and Karen Clifton.

In this year’s cracker of a show, each of the six couples will perform a routine which tells the story of what everyone loves about Christmas in a bid to be crowned Christmas champions 2017.

Hosted by Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman, the show wouldn’t be complete without the festive foursome on the judging panel. Craig Revel Horwood, Darcey Bussell and BrunoTonioli will be joined by Head Judge Shirley Ballas in her first appearance on a Strictly Christmas special.

The judges will be on hand to score each couple and spread some cheerful joy, yet it will be down to the studio audience to vote for which dancing duo will win the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special 2017 and lift the famous Silver Star trophy.

The icing on top of the cake will be a music performance fit for Christmas Day and our couples will be bringing some festive cheer to some very special and deserving people.

The Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special will air on BBC One on Christmas Day and will be available on BBC iPlayer.

The Apprentice – Final

The remaining candidates battle it out to be crowned Lord Sugar’s business partner and secure a £250,000 investment in their business plan. Familiar faces from the series return and teams are picked, as the finalists prepare to present their brand and business plan to Lord Sugar, Baroness Karren Brady, Claude Littner and a panel of business heavyweights to prove they are worthy of the coveted prize.

After 11 tough weeks proving their credentials, with tasks ranging from making burgers, selling robots and advertising cars to running a tour in Bruges and hosting a corporate event at Wembley, all attention is focused on the finalists and their investment proposal.

Back in the boardroom, business plans are evaluated and presentations assessed, but there can only be one winner as the strongest of this year’s budding entrepreneurs fight it out to claim victory and hear the words – “YOU’RE HIRED!”

Top Of The Pops Christmas Special

Top of the Pops returns to BBC One this festive period with a Christmas special featuring some of the biggest names in pop music from 2017 including Ed Sheeran, Dua Lipa, Clean Bandit, Rita Ora and The Script.

Fearne Cotton and Reggie Yates will present the one hour special that will celebrate the biggest hits and most successful acts of the year, concluding with the all-important Christmas Number 1.

Top of the Pops also returns over the New Year period with a special that will celebrate the biggest hits and most successful acts of 2017.

Top Of The Pops New Year’s Special
Fearne Cotton and Reggie Yates will celebrate the biggest hits and most successful acts of 2017 during a Top of the Pops New Year’s special.

The show, that will showcase 2017’s greatest hits and brightest chart stars to BBC One audiences, includes a star-spangled line-up of performances from James Arthur, Craig David feat Bastille, Paloma Faith, Ed Sheeran, Dua Lipa and Rita Ora.

The New Year’s special will also share the last Number 1 of 2017.

Darcey Bussell: Looking for Fred Astaire

Darcey Bussell explores the dancing legend that is Fred Astaire, uncovering stories of the series of strong women that shaped and influenced him throughout his life and career.

His story begins with the influence of his stage-struck mother, Ann, who thrust five year old Fred onto the stage as a convenient partner for his older sister, Adele, with whom he danced for 27 years. Darcey goes on to explore perhaps the most famous and recognisable woman in Fred’s life, Ginger Rogers.

Despite only making 10 films together, it was this partnership that cemented Fred Astaire’s fame and legacy. Darcey uncovers how despite being renowned as one of history’s greatest dance duos, Fred hated sharing the limelight, and following his partnership with Ginger resisted partnering with one leading lady too many times, though he went on to dance with some of Hollywood’s greatest stars including Audrey Hepburn, Rita Hayworth and Judy Garland.

This film also shines a light on the star’s later years and his personal relationships with both his first and second wives, Phyllis and Robin.

Mary Berry’s Christmas Party

This winter you’re invited to Mary Berry’s Christmas Party!

Celebrate the festive season with the perfect dusting of Mary Berry’s very own Christmas magic. In a one-off television treat, Mary will open her kitchen to some of TV’s best-loved faces as they join her in cooking delicious party dishes especially for her Christmas Party table.

With varying degrees of nerves, skill and determination, but tons of excitement, presenters and broadcasters Alex Jones, Fearne Cotton, Darcey Bussell and Adil Ray take turns to join Mary beside her stove.

Packed with humour, warmth and exceptional festive food ideas – Mary Berry’s Christmas Party is the perfect invitation for yuletide escape.

Mary, Mel and Sue’s Surprise Party (w/t)

For one exceptional group of people in South Wales, Christmas has come early. In an area that’s experienced some tough times, Mary, Mel and Sue will sprinkle their festive magic on its residents, who, despite their setbacks have pulled together to open a community centre. With their local school and post office closing, the centre has become a lifeline for young children and elderly pensioners alike, providing everything from regular hot meals to weekly bingo. It’s the beating heart of the community, but both the centre and the amazing volunteers keeping it afloat, are deserving of some serious festive cheer.

Usually, the volunteers at the centre try and make Christmas as special as possible, but this year, they’re in for the shock of their lives, as Mary, Mel and Sue will surprise them with the most magnificent Christmas party the town has ever seen.

