Review: Why Scotland's TV Christmas viewing schedule just isn't the same this year

Demand has never been higher for some festive cheer and a little light relief.

Dr Who returns for its Christmas special
Dr Who returns for its Christmas special

After a year of reruns, ‘best of’ compilations, sporting greatest moments and a seemingly never ending stream of talking ‘Zoom’ head celebrity interviews, I’m looking forward to sitting back and enjoying some Christmas classics.

It wouldn’t be Christmas without an argument over who gets to watch what on the telly and at what time.

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Once upon a time, the Radio Times magazine was the authority on festive watching.

Edinburgh student Peter Sawkins is the first Scot to ever win the Great British Bake Off (Channel 4). The programme is returning for a Christmas special

Now the traditional argument has swapped glossy pages for the Twittersphere, with critics slamming this year’s Christmas TV schedule as “un-Christmassy” and too ‘”family friendly”.

I have to admit, on first glance at the BBC’s 2020 schedule, it was difficult not to feel a sense of déjà vu.

A severe lack of Christmas specials and a heavy amount of replays was to be expected in a year when a virus nearly delivered a fatal knockout blow to the film and TV industry.

However, the lack of purpose-made festive specials is not a one-off loss, but a chronic one.

The rise of streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, as well as on-demand TV, has changed festive viewing habits over the past five years.

Although nationwide lockdowns have also forced a change in family viewing habits, schedulers were right not to pump money into festive specials, while they try to revitalise stalled TV projects and big budget dramas.

Viewers can enjoy a repeat of the Gavin and Stacey Christmas Special, which set viewing records for a scripted TV show last year, on Christmas Eve. Miranda also returns for some much needed laugh at yourself comedy in Miranda Games with Showbiz Names on the night before Christmas.

Christmas Day promises its usual mix of family fun and Saturday night entertainment.

Strictly Come Dancing, which has enjoyed a jubilant Covid season this year, returns with its Christmas special. However, this year's one-off will be a ‘25 most memorable dances’, rather than its traditional invitational event for celebrities.

From 6pm until 7:40pm on the 25th is my recommendation for sitting down with the family, with Michael McIntyre’s Christmas Wheel and a special Christmas return to the iconic British game show Blankety Blank.

ITV is offering the best selection of festive one-off specials, with Birds of a Feather, Britain’s Got Talent and The Chase all getting the Christmas twist on Christmas Eve and Day.

A weekly mood lifter this year, which only last month featured its first-ever Scottish winner in Edinburgh student Peter Sawkins, The Great British Bake Off has a double bill of festive goodness on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day on Channel 4.

Those looking to schedule their Christmas meal around The Queen’s Christmas Broadcast will have to aim for a late lunch, with Her Majesty broadcasting at 3pm this year.

New Year’s Day will see Doctor Who return for a much needed Christmas special.

Revolution of the Daleks will mark the return of Captain Jack, played by John Barrowman, and the programme boss has said they are determined the show will provide “escapism” for viewers in a turbulent year.

National treasure Billy Connolly will return to our screens in Billy Connolly: It’s Been a Pleasure, which will air on ITV on 28 December at 9:30pm. The show will look back at the many highlights of his career, plus feature some new footage of Billy at his home in Florida.

Regarding the lack of festive movies on the schedule - well, it's finally time we debunk the illusion of snuggling by the fireplace with a cheesy Christmas film and hot chocolate in the UK.

On BBC Radio Scotland this week, listeners sent in their favourite movies to watch over the festive break.

Films included Goodnight Mister Tom, The Great Escape and The Railway Children. Nothing says Christmas like World War Two, right?

With my family, I have more memories of watching Mary Poppins and Bedknobs and Broomsticks than White Christmas and It’s a Wonderful Life.

Although, a Muppets Christmas Carol will always be a must watch, readers will have to subscribe to Disney+ to watch that this year.

The BBC opted for a very family friendly selection this year and in an era where viewers can watch almost every festive classic at a click of a button, it’s a smart decision.

This year’s schedule offers families the opportunity to swap Morecambe and Wise for Moana and Gavin and Stacy for The Gruffalo.

Other movie highlights include Disney Pixar’s Coco, which airs right after The Queen on Christmas Day, and Zog and the Flying Doctors, which is another charming animation from the creator of The Gruffalo author Julia Donaldson.

On the streaming platforms there is a host of Christmas releases that will give those without a Freeview box plenty to enjoy.

Netflix’s big festive release is also their first proper period drama. Bridgerton releases on Christmas Day and tells the story of eight Bridgerton siblings as they seek to find love in Regency England.

The American production is narrated by Julie Andrews, with the series based on Julia Quinn's best-selling novels.

New Year’s Eve promises to bring back a sense of normality to Scottish audiences with the BBC announcing Jackie Bird’s return to present its Hogmanay Special.

With no Edinburgh Hogmanay Street Party lined up this year, viewers can enjoy televised performances from Deacon Blue and Amy Macdonald to bring them into the new year instead.

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