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