What's on TV and radio this Christmas?

From Aardman animations to Hairy Bikers, there's a wealth of top-notch television and radio programmes to enjoy over the festive period. Here's what not to miss on TV and radio over Christmas 2021.

Published: December 7th, 2021 at 8:01 am
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Sit back and relax this festive season with our guide on the best TV and radio airing over Christmas 2021.

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Best TV to watch over Christmas 2021

Countryfile Christmas Special!

Sunday 19 December, 4.45pm, BBC One

Programme Name: Countryfile - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. Generics) - Picture Shows: Matt Baker - (C) BBC Studios - Photographer: Pete Dadds
Matt Baker./Credit: Pete Dadds/BBC Studios

To celebrate the festive season, the Countryfile team head to the thriving rural community of Christmas Common in Oxfordshire to meet Christmas tree farmers, local butchers and candlestick-makers.

Where is Countryfile visiting this week and what time is it on BBC1?

It's Christmas!

The Countryfile team head to the thriving rural community of Christmas Common in Oxfordshire. Matt Baker meets the Ingrams, former dairy farmers who now operate one of Britain’s biggest Christmas tree farms, growing around 120,000 pines, from small saplings to 40-foot, 30-year-old spruces. In the market town itself, Charlotte Smith helps the local butcher, baker and candlestick-maker craft their seasonal offerings, including speciality sausages, ‘boozy Eccles cakes’ and creative candles.

Meanwhile, John Craven discovers that he has played a part in a modern-day miracle, as the 13 red kites he helped to release 30 years ago at Christmas Common have since produced around 10,000 living descendants. Venturing further afield, Adam Henson visits the ancient Christmas livestock market in Uppingham and Tom Heap meets the Inverclyde community offering a warm welcome to Afghan refugees.

Celebrate the festive season this week on the show – find out what time and when Countryfile is on TV with our episode guide.

Christmas gifts

Gardeners’ World Winter Specials

This year, green-fingers viewers are treated to two winter specials from Gardeners' World.

Friday 17 December, 8pm, BBC Two

The aptly named Adam Frost hosts this winter special from his garden. Nick Bailey visits the winter garden at Sir Harold Hillier Gardens in Hampshire, which bursts into life and colour with the onset of winter. Frances Tophill admires the largest single span glasshouse in the world at The National Botanic Garden of Wales while Carol Klein immerses herself in summer at the gardens of Kelmarsh Hall in Northamptonshire and Rachel de Thame highlights the wintry magic of witch hazel. At Scape Lodge, Arit Anderson meets a couple who have created a spectacular garden created in very challenging conditions on the steep slopes of the Pennines.

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 04/12/2021 - Programme Name: Gardeners' World Christmas 2021 - TX: n/a - Episode: Gardeners' World Christmas 2021 (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: Arthur Parkinson, Rachel De Thame - (C) BBC - Photographer: BBC
Gardeners' World Christmas 2021 with Arthur Parkinson and Rachel De Thame. /Credit: BBC Pictures

Friday 24 December, 8pm, BBC Two

Monty Don creates a winter-interest container filled with seasonal favourites and shares his tips on caring for house plants over winter and sorting seeds for the year ahead. Rachel de Thame spends a festive day making Christmas decorations with florist and gardener Arthur Parkinson, from a door posy filled with berries and evergreens to a Christmas wreath with a modern twist. Sue Kent digs out her Christmas jumper as she prepares some festive gardening gifts, and the show visits a Yorkshire nursery specialising in poinsettia.

Yellow flowers in snow

The Hairy Bikers Go North for Christmas

Wednesday 22 December, 8pm, BBC Two

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 23/11/2021 - Programme Name: The Hairy Bikers Go North For Christmas - TX: n/a - Episode: The Hairy Bikers Go North For Christmas - Christmas Announcement (No. Christmas Announcement) - Picture Shows: head North for Christmas to create the perfect family feast. **STRICTLY EMBARGOED NOT FOR PUBLICATION BEFORE 00:01 HRS ON TUESDAY 23RD NOVEMBER 2021** Si King, Dave Myers - (C) South Shore Productions - Photographer: Jon Boast
Si King and Dave Myers head North for Christmas to create the perfect family feast./Credit: Jon Boast/South Shore Productions.

The Hairy Bikers plan to treat their families to the perfect Northern Christmas dinner using ingredients they find on their ride along the Pennines. Dave Myers and Si King tour the backbone of the North, meeting artisan food producers on the way, before rustling up a festive extravaganza with a twist, featuring Turkey Doner Kebabs, gourmet marshmallows and indulgent Christmas puddings with 21 ingredients.

