IT'S ABOUT ADVENTURE
One of the great traditions of Christmas is indulging in thrills and spills, without budging one inch from the comfort of your sofa. What you want is to live vicariously through the antics of an on-screen action hero, while munching on a turkey sandwich. After all, the rollicking adventures will help keep you awake and perky, no matter how much food and wine you've ingested.
This is where Sharpe comes in. Drama will be showing some of the gruff northern warrior's greatest sagas, with Sean Bean looking frankly spectacular in his soldier garb as he takes on wily French spies, scheming British generals and the occasional femme fatale, all against the dramatic, sun-scorched backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars. In between the explosions, daring escapes and frantic skirmishes, you can also play "spot the famous face" - you'll be surprised who makes an appearance.
IT'S ABOUT EMOTION
The ideal coffee table spread over the festive season should include a giant tub of foil-wrapped chocolates, bowls of nuts and a very big box of tissues. Not to mop up food crumbs (though they'll come in handy for that), but to wipe away the tears. After all, it wouldn't be Christmas if you don't lose yourself in powerful dramas which tug on the heartstrings and have you dabbing away at your eyes every so often.
When it comes to pure emotion, few dramas can rival the tales of Catherine Cookson. From The Secret to The Rag Nymph, they throw us into a world of striving, brave and passionate characters, who have to overcome the looming odds of their eras. Women have to deal with tyrannical fathers, duplicitous suitors and life on the run, men have to contend with life in gritty shipyards and murky mines, and the daily struggle to stay afloat. Somehow, they have to make it through - and we're with them every step of the way.
IT'S ABOUT ESCAPING TO THE PAST
Christmas and nostalgia go together like mulled wine and mince pies. We all think about the Christmases of long ago, the childhood moments of waking up at the crack of dawn, eager to attack our presents. But there's a greater sense of nostalgia too - nostalgia for times we never actually knew, but which sum up all things Christmassy in our imaginations. Like the late Victorian era, for example - an era which is so magically conjured up by Catherine Cookson. It may not be the cute, festive Victorian world of Dickens, but this is every bit as evocative.
And then of course there's Call the Midwife, which takes us back to a more innocent time, when community was strength and neighbours actually knew each other, even in bustling London. Of course, there's hardship and strife, but there's such warmth here too, and when the snow falls at Christmas and the ladies potter over roast dinner, even Poplar seems like a winter wonderland.
IT'S ABOUT QUIET CONTEMPLATION
There's something else about Christmas that makes it so special. As well as giving us a chance to make merry with loved ones, it also offers a precious period of contemplation. To take a breather from hectic everyday existence, recharge our minds, and think about our lives and our aspirations for the future. Good dramas make the perfect companion for this, and Inspector George Gently himself is given to many moments of serious contemplation.
The Gently stories are much more than whodunits. George Gently, a detective in his mature years, is haunted by the loss of his wife and the many fateful decisions he has taken for moral reasons, and the series reflects this with its slow unfolding of poignant moments. Just the thing to watch while you're nursing a port and thinking on the decisions of your own life - both the ones you've made, and the ones that lie ahead...