If there is one thing that the British do very well at Christmas it is television specials. Aside from watching the Queen’s speech, which most Brits consider to be background entertainment, Brits tune in at Christmas to watch a a lengthier one-off version of their favorite show. Here are eight fantastic British Christmas TV Specials.
1. The Office: Christmas Specials
Following two successful regular seasons of The Office, this wonderfully cringe-worthy mockumentary created by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant was poignantly concluded in 2003 with a highly acclaimed 2-part Christmas special. David Brent (Gervais) goes halfway toward redeeming himself, despite all of his character flaws; meanwhile the question of will-they-won’t-they? is finally answered between the every-man characters of Tim and Dawn.
2. Father Ted: A Christmassy Ted
Longer than the average Father Ted episode, this series was broadcast between seasons 2 and 3 of the regular series. A comedy show about a group of priests residing in a house on the fictional Craggy Island, A Christmassy Ted continues to be broadcast on Channel 4 every Christmas Day.
3. Doctor Who: The Christmas Invasion
The first Christmas episode of the new Doctor Who era, The Christmas Invasion is also the first full episode to feature the 10th Doctor, David Tennant, who replaced the previous incarnation, played by Christopher Eccleston. The Doctor spends much of the episode recovering from his regeneration, until finally defeating the Sycorax, whom he banishes from Earth. The episode is notable for revealing that Time Lords – during the first 15 hours after a regeneration – are able to re-grow body parts, evidenced when the Doctor’s severed hand grows back amid a sword fight with the leader of the Sycorax.
4. Doctor Who: The End of Time
In what was arguably the most emotional episode of the David Tennant era, the Tenth Doctor regenerates into Matt Smith (whose last episode will be the upcoming Christmas episode, The Time of the Doctor). In an episode that featured a number of the Doctor’s enemies and companions, The End of Time is also notable for the re-emergence of the Time Lords, as well as that heartbreaking line: “I don’t want to go.”
5. Alan Partridge: Knowing Me, Knowing Yule
Fans of cringe-worthy British comedy might be familiar with Alan Partridge – a character that was introduced to British audiences almost a decade before the launch of The Office. With Steve Coogan (as seen recently alongside Dame Judi Dench in Philomena) in the title role, faux chat show host Alan Partridge welcomes a host of “guests” to the set (a mock-up of his own house). With the commissioning editor of BBC television on the show, Alan – seeking a second series – talks his way into trouble.
6. Extras: Christmas Special
Sticking to the theme of cringe-inducing humor, Extras – the second television offering from Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant – takes a slightly more serious tone than the regular series. The show centers around the character of Andy Millman (Gervais) – a bit-part actor looking to increase his stock in the film-making business. Along the way, he endures various awkward interactions with the likes of Kate Winslet, Patrick Stewart and Daniel Radcliffe (all playing alternate versions of themselves). The Christmas special features cameos from Clive Owen, George Michael and David Tennant, among others.
7. The Morecambe and Wise Show: Christmas Specials (1969-1983)
For the better part of 14 years, the legendary combination of Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise made for essential viewing throughout the 1970s and early 1980s. In fact, their sketch show is widely regarded as the show by which all other Christmas TV specials are judged.
8. Merry Christmas, Mr. Bean
Aired 4 days after Christmas 1992, the Christmas episode of Mr. Bean remains an enduring favorite of the British public, and is notable for the scene in which Bean (Rowan Atkinson) emerges from his kitchen with a turkey on his head. Indeed, so popular was this scene that it was rehashed for the 1996 film Bean. Moreover, a similar concept was later used in an episode of the hit American sitcom Friends.
What’s your favorite British TV Christmas Special? Let us know in the comments!