The Marie Claire edit of the best Christmas TV (just add red wine)

  • Marie Claire is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission on some of the items you choose to buy.
  • Featuring... Little Women, French & Saunders, Alan Partridge and COOL RUNNINGS

    In between mainlining Quality Street and bickering with your family, Christmas is all about curling up on the sofa for a good drama. If you’re wondering when exactly when you should take over the remote, here’s your Christmas TV guide to the best of what’s on during the festive period.

    The Marie Claire Christmas TV guide

    Little Women, BBC One

    Yes, we know nothing can replace the 1994 version with Winona, Claire Danes and Susan Sarandon, but it’s been over two decades since that one and a fresh version can’t hurt. The new BBC miniseries is a big debut for Maya Thurman-Hawke (Uma’s daughter) as Jo March, while Emily Watson will play Marmee.

    ‘Love, Jo, all your days, if you choose, but don’t let it spoil you, for it’s wicked to throw away so many good gifts because you can’t have the one you want.’

    When is it on? Boxing Day, 8pm, BBC One

    The Miniaturist, BBC One

    ….and when you’ve finished Little Women you won’t even have to change the channel for your next costume drama fix. This time it’s back to 16th Century Amsterdam for the adaptation of Jessie Burton’s bestselling novel The Miniaturist, a tale that swaps the will-they-won’t-they romantic storyline you normally see in a period setting for an exploration of sexuality, feminism and race. Romola Garai and Anya Taylor Joy star as Marin and Nella.

    When is it on? Boxing Day, 9pm, BBC One

    Cool Runnings, BBC One

    We love a cosy Christmas re-run as much as an original drama. 1993 classic Cool Runnings will get you into festive gear – despite having nothing to do with Christmas other than being retro and brilliant. ‘Feel the rhythm! Feel the rhyme!’

    When is it on? 23rd December, 1.15pm, BBC One

    Doctor Who Christmas Special, BBC One

    No Christmas TV guide would be complete without a bit of Doctor Who. This time it’s farewell to Peter Capaldi and hello to Jodie Whittaker in a transformative Christmas special that’ll see the Time Lord regenerate into female form for the first time ever. Hurrah!

    When is it on? Christmas Day, 5.30pm, BBC One

    300 Years Of French & Saunders, BBC One

    It’s been over a decade since French & Saunders appeared on screen together, but they’re breaking the drought this year with a Christmas Day sketch show special celebrating their 30-year-long working relationship. The show promises to include parodies of Poldark and The Handmaid’s Tale. We love it already.

    When is it on? Christmas Day, 10.35pm, BBC One

    Travel Man: 48 Hours in Hong Kong, Channel 4

    Reason #468 to watch Richard Ayoade’s entertaining travel show: joining him in this Christmas special on a trip to Hong Kong will be Mad Men‘s Jon Hamm. Yes please.

    When is it on? Boxing Day, 8pm, Channel 4

    Alan Partridge: Why, When, Where, How and Whom? BBC 2

    This might make you feel old: the very first outing from Alan Partridge was 25 years ago. This one-off documentary will look back at quarter of a century of Norfolk’s favourite broadcaster, with appearances from Alan as well as the man who created him, Steve Coogan.

    When is it on? 27th December, 9pm, BBC 2

    Frozen Planet, Netflix


    If you’re mourning the end of Blue Planet 2 and you want another Attenborough fix, delve into the archives with an old classic: Frozen Planet, now available on Netflix.

    When is on on? If you’ve got Netflix, then whenever you like.

    The Great British Bake Off Christmas Special, Channel 4

    Great British Bake Off twitter

    Credit: Channel 4

    After a brilliant debut series in its new home, we’ve now forgiven Channel 4 for pinching Bake Off from the Beeb. Get a little extra with this festive special starring some of the old greats, including Val (no surname necessary) and Paul Jagger of Bread Lion fame.

    When is it on? Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, 7.40pm, Channel 4

    McMafia, BBC One


    Already billed as 2018’s answer to The Night Manager and starring the lovely James Norton, this eight-part thriller about a British-born Russian who gets sucked into his family’s Mafia life of crime is the perfect way to stave off the back-to-work blues. OK, just one more glass of wine…

    When is it on? New Year’s Day, 9pm, BBC One

    Reading now

    Popular entertainment stories