TV

The Best Alternative Christmas TV

A selection box of alternative festive programming

Doctor who

Nick Frost nipping at your nose

As usual, more rumours than fact about this year’s Who special – including that guest star Michael Troughton, son of Sixties Doctor Patrick Troughton, might be playing his dad in a multiple-Doctors mash-up. It’s also hinted that this could be Jenna Coleman’s last show. Who’d replace her? Nick Frost would be a fine choice, but since he’s playing Father Christmas here, there’s not much scope for an ongoing role, depending on how experimental Steven Moffatt is feeling about the whole Doctor/companion/delivering toys dynamic. Whatever happens, the nods to Alien in this Arctic romp should keep it watchable, even for those starting to tire of Who’s spiralling silliness.
Christmas Day, BBC One

Olive Kitteridge 

Six Feet Under without the coffins

Even given Bill Murray’s presence, the big draw in this tragicomic series is Frances McDormand, who won an Oscar as cop Marge Gunderson in Fargo. This show (adapted from a Pulitzer-winning novel) shares that classic’s black humour, but McDormand, as sharp-tongued teacher Kitteridge, living through 25 years of mishaps, shows a much darker side.
14 December, Sky Atlantic, 9pm

Adam Buxton’s Shed of Christmas

Church house, gin house, yule house, out house

Buxton’s yuletide shed is the new home for the slapdash, camcorder spirit of Adam & Joe now Joe Cornish has buggered off to Hollywood. Dubbed ‘a festive love letter’, it mixes the YouTube comment comedy of the Bug shows with the silly songwriting he hasn’t grown out of, here abetted by Gaz Coombes and Tim Key (Alan Partridge’s Sidekick Simon). Expect manic nostalgia and so much beard.
16 December, Sky Arts 1, 9.30pm

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

Wizards with attitude

Susanna Clarke’s 2004 novel, with its premise that magic isn’t a myth (it had fallen out of use until two Napoleonic War-era alchemists revived it), didn’t quite have the twists to fill its 782 pages. Boiled down to seven parts by Wallander’s scriptwriter, it should be a fog-wreathed treat – especially as Norrell is played by Eddie Marsan, who always looks like he’s got a hell-hound on his tail.
December, BBC One

Marked

‘I’m festive agent Jack Bauer and this is the longest day of my life...’

Kiefer and Christmas don’t get on – Google ‘Kiefer Sutherland Christmas tree dive’ – so this could descend into mayhem. Kiefer plays a debt-ridden schlub who agrees to murder someone for cash. At the mark’s house, he finds ‘the last person he expects to see’: Stephen Fry. Fry played the PM on 24 this year, which could be when they planned this noirish two-hander. 
December 18, Sky Arts 1, 9pm

The Wrong Mans

The Little And Large of espionage are back

Since Broadway megastar James Corden is about to be a US chat show host – taking over CBS’s The Late Late Show from Craig Ferguson in 2015 – any plans for a full second series of this mistaken-identity caper must surely be on hold. Luckily, these two hour-long special episodes were already in the bag. Dawn French returns as peril-magnet Corden’s oblivious mum and Mathew Baynton plays his long-suffering, duffle-coated mate.
December, BBC Two

(Images: BBC2; HBO/Sky Atlantic; Corbis; BBC 1; Sky Arts)