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Christmas TV: 10 Yule want to watch; RIGHT ROYLE KNEES-UP ON THE BOX.


FROM star-studded panto to pitch-black comedy, there's a sackful of seasonal goodies on the box. Here TV Editor NICOLA METHVEN picks out some crackers:

Aladdin (ITV)

THE Christmas panto has become something of a tradition on ITV - and this year's star-studded cast includes Martin Clunes, Ralf Little, Paul Merton, Lisa Riley, Julian Clary and Patsy Kensit.

The classic pantomime story, written by Men Behaving Badly creator Simon Nye, will feature fantasy costumes and a star-turn by pop act, SClub7.

The Royle Family Christmas Special (BBC1)

THE Royles are back - and enjoying Christmas in their customary manner - around the TV.

After a gutload of turkey, which is bound to cause Jim his usual digestive problems, the family just can't get enough of Animal Hospital.

Meanwhile Nana enjoys a snowball or two... or three or four.

The League Of Gentlemen Christmas Special (BBC2)

AND so to Royston Vasey, where things are even spookier than normal.

It's Christmas Eve and Bernice the vicar is trying to close up the Chapel of Hope to spend some time with her brandy-dispensing Virgin Mary.

But certain villagers are desperate to talk to her, and only now will do.

Charlie is being affected by black magic, Matthew is having trouble fending off German teacher Herr Lipp, and Chinnery the vet needs to unburden a tale of horror on the hapless vicar.

This is an hour-long instalment of the award-winning comedy - so expect to see some new faces among the regulars.

Friends Like These Celebrity Special (BBC1)

TWO teams from EastEnders and Holby City join Ant and Dec for this special edition of the hit gameshow.

The studio is filled with the usual mad capers as each team tries to go one up on their rivals by finishing wacky games first and knowing all sorts of strange facts about their team mates.

The teams will donate their prizes to a childrens' charity.

A Christmas Carol (ITV)

ROSS Kemp - forever remembered as Grant Mitchell in EastEnders - stars in a modern version of the Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol.

Ross, who wrote the script himself, plays Eddie Scrooge, a loan shark operating on a council estate.

For Scrooge, Christmas Day means one thing - everyone is at home, and that means it's time for some debt collecting.

We all know how the story goes, but Ross's intriguing take on the tale brings it bang up to date.

The Bill Christmas Special (ITV)

SOME festive cheer find its way into Sun Hill police station - especially in the case of PCs Dave Quinnan and Polly Page who get carried away under the mistletoe. Sadly the Christmas party for the hard-working officers looks like going off without a bang when bumbling PC Reg Hollis books it in a vegetarian restaurant - which doesn't have a drink licence.

Meanwhile, hide the kids' eyes - there's a light-fingered Santa in this episode.

After They Were Famous: The Sound of Music Children (ITV)

AN absolute must for fans of the classic movie.

Thirty five years after its release the actors who played the film's seven children are reunited for this TV special.

Each is interviewed to discover what they have done with their lives since the multiple Oscar- winning movie - and they will share their individual memories of the 10-week shoot.

Previously unseen home video footage - shot by some of the parents during the making of the film - will also be showcased, while some of the most famous scenes will be re-enacted.

Perhaps they'll even answer that immortal question: How do you solve a problem like Maria?

Gentleman's Relish (BBC1)

FORMER Corrie star Sarah Lancashire takes on her first costume drama role in this feature-length comedy for the Beeb.

Billy Connolly plays Edwardian artist Kingdom Swann who turns to photography after the market for his paintings dries up.

Sarah plays Violet - a prim housekeeper with a secret passion for her master - while Douglas Henshall is Swann's double-crossing darkroom assistant, Cromwell Marsh.

Swann's tastefully shot nudes turn into pornographic images after Cromwell takes his hand to them - and he sets up a nice sideline flogging them off to a Soho dealer.

Lenny Henry in Pieces (BBC1)

FRESH from his recent stint as a headmaster in drama series Hope & Glory, Lenny returns to his roots as a comedian.

The new show features a range of brand new characters including a randy pensioner, a competitive beggar and the world's worst trained assasin.

And the highlight of the show is Lenny's film spoofs in which he re-enacts scenes from recent blockbusters The Matrix and Billy Elliot.

The South Bank Show: Tom Jones (ITV)

HOLD on to your knickers, girls ... Jones the Voice is back in town.

The legendary crooner talks candidly to Melvyn Bragg about his life.

Starting with his early days in the Welsh mining community of Pontypridd he'll chart his journey to Las Vegas, where frenzied women first started pelting him with underwear.

He also reveals how he's become hip again at 60 - thanks to his duets album, Reload.


FEAST OF FUN: The Royles are up for a bumper Christmas dinner; WHAT A PICTURE: Lancashire and Connolly in Gentlemen's Relish
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Nov 29, 2000
Previous Article:Christmas TV: 5 fab films.
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