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Bumper Season of specials on the BBC this Christmas
The BBC promises the very best in entertainment for all the family this Christmas with a fabulous collection of seasonal specials from viewers' favourite programmes.
Christmas specials for Gavin And Stacey, The Royle Family, Strictly Come Dancing, Shooting Stars, My Family, Rab C Nesbitt, Peter Serafinowicz and Lead Balloon all feature in a talent-packed Christmas schedule, which also includes Top Of The Pops one-offs on Christmas Day and New Year's Eve, and a Top Gear special from Vietnam.
Blackadder also returns for a one-off documentary – Blackadder Rides Again.
Mesmerising music and performance feature on BBC Two and BBC Four with sumptuous fairytale opera Hansel And Gretel; the New Year's Day Concert, live from Vienna; composer Howard Goodall exploring The Truth About Carols and acclaimed actor Simon Russell Beale telling the story of one of the most popular pieces of sacred music ever written in Sacred Music: The Story Of Allegri's Misere.
Thrilling drama comes courtesy of The 39 Steps starring Rupert Penry Jones; a very special edition of Doctor Who; spine-tingling ghost story Crooked House; as well as an explosive Christmas cracker for the Mitchells in EastEnders.
Wallace And Gromit return to the small screen with a special new adventure for BBC One, A Matter Of Loaf and Death.
Lark Rise To Candleford is also back with a captivating seasonal tale and Alan Davies reprises his role as Jonathan Creek with an exciting new mystery to solve.
There's a spectacular selection of films, including the television premieres of Shark Tale, Wallace And Gromit In The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit, Superman Returns, The Chronicles Of Narnia – The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe, Pirates Of The Caribbean – Dead Man's Chest, Madagascar and Starter For Ten.
Jana Bennett, Director of BBC Vision, says: "We've really pulled out all the stops this year to ensure a truly wonderful holiday schedule featuring the very best of British talent in a great line-up of exciting seasonal specials, from The Royle Family and Gavin And Stacey to Shooting Stars and Strictly Come Dancing.
"With exciting drama including The 39 Steps and Wallace and Gromit's A Matter Of Loaf And Death as well as stunning performance from Hansel And Gretel to Sacred Music there really is something for everyone.
"The whole family will be able to sit back, relax and let the BBC entertain them.
"And, of course, viewers can always catch up on BBC iPlayer if they miss out - while many programmes will be shown on BBC HD."
Songs Of Praise on BBC One prepares for the season with four special advent programmes including a packed concert at the Royal Albert Hall and a celebration of Sir Cliff Richard's career and there's Carols From King's on Christmas Eve as well as Midnight Mass and Christmas Day Mass.
Other musical highlights include Doctor Who At The Proms, recorded this summer at the Royal Albert Hall; a look behind the scenes of hit summer series, Maestro, in Maestro: The Inside Story; celebrations of swing music and progressive music in The Swing Thing and Prog Rock Britannia and the return of TOTP2 with fabulous party guests including Wham!, Aretha Franklin and Culture Club.
His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales features as a guest in a special edition of the Antiques Roadshow from Dumfries House in East Ayrshire.
Nigella Lawson and the Hairy Bakers cook up a storm in the Christmas kitchen while there's a very different look at how your Christmas dinner really gets to your plate in BBC Three's Kill It Cook It Eat It Christmas special.
Younger viewers can enjoy powerful family drama Dustbin Baby, based on the novel by best-selling author Jacqueline Wilson – with a star-studded cast including Juliet Stevenson, Dakota Blue Richards and David Haig – as well as festive editions of ChuckleVision and Pinky & Perky.
Wallace and Gromit return in a brand new adventure. In A Matter Of Loaf And Death, Wallace and Gromit have opened a bakery and have to do battle with the dreaded Cereal Killer in a classic "who-doughnut" mystery.
As well as appearing in a brand new adventure, Wallace and Gromit are bringing their very special magic to BBC One's Christmas campaign, featuring in a range of specially produced festive idents.
David Tennant stars as The Doctor in a very special edition of Doctor Who. The Next Doctor also stars David Morrissey and Dervla Kirwan.
