ITV has a stocking full of Christmas and New Year treats for viewers this year, with award-winning and popular drama, much loved comedy, new factual, the return of entertainment favourites, and exciting films such as the free-to-air premiere of the final two Harry Potter titles.
Ant & Dec, Phillip Schofield, Holly Willoughby, Christine Bleakley and Paddy McGuinness will once again be at the helm of ITV’s annual charity appeal, Text Santa, which is back and more prominent than ever this year. As well as the primetime entertainment extravaganza on the night, major ITV programmes during the day will build up the live show with ITV stars at the forefront of the fundraising, aiming to raise awareness of the work of the six chosen charities.
Leading the line-up of home-grown drama this Christmas is a special two-hour episode of Downton Abbey, which will see Shirley MacLaine reprise her role as Martha Levinson and Paul Giamatti join the cast as Cora’s playboy brother, Harold, alongside all the much-loved regular characters of the show.
And it’s a time of joy and happiness in Midsomer for once – Christmas is coming and DCI Barnaby is about to become a dad. That's not the only change facing Barnaby in Midsomer Murders – new DS Charlie Nelson moves into the patch, taking up his posting just in time for an investigation at a ‘haunted’ house. Guest stars in this Christmas episode include Elizabeth Berrington, Les Dennis, Mark Heap, Emily Joyce, James Murray and Hannah Tointon.
The nation’s best-loved spinster sleuth, Miss Marple, returns this Christmas in a new film, Endless Night. Olivier award-winning Julia McKenzie stars in the eponymous role with a sparkling supporting cast that includes Tom Hughes, Hugh Dennis, Joanna Vanderham, Birgitte Hjort Sørensen, Glynis Barber, Wendy Craig, Aneurin Barnard and Rosalind Halstead.
Coronation Street and Emmerdale will also keep up the tradition of strong storylines to ensure soap lovers are enthralled this Christmas.
In Emmerdale, festive wedding bells are ringing for David and Alicia as they prepare for their Christmas Day nuptials. But the big day doesn’t go quite as planned when events conspire against them. With Declan the lowest he has ever been, he begins to think there is only one way out of this mess. Can he be saved or could we see his whole Home Farm estate going up in smoke putting his and others lives in jeopardy? Plus, Kerry and Val embark on a Christmas decorations war that soon spirals out of control.
After the Coronation Street drama at Carla and Peter's wedding, Peter’s simmering passion for Tina spills over. This is one Christmas that Tina and Peter will never forget… Elsewhere in Weatherfield, Roy makes the most of precious time with his beloved Hayley. The inseparable couple plan to share special moments together as time is ebbing away. Hayley means so much to her neighbours that everyone wants to share Christmas with her, but Roy begins to feel excluded as Hayley's attention is focused on her friends. And, after the devastating car accident in which he sustained a brain injury, Nick is still trying to come to terms with his life-changing condition. Loyal Leanne bears the brunt of his mood-swings as the festive season becomes too much for him.
Film lovers will not be disappointed this Christmas, with the free-to-air premiere of the final films in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Parts 1 and 2. Other films include Quantum of Solace, the Disney animation Tangled, and Mamma Mia.
Entertainment and comedy feasts include the return of Ian McKellen, Derek Jacobi and Frances De La Tour in a special Christmas edition of Vicious. Freddie and Stuart have invited the whole gang over for a traditional Christmas Dinner - the only problems being Ash is cooking, Violet is bringing a new lover and Freddie has an incredibly demanding new acting gig. Meanwhile, Penelope reveals a secret in a game of truth or dare that threatens to break up the whole group.
New Year also sees the return of ITV’s award winning comedy Benidorm with a new family introduced to the Solana resort, joining the Garvey’s and the popular swingers Donald and Jacqueline, among other regular cast. Also flying back onto TV screens in the New Year are screen sisters Tracey (Linda Robson) and Sharon (Pauline Quirke) and their friend Dorien (Lesley Joseph), in a new run of the comedy classic Birds of a Feather.
A sleigh full of TV’s most popular entertainment shows have Christmas specials in the festive season, including the tear-jerking Surprise Surprise, as well as All Star Family Fortunes, The Cube, Catchphrase, Through The Keyhole, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, and You've Been Framed.
What's more, there will be a Christmas special of The Jonathan Ross Show, and a return of the satirical review presented by Jason Manford, a Funny Old Year, alongside brand new entertainment show The Illusionists.
Plus The X Factor judge and one of music's biggest stars travels to Camp Bastion to get a glimpse into life for servicemen and women based there, and to put on a pop-up concert for the troops in Gary Barlow: Journey to Afghanistan.
Factual and documentaries are not overlooked - Sex, Lies And A Very British Scapegoat: Presented by Andrew Lloyd Webber is an exclusive documentary for ITV, in which Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber tells the story of the Profumo affair and reveals a secret hedonistic world of luxury, passion and parties. Featuring interviews with those who knew and socialised with Christine Keeler and Profumo at the time, Andrew Lloyd Webber tells the documentary how the scandal began, and about the man who introduced the couple and was eventually made the scapegoat for the affair, Dr Stephen Ward.
In Paul O'Grady: For the Love of Dogs at Christmas, it’s the festive season at Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, and preparations are under way to ensure all the animals have a very special time, with dog lover and Battersea Ambassador Paul O’Grady on hand to help. Paul can be counted on to play Santa to the dogs spending the Christmas period at Battersea and carols around the Christmas tree soon ensue.
River Deep, Mountain High: James Nesbitt in New Zealand will follow the actor as he travels the length of the North and South islands, immersing himself in the characters, culture and scenery that define New Zealand life. From being tattooed [temporarily!] by the Maoris, to performing the Haka, James will delve into New Zealand's history and offer his personal take on a country he has a huge affection for, after there living there with his family for extended periods in recent years, while filming the Hobbit trilogy.
Aled Jones will present this year’s Christmas Carols on ITV, coming this Christmas from the village church of St Michael’s in Kirkby Malham, North Yorkshire. Performers joining him include Russell Watson, Richard and Adam and Jack Topping.