Christmas TV: Your binge-watching guide

By Sinead Garvan
Newsbeat entertainment reporter

  • Published
Family watching christmas tellyImage source, SolStock

If you are like me, then among the food, drink and heated debates, Christmas is also a great time to catch up on lots of box sets.

Of course you won't be in the same mood for the entire festive period, so you'll need different shows to help you see it through.

To help you avoid spending hours scrolling through various streaming services or searching in vain through your parent's dusty DVD collection, I've turned TV doctor and put together a handy prescription for all your viewing needs.

The mulled wine hangover

Most of us will need a day on the sofa after a little Christmas over indulgence.

This requires a show that makes you laugh, fall in love with the characters and relieve any post-drinking anxiety you might be experiencing.

Image source, CBC / Steve Wilkie
Image caption,
Meet the first family of Schitt's Creek

Well, look no further than Schitt's Creek. There are four series currently streaming on Netflix.

I put off watching this for ages. It's a comedy about a super rich family losing their money and having to live in a motel in a backwater town sounded grating. I couldn't have been more wrong, the scripting is hilarious and it doesn't take too long to realise Moira Rose is television's greatest creation.

She is played by the Mum in Home Alone, Catherine O'Hara, so that is quite Christmassy.

Oh and Mariah Carey is a massive fan too.

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Family rows

It happens to even the closest of families and especially in a somewhat tense political time. You can't escape each other but you are done talking.

What can reunite a family better that all coming together to witness just how insignificant we all are in the bigger picture?

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When your family are getting too much, Sir David Attenborough will make it all ok.

Yep, Blue Planet, Our Planet, Seven Worlds One Planet, literally anything that is narrated by Sir David Attenborough.

It's scientifically proven animals make us feel better (don't quote me) so when people are too much - stick on the penguins.

Alternatively - why not watch multiple other dysfunctional families to make yours seems a little more reasonable.

Step forward The Politician.

Image source, Netflix
Image caption,
Think your family is dysfunctional - you ain't seen nothing like Gwyneth Paltrow and Ben Platt in The Politician

It's created by Ryan Murphy, who's behind Glee and American Horror Story.

There are definitely elements of both shows - sharp-tongued one liners, theatrical singing, deaths and life inside an American high school.

The plot isn't about dysfunctional families, but they are enough of them in this dark comedy about Ben Platt's character Payton running to be the student body president.

Notable mentions, Gwyneth Paltrow as his mother and the twins that play his brothers, are all very good.

A little heartbroken?

If you're feeling a bit sad and just want to curl up under a blanket then there a few quite different options to help distract you from your misery.

Personally, I always turn to horror in these situations. This might sound a little leftfield but bear with me.

Image source, Emmanuel Guimier/Netflix
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Emma has no time to worry about heartbreak as she is being chased by Marianne, who is beyond terrifying

Isn't it better to be so scared of going to sleep because you think there is something or someone in your room than lying there thinking about your broken heart?

If you understand this logic, then go check out Netflix's Marianne. It's 'can't turn the lights off' terrifying and then Ghoul, which is from the people behind Get Out and Insidious, enough said.

If that sounds ridiculous then I do have a few more gentle recommendations.

Image source, nicole rivelli photographie/Amazon Prime
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Fashion inspiration from Mrs Maisel on how to look when your husband has run off with his secretary

The Marvellous Mrs Maisel is a great one to empower you if you're newly single. Set in 1950s New York, Miriam Maisel's husband has just left her for his secretary. But with a new lease of life, she discovers she can do stand-up comedy and manages just fine on her own.

Dead to Me starring Christina Applegate is also worth a mention. There is nothing like other people's lives unravelling to put things in perspective.

Fed up of the festivities

Image source, Bernard Walsh/Amazon Prime
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Not even a hint of Christmas with the Vikings.

Go back in time and enjoy the company of The Vikings on Amazon Prime. There is nothing Christmassy about this show. It follows the legend of Ragnar Lothbrok and his rise to become a Scandanavian King, invading England along the way.

It's brutal, bloody, violent and strategic interwoven with complex relationships and quite stunning backdrops.

A lot less violent but still not the happiest of tales is Looking For Alaska on the BBC iPlayer.

Image caption,
Meet Alaska, beautiful and kind but troubled

It is based on the YA novel of the same name - and follows a new kid at a boarding school called Myles and the mystery around his classmate and friend Alaska played by rising star Kristine Froseth.

Essentially, it is a coming-of-age story about teenagers, warm in parts and also incredibly sad. Again, not very Christmassy.

The long stretch between Christmas and New Year

Some of us will have to work over that period but if you do get a few days spare - then this is prime box set watching territory.

You are probably a little more able to concentrate and get your teeth into a good thriller.

Image source, Amanda Edwards
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In love on screen and off screen, Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys

If you've not seen The Americans on Amazon Prime then you've got 75 episodes of excellence to enjoy.

It stars real-life couple Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell as Russian spies pretending to be a happily married Americans living in the suburbs.

Since they were put together by the KGB, they've fallen in love and had children. They are still working though.

It was largely ignored until its fifth season when the show won Best drama at the Golden Globes.

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If only the trees could talk, it would really help these two work out what is going on in The Dublin Murders.

And if you want a really complicated but insanely well-acted thriller, try the Dublin Murders on the BBC iPlayer. I had to re-watch bits because you can't look down at your phone for a second.

But the pay off is worth every second of your concentration.

New Year inspiration

If you want to be ahead of the game in 2020, get stuck into The Witcher. It's what everyone will be talking about, well some until everyone else catches up.

Image source, Katalin Vermes/Netflix
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Come for Henry Cavill, stay for all the badass women in The Witcher.

It's based on the best-selling sci-fi fantasy books but you might know it better from the computer game of the same name.

It stars Henry Cavill and if you need a new drinking game, you could devise one around how many times he grunts.

He is very good as Geralt of Rivia, the Witcher and while the show is based around him, make no mistake this is a tale about incredibly strong women.

There are five books in the saga and the second series has already been given the green light.

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