Accompanying the drama, BBC One has highlights from the first ever Doctor Who At The Proms, one of the hottest tickets of the Summer.
Rupert Penry Jones stars in gripping drama The 39 Steps. Based on the classic novel by Scottish author John Buchan, and set in the build up to the First World War, it's a roller coaster action adventure, full of excitement, danger, fun and romance.
Alan Davies reprises his role as Jonathan Creek with an exciting new mystery, investigating unexplained events inside a gloomy old attic known as "The Nightmare Room". Sheridan Smith guest stars and Stuart Milligan returns as illusionist, Adam Klaus.
Popular drama Lark Rise To Candleford returns for a second series, with a feature-length Christmas special followed by 11 new episodes. Julia Sawalha, Olivia Hallinan, Dawn French, Brendan Coyle and Mark Heap return to delight and entertain in a wonderfully captivating seasonal tale that unites the past and the present.
In EastEnders, there's an explosive Christmas cracker in store for the Mitchells when a shock revelation rocks the Queen Vic. Dot receives a surprise visitor when Nick Cotton returns to the Square uttering the immortal words, "Merry Christmas, Ma".
Has the notorious villain really reformed himself this time? Find out in what promises to be a sensational Walford Christmas.
Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly present a Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special, marking the end of the latest incredible series of sparkles and show-stopping moments with a special one-off programme.
Top Of The Pops returns with two special, one-off shows; one on Christmas Day and one on New Year's Eve.
The Top Of The Pops Christmas Special is an hour-long celebration of all things pop. Hosted by Fearne Cotton and Reggie Yates and filmed in BBC Television Centre, it will feature exclusive performances from some of the year's biggest stars and will count down the chart to the all important Christmas number one.
The Top Of The Pops New Year's Eve Special is a brand new show that will review the year in pop. Fearne and Reggie will take in the year's smash hits, highlights from music festivals such as Radio 1's Big Weekend and Glastonbury as well as unique performances from BBC sessions.
Rowan Atkinson and the cast of the legendary comedy series Blackadder return for a one-off documentary special, marking 25 years of the much-loved sitcom. Blackadder Rides Again will include the first ever in-depth interview with Rowan Atkinson, on his personal experience of playing Edmund Blackadder and being involved in the show. There will also be interviews with other members of the cast and writers including: Stephen Fry, Tony Robinson, Ben Elton, Hugh Laurie, Richard Curtis, Miranda Richardson and Tim McInnerny.
The BAFTA award-winning Gavin And Stacey moves to BBC One this Christmas for a one hour special. It's Christmas Eve and Gavin and Stacey's revelation to Pam and Smithy doesn't quite turn out to be the Christmas present they were expecting.
Celebrate Christmas Royle Family style as Caroline Aherne, Craig Cash and Phil Mealey bring back all the regular characters for a very festive treat.
Other comedy highlights for BBC One include special editions of After You've Gone and My Family with special guest star Julian Clary joining cast favourites Robert Lindsay, Zoë Wanamaker, Daniela Denby-Ashe and Gabriel Thomson.
Marking the 20th anniversary of Michael Palin's first travelogue, Around The World In Eighty Days, he retraces the steps of one of the most memorable parts of his original journey in Around The World In 20 Years.
His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales features as a special guest on the Antiques Roadshow from Dumfries House near Cumnock in East Ayrshire. He talks to Fiona Bruce about the campaign he headed to save the house's unique collection of furniture from being sold off at auction.
Christmas worship starts on BBC One on the first Sunday in advent with Christmas Voices, an hour-long programme of inspirational song, chat and debate presented by Lesley Garrett.
Songs Of Praise will prepare for the season with four special advent programmes including a special 50th anniversary programme celebrating Sir Cliff Richard's career as he talks to Sally Magnusson about his faith, work and life over the past five decades.
On the third Sunday of Advent Ruthie Henshall joins Aled Jones at the Royal Albert Hall in front of a packed auditorium of Songs Of Praise viewers who will raise the roof in the annual Big Sing Christmas Gifts.
BBC Two celebrates Christmas with a top comedy line-up featuring some of our best loved stars.
