The Lost Daughter

Christmas TV Guide 2021: What To Watch This Festive Season

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From juicy period dramas to star-studded movies

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While on one hand Christmas is all about socialising and parties, it’s also a time for lazy days on the sofa. Luckily the festive TV calendar is set to deliver once again, with a whole host of new releases to settle down to with a mulled wine. Here’s the C&TH guide to the best Christmas TV for 2021.

Christmas TV Guide 2021: What To Watch This Festive Season

The Girl Before

The Girl Before

Our December cover star Jessica Plummer stars in the BBC’s adaptation of JP Delaney’s bestselling novel, The Girl Before. The four-part psychological thriller is centred around elusive architect Edward Monkford, who has created an art gallery-style minimalist house called One Folgate Street. Tenants – who must be vetted by Edward in a rigorous process – are offered generous rent in exchange for sticking to a long list of house rules. Jane, played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw, is delighted to be accepted – until she discovers the sinister fate of her predecessor, Emma (Plummer), and is forced to confront unnerving similarities between them. Out now, BBC iPlayer

Royal Carols: Together At Christmas

Duchess of Cambridge, Royal Carols: Together At Christmas

Image courtesy of Instagram @dukeandduchessofcambridge

The Duchess of Cambridge is bringing the carol concert to your living room this Christmas Eve with Royal Carols: Together At Christmas, a pre-recorded event featuring performances, poems and more. The line-up features a whole host of big music names such as Ellie Goulding, Tom Walker and Leona Lewis, alongside speakers such as Kate Garraway, Kim Daybell and Prince William. 7.30pm, ITV  

Emily in Paris

Emily in Paris

Netflix

Love it or hate it, there’s no denying Emily in Paris was one of the biggest shows of 2020. The series – which follows marketing executive Emily (Lily Collins) on her big move from Chicago to Paris – premiered in the midst of lockdown, for many providing the perfect escapism TV. It’s back for a second season this December, picking up in the aftermath of Emily’s affair with Gabriel – but now there’s a new love interest on the scene. This might not be the most high-brow show on the list, but dreamy Parisian settings, stylish outfits and addictive plot stories make for the perfect Betwixtmas viewing. 18 December 2021, Netflix

Don’t Look Up

Don't Look Up

Netflix

Leonardo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence, Timothée Chalamet, Cate Blanchett: the cast list for this film reads like a guest list for The Oscars. Not to mention cameos from Ariana Grande and Kid Cudi. A sci-fi comedy movie written and produced by Anchorman‘s Adam McKay, Don’t Look Up follows a pair of astronomers (DiCaprio and Lawrence) who are trying to warn humanity that an asteroid is hurtling towards Earth. 10 December 2021 in cinemas, 24 December on Netflix

Harlem

Harlem

A new comedy-drama from Girls Trip creator Tracey Oliver, Harlem follows a group of Black women as they navigate life in New York in their thirties. While the plot isn’t exactly groundbreaking, this new spin on the classic formula has some interesting takeaways about identity and gentrification. Plus it’s directed by Pharrell Williams, and stars Whoopi Goldberg alongside Meagan Good and Grace Byers. Out now, Amazon Prime

A Very British Scandal

A Very British Scandal

BBC Pictures

One for the period drama fans: A Very British Scandal is a new three-part series which dramatizes the high-profile divorce of the Duke and Duchess of Argyll. Renowned for being one of the most notorious and brutal legal cases of all time, it saw accusations of forgery, theft and violence, plus the discovery of salacious photographs that would haunt the Duchess for the rest of her life. Claire Foy, who starred as Queen Elizabeth II in the first two seasons of The Crown, steps into history once again, taking on the lead role alongside Paul Bettany as the Duke. The show not only plays out the juicy storyline, but also explores the wider social and political context of post-war Britain, looking in particular at institutional misogyny. 26 December 2021, BBC One

Stay Close

Stay Close

Netflix

Loved The Stranger and Safe? You’re in luck: a new Harlan Coben adaptation is coming to our screens this month. As part of the writer’s five-year deal with Netflix, the streaming platform has adapted Coben’s thriller Stay Close – complete with an all-star cast featuring James Nesbitt, Cush Jumbo and Richard Armitage. The eight-part drama tells the story of a trio whose lives are thrown into disarray after long-lost secrets resurface. 31 December 2021, Netflix

Harry Potter 20th Anniversary

Harry Potter

First we were treated to the Friends reunion, and now we have another evening of nostalgia to gobble up. To mark 20 years since the cinema release of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, HBO will be assembling Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson, plus cast members from all eight films, for a reunion special. Titled Return to Hogwarts, this will feature interviews, cast conversations and archival footage, celebrating the unparalleled legacy of the Potter franchise. 1 January 2022, Sky and NOW

The Lost Daughter

The Lost Daughter

Olivia Colman is brilliant as ever in the Netflix adaptation of The Lost Daughter, the upcoming psychological drama based on Elena Ferrante’s novel of the same name. She plays Leda Caruso, a middle-aged languages professor who becomes consumed with young mother Nina (Dakota Johnson) and her daughter during a working holiday in Greece. The A-list cast also stars Normal People’s Paul Mescal, Ed Harris and Peter Sarsgaard – plus the film marks Maggie Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut. 31 December 2021, Netflix

Queer Eye

Queer Eye

The much-awaited sixth season of Queer Eye was delayed due to the pandemic – but turns out fans will be able to get their Fab Five fix before 2021 is out. For those not yet hooked, the show follows the Queer Eye gang – that’s Jonathan Van Ness, Bobby Berk, Tan France, Karamo Brown and Antoni Porowski – as they visit men who have been nominated by their families to receive a little help. Each of the Fab Five have a special talent: Jonathan, for instance, is the grooming expert, while Tan is the resident fashion guru. The heart-warming series returns to Netflix on 31 December (New Year’s Eve night in, anyone?), following the team as they head to Austin, Texas to work their magic. 31 December 2021, Netflix

Doctor Who

Doctor Who

BBC Pictures

Following the Flux series, the first of three special episodes of Doctor Who will premiere on New Year’s Day. It’s the beginning of the final hurrah for Jodie Whittaker, who is bowing out of the lead role next year – with her final episode set to air in autumn 2022. Plot details are being kept under wraps, but we do know the New Year’s Day special will feature Aisling Bea as a guest star, with action set to centre around a self-storage facility. 1 January 2022, BBC One

David Attenborough: The Wonder of Song and Attenborough and the Mammoth Graveyard

David Attenborough, Attenborough and the Mammoth Graveyard

Allow the soothing tones of David Attenborough to provide the soundtrack to your Christmas. The beloved 95-year-old presenter has been busy, with two documentaries coming out this festive season. The first is Wonder of Song, in which he explores the power and purpose of animal song, focusing on seven recordings taken throughout his lifetime. In Attenborough and the Mammoth Graveyard, meanwhile, David joins Ben Garrod and a team of investigators at – you guessed it – a mammoth graveyard near Swindon, to learn if Neanderthals might have killed the ice age creatures. Dates TBC, BBC One

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