Shaun the Sheep: The Flight Before Christmas

Friday 24 December, 6pm, BBC One

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 04/12/2021 - Programme Name: Shaun the Sheep: The Flight Before Christmas - TX: n/a - Episode: Shaun the Sheep: The Flight Before Christmas (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: Shaun, Timmy - (C) Ardman Animations - Photographer: Ardman Animations
Shaun the Sheep: The Flight Before Christmas with Shaun and Timmy./Credit: Aardman Animations.

Shaun the Sheep brings a smile to pretty much everyone’s face, so it’s great news that Aardman Studios are bringing a new half-hour special to BBC One this Christmas. In The Flight Before Christmas, the flock’s seasonal excitement sets off a raid on the farmhouse for bigger stockings, and in the commotion, little Timmy goes missing. Can Shaun and co save Timmy before he becomes someone else’s present? With themes of loyalty, mischief and fun, crafted with Aardman’s signature humour, heart and imagination, this is perfect family fare.

The Abominable Snow Baby

Christmas Day, 7.30pm, Channel 4

Terry Pratchett’s tale of a very English town beset by heavy snowfall and the manifestation of a 14-foot tall Abominable Snow Baby has been brought to life delightfully in this 30-minute long animation. Rejected and feared by the villagers, Snow Baby is given kindness and sanctuary by Granny (Julie Walters) and her grandson Albert (Hugh Darcy). Will the townsfolk follow Granny’s example and offer their unexpected visitor hospitality and affection in the spirit of Christmas?

Superworm

Christmas Day, 2.30pm, BBC One

Programme Name: Superworm - TX: 25/12/2021 - Episode: n/a (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: Superworm lifts a rock above his head. Superworm (MATT SMITH) - (C) Magic Light Pictures - Photographer: Magic Light Pictures
Superworm lifts a rock above his head./Credit: Magic Light Pictures

Super-long and super-strong, Superworm is always there to help his garden-creature friends and save the day when they are in trouble. That is, until a wicked Wizard Lizard magically entraps him and forces him to toil for treasure. Although his best friend Butterfly has never been given credit for her equally heroic efforts in past rescues, she can’t leave her friend in trouble, so she sets about devising a daring plan to free him…

Starring Olivia Colman as Narrator and Matt Smith as Superworm, this adaption of the best-selling Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler story enters the canon of charming Christmas animations that parents quite like watching, too.

The Larkins Christmas Special

Christmas Day, 9pm, ITV

Larkins_1200x800
The Larkins./Credit: ITV.

The buoyant Larkin family are back for a feature-length festive special, in which Mariette and Charley return to Kent for Christmas. Pop and Ma are overjoyed to have the pair back in the nest, but chaos descends on the farm when Charley’s parents arrive to meet the clan and a power cut leaves the entire village without lighting and heating. Meanwhile, PC Harness attempts to find the culprit of an ongoing spate of burglaries, and everyone eagerly awaits the debut of the village’s Christmas pantomime. Set in the 1950s, this latest adaptation of HE Bates’s Darling Buds of May finished its first series this autumn, so fans will be delighted to see this seasonal special.

Mortimer and Whitehouse: Gone Christmas Fishing

Sunday 26 December, 9pm, BBC Two

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 04/12/2021 - Programme Name: Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing - Christmas 2021 - TX: 26/12/2021 - Episode: Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing - Christmas 2021 (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: Paul Whitehouse, Bob Mortimer - (C) Owl Power - Photographer: Grab
Mortimer & Whitehouse have Gone Christmas Fishing./Credit: Grab/Owl Power

Accompanied by canine companion Ted, Paul Whitehouse and Bob Mortimer set out to catch a prized English salmon in the beautiful rivers Eden and Tyne around Newcastle. During their quest, they discuss the meaning of Christmas with special guests Paul Gascoigne and Dr Anand Patel, while the Beautiful South’s Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott provide musical entertainment at the annual Gone Fishing work party. As ever, Paul and Bob’s quirky combination of honesty, warmth and wit keeps the riverbank merry and bright, with a still small voice of calm.

Worzel Gummidge

Tuesday 28 and Wednesday 29 December, 7.15pm, BBC One

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 04/12/2021 - Programme Name: Worzel Gummidge - TX: 28/12/2021 - Episode: Twitchers (No. 2) - Picture Shows: Lofty Mawkin (PHIL HULFORD), Rustle Sprouter (LUCAS BUTTON), Susan (INDIA BROWN), Worzel Gummidge (MACKENZIE CROOK), Earthy Mangold (FRANCESCA MILLS) - (C) Leopard Pictures Ltd - Photographer: Chris Harris
Lofty Mawkin, Rustle Sprouter, Susan and Worzel Gummidge team up in this classic show./Credit: Chris Harris/Leopard Pictures Ltd.