Shooting Stars returns with a brand new, special one-off episode with Vic, Bob and Matt returning with two very special male and female team captains and a host of other surprising guests. Accompanying the show, a special documentary takes a celebratory look back at the best bits of past episodes and interviews many of the stars who put themselves into Vic and Bob's firing line.
It's the return of the Govan philosopher for the first time in a decade with Gregor Fisher reprising his role as Rab C Nesbitt in a 45-minute long special.
Peter Serafinowicz hosts a fast-paced comedy in a Christmas special of his award-winning sketch show, packed with impressions, characters old and new, and some surprising Christmas tips from the stars!
Jack Dee stars as Rick Spleen in a special 40-minute episode of the critically-acclaimed comedy Lead Balloon.
Nigella Lawson returns to BBC Two this December with a series of programmes set to cook up the perfect Christmas – Nigella's Christmas Kitchen, a five-part Christmas series comprising of three new programmes and two from the hit Nigella's Christmas Kitchen series in 2006. Our favourite domestic goddess will be laying out her philosophy for not only coping with, but actively enjoying, cooking at Christmas.
Joining Nigella in BBC Two's foodie line up will be The Hairy Bakers' Christmas Special. Bikers and bakers, David Myers and Simon King will be travelling the length and breadth of the UK baking some tasty traditional Christmas goodies as well as demonstrating some baking biker originals.
Top Gear ends the current series in epic style as the boys head to Vietnam and are told to travel the entire length of the country in just eight days. With the wheels sorted, they set off on one of the most spectacular and incredible road trips Top Gear has ever attempted.
Other factual highlights include James Martin competing in the Italian classic car race, the Mille Miglia, a Springwatch Christmas Special and Rick Stein looking back over his career in Memoirs Of A Sea Food Chef.
This Christmas Steve Wright will be pulling on his Santa suit and dancing shoes for eight new episodes of TOTP2 with some fabulous party guests including Wham!, Aretha Franklin, Abba and Culture Club alongside dozens of other classic moments from the unique TOTP archive plus the best of the new Christmas songs.
Sir Colin Davis conducts Humperdinck's sumptuous fairytale opera Hansel And Gretel recorded recently at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden with an exceptional cast including Angelika Kirchschlager and Diana Damrau as Hansel and Gretel, with Anja Silja as the witch and Thomas Allen taking the role of the children's father. The broadcast is introduced by presenter Katie Derham with behind the scenes interviews and features during the interval.
Looking back at the highlights of the hit summer series, Maestro: The Inside Story, with previously unseen footage and interviews from some of the students, judges and BBC Concert Orchestra, this documentary gives the inside story of their incredible Maestro journey.
The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra perform the annual celebratory concert of waltzes, polkas, marches, conducted for the first time by Argentinean-Israeli pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim in The New Year's Day Concert 2008: Live From Vienna. As usual BBC Two will broadcast the second half live with all the traditional encores in the morning and BBC Four will show extensive highlights from the complete concert in the evening.
Two major religious documentaries on BBC Two look behind two of the best loved and major traditions of Christmas. In The Truth about Carols, composer Howard Goodall explores the origins of some of our best loved carols, and reveals that their meaning is often a lot more deep and complex than any of us could ever imagine.
Star Of Bethlehem – Behind The Myth takes a look at the latest findings of scientists, astronomers and historians as they map the night skies of the ancient world with extraordinary accuracy.
For many people Christmas begins in the traditional way on Christmas Eve in the company of the Choir of King's College Cambridge. Carols From King's this year will be conducted by Stephen Cleobury.
Midnight Mass will come this year from Peterborough Cathedral and the cathedral will also be the setting for the Christmas Day Mass.
And, of course, Jools Holland will be welcoming in 2009 with his 16th annual Hootenanny, featuring a host of stars and acts that have made their mark on the musical landscape of 2008.
BBC Three takes a look at what's really involved in bringing our beloved turkey with all the trimmings to our plates in a special from acclaimed series Kill It Cook It Eat It, presented by Julia Bradbury.
