Best TV Guide: What to Watch over the Festive Period

I love this time of year when I don’t feel guilty for watching TV in the afternoon. And this year there is so much on offer from both terrestrial TV and streaming services.

Paramount Plus

The Flatshare

This one is at the top of my best TV guide because my husband and I loved it. Just the right amount of ‘rom(ance) and com(edy)’ plus a good story and a great cast. Well worth watching.

Yellowstone – Season 5

My mini-obsession is this series. Maybe it is Kevin Costner or the character Rip, played by Cole Hauser, but whilst it is brutal, it is also a great family drama. And the bonus is that it is beautifully filmed in Montana and it might make you want to visit but for the guns!

Let Him Go (film)

A retired sheriff and his wife, grieving over the death of their son, set out to find their only grandson. It stars Diane Lane, Kevin Costner, and Lesley Manville – yes, KC is back playing a cowboy in this American neo-Western.

ITVX

ITV is replacing the ITV Hub with ITVX – the UK’s freshest streaming service with over 10,000 hours of free programming.

Launching on Thursday, 8 December. Unlike Netflix, however, it is free to watch (or you can press the homepages’s “upgrade-to-premium” button to pay £5.99 a month for no ads). Along with classic series and films galore, the new service will premiere exclusive new series that won’t turn up in the traditional ITV1 schedule for another six months.

Litvinenko – 15th December

This is the true story of the determined Scotland Yard Officers who worked to prove who was responsible for the death of the former Russian spy, Alexander Litvinenko, in one of the most complex and dangerous investigations in the history of the Metropolitan Police. It stars David Tennant.

A Spy Among Friends

A classy six-parter based on Ben MacIntyre’s book about Nicholas Elliott and Kim Philby, spies and friends for 23 years before the latter’s treachery was revealed. Their friendship is told in flashback as Elliott is interviewed about it all in 1963. And Damian Lewis, as Elliott, and Guy Pearce, as Philby, are at the top of their game, showing the very personal impact of Philby’s betrayal of his country. Conducted through a veneer of old-fashioned public-school reserve.

Without Sin – ITVX 28th December

Between Christmas and New Year, look out for the new four-part thriller, Without Sin, on ITV’s new streaming service, ITVX. Starring Vicky McClure, the psychological drama tells the story of a grieving mother, who makes a shocking discovery when she visits her daughter’s killer in prison. The series was written and filmed in Nottingham, from where McClure comes. She says: ‘I just really hope that the audience will enjoy, if they’re not from Nottingham, to see the city in all its glory. And then for those that are locals: it’s a big show, it’s a great show, it’s set here and it’s for the city.’

BBC 1

The Boy, The Mole, The Fox And The Horse

One to watch with the grandchildren.

When Charlie Mackesy published his heart-warming illustrated story in 2019, it stayed on the bestseller lists for over 100 weeks. This Christmas, it comes to the small screen. ‘The journey of making the film of The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse with my ridiculously talented and kind animation team has been a magical one,’ said Mackesy. ‘It’s so great to think the story will be in the nation’s homes this Christmas – and I really hope it helps bring comfort, love and laughter.

Strike – Troubled Blood

The latest four-parter, based on Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling), has the private detectives drawn into a cold case about a woman who went missing in 1974, which allows for 1970s flashbacks and the usual cans of worms opened up everywhere.

Call the Midwife – Christmas 2022 Special

 The Christmas 2022 special will air on the big day itself (Sunday 25th December) at 7:55pm. (BBC One and BBC iPlayer). It will run for 1 hour and 29 minutes.

It is December 1967, and Christmas is fast approaching. Life in Poplar is returning to normal after the terrible train crash.

The midwives move the maternity clinic into new premises. They are delighted when one of their first patients through the door is Rhoda Mullocks, who the team know well. However, Rhoda is heavily pregnant and understandably nervous after her last baby was born with limbs affected by Thalidomide.

Nurse Crane cares for a heavily pregnant single mother, recently released from prison, while Sister Frances is called out to deliver a Sylheti mother’s child in a garment factory in a rough area of Poplar.