Mary, along with a gang of local helpers, will create a spectacular traditional Christmas dinner, while Mel and Sue will rally the troops and stage a magical back drop to the party, as well as give the centre a face lift, leaving a legacy for the community which will last for years to come.

Judi Dench’s Secret Woodland

Join Judi Dench as she embarks on a magical journey to uncover the mysteries about one of her greatest passions – trees. Told through the narrative of the changing seasons and filmed over the course of a year, Judi Dench’s Secret Woodland uses innovative filming techniques and the latest cutting edge scientific technology and research to unlock the remarkable secret lives of trees.

Snow Bears

Snow Bears is the enchanting true-to-life tale of polar bear cubs on the journey of a lifetime to the ice surrounding the North Pole. With the arrival of Spring they must travel 400 miles in search of the seal-rich pack ice surrounding the north pole, meeting a host of extraordinary arctic characters along the way from reindeer to narwhals and walrus to arctic foxes. This story is a fun-packed, snowy adventure as two young bears learn how to survive in their frozen world.

BBC TWO HIGHLIGHTS

Alan Partridge: Why, When, Where, How and Whom?

It has been a quarter of a century since a little known sports reporter was given his own radio chat show by the BBC. Two radio series, five TV series, four specials, two books and one movie later, Alan Partridge has an unrivalled place in the comedy pantheon.

To celebrate Alan’s return to his rightful home at the BBC in 2018, this retrospective documentary will look back at his journey from broadcaster caricature to the award-winning study of complexity and pathos that he has become.

We will hear from the man behind the man himself, Steve Coogan, as well as the acclaimed team that created him 25 years ago. That cohort of writers and performers would become some of the most celebrated and distinctive comic voices of their generation: Armando Iannucci, Patrick Marber, Peter Baynham, Rebecca Front, David Schneider and Doon Mackichan. Through interviews and a wealth of never before seen archive footage including improv sessions, rehearsals and unseen outtakes, a light will be shone on the genesis of the character.

This richly textured account of the craft involved in that early development and the ongoing story of how, through Coogan’s virtuoso performance, Alan remains one of the most beloved comic creations of the last few decades.

The programme will also feature discussions with some of the best loved characters in Alan’s world; the likes of Felicity Montagu (Lynn), Simon Greenall (Michael), Sally Phillips (Sophie the receptionist), Phil Cornwell (Dave Clifton) and Tim Key (Sidekick Simon). And we’ll hear from writers and directors, Neil and Rob Gibbons, who inherited the Partridge mantle and, alongside Coogan, have taken the character to new heights, finding in each incarnation different ways of exploring Alan while being faithful to the character’s legacy.

Through all these voices, archive material, and iconic clips from the shows themselves, the show will explore Alan’s unprecedented cultural influence, his impact on the comedy landscape, and how the most entertainingly contemptible man in fictional light entertainment has become permanently embedded in the national vernacular.

The League of Gentlemen Anniversary Specials

Much-loved comedy The League of Gentlemen returns to BBC Two this Christmas with three brand-new episodes to celebrate the group’s twentieth anniversary at the BBC.

Once again, the three performing members of the League – Reece Shearsmith, Steve Pemberton and Mark Gatiss – will be playing a veritable host of bizarre and darkly comic characters inhabiting the fictional Northern town of Royston Vasey, in scripts written by themselves and co-creator Jeremy Dyson.

Royston Vasey is facing a threat more dire than anything it has faced before: dark rumours of boundary changes that could erase the town from the map forever. The fight to save Royston Vasey from administrative annihilation will come from unexpected and surprising directions, all of them local…

The League of Gentlemen’s original radio series, On The Town With The League Of Gentlemen, won a silver Sony award 20 years ago this year. The first series of the ground-breaking TV series won a BAFTA award, a Royal Television Society Award, and the prestigious Rose D’Or in Montreux.

The League of Gentlemen is a BBC Studios Production for BBC Two.

Two Doors Down

The sitcom, set in the fictional Scottish suburban street of Latimer Cresent, will be giving Christmas its own special dose of neighbourly love.

At the heart of it all, as ever, will be put-upon couple Beth (Arabella Weir) and Eric (Alex Norton) hoping to have a quiet festive feast on their own.

But this Xmas bonus will see Cathy (Doon Mackichan) and Colin (Jonathan Watson) turn up, their trip to the French Alps having been thwarted by a cancelled flight.

Neighbour Christine (Elaine C Smith) piles in too with granddaughter Madison, after daughter Sophie is delayed in Paris by the same disruption.

While Beth and Eric’s son Ian (Jamie Quinn), over with new boyfriend Gordon (Kieran Hodgson) to drop off presents, admits their other plans have fallen through…and asks if they can stay on for dinner. With a meal for two now stretching to six, Christine and Cathy reveal their own particular take on the spirit of Christmas.

