There’s a trea­sure trove of TV treats on offer this Xmas, with re­turn­ing cult com­edy he­roes The League Of Gentlemen lead­ing the way.

Hot Press - - Hot Press / 4121 / Contents - By Paul Nolan

The most ex­cit­ing ques­tion be­ing asked this fes­tive sea­son isn’t “What do you want for Christ­mas?” Rather it’s “Is Dave there?” Yes, the most thrilling tele­vi­sion news this Yule­tide is the re­turn of one of the UK’s great­est ever com­edy acts, The League Of Gentlemen. Twenty years after first hit­ting the air­waves with their BBC Ra­dio se­ries, Mess(e)rs Gatiss, Pem­ber­ton, Shear­smith & Dyson are re­turn­ing to their fa­mil­iar stomp­ing ground of Roys­ton Vasey. Ex­pect the usual dark shenani­gans from the usual sus­pects, in­clud­ing Ed­ward & Tubbs, Dr Chin­nery, Hil­lary Briss and – time to lock up your wife – the de­monic Papa Lazarou.

What a long, strange trip it’s been for the League since de­but­ing back in the mid-’90s. Fol­low­ing their 2005 movie The League Of Gentlemen’s Apoc­a­lypse, the boys went their sep­a­rate ways, with Gatiss adding an­other string to his bow as co-creator of in­ter­na­tional smash hit Sher­lock, and Pem­ber­ton and Shear­smith cre­at­ing the bril­liant dark com­edy ef­forts Psy­choville (the ti­tle the League was given when it was sold to Ja­panese TV) and In­side No. 9.

Dyson, mean­while, worked on a se­ries of cult com­edy hits, in­clud­ing Sky Arts show Psy­chobitches, fea­tur­ing Ir­ish star Sharon Hor­gan. The broad­cast dates for the three-part spe­cials have been an­nounced as De­cem­ber

18-20, and the main sto­ry­line sees Roys­ton Vasey’s very ex­is­tence com­ing un­der threat as a re­sult of bound­ary re­vi­sions. “It seems we’ve in­creas­ingly be­come a lo­cal coun­try for lo­cal peo­ple,” mused Gatiss in a re­cent in­ter­view. “That left us won­der­ing if there’s some­thing Brex­ity we can do.”

Papa Lazarou in Num­ber 10? That’s us sold! Mean­while, the Beeb en­joyed yet an­other ma­jor Xmas coup with the an­nounce­ment of Alan Par­tridge: Why, When, Where, How and Whom?

The spe­cial will see Steve Coogan's iconic char­ac­ter re­flect on his life and times in a ret­ro­spec­tive mock­u­men­tary for­mat, and if it's half as good his clas­sic Scis­sored Isle out­ing, we're in for one hell of a fes­tive treat. And just to top it all off, the show is a pre­cur­sor to a full new Par­tridge se­ries next year.

"It has been a quar­ter of a cen­tury since a lit­tle known sports re­porter was given his own ra­dio chat show by the BBC," states the pro­gramme notes. "Two ra­dio se­ries, five TV se­ries, four spe­cials, two books and one movie later, Alan Par­tridge has an un­ri­valled place in the com­edy pan­theon.

"To cel­e­brate Alan's re­turn to his right­ful home at the BBC in 2018, this ret­ro­spec­tive doc­u­men­tary will look back at his jour­ney from broad­caster car­i­ca­ture to the award-win­ning study of com­plex­ity and pathos that he has be­come."

To which we can only say: A-ha!

Else­where in Xmas TV news, Gatiss’s Sher­lock co-writer, Steven Mof­fat, em­barks on his fi­nal episode as Doc­tor Who showrun­ner. Broad­cast on Christ­mas Day, ‘Twice Upon A Time’ finds “Two Doc­tors stranded in a for­bid­ding snows­cape, re­fus­ing to face re­gen­er­a­tion. And a Bri­tish army cap­tain seem­ingly des­tined to die in the First World War, but taken from the trenches to play his part in the Doc­tor’s story. This is the mag­i­cal last chap­ter in the Twelfth Doc­tor’s epic ad­ven­ture.”

In­deed it is; as well as be­ing Mof­fat’s fi­nal bow, ‘Twice Upon A Time’ is also the fi­nal out­ing for Peter Ca­paldi as Doc­tor Who. The episode will in­tro­duce his re­place­ment, Jodie Whit­taker, al­though the ubiq­ui­tous Gatiss will have a cameo for old time’s sake…

Also worth check­ing out will be The Crys­tal Maze Christ­mas Spe­cial, hosted by Field­ing’s Mighty Boosh co-star Richard Ayoade. Five in­trepid celebrity ad­ven­tur­ers will take on the Maze chal­lenge in aide of Stand

Up To Cancer, with the Aztec, Me­dieval, In­dus­trial and Fu­tur­is­tic zones trans­formed for the fes­tive sea­son.

Other high­lights of the fes­tive TV sched­ule in­clude Al Mur­ray’s Make Christ­mas Great Again on ITV, which sees the na­tion’s favourite pub landlord host­ing the ul­ti­mate public house party; a French And Saun­ders Xmas Spe­cial on the Beeb to mark the duo’s 30th an­niver­sary; and Chan­nel 4’s an­nual Big Fat Quiz Of Ev­ery­thing, once again presided over by Jimmy Carr.

And if all that still isn’t enough, there’s also a Not Go­ing Out Christ­mas Spe­cial, A Christ­mas Carol Goes Wrong, the Strictly Come Danc­ing Christ­mas Spe­cial,a Live At The Apollo Christ­mas Spe­cial, and fes­tive edi­tions of QI and Mrs Brown’s Boys.

Fi­nally, there are also a cou­ple of no­table high­lights on the mu­si­cal front. Fol­low­ing their joint Ir­ish takeover of Satur­day Night Live with Saoirse Ro­nan, Dublin’s most fa­mous four­some will be get­ting their own Xmas spe­cial in the shape of U2 Live At The BBC, hosted by Cat Dee­ley. The show will see Bono and the boys per­form­ing a se­lec­tion of their great­est hits along­side ma­te­rial from their new al­bum Songs Of Ex­pe­ri­ence. It will also fea­ture exclusive be­hind-the-scenes footage from the band’s Sao Paolo stop-off dur­ing this year’s Joshua Tree tour.

And if you want to see in 2018 with the ideal party sound­track, check out the spe­cial New Year’s Eve con­cert by Nile Rodgers & Chic on BBC One. The per­for­mance will be broad­cast live after the world fa­mous fire­works dis­play on the River Thames, and ‘Good Times’ are guar­an­teed.

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