Our top picks of what’s on the TV this Christmas season

by Rachel Darcy

One universal tradition over the Christmas season is the annual television binge.

There’s nothing like sitting down in front of the television on a particularly cold December evening, with a mince pie and a mulled wine in tow, or even sitting down after a hefty Christmas dinner to decompress while watching one of the dozens of films on offer.

With so much choice, it can be difficult to narrow it don’t – but fear not, we’ve got you covered.

We’ve picked our favourite shows on offer across the big six channels – RTE, Virgin Media, TG4, Channel 4 / E4, ITV and BBC – over Christmas week, and up to New Years Eve.


There are several movie premiere highlights on RTE this Christmas, alongside a host of special shows looking back on 2019, and those Irish legends we have lost this year in special productions for the national broadcaster.

One of the main highlights of the Christmas season this year is the animated tale The Christmas Letter, starring a host of Irish actors and narrated by Kate Winslet.

The Irish 3D animation tells the story of eight-year-old Henry’s attempt to bring Christmas cheer to a lonely old lady, Mrs Broom. It premieres at 6:30pm on December 23.

The Christmas Letter

RTE’s Christmas Day film highlight is the live action remake of the Disney classic, Beauty and the Beast, starring Emma Watson.

The movie will premiere at 4:45pm on Christmas Day on RTE One – just in time for a post-dinner relaxation session.

Also,on Christmas Day is the delightful Paddington 2, which showcases Paddington happily settled with the Brown Family and searching for the perfect present for his beloved Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday. Paddington 2 will premiere at 7pm on Christmas Day.

Children and adults alike are catered to on St Stephen’s Day when it comes to movies. Storks will premiere at 2:10pm on December 26, while Bridget Jones’s Baby has its Irish television debut at 9pm on the same night.

Apart from films, RTE also has a host of great television content on the way this Christmas. Finglas is turned into a festive wonderland as Mrs Brown’s world is turned upside down by the arrival of an angel in the first of two festive specials from the ‘queen of Dublin Town’.

Mrs Brown’s Boys Picture: Alan Peebles

Pat Shortt will also have an in-depth look at Music from D’Telly this Christmas, featuring festive favourites and rarely seen performances from some of Ireland’s best loved musical artists, including Mary Black, Colm Willkinson, Sonny Knowles, Elvis Costello and more.

There will also be a more poignant show on offer this festive season from RTE, as they show Brendan Grace: Thanks for the Memories concert, in remembrance of the man who brought so much love and joy to the nation.

The Big Christmas Rewind will premiere on Christmas Eve, with Irish celebrities and their real-life or TV families sitting down together to rewind through a nostalgic, heart-warming and hilarious mix of the best of Irish Christmas telly from years gone by.

Virgin Media Television:

This year, Virgin Media TV has a host of top entertainment on the way, from movies to quizzes and festive specials too.

Movies on offer this year include a Christmas Day showing of the iconic Wizard of Oz, as well as a traditional viewing of The Snapper on Stephen’s Day.

Die Hard 4 and the Pursuit of Happiness will both show on Christmas Eve, with Furious 7 and John Wick both set to be screened on Virgin Media TV over Christmas week.

There’s a whopping 19 movies set to be showcased on Virgin Media across the festive season, ensuring that there will truly be something for everyone and every taste, but if that’s not enough, be sure to take a look at Virgin Media’s On Demand service.

They have the likes of Frozen and Love Actually ready to watch at any time to get you in the festive spirit, and to keep you entertained over the Christmas season.

Big Soap Quiz of 2019

There’s also old episodes of Love Island, if you’re in the mood for a re-watch of the antics in the villa, or Living With Lucy as well if that’s more up your alley.

Entertainment is also on the cards in abundance this festive season, with the Jonathan Ross Christmas Special on Christmas Eve expected to be a highlight. Graham Norton will also host a New Year’s Eve special on Virgin Media One this year.

