Fun… at the double! In this final special guide to shows to watch at home during the lockdown, a round-up of the best family entertainment on demand
All this week, we have been pointing you towards the best shows available on catch-up and via streaming services in this indispensable series.
We’ve already given you riotous comedies, compelling dramas, fascinating factual shows and magical movies, and today, in the final one, the Mail’s TV editor Mike Mulvihill and Weekend magazine TV critic Robin Wiggs round up the best family shows…
Kelvin Fletcher is pictured above with Oti Mabuse on Strictly Come Dancing
Strictly Come Dancing iPLAYER
The entire last series of the shiniest show on TV is available now.
Among the 15 couples taking to the floor were the cumbersome rower James Cracknell, fleet-footed children’s TV presenter Karim Zeroual, YouTube star Saffron Barker and Emmerdale actor Kelvin Fletcher, who made quite the impact after being drafted in as a late replacement. One series
Race Across The World iPLAYER
This frenetic series is the best form of escapism at the moment, and the chance to see the world from the comfort of your living room. Couples race around the world, choosing any route they like.
The greater challenge is that they have no phones or credit cards and cannot take a flight. Which pair will finish first? In the first series, the couples had to race across the Far East.
In the current series, still on BBC2 on Sunday nights, they have to navigate their way across Central and South America. Great fun. Two series
Cooking doesn’t get much tougher than this, particularly when you have to impress judges Gregg Wallace and John Torode
If you’ve missed the current, 16th series of the cookery show, fear not because all episodes are available on catch-up now.
Cooking doesn’t get much tougher than this, particularly when you have to impress judges Gregg Wallace and John Torode. Current series
Cooking doesn’t get much tougher than this, particularly when you have to impress judges Gregg Wallace and John Torode
The Greatest Dancer iPLAYER
There was some amazing dance talent on show in the second series of this competition, which comes from Simon Cowell’s production company.
Dancers of all ages and styles took to the floor hoping to win the £50,000 first prize and a chance to perform on Strictly Come Dancing.
But first they had to impress the audience and judges Todrick Hall, Cheryl, Matthew Morrison and Oti Mabuse. One series
Saturday Night Takeaway ITV HUB
It was off our screens for a year, and now Ant and Dec have had to seriously adapt their show — so rooted in face-to-face joy — to the challenges of coronavirus.
Takeaway remains the best Saturday night show in the business. Five episodes
Saturday Night Takeaway ITV HUB: It was off our screens for a year, and now Ant and Dec have had to seriously adapt their show — so rooted in face-to-face joy — to the challenges of coronavirus
The Voice ITV HUB
Catch up with the latest series of the singing competition, with judges will.i.am, Tom Jones, Olly Murs and Meghan Trainor in the spinning chairs.
They’ll only turn if they’re impressed by what they hear. The live semifinals and final have been postponed to later this year. Current series
All 15 series of this hilarious review show, featuring Britain’s sharpest armchair critics, are available on Channel 4’s catchup service.
Go back to the early series to hear the insightful, passionate and emotional critiques of some of the show’s biggest names, from Steph and Dom to Scarlett Moffatt, the Rev Kate Bottley and the lovely Leon and June. 15 series
The Great British Bake Off ALL4
Here are the last three series since the nation’s favourite baking show moved from BBC1 to Channel 4.
Sandi Toksvig and Noel Fielding were an unlikely duo to replace Mel and Sue, but they worked brilliantly and shared an easy chemistry with judges Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith.
When the show returns, Matt Lucas will be taking Sandi Toksvig’s place in the tent. Three series
The Great British Bake Off ALL4: Sandi Toksvig and Noel Fielding were an unlikely duo to replace Mel and Sue, but they worked brilliantly and shared an easy chemistry with judges Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith
The high-octane series in which ordinary British citizens must try and evade capture for up to 28 days to claim a share of a £100,000 cash prize has been a huge hit for Channel 4.
