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BBC’s Christmas 2017 highlights announced

PUBLISHED: 08:50 29 November 2017 | UPDATED: 08:50 29 November 2017

The Miniaturist is the BBC's big budget drama for Christmas 2017 (C) BBC

The Miniaturist is the BBC's big budget drama for Christmas 2017 (C) BBC

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From Little Women to French and Saunders, Alan Partridge to The Miniaturist, the BBC has some Christmas crackers this year.

The Sweet Makers at Christmas - did you know Terry's Chocolate Orange started life as a Chocolate Apple? (C) BBC The Sweet Makers at Christmas - did you know Terry's Chocolate Orange started life as a Chocolate Apple? (C) BBC

The BBC has revealed its festive line-up for 2017 and there are some Christmas crackers to be found amidst the usual selection box of festive specials.

As with all things in life, one must take the rough with the smooth – so for the two Mrs Brown’s Boys episodes (neither of which are likely to include plotlines about alleged tax avoidance schemes) that we are about to receive, we can instead feel grateful for the three new episodes of the League of Gentlemen and the return of Norfolk’s finest, Alan Partridge, in a special called Why, When, Where, How and Whom?

300 Years of French & Saunders - Dawn and Jennifer may be exaggerating a tiny bit (C) BBC 300 Years of French & Saunders - Dawn and Jennifer may be exaggerating a tiny bit (C) BBC

And with the bad news that Charlie Brooker is unable to meet the deadlines for his fabulous Screen Wipe (“was set to do it, but I ran out of road,” he tweeted) is the good news that he has managed to deliver Cunk on Britain starring the marvellous Philomena Cunk (Diane Morgan, latterly seen as Liz on Motherland) in a new five-part satire series about our lovely nation.

The big-budget Agatha Christie drama – Ordeal by Innocence – has been dropped after its star Ed Westwick faces sexual assault claims that he denies but The Miniaturist is set to be a festive blockbuster with a high-budget adaptation of Jessie Burton’s fantastic novel set to air over Christmas as is a brand new drama with Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women and a gritty global thriller, McMafia, inspired by Misha Glenny’s bestselling book and starring James Norton.

Tubbs and Edward get dressed up for The League of Gentlemen Anniversary Edition(C) BBC Tubbs and Edward get dressed up for The League of Gentlemen Anniversary Edition(C) BBC

There’s animated adventure and family fun in the form of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s The Highway Rat and David Walliams’ Grandpa’s Great Escape in addition to a host of Christmas specials from familiar BBC1 favourites such as Call the Midwife, Doctor Who and EastEnders.

Other highlights include Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Saunders learning about their favourite tipple in Absolutely Champers, McIntyre’s Big Christmas Show, Pointless Celebrities and Celebrity Mastermind, Mary Berry’s Christmas Party, Not Going Out, Tim Vine Travels Through Time, Still Open All Hours, Top of the Pops and Gospel Christmas.

Peter Capaldi's swansong in Doctor Who -  Twice Upon a Time (C) BBC/BBC Worldwide Peter Capaldi's swansong in Doctor Who - Twice Upon a Time (C) BBC/BBC Worldwide

And talking of Ms Saudners, she’ll be back to celebrate 30 years of performing with comedy partner Dawn French as the pair reunite a decade after their last on-screen collaboration for a special of their classic sketch series French and Saunders. The pair have promised to spoof a variety of modern film and television including The Handmaid’s Tale and reality shows such as Geordie Shore and Love Island.

If you’re feeling peckish, there will be plenty of festive food inspiration as Nigella’s Christmas Table heads to the countryside while Mary Berry opens her kitchen up to some of TV’s best-loved faces in Mary Berry’s Christmas Party. Three quarters of the original Great British Bake Off presenting line-up will also be back on the box as Mary reunites with Mel and Sue in a Big Christmas Thank You as the trio sprinkle some festive magic on a well-deserving community in South Wales.

Mrs Brown's Boys (C) BBC Mrs Brown's Boys (C) BBC

From candy canes and yule logs to Christmas cakes, there are more delicious treats being served up as Gregg Wallace, Cherry Healey and Ruth Goodman explore 24 hour production at a cake factory in Inside the Factory and treats of Christmas past are recreated by four modern confectioners in delicious time-travelling cook show The Sweet Makers.

