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Christmas TV Guide 2021: our top festive picks for the holidays

We're feeling spoilt for choice!

tv guide xmas
Francesca Shillcock
Francesca ShillcockSenior TV & Film Writer
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It's the most wonderful time of the year... to sit on the sofa and watch telly. We love nothing more than marking our diaries for all of the best TV shows to look out for over the holiday period.

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Christmas Day is often hailed as the best day for television, however, there's plenty to watch in the lead up to the big day, as well as in the run-up to the New Year when you're not sure what day it is or just how many pigs in blanket you've eaten.

If you're feeling overwhelmed with choice, fear not television lovers. We've hand-picked some of the very best shows that are unmissable. From BBC's brand new dramas, to a big new Hollywood movie on Netflix – here's what you need to watch.

WATCH: The Girl Before - see the official BBC trailer

Shows for the lead up to Christmas

The Girl Before – BBC, 19 December, 9pm

We're loving the number of good dramas on at the moment and The Girl Before is next on our list. The new psychological series is based on the novel of the same name and stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw and David Oyelowo – so it's bound to be good.

the girl before© Photo: BBC

The Girl Before is going to be the drama everyone is talking about

Joe Lycett Live: Mummy's Big Christmas Do – Channel 4, 22 December, 10pm

Christmas is about having some laughs and Joe Lycett's live special is one to turn to when you're in need of some good comedy. The 90-minute episode will see the presenter and stand-up comedian host a festive house party in his hometown with some special guests.

MORE: The ultimate guide of cheesy films to enjoy this holiday season

joe lycett© Photo: Channel 4

Joe Lycett is hosting a festive party

Emily in Paris – Netflix, 22 December

She's back. Emily Cooper (Lily Collins) returns for her next adventure around the City of Lights. This time, she's trying to focus more on work and less on love (good luck with that) and she meets a fellow expat who both infuriates and intrigues her – sign us up.

emily in paris© Photo: Netflix

Emily in Paris is coming back for season two

Christmas Eve

Bradley and Barney Walsh: Breaking Dad at Christmas – ITV Christmas Eve, 9pm

The Chase's Bradley Walsh son Barney are set to return with more adventures for their Breaking Dad series. The father and son are off to Iceland – get ready for fantastic landscapes and some laughs.

MORE: Stephen Merchant talks frozen turkey, Samuel L. Jackson's love for The Office and A Boy Called Christmas

MORE: What the child stars of Love Actually look like now

breaking dad xmas© Photo: ITV

Bradley and Barney Walsh are heading to Iceland for their Christmas episode

Don't Look Up – Netflix

DiCaprio. Lawrence. Chalamet. Perry. Streep. Need we continue? This cast is so star-studded it's blinding. Don't Look Up lands on Christmas Eve and we cannot wait. It tells the story of two astronomers who try to convince the rest of the world that a comet set to destroy Earth is on its way. Casual.

dont look up netflix© Photo: Netflix

We're so excited to watch Don't Look Up

Christmas Day

The Masked Singalong – ITV, 6pm

Feeling impatient for the new series? Then make sure you check out The Masked Singalong on Christmas Day. It's the perfect show to switch on with the whole family as you all try and guess which celebs are behind the wacky costumes.

masked singer new costume© Photo: ITV

The Masked Singer is also doing its own festive episode

Call the Midwife – BBC One, 8pm

Is there anything more Christmassy than Call the Midwife? The festive special promises more touching moments from our beloved nurses at Nonnatus House, including the return of Miriam Margolyes as Sister Mildred. You'll need tissues for this one.

call midwife xmas© Photo: BBC

It isn't Christmas without Call the Midwife

Strictly Come Dancing – BBC One, 5.10pm

The Strictly finale for the current series is sadly approaching but we can look forward to more ballroom bliss on Christmas Day for the special. Look out for familiar faces including Bake Off's Mel Giedroyc and The Repair Shop's Jay Blades.

MORE: Martine McCutcheon's top 10 festive film and TV recommendations

strictly xmas© Photo: BBC

Watching the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas special is a tradition of ours

The Larkins Christmas Special – ITV, 9pm

And if one dose of Bradders over the holiday season just isn't enough, then The Larkins Christmas Special should definitely be on your list. Bradley Walsh, Joanna Scanlan and more return for a festive episode that teases: "Pop and Ma are overjoyed to have [Mariette and Charley] back for Christmas, but when Charley's parents arrive to meet the Larkin clan, and the entire village is left without lighting and heating following a power cut, chaos descends on the Larkins farm."

larkins xmas© Photo: ITV

The Larkins are returing for a festive episode

The Great British Bake Off Christmas Special – Channel 4, 8pm

The Bake Off Christmas special with stars from It's a Sin is a crossover we didn't know we needed until now. We can't wait to see Nathaniel Curtis, Olly Alexander and Lydia West reunite in the iconic tent to make some festive treats.

bake off xmas© Photo: Channel 4

We can't wait for the It's A Sin/Bake Off crossover

Boxing Day

Around the World in 80 Days – BBC, 5.50pm

David Tennant fronts this brand new show depicting the classic story of Phileas Fogg and his journey around the globe. His son, Ty, even makes an appearance, too! The drama's set to be one of the highlights of Christmas TV.

around the world© Photo: BBC

David Tennant fronts Around the World in 80 Days

A Very British Scandal – BBC, 9pm

Another front-runner for the most-talked about upcoming programme is A Very British Scandal starring none other than Paul Bettany and Claire Foy. The two actors will be playing the roles of the Duke and Duchess of Argyll respectively, as their high-profile and highly controversial divorce is played out on screen.

a very british scandal© Photo: BBC

Are you excited for A Very British Scandal?

Death in Paradise – BBC, 7.30pm

The comedy-drama doesn't normally return to screens until January, but for the first time ever, fans will be able to catch up with Neville, Florence and co. for a very special festive episode of Death in Paradise. The show will also see Danny John-Jules reprise his role, too.

death in paradise xmas© Photo: BBC

Death in Paradise is showing its first ever Christmas special

Shows for the lead up to New Year

The Voice Kids – ITV, 27 December, 7.30pm

Some very talented kids are once again taking to the stage for a new series of The Voice Kids. Danny Jones,, Pixie Lott and newcomer Mel C will be sat waiting to turn their chair for the next young singing sensation.

MORE: How royal children spend Christmas: Prince George, Princess Charlotte and more

voice kids© Photo: ITV

The famous judges are back for The Voice Kids

Stay Close – Netflix, New Year's Eve

Harlan Coben's latest offering Stay Close promises suspense and a gripping plot. The cast doesn't look bad either. Cush Jumbo, James Nesbitt, Richard Armitage and Sarah Parish all star in this thriller about four people who are hiding dark secrets from those closest to them.

stay close© Photo: Netflix

Stay Close is Harlan Coben's latest offering

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