What's on TV and radio this Christmas?
From the long-anticipated third series of His Dark Materials to a heartwarming Detectorists special featuring a very special guest, here's what to watch on TV and radio over Christmas 2022. Spoilers alert!
Christmas and New Year TV programming always offers a feast of entertainment celebrating the countryside. It's a time of family gatherings, with shows to please even the smallest customers and most elderly relatives. Once you've finished your winter stomp, sit back and relax this festive season with our guide on the best TV and radio airing over Christmas 2022.
Best TV to watch over Christmas 2022
The Snowman: The Film That Changed Christmas
17 December, 5pm, Channel 4
To mark 40 years since Channel 4 first broadcast the iconic The Snowman, this documentary explores the enduring power of the 26-minute animation. Featuring interviews with composer Howard Blake and animators Hilary Audus and Joanna Harrison, the documentary discusses the film's impact and little-known behind-the-scenes stories.
Countryfile Christmas Special
Sunday 18 December, 6.10pm, BBC One
John Craven and Anita Rani help deck the halls with boughs of holly at Rockingham Castle in Northamptonshire. The team meet the needle wizards behind a tapestry that depicts key moments in Rockingham’s history, from William the Conqueror through to the castle's current inhabitants, the Saunders Watson family. Chef and broadcaster Romy Gill will whizz up a special feast for John and Anita with the help of four talented young countryside cooks she has met on a culinary tour of the UK. Meanwhile, Adam Henson takes a look at mistletoe and the damage it is wreaking on our orchards and Tom Heap gets into the Christmas spirit.
His Dark Materials
Weekly from 18 December, 7pm, BBC One and iPlayer
Based on the final book of Philip Pullman’s fantasy trilogy, the third series of His Dark Materials brings this thrilling epic adventure to a close. The action takes place over eight episodes, as Lord Asriel (James McAvoy) wages war on the Authority, summoning a mighty army, while Lyra and Will enter the land of the dead to find Roger and Mary Malone (Simone Kirby) quests to find Dust. Filmed in Wales and England, the show transforms familiar landscapes into fantastical worlds.
Mary Berry’s Ultimate Christmas
19 December, 8pm, BBC One
Dame Mary shares her ultimate Christmas feast: a stilton and sage mini scone canapé, followed by lemon and herb roast turkey with all the trimmings, finished with a Christmas pudding and a show-stopping festive trifle. Mary also reveals how to create a sustainable and affordable centrepiece from foraged greenery. She meets chefs Angela Hartnett and Monica Galetti, who whip up their own seasonal specials, and visits a ‘pick-your-own’ farm with Rylan Clark to cook a dish of Brussels sprouts with peas and cashews.
Discover more winter roasts and seasonal recipes at countryfile.com/how-to/food-recipes/
Count Magnus: a Ghost Story for Christmas
23 December, 10pm, BBC One
As is becoming tradition at Christmas, Mark Gatiss brings to life another of MR James’ excellent ghost stories, this time turning his attention to the much-loved classic tale of Count Magnus.
If last year's The Mezzotint is anything to go by, we can expect some deviation from the original ending to ramp up the shock factor for a modern audience. And in the quietest moments, you can almost hear Gatiss’s hands rubbing together gleefully as we wait to see what heart-stopping fun he has in store for us this year.
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse
24 December, 4.45pm, BBC One
Bringing to life the charm of the original book, this short film follows the unlikely friendship of a boy, a mole, a fox and a horse as they journey together in the boy’s search for home. Charlie Mackesy’s distinctive illustrations are reimagined in full colour with hand-drawn traditional animation, while an award-winning cast of actors breathe life into the book’s protagonists, including Tom Hollander as the mole, Idris Elba as the fox, Gabriel Byrne as the horse and newcomer Jude Coward Nicoll as the boy.
All Creatures Great and Small Christmas Special
24 December, 9pm, Channel 5
The rustic Yorkshire drama returns. As the Second World War looms, veterinarian James Herriot (Nicholas Ralph) and Helen (Rachel Shenton) celebrate their first Christmas as a married couple and adjust to changing times at Skeldale House.
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Mortimer and Whitehouse: Gone Fishing Christmas Special
24 December, 8.40pm, BBC Two
Having wrapped up the fifth series of their ever-popular angling odyssey this year, the funny fishmermen mark the season with another watery adventure. Bob Mortimer (61, portly, unskilled) and Paul Whitehouse (62, angular, highly skilled) settle on the bank to shoot the breeze and make a Christmas catch, joined by special guests.
Doc Martin: Last Christmas in Portwenn
25 December, 9.05pm, ITV
Following a near-death experience, featuring barbed wire and a herd of stampeding cows, curmudgeonly Doc Martin has finally decided to put down roots in Cornwall. This episode, featuring all the familiar faces, marks the finale of his 10-series-long story. Look out for a sparkling appearance from Port Isaac, decked out in Christmas lights. And if Doc Marten's adventures inspire you to explore this beautiful county, check out our best walks in Cornwall.