Upstart Crow

The Shakespeares are planning a lovely cosy Christmas with just the family up in Stratford. Until Kit manages to wangle himself an invitation to join them. And then so does Kate. And then so does Robert Green, who claims he has given up evil scheming and is ready to spread peace and goodwill to all mankind. But has he really suddenly gone all nice?

Meanwhile Will has been rehearsing his latest play ready for it to be performed before Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth (Emma Thompson) as part of her Christmas festivities. But will he make the right impression on the Queen? And does his play Eighth Night actually need a bit more work?

Eric & Ernie’s Home Movies

Morecambe and Wise are arguably the most popular and loved double acts ever to have been on television, but off it they built up quite an archive too – largely unseen until now – which reveals what Eric and Ernie were really like in the company of family and friends.

Both Eric and Ernie were avid home movie makers, chronicling their rise to fame and recording key moments in their private and family lives, at home and abroad.

Now for the first time, with access to Morecambe and Wise’s entire home movie collection, this documentary shows Eric and Ernie at work and at play, on tour and on holiday, from summer season in Blackpool to trying to make it in the USA, from their pre-television fame days to the height of their career.

Eric & Ernie’s Home Movies catches up with many of the people who appear in these highly personal films – including Eric Morecambe’s wife Joan, and children Gary, Gail and Steven and friends of Ernie and his wife Doreen.

There’s a reunion for two now seventy-something women who starred as children alongside Eric and Ernie on stage in panto in Sheffield in the early 1950s.

And there’s a trip from Canada for the sisters who spent some unforgettable childhood holidays with their neighbours, the Morecambes.

For everyone, emotional memories come flooding back with the chance to see footage they have never seen before.

This is Eric and Ernie as husbands, father and godfather, and the very best of friends – in remarkable footage which has lay unseen in their family homes for decades.

Gospel Christmas

Sir Tom Jones and Beverley Knight will join forces to celebrate Christmas in style this year as they host and perform a feast of gospel music in a special programme for BBC Two and BBC One Wales, Gospel Christmas.

It’s an evening of uplifting Christmas gospel music marrying classic spiritual songs together with contemporary influences, plus a couple of unexpected delights. For those who believe in the spirit of Christmas, and for those who most certainly want to have their Christmas cheer with a little bit of soul, it’s a guaranteed night of joyous celebration for one and all.

Jools’ Annual Hootenanny 2017

Join Jools and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra for his 25th Annual Hootenanny – the only New Year’s party worth tuning into and revel in the company of a variety of musical acts from the ages to delight and enchant. Jools will be seeing off 2017 and welcoming 2018 in time-honoured style, accompanied by a host of stars and special guests from across the entertainment spectrum, offer their wisdom and predictions for what the next twelve months may hold.

New Year’s Day Concert from Vienna
BBC Two returns to the city of music for the traditional start to the New Year, live from Vienna. Petroc Trelawny is our host for this hugely popular concert of polkas, marches and waltzes composed by the Strauss family and their contemporaries. The Vienna Philharmonic will be under the baton of Riccardo Muti, whose close ties with the orchestra extend over several decades and who is conducting this glittering event for the fifth time. BBC Two will be broadcasting both parts of the concert live, ending with all the traditional favourites including By the Beautiful Blue Danube and the ever-popular Radetzky March.

Chimp Rehab (w/t)

In an hour-long film for BBC Two, animal lover Sue Perkins travels to America to meet a group of newly retired female chimpanzees at Chimp Haven, the US national chimpanzee sanctuary. After a recent change in US law, decades of medical testing on chimpanzees has been brought to an end and cameras follow as Jill, Whitney, Paula-Jean, Tessa, Martha and Ariah settle in to the sanctuary after an 800 mile journey from a laboratory in New Mexico to rural Louisiana.

Sue meets chimpanzee Jill, 24 years old, who has been used in hepatitis research all her life. In total Chimp Haven houses over 200 medical research chimps who have been retired from laboratories to live out their days in beautiful forested surroundings. In the wild, chimps live in mixed-sex troops but these six girls have never lived with a group of boys before. When Sue first meets them, Jill gives off a clear ‘warning bark’ to Sue to alert her to 45 year old boisterous alpha male Pierre in a nearby enclosure. Pierre is poised ready to spit a mouthful of water and show newcomers who is boss. The introductions are a tense time for both the sanctuary staff and the chimps. Using fixed rig cameras inside the enclosures, Chimp Rehab captures the moment the two groups come together to form their new chimp family. Will it all run smoothly? How will Jill get on when she starts her new life with the boys for the first time?

And after seeing undercover footage of conditions in one of the labs Jill once lived, Sue travels to meet a representative from the National Institutes of Health, the government agency responsible for federal chimpanzee testing. She wants to know if they think the medical advances to human health have been worth it, and how the US government defends the conditions in which the animals were kept.

