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Pop CultureDecember 22, 2017

The Spinoff guide to watching free-to-air TV this Christmas


Sam Brooks picks out what you should watch this Christmas when things get too stressful and you just need to curl up on the couch.

Christmas is a stressful day for everyone. Whether you’re giving the gifts, receiving them, making the food or eating it, there’s a lot to do. And sometimes you need a break from all of you. You need to go back to your friend who you’ve been with the entire year, who has rocked you to sleep, woken you up, and been a very literal light in the dark: Your screen.

The TV networks take advantage of people needing their dear old friend the screen by programming more or less non-stop solid B-to-C-grade content.

MFW C-grade content

But how do you pick between them? Never fear, for I have read the TV Guide and picked out the best (according to me, a tastemaker and influencer) for you to sit and watch while you disconnect from your loved ones both physically and spiritually.

Note: Almost none of these are Christmas movies. But what does and does not constitute a Christmas movie has varied widely in these tumultuous times, almost as quickly as what constitutes Christmas. It is what you make of it.



Goddess (1PM) – TVNZ comes roaring into their holiday coverage with this Ronan Keating-starring comedy that you’ve never heard of, because it’s about a mum (presumably not played by Ronan Keating) who becomes famous after broadcasting her songs across the internet by accident. What a lark!

Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colours (3:15PM) – This is a Lifetime movie which tells the story of a young Dolly Parton, and appears to not have had Dolly Parton’s involvement in any way shape or form. Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles stars, if that name means anything to you, and it should because she’s a great singer.

The Notebook (8.30PM) – For those of you who want to start your Christmas Eve off with a cheeky cry and ogle at Ryan Gosling/Rachel McAdams (choose applicable) in the rain.

Hope Springs (10.55PM) – Okay, this is actually a great movie. It’s got Meryl Streep’s best performance in the last ten years, it’s a surprisingly mature and surprisingly sad movie about an older couple finding out what love actually means to them and made me cry and cry and cry.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2.30AM) – Extremely Maudlin and Incredibly Extra. This is that film that got nominated for some Oscars for being about a ‘special’ boy who is looking for a lock that matches the key his father left him on…. September 11, 2001. It is not a comedy, but it’s up to you if you want to start your Christmas Day with it.


The Santa Claus (7:00PM) – Everybody’s favourite obnoxious sound maker Tim Allen stars in this terrifying body horror as a man who viciously murders Santa Claus and has to take his job.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (11:55PM) – I have never seen this film and never will because it scares me. But I understand it is very popular and have played the Kingdom Hearts levels based on it, and they make it seem very fun indeed.

Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever (4:35AM) – If you find yourself watching this, at any stage of your life, but especially at 4:35 am, seek immediate help.


An En Vogue Christmas (1:35AM) – “The Opera House is closing, and in order to save it. The owners daughter gets the group En Vogue to reunite and do a Christmas performance at the place that gave them their start.” Stay up to watch this, record it, hold it close to your heart. This is the true meaning of Christmas, a 2014 Lifetime movie starring a 90s girl group as themselves.



Royal Variety Performance 2016 (9:40AM) – Exactly what I want to do first thing in the morning: watch last year’s Royal Variety Performance, featuring the likes of Emeli Sande, Sting, and Amber Riley.

Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colours (4:35PM) – You did not read me wrong. This appears to be a fictional sequel to the previous non-fictional Coat of Many Colours, but based around Christmas: “An unexpected Christmas blizzard poses a threat to the Parton family.” Parton herself plays ‘Painted Lady’, a prostitute who befriends Dolly. This is not a joke.

HM The Queen’s Christmas Message (6:50PM) – After watching her do this on The Crown, this is actually appointment viewing for me.

The Lady in the Van (8:40PM) – Maggie Smith plays a homeless woman who actually might be a famous lady from the past who nobody remembers. Five billion stars.

Something’s Gotta Give (10:40PM) – That movie where Diane Keaton wails at a laptop and somehow decides that Jack Nicholson is more attractive than Keanu Reeves. Negative five billion stars.

Edgar (2:35AM) – If you end up watching this terrible film which puts Armie Hammer under so much old age makeup he looks like Miss Piggy at any time, but especially on Christmas, you need some more eggnog to put you gently to sleep.


Christmas In The Park 2017 (12:30PM) – I’ve not seen this very New Zealand extravaganza in a few years, but 12:30 pm seems like the ideal time when you’ll need a break from the people you’ve ended up spending the 25th with, so what better distraction than children dancing to Christmas songs?

Hunt For The Wilderpeople (7:00PM) – Amazing. Beautiful. Linda Evangelista. Watch this Kiwi classic again. It’s the best.

Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion (10:25PM) – Genuinely one of the best comedies of the 90s, and maybe of all time? Lisa Kudrow and Mira Sorvino give comic tour-de-forces as two girls who weren’t popular at high school but want to be big shots for their ten year reunion. Appointment watching. Fifty billion stars.

The Royal Tenenbaums (1:30AM) – This stunning Gwyneth Paltrow movie is one of my favourites, and there’s worse things to do than cuddle up to what is Wes Anderson’s best movie, maybe.


Santa’s Secret/Hats Off To Christmas/A Perfect Christmas/My Santa/Holiday Wishes – (7:50AM-1:20PM) – I don’t know what these movies are and neither do you but if you’re looking for some generic uplifting and mildly diverting Christmas stuff, then Three has got you covered.

The Sound of Music (3:00PM) – Iconic. This movie about a nun who defeats the Nazis and worms her way into a previously functioning marriage has somehow become an annual Christmas treat, and honestly? It holds up. Fair warning though, it is about 70 hours long so you may fall into a food/alcohol coma during it.

Jono & Ben’s Christmas Special/The Graham Norton Show/Live At The Apollo: Christmas Special/Michael McIntyre’s Big Christmas Show (7:20PM-9:55PM) – And this is where you crawl up next to the TV and chuckle gently at the light comedy when your family starts bringing up the election/immigrants/taxes/your Aunt Roxane. Drown out the world, live next to Three.


Babe (7:25AM) – The best movie about a pig that you could ever watch at 7:25 am. James Cromwell features.

Doctor Who (9:00AM-4:00PM) – Savvy Prime has scheduled a Doctor Who marathon on this day, because people who watch Doctor Who are definitely going to want to watch Doctor Who on Christmas.

Edinburgh Miitary Tattoo (6:50PM) – Oh this is actually quite a treat. It’s a lot of marching and fireworks and loud drums and it is absolutely worth watching. I was in Edinburgh for a month last year and could not get a ticket for love or money.

Māori TV

The Dark Crystal (1:10PM) – Terrifying animated/puppet film. I hear it’s good. I would not know, because the imagery terrifies me. Maybe not a Christmas movie, but if you’ve learned anything by this point it is that networks care not what counts as Christmas content and what doesn’t. It is anarchy out there and you, the viewer, make the choice.

Peter Pan (2:55PM) – This is not the animated Peter Pan or the notorious 2016 flop Pan, it is instead the little seen 2003 live action Peter Pan which is actually a really delightful little film. Super kid-friendly, super engaging and lovely. If you’re looking for something to put your kids in front of at 2:55 pm on Christmas Day, you could do a whole lot worse.

Whale Rider (7:00PM) – Great film, good content, worth watching.

It’s A Wonderful Life (8:50PM) – Maybe the best Christmas film ever made, and they made it 71 years ago. You will cry. A good gateway drug for people to get into black and white films, if they’re prudes about that for some reason.


TVNZ 1 and 2 return to their normal content, because they will have none of this multiple Christmas Day bullshit.


Ambulance Girl (1:00PM) – Imagine making a film that aired at 1:00 pm on Boxing Day. Imagine your inner life. Also imagine this summary, and imagine it not being a complete game of mad-libs, for genre, content, plot and actors: “Comedy about a former food writer and how she conquered clinical depression after becoming a paramedic. Starring Kathy Bates.”

Rio (3:25PM) – I saw Rio in the theatres, in a dark-ish time in my life. It has bright colours and peppy songs. If you’re hungover after Christmas, and nobody can judge you if you are, then Rio is a good way to ease you back into real life.

After Rio we’re back to THREE’s normally scheduled programming. RIP Christmas 2017, long live New Year 2018.


Doctor Who (11:00AM-4:00PM) – Another five hours of Doctor Who, I assume because Prime figures if you wanted to watch Doctor Who on Christmas Day you’ll want to watch it on Boxing Day too.

Doctor Who Christmas Special 2017 (4:00PM) – See above.

The Sapphires (8:45PM) – A jolly sort-of musical about The Sapphires, an Australian girl group who entertained the US troops in Vietnam. Jessica Mauboy of [insert source of fame here] fame stars.

Māori TV

Poi E (7:30PM) – A seriously great documentary about Dalvanius Prime, and the original New Zealand earworm, ‘Poi E’.

Billy T – Te Movie (9:10PM) – Another seriously great documentary which is, as you might assume from the title, about Billy T James.

Those are the things you should watch this Christmas if you don’t want to make eye contact with another person and want to spend it with the entity you love most: Your screen.

Better Christmas, everyone.

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