Christmas TV highlights: 33 of the best shows this week
Mrs Brown and Young Offenders specials, a David Walliams adaptation, and more
The Young Offenders Christmas
Carols from the Castle
Monday, RTÉ One, 9.20pm
Mary Kennedy presents this ever-popular Christmas carol-fest featuring a host of angelic voices to really get you in the Christmas spirit. The halls of Dublin Castle will be decked out with all the seasonal finery, and there will be some serious special guests lending their unique voices and musicianship to the occasion, including Bray rock-pop trio Wyvern Lingo, R&B singer Loah, The Lost Brothers, fiddlers John Sheahan and Colm Mac Con Iomaire, and the mighty Johnny Logan. It really is beginning to sound a lot like Christmas.
Click and Collect
Monday, BBC1, 9pm
Stephen Merchant stars in this one-off comedy. It’s Christmas Eve and Andrew (Merchant) has failed to buy the one present his six-year-old daughter really wants: Sparklehoof the Unicorn Princess. As it also happens to be the must-have toy of the season, he can’t track one down in London for love nor money. However, help is at hand from Andrew’s irritating neighbour Dev (Asim Chaudhry), who has managed to track down the last Sparklehoof in the whole of the UK. But there’s a slight problem: it’s 300 miles away, up in Carlisle, and it’s click and collect on Dev’s credit card. Cue chaotic Planes, Trains and Automobiles-style mahem, as the mismatched duo race to pick up the gift and get it home in time for the big day.
The Dead Room
Monday, BBC4, 10pm
His League of Gentlemen colleagues Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith brought some extra spookiness to Halloween with an Inside No 9 live special. Now Mark Gatiss is reviving the Christmas ghost story tradition with this short, which he wrote and directed. Simon Callow plays Aubrey Judd, veteran presenter of long-running radio horror show The Dead Room. He finds he must adapt to changing times and tastes – but what if his own past isn’t as dead and buried as he’d hoped?
Would I Lie to You? At Christmas
Monday, BBC1, 10pm
Rob Brydon hosts a festive edition of the comedy panel show in which the participants aim to hoodwink their opponents with absurd facts and plausible lies about themselves. Joining team captains David Mitchell and Lee Mack for the Christmas fun are comedian James Acaster, singer-songwriter Lily Allen, Peter Kay’s Car Share star Sian Gibson and former Slade frontman Noddy Holder. All reveal amazing stories. But are they telling the truth or making it all up?
Bridget & Eamon: The Musical Society
Monday, RTÉ2, 9.10pm
Things are not going well round at Bridget and Eamon’s midlands gaffe. Their TV has been completely destroyed, so no Only Fools and Horses or Glenroe this Christmas. But they’ll probably be dead anyway, because IRA men Jimmy and Martin are holding them at gunpoint, and the house is under siege. How do they keep the paramilitaries placated and prevent a bloodbath? There’s only one thing for it: Bridget and Eamon and their neighbours must stage their own versions of popular movies and TV shows to keep their trigger-happy captors entertained long enough to find a way out of this sticky situation. Only one problem: Eamon absolutely flat refuses to do Dirty Dancing.
Ireland’s Weather 2018: Climate Chaos
Monday, Virgin One, 10pm
2018 will be remembered for its severe weather extremes. From destructive storms, big freezes and summer heatwaves, Virgin Media News weatherman Deric Hartigan looks at the big weather events of the year and asks: are extreme weather conditions the new norm, and what effect is climate change having on weather conditions here and around the world?
Child Genius vs Celebrities Christmas Special
Monday, Channel 4, 8pm
We’re not denigrating the intellectual capabilities of the celebrities involved, but we reckon the kids will trounce them. While the famous folk probably have a better all-round grasp of general knowledge and the ways of the world, the youngsters are specialists in their chosen field. And they’re pretty confident: “I think celebrities are really old and their brains are starting to turn to mush,” observes Aliyah, a 12-year-old maths whizz. The poor sods taking them on are Jimmy Carr, Rick Edwards, Charlotte Hawkins and Shazia Mirza.
The Keith & Paddy Picture Show
Monday, UTV, 9pm
Cute. Clever. Mischievous. Intelligent. Dangerous. No, not a description of Keith Lemon and Paddy McGuinness, but the tagline of Joe Dante’s 1984 comedy horror classic Gremlins. Fittingly, the Christmas-set movie is the subject of the pair’s festive special, as they recreate the snowy town of Kingston Falls. Gremlins follows a gadget salesman who, looking for a special gift for his son, finds a cute animal at a store in Chinatown. The shopkeeper is reluctant to sell him the “mogwai”, named Gizmo, but agrees to hand it over after a few stern warnings: never expose it to bright light, don’t get it wet, and most importantly of all, never, ever feed it after midnight. Of course, these rules are broken, resulting in a gang of little green monsters going on a Christmas Eve rampage. Joining Keith and Paddy is one of the film’s original stars, Zach Galligan.
