What’s available on-demand on Freeview? Keep up-to-date with our weekly catch-up TV column, including reviews of shows on ITV Hub, new releases on All 4 and a guide to My5.
For a full catch-up guide to Christmas TV in 2018, see here – or for BBC TV reviews and round-ups, see our weekly Best of BBC iPlayer column.
Torvill & Dean (ITV Hub)
With ITV’s Dancing on Ice back in January, and with I, Tonya making a splash recently, it’s no surprise that ITV should commission its own ice skating drama for Christmas. And so we have the life story of Torvill & Dean, the iconic king and queen of the ice, who dominated the sport (and all the awards available) back in the 1980s. The biopic takes us back to the days when Jayne Torvill was just a wee girl first venturing onto the rink and Christopher Dean was the creative bad boy of Nottingham’s ice scene. Poppy Lee Friar and Will Tudor are both very good as the timid and tempestuous odd couple, the former a northerner who winds up skating by chance on a school trip and the latter a northerner with a poor family and an unfaithful dad.
With Christopher’s mum (understandably) leaving, and Jayne wanting someone with passion to (ahem) liberate her creatively (Jayne’s parents’ reaction to this is priceless), a natural partnership forms between them, as Jayne is determined to express herself and Christopher obsessively pours his devotion into being perfect on skates. The direction and editing makes them look just that when they’re in action. When they’re off the rink, the dialogue is often wobbly, the themes unsubtly blared over the loud speakers and the passion often a little chilled as a result – especially compared to I, Tonya’s blazing, darkly hilarious and heart-wrenching display this year. But when it comes to faintly cheesy, enjoyably acted biopics, this skates around its intended target with likeable commitment. Watch out for the ace Stephen Tompkinson, who, between Eric, Ernie & Me last year and a stint in A Christmas Carol at the Old Vic theatre this year, is enjoying something of a renaissance.
Available on ITV Hub until: 24th January 2019
The Crystal Maze Celebrity Christmas Special 2018 (All 4)
With the BBC throwing Christmas outings of Mrs. Brown’s Boys, Call the Midwife and Michael McIntyre’s Big Show at the telly this year, you could easily forget who’s the real king of the festive special. That’s Channel 4, which through sheer smart programming alone knows which formats to poach, which programmes to reboot and which ones are tailor-made for some star-studded one-off episodes. The Crystal Maze is a perfect example, as Richard Ayoade joyfully leads a group of celebrities through the puzzle-filled maze, for them to “compete in games they don’t understand in an atmosphere of escalating passive aggression”. What could be more Christmassy?
Ayoade, of course, provides most of the passive aggression, and his delicious acerbic host remains a delight, as he announces his contestant line-up – Christopher Biggins, Deborah Meaden, Jamie Laing, Frankie Bridge and Chris Kamara – before reminding us that we’re all collectively responsible for making them “celebrities”. But as the team fares surprisingly well in the maze, he’s clearly quite pleases to have a competent bunch, and enjoys sparring with the deadpan Kamara, quizzing the biscuit heir Laing, and treating Christopher Biggins with something between mockery and undying respect. Biggins, ever the panto luvvie, joins in with a plummy pretention that’s either an act or endearingly true. “Look,” says Ayoade. “Yes, I’m looking,” comes the overly serious reply. The addition of red-and-green decorated challenges, and little Santa hats on the crystals is the icing on the fruit cake.
Available on All 4 until: 25th January 2019
The Great Christmas Bake Off 2018 (All 4)
Channel 4’s incarnation of The Great British Bake Off remains just familiar enough to be reassuring and just fresh enough to be surprising – and this year’s festive special is a perfect reminder of both, as it opens with unexpected Snowman-themed intro that matches the surreal silliness of Noel Fielding and Sandi Toksvig, before bringing back old ghosts from seasons past to compete in a mini-Christmas contest.
They are, to be precise, Liam and Flo from 2017 and Jane and Andrew from 2016. Each wearing suitably colourful jumpers, they are challenged to make 12 Days-themed biscuits, six laufabraud (“leaf bread” from Iceland), and surprise Christmas present cake with a hidden design in the middle.
It’s the latter that prove the most stunning, as everything from trees to penguin appear inside the showstopper cakes – a genuinely impressive sight that’s offset by the drama of some dropped dough and some delicate icing gone wrong. But the highlight is without a doubt a bizarre recipe from Flo that contains Stilton. And Roquefort. And, erm, an entire bottle of mulled wine. Grab your own, get lightly sozzled, and enjoy the chance to see Liam back on our screens – his excellent solo series, Liam Bakes, is also on All 4.
Available on All 4 until: 30th January 2019