Catch all six series here, including the most recent one when two pairs of fugitives successfully reached their extraction point. Six series
Top Gear BRITBOX
There are six series of the petrolheads’ ultimate car extravaganza available to watch now, from the last couple of series with Jeremy Clarkson, James Hammond and James May at the wheel, through Chris Evans’s ill-fated time in the driving seat to Matt LeBlanc and Chris Harris’s tenure.
From the gleaming cars to the madcap challenges, this is one show that will keep the entire family entertained. Six series
Ant & Dec’s DNA Journey BRITBOX
In this two-part documentary — ITV’s answer to Who Do You Think You Are? — the Geordie duo share a very personal journey through their ancestral history.
Using their DNA as a starting point, they set out on an emotional trip that takes them to Ireland and America.
And make sure you don’t miss the surprise revelation at the end. Surely Ant and Dec can’t be related, can they? One series
Wild Things NOWTV/SKY
This game show is an absolute hoot. Jason Byrne and Kate Humble host from a specially constructed course in the woods, where mayhem ensues as six teams try to bumble their way to a cash prize — with the catch being that one of each pair is dressed as a woodland creature and unable to see, and the other half must guide them. Two series
You Vs Wild NETFLIX
Should Bear Grylls cross that river, go through those caves or wrestle that alligator?
Such are the choices presented to the viewer in his interactive series, in which you decide how several different survival adventures unfold.
There’s a lot of fun to be had in the choices, and all the debate makes this a lot more sociable than a lot of TV. Eight episodes
You Vs Wild NETFLIX: Should Bear Grylls cross that river, go through those caves or wrestle that alligator?
Grease Live! NETFLIX
Julianne Hough and Aaron Tveit play Sandy and Danny in a full-on staged TV production that captures the feel of both stage and film, and picked up five Emmy Awards in 2016.
Jessie J sings the title song, and High School Musical’s Vanessa Hudgens, whose dad died the night before she recorded this, does a great job as the sardonic Rizzo.
This fly-on-the-gymnasium-wall series follows the cheerleaders of Navarro College as they prepare for the biggest moment of their lives — the national championships.
The dedication and sacrifices made by these remarkable young people is a sight to behold. One series
High School Musical: The Series DISNEY+
The High School Musical movies were a sensation a decade ago. This new series is told in a mockumentary style, and follows a background dancer from the original films who is now working as a drama teacher, and puts on an actual high school musical production of High School Musical. One series
The World According To Jeff Goldblum DISNEY+
Who wouldn’t want to spend time in Jeff Goldblum’s world? In this 12-part series, the eccentric U.S. actor explores the world, covering a separate topic each time.
From running shoes and video games to ice-creams and coffee, Jeff wants to get to the bottom of their history and popularity, chatting with experts with broad knowledge and experience in these subjects. One series
Who wouldn’t want to spend time in Jeff Goldblum’s world? In this 12-part series, the eccentric U.S. actor explores the world, covering a separate topic each time
How to get all the on demand and subscription services
What you will need to get started
On demand services can be watched through internet connected devices such as smart TVs, computers, tablets, phones and smart TV boxes.
The majority of TVs bought after 2010 will be smart TVs, which means that they can connect to the internet.
You can also make older TVs smart with a set-top box or by plugging in a device known as a TV stick, such as a Google Chromecast or Amazon Fire Stick.
Before you get started, you must ensure that your house is wi-fi connected, and this means signing up with a broadband provider.
Companies, such as Sky, Virgin, BT and TalkTalk offer a range of options.
The free services, BBC iPlayer (bbc.co.uk/iplayer), ITV Hub (itv.com/hub/itv), All4 (all4.com), My5 (my5.tv) and UKTV Play (uktvplay.uktv.co.uk), allow you to watch shows and films that have already aired on the various channels from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and UKTV at no extra charge.
They also feature a selection of other box sets from their archives.
There are also a number of streaming services for which you will have to register and pay a monthly or annual fee.
