Bookish fun on TV and radio to enjoy this Christmas

There is plenty for everyone to enjoy, including Zog and the Flying Doctors, a Bridget Jones documentary and an Upstart Crow Christmas special

Helena Bonham Carter, reading Quentin Blake’s Clown.
Helena Bonham Carter, the narrator for Quentin Blake’s Clown (Channel 4, 25 December). Photograph: Charlie Clift/Channel 4
Helena Bonham Carter, the narrator for Quentin Blake’s Clown (Channel 4, 25 December). Photograph: Charlie Clift/Channel 4

Last modified on Fri 8 Jan 2021 07.25 EST

Remember when it was a treat that everything was shut, people were hunkered down at home, and slumping in front of the TV was a nice change? Ah well. But at least we’re drilled to take on the Christmas TV schedules. There’s no big BBC Agatha Christie this year, but as ever there are books behind some of the most tempting programmes. For older children there’s the finale of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials (BBC One) and for the rest there’s Dr Seuss’ The Grinch Musical (Sky One), both on tomorrow. Quentin Blake’s discarded toy story Clown (Channel 4), narrated by Helena Bonham Carter, and Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s Zog and the Flying Doctors (BBC One) are both on Christmas Day.

Roald & Beatrix, starring Dawn French as Beatrix Potter and Harry Tayler as six-year-old Roald Dahl.
Roald & Beatrix, starring Dawn French as Beatrix Potter and Harry Tayler as six-year-old Roald Dahl. Photograph: Sky UK Ltd

Donaldson and her work get the documentary treatment in The Gruffalo and Me (BBC Two, 23rd), as does Bridget Jones (Being Bridget, BBC Two, 22nd) in an examination of Helen Fielding’s character from the 90s to the “age of Fleabag and #MeToo”. Stage comes to screen with National Theatre productions, via Sky Arts, of Jane Eyre (28th) and Twelfth Night (21st). And Shakespeare himself, in the form of David Mitchell, returns in a Christmas special of Upstart Crow (BBC Two, 21st) set during a plague lockdown in 1603. Roald & Beatrix, Sky One’s flagship drama (24th), tells the true story of the six-year-old Dahl setting out to meet his hero Potter, played by Dawn French, and Netflix’s big budget feature is Bridgerton (25th), a Regency romcom based on novels by Julia Quinn. The BBC has Gemma Arterton in a three-part version of Rumer Godden’s creepy and sexy Black Narcissus (from 27th).

But perhaps most on brand for 2020 is radio. The Reunion (Radio 4, 30th) brings together the poet and author Michael Rosen, who spent seven weeks in an induced coma after contracting coronavirus, with staff from the intensive care unit who helped save his life. And in a year in which dystopian fact and fiction appear to have seamlessly merged, it feels somehow right that the BBC’s prime news programme, Today (Radio 4, 29th), is being guest edited by Margaret Atwood.