The Young Offenders Christmas Special
Tuesday RTÉ One, 10.35pm
Who wouldn’t want to spend Christmas with our favourite juvenile delinquents? Young Offenders Conor and Jock are back for a holiday one-off, following on from the hit film and even bigger hit series. But Christmas in Conor and Jock’s estate is under threat. The council wants to renovate the estate and the residents to vacate, but they’re not budging, and have barricaded themselves in for the Christmas. To make matters worse, Maireád is sick and has to spend the season in hospital, so Conor and Jock vow to make her wish come true for Christmas. Can they get Maireád what she really, really wants while saving their neighbourhood from certain gentrification? Their quest will bring them lots of trouble and an accidental encounter with a movie star. Alex Murphy and Chris Walley star, with a special guest appearance from Robert Sheahan. We’ll be settling by the two-bar heater with a slab of cider to watch this.
Mrs Brown’s Boys: Exotic Mammy
Tuesday, RTÉ One, 10pm/BBC1, 10.15pm
What’s Christmas without Agnes Browne? Not Christmas at all, I’ll warrant. Brendan O’Carroll is back as Ireland’s most famous mammy in the first of a two-part special for Christmas and New Year. Here’s the set-up: Agnes is determined to win Fr Damien’s Christmas decorating contest and get one over on that hussy Hillary Nicholson. But will the new “wifi assistant” that Buster and Dermot gave her be a help or a hindrance? Can’t be too long before Agnes tells Alexa to “go and f**k yourself”. Meanwhile, Buster has made a hot date with a smouldering beauty on the internet, and Rory and Dino have the tough task of making him look half decent for his liaison. But does his date look anything like her photo?
Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special
Tuesday, BBC1, 5.30pm
Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman present a special festive edition, which sees the return of six old favourites from past series. Anita Rani, Caroline Flack, Ann Widdecombe, Aston Merrygold, Jake Wood and Michael Vaughan will all be taking to the dance floor to perform a special Christmas-inspired routine. Judges Shirley Ballas, Darcey Bussell, Bruno Tonioli and Craig Revel Horwood assess their efforts and decide who will be this year’s Christmas champions. To paraphrase the latter, it promises to be fabulous, darling.
Call the Midwife Christmas Special
Tuesday, BBC1, 7.45pm
As Poplar prepares for Christmas, the nuns travel to the Mother House to elect a new mother superior. Sister Julienne is the obvious replacement and must face this possibility as her future at Nonnatus House hangs in the balance. As they ready to leave, Sister Mildred, an indefatigable member of their order, arrives unexpectedly with four Chinese orphans en route to the Children’s Home at the Mother House while, back in Poplar, Trixie returns from Portofino with her troubles behind her and Valerie leads the baby ballet Christmas performance.
The Great Christmas Bake Off
Tuesday, Channel 4, 8pm
Liam Charles may not have won the eighth series – he went out in the quarter-finals and Sophie Faldo eventually took the title. But he’s arguably the most successful member of the class of 2017. He’s gone on to cohost Bake Off: The Professionals and even landed his own series, Liam Bakes. So, it’s not just the other returning contestants who should be worried about taking him on in this festive special – perhaps presenters Sandi Toksvig and Noel Fielding and judges Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith should be looking over their shoulders. For the moment, Charles is competing against fellow 2017 graduate Flo Atkins as well as 2016’s Jane Beedle and Andrew Smyth for the title of Christmas Star Baker. The Darkness will serenade them all with Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End).
Anna May: Banríon an Plough
Tuesday, TG4, 9.25pm
For 50 years, Anna May McHugh has presided over the Ploughing, making sure it runs smoothly come hell or high water. Now 84, the managing director of the National Ploughing Assocation shows no sign of slowing down. This observational documentary follows McHugh in the four-month build-up to and staging of the 2018 event in Screggan, Tullamore, Co Offaly. There she and her colleagues face one of the biggest threats in the Ploughing’s 87 years – the arrival of Storm Ali.
Torvill & Dean
Tuesday, UTV, 9.15pm
With the 11th series of Dancing on Ice just a few weeks away, now is perhaps the perfect time to remind ourselves of why Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean are so beloved in the UK. The script of this biopic, written by William Ivory (Burton & Taylor), stars Poppy Lee Friar and Will Tudor as the titular duo. The drama focuses on their early years in Nottingham, where they were first paired together, and then charts their rise to international success, culminating in their triumph at the Sarajevo Olympics in 1984 with their famous routine to Ravel’s Bolero – a moment that still has the power to send shivers down the spine.
