Olivia Garrett shares her favourite seasonal television specials.
It’s December again and I think it’s about time we all stop pretending to be sociable and trying to leave the house. Instead, turn on your tacky Wilko Christmas lights, get in a blanket cocoon and find that pitifully small box of Roses (that you’re really salty about because they were £5) and turn on the TV. When it comes to Christmas time, everyone has that box or list of their own TV and movie gems. It’s exclusive and a new addition comes along every few years or so, after a rigorous screening process where it must be compared to the classics. This list also has the unspoken rule that these specials can never be watched outside of December, but must be watched every single year as we would betray our Britishness, if we did not spend the entire season huddled together in front of the TV. In case you’re struggling or perhaps you’ve never known what to watch at Christmas, here’s my list of the unmissable Christmas specials.
5. Blackadder’s Christmas Carol (1988)
This is an old one but a classic no less. A clean and morbid twist on the well-known Christmas Carol story and a nice present to loyal fans of the original Blackadder instalments. Even new viewers will be able to enjoy this special’s exaggerated historical parodies and boat-loads of sarcasm.
If you’re one of those people who sees Die Hard as a Christmas film just because it’s set at Christmas then this will be the perfect follow up.
4. Miranda – ‘The Perfect Christmas’ (2010)
Do you dread your parents’ relentless nagging at Christmas? Are you terrified of having to stand awkwardly in front of carol singers? Do you have horrific memories of failed UPS deliveries? Then you will love this, with her cringey charm, poor coordination and breast claps, Miranda Hart brings us a sweet and relatable special that has you chuckling and sighing all the way through.
3. Brooklyn Nine-Nine – ‘Yippie Kayak’ (2013)
If you’re one of those people who sees Die Hard as a Christmas film just because it’s set at Christmas then this will be the perfect follow up. If you’ve watched Brooklyn Nine-Nine then you know Jake Peralta is obsessed with Die Hard. In this episode, you get to experience the joy of watching him fulfil his lifelong wish as he finds himself in a real John McClane situation. As usual for this show, it’s the perfect blend of physical, awkward and dry humour and yet still comes out with thrilling action sequences. If that doesn’t convince you then I should let you know that Gina gets a flame thrower.
What’s more exciting and more British than seeing an alien in Arthur Dent pyjamas get cured by a cup of tea, have a sword fight on a spaceship, grow back his severed hand and kill the villain with a satsuma, which all culminates with our heroes standing in snow (in reality the ashes of their enemies)?
2. Gavin and Stacey – Christmas Special (2008)
“OH OH OH Merry Christmas”. How could this not be on the list? The new special is coming out this year and I know I’m not the only one counting the days so let’s celebrate the original. A witty and realistic depiction of the complications of bringing two families together at Christmas and the inevitable arguments that follow. This episode has so many iconic moments to choose from like Doris being drunk at 10am, Santa’s grotto on Barry Island and of course Smithy screaming “IT’S CHRISTMAS”. If you’re not yet feeling in the Christmas mood, then I suggest you watch this episode and it will sort you right out.
1. Doctor Who – ‘The Christmas Invasion’ (2005)
So, if I’m being honest, I could have made this list my top 5 Doctor Who Christmas specials with specific details about each episode but I didn’t see that being popular with many people. There are so many brilliant ones to choose from, but for me it was always going to be the first, and not just for the nostalgia. This is a tense and epic piece of sci-fi drama (outdated CGI aside) that turns the quiet domesticity of a Christmas day into a non-stop worldwide panic. What’s more exciting and more British than seeing an alien in Arthur Dent pyjamas get cured by a cup of tea, have a sword fight on a spaceship, grow back his severed hand and kill the villain with a satsuma, which all culminates with our heroes standing in snow (in reality the ashes of their enemies)? A groundbreaking piece of TV that showed how Christmas specials didn’t have to be cheery and loving and also propelled British drama into a new era, which is why it has to be the top of my list.