Typically, this time of year shows tend to do stand-alone specials about Christmas, harping or concentrating on the holiday in a way that is highly exclusionary to anyone who doesn’t celebrate in the same way. The effect can be to push away large sections of their viewing public.
This year, however, most shows I was following found ways to make the holiday ancillary or as pivot point for their series. Below is a sampling.
Last Tango in Halifax
A nice 2-parter and shift for the characters. I can’t imagine this isn’t setting up a longer, new series, but it is as entertaining and painful as it usually is. Centered around the holidays, it takes that pause in the year to throw together the characters, decisions, and revelations.
Reviewed more deeply separately, but definitely a pivotal episode with little to hang on the holiday. A nice shift that was years in the making for the show since Moffat took over and made the first few Christmas specials odd Christmas fables rather than Doctor Who.
A definite continuation and setup. Also more deeply discussed in a separate post. A bit more focused on the holiday and its meaning, but mainly as catalyst rather than as hammer. If there is an overall message there it is that family is what you make it, not what you’re born into. A good and worthy sentiment… just wish it had been delivered with better craft on par with the first series.
Only Father Brown in The Star of Jacob and the Grantchester Christmas Special really did a traditional tale. Given their main characters that seemed rather appropriate. But Grantchester also takes the opportunity to shift its show into a new mode in addition to focusing on the aspects and analogies you’d think would be there. Father Brown is a tad more traditional, in series and in delivery, on this one. In this case, though, it was also the first episode of its 5th series, providing a respite and celebration before going on to evolve its cast from there.