The U.S. giant Netflix (netflix.co. uk), which includes hundreds of hours of films and TV shows, including royal family saga The Crown, starts at £5.99 a month and doesn’t offer a free trial.
The video offering from Amazon (amazon.co.uk/piv) comes as part of the Amazon Prime subscription, which costs £7.99 a month after a 30-day free trial. NowTV (nowtv.com) is Sky’s on-demand catalogue available through a set-top box rather than a satellite dish.
It costs £8.99 a month for an ‘Entertainment Pass’, which gives you access to channels such as Sky One and Sky Atlantic.
A seven-day free trial is available and other passes — to Sky Sports and Sky Cinema — can be added on at an extra cost. Apple TV+ (apple.com/uk/apple-tv-plus) costs £4.99 a month after a seven-day free trial, for access to Apple-produced series.
BritBox (britbox.co.uk) is your best bet for British TV box-sets as it boasts a wide range of classic shows from the BBC and ITV archives.
It costs £5.99 a month after a 30-day free trial. Disney+ (disneyplus.com/ uk), which launches tomorrow, offers access to the company’s vast library of film and TV for £5.99 a month or £59.99 per year.
Keep the kids happy
The BBC went to town on this revival of the kids’ variety show, hosted by Ant and Dec-style duo Sam and Mark with real energy. One series
One of the best children’s TV revivals in history, this magical series preserved everything that was great about the original, including Michael Palin’s narration. Three series
Andy’s Dinosaur Adventures iPLAYER
Children’s TV presenter Andy Day is the museum worker who discovers a portal that allows him to travel back to the age of the dinosaurs. One series
Crackerjack! iPLAYER: The BBC went to town on this revival of the kids’ variety show, hosted by Ant and Dec-style duo Sam and Mark with real energy
Waffle The Wonder Dog iPLAYER
The kind of show you put on for children, then wind up watching alongside them. Why? Because Waffle the talking dog is so adorable and mischievous, and the family he creates trouble for seem to love him all the more. Three series
Carmen Sandiego: To Steal Or Not To Steal NETFLIX
The best of Netflix’s interactive cartoons puts you in control of globetrotting thief Carmen Sandiego as she tries to free her friends from the clutches of VILE (Villains’ International League Of Evil).
Will you make the right choices, and get all the way to the end? This is a stunningly animated and involving story.
Clangers iPLAYER: One of the best children’s TV revivals in history, this magical series preserved everything that was great about the original, including Michael Palin’s narration
Game for a giggle?
A laugh-filled series from the Horrible Histories gang set in a very haunted house.
Mathew Baynton and Jim Howick play a ghostly artist and a scout master, two of a group of spirits who have yet to fully come to terms with their own pasts — let alone the new tenants in their home. One series.
The Goes Wrong Show iPLAYER
This series of doomed one-off plays from Mischief Theatre is packed with precisely executed slapstick, and works on several different levels depending on the age of the viewer. One series.
The Simpsons DISNEY+: For the first time in the UK, every episode featuring Bart (above) and co — more than 600 — is available on demand in one place
Sky’s silly and funny comedy, from the stars of Horrible Histories, follows a bored mum into a fantastical land filled with puppets in need of mothering. Three series.
Fraggle Rock AMAZON PRIME
Jim Henson’s musical puppet series is still good, from the antics of the eager Fraggles to the frustrated plans of the industrious Doozers and the brainless plots of the sinister Gorgs. Four series.
Mr Bean AMAZON PRIME
Rowan Atkinson’s hapless Bean is an adult who constantly gets things wrong, and has a surprising level of attachment to his teddy bear. These two facts should endear him to young audiences. 14 episodes.
The Simpsons DISNEY+
For the first time in the UK, every episode featuring Bart (right) and co — more than 600 — is available on demand in one place.
