20 of the best TV shows to watch this week
Mary Berry, Jamie Oliver, Darina Allen and Rory O’Connell weave their Christmas cooking magic
Billy Bob Thornton in Bad Santa (2004): The ultimate you-can-stuff-your-stocking Christmas movie, but will it make Mark Kermode's nice list? See Thursday, BBC4, 9pm
Mary Berry’s Christmas Party
Monday, BBC1, 8.30pm
Last year Mary invited Alex Jones, Darcey Bussell, Fearne Cotton and Adil Ray round to hers for a knees-up, although they had to sing for their supper – well, Berry helped them make a few dishes for the bash before everyone tucked in. This time around, comedian Joe Lycett, newsreader Huw Edwards, sprinter Dina Asher-Smith and Poldark star Eleanor Tomlinson (who comes armed with her own stuffing recipe) lend a hand, and it soon becomes clear that some of them have more kitchen experience; for a start, Edwards claims he never cooks at all, so goodness only knows how his efforts will turn out. But after Berry has presumably whipped him into shape, there’ll be no excuse not to help out in his own kitchen on Christmas Day.
Food Unwrapped Does Christmas
Monday, Channel 4, 8pm
While Berry is teaching a group of celebrities how to make festive favourites on BBC1, Channel 4 is concentrating on finding out where the ingredients come from while carrying out some intriguing tests. First up, Jimmy Doherty is in Sri Lanka to learn more about the spices we use every yuletide, and whether or not they can give us all a dose of Christmas cheer. Matt Tebbutt exercises his sweet tooth during a visit to a massive mince pie factory and finds out what the difference is between raisins and currants. Kate Quilton figures out if eating lots of boozy festive food can put the boys over the limit. And Helen Lawal investigates the theory that we should be scouring our sprouts.
Love Island: The Christmas Reunion
Monday, Virgin Two/UTV2, 9pm
Winners Dani Dyer and Jack Fincham have kept a high profile since their victory – it was recently announced that they will report from the red carpet at the National Television Awards in January. But what have the rest of the class of 2018 been up to? Here’s a chance to find out as a select group of islanders get together in a stunning country mansion to reminisce about the series and reveal the truth about what happened next. Will any old wounds be reopened – and will anyone decide they’ve been mugged off?
Inside the Christmas Factory
Monday, BBC2, 9pm
Gregg Wallace visits a factory that produces two million tins of festive chocolate assortments a year, with 5,500 individual sweets packaged and dropped into containers every minute. Cherry Healey travels to Germany to join a crew of 35 ornament decorators applying glitter and paint to glass Santas. Historian Ruth Goodman goes on the trail of the festive turkey, a tradition that began in the 16th century when the birds were introduced from Mexico.
A Simply Delicious Christmas
Tuesday-Wednesday, RTÉ One, 8.30pm
You want to really cook well this Christmas? Then it’s time to bring out the big guns of cooking for a double-header special. Rory O’Connell is joined by his sister Darina Allen, and between them they will cook festive food that’ll have Santa diverting his sleigh on his way back to the North Pole. In the first of this two-parter, Rory works alone rustling up a roast pumpkin salad, Brussels sprouts with pumpkin seed praline and pomegranate molasses, followed by rustic turkey and Swiss chard tart. If you’re not completely bamboozled and ready to give up cooking altogether after seeing the maestro at work, then watch as he and Darina combine forces in episode two for some serious festive canapes and sweet treats. If you’ve always wanted to learn how make roast onion leaves with smoked eel and horseradish mayo, Christmas quesadillas, anchovy and sesame seed straws, chocolate prunes with gold leaf and Christmas lollipops, you’ve come to the right gingerbread house.
The Long Song
Tuesday-Thursday, BBC1, 9pm
This three-part drama is set in Jamaica in the dying days of slavery in the 19th century, and tells the story of July (Tamara Lawrance), a strong-willed young slave working on a plantation overseen by the odious Caroline Mortimer (Hayley Attwell). Caroline chooses July to train as her personal maid, but anti-slavery riots soon throw the pecking order of the plantation into disarray. When a charismatic new overseer (Jack Lowden) arrives with plans to reform conditions at the plantation, things take an interesting turn. The drama is based on the novel by Andrea Levy, who is also the subject of the documentary Imagine . . . Andrea Levy: Her Island Story Wednesday on BBC One at 10.45pm.
Grizzly Bear Cubs And Me
Tuesday, BBC Two, 9pm
You want the ultimate Yuletide dose of cuteness? Try this adorable six-pack of orphaned grizzly bear cubs, who are being returned to the snowy wilds of Russia by a pioneering family of biologists. I know: I’d adopt them in a heartbeat, except that by next year those darling little cubs will be having your face for Christmas dinner. But why were they orphaned in the first place? Apparently, human activity is mucking with the grizzlies’ habitat, and forcing mother bears to abandon their cubs. It’s estimated that thousands of grizzly cubs are left without their mummies every year. Here wildlife cameraman Gordon Buchanan travels to Russia to meet the Pashetnov family, who have devoted their lives to rescuing these bereft bears, raising them and then returning them to the wild. I’ve gone all funny and Christmassy now.
Gogglesprogs Christmas Special
Tuesday, Channel 4, 8pm
The UK’s youngest TV critics are back, including eight-year-old Molly and her 11-year-old brother William, who are taking a break from helping out on the family farm to settle down in front of the box, and the charming friends Stephanie and Christina. They’ll be joined by a few new recruits as they cast their expert eyes over some of the TV highlights of 2018, from news stories to popular hits (although the much-talked about Bodyguard may be a little too mature for these pint-sized viewers). The youngsters will also take a look at some nostalgic Christmas classics; will these shows cast a spell over today’s kids, or will they struggle to see what all the fuss was about?
