Festive television isn’t what it used to be. Three decades ago, more than 30 million people sat down to watch Eastenders on Christmas Day: a record that still stands and is unlikely to be beaten. Instant access to the likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime and YouTube means that many people choose to watch TV on demand.
But, feeling a bit old-school, we grabbed a copy of the Radio Times and highlighted some of the shows most likely to appeal to petrolheads over Christmas. But don’t worry if nothing takes your fancy: there’s plenty to stream and download whenever you want, and you’re never more than five minutes away from a repeat of Top Gear on Dave.
The Grand Tour, Amazon Prime
In episode three of the second series, Jeremy Clarkson tests the Bugatti Chiron in what’s being billed as an epic cross-Europe dash. Meanwhile, James May is in Majorca to drive the new Kia Stinger, and Richard Hammond does a little car park racing. This episode will be available to stream from 22 December.
James May’s Toy Stories, BBC4
23 December, 9pm
If you’re still coming to terms with James May’s new hairstyle, here’s a chance to see him with his flowing locks still in place. In this programme, ‘Captain Slow’ argues that, aside from his eagle eyes and gripping hands, Action Man achieved very little. Here, he attempts to put that right, by sending Action Man through the sound barrier, using an experimental supersonic vehicle.
Casino Royale, ITV2
Christmas Eve, 9pm
Casino Royale sees Daniel Craig in his first outing as 007. Cars range from the very Bond Aston Martin DBS and DB5, to the more humble Ford Mondeo. Look out for 007’s pursuit of Le Chiffre, in which the DBS performed a dramatic tumble. The scene was filmed at the Millbrook Proving Ground, near Bedford.
The Love Bug, Sky Disney
Christmas Day, 11.20pm
“It’s a Love in for Herbie… the incredible little car who shifts for himself,” says the movie poster. This is one of Herbie’s best outings, not least because it includes the ‘Thorndyke Special’, which was actually an Apollo GT: the limited run American-Italian sports car of the mid 60s.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, ITV
Boxing Day, 9.25am
A terrific film in its own right, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off includes the famous scenes featuring the Ferrari 250 GT Spyder California. “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” #SaveFerris
Back to the Future, C4
Boxing Day, 6pm
Is there anybody on the planet who hasn’t seen Back to the Future? Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) is sent back in time by the mad scientist Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd), with the DeLorean DMC-12 acting as the time machine. Thirty-two years on, the car remains as popular as ever, and it’s all thanks to this film.
Jim Clark, Graham Hill and Jackie Stewart, Yesterday
28 December, from 9pm
Another chance to see these documentaries which shine a light on three of Britain’s finest F1 stars. The evening kicks off at 9pm with Jim Clark: the Quiet Champion, followed by Graham Hill: Driven, before concluding with Jackie Stewart: the Flying Scot.
The Grand Tour, Amazon Prime
This should be interesting. In an episode entitled ‘Unscripted’, Clarkson, Hammond and May attempt to show what would happen if The Grand Tour made a completely unscripted film, with nothing prearranged aside from the location. The result: Clarkson turns up in Croatia with an Audi TT RS, Hammond arrives in an Ariel Nomad, while May shows up in an old Lada.
29 December, 6.40pm
Own up, how many of you have tuned in to watch Bullitt, only to fast forward to the famous car chase scene? It takes place on the streets of San Francisco, with Frank Bullitt (Steve McQueen) at the wheel of a Ford Mustang, on the tale of two bad guys in a Dodge Charger. For a bit of festive fun, count how many times you spot the same Volkswagen Beetle.
Rallying: the Killer Years, Yesterday
30 December, 9pm
Rallying was, at the time, as popular as F1, thanks mainly to the madness of the Group B era. This documentary charts the rise of Group B and unregulated mayhem which led to the tragic events of 1986. This is a story of when fans, ambition, politics and cars collided.
Cars 2, BBC1
New Year’s Day, 9am
The original Cars movie was dripping in charm and originality, and while this follow-up isn’t quite the sentimental and nostalgic treat, it’s not without appeal. Lightning McQueen is challenged to race in the World Grand Prix, while Mater becomes tangled in some international espionage. Cars 3 hit the screens in 2017.
Made in Dagenham, BBC4
3 January, 9pm
It’s a slightly slower pace over on BBC4, with the excellent Made in Dagenham on at 9pm. This comedy drama is based on the events of 1968 at Ford’s huge plant in Dagenham, when workers went on strike, demanding equal rights for female staff.
Ford’s Dagenham Dream, BBC4
3 January, 10.45pm
The movie is followed by a documentary which tells the story of the Dagenham factory, which closed in 2002 after 71 years of production. First person testimonies and archive footage are used to chart the history of the rise and fall of this once massive plant.
Caravans: a British Love Affair, BBC4
3 January, 11.45pm
A documentary about the love affair between the British and their caravans, which explores how cars, leisure time and the road network have played a part in the rise in popularity of caravanning. We doubt Jeremy Clarkson will be tuning in.