Mackenzie Crook’s lovable scarecrow is back with two tales to entertain the whole family this Christmas. In Twitchers, a flock of rare choughs appear at Scatterbrook Farm, bringing attention from a group of avid birdwatchers and the appearance of Mr B’s old rival, Lee Dangerman. In Calliope Jane, a travelling fair arrives in town, and rumours of a legendary enchanted organ that sends humans to sleep promise scarecrows the chance to attend the fair – but is the legend true, and can the scarecrows evade detection? With appearances from Bill Bailey and Steve Pemberton, these new instalments are sure to delight the household.

Attenborough and the Mammoth Graveyard

Thursday 30 December, 8pm, BBC One

Programme Name: Mammoths - TX: n/a - Episode: Mammoths (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: Sir David Attenborough, Ben Garron - (C) Windfall Films - Photographer: Julian Schwanitz
Sir David Attenborough and Professor Ben Garrod examine the mammoth remains./Credit: Julian Schwanitz/Windfall Films.

In 2017, a pair of amateur fossil hunters spotted the huge fossilised leg bone of a mammoth sticking out of a gravel quarry just outside Swindon. Their discovery led to the uncovering of an extraordinary Ice Age mammoth graveyard in this old prehistoric riverbed of the Thames, along with a stone hand-held Neanderthal axe. Could Neanderthals have killed these Ice Age giants? Keen fossil-hunter David Attenborough joins the dig as archaeologists and palaeontologists excavate the site and the team attempt to answer questions such as why the mammoths were here, and how they died.


Festive films set in the countryside

Robin Robin

Netflix, released on 24 November

Felt animals walk in the moonlight
Robin and her fellow felt-creature friends have a festive adventure. / Credit: Aardman Animations Aardman Animations

Gillian Anderson and Richard E Grant voice the cat and the magpie respectively in this charming Christmas tale about a robin who, after falling from the nest as an egg, is brought up by a family of mice. Although Robin does her best to mimic her adopted family's quiet-as-a-mouse skills, she has a tendency to cause chaos instead. In order to impress them, she sets out to steal the wishing star from the top of the humans' Christmas tree, alongside Grant's acquisitive magpie. This endearing Aardman stop-motion animation features beautifully crafted felt creatures in a heart-warming fable for all the family.

A Castle for Christmas

Netflix, released 24 November

Brooke Shields in the snow
Brooke Shields stars in this festive romance set in Scotland. Credit: Mark Mainz/Netflix Netflix

A holiday romance set in Scotland, A Castle for Christmas stars Brook Shields as an American author who falls in love with Dun Dunbar castle (Dalmeny House near Edinburgh) and clashes with its grumpy owner Duke Myles (played by Cary Elwes). A sweet and cheerful offering for those who like a fairly formulaic festive romance.


The magazine team's Christmas picks

The Snowman

Channel 4, 5pm, Christmas Eve and Channel 4, 3.55pm, Christmas Day

Boy and Snowman in sky
The Snowman / Credit: Channel 4 Channel 4

It wouldn’t be Christmas without The Snowman. This magical animation of Raymond Brigg’s book has delighted viewers since its release in 1982, becoming a staple of the festive season. This wordless tale of a small boy, who builds and befriends a Snowman, is famous for its soundtrack, performed by the Sinfonia of London. The film’s only words appear in the song ‘Walking in the Air’, sung by then-choirboy Peter Auty, which plays as the boy and the Snowman fly over the land. In just 26 minutes, this enchanting story warms hearts and leaves tears in our eyes. Simply lovely. Maria Hodson, production editor

Arthur Christmas

Amazon Prime / DVD

Animated characters on snow
Arthur Christmas / Credit: Sony Pictures Animation and Aardman Animations Sony Pictures Animation and Aardman Animations

From the makers of Wallace and Gromit, Arthur Christmas has become a firm family favourite and the first Christmas movie my boys always ask to watch. It features actors James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie and Bill Nighy and is a fun tale of Santa’s clumsy but kind-hearted son, who embarks on an exciting adventure to deliver a forgotten present to the small village of Trelew in Cornwall. The journey takes him on an epic mission across the world with his reckless grandad, a helpful elf and some very unruly reindeer. It’s a lovely, funny story for young or old! Tim Bates, art editor

