Unmissable: Dustin Hoffman and Judi Dench star in a real Christmas Cracker

Duston Hoffman as Mr Hoppy and Dame Judi Dench as Mrs Silver in the BBC's adaptation of Esio Trot.

Duston Hoffman as Mr Hoppy and Dame Judi Dench as Mrs Silver in the BBC's adaptation of Esio Trot. Pic: Endor Productions/Nick Briggs - Photographer: Nick Briggs - Credit: PA

We all know the Roald Dahl classics – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Twits, James and the Giant Peach, Fantastic Mr Fox – but there’s a children’s book by the great author that you might not be quite so familiar with.

Esio Trot, one of Dahl’s last published works, was released in 1990, shortly before the great writer’s death.

Maybe its lower profile is down to the fact that it strays from the Dahl Formula of children taking revenge on grown-ups in gruesome fashion.

Yet it’s a charming and gentle romance that everyone can enjoy, and it’s all about tortoises.

This Christmas one of the greatest American actors unites with our top British thesp to bring the story to the screen.

The unlikely but perfect pairing of Dustin Hoffman and Dame Judi Dench will play Mr Hoppy and Mrs Silver, with support from James Corden, in the BBC adaptation which will air on New Year’s Day.

Part of a schedule of seasonal offerings from the Beeb, it promises to be a real highlight and, for many, a firm family favourite for years to come.

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I still love watching an old video recording of 1991’s Bernard and the Genie, a 70-minute Christmas special from the Beeb starring Alan Cumming as Bernard and Lenny Henry in a career-high role as the Genie. It’s a cracker, with great supporting work from Rowan Atkinson and cameos from Sr Bob Geldof and Gary Lineker.

It’s probably on Youtube somewhere and I suggest you track it down, if only for lines such as “At least your girlfriend is buried in the arms of her lover. Mine is buried in an artichoke patch in Jerusalem!”

But not everyone is so enamoured with the rest of the BBC’s 2014 crimble line-up.

Many of the national papers – especially those that like to give the corporation a bit of a kicking on a regular basis – have been less than complimentary about the level of repeats on offer over the festive fortnight.

So much so that director of TV Danny Cohen took to twitter this week to bemoan the “lazy” journalism of some ? specifically The Mirror – in their coverage of the topic.

The paper’s front page had criticised the fact that there would be “more repeats than ever before” this December, saying it was “beginning to look a lot like last Christmas”.

But Mr Cohen has hit back at those sniping from the sidelines and praised the quality of this year’s output, which includes Call the Midwife, Dr Who and Still Open All Hours. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t be settling down to watch the new Mrs Brown’s Boys specials or Miranda episode on Christmas Day, while I’d rather stick my head inside a turkey than watch EastEnders, but there’s nothing wrong with some classic Dad’s Army or Blackadder, while criticising the Beeb for showing brilliant modern family films such as Wall-E and the Curse of the Were-Rabbit is a bit cheap.

If you don’t like what’s on the BBC then there’s more choice than ever before, with great offerings in store across the networks.

With the entire four series of Game of Thrones airing over 12 days on Sky Atlantic, Adam Buxton’s Shed of Christmas on Sky Arts and some festive fun at Downton Abbey, there’s something for everyone over the month ahead.

What do you think? Send me an email at elliot.furniss@archant.co.uk or follow me on Twitter, @Elliot_Furniss