BBC puts festive specials at centre of Christmas lineup as it tries to tempt viewers back from Netflix

The BBC is relying on a record number of Christmas specials this year in the hope that old favourites will keep viewers away from Netflix.

Everything from Death in Paradise to The Repair Shop will be given a festive makeover, along with almost all the quiz shows in the BBC schedules. MasterChef will have no less than three Christmas specials on offer.

The traditional Christmas complaint from viewers is that the BBC stuffs its schedule with repeats. 

Last year, the corporation was criticised for its predictable line-up. Netflix capitalised on the dull BBC offerings by launching Bridgerton on Christmas Day, which went on to become the streaming giant’s biggest hit.

The one family drama to be shown on the BBC over this year’s festive period is an adaptation of Around the World in 80 Days, starring David Tennant as Phileas Fogg.

Its other new offerings are A Very British Scandal, focusing on the divorce of the Duke and Duchess of Argyll in the 1960s; and The Tourist, a “brutal” thriller in which Jamie Dornan plays a man being pursued through the Australian Outback.

One of the new seasonal offerings, A Very British Scandal, stars Claire Foy and Paul Bettany star as the Duke and Duchess of Argyll

Credit: Alan Peebles/Blueprint

But the recurring theme in the BBC’s Christmas line-up is the “stocking full of special programmes” putting a festive spin on old shows.

In addition to the usual suspects – Call the Midwife, Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing and two episodes of Mrs Brown’s Boys – there will be a Christmas edition of Death in Paradise in which Danny John-Jules returns to the island of Saint Marie to assist in a case.

The BBC have given popular shows such as Michael McIntyre's The Wheel a festive makeover

Credit: Gary Moyes/Hungry Bear/Christmas Special

The team from The Repair Shop will restore Christmas keepsakes, and two episodes of The Great British Sewing Bee will see contestants making a Christmas jumper and a New Year’s Eve party dress.

Bob Mortimer and Paul Whitehouse will embark upon a “seasonal adventure” in Mortimer and Whitehouse: Gone Christmas Fishing. Top Gear – Driving Home for Christmas will see the three presenters set off from Bethlehem in Carmarthenshire, Wales, to deliver a Christmas tree.

It is in comedy and game shows, however, that the corporation is producing the most Christmas specials. There will be seasonal editions of The Weakest Link, Michael McIntyre’s The Wheel, Blankety Blank, I Can See Your Voice, The Hit List, The Wall, Would I Lie To You?, QI, University Challenge, The Ranganation, Two Doors Down, Mandy, Only Connect, Not Going Out and Ghosts.

Fans of cookery shows will be treated to a host of seasonal specials including Mary Berry’s Festive Fasts

Credit: Rumpus Media/BBC Pictures/Plank PR

Fans of cookery shows will be able to watch Mary Berry’s Festive Fasts, The Hairy Bikers Go North for Christmas, Andi Oliver’s Taste of Home Christmas Special, and three MasterChef shows: MasterChef: The Professionals Rematch Special, MasterChef Champions Special and MasterChef Christmas Cook-Off.

One of the new shows in the schedule is actually more than 50 years old. The BBC will show a complete episode of The Morecambe and Wise Show which was first broadcast on October 8 1970 but lost thereafter, until Morecambe’s son, Gary, discovered it in an unmarked film canister stored in the family’s attic.

When it was originally shown, the episode drew an audience of 14 million.

Among the offerings for younger viewers is a Christmas special of Shaun the Sheep: The Flight Before Christmas

Credit: Ardman Animations/Ardman Animations

Children will be treated to a Christmas special of Shaun the Sheep and an adaptation of Julia Donaldson’s Superworm, while two new films from Sir David Attenborough will see him choosing some of his favourite recordings from the natural world and exploring a quarry in Swindon for woolly mammoth remains.

Charlotte Moore, the BBC’s chief content officer, said: “Christmas 2021 is a time to reunite with friends and family once more, and this year’s line-up of must-see shows will bring everyone together to share the festival season on the BBC.

“There’s a stocking full of special programmes to enthral and enchant featuring your favourite stars and characters, whatever your mood.

“The BBC is the place to be entertained this Christmas and New Year.”

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