The BBC have unveiled their Christmas programming for BBC One, BBC Two and BBC Four and as always its an excellent collection of favourites and highly anticipated new shows and productions.
Big ticket items include French & Saunders celebrating 30 years together, The League of Gentlemen back in business and Mary Berry being joined by Mel and Sue for a Big Christmas Thank You.
There’s animated adventures and family fun with Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s The Highway Rat and David Walliams’ Grandpa’s Great Escape; as well as brand new drama with Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, a haunting period adaptation of The Miniaturist and gritty global thriller McMafia, inspired by Misha Glenny’s bestselling book.
Judi Dench uncovers the mysteries about one of her greatest passions – trees; and there are familiar BBC One Christmas favourites galore including specials from Call The Midwife, Doctor Who, Mrs Brown’s Boys, EastEnders and Strictly Come Dancing.
From the stage there’s Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella and A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong; and natural history programming brings us frozen action in The Reindeer Family and Me and Snow Bears.
With Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Saunders learning about their favourite tipple in Absolutely Champers, there are an abundance of Christmas specials for all the family to enjoy.
Charlotte Moore, Director of BBC Content says: “Christmas is all about togetherness, and we’ve lined up a magical mix of programmes that will bring everyone together over the festive season. Reuniting a host of our favourite faces and showcasing an unparalleled level of world-class talent; whether you’re looking for laughter, edge of your seat drama or to quench your thirst for knowledge, there’s entertainment for everyone to share on the BBC this Christmas time.”
The award-winning writer of Call The Midwife, Heidi Thomas, is the creative force behind the three-part drama adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel Little Women. Starring Dame Angela Lansbury, Sir Michael Gambon and Emily Watson, the universal coming-of-age story sees the iconic March sisters navigate their way from childhood to adulthood.
Over in Albert Square, things are set to explode in catastrophic style this Christmas. Secrets and lies are exposed and families are torn apart forever as Max Branning finds himself a man on the edge in EastEnders.
Peter Capaldi’s epic final journey sees him reunited with companion Bill as they team up with the first ever Doctor to battle the enchanted glass people before he regenerates into the 13th Doctor in the Doctor Who Christmas special.
A large snowfall causes havoc for the residents of Poplar in this year’s Call The Midwife, one of our best loved dramas.
Haunting period thriller The Miniaturist, adapted from Jessie Burton’s acclaimed debut novel, tells the story of a house where, beneath the lavish beauty and privilege, lies forbidden passions and dangerous secrets.
BBC One’s epic new drama, McMafia, is a global thriller that charts James Norton’s character Alex Godman drawn into the world of organised crime. When his family’s past returns to threaten them, Alex is forced to confront his values to protect those he loves.
Animated adventure The Highway Rat sees authors Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s magical world come to life starring the voice talents of David Tennant, Rob Brydon, Nina Sosanya, Frances de le Tour and Tom Hollander. There’s more family fun with Grandpa’s Great Escape, adapted from David Walliams’ book and starring Tom Courtneay, Jennifer Saunders and Kit Conner.
Amongst a raft of comedy and entertainment specials, Michael McIntyre’s Big Christmas Show returns once more with performances from soul sensation Seal and fellow comedian Bill Bailey.
More fantastic comedy is in store with the return of Mrs Brown’s Boys for two festive episodes as well as Christmas specials of Not Going Out, Tim Vine Travels Through Time and Still Open All Hours.
Six celebrities from previous series take to the floor in the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special after the nation has chosen its champion for 2017 in the Strictly Come Dancing Grand Final, and more winners will be crowned with Sports Personality of the Year and The Apprentice Final.
After last year’s hilarious Peter Pan Goes Wrong, the Olivier Award-winning Mischief Theatre Company returns with their take on Dickens’ famous festive fable in A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong.
Even Better Than the Real Thing is back with a fun filled Christmas Special hosted by Paddy McGuinness with five more of the best professional Tribute acts in the world in a night to remember.
On BBC One, 300 Years of French & Saunders reunites the comedy double act for the first time in 10 years for a special anniversary episode and the incomparable Victoria Wood’s legacy is remembered in an extended episode of Our Friend Victoria.
Reece Shearsmith, Steve Pemberton, Mark Gatiss and Jeremy Dyson reunite to celebrate their twentieth anniversary at the BBC with three brand-new episodes in The League of Gentlemen Anniversary Specials on BBC Two.
There’s plenty more comedy on BBC Two with a retrospective documentary from Alan Partridge, Two Doors Down, and a Christmas special from Upstart Crow, featuring none other than screen royalty Emma Thompson playing Queen Elizabeth I.