Jamie’s Quick and Easy Christmas
Wednesday, Channel 4, 8pm
Is it really possible to rustle up a sumptuous Christmas Day feast in just minutes instead of spending hours slaving over a hot stove? Yes, according to Jamie Oliver – and he is the king of quick and easy cooking. Oliver puts his money where his mouth is during the programme by demonstrating some of his shortcuts. He promises that flavours will not be sacrificed for speed, despite the fact that each recipe will be either quick to cook or easy to remember, focusing on combinations of five key ingredients. Oliver also gets his family involved, proving that it doesn’t have to be the adults who take centre stage in the kitchen – providing youngsters get plenty of supervision, of course.
RTÉ Investigates: Travellers – Lives on the Fringes
Wednesday, RTÉ One, 9.35pm
A report examing the accommodations crisis facing Travellers in Ireland, two years after they were recognised as a distinct ethnic group.
Christmas with Mariah Carey
Wednesday, Channel 5, 8pm
Mariah Carey’s career and long association with the festive season are celebrated here, charting the rise of her success after the hit single All I Want for Christmas Is You, and looking at her US Christmas specials, and her annual Christmas tour. The programme also uncovers what Christmas is really like for the star, meeting the company charged with the daunting task of decorating Mariah’s Aspen residence for the holiday season.
Insert Name Here: Christmas Special
Wednesday, BBC2, 10pm
Sue Perkins kicks off a new series with a festive edition of the game show, so should we expect to see the likes of Holly and Noel cropping up among the names being discussed? What we do know is that Chris Packham, Suzannah Lipscomb, Carol Vorderman and James Acaster are joining team captains Josh Widdicombe and Richard Osman. The contestants have to battle it out, answering questions and competing to earn the right, at the end of the game, to decide the greatest ever bearer of that week’s name.
Mark Kermode’s Christmas Cinema Secrets
Thursday, BBC4, 9pm
From It’s a Wonderful Life to Die Hard, many people will be sitting down to watch a festive movie this week. But what makes a true Christmas classic? Critic Mark Kermode finds out as he looks at films ranging from heart-warming family favourites to darker winter’s tales and reveals the techniques and storytelling secrets that make them so successful. He also argues that while the yuletide may lend itself to a surprisingly wide variety of genres, a true Christmas movie needs more than just a December setting and a bit of snow. It also needs to capture the spirt and magic of the season.
The “Christmas” Misadventures of Romesh Ranganathan
Thursday, BBC2, 9pm
The comedian is in the Canadian Arctic for this festive special of the travelogue, in which he explores countries rarely visited by tourists. He wants to know whether there is more to this area than the prospect of freezing to death or being eaten by a polar bear. Travelling across frozen wastelands, Ranganathan spends a week in the largest territory, getting to grips with the Inuit hunter’s way of life – not an easy task for a vegan. He also witnesses the erosion and resurgence of Inuit traditions and discover why alcohol is often restricted in the communities.
Not Going Out Live Christmas Special
Friday, BBC One, 9pm
Here’s a festive programme well worth staying in for. Lee Mack and Sally Bretton star in a holiday edition of their sitcom, and whatever about scripted disasters, this live show has the potential for serious meta-catastrophe. It’s Christmas (of course) and Lee and Lucy have been railroaded into organising a festive variety show to raise funds for their kids’ school. But with only one performer – an animal impersonator – confirmed, will the Ding Dong Merrily on Live Christmas Spectacular come crashing to earth? A live show about a live show going wrong; what could possibly go wrong?
Fleetwood Mac: A Musical History
Friday, BBC4, 8pm
Telling the history of Fleetwood Mac in just an hour is something of a challenge, not least because the group evolved so much from its first incarnation as a 1960s blues-rock-influenced band led by guitarist and songwriter Peter Green to the softer 1970s sound of the all-conquering Rumours. Edith Bowman narrates a brief history of the group while celebrity fans KT Tunstall, Travis frontman Fran Healy, Toyah Willcox, Sian Pattenden and Emma Dabiri pay tribute and share their favourite tracks.
Friday, BBC1, 8.30pm
Veteran quizmaster John Humphrys puts four famous faces in the spotlight in the first of a new series of the quiz. Laying their reputations on the line in the first programme are BBC media editor Amol Rajan, Saturday Live presenter the Rev Richard Coles, RuPaul’s Drag Race runner-up Courtney Act, and Mark Lane from Gardeners’ World. Together they mulling questions on cricketer Shane Warne, the operas of Wagner, the Spice Girls and Dutch artist Piet Mondrian. The second round sees them tackling general knowledge questions.
The Graham Norton Show
Friday, BBC1, 10.35pm
Norton welcomes four of the stars of Mary Poppins Returns: Emily Blunt, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer and Lin-Manuel Miranda.
The Big Soap Quiz: Coronation Street v Emmerdale
Friday, Virgin One/UTV, 9pm
It’s been a big year in Weatherfield and the Dales, but have the actors being paying attention? Stephen Mulhern finds out as he hosts this titanic clash. Headed by team captains Jack P Shepherd (David Platt) and Mark Charnock (Marlon Dingle), tensions run high as the casts of Coronation Street and Emmerdale battle it out to find out who knows their soap best. Corrie’s Sally Ann Matthews, Victoria Ekanoye (aka Jenny and Angie) and Emmerdale’s Tony Audenshaw and Sandra Marvin (Bob and Jessie) make up the sides.
Ó Chraobh go Craobh
Friday, TG4, 7.50pm
A musical journey to Connemara, with sean-nós singer Ailbhe Nic Dhonncha from An Rinn and Traveller singer Tomás McCarthy.
Additional reporting: PA