The best music shows on TV and radio this Christmas and New Year: From Madonna and Buble to Years & Years and Gaga

Christmas TV and radio guide

Television. Radio. Pop music. A large tub of confectionery. There’s nothing better, really, is there? We’ve sifted through the highlights a-coming your way like an array of festive trucks making their way down the highway. Be it queens of pop, kings of swing, masters of opera or legends of synthpop and country - we've really got you covered! So without further ado, let us guide you through some of our TV and radio picks over Christmas.

December 18

The Brits Are Coming

ITV, 5pm

Revealing the nominations this year are Radio 1 DJ Clara Amfo and presenter Maya Jama and there are exclusive performances from Joel Corry, Anne-Marie, Glass Animals and Mimi Webb.

 

American Utopia

Sky Arts, 6pm

David Byrne’s dazzling and acclaimed live show on Broadway, in a film directed by Spike Lee.

 

Journey: Live in Houston

Sky Arts, 9pm

The Don’t Stop Believin’ hitmakers captured live in 1981 as part of their Escape tour. Contains Don’t Stop Believin’ (obviously) and, um, all the others!

 

Madonna At The BBC

Desperately Seeking Susan

Madonna: Truth Or Dare

BBC2, 9.05pm onwards

A night dedicated to the Queen of Pop gets underway with a compilation of her BBC performances, kicking off with her Top of the Pops debut in 1984 and weaving through time up until the present day. That’s followed by a chance to watch her iconic 1985 movie Desperately Seeking Susan at 10.05pm, and the 1991 documentary Truth Or Dare (11.45pm) based on her Blonde Ambition tour which saw her manage to upset literally everyone.

 

December 19

ELO: Wembley Or Bust

Sky Arts, 4.30pm

Jeff Lynne's ELO recorded live at Wembley in 2017.

 

Royal Variety Performance

ITV, 7.20pm

Alan Carr hosts as the combined might of Ed Sheeran, Years & Years, Anne Marie, James Blunt, Gregory Porter, Rod Stewart and Elvis Costello perform (not all together though, that might be a racket)

 

Music Box

Sky Arts, 9pm

Celebrating 25 years of Alanis Morrissette’s Jagged Little Pill

 

Christmas In The City

ITV, 10.15pm

Get into the swing as Michael Bublé celebrates ten years of his Christmas album and empties his sack with some special guests.

 

December 20

6 Music's Festive Takeover

BBC 6 MUSIC, 10.30am

Kelis will be bringing all the boys to the yard, kicking off a week of guest presenters on BBC 6 Music.

 

Top Of The Pops Christmas 1990

BBC4, 7pm

Mark Goodier and Anthea Turner offer up the top turns from 1990, starring Kylie, Sinead O’Connor, Adamski, Beats International and more.

 

Love Not War

Sky Arts, 8pm

Charity concert from London's Troxy with Bastille, Elbow and Ellie Goulding in aid of War Child.

 

Pet Shop Boys: In Concert

BBC4, 9.30pm

Neil and Chris captured live during their groundbreaking Performance Tour from 1991.

 

December 21

6 Music's Festive Takeover

BBC 6 MUSIC, 10.30am

Finishing off what has been quite the year for the Collapsed In Sunbeams star, Arlo Parks sits in and spins some festive favourites.

 

Top Of The Pops Christmas 1986

BBC4, 7pm

Whizz back 35 years as Peter Powell hosts Communards, A-Ha, George Michael, Simply Red and, erm, Nick Berry.

 

Mariah's Christmas: The Magic Continues

Apple TV+, streaming

How about streaming Mariah’s new Christmas special. Doesn’t include All I Want For Christmas Is You though* (*Of course it does!)

 

December 22

6 Music's Festive Takeover

BBC 6 MUSIC, 10.30am

Rock sage and all-round Actual Legend Robert Plant dons the headphones to lay some of his favourite sounds on the 6 Music listeners.

 

Top Of The Pops Christmas 1978

BBC4, 7pm

Join Noel Edmonds back in yore, as he does links between performances by ABBA, Boney M, Wings, Rose Royce, Olivia Newton-John & John Travolta and, naturally, some shape-throwing by Legs and Co.

 

Freddie Mercury: The Untold Story

Sky Arts, 9pm

Queen's legendary lungsmith Freddie remembered.

