Christmas Day TV: gifts from Doctor Who to Downton, but not much cheer

Festive sentiment in short supply as beach scenes, polio vaccines or reflections on mortality dominate old-faithful blockbusters

There was a distinctly old-fashioned and gloomy feel to this year's Christmas Day TV, with old-faithful blockbusters dominating a schedule that was notably lacking in tinsel, pizazz and good cheer.

Downton Abbey continued its annual tradition of ignoring the festive period completely, setting its special in the height of summer as the Crawleys upped sticks for London – though with a squint, the chandeliers dotted around the many ballroom scenes could have passed for Christmas lights. It was a welcome gift to see Maggie Smith's dowager countess doing battle with her brash Us counterpart Shirley MacLaine once again, though Lady Mary's endless quest for a suitor dragged interminably over two hours. The frostiness did eventually thaw with a sweet, though unseasonably sunny, ending, which hinted at a below-stairs pairing in bloom.

At least
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