Meanwhile, Fred decides that Poplar needs to come together to raise money for those families still affected by the train crash and pitches the wonderful idea of a festive talent show – Poplartunity Knocks!

THE ENGLISH

This is an elegantly made western. If you liked 1883 (reviewed HERE in my last Best TV guide), you will enjoy this series. Slow to start but persevere. You could summarize it as the characters move from one part of America to another with things happening in between. In this case, it’s Cornelia (Emily blunt) looking to revenge for the death of her son.

HAPPY VALLEY SEASON 3 – 1ST JAN 2023

The third and final season sees Sergeant Catherine Cawood (Sarah Lancashire) discover the remains of a gangland murder victim in a drained reservoir. This sparks an unfortunate series of events that leads her to Tommy, the father of her grandson Ryan and her late daughter’s rapist.

Channel 4

I am Ruth

This is the latest in the I Am… series of films and it could be the most gut-wrenching yet. Kate Winslet plays the loving middle-class mum Ruth. She is worried about her depressed teenager, Freya, played by Winslet’s daughter, Mia Threapleton. Both performances are superb studies of gnawing fear, frustration and misery.

Seaside Hotel Season 4 (More4)

This nostalgic period drama WALTER PRESENTS: SEASIDE HOTEL returns for a sumptuously sunny season 4!

Don’t be fooled by the dreamy landscape in which Walter Presents, Seaside Hotel Season 4. It is set as more deliciously dark secrets are uncovered this season.

It’s summer 1931 by the North Sea and Fie is now in charge of daily management at the hotel. The newspapers are full of articles about the world crisis, but this doesn’t stop regulars from flooding in. The idyllic bathing hotel welcomes some regulars intending to escape the chaos. Fie’s younger sister Ane arrives at the hotel after being fired by the priest’s wife. She starts to work at the hotel but makes a number of unfortunate mistakes which have uncomfortable consequences.

Mrs Aurlands seeks childcare from her son’s biological father, Mr Weyse, which unexpectedly affects the otherwise self-absorbed actor. Two of the maids fall ill. Subsequently, a fear arises among the staff that there is something sinister in the hotel food. And relationships blossom between a few unlikely pairings…

This charming series is the perfect show to combat winter blues. It remains one of the highest rating series on Denmark’s TV2. This is no surprise considering the show won the Audience Award at the Danish Film Awards 2020.

APPLE TV

Bad Sisters

Bad Sisters (originally titled Emerald) is an Irish black comedy television series. After their brother-in-law, John Paul, dies under unexpected circumstances, the Garvey sisters – Eva, Grace (Anne-Marie Duff), Ursula, Bibi and Becka – find themselves at the center of a life insurance investigation. The series flips between timelines – one before John Paul’s death, in which Eva, Ursula, Bibi and Becka plot to murder John Paul for his treatment of Grace, and one after John Paul’s death, in which a determined insurance agent tries to prove the sisters’ malicious involvement to save his struggling business. 

Slow Horses Season 2

This quick-witted spy drama follows a dysfunctional team of MI5 agents and their obnoxious boss, the notorious Jackson Lamb (Gary Oldman), as they navigate the espionage world’s smoke and mirrors to defend England from sinister forces. It’s always entertaining: odd as they may be, these Slow Horses are a cut above regular spies. And as for Lamb he is rude, actively unhelpful and looking like he has been sleeping in the same clothes since last Tuesday – a tang of fags, whisky, old sweat and dry coffee breath nearly radiates out of the screen. Well worth watching. But do watch Season 1 first.

NETFLIX

The Swimmers (film)

There is nothing frivolous about this hard-hitting new weep fest from Working Title. Based on real events, it follows two talented young Syrian sisters as they escape their war-torn country to pursue an Olympic dream. Thanks to their combined tenacity, one ends up competing at Rio 2016. The New York Times calls it ‘an inspirational (but rarely sugar-coated) crowd-pleaser’.

The Good Nurse (film)

This is a 2022 American drama film starring Jessica Chastain and Eddie Redmayne and features the serial killer Charles Cullen and the fellow nurse who suspects him. The film is based on the 2013 true-crime book of the same name by Charles Graeber.

