Best new TV to watch in December
- Brian Donaldson
- 30 November 2020
Including Black Narcissus, Euphoria and The Wilds
From flying medics to android parents plus sitcoms featuring ghosts, vicars and spacemen, and with performances from Tim Roth, Shirley Henderson, Helena Bonham Carter and Gemma Arterton, there's plenty to enjoy on your small screens in December.
The BBC's big blockbuster drama over Christmas is this three-part adaptation of the Powell and Pressburger movie classic from 1947. Gemma Arterton plays young nun Sister Clodagh who heads a mission to a remote clifftop palace in the Himalayas, with dark mysteries awaiting them. Alessandro Nivola, Aisling Franciosi and the late Diana Rigg also star.
BBC One, Sunday 27 December.
A Christmas Day feast for period drama fans with this Regency-set eight-parter tracking the uber-competitive world of London high society. Ben Miller, Adjoa Andoh and Nicola Coughlan are all in this, while Julie Andrews does a spot of narration as Lady Whistledown.
Netflix, Friday 25 December.
Ghosts Christmas Special
The festive special is a long-held telly tradition which can often be somewhat exploited, but we can only approve of this one-off affair featuring the ghouls of Button House. A new spooky arrival is set to turn life (and death) in the baronial pile upside down.
BBC One, Wednesday 23 December.
In Amazon Prime's latest Spanish-language drama we visit the origins story of El Cid, a man who became a faithful subject, knight and all-round hero for Spain's 11th century monarchy. The plum title role is taken by Money Heist's Jaime Lorente.
Amazon Prime, Friday 18 December.
After an acclaimed first series, this Emmy-winner returns for a one-off episode as 17-year-old Rue (Zendaya) attempts to celebrate the festive season despite having just been dumped.
Sky Atlantic, Monday 7 December.
Marina Abramović Takes Over TV
After being the subject of an Imagine episode earlier this year, Serbia's intense performance artist takes over Sky Arts for an evening to explore many of the themes which she has been obsessed with during her career. Prepare to have your mind partially blown.
Sky Arts, Saturday 5 December.
2020 has not been a great year for space-based comedy (both Avenue 5 and Space Force were big disappointments), but Moonbase 8 is aiming to save the day. With John C Reilly, Tim Heidecker and Fred Armisen donning their helmets, its pedigree is strong, so here's hoping that this is a giant leap forward for spacey sitcoms.
Sky Comedy, Monday 21 December.
For classical dance fans everywhere, this docu-series produced by Ron Howard and Brian Grazer looks into the intimate world of New York's School Of American Ballet as twinkletoed students from ages 8 to 18 pursue their dreams.
Disney+, Friday 18 December.
Penguins: Meet The Family
Danny DeVito may have temporarily given them a bad name, but everyone surely loves penguins now. Prepare to meet all kinds of waddling folks including those who live in dense forests and on deserted islands.
BBC One, Tuesday 29 December.
Quentin Blake's Clown
From Crown to Clown as Helena Bonham Carter narrates this Christmas Eve adaptation of Quentin Blake's story about a discarded toy going on a journey to find a new loving home for himself and some other buddies. This half-hour animation will be so delightful that it might even cure some people's coulrophobia.
Channel 4, Thursday 24 December.
Raised By Wolves
Not a new version of Caitlin Moran's sort-of TV memoir but another bit of Sky sci-fi business as two androids attempt to raise human children on a new planet. Ridley Scott is executive producer (and director of two episodes) with Abubakar Salim (Fortitude), Niamh Algar (The Virtues) and Matias Varela (Narcos) in the cast.
Sky Atlantic, Saturday 5 December.
Roald & Beatrix: The Tale Of The Curious Mouse
The first of two Dawn French appearances over the festive period, this one has her playing Beatrix Potter who meets and influences a little boy whose surname is Dahl. Rob Brydon, Alison Steadman, Nina Sosanya and everyone's new dancefloor favourite Bill Bailey are also in the cast.
Sky One, Thursday 24 December.
The Girlfriend Experience
Exec-produced by Steven Soderbergh, this anthology drama series is based on his own movie from 2009. The first batch of episodes revolve around the ups and downs of a young woman who is a law student intern by day and high-end escort by night. It does sound a bit 50 Shades or Red Shoe Diaries, but given its creator's pedigree will surely have a lot more going for it.
StarzPlay, Thursday 17 December.
The Red Shadows
Another month and another intriguing looking Walter Presents series, with this French edition featuring a police officer trying to hunt down her missing sister who was kidnapped many years prior at the age of five.
All 4, Sunday 11 December.
The Vicar Of Dibley In Lockdown
Dawn French makes another Yuletide appearance, this time revisiting her role as Geraldine Grainger for a trio of short sermons covering everything from homemade wine to haircuts.
BBC One, Monday 7 December.
Part dystopian slumber party, part survival drama, this ten-part tale follows a group of teen girls who attempt to weather life's storms after a plane crash leaves them stranded on a deserted island.
Amazon Prime, Friday 11 December.
Tin Star: Liverpool
The third and final season of this Worth family saga arrives with them hotfooting it out of Canada and heading for Liverpool, leaving a trail of havoc in their wake. Jack (Tim Roth) has no intention of taking it easy, wielding a list of people he'd like to look up.
Sky Atlantic, Thursday 10 December.
Top Ten Mummies
Bettany Hughes is on hand to peel back the bandages on the top Egyptian mummies of all time. Each one will tell the story of criminals, priests, children and, of course, pharaohs, but which mummy is top banana?
Five, Wednesday 9 December.
Worzel Gummidge: Saucy Nancy
After an acclaimed debut last year, Mackenzie Crook is back as the talking scarecrow for an hour-long adventure. A foul-mouthed ship's figurehead played by Shirley Henderson is hoping to get back into the water, with the assistance of Worzel and his young pals.
BBC One, Thursday 24 December.
Zog And The Flying Doctors
Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler are a solid Christmas tradition now, and this tale of an airborne medical trio looking after unicorns, lions and mermaids is their 2020 offering. Among those lending their voices to this charming story are Lenny Henry, Alexandra Roach, Rob Brydon and Daniel Ings.
BBC One, Wednesday 25 December.