I’m streaming of a Wi-Fi Christmas: why 2014 will be the year to go online for festive TV
I’m streaming of a Wi-Fi Christmas: why 2014 will be the year to go online for festive TV

Doctor Who Christmas special or the new Marco Polo series on Netflix? This year’s seasonal offerings on terrestrial telly are so uninspiring that the streaming sites win hands down

At last, this year’s festive TV highlights have been released, revealing such wild and renegade commissions as the annual Downton Abbey Christmas special, the annual Doctor Who Christmas special, the annual Strictly Come Dancing Christmas special, the annual David Walliams story adaptation and the annual repeat of a Raymond Briggs animation on Channel 4. For a time of year that has become so reliably uninspired and homogenised, this year’s listings feel even more tepid than usual, relying on blockbuster staples and refusing to take a punt on anything particularly new. By far the most unique show of the period, a festive edition of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror, starring Jon Hamm, is on 16 December, too early for round-the-telly viewing.

Streaming sites must be buffering their back catalogues with glee. With such a poor showing from traditional TV, Netflix and Amazon Prime are able to flex their muscles like never before. Both seem aware that they’re a valid alternative to repeats of Mrs Brown’s Boys, since they’re both launching new original series this month. Netflix has Marco Polo, its hugely expensive and expansive historical epic set in the 13th century, launching on 13 December. Amazon will premiere Gael Garca Bernal vehicle Mozart in the Jungle even closer to the big day, on 23 December.

For those who don’t work over Christmas, spending the extended break with streaming sites also offers the chance to catch up on what you may have missed this year (I’m lining up Sons of Anarchy), or shows that may hang over you as a shameful omission from the canon (look, The West Wing is really long, OK?). Gluttonous, lazy holiday days are the perfect environment for binge-watching (with serious commitment to the cause, you could easily do Transparent in a day, or Orange is the New Black in two), or, if you’re feeling bad about all that time off, then the “critically acclaimed documentaries” section soothes guilt by education.

Better still, streaming allows viewers to manage their own levels of festivity. Some scrooges may be tired of yuletide episode cliches being crowbarred into their favourite shows: A frozen turkey that won’t defrost! Inadvertently having multiple Christmas dinners by mistake! Forgetting to buy presents and having to pick up Milk Tray at the petrol station! And that is perfectly reasonable. Choose a festive film (I’m tempted by The 12 Dogs of Christmas 2), then the series two Christmas special of The Office, then settle back into a Walking Dead marathon, because that’s as much good cheer as your sherry-sozzled cheeks can take and it’s the most wonderful time of the year for zombies.

The only trouble is that streaming is rarely a communal experience, and it’s not exactly in the spirit of the day. It’s hard to replicate sitting around the box watching the first and only episode of EastEnders you’ve seen all year when every member of the family is staring at their own miraculously tailored TV machine with headphones on. But as the likes of Chromecast and Roku make it increasingly easier to stream to the small screen, it’s surely only a matter of time. Merry Netflixmas!