Merry Christmas Baby: With Gregory Porter & Friends
Tuesday, BBC2, 9.15pm
Have the festivities have left you slightly frazzled? Fancy a mellow Christmas night? BBC2 has got you covered as Gregory Porter presents a seasonal mix of music with a jazz vibe. Special guests, including songstress Corinne Bailey Rae and saxophonist Courtney Pine, join Porter for an evening of traditional Christmas classics alongside jazz standards, filmed in front of an audience in Cardiff Bay. Performances include Silent Night, Take Me to the Alley, The Christmas Song and, of course, the song that gives this special its name – Merry Christmas Baby.
Paul O’Grady: For the Love of Dogs Christmas Special
Tuesday, Virgin One, 6.10pm
O’Grady faces his biggest challenge yet as he tries to find homes for dozens of dogs who’ve all arrived together. Top of his Christmas list is a west highland terrier called Sylvester who is very withdrawn and needs to brought out of his shell. He enlists the help of a beautiful bichon frise called Harlow, who becomes Battersea’s resident “therapy dog for dogs”. O’Grady also helps to bottle-feed two three-week-old puppies who were found dumped on the side of the road after being thrown out of a moving car. He also meets a 10-week-old-malinois cross who is too energetic and in need of attention to live in a family home.
The Midnight Gang
Wednesday, BBC1, 7.30pm
David Walliams stars in an adaptation of his own children’s novel, and you can bet there’ll be lots of scares before bedtime. A young boy named Tom is in hospital after being hit on the head with a cricket ball. There he encounters a creepy porter, a horrid matron and a gang of kids who sneak out of the ward every night to go on adventures in the hospital and make other patients’ dreams come true. Soon, Tom is having lots of fun with the Midnight Gang, but his wicked headmaster (Walliams) arrives to take him back to his boarding school.
The ABC Murders
Wednesday/Thursday/Friday, BBC1, 9pm
Here’s a radical reimagining of Agatha Christie’s famous detective: John Malkovich plays Hercule Poirot in this new three-part adaptation of Christie’s 1936 novel and – gasp! – he’s not wearing a neatly-waxed pencil moustache. Instead, Malkovich sports an eminent grey goatee as he tracks down a killer who operates on Britain’s labyrinthine rail network, and who likes to leave a copy of the ABC railway guide at the scene of each murder. The usually unflappable Poirot is outwitted by the killer at each turn, leading him into dark self-doubt, and forcing him to reassess his own sleuthing skills – and what being Hercule Poirot really means.
Big Fat Quiz of the Year 2018
Wednesday, Channel 4, 9pm
Jimmy Carr hosts a comedy quiz looking back at the past 12 months, with panellists Richard Ayoade, Noel Fielding, Mo Gilligan, David Mitchell, Claudia Winkleman and Michelle Wolf put to the test on subjects ranging from politics to pop culture, sport to science. Special guests, including Jon Snow, Charles Dance and the show-stealing pupils from Mitchell Brook Primary School, are on hand to set the questions to recall some of the year’s biggest events.
The Morecambe and Wise Show: The Lost Tapes
Wednesday, BBC2, 7.50pm
The first of two episodes that have not been seen since their original broadcast in 1968 and were thought to be lost until they were found by an archive preservation expert in an abandoned cinema in Sierra Leone. The episodes have also been colourised. Sketches in the episodes include Old Donegal, Instant Camera and Sailing Around the World, and there is a guest appearance by Michael Aspel.
Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 2018: Who Am I?
Wednesday, BBC4, 8pm
Over the course of three lectures, broadcast on consecutive evenings, biological anthropologist Alice Roberts and geneticist Aoife McLysaght will investigate what it means to be human and ask challenging ethical questions about what the future holds. They begin by examining humans’ ancient ancestral family, from armadillos to sharks, and reveal their true place in the tree of life. It’s a big subject to tackle, but luckily they’ve got everything from 4D scanning to giant origami and a ukulele at their disposal to illustrate their points.
The Zoo Winter Special
Thursday, RTÉ One, 6.20pm
It doesn’t matter what the weather: come rain or shine – or even snow, as is the case here – the keepers at Dublin Zoo must care for their animals. This one-off documentary shows how they coped with last March’s Beast from the East.
The Secret Life of Five-Year-Olds on Holiday
Thursday, Channel 4, 7pm
Some familiar faces and big characters from previous shows, along with their parents and siblings, travel to Turkey for a holiday with a difference. The children, some of whom have never been abroad, experience the new, challenging and unpredictable waters of foreign travel as they visit a Turkish mudbath, attempt to teach each other to snorkel and try some rather unusual foods on this holiday of a lifetime. Experts Dr Elizabeth Kilbey and Prof Paul Howard-Jones observe how the children act and interact with each other and their families away from the routine of daily life.
