- What to Watch
The BBC iPlayer is the gift that just keeps on giving for those in the UK. We are still watching and loving triumphant return of Doctor Who (obviously), but there are plenty of little gems elsewhere on the Beeb whose budgets would barely stretch to a single Sonic Screwdriver.
Doctor in the house
In our house iPlayer is all about the Doctor: we’re loving Jodie Whittaker as the 13th Doctor, and her adventures look absolutely stunning in HD. This series is really strong visually, which is bad news for anyone who prefers the Doctor to be running around a disused quarry pursued by a man covered in tinfoil. We’re also indulging ourselves by working through the entire modern Doctor Who canon, which is both patchier and better than we remember.
As you’d expect iPlayer shows all the big stuff from the Beeb, so it’s where to turn for all your catch-up needs. But the BBC also has some really great online channels featuring voices or perspectives you might not always get from the big Beeb channels. BBC 3’s comedy strand is a great example of that: Luisa Omelian’s Politics for Bitches is part standup, part documentary and as powerful as it’s funny.
The coming week on the BBC marks a lot of different endings. Strictly Come Dancing crowns its champions first (Dec. 15), then the UK’s ultimate sporting champ will take up their camera-shaped trophy in the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year 2018 (Dec. 15), which is then followed by a hiring on The Apprentice (Dec. 16).
The power of Two
One of this year’s biggest events was the marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. If you want to fit in one more royal wedding before the year’s out, BBC Two has got you covered with a restaging of the 1840 wedding of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert (Dec. 21).
If you’d prefer something less royal and more ursine, then Grizzly Bear Cubs and Me will let you appreciate some adorable orphaned bear cubs alongside wildlife cameraman Gordon Buchanan, who is trying to ensure their continued survival in their native Russian habitat (Dec. 19).
Four on the floor
BBC Four continues to unearth little joys, such as Mark Kermode’s genre-by-genre analyses in his Secrets of Cinema, or an hour of celebration of the music of Fleetwood Mac by musicians, journalists and fans. It’s not all documentaries on Four, though. There She Goes, a comedy drama featuring not one but two high-profile leads in David Tennant and Jessica Hynes, is a warm but honest look at the lives of a family where one child has profound learning difficulties. Tennant in particular is very good: if you’re used to him chewing the scenery as Doctor Who you’ll find him hardly recognisable here.
Doin’ it for the kids
There’s also CBeebies and CBBC, which continue to delight parents and kids alike. In addition to the likes of Hey Duggee and Bing, CBeebies also shows interesting fare such as the epic adventure Gudrun: The Viking Princess, which has just started its second series, and Catie’s Amazing Machines from CBeebies’ resident rally driver Catie. Just think about that: CBeebies has its own rally driver. Isn’t that brilliant?
CBBC is aimed at older children, and some of its dramas are just as powerful as the grown-up ones: for for example The Dumping Ground, now into its sixth series, is a spin-off from the successful Tracy Beaker series that takes place in a children’s foster home. There are also some really great practical programmes such as The Dengineers, who create incredible dens.
Into the archives
The iPlayer’s archive is always a ton of fun, and if slightly off-the-wall cop dramas are your thing then you’ll love Idris Elba in Luther: the iPlayer has all four series. If you prefer your dramas a little more serious there’s the excellent Killing Eve, or you can have Cry keep you at the edge of your seat.
Credit: BBCDocumentaries have always been among the Beeb’s strengths, and there’s a real treasure trove on iPlayer at the moment. You can watch a Christmas edition of Mark Kermode’s Secrets of Cinema (Dec. 20), Ben Zand’s deep dive into the mind of Kanye West with the help of the people who know him (Dec. 16), or composer Neil Brand’s look into the history of the movie musical (Dec. 14).
On a more serious note, there’s a repeat of a 2013 programme on the Lockerbie Bombing, made to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the attack, and marking the 30th anniversary this year (Dec. 20).
Now you know what to watch on the iPlayer, this is what you should be watching on Netflix, Amazon and Hulu.