 

December 23

6 Music's Festive Takeover

BBC 6 MUSIC, 10.30am

US rapper Common teams up with jazz pianist Robert Glasper to rinse out some numbers.

 

Top Of The Pops Christmas 1998

BBC4, 7pm

Kate Thornton, Jamie Theakston, and Jayne Middlemiss look back on 1998 with The Tamperer Feat. Maya, Stardust, B*witched, All Saints, Cher and Spice Girls.

 

CMA Country Christmas

BBC R2, 9pm

Gabby Barrett and Carly Pearce host the Country Music Association Country Christmas 2021 event from Nashville, Tennessee.

 

Elton John’s Christmas Concert

BBC2, 11.35pm

Recorded live at Hammersmith Odeon in 1974 for the Old Grey Whistle Test

 

CHRISTMAS EVE

6 Music's Festive Takeover

BBC 6 MUSIC, 10.30am

Jarvis Cocker returns to 6 Music for a one-off mid-morning romp around his record collection.

 

The Official Chart

BBC R1, 4pm

Scott Mills counts down to the Official Chart Christmas Number One.

 

Ball & Boe: Back Together

CH5, 6.05pm

The Ant and Dec of musical theatre, Ball and Boe, run through classics from The Lion King, Greatest Showman and some Queen hits.

 

Carols From Kings

BBC2, 6.15pm

As festive as it gets, with the annual service from King’s College returning with a congregation after last year’s no-show

 

Scott Mills And Chris Stark’s Christmas Number 2s 

BBC R1, 7pm

Not content with revealing the Christmas Number One, Scott will be joined by Chris Stark to look back through the near-misses and runners-up from over the years.

 

Top Of The Pops Christmas 2002

BBC4, 7pm

Spin back to (almost) 20 years ago with Lisa Snowdon and Richard Blackwood presenting the likes of Pink, Girls Aloud, Will Young, Nelly 'n' Kelly, Liberty X and Holly Valance.

  

Country Christmas 2021

BBC4, 10pm

Gabby Barrett and Carly Pearce host CMA Country Christmas 2021 from Nashville, Tennessee, with guests Pistol Annies, Lady A, Lainey Wilson, Brett Eldredge, Carly Pearce, Carrie Underwood, and Gabby Barrett with Carly Pearce.

 

1979: Britain's Biggest 70s Hits

C5, 10.15pm

Blondie’s Heart Of Glass, Tubeway Army’s Are “Friends” Electric, M’s Pop Muzik, Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive, Roxy Music’s Dance Away… 1979 was a cracker of a year, but what was the biggest-seller? (Clue: none of these)

 

CHRISTMAS DAY

Top Of The Pops: Christmas Special

BBC1, 11.55am

Jordan North and Clara Amfo host this year’s star-studded party and lunch accompaniment with Anne-Marie, Clean Bandit Feat. Wes Nelson, Griff, Joel Corry Feat. Mabel, KSI, Mimi Webb, Sigrid and Tom Grennan.

 

All-Time Favourite ABBA Songs

CH5, 1.10pm

Will it be Summer Night City or Dancing Queen? S.O.S. or Mamma Mia. There’s only one way to find out…

 

Richie Anderson's Festive Boy Bands V Girl Bands

BBC R2, 2pm

Richie returns with a run-through of some of his favourite Boy Bands and Girl Bands, so it’s not beyond the realms of possibility to expect The Jackson 5, Destiny’s Child, Take That, Spice Girls, One Direction and Little Mix.

 

Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special

BBC1, 5.10pm

Anne Marie straps on her dancing shoes to compete in this festive special, while Gary Barlow & Sheridan Smith and Jamie Cullum are on hand to perform their yuletide toe-taps.

 

Britain’s Greatest 80s Songs

CH5, 6.15pm

The British public have been at it again, voting for their favourite 80s toe-taps. Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Culture Club and Wham! are all likely to crop up.

 

The Beatles: Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years

Sky Arts, 6.45pm

2016 documentary film directed by Ron Howard about The Beatles' career.

 

Human League: Don’t You Want Me At 40

BBC R2, 7pm

Relive the classic story of a song the legendary Human League didn’t want to release, but after becoming the Christmas Number one, a million-plus sales and topping the charts worldwide, they came around to the idea.

 

Westlife Christmas Pop Party

BBC R2, 8pm

Mark, Kian, Shane and Nicky recall Christmases growing up in Ireland, their career as hitmakers and their lives now as parents between spinning favourite Christmas hits.

