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Gizmodo's Top TV for Christmas 2014: Doctor Who, Black Mirror, Top Gear and More

By Gerald Lynch on at

Christmas TV, that greatest of slobbish seasonal traditions, vegging out in front of the telly, beer in hand while the in-laws squabble and the kids get high on the smell of brand new toys. But every blockbuster premier or thoughtful Christmas special there’s a Queen’s Speech, soap-opera meltdown or – God forbid – Hootenanny.

Forget picking up the Radio Times -- it’s basically 200 pages of adverts. Instead, take a look at our painstakingly-picked televisual tips. These are the very best shows to watch on the gogglebox this Yuletide season.

Tuesday 16th December

Black Mirror Christmas Special -- 9pm, Channel 4
Charlie Brooker’s darkly techy tales return with a one-off, film-length special to creep out Santa starring John Hamm and Rafe Spall. This time Brooker turns a satirical eye to Twitter blocking -- what if, when we blocked a social networking buddy, we blocked them in real life, too?

Don’t Miss -- Adam Buxton: A Shed of Christmas -- 9.30, Sky Arts 1

Wednesday 17th December

Edward Scissorhands -- 8pm, E4
A modern fairytale classic, Edward Scissorhands isn’t strictly a Christmas film, but its beautiful Danny Elfman score and enchanting, heart breaking close means you can slip it in pretty comfortably at this time of year. I’m going to go out on a limb and say its both director Tim Burton and actor Johnny Depp’s best movie -- Burton’s heart, aesthetic and weirdness come together wonderfully, while Depp’s love of an oddball character is tempered by sadness. Scissorhands used to creep me out as a kid, and now it brings tears to my eyes for a whole other reason. Well worth revisiting.

Don’t Miss -- Thin Lizzy Live and Dangerous at the Rainbow -- 9pm, Sky Arts 1

Thursday 18th December

Apple’s Broken Promises -- 9pm, BBC One
It’s the most valuable brand on the planet, but what foundations are Apple’s billions built upon? The BBC’s Panorama team heads to China to check worker conditions on Apple’s iPhone 6 production line, and to Indonesia, where child workers dig out the tin that goes into our gadgets by hand. Eye-opening stuff.

Don’t Miss -- Playhouse Presents: Marked -- 10pm, Sky Arts 1

Friday 19th December

Brazil with Michael Palin -- From 6pm, Eden
Another chance to see the globe-trotting Python as he makes his first trip to the South American nation. No one does travel TV like Palin, and this Brazilian tour will bring some samba-fuelled sunshine to a wintry evening indoors.

Dont Miss -- Boyz N the Hood -- 11.35pm BBC 2

Saturday 20th December

Game of Thrones -- 9pm, Sky Atlantic (until Wednesday 31st December)
Family arguments, poisoned banquets and more references to “Jon Snow” and the coming of winter than you can keep count of -- who knew Game of Thrones was so perfectly suited for Christmas? Sky Atlantic is playing a marathon run of all four seasons of the hit fantasy from Saturday 20th December until New Year’s Eve, letting you catch up on all the comings, goings and beheadings of Westeros before next year’s fifth series starts.

Dont’ Miss -- Rik Mayall: Lord of Misrule -- 10.05pm, BBC Two

Sunday 21st December

The Apprentice: The Final -- 9pm, BBC One
They failed to spark the imaginations of Silicon Valley’s venture capitalists with their failed attempts at wearable tech, so it’s hard to see why any of them are worth the highly sought-after tutelage of Lord Sugar. But someone’s going to become the Amstrad king’s apprentice on the 21st. Who is your money on?

Don’t Miss -- The Wolf of Wall Street -- 9pm, Sky Select

Monday 22nd December

Gadget Man’s Guide to Christmas -- 8pm, Channel 4
Though we’d rather he sticks to comedy and directing than stomping around on our gadget-judging turf, Richard Ayoade’s Gadget Man show turns its attention to Christmas. He’ll be looking at tech to help with your present wrapping, gadgets to take the pain out of cooking your turkey and gizmos to improve all that carol singing you're clearly going to be doing.

