Christmas on TV: the best comedies, dramas and specials to watch

A round-up of the best things on TV over the festive season

Soloist Celine Byrne, Christmas Carols from Cork, Christmas Eve, RTÉ One, 8.10pm. Photograph: Miki Barlok/RTE

Soloist Celine Byrne, Christmas Carols from Cork, Christmas Eve, RTÉ One, 8.10pm. Photograph: Miki Barlok/RTE


It’s Christmas, and all over the land folk will be pouring themselves a mulled wine, heating up a mince pie, and settling down in front of the television to catch up on all the boxsets they missed during their busy year.

But let us not forget that there’s also actual Christmas telly to be watched, and the next week will be filled with seasonal specials of all your favourite series along with a few blatant Yuletide tie-ins.

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt
Christmas Eve, Channel Four, 7.30pm
The snow may not be swirling around outside, but this new animated adventure based on Michael Rosen’s book is the perfect family primer for the night before Christmas.

Christmas Carols from Cork
Christmas Eve, RTÉ One, 8.10pm
Presented by Mary Kennedy, this year the Christmas carols show comes from University College Cork and features performances from soloist Celine Byrne, singer/songwriter Brian Kennedy and special guest Enya, who performs in the Honan Chapel.

Bridget & Eamon Christmas Special
Christmas Eve, RTÉ Two, 10.05pm
Tonight’s special features Katherine Lynch as Eamon’s mammy, who comes to a sticky end courtesy of that staple of Irish kitchens in the 1980s. Bridget must hide the body pronto, but with the neighbours and the local gardaí calling round to watch the big Christmas movie on the television, that could prove a little tricky.

Mrs Brown’s Boys - Christmas Special
Christmas Day, RTÉ One, 10.25pm; BBC One, 10.30pm
Of course, it wouldn’t be Christmas without Brendan O’Carroll mooching around in a pinafore and hair curlers, effing and blinding to beat the band. This promises to be another big ratings hit for both the Irish and British national stations - not bad going for the funny fella from Finglas. The story? Agnes decides she doesn’t want the hassle of putting up a Christmas tree this year, which leads to ructions of all sorts.

The Witness for the Prosecution
St Stephen’s Day, BBC One, 9pm

Agatha Christie’s short story is adapted for the screen in this new two-part adaptation.The brilliant Toby Jones and Kim Careall head the cast in this bleak, unchristmassy tale of a man accused of murdering a wealthy woman for her money.

The Entire Universe
St Stephen’s Day, BBC Two, 9.30pm
Christmas is a time to take a step back and reflect, and ponder the greater meaning of life. And who better than Eric Idle and the creators of Spamalot to tackle the big philosophical questions through the medium of song and dance? The Entire Universe is a glitzy musical extravaganza choreographed by Arlene Philips which tells the story of the birth of the universe. Idle has help from television scientist Brian Cox, plus Warwick Davies as the Big Bang and Noel Fielding as Einstein.

Pull Like A Dog
Tuesday, RTÉ One, 9.25pm
Last summer, two brothers from Skibbereen bagged a silver medal in the Rio Olympics, and drove the internet wild with their Skibb banter and twitter-friendly catchphrases. Pull Like A Dog follows Paul and Gary O’Donovan as they return triumphant to their home parish of Lisheen and resume their training at Skibbereen rowing club. Get the shteak and spuds in for that.

Celebrity Home of theYear
Wednesday, RTÉ One,6.30pm
In a twist on the regular format, designer Hugh Wallace, architect Declan O’Donnell and interior designer Deirdre Whelan take a tour of five Irish celebrity homes and decide on the pick of the bunch.

Jonathan Creek - Daemons’ Roost
Wednesday, BBC One, 9pm
Creek investigates a decades-old mystery in the titular house, home of a horror film director, and supposedly haunted by a 19th-century sorcerer. Alan Davies returns as the big-brained detective.

The Nathan Carter Show Christmas Special
Wednesday, RTÉ One, 9.30pm
Featuring a line-up that even Jools Holland might approve of: KT Tunstall, Paddy Moloney and Eleanor Shanley, and salty old soul dog Billy Ocean. Add in comedian Al Porter and his dancing Santas, and we’ve got ourselves a good old Yuletide hootenanny.

The Year of the Rising
Thursday, RTÉ One, 6.30pm
You may have missed some of the centenary celebrations over the past year (for shame!), but don’t worry, this film will take you back through a year of 1916 commemorations, and behind the scenes at some of the biggest events staged around the country over the past 12 months.

Dara O Briain: Crowd Tickler
Friday, BBC Two, 10.30pm
Recorded during his recent sellout 150-night tour, this performance sees Dara at his very best. Expect an abundance of one liners and off-the-cuff gags that will keep you giggling throughout the night.