Quizzes are also on the table – the Big Soap Quiz of 2019 will take a look back at the year that was, whilst the Celebrity Chase Christmas Day Special is sure to provide some great post-Turkey-and-ham entertainment for the whole family.

Lest not forget the major soaps shown on Virgin Media either, who’ll also have bumper packed Christmas specials on offer. Coronation Street and Emmerdale will both suffer major blows in their respective villages, which always proves to be explosive watching on Christmas Day.


ITV has a stocking full of Christmas and New Year treats for viewers this year, including more drama on the Cobbles, gossip from the Woolpack, entertainment shows, returning Dramas, Christmas specials of viewer favourites and some fantastic films for all the family.

In the run up to Christmas, Gordon Ramsay, Gino D’Acampo and Fred Sirieix head to Morocco in Gordon, Gino and Fred: A Christmas Roadtrip as they take on more food challenges on this new road trip.

There will be festive specials of Celebrity Catchphrase, The Sara Cox Show at Christmas, James Martin’s Saturday Morning at Christmas, John & Lisa’s Weekend Kitchen, Tenable All Stars Christmas Special, Who Wants to Be A Millionaire? Celebrity Special, Jonathan Ross, In For A Christmas Penny and Tipping Point: Lucky Stars Christmas Special.

Gordon, Gino and Fred: A Christmas Roadtrip

It will be an eventful Christmas in ITV’s soaps this year, for Coronation Street and Emmerdale. Christmas is all about family and in Emmerdale it’s no different this Yuletide as The Tates gather to carve the turkey at Home Farm, there is pandemonium when Graham walks in and delivers a devastating revelation, shattering relationships.

In Coronation Street the residents are dreaming of a White Christmas, but dreams can all too easily turn to nightmares, and this will be one festive season they will never forget.

ITV will also take a look back at some of Corrie’s nostalgic festive moments in Coronation Street at Christmas.

Alan Carr is hosting a games night that will see six celebrities take seats on his sofas for a show that looks back at the good, the cringe and the unbelievable events of the year in Alan Carr’s Celebrity Re-Play 2019.

Carol Vorderman will be presenting a one-off special, Pride of Britain: Celebrating 20 Years, this Christmas, reliving many of her favourite memories spanning over the last 20 years.

Paul O’Grady is back with the heart-warming Paul O’Grady: For The Love of Dogs at Christmas. Paul once again brings his unique blend of heartfelt warmth and humour to the waifs and strays of Battersea as he tries to give the dogs the best Christmas present possible, a new home.

Dancing on Ice fans are in for a treat with Dancing on Ice at Christmas where all the celebrity and professional skaters for the 2020 series will be seen on the ice for the first time.


Gavin & Stacey

Once again, the BBC brings a bumper box of yuletide treats featuring a whole host of much-loved performers and presenters which will delight and enchant audiences this Christmas.

Making a welcome return to BBC One on Christmas Day is Gavin & Stacey, showcasing what’s been going on in the lives of the Shipmans and the Wests in the last ten years.

The nuns of Nonnatus House return for a Call the Midwife Christmas Special as well, while the residents of Albert Square have to cope with secrets and lies in what promises to be an explosive festive episode of EastEnders.

Doctor Who will also return for it’s 12th season this Christmas period.

Doctor Who

Mary Berry caters for a very special party for charity volunteers in A Berry Royal Christmas, and following another glittering series, the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special returns for an all-star episode with six of the most-loved Strictly stars.

On BBC Two, there’ll be an in-depth look at Hugh Grant’s career in new documentary ‘Hugh Grant: A Life On Screen’.

A Merry Tudor Christmas With Lucy Worsley will take a look back at how Christmas was celebrated during the reign of Henry VIII whilst Frankie Boyle will reflect on 2019 in Frankie Boyle’s New World Order.

One of the nation’s favourite children’s books, Paddington, is to be the subject of a special heart-warming programme on BBC Two.

A Bear Called Paddington & A Man Called Michael will take a look at how author Michael Bond created an international phenomenon with a little bear from Peru.