Swallows and Amazons

Amazon Prime / DVD

Swallows and Amazons
Swallows and Amazons / Credit: BBC Films BBC Films

It's a treat to watch a warm-weather adventure during the cold, dark months and Arthur Ransome’s classic Lakeland adventure story, brilliantly reimagined for the screen in 2016, is a particular favourite. The Lakes in summer look idyllic, and the story is pacy and spiced with jeopardy. An excellent cast includes Andrew Scott, Rafe Spall, Kelly Macdonald, Jessica Hynes and Harry Enfield, and the kids are great too – including Orla Hill, Dane Hughes and Teddie-Rose Malleson-Allen as Tatty, discreetly renamed from the original novel. Joe Pontin, features editor

The 39 Steps

Amazon Prime or DVD

Madeleine Carroll and Robert Donat in The 39 Steps
Madeleine Carroll and Robert Donat in The 39 Steps / Credit: © 1935 Gaumont-British Picture Corporation © 1935 Gaumont-British Picture Corporation

Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 thriller is a wonderful winter watch thanks to its amazing (and tense) scenes in the Scottish Highlands. Robert Donat plays Richard Hannay, a Canadian civilian attempting to prevent a spy ring from stealing British military secrets, who becomes caught up with Madeleine Carroll’s Pamela as he flees to the Highlands. The cosiest most welcoming country hotel provides a brief firelit haven for our heroes as the ruthless baddies close in. Fergus Collins, BBC Countryfile Magazine editor


Best radio to tune into over Christmas 2021

Farming Today: Christmas Panto

Christmas Day, 6.30am, BBC Radio 4

People in pantomime outfits
Caenhill Countryside Centre prepares to stage its Christmas pantomime / Credit: BBC BBC

It’s Christmas Panto time at Marsh Farm. Wiltshire farmer Chris Franklin and his wife Helie have turned their former dairy farm in Devizes into a charitable centre for education, working with schools, care homes and community groups. Caenhill Countryside Centre has more than 300 animals, from poultry and pigs, to goats, sheep and cows, even emus. Every day, Chris – who is known worldwide as the “chatty farmer” – films his animals as he releases them into the farmyard. These videos have gone viral, with hundreds of thousands of people around the world watching the farm’s morning rush hour. This year, the farm team are putting on a Christmas panto, which they will share with viewers in more than 50 different countries. The old showbusiness adage says “never work with children or animals,” so how will this production fare?

Farming Today: Lake District Tweed

Tuesday 28 December, 6.30am, BBC Radio 4

Farmer with sheep
Farmer Maria Benjamin is hoping to boost the fortunes of the Lake District's wool producers. / Credit: BBC BBC

Caz Graham travels to Coniston Water to meet farmer Maria Benjamin and her flock of Castlemilk Moorit sheep, as well as farmer and knitter Sadie Edmondson, weaver Sheila Phillips and textile designer Louise Dixon. Sheep have been at the heart of Lake District farming for generations but their wool is worth next to nothing. With Lake District Tweed – Sustainably Hefted Cloth, Coniston farmer Maria Benjamin hopes to change that, by connecting the Lake District’s history and culture of wool production with contemporary Lakeland farming. Wool from farmers in 13 different Lakeland valleys is being used to weave individual valley tweeds with designs inspired by the unique characteristics of each valley, the lakes, the landscape, the geology and the former industry.

Open Country: Bright lights and bees at Blenheim

Thursday 23 December, 3pm, BBC Radio 4

Walker on a hill, field beyond
Explore the vast estate of Blenheim Palace / Credit: BBC Pictures BBC

Helen Mark explores Blenheim Palace, where 200 acres of parkland were landscaped by Capability Brown in the 18th century and are now recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The grounds are a Site of Special Scientific Interest and, earlier this year, a colony of a rare bees – surviving descendants of indigenous honeybees previously thought to be wiped out – was discovered in the ancient woodland. The estate is also trying to become carbon neutral through a new project taking place on its 12,000 acres of farmland. At dusk, Helen makes her way through the million sparkling lights and lasers of Blenheim’s illuminated trail.

Open Country: Reflections and Connections

Thursday 30 December, 3pm, BBC Radio 4

Gentle waves on the shore
Reflect on the new year in nature / Credit: BBC Pictures BBC
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Join a wildlife cameraman, a sea swimmer, a poet and a professional tree climber as they reflect on the local landscape on the cusp of a new year. As they consider sea, loch, rocky beach and woodland, musings include a new understanding of home to the discovery of one’s real self. Inspiring, insightful and powerful reflections as we venture into 2022.

Authors

Maria Hodson is a production editor at BBC Countryfile Magazine. When not running around after a three-year-old, Maria loves all things wild and watery, from surfing and swimming to paddle-boarding and kayaking.

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