If there’s one element of Christmas I have always loved, even as a kid, it was getting the bumper two week Christmas and New Year edition of Radio Times and highlighting all the TV specials and festive episodes of favourite shows I wanted to watch – many of which have become evergreen favourites of mine to watch again and again once December arrives.
In today’s blog, I’m bringing you my all time favourite Christmas TV specials that I hope you’ll make part of your annual festive traditions like they are mine. So pass us the Celebrations tub, and pour another sherry as you get comfy in front of this lot…
- FATHER TED – A Christmassy Ted (Channel 4, 1996)
One of the funniest shows to come out of Ireland in the 90s, this sitcom about a hapless group of disgraced priests on the fictional Craggy Island delivered with bells on for its hour long festive outing in 1996.
After helping to avoid a public scandal when he and a team of fellow priests get stuck in Ireland’s biggest lingerie department store, Ted finds himself honoured with the Golden Cleric Award for his services to being a priest. But who is the strange visitor that has arrived for the ceremony? And does Mrs Doyle remember his name?
Still full of side splitting humour, this episode even saw a hilarious cameo from Stephen Tompkinson and Dervla Kirwan in their roles as Father Peter Clifford and Assumpta from the BBC’s parochial drama Ballykissangel in Ted’s dream sequence.
- VICTORIA WOOD – With All The Trimmings (BBC, 2000)
I only rediscovered this one after the comedic legend sadly passed away last year – but I do remember it fondly from when this aired on BBC One for the first Christmas of the new millennium.
A brilliant collection of sketches – including parodies of Brassed Off, Jane McDonald in The Cruise and A Christmas Carol – this special climaxes with an utterly bizarre but brilliant song and dance about the person everyone’s waiting for on Christmas Day – Anne Widdecombe, apparently…
- FRIENDS – The One With the Holiday Armadillo (Warner Bros Television, 2000)
Everyone’s favourite Friends had many a great Christmas episode – but this is arguably one that’s essential viewing every year for me, and one that I don’t doubt parents everywhere can relate to.
Ross is keen to teach his son Ben about the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, but finds getting a Santa costume to surprise him with three days before Christmas nigh on impossible. So he has to resort the next best thing – an appearance as the ‘Holiday Armadillo’, who is ‘Santa’s part Jewish representative for all the Southern States’. But then Chandler walks in dressed as Santa – and that’s where the trouble begins…
- MIRANDA – The Perfect Christmas (BBC, 2010)
The closing episode of her second series, Miranda Hart is on fine Yuletide form, as she attempts to try and escape from the Christmas holidays with her ever interfering mother Penny (and her Christmas organizational charts. Happy face) and her inherently clumsy father Charles (played brilliantly by guest star Tom Conti).
It also details her frustration with that most modern of festive admin – fest-min, if you will – as she orders her Christmas presents for Stevie, Gary and the others online, only to continually miss their delivery for a depot card…
- THE VICAR OF DIBLEY – The Christmas Lunch Incident (BBC, 1996)
The first of four hilarious festive specials in the show’s 10 year run, this sees Dawn French as the Reverend Geraldine Granger and the gang – David, Hugo, Alice, Jim, Frank and Owen – at arguably their hilarious festive best.
As she finds herself delivering a Christmas Day sermon comparing the Virgin Mary with the Spice Girls (and insisting that Jesus is not Noel Edmonds), the Vicar finds her patience and kindness tested to the limits, when she agrees to attend three separate Christmas lunches. And that’s before Owen has served her up tripe…