Inside the Factory Christmas Special

In this Christmas Special Gregg Wallace, Cherry Healey and Ruth Goodman explore the fascinating factory processes and surprising history behind our favourite festive treats.

Gregg follows 24 hours of production at a cake factory in Oldham, near Manchester where, this year, they will make 2 million Christmas cakes. As he helps to mix dried fruit and spices, Gregg discovers the challenges of producing 480 perfect cakes every hour. He’ll also attempt to prepare some of the 300,000 handmade decorations made from 150,000 tonnes of icing sugar, with very messy results.

Meanwhile, Cherry is given special access to Britain’s largest marzipan factory that produces two thousand tonnes of almond paste every year, and visits one of our largest sprout farms where, during the two weeks before Christmas, they pick 190 million sprouts. She also travels to Somerset to discover how 100,000 bottles of brandy are distilled from cider apples and gets hot under the collar attempting to blow a glass Christmas bauble.

Ruth Goodman adds her own Christmas revelations by investigating how our early industrial heritage inspired Charles Dickens to write a Christmas Carol, and why we call Christmas tree lights ‘fairy lights’.

Joanna & Jennifer: Absolutely Champers

Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Saunders’ onscreen counterparts – Absolutely Fabulous’ Patsy Stone and Edina Monsoon – were rarely seen without a glass of Champagne in their hand. And off camera, these long-time comedy collaborators and dear friends love nothing more than getting together to share a glass of something chilled and bubbly.

Now, in this glorious Christmas treat for BBC Two, the duo are reuniting on our screens, and heading across the channel to explore the beautiful Champagne region of North Eastern France to learn all about how their favourite tipple is made.

Joanna & Jennifer: Absolutely Champers will be an exploration of one of the finer things in life, but also an exploration of each other, as the much-loved stars dig deep, and uncover things they never knew about their partner in crime.

Touring this picturesque province, Joanna and Jennifer will be visiting boutique, family-run vineyards and joining seasonal workers to get stuck in with this year’s grape harvest, alongside learning the processes involved in taking Champagne from grape to glass.

As Joanna and Jennifer take in the sights and sips of France we’ll be privy to their intimate and hilarious conversations, listening in as the friends share anecdotes and never-before-heard stories from their lives.

Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella
A celebrated adaptation of the classic ballet, Matthew Bourne’s production of Cinderella is a thrilling and evocative love story set in London during the Second World War, and forms part of the company’s 30th anniversary celebrations.

Matthew Bourne’s interpretation of the classic fairy tale has, at its heart, a true war-time romance. A chance meeting results in a magical night for Cinderella and her dashing young RAF pilot, together just long enough to fall in love before being parted by the horrors of the Blitz. Featuring sumptuous Olivier-award winning costumes and sets, Matthew Bourne’s vivid storytelling has never been more heart-stopping and touching, bringing the audience into the heart of Prokofiev’s magnificent score, and the sights and sounds of war-torn London.

Nigella’s Christmas Table

Nigella decamps to the countryside for her cosiest Christmas yet. Against a backdrop of crackling log fires and sparkling lights, Nigella shares her tips for relaxed entertaining, bringing new flavours to the festivities and the cosiness of familiar fare.

Inspired by the beauty of her surroundings, Nigella throws a party, serving platters of devilled eggs and a sparkling cocktail, and creates a feast of roast duck with orange, soy and ginger alongside garlic and parmesan mashed potato gratin and sour-sweet soused red cabbage with cranberries, made in advance to make life that little bit easier, as well as an exotic take on brussel sprouts. For dessert, there’s a glorious sticky toffee pudding made all the more delicious with an effortless, no-churn brandy salted caramel ice-cream.

For a simple fireside supper, Nigella rustles up a warmly-spiced Moroccan vegetable hotpot, with a dill and pine nut couscous, and chocolate pistachio meringue cookies for a sweet after-dinner treat.

Saturday Night Fever – The Real Story
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the release of the block buster film Saturday Night Fever, BBC Two tells the epic story of how a small budget film with a quickly-assembled soundtrack became a mega-hit that changed popular culture forever. Bruno Tonioli, who was a young dancer in New York in 1977 when the film was released, recalls its global impact. In this programme, he returns to the city to meet the cast and crew behind it, and revisit the dance steps and sequences that set a generation alight and turned John Travolta into a star.

The story Bruno unearths is one of supreme success against a backdrop of unexpected setbacks. He unpacks the skill, athleticism and dedication of Travolta, whose incandescent performance prompted a disco dance craze. With unprecedented access to those involved and using rare archive footage, this programme retells the evolution of this ground-breaking film, from its origins in the work of a British journalist, to production challenges with mafia threats and guerrilla-style filming on the streets of Brooklyn.

