Belfast Telegraph

Who'll be top of TV tree at Christmas?

By Nevin Farrell

The battlelines were drawn up weeks ago and now it is up to the public to vote with their TV remotes on Christmas Day.

The big present programme schedulers want tomorrow is to be able to say they are top of the festive ratings.

This year the prime-time 9-11pm Christmas night TV showdown is a two-pronged BBC1 offering featuring old favourite EastEnders and a Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas Special which will go head-to-head with a two-hour-long Downton Abbey on UTV.

One poll showed 85% of people are planning to watch Mrs Brown's Boys and the other 15% will tune into Downton Abbey.

Going by the bookies, the Irish-produced show Mrs Brown's Boys is the favourite to be the top Christmas show with William Hill giving odds of 4/5 followed by EastEnders on 11/4. Another BBC programme, Miranda, comes in at 5/1 to be the top show and The Queen's Christmas Broadcast - in its traditional slot of 3pm on BBC1 - is 12/1.

It is all BBC with the bookies as next up is Call The Midwife and Doctor Who, both at 16/1 with UTV's Coronation Street and Downton Abbey are lagging behind, both at 33/1, to be top of the tree on Christmas Day.

The surge in popularity this year for Mrs Brown's Boys is shown in the fact that last year EastEnders was the red-hot favourite to be the Christmas number one at virtually unbackable odds of 1/12 and Mrs Brown was trailing on 8/1.

In soapland Christmas Day is renowned for its explosive storylines and fireworks are expected again on EastEnders as Mick Carter, the character played by Danny Dyer, flies into a rage when he learns the truth about a rape and to add to the usual Christmas gloom in EastEnders there will be a car crash.

Festive cheer is also in short supply in Coronation Street when punches will fly.

TV viewers in the UK are set to watch 86 million hours of television on Christmas Day with the average family tuning in for 3.45 hours, but many people said they will watch shows on catch-up to avoid family arguments.

However, many families take a deliberate decision to turn the TV off on Christmas Day to concentrate on family and friends.

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