Doctor Who, Call the Midwife and Mrs Brown’s Boys are among the shows that will be in this year’s Christmas TV schedule, the BBC has revealed.
It has been “a real struggle” to make the usual range of festive shows during Covid, the BBC’s Charlotte Moore said.
But, she added, the stars and crews “pulled out all the stops”.
“Some of the big talent and the production teams have rallied together, and we feel it’s really important to have a good Christmas.”
The BBC’s Christmas TV line-up includes special episodes The Goes Wrong Show, Ghosts, Not Going Out, King Gary, Motherland and the return of The Vicar of Dibley.
Miranda Hart will host a one-off celebrity game show, and there will be Christmas editions of shows ranging from The Repair Shop and The Great British Sewing Bee to The Hit List, The Wall and Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing.
The vast majority have been filmed under Covid restrictions.
“Trying to work out what we could actually manage to pull off for Christmas… I can’t pretend it’s been relaxing or without its challenges,” said Moore, who is the BBC’s chief content officer.
Doctor Who: Revolution of the Daleks, in which John Barrowman returns as Captain Jack Harkness to help the Doctor battle her age-old enemies, was one of the few to have been filmed before coronavirus struck.
Executive producer Chris Chibnall promised “an epic and emotional feature-length episode”.
Call the Midwife, another perennial favourite, was among the shows that had to be shot after the first UK lockdown. “We were so relieved when they sent me a picture of them finishing production,” Moore said.
“With some shows it’s been easier than others to get talent and everyone together, and with some shows it’s taken a lot of effort. But I sensed a real camaraderie to make this happen.”
The pandemic interrupted filming for two major drama series, requiring “herculean efforts” in the editing room, Moore said.
One was Black Narcissus, which stars Gemma Arterton as a nun in the Himalayas in the 1930s and Dame Diana Rigg in her final role.
The other, The Serpent, stars Jenna Coleman in the real-life story of the unsolved murders of young Western travellers in India, Thailand and Nepal in the 1970s. It completed its filming after the first lockdown.
But some shows proved impossible in the current conditions. The Strictly Come Dancing Christmas special will be a compilation of the 25 most memorable dances of all time, rather than the usual dancefloor contest, for example.
Last year’s biggest ratings hit was the return of Gavin and Stacey. Moore said a follow-up had never been planned for this Christmas. “That wasn’t something that was going to happen this year,” she said. “One day.”
Other highlights this year will include:
- William Shakespeare will be in lockdown in comedy Upstart Crow, set in plague-hit London in 1603
- A one-off comedy, Pandemonium, stars Katherine Parkinson and Alison Steadman as a family who were forced to cancel their holiday of a lifetime to California, so go on holiday to Margate in December instead
- There will be special editions of Michael McIntyre’s new game show The Wheel plus Blankety Blank, hosted by Bradley Walsh, and a celebrity edition of Danny Dyer’s The Wall
- Masterchef will have two outings – one with celebrities and one with professionals – while Mary Berry Saves Christmas
- For children, there will be Worzel Gummidge, Zog and the Flying Doctors, The Dumping Ground – Sasha Claus and Christmas in Storyland, and festive episodes of The Dog Ate My Homework and Crackerjack
- The Royal Opera and the Royal Ballet will both stage All Star Galas, to be shown on BBC Four
- With church services limited, Sunday Worship will run for six weeks, and there will be the usual Carols from King’s
- The star-studded Big New Year’s In will see in 2021 on New Year’s Eve
Moore added: “It’s been a real struggle but I think people have really wanted to make sure these shows could get on air.”