There will also be festive episodes of some of BBC Two’s best-loved entertainment programmes, including Live At The Apollo and University Challenge.

Channel 4 / E4:

This year on Channel 4 there’s something for everyone – whether you’re partial to Kirstie being Crafty, Jamie revealing his go-to Christmas tips, a double portion of festive themed Great British Bake Off, or some heart-warming romance courtesy of The Undateables, they have Christmas wrapped up.

Some famous faces make a reappearance on Channel 4 this year, between Jamie Oliver’s Easy Christmas Countdown and Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas, there’s something for those that like to get to work with their hands over the holiday season.

There will be special editions of some of E4 and Channel 4’s best loved programmes this Christmas, including a Child Genius vs Celebrities Christmas Special starring Jo Brand and Richard Bacon, as well as Made In Chelsea: Buenos Aires, with the north London gang jetting off to Argentina for a festive fling.

Channel 4 will also deliver one of their signature documentaries this Christmas, taking a look Inside the Toy Factory in an hour-long look inside different toy factories around the world.

Fresh from her legendary slot at Glastonbury this Summer, Kylie Minogue will host Kylie’s Secret night, allowing her fans to see her like never before on Channel 4.

A real Christmas treat this year will be hand-drawn animated special, The Tiger Who Came to Tea, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, debuting on Christmas Eve. Based on the best-selling book, the Channel 4 version will also be replayed on Christmas Day.

Great British Bake Off Festive special with the Derry Girls cast

This year, there will also be The Great Festive Bake Off sees Noel, Sandi, Prue and Paul welcoming brand-new bakers to the festive tent for the first time, in the form of the Derry Girls star cast.

Competing for the coveted Star Baker title are Saoirse-Monica Jackson (Erin), Nicola Coughlan (Clare), Jamie-Lee O’Donnell (Michelle), Dylan Llewellyn (James, the Wee English Fella) and Siobhan McSweeney (St Michael).

To celebrate the dawn of another year, Jimmy Carr returns with the Big Fat Quiz of the Year. Putting a panel of celebrity teams to test as he presents his fiendishly difficult quiz. He’ll also host the Big Fat Quiz of the Decade, to round off the 2010s.


If you’re a documentary buff or a movie fanatic, TG4 is the place for you this Christmas.

The Irish language station will be debuting three fantastic new documentaries on Christmas week – Phil Coulter – Mo Shaol, Ar Thoir na Crown Jewels and Fear Darb Ainm Harris.

Premiering at 9:30pm on Christmas Day, Phil Coulter – Mo Shaol will take a look at the life of the prolific songwriter/producer at 9:30pm.

On December 28, Ar Thoir na Crown Jewels will take a look at one of the greatest unsolved mysteries in Irish history – Mary O’Farrell discovering the theft of the Irish Crown Jewels in Dublin Castle in 1907.

New Year’s Day sees the debut of Fear Darb Ainm Harris, celebrating the colourful life of Richard Harris, one of the last great hellraisers of Hollywood.

Showing at 9:30pm, the movie features exclusive interviews with Clint Eastwood, Daniel Radcliffe, Ridley Scott, Jim Sheridan and Stephen Rea.

For those looking for something a little different, TG4 are showing older films such as Around the World in 90 Days, Into The West, Rear Window and Flight of the Doves – something a little different from the other more festive offerings on other channels.

Flight of the Doves

Other movies on TG4 this Christmas include the original A Star Is Born starring Janey Gaynor, as well as the 1997 comedy As Good As It Gets.

Angels & Demons gets a showing on TG4, as well as Catch-22, Apollo 13 and the crime drama Fargo on December 28.

There’s plenty for the whole family on the station as well this Christmas, including the Irish language version of cult classic Shrek on Christmas day, and the Irish version of Happy Feet Two, which sees penguins Mumble and Gloria return to our screens with a son of their own.

For those not as fluent in our native tongue, they will also be showing Dr Seuss’ The Lorax on Christmas Eve, starring Zac Efron, Danny DeVito and singer Taylor Swift.

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