In 2003, Amy Loughren is a single mother and nurse working in the intensive care unit (ICU) at Parkfield Memorial Hospital in New Jersey, who is suffering from cardiomyopathy, unbeknownst to anyone at the hospital, and fears dismissal. Due to having no health insurance, Amy has no other choice than to remain working for another four months, in order to acquire the insurance to afford a heart transplant. The hospital recruits experienced nurse Charles Cullen to help her work the night shifts, and they quickly become good friends. Charlie discovers her condition and empathetically agrees to keep it a secret.

When an elderly patient named Ana Martinez, who was being looked after by Amy and Charlie, suddenly dies, the hospital’s administrative board contacts the state police.

Falling for Christmas (film)

Who doesn’t love a frivolous and cheesy rom-com at Christmastime? In this Netflix corker, a spoilt little rich girl, played by Lindsay Lohan, goes on a redemptive journey and ditches her ghastly fiancé during a swanky yuletide skiing holiday.

Evening (film)

This is a film from 2007 but highly recommended by one of our readers.

The film alternates between the 1950s and the present, in which a dying Ann Grant Lord (Vanessa Redgrave) reflects on her past. Her comments about people she never mentioned before leave her daughters, Constance (Natasha Richardson) and Nina (Toni Collette), wondering if she is delusional.

The Watcher

Netflix’s The Watcher has gripped viewers with its chilling suburban tale.

The series stars Naomi Watts and Bobby Cannavale as a couple terrorised by a creepy stalker called The Watcher.

The true story behind Netflix thriller The Watcher dates back to 2014 when Derek and Maria Broaddus, who had three young children, purchased their dream home at 657 Boulevard in Westfield, New Jersey. However, things quickly devolved when the family were targeted by The Watcher, who terrorised them with a series of ominous letters.

Knives Out (film) 23rd December

When renowned crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is found dead at his estate just after his 85th birthday, the inquisitive and debonair Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is mysteriously enlisted to investigate. From Harlan’s disfunctional family to his devoted staff, Blanc sifts through a web of red herrings and self-serving lies to uncover the truth behind Harlan’s untimely death.

The Recruit – 16th December

Owen Hendricks, a young CIA lawyer whose first week on the job turns upside down when he discovers a threatening letter by former asset Max Meladze, who plans to expose the agency unless they exonerate her of a serious crime. Owen quickly becomes entangled in a dangerous and often absurd world of power politics and mischievous players, as he travels the world in hopes of completing his assignment and making a mark at the CIA.

Emily in Paris season 3 – 23rd December

Season 3 will continue to follow Emily’s escapades through a foreign country as she tries to balance all aspects of her professional, romantic, and personal life. Here’s the official Season 3 synopsis courtesy of Netflix: “One year after moving from Chicago to Paris for her dream job, Emily finds herself at a crucial crossroads in every aspect of her life. Faced with two very different paths, Emily will have to decide exactly where her loyalties lie – at work and in her romantic life – and what those decisions mean for her future in France, all while continuing to immerse herself in the adventures and surprising twists and turns that life in Paris provides.”

Some light viewing, fabulous fashion and wonderful Paris scenery. A good break from the more intense TV series.

AMAZON PRIME

Your Christmas or Mine? (film)

It’s Christmas Eve-Eve. After waving goodbye in Marlyebone Station, new lovers Hayley and James can’t bear to be apart for Christmas, so both decide to surprise each other and unwittingly swap trains by mistake. The snow begins to fall and with it they realise they are trapped with each other’s family for the whole of Christmas. Will their love survive as their secrets get unwrapped?

Fantastic cast – Daniel Mays, Harriet Walter, Angela Griffin, Alex Jennings. Just the thing for a cold December afternoon, curled up on the sofa under a rug.

Living

A Bill Nighy film is always good entertainment and this one is definitely a great one. So if this weather continues and you can’t get to the cinema, this film is coming to Amazon Prime.

And there ends my bumper guide to Christmas viewing. Some of it may not be the ‘best’ TV but it is a guide only. Enjoy the holidays and see you in the New Year for some amazing new series for 2023.

You can read our previous good viewing guides here