It’s become a cliche to say the show is past its best, but the first ten series feature some of the sharpest family comedy ever produced. 30 series
Fun for everyone
Mr Stink iPLAYER
David Walliams adaptations have been a festive tradition on the BBC (and Sky of late), and this tale of the homeless Mr Stink (Hugh Bonneville) and his dog (BGT’s Pudsey) is one of them. The Boy In The Dress, Grandpa’s Great Escape and Billionaire Boy are on iPlayer too. Walliams stars in them all.
The Demon Headmaster iPLAYER
Bodyguard’s Nicholas Gleaves stars as the hypnotic headmaster in an unsettling ten-part take on Gillian Cross’s books, one that’s not for the easily frightened.
His ice-cold educator is now the ‘Super Head’ of an academy. Anyone who remembers the original series will spot a familiar face as the story goes on. One series
Hetty Feather iPLAYER
Set in 1887, this drama follows the adventures of young Hetty and her foster brother Gideon, who are forced to live in a foundling hospital after being abandoned by their mother.
There the children and their friends dream of escape from the iron fist of Matron Bottomly (Eva Pope). Can they scale the walls in search of freedom? Five series
The Worst Witch iPLAYER/ NETFLIX
CBBC’s brilliant adaptation of Jill Murphy’s pre-Harry Potter tale of a school for magic crams in laughs, drama, special effects and even a sliver of poignancy.
Among the highlights are Raquel Cassidy as the stern Miss Hardbroom and Game Of Thrones’s Bella Ramsey as hapless pupil Mildred Hubble. Four series
BritBox have a collection of ‘classic’ Doctor Whos — from William Hartnell to Paul McGann — much of which is going to be a shock to a generation reared on the big special effects of the Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant and Jodie Whittaker era.
You can find those slicker but not always superior later tales on iPlayer and Netflix. Make sure little ones watch from behind the sofa.
Goodnight Mr Tom BRITBOX
This heart-wrenching drama follows a young boy evacuated from the Blitz to the country during World War II. Things aren’t looking good when he’s left in the care of a cantankerous old widower (played by John Thaw in full beard), but this unlikely pair slowly begin to develop a close bond. That is until the past comes knocking.
Sky’s other festive tale from David Walliams, who co-stars alongside Sheridan Smith. It’s the dark-tinged story of a downtrodden young girl whose life is made a misery by her evil stepmother.
But hope comes when she befriends a dancing rat who shows up in her bedroom.
Cinderella: After Ever After NOWTV/SKY
‘What comes after happy ever after?’ pondered David Walliams about Cinderella, and Sky’s fun comedy is the result. Walliams plays vain Prince Charming, with Car Share’s Sian Gibson as his rueful bride.
Fungus The Bogeyman NOWTV/SKY
A strong cast (Timothy Spall, Joanna Scanlan, Victoria Wood, Keeley Hawes) bring both the spirit and the details of Raymond Briggs’s amusingly disgusting book to life for Sky’s family special, which was first shown over Christmas 2015. Some painstaking special effects do a lot to help those performances.
Glee NETFLIX/AMAZON PRIME
The high-school musical was a phenomenon in its early years, brimming with inventive musical mash-ups and the snide put-downs of sneering cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester, played to a tee by Jane Lynch.
Look out for The Greatest Dancer’s Matthew Morrison as her nemesis, the nurturing Mr Schuester. Six series
A Series Of Unfortunate Events NETFLIX
This series, based on Lemony Snicket’s dark children’s tale, has the quirky and sumptuously Gothic air of a Tim Burton movie.
Neil Patrick Harris is very funny as the sinister actor who takes in the three Baudelaire orphans, while Joan Cusack co-stars as his sweet neighbour — a far better choice of guardian for the children, surely. Three series
Gortimer Gibbons’ Life On Normal Street AMAZON PRIME
Amazon’s best original children’s show has a similar feel to the 1990s classic Eerie, Indiana. Gortimer doesn’t always have an easy family life, but he and his friends find magic — and mysteries — on Normal Street. Three series
The Mandalorian DISNEY+
The first live-action Star Wars show is essentially a western, following a mysterious stranger (the bounty hunter of the title) from place to dust-swept place, with trouble rarely far behind.
