A chance to spend extended time with the family. Children playing with their toys. Neighbours popping round for some festive cheer. Christmas can be a nightmare. Fortunately, there is one thing that makes it bearable (other than industrial quantities of cooking brandy) and that is Christmas TV.
With busy modern life, Sky Plus and time-shift TV, Christmas is the one time where the nation really is still gathered around the TV watching the same things, making festive programming part of the national conversation as it was a generation ago.
We relive some of our favourite shared Christmas experiences…
Christmas TV wouldn’t be Christmas TV without… A Soap Shocker
EastEnders’ Tiffany being mowed down by Frank, Hilda leaving the Street and even Doctor Clive’s dream sequence in ‘Neighbours’ were fine festive soap highlights, but they are all playing for second behind the 1986 ‘EastEnders’ Christmas Special. In one of soap’s most legendary (and, erm, depressing) scenes, Den served unfaithful drunken wife Angie with divorce papers as 30.5 million watched, gripped. It’s always nice to know there’s someone worse off than yourself at Christmas, even if they are fictional.
[Related: A guide to Christmas in soap-land]
Christmas TV wouldn’t be Christmas TV without… Bond
The turkey has been eaten. Drink has been taken. The family are gathered around the television. A much-beloved Bond adventure is eagerly anticipated – perhaps one of the modern, exciting ones, or a stylish romp from days gone by. There will be cars, and baddies, and thrilling chases, and girls. “The name’s Bond. James Bon—SNORE SNORE SNORE”. Oh great. Another Christmas 007 ruined by an elderly relative snoring and snorting all the way through.
Christmas TV wouldn’t be Christmas TV without… A Feelgood Sitcom
Maybe the hardest TV trick of them all is to create a sitcom with plenty of laughs and a heart: ‘Modern Family’ is the only one on TV currently pulling it off, following in the footsteps of ‘Father Ted, ‘Only Fools And Horses’ and, more surprisingly, ‘The Office’. And the “awww” becomes as important as the laughter at Christmas. Seeing Ted and the priests in the lingerie department, Del Boy and Rodney finally become “miwllionaires” and Dawn plant one on Tim just when things seemed hopeless delivered the big laughs and the warm feeling that only a beloved comedy can pull off.
[Related: Top 10 Christmas cracker jokes]
Christmas TV wouldn’t be Christmas TV without… Animation
All over the country, for many years now, many an adult has stuck the kids down in front of ‘Wallace And Gromit’, ‘Shrek’ or ‘The Snowman’, and stayed to watch “just five minutes”. An hour later, captivated and, in the case of ‘The Snowman’, blubbing their eyes out, the adult decides that in the future, all television should be drawn with pencils and aimed at children, even ones old enough to need a few sherries to get through until to lunchtime.
Christmas TV wouldn’t be Christmas TV without… The Queen’s speech
It always looks so civilised at Her Majesty’s, doesn’t it? No fighting over the remote control, drunken recriminations, turkey barking. Presumably they must keep Prince Harry on a tight leash, at least until the Head Of State has delivered her Christmas message. Whatever you think about the Royals, it’s hard not to admire Elizabeth II’s calm and often quietly forceful speeches, for many people, essential Christmas appointment viewing.
Christmas TV wouldn’t be Christmas TV without… Eric and Ernie
Back in the days when there wasn’t much else to do but watch TV on Christmas Day, the comedy titans Morecambe And Wise ruled the airwaves on December 25th. With the exception of 1974, they had a Christmas Special every year from 1969 to 1980, giving Britain some of its most beloved comedy moments, including 1976’s hilarious ‘Singing In The Rain’ and perhaps their best loved of all, Grieg’s Piano Concerto with Andre Previn in 1971.
[Related: The most unhealthy Christmas dinner ever?]
Christmas TV wouldn’t be Christmas TV without… Doctor Who
The big Christmas Day movie premieres have long been a disappointment – how many people haven’t already seen this year’s Channel 4 ‘Fellowship Of The Ring’ offering, for instance? – but since the 2005 reboot, ‘The Doctor Who Christmas Special’ has been essential viewing for fresh, exciting family drama. 2005’s Christmas invasion set the tone with the introduction of David Tennant as the tenth Doctor, while Kylie guest-starring in ‘Voyage Of The Damned’ and ‘The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe’ were instant Christmas classics.
What are your favourite Christmas telly memories? Tweet them to us #YxmasTV