Don’t Miss -- Brian Pern: A Life in Rock -- 10.30pm, BBC Two

Tuesday 23rd December

Wilderness Walks with Ray Mears -- 7.30pm, ITV
A winter’s wander to burn off some of those mince-pie calories is a Christmas tradition, and no one is better prepared for a good trek than Mears of War. His wilderness walk takes him to the breathtaking Borrowdale Valley in the Lake District, which was once the site of an ancient rainforest. Fancy!

Don’t Miss -- Pan’s Labyrinth -- 9pm, Horror Channel

Wednesday 24th December

The Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawm -- 8.30pm, BBC One
Harry Hill takes some time off burping at his telly to breathe life into children’s literary character Professor Branestawm. With the cream of the UK comedy elite camping it up for this child-friendly take on the explosive character, there should be a laugh or two to be had.

Don’t Miss -- Skyfall -- 8pm, ITV

Thursday 25th December

Doctor Who -- 6.15pm, BBC One
Peter Capaldi, the most Scrooge-like of Tardis tinkerers, finds himself under attack at an Arctic base in this Christmas special. Can Nick Frost’s Father Christmas save the day?

Don’t Miss -- James May’s Toy Stories -- 5.10pm, BBC Two

Friday 26th December

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy -- From 3.30pm, Sky Action Adventure
I’m going to level with you: Boxing Day TV this year is pretty weak. Unless you want to see Michael Ball dancing around Manchester for Victoria Wood’s Musical ‘That Day We Sang’, or persevere through the start of a new series of ‘Birds of a Feather’, you’re more stuffed than a turkey. Hence my recommendation for The Lord of the Rings trilogy instead. Playing back to back on Sky Action Adventure, the epic fantasies are perfect for loading up on snacks, beer and melting down into the sofa in front of. Sure, we’ve all seen them, but they are absolutely fantastic. One more tour around Middle Earth, my precious?

Don’t Miss -- Avengers Assemble -- 8.30pm, BBC One

Saturday 27th December

Top Gear Patagonia Special -- 8.30pm, BBC Two
Part-time bigot and full-time car fanatic Jeremy Clarkson leads Richard Hammond and James may on a 1,600-mile journey though Patagonia, the southernmost city in the world. Driving a Porsche 928, a Lotus Esprit and Ford Mustang, it culminates in a game of car football, making this a must-watch for petrol heads that can turn a blind eye to Clarkson’s cockwombleness.

Don’t Miss -- The Haunting of Radcliffe House -- 9.35pm, Channel 5

Sunday 28th December

House of Fools -- 10pm, BBC Two
OK, OK -- if you’re a fan of terrorist-thriller Homeland, you really should be watching its season four finale on the 28th. But as a die-hard Vic and Bob fan, I’d be doing myself a disservice by not making Reeves and Mortimer’s House of Fools special the top choice for the day. The absurdist comedy duo had a return to form with this sitcom format, and this Christmas one-off sounds like a particular treat, with the pair trying to nick Phil Collins’s bobble hat.

Don’t Miss -- Homeland -- 9pm, Channel 4

Monday 29th December

The Royal Institution Christmas Lectures -- 8pm, BBC Four
A cerebral break from the tinsel-covered Christmas specials elsewhere in this list, Professor Danielle George gives three lectures this year, themed around hacking your home to make your gadgets do your bidding. Notepads out…

Don’t Miss -- Back to the Future -- 6.45pm, ITV 2

Tuesday 30th December

Charlie Brooker’s 2014 Wipe -- 10pm, BBC Two
Always hilarious – except when he's creeping out Santa, see above – Brooker’s back in front of the camera this time for his annual acerbic take on the year’s biggest events.

Don’t Miss -- Gravity -- 8pm, Sky Greats

Wednesday 31st December

Thursday 1st January

David Attenborough’s Conquest of the Skies -- 7pm, Sky 1 and Sky 3D
Attenborough's like the Father Christmas of nature programming, a constant, comforting presence on our TVs giving the gift of natural-history knowledge for 60 years now. Sky’s once again acquired his services – in 3D, no less – examining the evolution of flight in locations as far reaching as Rome and Borneo.

Don’t Miss -- Esio Trot -- 6.30pm, BBC 1
Don’t Miss -- The Clash: New Year’s Day ‘77 -- 10.45pm, BBC Four