Also reuniting this Christmas on BBC Two are Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Saunders as they head to the beautiful Champagne region in France to learn all about how their favourite tipple is made in Joanna & Jennifer: Absolutely Champers.
Clip show meets sketch show with voices from the comedy world in Doodlebug.
Alexander Armstrong, Richard Osman and John Humphrys are all set to test celebrities’ grey cells in Pointless Celebrities and Celebrity Mastermind.
There’s plenty of festive food inspiration as Nigella’s Christmas Table heads to the countryside for her cosiest Christmas yet whilst Mary Berry opens her kitchen up to some of TV’s best-loved faces in Mary Berry’s Christmas Party. Mary is also being reunited with Mel & Sue in a Big Christmas Thank You as they sprinkle some festive magic on a well-deserving community in South Wales.
From candy canes and yule logs to Christmas cakes, there are more delicious treats being served up as Gregg Wallace, Cherry Healey and Ruth Goodman explore 24 hour production at a cake factory in Inside the Factory and treats of Christmas past are recreated by four modern confectioners in The Sweet Makers.
In natural history programming; Gordon Buchanan travels to the frozen north, deep inside the Arctic Circle, in The Reindeer Family and Me; and Snow Bears follows polar bear cubs as they learn how to survive in their frozen world. Dame Judi Dench embarks on a magical journey to uncover the mysteries about one of her greatest passions – trees. Meanwhile, World’s Weirdest Winter showcases snowboarding crows, seemingly suicidal penguins and snownados that come from nowhere.
The arts are celebrated this festive season with Darcey Bussell: Looking for Fred Astaire alongside Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella, Puccini’s La Bohème and Bruno Tonioli celebrating the 40th anniversary of Saturday Night Fever.
On BBC Four; the Natural History Unit’s unmatched expertise present the natural world as it is lived in a 90 minute Slow TV special revealing animal behaviour on land, sea and sky in Wild Wanderings: Turtle, Eagle, Cheetah; Star Wars super-fan David Whiteley tells the story of how the most famous galaxy in movie history was created just off the M25; Elvis: Rebirth of The King tracks the king’s five year renaissance in Vegas; and Eric, Ernie & Me features Stephen Tompkinson as Eddie Braben, the man behind Morecambe and Wise’s greatest successes which showcases the pressure and pain he went through to help create the screen work of Britain’s most beloved double act. Their unforgettable double act is also celebrated in BBC Two’s Eric & Ernie’s Home Movies.
For music lovers, Top of the Pops once again returns on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, as does Jools Holland with his annual Hootenanny. Music legend Nile Rodgers and his sensational band CHIC will be lighting up this New Year’s Eve live on BBC One as they bring some of the biggest hits ever to an unmissable music and firework spectacular in London. Over on BBC Two, Gospel Christmas marries classic spiritual songs with contemporary influences and brings in 2018 with the New Year’s Day Concert from Vienna.
Songs of Praise gathers together inspiring stories culminating in The Christmas Big Sing – a symphony of 5000 joyous voices at the Royal Albert Hall.
The Queen’s Christmas Message will as ever be a highlight of Christmas Day. And this year Christmas worship on BBC One will broadcast live from two magnificent settings: Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve from Leeds Cathedral and Christmas Day Service from All Saints Church in Fulham. BBC Two celebrates the festive season with the return of much-loved Christmas Eve tradition, Carols From King’s where the world-famous Choir, directed by Stephen Cleobury, sing carols old and new.
ITV, Kate Beckinsale to star in The Widow, a Harry and Jack Williams series
ITV have announced that Kate Beckinsale will take the leading role in ITV and Amazon Prime Video Drama, The Widow, from acclaimed writers Harry and Jack Williams. The series will be produced in conjunction with Amazon Prime Video.
In The Widow Kate will play Georgia Wells who has her life turned upside-down with a phone-call in the middle of the night. Her husband of over 10 years, Will, has been reported dead after a plane crash in the Congolese jungle.
Three years later, with her old life now a thing of the past, Georgia learns something shocking. Something that will take her to Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, looking to uncover the truth about his disappearance.
Still haunted by the past, Georgia is grieving for the man she loved and the life they’ve lost, but she hasn’t given up hope.
The Widow has been commissioned for ITV by Head of Drama, Polly Hill, who said: “I’m delighted to announce Kate Beckinsale’s casting in The Widow. She is perfect for the role of Georgia in what is, as always, brilliant, compelling and surprising storytelling from Harry and Jack Williams. We’re very pleased to have secured the series which is an ITV original commission and co-production with Amazon Prime.”