The Making Of Gavin And Stacey (title tbc) takes a look behind the scenes at the hit, award-winning comedy series which recently moved to BBC One.
BBC Four brings viewers Crooked House, three sumptuous ghost stories woven together for a spooky Christmas treat.
Written by Mark Gatiss (The League Of Gentlemen) and directed by Damon Thomas (Beethoven), the drama boasts a wonderfully diverse cast which includes Julian Rhind-Tutt and illusionist Derren Brown in his debut dramatic role as the mysterious Sir Roger Widdowson.
There's also a feast of music and dance in the BBC Four schedules.
In Sacred Music: The Story Of Allegri's Miserere, Simon Russell Beale tells the story behind one of the most popular pieces of sacred music ever written. Once decreed by the Pope to be too beautiful to be heard outside the Sistine Chapel, Allegri's Miserere has become one of the best loved and most recognisable pieces of choral music, famous for its soaring high notes. The programme features a full performance of the piece by the award-winning choir The Sixteen conducted by Harry Christophers from LSO St Luke's.
Prog Rock Britannia is a comprehensive, feature-length documentary about progressive music and the generation of bands that made it – from the international success stories of Yes, Genesis, ELP, King Crimson and Jethro Tull, to the trials and tribulations of the lesser-known bands such as Caravan and Egg.
The Swing Thing traces the story of swing music, from the jazz clubs of the Twenties, through the heady days of the Rat Pack and Sinatra to modern stars such as Harry Connick Jr and Michael Buble.
In Ten Best Sacred Christmas Classics, a fascinating line-up of musicians and music lovers including Billy Bragg, Katherine Jenkins, Michael Portillo and David Soul talk engagingly about ten much-loved pieces of Christmas music.
BBC Young Musician Of The Year 2008 – Concerto Final gives viewers a chance to see the concerto performances in full of the five exceptionally talented young musicians who competed for this year's coveted prize.
For younger viewers, CBBC's Dustbin Baby on BBC One is a powerful family drama, based on the novel by best-selling author, Jacqueline Wilson. The 90-minute film features a star-studded cast including Juliet Stevenson (Truly, Madly, Deeply, Bend It Like Beckham, Pierrepoint), Dakota Blue Richards (The Golden Compass) and David Haig (The Thin Blue Line, Four Weddings And A Funeral).
The heartbreaking but ultimately uplifting story follows a young teenager called April whose troubled life began in a dustbin – a new-born baby, abandoned and alone, not celebrated, not wanted but discarded and left like so much rubbish in an industrial bin behind a pizza parlour.
On CBBC children can pig out on a new festive episode of Pinky & Perky and enjoy a ChuckleVision Christmas Special.
For the under-sixes over on CBeebies there is a special edition of 3rd & Bird and Lenny Henry stars in a wintery slice of Big And Small.
Notes to Editors
The following films and programmes will be simulcast on the BBC HD channel, the BBC's High Definition channel available through Freesat, Sky and Virgin Media.
With up to five times more detail than standard definition television, HD gives you exceptionally vivid colours and crisp pictures to make a truly cinematic TV experience.
Wallace And Gromit In The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit
Toy Story 2
The Chronicles Of Narnia - The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe
Pirates Of The Caribbean - Dead Man's Chest
Starter For Ten
Shrek The Halls
Wallace and Gromit: A Matter Of Loaf And Death
Doctor Who Prom
The 39 Steps
Lark Rise To Candleford
Strictly Come Dancing Christmas special
Gavin and Stacey Christmas special
The Royle Family Christmas special
After You've Gone Christmas special
80 Days Revisited
Don't forget that if you miss any of this season's great entertainment on the BBC, there are plenty of ways to catch up.
BBC iPlayer lets you watch your favourite BBC TV and Radio programmes whenever you want, really making the unmissable, unmissable.
Plus, BBC Red Button and BBC Mobile keep you entertained and informed whether you're on the move, or in the comfort of your own living room.
Visit bbc.co.uk/digital for all the new ways for you to keep up to date with the BBC this Christmas.
Programme Information for weeks 52 and 53 will be published at bbc.co.uk/pressoffice later today (24 November).