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Last Updated: Monday, 22 December, 2003, 10:15 GMT
The pick of Christmas TV

By William Gallagher
BBC News Online

UK television concentrates on comedy, drama and family fare for Christmas and the New Year.

The highlight of this year's festive television schedule is Ricky Gervais's cult sitcom turned ratings smash, The Office.

Everyone wants to know how good these final two episodes are.

The Office at Christmas
No plot clues here - unless you count Gareth's moustache
But I have no idea. The scripts may have accidentally been leaked to the national press, but the BBC will not release tapes so nobody can tell you whether it is worth setting your video for.

Fortunately there is a lot to be said about TV this Christmas or there would be no point reading on - and there are gems to be found.

Some of them are high-profile events and some are hidden quietly away.

The Office airs on BBC One on Boxing Day at 2215 and Saturday 27 December at 2150.

The next highest ratings will go to what is ostensibly the last episode of long-running comedy Only Fools and Horses.

It could be good - it sees the once rich and now poor again Trotters facing eviction from Nelson Mandela House.

Curiously, the BBC is not releasing a tape of that either. Catch it on Christmas Day at 2120 GMT on BBC One and cross your fingers.

Shane Richie
Shane Richie ensures a merrier Christmas than usual in Walford
Christmas Day also sees some misery in top soaps EastEnders, Coronation Street and Emmerdale.

Without giving too much away, EastEnders fans should be concentrating on Barry's health and the ability of Walford's youngsters to drive a minibus.

Explosions feature elsewhere - literally, in Emmerdale as Sam has a dynamite plan to make money, and metaphorically in Coronation Street as Tracy is pressured to reveal the truth about her baby's father.

You will have to decide if you like the EastEnders Christmas Party (Christmas Eve, 2000 GMT, BBC One) - but you may be reminded of Alan Partridge instead.

Walford plays host to a old-style Christmas knees-up with dodgy singing from the cast and better tunes from guests Liberty X.

But definitely one to go out of your way for is Channel 4's Galileo's Daughter (22 December, 1930 GMT) with Simon Callow as the man who so scandalised the Church with his ideas.

ITV1 has a good version of The Mayor of Casterbridge (starts Sunday 28 December at 2100 GMT) with Ciaran Hinds.

It was made in 2000, yet it is well put-together enough to pass as a very good current production.

Stephen Fry is among those in Celebrity Mastermind (Friday 26 December 2025, BBC Two), while Shaun Williamson (EastEnders' Barry) is in the big black chair as he answers questions on the life and works of Richard Burton.

By far the best of the offers tucked away from the limelight is BBC Four's season on top TV screenwriter Andrew Davies (Pride and Prejudice, Tipping the Velvet), which includes a new interview with the man himself.

It also features just a few of his hits Vanity Fair, House of Cards and especially A Very Peculiar Practice starting from 1900 GMT on 23 December and running through the fortnight.

Also on BBC Four are once-lost shows such as Spike Milligan Offers a Series of Unrelated Incidents at Current Market Prices (Sunday 28 December, 2305 GMT).

Much more prominent and deservedly so is Posh and Becks's Big Impression (Christmas Day, 2235 GMT, BBC One).

Unlike the usual Alistair McGowan and Ronni Ancona sketches, this one has a plot: it follows the Beckhams as they move out of Beckingham Palace and head for Spain.

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