On behalf of Amazon Prime Video, Brad Beale, Vice President, Worldwide TV Content Acquisition said: “We are thrilled to continue our existing relationship with Kate Beckinsale on the heels of her incredible performances in Amazon Studios’ critically acclaimed films.”
“Harry and Jack Williams have created a powerful story, which will be brought to life by one of the world’s most talented actresses, and we are excited to bring this thrilling series to Prime members around the world,” he added.
Commented Harry and Jack Williams: “Kate Beckinsale is a brilliantly talented actress and we’re thrilled she’s joining us on this journey – we couldn’t imagine anyone more perfect for the role. The Widow is our most ambitious and cinematic piece to date and we can’t wait to bring the dark heart of the Congolese jungle to the screen.”
The Widow will be produced by Eliza Mellor (Liar, The Living and the Dead, Poldark, Death Comes to Pemberley) and will be directed by lead director Sam Donovan (Humans, Liar, Utopia) and Olly Blackburn (Donkey Punch, Glue) who is also directing four episodes of the series. Jack and Harry Williams will executive produce the drama.
The series will go into production in January 2018 in South Africa, Wales and Rotterdam.
The Widow will premiere on ITV before airing as an Amazon Prime Original in the US. The series will be available exclusively on Amazon Prime Video in more than 200 countries and territories for members to watch via the Prime Video app for popular smart TVs, Fire TV, Fire Tablets and Android and iOS phones and tablets.
Channel 9, Married At First Sight 2018 New Series Premieres 29 Jan
What started as something of a social experiment but is now more or less straight reality (but still calling itself a social experiment), Married At First Sight will premiere it’s new series on Channel 9 on Monday January 29 at 7.30pm.
Once again the team – relationship expert John Aiken, neuropsychotherapist Dr Trisha Stratford, and dating and relationship expert Mel Schilling – aim to put relationships to the test in a unique experiment designed to determine if science can predict true love in couples who will get married at first sight.
The experts will undertake the mammoth task of pairing 20 brave singles to create their perfect match as 10 brides and 10 grooms undergo the most intense experiment yet.
The experts will match all our couples on the basis of extensive psychological and neurological testing and profiling.
Each couple meet for the first time on their wedding day, and from the moment they exchange vows their relationships are thrust under a microscope as they experience the highs and lows of marriage at full speed – alongside other couples riding the same rollercoaster.
Once again, the couples will reside under the same roof as relationships are tested like never before.
They’ll get the chance to compare their experiences at often explosive dinner parties – and put their relationships to the test at the most confronting commitment ceremonies we’ve ever seen.
But while some couples will struggle with all the complexities an intense relationship experiment brings, others will find true joy as their fairytale blossoms from first glance.
10 brides. 10 grooms. 10 weddings. Who will find true lasting love?
Netflix, German Supernatural drama Dark given Second Season
Netflix has renewed its first German original production, DARK, for a second season. The acclaimed drama created by Baran bo Odar and Jantje Friese has resonated with audiences in Germany and around the world, including the U.S., Brazil, Italy, Turkey, Spain and France among other countries. DARK, a family saga with a supernatural twist, is now one of the most-watched entirely non-English shows on Netflix, a German series that transcends borders to connect with audiences in every country.
Kelly Luegenbiehl, Vice President of International Originals for Netflix, said: “When we first heard about DARK, we realized very early on that we hadn’t seen anything like this show before — in Germany or anywhere else in the world. DARK is a testament that great storytelling transcends geography. We’re excited that our members around the globe are captivated by the mysterious world of Winden, and will now be able to continue to see how the story unfolds.”
Showrunners Baran bo Odar and Jantje Friese about the audience reception and the renewal of season two added: “We are overwhelmed by the response to DARK and are thrilled that our story has been a success with a global audience. Viewers have been captivated by the secrets of our protagonists and have taken delight in unravelling the various puzzles that the story presents. To know that we will now embark on our next journey is, for us showrunners, a dream come true. And our fans can be sure that we have plenty of surprises in store for the second season of DARK.”
Producer Quirin Berg concludes: “Jantje Friese, Baran Bo Odar, our wonderful actors and our fantastic team have put an incredible amount of energy into making DARK a unique and gripping series. We thank all of those who have accompanied us on this path. And we thank Netflix for their trust and for the excellent cooperation. We are extremely happy that DARK has by now received such an overwhelming response, both in Germany and around the world, and we are particularly thrilled about the quick decision by Netflix to take it into a second season. We can hardly wait to continue telling the story!”
DARK is now streaming on Netflix, it is set in a German town in present day where the disappearance of two young children exposes the double lives and fractured relationships among four families. In ten, hour-long episodes, the story takes on a supernatural twist that ties back to the same town in 1986.
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