Death and Nightingales
Monday, RTÉ One, 9.35pm & Wednesday, BBC Two, 9pm
Fermanagh 1885, and Beth Winters (Ann Skelly) is about to celebrate her 23rd birthday. She has grown up in a mixed-religion household where tensions ran high – her mother, a Catholic, is long dead, but her Protestant stepfather Billy (Matthew Rhys) still rules the household with an iron fist. What Beth wants more than anything else is to escape her claustrophobic closed community, and get out from under her stepfather's thumb. When the charming and mysterious Liam Ward (Jamie Dornan) offers her a chance to run away and start a new life, she starts making her plans, but as the hour of her secret departure nears, Beth's nerve starts to unravel. This three-part drama is a co-production between RTÉ and BBC, and features all the elements you want in a good period drama: love, betrayal, revenge, petticoats, horse-and-carts and lovely rural countryside. Set over a gripping 24-hour period, Death and Nightingales is adapted from the Eugene McCabe novel by Allan Cubitt, the man behind gripping crime series The Fall, which starred Dornan and Gillian Anderson.
Tina Turner: Simply the Best
Monday, BBC1, 10.45pm
It’s Tina Turner’s 79th birthday — so what better time to pay tribute to one of rock and soul’s great survivors? Although she may have stepped back from her recording career in 2000, she’s enjoyed an incredibly successful career that has spanned 60 years and seen her sell more than 200million records worldwide. But as Tina Turner: Simply the Best reminds us, it’s not just her longevity that makes her story so remarkable. The show finds her in conversation with BBC arts editor Will Gormpertz as she speaks candidly about her life and music. From her tempestuous marriage to Ike Turner to her comback in the 1980s with Private Dancer, her dramatic story has been the subject of a hit film, What’s Love Got to Do With It, and a successful musical, Tina. As she releases her memoir My Love Story, it seems Tina Turner (who married her long-time partner Erwin Bach in 2013), thinks her life is heading towards a happy ending.
Tuesday, BBC One, 9pm
You'll know Ruth Wilson from her role in the acclaimed series The Affair, but in this new drama she's not the other woman, but the grieving widow who discovers some disturbing secrets about her late husband. The year is 1963, and Alison Wilson believes she is happily married – that is, until the sudden death of her husband Alexander (Iain Glen) and the unexpected arrival of another woman who claims to be his "real" wife. Alison must uncover some uncomfortable truths – how did Alec end up with two "wives", and what was the real nature of his mysterious work with the secret service?
The Late Late Toy Show Unwrapped
Wednesday, Thursday & Friday, RTÉ One, 7pm
Just in case Ryan Tubridy hasn't actually turned up on your doorstep in a Christmas jumper to remind you, this is the week of The Late Late Toy Show, and every other programme on the telly is a mere warm-up for the big blaze of festive glory in store on Friday night. But just so you don't burn up from the sheer bedazzlement of it all, here's a preview to get you acclimatised to the upcoming Christmas saturation. The programme celebrates Tubridy's 10th year in the Crimbo geansaí with a look back at some of the highlights from years past, and meets up with some of the talented kids who wowed viewers in previous shows, including Aaron Ryan, who got the show's first standing ovation for his rendition of And I Am Telling You, and Saoirse Bates, who blew everyone away with her rendition of The Cup Song, getting 14 million YouTube hits to boot. Christmas is coming – resistance is futile.
Vic & Bob's Big Night Out
Wednesday, BBC4, 10pm
They ruled 1990s telly with their wacky antics on The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer and Shooting Stars, and since then the duo of Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer have flown the flag for completely bonkers on-screen behaviour. Fans will be delighted to see the pair return for no less than four episodes of their Big Night Out. They'll pack enough mischief, mayhem and madness into each half-hour episode to keep you laughing, with sketches, songs and hair-raising stunts, plus celebrity guests such as George Ezra and Tom Cruise, who will no doubt be a "good sport" about it all.
Thursday, Sky Atlantic, 10.40pm
Jim Carrey makes the move back to TV (he started off in sketch show In Living Color) with this grown-up comedy about a children's television presenter whose life is unravelling faster than a frayed old sock puppet. Presumably this is on at a ridiculously late hour just in case some kid accidentally switches it on and thinks it's Sesame Street with Jim Carrey guesting. Carrey plays Jeff, a children's telly icon known to kids across America as Mr Pickles. He's a role model for young viewers, and an icon to their parents, but Jeff's own family life is in turmoil, and he can feel his grip on sanity getting weaker every day. This is Carrey's first regular TV role in 20 years, and he's joined by Frank Langella and Catherine Keener. Let's see if Carrey can carry this off.
The Late Late Toy Show
Friday, RTÉ One, 9.35pm
And so, the big night finally arrives, when we can all start thinking about Christmas and get a sneak preview of all the fab toys Santa is planning to bring to all the boys and girls. This is Ryan Tubridy's 10th time to don the legendary Christmas Jumper, but nobody will be looking at Tubs – he's bound to be upstaged by another crew of super-talented kids who will sing and dance with such dazzling skill you'll wonder if RTÉ have some sort of genetics lab around the back of the Fair City set. We don't know what the theme of the show will be (last year was an undersea kingdom, if my memory serves me well), but we do know that it will be suitably spectacular and ramped-up. Last year's show had a consolidated audience of 1.35 million and a 72 per cent share of the telly-watching audience, so you can expect those numbers to go up this year. And you can be sure of one thing – it'll be a lot more fun than the recent ratings – busting presidential election debate.
(Additional reporting: PA)