TONY ON TV: Which TV drama will be talk of the town?

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VIEWERS can look forward to more drama, comedy, love, hatred, jealousy, rivalry, ambition, despair and romance.

No, it’s not a mission statement for another lunchtime dogs’ dinner serving of ‘Loose Women,’ but a promise of what’s in store from the makers of the award-winning ‘Downton Abbey,’ which will be back next year with eight new episodes, plus an extended special instalment for Christmas 2013, continuing the story of the Crawley family and their servants in the early 1920s.

Those who can’t wait for more of the same should prepare for both laughter and tears in a two-hour special to be screened on ITV1 at 9pm this Christmas Day as Lord and Lady Grantham and family head for a summer break in the Scottish Highlands, leaving most of their servants back at home, with Inverary Castle (the ancestral home of the Duke of Argyll, Chief of the Clan Campbell) standing in for the ficticious Duneagle Castle where the piper calls the tune for breakfast and dinner.

However, there’s muted festive celebration on the battlements over on BBC1 where the hit show ‘Merlin,’ which for the past four years has delighted Saturday night audiences with a mix of magic, adventure and humour, reaches its final chapter with a two-part special at Christmas.

But before then there’s plenty to watch if you have any time as the festive season gathers pace, so make sure you catch ITV1’s new three-part drama ‘The Town,’ starting tonight, which features a stellar cast -- headed by Andrew Scott who played Jim Moriarty in ‘Sherlock -- in the story of a family struggling to come to terms with tragedy and change.

Scott plays Mark Nicholas who returns to his home town of Renton after a 10-year absence, but finds it hard to reconnect with his old life, friends and first love.

This must-see also co-stars Julia McKenzie as Mark’s grandmother, Martin Clunes in the gem of a role as the town’s booze-soaked mayor, ‘Shameless star Gerard Kearns and Kelly Adams from ‘The Hustle.’

‘The Town’ was filmed in High Wycombe, which is not one of the places visited by TV presenter Chris Tarrant who is back on track, at least some of the time, in ‘Extreme Railways’ (Channel 5, Wednesday), and he trundles through the jungle in the Republic of Congo.

Further stopping places in the series include the outback of Australia and a trip down the west coast of India, while over on BBC2 tomorrow it’s stay-at-home time for another TV traveller as Michael Portillo closes the book on his ‘Great Continental Railway Journeys’ as he goes back in time as he books a ticket from Amsterdam to Northern France.

Worth Watching

Emmerdale at 40 -- Thursday, ITV1. The village pub, the Woolpack, is the star of this final look at how it has fared over the soap’s four decades.

Peter Kay: In Conversation -- Friday, Channel 4. Danny Baker tries to get a straight answer from the comedian about his working methods and hit TV shows.

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