The Real T. Rex with Chris Packham

Naturalist and T. Rex enthusiast Chris Packham embarks on a global journey to discover the astonishing truth behind the T. Rex, the animal that has endured centuries of scientific inaccuracy and Hollywood misrepresentation. Today, ground-breaking studies of dinosaur skin, teeth and musculature, combined with reconstructions of T. Rex’s incredible brain, are redefining this iconic dinosaur.

Was he lizard or bird? Was he brightly coloured or feathered? Was he a pea-brained scavenger or a sophisticated hunter?

Meeting international experts, Chris reveals ground-breaking insights into not just what T. Rex looked like but into its behaviour, exposing the real beast behind the myth. With both a new understanding of palaeontology and zoology, and trailblazing technology, Chris then attempts to create the most accurate CGI representation of the T. Rex ever produced.

Chris has unique access to ‘Tristan’, one of the most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex fossils in the world.

Chris travels to meet Dr. Greg Erikson, whose research with alligators is revealing the true power of T. Rex’s phenomenal bite. In Dino State Park in Texas, he walks in the footsteps of real and still visible dinosaur footprints, and with the help of biomechanics expert Prof. John Hutchinson and a virtual treadmill, they determine how the predator moved… and ran.

With the help of Dr. Larry Witmer, who uses CT scanning of T. Rex skulls, Chris reveals the predator’s awesome brain and exposes its secrets. Chris travels to Berlin to work with avian palaeontologist Prof. Julia Clarke to determine just how bird-like this creature would have looked and sounded, even producing the sound it may have made! And finally he explores the Canadian Badlands for clues that Canadian expert Dr. Phil Currie believes could blow apart the understanding of T. Rex’s social life…

The Reindeer Family and Me

This Christmas, wildlife cameraman, Gordon Buchanan is travelling to the frozen north, deep inside the Arctic Circle, to meet the ancient Sami people and the animals they hold so close; reindeer. Known as “the reindeer people”, the Sami were traditionally nomadic, relying on their precious animals to help them survive the Arctic’s harsh winters. Gordon will live with a Sami family in Finnish Lapland to experience their unique culture and to learn about their special bond with reindeer.

Gordon will work to earn the trust of his own reindeer companion before leaving behind his adopted family and setting off alone into this land of ice and snow. With only his reindeer to guide him, but armed with the knowledge of his hosts, Gordon wants to immerse himself in this frozen wilderness and attempt to witness the natural phenomenon the Sami most revere; the magical northern lights.

The Sweet Makers at Christmas

From candy canes and sugar mice to yule logs and chocolate coins, sweet treats are an integral part of our Christmas celebrations. Following the success of The Sweet Makers on BBC Two earlier this year, four modern confectioners will recreate the treats of Christmas past, and discover how their predecessors helped create many of the culinary festive traditions we enjoy today.

Chocolatier Paul A Young, bespoke cake decorator Cynthia Stroud, chocolatier Diana Short and sweet consultant Andy Baxendale will use original recipes and equipment to whip up the festive bestsellers of Christmases past. Guided by food historian Dr Annie Gray and social historian Emma Dabiri, they’ll uncover the mystery of what an earth a sugarplum is, before decorating a series of exquisite Twelfth Cakes, affordable only to Georgian’s wealthy elite. As they move into the Victorian era our confectioners encounter the gaping gulf between rich and poor and create treats for both – from Queen Victoria’s favoured Boar’s Head cake to jelly pistols and sugar mice accessible to children with just a few pennies to spend. Finally they’ll explore the wealth of chocolate novelties launched in the 1920s – including the predecessor of that modern Christmas favourite the Chocolate Orange – the Chocolate Apple.

World’s Weirdest Winter (w/t)
The natural world is full of the weird and the wonderful… but at wintertime – it just gets weirder. From snowboarding crows to seemingly suicidal penguins and snownados that come from nowhere, this Christmas serves up weird stories of the unexplained, unexpected and the unidentifiable from across the globe.

Using state of the art science, expert analysis and firsthand eyewitness accounts, we are going to examine the evidence, test the theories and unravel some of the strangest stories our planet has to offer.

Based in a remote hut for the winter, naturalist Chris Packham embarks on a fascinating journey to try to explain some of Winter’s Weirdest Events. With the help of leading scientists and engaging contributors, Chris will reveal secrets from the natural world from bizarre science to animal oddities, crazy weather, medical marvels and remarkable natural phenomenon.

BBC FOUR HIGHLIGHTS

The Galaxy Britain Built (w/t)
Star Wars super-fan David Whiteley tells the story of how the most famous galaxy in movie history was created just off the M25. The British men who created props, sets and costumes that have dominated the culture of a generation share the story of how they did it on a rock bottom budget out of junk. The programme includes interviews, archive film and some early drawings that have never been seen on TV.

Eric, Ernie & Me

Eric, Ernie & Me celebrates Eddie Braben, the man behind Morecambe and Wise’s greatest successes, culminating in their iconic 1977 Christmas Show, whilst showing the pressure and pain he went through to help create the screen work of Britain’s most beloved double act.

