These Are The Christmas TV Shows We Were All Watching 20 Years Ago

If you’re anything like us, you’ll currently be poring over the Christmas TV listings, picking out all the unmissable shows you need to see this year.

And while the BBC, ITV, Netflix and co have put on a veritable buffet of televisual treats for us over the festive period, we’ve been feeling all nostalgic about the telly of Christmases past.

So join us as we head back in time to 2001, to see what we were all sitting down to watch (and perhaps fall asleep to) 20 years ago…


Dale’s National Lottery Christmas Cracker

The late Dale Winton hosted a special edition of his National Lottery show, which saw him joined by Will Smith and Vinnie Jones, while Westlife, S Club 7, the Corrs and Cher were on hand to provide the music.

Des O’Connor Tonight At Christmas

Des O'Connor and Will Smith
Des O’Connor and Will Smith

There was a double dose of Will Smith on 24 December, as he was also one of the guests on a special festive edition of Des O’Connor’s chat show.

He joined a star-studded line-up of Victoria Beckham, Elton John, Anastacia and errrm, Harry Hill.

Parkinson at Christmas

It was a chat show extravaganza on Christmas Eve back in 2001, as no sooner had Des finished up his ITV show than Parky was welcoming a host of famous faces onto his iconic interview series.

Dame Edna Everage swung by for a chat, while Robbie Williams teamed up with Lenny Henry to perform some big band numbers in support of his Swing When You’re Winning album, while Charlotte Church was on hand to sing a special Christmas Carol.

But the absolute highlight was Geri Horner (then Halliwell) performing an acoustic medley of Spice Girls songs, mixed in with her own hits and some Christmas classics (complete with beatboxer), for reasons we’re not entirely sure about.


The Big Breakfast

While Christmas editions of daytime favourites like This Morning and Lorraine have become more commonplace in recent years, Channel 4’s defunct (and much missed) breakfast show was serving up a televisual treat to open your stocking to 20 years ago.

Top Of The Pops

Back in 2001, Top Of The Pops was still a weekly part of the TV schedule, compared to the annual festive one-off it is now following its axe in 2006, but it still pulled in the biggest chart names for its Christmas Day episode.

In what is truly a marker of the time, the list of performers included Shaggy, S Club 7, Wheatus, Westlife, Atomic Kitten, Hear’Say, Kylie Minogue and Afroman, as well as a rendition of that year’s Christmas number one by Robbie Williams & Nicole Kidman with Something Stupid.


5.55pm and 8.30pm on BBC One

The EastEnders Christmas special was still split into two 30-minute parts back in 2001.

That year saw Phil Mitchell discover he was Louise’s real father, with Lisa Shaw and Mark Fowler having made the Square believe the baby was his.

Elsewhere, the domestic abuse storyline between Trevor Morgan and Little Mo reached grim new levels as he pushed his wife’s face into her Christmas dinner and made her eat the remains off the carpet.

There was some cheer to be had, however, as Jim Branning proposed to Dot Cotton, but not before a mix-up with Sonia Fowler, who believed Jamie Mitchell was about to pop the question to her after finding the ring.

The Lost World

This was BBC One’s big Christmas drama in 2001, with the two-parter spread over Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

Based on Arthur Conan-Doyle ’s novel, it followed a maverick professor who led a party from London to South America in search of plateau where dinosaurs are rumoured to roam.

Coronation Street

Christmas Day 2001 heralded one of Corrie’s most iconic – and unexpected – storylines ever, as it marked the beginning of Deirdre Barlow’s affair with Dev Alahan.

It wasn’t a peaceful Christmas at the Barlows, as a drunken Peter accused his stepmother of being responsible for the death of his sister Susan.

After slapping him and storming out to leave the family to make their own Christmas dinner, she ended up at her boss Dev Alahan’s where they wallowed in how disastrous their respective days have been. But as the wine started flowing, it wasn’t long before they ended up in bed together…

Elsewhere on the Street, the law caught up with Terry Duckworth as he was arrested while trying to take dad Jack to hospital with chest pains.

Alistair McGowan’s Big Impression

Impressionist of the moment Alistair McGowan landed a prime-time slot on Christmas Day, as him and Ronnie Ancona took off celebrities including Davina McCall, Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, Des Lynham, Pete Waterman, the cast of EastEnders and Helen and Paul from Big Brother 2.

Only Fools And Horses

The Only Fools And Horses Christmas special was a long-held tradition, with the 2001 catching up with the Trotters five years after they were last seen on TV.

It saw Del and Rodney return to Peckham after losing the riches they’d made in the 1996 special after making a bad financial investment that saw them declared bankrupt. But they were given a chance to win their fortune back when Del Boy appeared on a gameshow, but things didn’t exactly go to plan.

Stars In Their Eyes

Oh, how we miss Stars In Their Eyes.

The show went up against Only Fools And Horses in the Christmas Day ratings war, and more members of the public walk through those famous doors to emerge as their pop icons – although this time performing festive classics.

Among them were Shakin’ Stevens’ Merry Christmas Everyone, Karen Carpenter and Merry Christmas Darling, and, errrm, Gloria Gaynor & Aretha Franklin doing It’s Raining Men – quite how that fitted into the festive theme, we can’t tell you because it’s not on YouTube.

Snow Graham Norton

Snow Graham Norton

To finish off Christmas Day, Channel 4 showed a late night repeat of the festive edition of Graham Norton’s pre-BBC chat show, which saw the comedian joined by Kate Beckinsale, Martine McCutcheon, Alison Moyet and S Club 7.


Cilla’s Surprise Surprise

Cilla went to Disneyland for the 2001 Surprise Surprise Christmas special
Cilla went to Disneyland for the 2001 Surprise Surprise Christmas special

Cilla Black was on hand to bring some festive surprises to a host of unsuspecting members of the public with a special edition of Surprise Surprise, which saw her travel to Disneyland Paris.

Ultimately, it would prove to be Cilla’s last episode hosting the long-running show, which had been on air since 1984.

A 20th anniversary episode that was made for transmission in late 2003 never made it to air after Cilla sensationally quit ITV live on an episode of Blind Date earlier that year. However, the lost episode did eventually air during the Christmas period some 12 years later.

Graham Goes To Dollywood

There was even more Graham to be had over the Christmas of 2001, with the chat show legend journeying to Dollywood, Tennessee, at the invitation of the great lady herself – Dolly Parton.

It is also one of the few shows on this list that is still available to watch in full, with the episode on All4.

Jonathan Creek

Jonathan Creek

Bill Bailey and Steven Berkoff joined Alan Davies for a new adventure for Jonathan Creek as part of BBC One’s Boxing Day schedule.

The latest supernatural mystery saw him join forces with the police to solve the murder of an actress on a film set, baffled by how the window she was shot through had managed to remain in tact.

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