Ghosts Christmas Special
25 December, 7.25pm, BBC One
Alison (Charlotte Ritchie) and Mike Cooper (Kiell Smith-Bynoe) are again muddling through the season with the ghostly residents of Button House. When Alison’s family dinner goes awry, her spirited housemates produce a surprise Christmas present, and Pat (Jim Howick) takes a festive trip down memory lane that leads him to question his very identity. Enjoy hijinks and hauntings galore.
Detectorists Christmas Special
26 December, BBC Four, 9pm
What could be a better foil for commercial festive chaos than a tranquil trip to the golden fields of Suffolk? The metal-detecting duo of Lance (Toby Jones) and Andy (Mackenzie Crook, above) are back for more treasure-hunting misadventures in a feature-length Christmas special, filmed in part at Framlingham Castle.
Watch out for an appearance by special guest archaeologist Alice Roberts.
Why not follow in their footsteps with our favourite walks in Suffolk?
Countryfile: New Year Customs and Traditions
27 December, 8pm, BBC One
To discover the secrets behind Hogmanay traditions and customs, Margherita Taylor visits Auchindrain (pronounced ‘Ach-an-dray-in’), a preserved 18th-century Highland farm township just south of Inverary in Argyll and Bute. With traditional buildings dating back to medieval times, the historic village has been preserved since its last resident moved out in the 1960s. Like the rest of Scotland, the township didn’t celebrate Christmas as celebrations were banned across the nation for hundreds of years (it wasn’t until 1958 that Christmas Day was recognised as a public holiday in Scotland) but the Scots made up for it with New Year revelries. Countryfile will also delve into the archive to celebrate other winter customs and traditions, including first footing and Burns Night, gaelic psalm singing and the Scottish coorie.
Find out where Countryfile is visiting this week and what time it is on BBC1.
Best radio to tune into over Christmas 2022
The Dark Is Rising
20 December, 8.30am daily for 12 days, BBC World Service
And from 24 December, in four episodes, BBC Radio 4
This 12-episode adaptation of Susan Cooper’s 1973 novel marks the first time in 25 years that this epic winter’s tale has been dramatised for radio. Co-written by Robert MacFarlane and Simon McBurney, who also directs and narrates, The Dark Is Rising offers an aural feast (if occasionally too rich), with an ensemble cast and thrilling winter soundscape. Eerie music, bleak bird calls, echoing voices, ominous rumbles and crunching footsteps in the snow set the scene of this icy quest, in which young Will Stanton (Noah Alexander) is called to battle the elemental forces of darkness.
Families can cosy up together while being imaginatively transported to the ancient chalk landscape of the Chiltern Hills.
Farming Today: Kingdom Forge
BBC Radio 4, 5.45am, 26 December
Kingdom Forge is a workshop in Brundish, Suffolk, run by blacksmith Paul Stoddart. Paul and his team design and create high quality metalwork axes, swords and farm tools. Their style of forgework is greatly influenced by Victorian architecture, and the saying “nothing too strong ever broke”. During the pandemic, the team took on an abandoned local orchard to start making cider from 2.4 hectares of apple trees. Their ‘still medium’, ‘dry’, and special ‘Brundish Blush’ ciders inspired the launch of their bar – they’re the only licensed forge in the UK.
Farming Today: Fernhill Farm
Wednesday 28 December, BBC Radio 4
A commercial sheep farm with a flock of around 700 sheep, Fernhill Farm derives 40% of its income from wool, reviving the textile tradition by making high-quality fabric. Husband and wife Andy Wear and Jennifer Hunter and their two sons produce wool and sell it directly, because their sheep are coloured and the wool board says it doesn't want black wool. At Fernhill Farm, they handshear the sheep and teach people the same technique, processing the wool into hats, tweeds and different textiles.
BBC Radio 3 Carol Competition
Throughout December, Breakfast, BBC Radio 3
Music-lovers have been invited to compose a tune that could be the next big Christmas hit. Scottish poet Niall Campbell has written this year’s carol text, The Winter’s Brightening.Entries can range from gospel to pop, rap to folk and jazz to classical. With the six shortlisted pieces revealed on 16 December, the finalists’ compositions are arranged for the BBC Singers, and broadcast on BBC Radio 3, with the winner announced on 23 December.
Maria Hodson is production editor at BBC Countryfile Magazine, alongside Margaret Bartlett. Since moving to Bristol in 2014, Maria has made every effort to escape into nature and loves all things wild and watery, from surfing and swimming to paddle-boarding and kayaking. Her adventure highlight in recent years was sea kayaking around remote St Kilda, off the coast north-west Scotland, in 2016. Most weekends, however, are spent exploring the great outdoors with her small child and doing accessible walks. Favourite family adventures are bird-watching at Slimbridge Wetland Centre and exploring the Forest of Dean, as well as an annual pilgrimage to see the starling murmuration on the Somerset Levels.
Tanya Jackson is a digital editor and writer for countryfile.com. She lives in Wiltshire and loves campfire cooking, swimming in the sea, rural folklore, barn owls and walking her Welsh collie in the misty hills. Tanya also has a passion for English food and drink – although nothing tastes as good as tomato soup out of a thermos on a crisp woodland walk.
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