“Happy Christmas Ange...” - Top 20 Christmas TV Cliffhangers Revealed

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Tuesday 22 December 2020

  • "Dirty Den" Watts issuing Angie Watts with divorce papers on Christmas Day is voted the ultimate Christmas TV cliffhanger
  • Classic festive hits from Coronation Street, Gavin and Stacey and Sherlock all featured in the Top 20
  • Top 20 Christmas TV Cliffhangers are revealed by UKTV's Drama channel to celebrate its festive programming
  • Brits will typically spend six hours per day watching TV over Christmas and over a third of us have the TV on during Christmas dinner

Festive thriller 'what happened next moments' from EastEnders, Gavin and Stacey and Sherlock have been named as the top Christmas TV Cliffhangers according to new research revealed today.

The poll of 2,000 British adults was specially commissioned to mark UKTV's Drama channel's festive schedule which includes special EastEnders episodes from 25 years ago. Nearly a third of Brits (32%) voted the jaw-dropping EastEnders Christmas Day scene where resident bad boy, "Dirty Den", surprises wife Angie with divorce papers after revealing that he knows she's been faking a terminal illness before the episode ends, as the Number 1 Christmas TV Cliffhanger.

The nation's Top 20 Christmas TV Cliffhangers are revealed as:

  1. EastEnders (December 1986) - After 19 years of marriage, 'Dirty' Den Watts surprises Angie by revealing that he knows she's been fabricating her terminal illness. He then hands her his Christmas gift - divorce papers (32%)

  2. Gavin and Stacey (December 2019) - Christmas special, Nessa gets down on one knee and proposes to Smithy, and the episode ends before Smithy can give an answer (22%)

  3. Sherlock (January 2021) - Sherlock confesses to John to being a fraud, says his final 'goodbye' and then steps off the hospital roof to his 'death' (18%)

  4. EastEnders (December 2007) - Stacey and Max's affair is revealed to the Branning family whist watching a DVD, after Max's daughter Lauren secretly films the pair sharing a kiss (17%)

  5. Downton Abbey (December 2012) - Lady Mary returns early from Scotland, rushing to Cottage Hospital to deliver her healthy baby. Matthew soon joins her and meets his son and heir, but after he leaves back to Downton Abbey, he is killed in a car accident, and is left underneath his car, the other cast members are unaware of the death, leaving the audience left in suspense as they wonder what the future is for Lady Mary and their new baby (15%)

  6. Gavin and Stacey (December 2008) - Dave proposes to Nessa and she accepts in front of a heartbroken Smithy. Smithy then begs Nessa to not marry Dave, before the episode ends (14%)

  7. Doctor Who (December 2010) - Wilf breaks down as he begs the Doctor not to die, as the David Tennant Doctor hears the four knocks and cries "I don't want to go..." before he regenerates (13%)

  8. The Royle Family (December 1999) - Denise goes into labour in the bathroom on Christmas Day, before she's taken off to hospital by Dave as the episode ends (12%)

  9. Coronation Street (December 2010) - The Joinery bar explodes during Peter Barlow's party. As a result, the viaduct running above the restaurant is destroyed, sending a tram careering onto the street, destroying D&S Alahan's Corner Shop and The Kabin (12%)

  10. EastEnders (December 1995) - It's Christmas time in the Butcher household, but that's not Father Christmas knocking at the door...It's Frank Butcher. Frank walks in the house leaving Pat stunned that he's back in her life (11%)

  11. Coronation Street (December 2019) - The biggest Christmas Day drama in Corrie history, as Derek Milligan goes on a drunken shooting rampage seriously injuring people, including Robert. Derek falls to his death from atop a Helter Skelter, whilst Robert is severely injured in hospital, before viewers see Michelle in floods of tears as the episode ends (11%)

  12. Emmerdale (December 2004) - In true soap style a Christmas disaster hits the Dales. A freak storm led to Tricia Dingle being crushed when the Woolpack pub wall collapses on her, leaving viewers wondering whether she would survive or not (10%)

  13. EastEnders (December 1998) - Having been told by Tiffany only hours earlier that she is planning to leave the country, Grant snatches Courtney and flees. Hysterical and frightened, Tiffany pursues them, which results in her running straight into an oncoming car, driven by Frank Butcher. A helpless crowd watch as she dies at the scene, leaving Grant staring at Tiffany's body and viewers stunned as the episode ends in a New Year's Eve thriller (8%)