Starring Stephen Tompkinson (DCI Banks, Drop the Dead Donkey) as Eddie, Mark Bonnar (Apple Tree Yard, Catastrophe) as Eric Morecambe and Neil Maskell (Humans, Utopia) as Ernie Wise.

La Bohème
Sir Antonio Pappano, the Music Director of the Royal Opera House, conducts a brand-new production of Puccini’s popular masterpiece, La Bohème – a tale of friends and fellowship, love and loss, set in nineteenth-century Paris. A stellar cast of young singers, including Michael Fabiano, Nicole Car and Mariusz Kwiecień, come together for this unforgettable story about a group of aspiring artists living in a freezing Parisian garret. Into their world comes a young seamstress, battling with a terrible disease.

Ever since its premiere in Turin in 1896, La Bohème has been a huge hit with audiences around the world, clocking up over 500 performances at London’s Covent Garden alone. This is the first new production at the Royal Opera House in over 40 years, created by the acclaimed British theatre director Richard Jones, with designs by Stewart Laing.

A Year in the Life of a Year 2017
Following the success of last year’s spoof review about 2016, Emmy Award-Winning director Rhys Thomas has done the same thing again but about a different year. And it’s timely that the year he’s doing it about this year is the year the we are in now, 2017.

The Brian Pern creator seamlessly re-edits film and television footage from the top twelve months of 2017 to create a hilarious, spoof take on the year’s cultural events, entertainment smashes and other things.

Spiral
Three years on from its previous instalment, Guy-Patrick Sainderichin and Alexandra Clert’s acclaimed French drama returns for a sixth series (12×50’).

When a torso is discovered on a Paris street, a new and complex investigation begins for Laure Berthaud and her team that will put them – and their loyalties – to the test.

Elvis: The Rebirth of the King
The widely accepted Elvis narrative is that The Vegas Period was the nadir of his career but this film argues that Elvis reached his peak, both as a singer and performer in the first few years of his Vegas period. He became, in those short years, the greatest performer on earth.

Elvis: Rebirth of The King, tracks this five year renaissance with some of his key musical and artistic collaborators of the period, including the creator of his most memorable jumpsuits, to celebrate the greatest pop reinvention of all time!

Wild Wanderings: Turtle, Eagle, Cheetah
As a very special Christmas treat, BBC Four is taking viewers on a magical and mysterious journey into the natural world – by riding on-board three incredible animals. Unfettered by human camera teams, the audience will be transported deep into these different animal worlds – land and sea and sky.

Using the latest on-board wearable technology, pioneered by leading Scientists and the BBC’s Natural History Unit – Three Cheetah must work together in their search for prey, navigating the Bushveld of Namibia. A green turtle comes face to face with the residents of Indonesia’s most beautiful coral reefs. Whilst a White tailed Sea Eagle soars above the rugged West Coast of Scotland, battling the force of nature.

With embedded graphics giving further insight into the animals’ worlds, their adventures and encounters turns into an immersive and mesmerising experience.

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SUPERSTAR DJ AVICII FOUND DEAD AGED 28 38

The Swedish-born producer and DJ known as Avicii has been found dead in Oman.

Publicist Diana Baron said in a statement that the 28-year-old DJ, born Tim Bergling, was in Muscat, Oman.

“The family is devastated and we ask everyone to please respect their need for privacy in this difficult time,” the statement said.

Avicii was a pioneer of the contemporary Electronic Dance Movement and a rare DJ capable of worldwide arena tour. He won two MTV Music Awards, one Billboard Music Award and earned two Grammy nominations. His biggest hit was “Levels.”

His death comes just days after he was nominated for a Billboard Music Award for top dance/electronic album for his EP “Avicii (01).”

His hits include “Wake Me Up!” ”The Days” and “You Make Me.” He is the subject of the 2017 Levan Tsikurishvil documentary “Avicii: True Stories.”

Avicii had in the past suffered acute pancreatitis, in part due to excessive drinking. After having his gallbladder and appendix removed in 2014, he canceled a series of shows in attempt to recover. He quit touring in 2016 but continued making music in the studio.

“It’s been a very crazy journey. I started producing when I was 16. I started touring when I was 18. From that point on, I just jumped into 100 percent,” Avicii told Billboard magazine in 2016.

“When I look back on my life, I think: whoa, did I do that? It was the best time of my life in a sense. It came with a price – a lot of stress a lot of anxiety for me – but it was the best journey of my life.”

DAWN FRENCH TALKS LITTLE BIG SHOTS 57

Dawn French hosts the second series of Little Big Shots, the entertainment show that shines the spotlight on some of the most talented children from around the world.

With no prizes at stake and no winners or losers, the programme simply allows three to 13 year olds to take to the stage to showcase their talents and prove they are star performers!

