Christmas lineup mostly re-gifted gems

JAMES CROOT
Last updated 05:00 23/12/2013
Julia Roberts

MAKING A RETURN: Julia Roberts in Notting Hill.

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Repeated treats from the silver screen dominate Christmas and New Year's viewing this time around, writes James Croot.

It seems the days of ice-capades and Circus of the Stars featuring as part of festive viewing are over.
Instead, Christmas holiday television this year is filled with a variety of cinematic gems - some old, some recent.

Sadly, there's no room for that American Christmas staple It's A Wonderful Life or even Miracle on 34th Street, but there is certainly something for everyone when the conversation wanes or all that food necessitates some quality veg-out time.

On Christmas Eve, it's Julia Roberts against Meg Ryan as the free-to-air networks serve up a double dose of both. Ryan features alongside Tom Hanks in You've Got Mail (8.30pm, TV One) and Sleepless in Seattle (10.55pm, TV2), while Roberts stars opposite Hugh Grant in Notting Hill (9.05pm, TV3) and Richard Gere in Runaway Bride (12.55am, TV2).

Earlier in the evening, TV2 has two animated films to help ramp up the pre-Santa excitement in the form of Shrek 2 (5.10pm) and the Jim Carrey-starring A Christmas Carol (7pm).

Those wanting to feel better about their own dysfunctional family should tune into the Modern Family Christmas Marathon (7.30pm, The Box) of season two episodes, especially since we still don't know who is going to screen this excellent show in the future.

Other laughs can found in the Vicar of Dibley Christmas Special (10.55pm, TV One), the Top Gear 2011 Xmas Special (8.30pm, Prime) and  the Grumpy Guide to Christmas (12.05am, Prime).

Once Santa has arrived, kids can be entertained with the Sticky TV Christmas Special (7am, Four) and Xmas dinner prep can be done to the tunes of Abba (Mamma Mia , 7.10am, TV3) or more appropriately festive music (Carols in the Caves , 7.20am and Praise Be , 8.20am, TV One).

Other religions are catered for with two royal documentaries (A Royal Year to Remember and The Changing Face of the Queen , 7.10am and 7.55am, Prime, plus the traditional Queen's Christmas Message at 6.15pm on UKTV or 6.50pm on TV One), marathons celebrating the cult of BBC science gurus Brian Cox (8am, BBC Knowledge) and Doctor Who (9.45am, Prime), as well as the first three features in the Highlander movie series (from 3.05pm, Sky Movies Action) and the first two instalments in Peter Jackson's original Lord of the Rings trilogy (2.40pm Sky Movies Greats).

While TV2 has the kids covered as they wait for Christmas dinner with two fantasy flicks - 1984's The Neverending Story (11am) and 1991's Hook (12.35pm) - TV3 has more adult fare in the form of Jane Eyre (11.50am) and TV One has more Meg Ryan ( City of Angels , 1.20pm).

As Christmas afternoon turns into evening, music takes over, particularly on Prime, with the Irish Rovers (3.45pm), then The Sound of Music (at 7pm in the form of documentary Climbed Every Mountain ) and Susan Boyle (9.35pm) all getting their moment in the spotlight. Legendary Kiwi country music star Patsy Rigger stars in her own special over on TVNZ Heartland (10pm), while the annual Royal Variety Performance (7.30pm) dominates the night's viewing on TV One.

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Come Boxing Day and bloke-orientated viewing appears to take over. BBC Knowledge has its annual Top Gear marathon from noon, while England and Australia clash in the fourth Ashes test from Melbourne (noon, Sky Sport 2) and New Zealand and the West Indies meet in the first one-day international in Auck dhland (1.30pm, Sky Sport 1).

Clint Eastwood's famous cinematic inspector, ''Dirty Harry'' Calla dhhan, is the focus of a quadruple bill on Sky Movies Classics, beginning with 1971's Dirty Harry at 4.50pm and finishing up with 1983's Sudden Impact at 10.05pm. No doubt that will make more than one person's day.

In a similar vein, TV2 has the action double-bill of Battle Los Angeles (7.30pm) and Bad Boys (9.55pm), TV3 has an airing of the 2011 Underbelly TV movie The Man Who Got Away (which focuses on the only man ever to escape from Bangkok's Klong Prem prison - David McMillan) at 8.30pm and The Box's starts the two-night mini-series Exploding Sun (where a solar storm threatens the planet) at the same time.

After something more genteel? Then there's a choice of either the Arts Channel's airing of Andrea Bocelli: Love in Portofino (8.30pm), which sees the tenor singing some of the world's most romantic songs, or Prime's 2003 TV movie My House in Umbria (9.45pm), starring Dame Maggie Smith, Chris Cooper and Ronnie Barker.

Fast forward to New Year's Eve and unsurprisingly music dominates the last hours of 2013 TV programming. MTV Classic has a non-stop New Year's Eve Party from 6am, while The Box focuses on rock with the 2013 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Inductions (7.30pm) and the Arts Channel features Gloria Estefan singing some of her all-time favourite songs (10.55pm).

For those in need of a laugh, there's The Best of Dad's Army from 8.30pm on Jones! or the star-laden The Graham Norton New Year's Eve Special on TV3 (8.45pm).

TV2 takes the cinematic approach to New Year's Eve comedy with a double-dose of Toy Story (5pm and 6.35pm) followed by Jackie Chan-starrer Shanghai Noon (8.25pm) and spy-spoof Austin Powers (10.40pm).

However, if you're after something with a more local flavour to see in the New Year, Maori TV offers two Florian Habicht documentaries - Land of the Long White Cloud (8.30pm) and Kaikohe Demolition (9.30pm), followed by a special edition of music video show Tribe (10.30pm) which will continue through until midnight.

Finally, for those struggling with a post-celebration hangover or regrets the next morning, TV One has the perfect, escapist way to start the year - a screening of one of the most popular (and longest) movies of all time - 1939's Gone With the Wind (9am).

- Stuff

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