ITV banks on new drama and celebs for Christmas

LONDON - ITV1 is banking on new dramas, starring Martin Kemp and Julie Walters as killers, and a documentary on Posh and Becks at home to win the ratings battle as it unveils its Christmas schedule today.

Kemp will play the serial killer George Joseph Smith in 'Brides in the Bath', while Walters also takes up the role of a killer, starring as a lifer on parole after serving a sentence for the murder of her husband in a drama called 'The Return'.

ITV1 is also screening an adaptation of the Thomas Hardy classic 'The Mayor of Casterbridge' over two nights starring Ciaran Hinds, who has previously starred in another adaptation -- Jane Austen's 'Persuasion' on the BBC.

ITV is hoping the hype will pay off for the final of 'Pop Idol' and it is able to deliver advertisers a huge audience on December 20. Hosts Ant and Dec will be back on Christmas Day and Boxing Day to present the spin-off series 'World Idol', in which Will Young will compete against overseas winners, including 'American Idol' Kelly Clarkson, to be the best in the world.

On Christmas Eve, Britons will be offered a glimpse into the lives -- once more -- of Victoria and David Beckham, with a documentary filmed with their permission following the couple since their move to Madrid.

ITV1 has come up empty on the movie front with no blockbusters in sight. Of the four films, three are relatively unknown: 'The Insider', starring Russell Crowe, 'Agnes Browne' with Angelica Huston, and the 'The Hurricane' starring Denzil Washington. Its biggest movie will be the network premiere of the Jim Carrey vehicle 'The Grinch', based on the Dr Seuss book.

James Bond fans will have to make do with one of the least-rated films in the franchise, 'Moonraker', along with a more recent outing, 'Tomorrow Never Dies'. Other reruns include the Christmas favourite 'Grease' and 'Star Wars: The Phantom Menace'.

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