In each of the six hour-long shows, Dawn meets each act and gets to know them before they take to the performance area on the revolving stage, and show the audience and viewers what makes them special.

Pint-sized acts from all over the UK and the world will show off their singing, dancing and acrobatic skills alongside other amazing acts including a dog handler, a Eurovision expert, a champion hen-racer, a juggling strongman and stand-up comedian!

You’re back for a second series. What do you love so much about making Little Big Shots?
There are lots of things about it that are lovely. Never mind the practical stuff, which is go to London for two weeks, where I’ve got lots of mates, and have fun during the day doing this. The team that make it are very good fun. It suits my life very well, but never mind all of that, it’s a great show. I was a bit trepidatious about it at the beginning when they asked me to do it, because it’s a show that’s come from America and it’s presented by Steve Harvey who is a very different person to me. And I was thinking, maybe this needs a kind of grown up presenter – somebody who does a lot of thinking on their feet, which was not my skill or experience at all. I didn’t want to let the kids down, or be that awful person who tries to grab all the focus all the time. But then I asked to see the American show and it was just joyful. And a big attraction for me was that you are not promising these kids are going to be big stars, there’s no prizing or judging or horrible critiques or anything like that. Everybody understands that, for that one little moment, they get to shine, doing the thing that they love doing.

What was the reaction to the first series?
Fantastic. My in-laws love it. What I really like about it is that it’s old-fashioned family viewing. It’s got kids in it, but it’s not a kids-only show. It’s for everyone. Quite a lot of what I do divides people. Some like it, some don’t. That’s fine, but this – everyone seems to love it.

The kids you have on the show are incredibly diverse, aren’t they?
They’re so different because they’re all different ages, all different sizes, colours, creeds, countries, and talents. The talent is so varied. Some of them sing and dance and they are lovely. But some of them are just kids who’ve done something silly and funny on YouTube – we had a little boy called Marshall who is four years old. He got a guardsman’s outfit at Christmas and he loved to march in it so his family took him to Windsor Castle and filmed him meeting a proper guardsman. The guardsman stood still at first, like he’s supposed to, then he went indoors and got permission from his senior to go out and march with Marshall. Marshall’s day, his week, his year was made by doing that. So we replicated that on stage. And it’s joyous because we’ve all loved dressing up.

There is a very funny scene in the first episode in which you get on your hands and knees and crawl through a dog agility tunnel. You don’t mind getting stuck in, do you?!
Honestly, I saw them setting up the agility course and I thought, ‘I see. I see. I know what’s going to happen here’. In theory, I’d rather not be that undignified. On the other hand, I knew I was just not going to be able to resist it.

Which other acts stand out to you?
The Russian aerialists were absolutely extraordinary. Tiny, tiny, little perfect little creatures. They were strapped in so I knew they couldn’t fall, but nevertheless, the courage it takes to do that. You know, there’s no feeling around any of these kids that anyone has been forced, or does anything against their will, or doesn’t enjoy what they’re doing. These kids were just beaming, absolutely beaming. One thing I actually really love is the interpreters. We have these amazing kids with their talents from Russia, the Philippines, Romania, Germany, America, you name it. And a lot of them can’t speak the language, so then you meet other remarkable kids who translate. It’s crucial to have them there, but they’re massively clever. The little boy, Kai, who is a Russian translator, has now featured in series one and series two, and he’s very funny in his own right. He will explain things of course but he will also have his own take on it. So I asked this Russian kid if they are going to buy a football team while he’s here, which is just a little joke for the audience really, but Kai is rolling his eyes at me and it’s hilarious. He gives me a kind of, ‘I know what you’re up to and this is ridiculous’, type look.

What’s it like back stage before the kids come on?
The producers are very good. They are very kid friendly, and they’re very aware that especially for kids who come from abroad or other parts of the country, they’re in a hotel and it’s a big old deal. They’re given a few little tips and, more importantly, lots of time to rehearse. When they come to the studio, they don’t meet me, and that’s on purpose , it’s best for our show if they are meeting me for the first time in front of the audience. They see a picture of me but all they need to know beforehand is that I’m this lady who’s going to talk to them. It makes it much more natural.

Is there anything new this series?
Yes, we’ve got some collaboration. I was a bit wary of it to begin with. I thought, ‘Oh, hang on. Don’t just put people together for the sake of having a new thing’. But actually, we only do it three or four times in the whole series and it’s great when it happens because you get a second bite of some of the most remarkable kids. The producers sit and think, ‘Right. Here we have this beautiful singer. What would go well with her? I know, I remember that lovely boy, the ballet dancer from the last series. Let’s get him back and he can dance in the back’. So there’s a kind of little relationship with the show going on, a bit of history. There’s a harpist who works with a singer. There’s a lovely American trio, a cello and two violins, all brothers and sisters – and we put them together with a lovely Welsh singer and they do a Disney classic. It’s delightful. Then we’ve got this gorgeous boy who plays the piano, who happens to have been blind since he was born, and there’s a Romanian singer that we put him with. It’s an extra wonderful treat.

