What's on TV and radio this Christmas?
From His Dark Materials to Detectorists, there's a wealth of top-notch programming to enjoy over the festive period. Here's what to watch on TV and radio over Christmas 2022
Whether you revel in the antics of the spirited residents of Button House in Ghosts, or delight in the Dickensian drama of Great Expectations, the programming over Christmas and New Year 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.
We will continue to update this article as more detailed programme schedules are released.
Best TV to watch over Christmas 2022
Sunday 18 December, 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.
Countryfile: New Year Customs and Traditions
Tuesday 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.
With Olivia Colman as wealthy recluse Miss Havisham, Fionn Whitehead as Pip and Matt Berry as Mr Pumblechook, Great Expectations is a rich Christmas adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic coming-of-age story of an orphan, nicknamed Pip, whose life is transformed by a mysterious benefactor. The action moves from the wild marshes of Kent to the fine houses of London, as Pip grows from impoverished boy to wealthy gentleman.
His Dark Materials
From 18 December, 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.
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse
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
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.
Ghosts Christmas Special
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
The metal-detecting duo of Lance (Toby Jones) and Andy (Mackenzie Crook, above) return for more treasure-hunting misadventures in the mellow golden fields of Suffolk. Written and directed by Crook, this feature-length special is filmed in part at Framlingham Castle. Follow in their footsteps with our favourite walks in Suffolk.
Mortimer and Whitehouse: Gone Fishing Christmas Special
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
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.
Mary Berry’s Ultimate Christmas
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.
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Best radio to tune into over Christmas 2022
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
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.
The magazine team's Christmas picks
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. Raymond Briggs set the book in East Sussex, his home at the time, with the boy and snowman are seen flying over Brighton. In just 26 minutes, this enchanting story warms hearts and brings tears to eyes. Simply lovely. Maria Hodson, production editor
Amazon Prime / DVD
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
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.
Swallows and Amazons
Amazon Prime / DVD
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
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
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.