It has a dry sense of humour, big sci-fi action and, most importantly, a very cute companion for the Mandalorian in ‘Baby Yoda’. A new episode arrives every Friday.
Danger Mouse iPLAYER
CBBC’s super-charged revival of the classic cartoon boasts the urbane tones of Alexander Armstrong as the heroic mouse, Kevin Eldon as his hamster sidekick Penfold and a steady stream of well-timed gags and blockbuster action. If you want to compare it with the more sedate 1980s original, that’s on Netflix. Two series
The Gruffalo iPLAYER
The BBC have been adapting Julia Donaldson’s books into magical festive treats for years now, and every one of them features Rob Brydon on the voice cast in some capacity.
Have fun spotting him as you dig into the back catalogue on iPlayer, which also includes The Gruffalo’s Child, Room On The Broom, Zog and The Highway Rat. You can find Stick Man on Amazon Prime.
Shaun The Sheep iPLAYER/AMAZON PRIME/NETFLIX We first met Aardman’s lovable sheep (above) in the Wallace and Gromit film A Close Shave, but he has become a star in his own right since then
Dennis The Menace iPLAYER/AMAZON PRIME
The Beano comic still has a healthy fanbase, and a new TV series featuring Minnie The Minx is currently in production.
Until then, housebound appreciators of its pages can enjoy two different Dennis and Gnasher series, and a smattering of other shows featuring a wider cast from the comic, spread between Amazon and iPlayer.
Shaun The Sheep iPLAYER/AMAZON PRIME/NETFLIX
We first met Aardman’s lovable sheep (right) in the Wallace and Gromit film A Close Shave, but he has become a star in his own right since then.
The latest series, Adventures From Mossy Bottom, is exclusive to Netflix. What’s truly great about this show is how universal it is, as there’s no dialogue to speak of — the comedy is about what you see and that’s true of its spin-off, Timmy Time, too. Six series
We’re Going On A Bear Hunt ALL4
Channel 4’s 2016 adaptation adds another layer of poignancy to Michael Rosen’s rhythmic children’s story, and preserves the gentle watercolour beauty of Helen Oxenbury’s illustrations. All together now: ‘We’re going on a bear hunt, we’re going to catch a big one, we’re not scared…’
The Adventures Of Paddington NOWTV/SKY
The younger bear of Nickelodeon’s animated series is very sweet, and wonderfully voiced by Ben Whishaw — just like in the films.
The show itself is an unusually well-written and imaginative proposition that should please more than just young viewers. One series
Adventure Time NOWTV/SKY
One of the most imaginative series on television, Adventure Time is the animated tale of a boy and his dog on a noble quest in a fantastical land.
Its superficially fairy-tale stories rarely go in the direction you might expect but, despite the cleverness, Adventure Time is never less than a sweet, noble experience that should bewitch both the young and the young at heart. Ten series
Green Eggs And Ham NETFLIX
Netflix’s Dr Seuss adaptation was years in the making, and it shows.
The stunning storybook look of this road-trip tale is matched by the starriness of its voice cast, including Michael Douglas as Guy-Am-I and Diane Keaton as Michellee. One series
Tom And Jerry AMAZON PRIME
The richly animated original cartoon, with episodes dating from 1941 (a Christmas special, when a mouse was most definitely stirring) to 1962.
The duo are, occasionally, more friendly to one another than you might expect.
In Buddies Thicker Than Water (1962), Jerry saves Tom from freezing to death.
Amazon have a rather surprising vein of vintage children’s TV including The Jetsons, Mister Ed, Bananaman and The Adventures Of Skippy. 60 episodes
The richly animated original cartoon, with episodes dating from 1941 (a Christmas special, when a mouse was most definitely stirring) to 1962
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