What’s the best thing about Christmas? Guilt-free slobbing out and watching telly, of course. Time Out rounds up the TV comedy treats of the festive season.
For the stand-up fan
Christmas is the time for stupendously popular MOR comedians to get their names in the titles and, sure enough, ‘The John Bishop Christmas Show’ (December 21, 9pm, BBC1) and ‘Michael McIntyre’s Big Christmas Show’ (Christmas Day, 10.25pm, BBC1) will be bringing variety and chat respectively. For edgier fare, ‘Mike Epps: Don’t Take It Personal’ sees the American comic and rapper in prime form (from Friday December 18, Netflix), while Jack Whitehall will doubtless be enjoying epic bants with his dad and guests on the ‘Backchat End of the Year Show’ (Boxing Day, 10.30pm, BBC2).
More traditional stand-up comes from Nina Conti and Josh Widdicombe in ‘Live at the Apollo’ (New Year’s Eve, 10.40pm, BBC2), while Gold will be doing what it does best – showcasing the classics – courtesy of John Thompson’s fictional ’70s club comic Bernard Righton, who introduces clips from Les Dawson, Emo Philips and other ‘Legends of Stand-Up’ (Wednesday December 16, 10pm). There’s also an hour-long tribute to a comedian who has enjoyed a remarkable renaissance this year thanks to his excellent sitcom ‘Car Share’ and a fine character turn in Danny Baker’s autobiographical ‘Cradle to Grave’: ‘Peter Kay: 20 Years of Funny’ (Christmas Eve, 9.05pm, BBC2).
For the sitcom lover
A bracing antidote to artery-clogging festive sentimentality comes in the final episodes of three sitcoms – one legendary, two fast on the way to joining it. First out is ‘Peep Show’ (Wednesday December 16, 10pm, C4) – but will Mark and Jez get the happy endings they so very much don’t deserve? Clem Fandango will be bothering ‘Toast of London’ (Dec 23, 10.30pm, C4) for the last time (for now, at least), and Julia Davis’s deliciously bleak Du Maurier spoof ‘Hunderby’ (Wednesday December 17, 10pm, Sky Atlantic) also bows out with lashings of sick humour and bubbly milk. Misanthropic genius Bill Burr also gets his long-overdue own series in pitch-black anti-PC animation ‘F is for Family’ (from Friday December 18, Netflix).
A little gentler but equally incisive, the very wonderful ‘Detectorists’ (December 23, 10pm, BBC4) finds hapless treasure hunters Lance (Toby Jones) and Andy (Mackenzie Crook) facing very different futures after striking gold. For all your mainstream comedy needs, there’s Lee Mack’s gag-a-minute ‘Not Going Out’ (Christmas Day, 10.45pm, BBC1), an old lady wreaking havoc in ‘Catherine Tate’s Nan’ (December 27, 10.25pm, BBC1) and – if you’re really having a long, dark night of the soul – a man dressed as an old lady wreaking havoc in ‘Mrs Brown’s Boys’ (Christmas Day, 9.45pm, BBC1).
For… someone else
Ah yes, the Christmas surprise. Fortunately, television has more clinches under the mistletoe than novelty socks this year. Alan Partridge co-hosts ‘TFI Friday’ (Friday December 18, 7.30pm, C4) alongside one of his ever-growing number of real-life counterparts, there’s Timothy Spall in a delightfully gross adaptation of Raymond Briggs’s much-loved picture book ‘Fungus the Bogeyman’ (December 27, 6pm, Sky) and Nish Kumar, Pappy’s, Gein’s Family Giftshop and Spencer Jones are among a constellation of up-and-comers letting their imaginations run wild, briefly, in ‘Sky Comedy Christmas Shorts’ (Christmas Day, 10.05pm, Sky Arts).
‘Walliams and Friend’ (Christmas Eve, 10.05pm, BBC1) marks the ‘Little Britain’ man’s return to sketch shows but doesn’t smell as sprout-ish as you might expect (the ‘friend’ is Joanna Lumley, in case you were wondering), while Russell Howard makes an unexpectedly good fist of acting and writing the vaguely autobiographical ‘A Gert Lush Christmas’ (Boxing Day, 9pm, BBC2). Just in time for next year’s big-screen reboot of ‘Dad’s Army’ comes ‘We’re Doomed’ (December 22, 9pm, BBC2), telling the story behind the venerable sitcom, and there’s cynicism as deep as the belly laughs for the only televised review of the year that matters: ‘Charlie Brooker’s End of Year Wipe’ (December 30, 9pm, BBC2).