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What to watch on New Year's Eve

As 2020 draws to a close, more people than ever across the UK will turn to the TV for something of a quieter celebration this New Year’s Eve.

Ross Hindle
· 4 min read

As 2020 draws to a close, more people than ever across the UK will turn to the TV for something of a quieter celebration this New Year’s Eve.

Although the London fireworks have been cancelled this year, TV staples such as the Hootenanny, and whatever Robbie Williams is doing (I’m sure he’ll be around somewhere) will of course be available (albeit socially distanced somehow).

Altogether, to make up for the lack of larger gatherings, British television schedulers have worked hard to make sure we’re spoilt for choice as we round up the most unusual year in recent memory. Read on to find out what you can watch on December 31st to see 2020 out.

The Graham Norton Show (BBC One, 22:25)

Everyone’s favourite Irish talk show host has a star-studded line-up on his sofa this New Year’s Eve, with Tom Hanks (for the second time in three years) joining actress Emily Blunt (Sicario, A Quiet Place), chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (River Cottage), actor Jamie Dornan (The Fall), comedian Nish Kumar (The Mash Report), and actress Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty, Interstellar).

The show will also feature musician Sophie Ellis-Bextor, who will perform her cover version of Alcazar’s 2001 hit Crying at the Discotheque.

The Big New Year’s In (BBC One, 21:00)

For fans of Peter Kay’s number two-turned-host of Take Me Out, Paddy McGuinness is hosting something called The Big New Year’s In, which will supposedly distract from the cancelled London fireworks.

While details on the event are slim (as it is the first and hopefully the last time it will air), it promises “games, celebrity guests, and live performances” according to Wikipedia.

The Last Leg Of The Year (Channel 4, 21:00)

Hosted by Adam Hills, Josh Widdicombe, and Alex Brooker, late-night comedy and talk show The Last Leg returns for its seventh New Year’s Eve instalment.

Guests are slated to include Tom Allen, Lorraine Kelly, James Acaster, Judi Love, Asim Chaudhry, Clara Amfo, and Alex Horne & The Horne Section. It will continue to be filmed without a live studio audience (as it has been since it started airing this year in October).

Annual Hootenanny (BBC Two, 23:15)

If you really want to submit to the Hootenanny (this year may be the best for it, in all honesty), Jools Holland will be joined by Mercury Prize winner Michael Kiwanuka, Tom Jones, and Celeste.

If there’s any year that choosing to watch this rather than speaking to family or friends is acceptable, it may be 2020.

Alicia Keys Rocks Big Ben (BBC One, 23:30)

A strange inclusion for this year (again taking the place of the fireworks), Alicia Keys appears to be slated to perform on, in, or near Big Ben with the promise of a midnight cutaway for the countdown.

Unusual but perhaps not unwelcome?

These are perhaps the most noteworthy feats of UK programming for New Year’s Eve, but elsewhere on BBC One, you’ll also have Beauty And The Beast (14:20), a Top of the Pops New Year Special (16:20), Danny Dyer’s The Wall Versus Celebrities (18:40) and of course, a 30-minute EastEnders special (19:30).

While for many of us this will be a strange, unusual, and perhaps solitary way to see in 2021, with plenty on the television, there’s something to at least keep you occupied. Here’s hoping the fireworks will be back in 12 months’ time, and of course, we wish you a Happy New Year from all of us here at Pension Times.

Ross Hindle

Ross Hindle

Ross Hindle is a content writer based in London. He has previously worked on content and reports with organisations including Gallagher, First Abu Dhabi Bank, Indeed and Maersk. He is also a freelance novelist and short story writer.