Tradition is undoubtedly an important part of Christmas. And sure, while there is always time for watching that Morecambe & Wise repeat to the strains of your auntie’s sherry-addled laughter, this year’s December TV schedules also boast an array of programmes that offer something other than old films and shiny-floored celebrity specials. Here’s our pick of the pleasingly unjolly crop.
1. THIS IS ENGLAND ’88
13 Dec, 10pm; Channel 4
Before This Is England ’90 looks at rave culture, Shane Meadows fast-forwards the bovver-booted action to the late Eighties for a festive three-parter. Woody’s been ostracised from the gang, Shaun’s delving into the world of theatre and it’s all propelled by the same winning mix of broad gags and gut-wrenching drama.
2. GREAT EXPECTATIONS
Christmas week; BBC One
OK, Charles Dickens at Christmas may not seem that controversial, but this new adaptation co-written by Being Human scribe Sarah Phelps promises to be free of any Scrooge-style redemptive hugging. Ray Winstone and Gillian Anderson star in three fittingly grubby episodes that form the centrepiece of the BBC’s upcoming Dickens season.
6 Dec, 10pm; Sky Atlantic
The latest HBO show to bob across the pond may be a quieter affair than Boardwalk Empire, but it’s still worthy of your time. Laura Dern stars as Amy, a frazzled exec who struggles at work after returning from an anger management retreat. Features deft performances, plus a great turn from Luke Wilson.
4. BLACK MIRROR
4 Dec, 9pm; Channel 4
Viewers after the belly-laughs found in Charlie Brooker’s Guardian columns might be surprised by his technophobic spin on The Twilight Zone. The first of three daring standalone episodes focuses on a David Cameron like PM who is asked to do something unmentionable by a YouTube prankster.
1 Jan; Channel 4
It may be the inevitable dramatisation of the phone-hacking scandal, but those hoping for Nick Frost as Tom Watson and Catherine Tate as Rebekah Brooks are out of luck. Written by Drop The Dead Donkey’s Guy Jenkin, this fictionalised comedy special stars Claire Foy (Little Dorrit) and Kayvan Novak (Fonejacker) as hassled journalists willing to do anything for a story.