 

A Musical Family Christmas With The Kanneh-Masons

BBC2, 8.30pm

It’s all round to the Kanneh-Masons for a knees-up! Remember to take a bottle and maybe a Tupperware of sausage rolls.

 

Britain’s Favourite Party Songs

CH5, 9pm

From Gangnam Style to Single Ladies, from Vogue to Tragedy, it’s the ideal way to dance off the pounds

 

Pavarotti

BBC2, 9.35pm

Ron Howard’s 2019 documentary about the life of the chart-topping tenor.

 

BOXING DAY

Pet Shop Boys: Takeover

BBC R2, 9pm

No strangers to a Christmas Number one, Neil and Chris will be hoping to keep the party going by playing three hours of their favourite music including Northern soul, showtunes, disco and synthpop.

 

La Boheme From Royal Opera House

BBC4, 9pm

It’s not all pop at Christmas (well, mostly) but Puccini's La Boheme is just the dose of culture you might fancy after a non-stop period of abusing your digestive system.

 

Adele: The BBC Sessions

BBC2, 10pm

From her first Later performance (on a rug in the middle of the studio surrounded by Paul McCartney and Bjork – no pressure) onwards, this charts Adele’s voyage towards megastardom.

 

Big Narstie Boxing Day Special

BBC 1XTRA, 10pm

The big man welcomes listeners to indulge with him on the ultimate Boxing Day party.

 

December 27

Sondheim At The BBC

BBC4, 9.05PM

Kicking off an evening celebrating the life of the musical giant, This clips show features his songs as sung by Shirley Bassey, Liza Minnelli and more.

 

December 28

Laura Mvula's Music Room

BBC R3, 10pm

Laura’s on the decks with some of the music that got her through the year, with Elgar, Walton and Barber and some slightly more up-to-date contemporary jazz from the likes of Theo Crocker and Lucky Daye.

 

December 29

A Star Is Born

BBC1, 9pm

Load up on popcorn for Lady Gaga’s Oscar-winning turn as a struggling singer and actress who becomes world famous with the help of Bradley Cooper, in the third remake of this classic tale. The first, starring Judy Garland, is also on tomorrow night at 10.50pm on BBC4.

 

Lady Gaga At The BBC

BBC2, 11.15pm

Further Gaga goodness comes with this compilation of her performances on the BBC, such as duetting with Tony Bennett on Strictly.

 

December 30

Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s Kitchen Disco

BBC R2, 7pm

The mirrorball is up in pop’s most famous kitchen, as Sophie brings out the bangers for a festive rave-up.

 

The Country Year With Ashley McBryde

BBC R2, 9pm

Ashley McBryde looks back at the country year of 2021 with exclusive performances including Luke Combs, Eric Church, Carly Pearce and many more.

 

NEW YEAR’S EVE

Top Of The Pops: New Year Special

BBC1, 4.15pm

Clara Amfo and Jordan North reflect on 2021 in the company of ArrDee, Becky Hill, Dermot Kennedy, Lola Young, Mabel, Mahalia Feat. AJ Tracey and Sam Fender.

 

Top Of The Pops: New Year 2014 

BBC4, 7pm

Turn back time to a Pops of a recent vintage, with Reggie Yates and Ferne Cotton serving up Jess Glynne, George Ezra, The Vamps, Ella Henderson and more.

 

Graham Norton New Year’s Eve Show

BBC1, 10.20pm

Ahead of their upcoming Best of, The Divine Comedy will be on hand to perform Something For The Weekend.

 

Jools’ Annual Hootenanny

BBC2, 11.25pm

As ever, Jools Holland and his Rhythm & Blues Orchestra welcomes in the new year with a host of top turns, who this year include Ed Sheeran, Rag 'N' Bone Man, Gregory Porter, Lulu, Joy Crookes, Vic Reeves and Yola, along with a dip into the archive with Madness and Soul II Soul.

 

Hogmanay 2021

BBC SCOTLAND, 11.35pm

Edith Bowman rings in 2022 up in Edinburgh with guests Texas, Emeli Sandé and Talisk.

 

The Big New Years And Years Eve Party With Kylie And Pet Shop Boys

BBC1, 11.35pm

Join Olly Alexander, or Years And Years if you will, along with Kylie and the Pet Shop Boys for a poptastic send-off to 2021 and saying hiya to 2022, while interrupted halfway through by some bongs and bangs.