  14. EastEnders (December 2006) - Pauline Fowler dies underneath the Christmas tree before being discovered by Dot Cotton at the end of the episode (6%)

  15. EastEnders (December 2014) - Mick attacks Dean, when he discovers Dean had raped Mick's partner, Linda. It then turns out Mick and Dean are brothers, to everyone's surprise (6%)

  16. EastEnders (December 2002) - Jamie Mitchell is hit by Martin's car outside Walford tube station and the episode ends, leaving viewers shocked and wondering what has happened to Jamie (5%)

  17. EastEnders (December 2009) - Archie Mitchell is killed by a mysterious killer at the end of the Christmas Day episode, leading people to ask "Who Killed Archie Mitchell?" (5%)

  18. Hollyoaks (December 2006) - Clare, realising that her husband Max has a life insurance policy worth £500,000, throws his brother Tom's coat into an icy lake in the hope of finishing her husband off when he jumps to save Tom. Max is pulled from the lake and the episode finishes as he is being resuscitated. Will Max survive? (4%)

  19. Coronation Street (December 2012) - Leanne and Nick's wedding gets called off by Nick, before Nick and Eva kiss in Nick's honeymoon suite (4%)

  20. EastEnders (December 2016) - Mac Branning returns to Albert Square (2%)

Gavin and Stacey came in second, securing 22% of the public vote, with Nessa's romantic proposal to Smithy in 2019. The cliffhanger stunned viewers as the episode ended before Smithy could even give Nessa an answer. The gasp-inducing moment has already become a national Christmas TV favourite, and was the last time Gavin and Stacey was seen on our screens.

Rounding off the top-three was the memorable shock of Sherlock Holmes' 'death' in Sherlock - he swan-dived off the roof of St Bartholomew's Hospital leaving his bloodied corpse on the pavement, before appearing in the shadows of a graveyard at the end of the episode, as John Watson begged him not to be dead. It left TV viewers shocked, begging to know what would happen next, and lead to huge fan speculation as to how he could possibly still be alive.

Overall, the Top 20 encompasses 30 years of shocking seasonal British TV moments that have occurred over the Christmas period, from Coronation Street and EastEnders surprises to the sadness of Matthew Crawley's sudden death in Downton Abbey during the show's 2012 Christmas Day special.

The Angie Watts cliffhanger is one of the most watched British TV moments ever, with 30.1 million viewers. The poll topping scene marked the climax of the ongoing Angie and Den storyline that gripped the nation in 1986. More incredible cliffhangers will be available to watch with 1996 EastEnders episodes airing over the Christmas period on UKTV's Drama channel.

When it comes to watching Christmas TV, it appears that watching all those 'what on earth moments' is a tradition for many Brits, with the research finding that on average we typically spend at least six hours a day watching TV during the festive period. A whooping 61% of us admit to rewatching Christmas TV favourites as a family during Christmas time.

The TV is also the staple in the family home at Christmas time apparently, as 42% of us admit the TV is the one device we couldn't live without over the festive period, even ahead of the mobile phone (34%) and well over a third of Brits (38%) even have the TV on during Christmas dinner!

Emma Ayech, Channel Director for Drama said,

These incredible TV cliffhangers represent some of the most memorable moments in British TV history. TV has the power to tell stories that hook you in and keep you gripped which is something the whole family can then come together to watch and enjoy. We've found that people love to watch back these dramatic moments, remembering the first time they watched it with their loved ones and forging new family traditions. At Drama we love to celebrate these shared moments and This Christmas as well as a daily dose of Classic Eastenders we also have Christmas specials for Call the Midwife and Lovejoy plus a whole treasure trove of Drama favourites on UKTV Play.

The home of British Drama, the Drama channel's festive programming includes some of the nation's most popular dramas and Christmas specials from much-loved series like Call the Midwife and Lovejoy.

The 1996 series of EastEnders (series 12) is available to watch throughout December on Drama. Viewers can also catch up at any time using UKTV's streaming service at uktvplay.co.uk

Notes to editors

For more information contact Alex Butler at Taylor Herring:

ab@taylorherring.com / Tel: 0208 206 5151 / 07584 163875

The survey of 2,000 British adults for Top 20 Christmas TV Cliffhangers ever was commissioned by TV channel Drama in December 2020.

All the cliffhangers listed first aired from December 1st - January 15th and were broadcast as Christmas episodes, qualifying as a Christmas TV Cliffhanger.

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