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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 December 2006, 09:25 GMT
What TV critics watch at Christmas
By Kevin Young
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

With hundreds of programmes on offer throughout Christmas, what do the people who spend their lives reviewing TV shows want to watch?

Catherine Tate and David Tennant in Doctor Who
Doctor Who sees Donna (Catherine Tate) vanishing on her wedding day
There is no doubt about it - Doctor Who is this year's overwhelming festive favourite among TV critics.

"I'm so desperate to watch this that if our TV broke down, I'd just go and knock on the neighbours' door, and invite myself on to their sofa," says Caitlin Moran, a columnist at the Times.

"Then I'd ask them to go into the kitchen for a bit so they didn't ruin the atmosphere by talking."

David Tennant is joined by comedian Catherine Tate - she plays a bride who ends up in the Tardis rather than at her wedding.

Her appearance makes the episode "a double treat", according to Colin Tough, editor of What's on TV.

"I was addicted as a child, when I sat transfixed with my dad - Jon Pertwee was my Doctor - and since its return, it's been a must-see show for my own son and me."

Harry Hill
Last week Hill's clips show TV Burp won two British Comedy Awards

Matt Lucas and David Walliams star in Little Britain Abroad, with Ronnie Corbett and Peter Kay among the celebrities taking the sketch show overseas.

"It's very good fun," says Radio Times deputy TV editor David Butcher.

"Little Britain was starting to look a bit tired. But because they've taken the characters and put them in different settings and different countries, it actually gives it a new lease of life."

Harry Hill's TV Burp - a clips programme which won two British Comedy Awards last week - is also one of his recommendations.

He calls it "a hugely funny, inventive, mad, absurd show" which "completely undercuts all of television's pomp and grandeur".

And Mr Tough concedes that while he was not a fan of the comic at first, the show is "one of the funniest on TV".

"I can't wait to see his take on the festive TV offerings," he adds.

Matt Lucas and David Walliams in Little Britain
Because they've taken the characters and put them in different settings and different countries, it actually gives it a new lease of life
David Butcher from Radio Times on Little Britain Abroad

When it comes to drama, Imogen Ridgway, who covers TV for the London Evening Standard and London Lite, rates Victorian drama The Ruby in the Smoke.

"It's terrific British stuff, complete with murder, seedy pubs and Billie Piper in a big skirt.

"It doesn't matter if you haven't read the Philip Pullman novel on which it is based. Billie is wide-eyed but suitably feisty as heroine Sally Lockhart, but Julie Walters steals the show as Mrs Holland the harridan."

And for those seeking to learn something over the festive period, Ms Moran recommends the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, which began almost a century before the BBC was established.

"These are always good, chatty, informative discussions on science, maths and similar boffinry, and help stop your brandy-addled brain putting on a stone of stupidity over the festive period."

Keira Knightley and Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
One big Boxing Day film is the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie
So once the thrill of Christmas has begun to wane, what are the best ways to perk yourself up?

Mr Butcher's option would be to try Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.

"On Boxing Day evening, when everyone's had enough of each other and they just want to slump down and watch something on telly, that's pretty hard to beat.

"You don't want younger kids watching it, because it does have its scary moments, but it's such a great performance from Johnny Depp."

He also points out that many of the big Christmas specials - including This Life 10 Years On, The Thick of It and Green Wing - have actually been saved for the first week of January.

"The best way to save off that feeling of flatness is to start planning next year's garden," says Ms Moran, who suggests the BBC Gardener of the Year programme.

Keith Chegwin and Noel Edmonds on Swap Shop
Chegwin and Edmonds reminisce about Swap Shop, which ran to 1982
"One can begin to do this admirably by slagging off all the 'gardens of the year', and thinking about how you would have done it better - and haven't."

And for some nostalgia, Ms Ridgway praises It Started With Swap Shop, which reunites Noel Edmonds, Keith Chegwin, Maggie Philbin and John Craven.

"It's a chance to spend more than two hours shamelessly reliving Swaparama, Posh Paws and several years' worth of appalling leisurewear.

"Chances are you'll probably miss most of what they say, though, as you're too busy shouting, 'I remember that!'"


25 December
1900, BBC One - Doctor Who
1915, Five - Royal Institution Christmas Lecture 1
2230, BBC One - Little Britain Abroad

26 December
1915, Five - Royal Institution Christmas Lecture 2
1930, BBC One - Pirates of the Caribbean

27 December
1915, Five - Royal Institution Christmas Lecture 3
2030, BBC One - The Ruby in the Smoke

28 December
1915, Five - Royal Institution Christmas Lecture 4
2100, BBC Two - It Started With Swap Shop

29 December
1915, Five - Royal Institution Christmas Lecture 5

30 December
1930, ITV1 - Harry Hill's TV Burp
2015, BBC Two - BBC Gardener of the Year

2 January
2100, BBC Two - This Life 10 Years On
2230, BBC Four - The Thick of It

4 January
2200, Channel 4 - Green Wing

Catherine Tate and David Tennant on the special episode

Tate's Christmas date with the Doctor
18 Dec 06 |  Entertainment
Little Britain star Lucas 'weds'
18 Dec 06 |  Entertainment
Piper and Lucas top BBC Christmas
22 Nov 06 |  Entertainment
This Life's Ferdy not coming back
23 Oct 06 |  Entertainment
Pirates pulls off box office coup
17 Jul 06 |  Entertainment


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