Don’t miss: hidden Christmas TV gems
There’s lots to look forward to on TV this Christmas – Downton Abbey, the return of Absolutely Fabulous, Great Expectations, and lashings of festive films, but what about all the gems hidden away in the late-night schedules?
Christmas is the time when TV channels throw everything they’ve got – and more – at the TV schedule to try and keep your eyeballs focused. And while all the high profile stuff is on during the days and evenings, there’s plenty more to be discovered late at night. And if you’re not a natural night bird, you can set record to enjoy these later:
Wednesday 21 December
Heat and Dust
This rarely-shown 1983 emotional drama stars arch-smoothie Christopher Cazenove and Greta Scacchi. Anne is investigating the life of her grand-aunt Olivia, whose destiny has always been shrouded with scandal. The search leads back to the early 1920s, when Olivia, recently married to Douglas, a civil servant in the colonial administration, comes to live with him in India. Over the course of the film, Anne delves deep into the history of her grand-aunt, and is forced to reconsider her own life.
Channel 4 – 2.10am
Pedro Almodóvar’s masterful drama follows two boys in the early 1960s as they discover love, movies and fear in a Christian school with their school principal Father Manolo. The three characters meet up twice again, in the late 70s and in 1980 when shocking events change their lives forever.
More4 – 12.15am
Thursday 22 December
Joss Whedon’s (Buffy The Vampire Slayer, FireFly) space western drama (wait, it gets better) follows the crew of the ship Serenity as they try to evade an assassin sent to recapture one of their number who is telepathic. Surely they can see them coming though? Hm. Anyway, Whedon’s consummate writing and directing style means the film will appeal to ardent sci-fi fans and sci-fi phobics alike. Honestly.
ITV1 – 2.45am
Simon Amstell: Do Nothing Live
Recorded in Dublin in May 2010, Do Nothing Live is Simon Amstell’s debut foray into long-form stand up. The Sunday Times said: “As close as you can get to a man emotionally and philosophically disembowelling himself on stage.” Well, if that doesn’t get you in the festive mood, nothing will.
BBC3 – 2am
John Cleese’s follow-up to A Fish Called Wanda wasn’t well received on its release, but it’s still well worth a look. A massive corporate conglomerate, Octopus Inc., buys the failing London Marwood Zoo and comes up with a way to increase profits-do away with all the animals except for the ferocious ones. Cue disaster…
ITV3 – 11.35pm
No Country For Old Men
The Coen Brothers’ film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s brutal novel doesn’t flinch in its depiction of murder, betrayal and, um, more murder. Javier Bardem excels as psychotic killer-for-hire Anton Chigurh – and should be lauded for sporting the world’s most unflattering hairdo as well. It’s like he walked into a barber’s in 1978, pointed to one of the ropey photos on the wall and said “I’ll have that one”.
More4 – 12am
Brace yourself for underground gore in this surprise hit British horror flick. A team of female cavers become trapped in a nightmarish warren of tunnels and are pursued by a strange breed of predators. Probably not what they were expecting when they signed up for that outward bound course.
Film4 – 1.10am
Friday 23 December
Diane Kruger stars in this touching dramatisation of the World War I truce on Christmas Eve 1914, when soldiers peacefully met in No Man’s Land to play football against the wishes of their military commanders.
BBC2 – 12.45am
Channel 4 comes over all teenaged on Friday with the top ten moments from everyone’s favourite spotty adolescents – followed by the whole of series 3. Brace yourself for plenty of watch-through-your-fingers moments as the lads struggle to navigate the world on the way to manhood.
Channel 4 – from 11.10pm
Dolly Parton: Platinum Blonde
Everyone’s favourite country girl comes under the spotlight in this fascinating look at her irrepressible rise from a poverty stricken background to the most famous country star in the world.
BBC4 – 11.35pm
Dust off your toga for this classic, star-studded story of a Thracian slave leading a revolt at a gladiatorial school. Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons and Charles Laughton chew the Roman scenery in this three-hour Stanley Kubrik epic. And you can join in the fun at home: “I’m Spartacus!”, “no, I am!”, “I said it first!” etc.
ITV1 – 2.10am
If you’re up to see Christmas Day dawn, make sure you tune in to the traditional Christmas mass – this year from St George’s Roman Catholic Cathedral in Southwark, south London.
BBC1 – 11.45pm
The Towering Inferno
Once the presents have all been unwrapped, the turkey gobbled and the tinsel is hanging limp on the rapidly browning tree, you can enjoy some high-rise disaster in this classic 70s white-knuckle action flick. Steve McQueen and Paul Newman do their best to rescue several floors of celebs, including Fred Astaire, Faye Dunaway and Richard Chamberlin, while the flames lick ever closer.
ITV1 – 1.35am
Scrubs’ Zach Braff stars in this lightly comedic tale of a quietly troubled young man who returns home for his mother’s funeral after being estranged from his family for a decade. Keep your eyes peeled for a cameo from Ian ‘Bilbo’ Holm.
Film4 – 1.55am
Simone Simon stars in this classic psychological horror from 1942 as a newlywed jealous of her husband’s lover, who finds she has the ability to transform herself into a cat person to wreak her revenge. Try working that out at Relate.
BBC2 – 1.10am
James Stewart stars as an acrophobic San Francisco detective investigating the strange activities of an old friend’s wife in Alfred Hitchcock’s classic thriller. As he delves deeper into his surveillance job, he finds himself becoming dangerously obsessed with Kim Novak’s blonde bombshell, ultimately leading up the rickety wooden staircase to one of cinema’s finest – and most shocking – moments.
ITV1 – 2.05am
Brad Pitt was originally cast as the lead in this tale spanning over one thousand years and three parallel stories. He even grew a bushy beard for the role, before backing out at the last minute. Hugh Jackman eventually took the reins instead as the conquistador/medical researcher/astronaut fighting to save Rachel Weisz in this head-spinning story of love, death, spirituality, and the fragility of our existence in this world.
Film4 – 1.45am
What are your hidden Christmas TV gems? Let us know below.
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