Some of these kids must spend hours upon hours training and rehearsing. Do you have any concerns about being that dedicated at such a young age?
I’m okay with that, as long as the kid really wants to and it’s a kind of passion. And I can honestly say that all the kids that we saw, their parents are right behind them and they are encouraged, they’re not forced. They’re encouraged to do something that is their skill. Now, I’ll tell you something I really have learned with the series, is that without a doubt, if you can identify a skill that your kid has or a passion, or a love that they have for a particular thing, and if you can devote some of your time as the parent to giving them space to do it, they will get better at it. So in other words, there’s a reason why the Williams sisters are brilliant at tennis. It’s because they decided to do tennis rather than watch loads of telly! Not that I have a judgement about that particularly – I love telly, and I certainly watched lots of it with my daughter – but I didn’t, somewhere along the line, think, “Oh, now, what could I focus on that she loves, that we do that and only that?” These parents have done that, they have sacrificed quite a lot actually, to make sure these kids have access to the one thing they love, and to support them and encourage them. Most of us just go, ‘Let’s do a bit of judo and a bit of piano’, and open lots of doors for your kids. But if you concentrate on one thing, you get really good at it. Like these wonderful two brothers we had on who are the best at mixed martial arts in Ireland and they travel the world doing it, getting better and better. Max is 11 and World Champion. That reminds me, there’s another wonderful thing about this show….

What’s that?
I get loads of presents! It’s heaven. These kids come from all over the world and all over the country with all kinds of wonderful things. I get everything from little Tupperware boxes of cookies to Russian matryoshka dolls. And the judo brothers gave me a black belt. So now I’m a black belt and I didn’t even have to earn it. I’ve got a great ukulele as well, some drumsticks from this amazing little girl. As it happens, my stepson is a drummer, and he saw them immediately and said, “Oh, I like these. May I borrow them?” And I haven’t seen them since.

What would your secret talent be if you were to go on the show as a child, or as an adult?
I didn’t really ever have a proper, well honed talent! I did a bit of dancing. I certainly couldn’t sing, but thought I could, so perhaps that. What would I do now? Hmm. I haven’t actually got a tangible skill, it’s a bit shocking. Well, I can move my eyes independently. It is a bit of an odd thing and I’ve been able to do it ever since I was very little. I think for a while my parents might have thought I was possessed. But I can do it. I’m not sure it would have got me on to Little Big Shots, mind you. I might wear a silly costume or something, or do a silly dance, or something like that. I could try and amuse the audience one way or another.

You dress up for a living, of course, when you act or especially when you film French and Saunders.
Most definitely. But I’m not so good at dressing up for fancy dress parties, weirdly. I’ve got it very wrong in real life. Elton John used to throw amazing, huge great big parties and I waslucky enough to go to a couple of those. Len and I once went as Michael Jackson and Bubbles. He was Michael Jackson and I was Bubbles. Hilarious for about five minutes, and then hot, and then I could smell my own body rotting from the inside of the costume. It was a full chimpanzee outfit, I could hardly see anything! When I eventually took the head off, and just mucked about sweating a lot, at the very glamorous party, I looked around and there were all these people in very glamorous versions of fancy dress. There were all these sexy jailbirds or flappers or whatever is cool and comfortable, and glam. And I was not. I’ve done that many, many times. I will go for the gag, and the joke wears off very, very quickly. But I can still remember the joy of doing the dressing up. Of laughing a lot, you know, getting ready for the party. And we don’t do that often enough as adults. Kids do it all the time.

On a completely different note – French and Saunders was very well received at Christmas time. Does that mean there will be more?
We never close the door on French and Saunders. We can’t bear the thought to close the door on it. There are no immediate plans, I would say. That’s because Fatty and I both are very booked up this year, and even into next year, so I can’t see the window of opportunity, but the minute there is one, we’ll be in there thinking of something. Fatty has been doing Lady Windermere’s Fan, which is brilliant. Fatty’s the best thing about it, of course, but the whole thing is wonderful.

Did you love being reunited for French and Saunders?
Yes, it was very good fun. We had very little time and it was a clip show at first, that turned into more than a clip show. I think what they really wanted us to do was just to narrate between some old clips, but we couldn’t face the thought of doing that, so we did sketches, and then we ran out of time. So it was chaotic, the same old chaos, but it was very doable. One of the great joys, and something I miss, is having accurate make-up and wardrobe. On the Christmas show, I used a makeup artist called Naomi Donne who I’ve worked with since I was 22 on French and Saunders, Vicar of Dibley. And now she’s the chief on all the Bond films. But we still get together and when she’s putting the wig on me to play Giles in Gogglebox, it’s the best giggle you could have. It’s just being in the dressing up box with your best mate. Collaborating on the costume before you even hit the studio floor is half the fun.