All the Yuletide favourites from Mrs Brown to Downton Abbey
TV CHOICE: BERNICE HARRISONreviews the Christmas offerings on the box
The Snowman and the Snowdog, Channel 4, 8pm
Raymond Briggs’s classic The Snowman was first adapted for the screen in 1982 – this gorgeous film, made to mark the 30th anniversary, sees a snowman and a snowdog magically come to life and fly to the North Pole to meet Santa.
Mrs Brown’s Boys, RTÉ One, 9.45pm; BBC One 10.15pm
The O’Carroll clan, who famously make up the cast of Brendan O’Carroll’s award winning comedy, are back for a Christmas two-parter – part two is tomorrow night on RTÉ, St Stephen’s Day on the Beeb). Fr Damien announces that the Finglas Nativity play has been cancelled and Agnes vows to stage a Nativity play of her own in the local community centre. Expect chaos.
Merlin, BBC1, 8.15pm
A dramatic ending is promised for this hugely popular drama – shown in this grown-up time slot – featuring a young King Arthur and his wizard servant, Merlin (played by Northern Irish actor Colin Morgan).
Trollied Christmas Special, Sky1, 9pm
It’s a busy time of the year for the supermarket – if you’re already a fan of this Jane Horrocks’s vehicle, you’ll love this festive episode; if you’re a first-timer, maybe leave it on the shelf.
Carols from the Castle, RTÉ One, 6.15pm
Presented by Mary Kennedy and recorded in Dublin Castle, hear Sinead O’Connor, Danny O’Reilly, De Dannan and others belt out seasonal favourites. Put it on in the background for seasonal atmosphere.
Tommy Fleming Music Special, TG4, 5.20pm
Atmospherics provided by Belleek Castle, Ballina, and sing-along favourites from likeable crooner Tommy Fleming – more background mood music.
Downton Abbey, UTV, 8.45pm
The toffs are off to Scotland to visit gadabout Rose who appeared in the final episode of the last series – now her appearance and that plot diversion makes sense – while the servants stay behind at Downtown. There’s a country fair coming up which makes them all a bit frisky, maybe even including Mrs Padmore. A feature length episode set to hoover up TV viewers.
Call the Midwife, BBC One, 7.30pm
Set in a post-war poverty-stricken East End of London, the phenomenally successful drama centres around the working days of a group of midwives. In this Christmas special, a baby is found abandoned on the doorstep and the hunt for its mother begins. Not entirely cheery sounding – but expect a heartwarming end.
Doctor Who, BBC One, 5.15pm
A new look Doctor (Matt Smith) and his new companion, Clara (Jenna-Louise Coleman), embark on a mission to save Christmas from the villainous Doctor Simeon (Richard E Grant) and his army of seriously scary-looking icy snowmen.
Other Voices: A Christmas Festival, RTÉ Two, 8.20pm
Music from the hippest little music festival, recorded in St James Church, Dingle and presented by Aidan Gillen. The line-up includes Damien Rice, José Gonzales, Ryan Adams, Richard Hawley, Glen Hansard, Lisa Hannigan and The Unthanks.
The School Around the Corner, RTÉ One, 7.45pm
A curious choice for primetime on this day of days sees Ray D’Arcy host the child-centred programme with school kids from Waterford, Dublin and Cork. Great for the mammies and daddies of those children, maybe not so appealing for other viewers.
Alan Carr: Chatty Man Christmas Special, Channel 4, 9pm
Chat of a more grown-up variety with guests JLS, Hilary Devey and David Walliams.
Room on the Broom, BBC One, 4.35pm
Another one of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s books (who doesn’t love their Gruffalo?) brought to the small screen. A witch invites a surprising collection of animals to join her on her broom, much to the frustration of her cat, and off they go dragon hunting. Narrated by Simon Pegg with Gillian Anderson, Rob Brydon and Martin Clunes.
Gordon’s Christmas Cookalong Live, Channel 4, 10am
Staring at a plucked bird and suddenly losing all confidence that you’ll be able to turn it into a delicious dinner? Shouty chef Gordon Ramsay is live in a busy studio for a cookalong that promises all the advice anyone might need to cook a three course Christmas feast.
CULTURE (or Festive-free programmes)
Arena, BBC Two, 5.25pm
Remember Sr Wendy Beckett – art expert and unlikely 1990s TV star?
This documentary goes in search of the now 82-year-old nun and interviews her about her call to religious life, living as a hermit and the art that means most to her.
Faoi Gheasa ag The Quiet Man, TG4, 10.15pm
Se Merry Doyle’s affectionate documentary marks the 60th anniversary of John Ford’s movie and features interviews with Maureen O’Hara who reminisces about Pappy (Ford) and Duke (John Wayne) as well as a roll-call of Hollywood big names – Martin Scorsese, Peter Bogdanovich – giving their take on the much-loved Irish classic.
St Stephen’s Day
Miranda, BBC One, 9pm
Miranda Hart’s comedy always delivers on the laughometer because her antics are always more than a little daft. This special episode sees the goofball singleton once again fending off her mother’s plans to fix her up for Christmas.
The Girl, BBC Two, 9pm
Gorgeous looking and intriguing drama about Alfred Hitchcock and the making of The Birds. He cast Tippi Hedron – an unknown model – in the star role and soon became obsessed with her, a pursuit that damaged both their careers. Starring Toby Jones and Sienna Miller who look uncannily like the pair in 1962.
Doors Open, UTV, 9pm
Art-heist drama based on one of Ian Rankin’s best-selling books of the same name, starring Stephen Fry as art expert Prof Gissing, Kenneth Collard as banker Allan Cruickshank and Dougie Henshall as Mike Mackenzie, a self-made businessman with too much time on his hands who come together and dream up a plan to steal pictures from a gallery. Made by Fry’s own production company so no surprise that he has the best role.
Hemingway and Gelhorn, Sky Atlantic, 10pm
HBO-made drama, directed by Philip Kaufman, and starring Clive Owen as Ernest Hemingway and Nicole Kidman as Martha Gelhorn, his journalist wife. The stylish looking film begins in 1936 when the two met in Key West and follows them through their turbulent relationship.
The Zoo Christmas Special, RTÉ One, 8.00pm
Tom Dunne heads off to Santa’s Grotto in Dublin Zoo to catch up with the 15 keepers talk about their highlights from their exciting year.
See how some of the animals featured in this series are faring, including the red panda cubs, the hippo and the rhino calves. Good family viewing.
Spiritual slots on the box
Midnight Mass, RTÉ One, 11.15pm.
From Laurel Lodge, Castleknock, Co Dublin. Simulcast on RTÉ Radio 1.
A Service for Christmas Day with staff and students of Kings Hospital school, Palmerstown, Dublin. RTÉ One, 10.15am.
Urbi et Orbi. Live coverage of the Pope’s Christmas Message from St Peter’s in Rome, with commentary by Fr Thomas McCarthy, OP, RTÉ One, 11.00am.
Carols from Kings, an annual and uplifting seasonal favourite: the traditional celebration of the Nativity from the Chapel of King’s College, Cambridge. BBC Two, 10.45am.