Which is the greatest ever Christmas TV cliffhanger?

Christmas is a time for gifts, food, family – and, of course, TV cliffhangers.

Any soap worth its salt will feature the climax to big storylines during the festive period, with ruined weddings, tragic deaths and dramatic births usually par for the course.

Festive specials of our favourite TV shows are also good for endings that leave you wanting more.

Coronation Street marked its 50th anniversary with a huge tram crash and a live episode in 2010. Pic: ITV
Coronation Street marked its 50th anniversary with a huge tram crash and a live episode in 2010. Pic: ITV
Nessa proposes to Smithy on Gavin and Stacey
Nessa proposed to Smithy in Gavin & Stacey in 2019 – but we’re still waiting to find out his answer

But which is the best Christmas cliffhanger of all time?

Well, according to a new poll by UKTV’s Drama Channel, that honour goes to – drum roll, please – of course, it’s EastEnders’ Dirty Den stunning wife Angie by serving divorce papers, after revealing he knew she had been faking a terminal illness.

The 1986 episode, which is one of the most watched British TV moments ever, with 30.1 million viewers, took almost a third (32%) of the vote.

Last year’s Gavin & Stacey special, which left fans kept in the dark over Nessa’s proposal to Smithy, came runner-up in the poll of 2,000 viewers, while a 2012 episode of Sherlock, in which the detective stepped off a hospital roof to his apparent death, came in third.

Sorry Corrie, but EastEnders also took fourth place, with its 2007 Christmas episode revealing Stacey and Max’s affair. And completing the top five was a Downton Abbey episode in 2012, when Lady Mary gave birth before her partner Matthew was killed in a car accident.

Here’s the top 10.

The best Christmas TV cliffhangers – UKTV Drama Channel poll

1) EastEnders, 1986 ‘Dirty’ Den Watts surprises Angie with divorce papers
2) Gavin & Stacey, 2019 Nessa proposes to Smithy
3) Sherlock, 2012 Sherlock steps off hospital roof to his ‘death’
4) EastEnders, 2007 Stacey and Max’s affair is revealed on camera
5) Downton Abbey, 2012 Lady Mary gives birth before Matthew dies in car crash
6) Gavin & Stacey, 2008 Smithy begs Nessa not to marry Dave
7) Doctor Who, 2010 Wilf begs the Doctor not to die – before he regenerates
8) The Royle Family, 1999 Denise goes to hospital after bathroom labour
9) Coronation Street, 2010 The famous tram crash
10) EastEnders, 1995 Frank Butcher returns

According to UKTV, people in Britain typically spend at least six hours a day watching TV during the festive period.

Emma Ayech, channel director for drama said Christmas 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,” she said.

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