MasterChef: The Professionals Rematch
Thursday, BBC2, 8pm
One-off special in which Monica Galetti, Marcus Wareing and Gregg Wallace catch up with five finalists for whom participating in the cookery competition has had a career-changing impact, taking them on a gastronomic journey that includes Majorca, the Scottish Highlands and the Devon town of Dartmouth. But it would not be MasterChef: The Professionals without an element of competition. So all five also return to the studio kitchen to show how much their food has changed since they first appeared – and try to prove that theirs is the best.
The Snow Wolf: A Winter’s Tale
Thursday, BBC2, 9pm
Christmas is all about families, and there’s an unusual one at the heart of this programme, which the BBC describes as a dramatised natural history special. The story takes place in Italy’s Dolomites mountain range, where an alpha female wolf and her mate have raised their cubs, turning them into powerful and formidable hunters. However, when a tragic event shatters their lives, the now pregnant female must flee the pack and find a new territory. There she gives birth to six cubs before facing the biggest challenge of her life: keeping her babies safe from humans and other predators.
Frankie Boyle’s New World Order 2018
Thursday, BBC2, 10pm
It’s been another bewildering year in politics, but Frankie Boyle and his guests will do their best to make some sort of sense of it all in this end-of-year round-up. They’ll be looking at some of the biggest new stories, including, inevitably, Brexit. It was also a year of extreme weather conditions, but will Boyle & co find that as interesting as the extreme politics? One thing is for certain: while you may not always agree with Boyle’s take on the world, you can’t accuse him of sitting on the fence.
Take That: We’ve Come a Long Way
Friday, BBC1, 7pm
Hard to believe Take That have been around for 30 years – it seems like only yesterday when they bounced on Top of the Pops without even needing to shave beforehand. This 30th anniversary special will see the band reunite with Robbie Williams as they reflect on their career as the most successful boyband in UK chart history, with lots of unseen footage and input from their fans, who discuss how the band changed their lives. There’ll be a sneak preview of their anniversary album, and a guest appearance from Bee Gee Barry Gibb.
Billy Connolly: Made in Scotland
Friday, BBC2, 9pm
A few weeks ago, Billy Connolly turned up over on UTV in Billy Connolly’s Ultimate World Tour, in which he looked back at the epic trips he’s made for the broadcaster over the past 25 years while exploring his new home state of Florida. This two-part programme is rather more personal: it is an in-depth look at Connolly’s rise to fame, from his years in Glasgow’s shipyards to his international superstardom, via a spell as a folk musician and the beginnings of his career in the 1970s when there simply wasn’t anybody else like him around. Connolly himself is the primary contributor, but a selection of his famous admirers, including Eddie Izzard, Ross Noble, Micky Flanagan, Sharleen Spiteri and Val McDermid, also offer their observations. The second part will be shown next week.
Chester Beatty: The Honorary Irishman
Friday, RTÉ One, 6.30pm
In 1957, New York-born philanthropist A Chester Beatty (1875-1968) became the first honorary Irishman – and he was the first private citizen to receive a State funeral. The legacy of the businessman and mining engineer known as “King of Copper”, renowned for his namesake Chester Beatty Library, is examined in this documentary.
That Was 2018
Friday, Virgin One, 9pm
What a year it has been. Storm Eleanor to begin with, then Storm Emma, followed by a summer heatwave. Donald Trump continues to dominate the headlines and Brexit is a crisis that never ends. Women have very much been in the spotlight. We had an abortion referendum, a controversial rape case in Belfast and a cancer scandal. The Irish rugby team had an unforgettable year and the soccer team a 12 months that everyone would prefer to forget. That Was 2018 will look back on all the big stories of the year, with a soundtrack of the biggest hits.
Nathan Carter 3 Arena Live Show
Friday, RTÉ One, 11.35pm
The Irish singer performs a set packed full of his most popular songs, including Good Morning Beautiful, Two Doors Down and Wontcha Come Down, while special guests join him on stage.
Most Shocking Celebrity Moments 2018
Friday, Channel 5, 9pm
Every year we hear of celebrities behaving badly or at least getting up to mischief. Louis Walsh, Jeremy Vine, Michelle Visage, Jermaine Pennant, Dan Osborne, India Willoughby and Courtney Act are among the, er, celerities commenting on Madonna’s off-colour “tribute” to Aretha Franklin at the VMAs, Ant McPartlin’s drink-driving incident, Kanye West’s outbursts, and various Celebrity Big Brother moments.