Six celebrities from previous series take to the floor in the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special after the nation has chosen its champion for 2017 in the Strictly Come Dancing Grand Final, and more winners will be crowned with Sports Personality of the Year and The Apprentice Final.

After last year’s hilarious Peter Pan Goes Wrong, the Olivier Award-winning Mischief Theatre Company returns with their take on Dickens’ famous festive fable in A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong. The arts are celebrated this festive season with Darcey Bussell: Looking for Fred Astaire alongside Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella, Puccini’s La Bohème and Bruno Tonioli celebrating the 40th anniversary of Saturday Night Fever.

In natural history programming, Gordon Buchanan travels to the frozen north, deep inside the Arctic Circle, in The Reindeer Family and Me and Snow Bears follows polar bear cubs as they learn how to survive in their frozen world. Dame Judi Dench embarks on a magical journey to uncover the mysteries about one of her greatest passions – trees – while in the World’s Weirdest Winter, we meet snowboarding crows, risk-taking penguins and snownados that come from nowhere.

If all that isn’t enough…there’s also a tribute to Victoria Wood in an extended episode of Our Friend Victoria, a 90-minute Slow TV special revealing animal behaviour on land, sea and sky in Wild Wanderings: Turtle, Eagle, Cheetah, Star Wars super-fan and David Whiteley will be telling the story of how the most famous galaxy in movie history was created just off the M25 and there will be spotlights on Elvis and Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise.

And of course, there will be Carols from King’s on Christmas Eve and the Queen’s Christmas Message will be broadcast on Christmas Day. Some things must never change.

Five highlights from the BBC Christmas 2017 schedules:

1) The League of Gentleman: Marking the 20th anniversary of the show’s debut on the BBC, Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton, Reece Shearsmith and Jeremy Dyson are back to breathe new life into the strange inhabitants of Royston Vasey in three episodes of the comedy which is darker than tar-covered liquorice in a black hole. We can look forward to catching up with the toad loving Dentons, Tubbs and Edward who run the “local shop for local people” and the marvellous Legz Akimbo, the cringeworthy school drama troupe with their finger firmly off the teenage pulse. Fingers crossed we’ll also be crossing paths with demonic carnival ringmaser Papa Lazarou and his many wives called Dave, Herr Lipp the German school teacher, Hilary Briss the butcher who sold addictive meat from an unknown source and sadistic Job Centre trainer Pauline. It’ll be great to welcome Alan Partridge back, too.

2) The Galaxy That Britain Built: One of the nicest men in the news business stars and directs a show close to his heart, about his beloved Star Wars. May the force be with him.3) Little Women: I loved this book as a child, even though I will never forgive Louisa May Alcott for not letting Theodore ‘Laurie’ Laurence end up with the fabulous Jo March (he married annoying Amy instead). The BBC has adapted the book from the 1860s into a three-part series starring Michael Gambon (Mr Laurence), Angela Lansbury (Aunt March), Emily Watson (Marmee March), Maya Hawke (Jo), Willa Fitzgerald (Meg), Annes Elwy (Beth) and Kathryn Newton (Amy). Jonah Hauer-King will play Laurie.

4) The Miniaturist: Set in 1686, 18 year-old Nella Oortman knocks at the door of a grand house in the wealthiest quarter of Amsterdam. Full of hopes and dreams, she has come from the country to begin a new life as the wife of wealthy merchant, Johannes Brandt. But instead of Johannes, she’s met by his cold sister Marin and quickly realises that nothing is as it seems in the Brandt household. When Johannes finally appears he presents her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a doll’s house replica of their home. It is to be furnished by an elusive miniaturist, whose tiny creations mirror what is happening within the house in unexpected ways and seem to be predicting and unravelling the future with unsettling accuracy. The book is great, the TV adaptation looks really promising.

5) Doctor Who: It’s time for Peter Capaldi’s epic final journey and we’ll see him reunited with companion Bill as they team up with the first ever Doctor to battle the enchanted glass people before he regenerates into the 13th Doctor – Jodie Whittaker - in the Doctor Who Christmas special. Capaldi has been fantastic – the Doctor is dead, long live the Doctor.

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