Looking for something to watch? Here are 17 of this week’s best TV shows
Boxer Dunne goes back to our mythical past, Neven Maguire celebrates a Kilkenny Christmas, and the BBC explores the secret lives of babies and farm animals
Deirdre in the Fall of the Red Branch Knights episode of Bernard Dunne's Mythical Heroes
The Best Christmas Food Ever
Monday, BBC1, 3.45pm
For many people, Christmas food is all about pushing the boat out, so expect plenty of indulgent dishes as chefs Paul Ainsworth and Catherine Fulvio host this new series. In the opening episode they are joined by singer and actress Martine McCutcheon as they rustle up the ultimate roasted rib of beef, followed by a sticky toffee pudding. They also showcase some flavours traditionally associated with Christmas, including brandy, which they use in a cured salmon dish, and marzipan, which they turn into truffles.
Bernard Dunne’s Mythical Heroes
Monday/Wednesday/Friday, RTÉ2, 5.05pm
Irish history is filled with wondrous tales of mystical characters, heroic deeds and great battles. The tales of Cúchulainn, Fionn MacCumhaill, the Bull of Cooley, the fall of the Red Branch Knights and Diarmuid & Gráinne have been passed from generation to generation. Each episode features one story as former World Boxing champ Bernard Dunne takes on the role of storyteller using a combination of documentary footage, live action reconstructions and stunning animation to re-create these compelling and dramatic tales. In a world where children are captivated by superheroes of all shapes, sizes and skills, this six-part series shows our audience how Irish superheroes were an original of their kind.
From Monday, RTÉjr, 10.10am/5.05pm
Everyone’s favourite magic show is back with 15 brand new episodes. Catch Joe and friends as they do their best to put on a fabulous magic show as well as teach us some brand new tricks. Each week magician Joe Daly will be joined by his new friends Polly & Snowy as well as two budding apprentices who learn a new trick and go on to perform it for the audience. Tune in to see lots of fun, laughter, chaos and of course magic. Shot in Dublin’s The Ark last summer, abraKIDabra features some 200 children from all over Ireland. The programme encourages children at home to learn and practice tricks taught by Joe.
Nadiya’s Asian Odyssey
Monday, BBC1, 9pm
In 2016, a year after winning The Great British Bake Off, Nadiya Hussain filmed The Chronicles of Nadiya, in which she travelled to Bangladesh to explore her culinary roots. She now embarks on another epic trip in this two-part series exploring the people, places and food of Thailand and Cambodia. Among the sights, sounds and tastes, Hussain learns how to make prahok, a fermented fish paste that is Cambodia’s staple food, during a visit to a floating community on Tonle Sap, the biggest lake in southeast Asia, and finds out how one of Thailand’s top chefs has developed a new take on the country’s tradition of eating insects.
Babies: Their Wonderful World
Monday, BBC2, 9pm
Paediatrician Guddi Singh looks at how infants build social relationships in the first two years of their lives, including the instinct to respond to faces, what makes them laugh, and how they learn to empathise with others. Neuroscientist Sarah Lloyd-Fox uses a portable brain scanner to analyse activity in one week-old Arthur’s brain as he looks at images of toys and faces, while Nathalia Gjersoe sets up an experiment with good and bad puppets to find out when babies make decisions about who to trust.
Rise of the Clans
Tuesday, BBC4, 9pm
Forget Game of Thrones – this new series explores the story of Scotland’s ancient clans, and in the process uncovers a blood-soaked saga of feuds, betrayal and death, all set against truly stunning scenery. In the opening episode, Neil Oliver looks at how the clans rallied behind Robert the Bruce in his battle to win Scotland’s crown. The loyal chiefs were rewarded with land and titles, which would play an important part in shaping the kingdom’s fate for centuries to come.
Neven’s Kilkenny Christmas
Wednesday/Friday, RTÉ One, 8.30pm
The celeb chef voyages from his native Cavan all the way to the wilds of Kilkenny for this two-part series showing you how to whip up festive treats no matter where you are this Christmas. Kilkenny is the winner of this year’s Restaurants Association of Ireland’s Foodie Destination Award, which is why Maguire has decamped to the Marble City . Neven will show you how to cook the traditional turkey and ham, how to come up with interesting and unusual starters and accompaniments, and how to get creative with those leftovers. Every recipe will be easy and straightforward, promises Maguire, and also, of course, delicious.
RTÉ Investigates: Land of Hope and Homeless
Wednesday, RTÉ One, 9.35pm
Another Christmas, another homeless crisis. Two years after activists occupied Dublin’s Apollo House to highlight the plight of homeless people, it seems things have just got worse, and more families will face a Christmas without a place to call home. This documentary examines Ireland’s seemingly endless housing crisis, at a time when rents are at an all-time high and development of residential land lags way behind the ever-growing demand for housing. The programme asks why the Government’s Rebuilding Ireland programme is falling apart, and what can be done to bring some hope to the growing numbers of homeless on our streets and in emergency accommodation this season.
World’s Weirdest Homes
Wednesday, Channel 4, 9pm
Many people want to make their mark on their homes, but what drives someone to live in a property that truly is one-of-a-kind? That’s the question Charlie Luxton asks as he goes in search of some of the world’s quirkiest properties, ranging from a giant sandcastle to a farm that floats on the ocean and the tallest single-family home on the planet. Along the way, he meets some of the owners, including a Bible-obsessed Dutch entrepreneur and a group of scientists who are pretending they live on Mars. There’s also a billionaire YouTube celebrity who has set up his own zoo populated by animals named in honour of designers and fashion-conscious celebrities.
North Korea: Life Inside the Secret State
Wednesday, Channel 4, 10pm
Kim Jong-un’s regime has made plenty of global headlines this year. But for most people life in North Korea remains a mystery.Marcel Theroux was recently granted rare access for an edition of Unreported World, but he was also given an official minder. This documentary offers a more unfiltered look at what it is really like to live in the world’s most secretive country. Over the past 12 months, the Dispatches crew has filmed defectors who are in regular phone contact with family and friends who still reside in North Korea. Their conversations offer a fascinating insight into what it is like to exist under communist rule, where every aspect of your life is controlled by the state.
Walking the Walk
Thursday, RTÉ One, 10.15pm
Imagine being told, in the prime of your life, that you had motor neurone disease. What would you do? Dublin priest Tony Coote decided not to just sit and wait for the wasting disease to engulf him, but instead determined to walk the length of Ireland to raise funds and awareness of this debilitating condition. Walking the Walk follows Fr Coote as he embarks on the gruelling 550km trip from Letterkenny to Ballydehob, his condition worsening with every kilometre, but his army of supporters and well-wishers also growing during the month-long marathon. By the time he began the trek, he had almost completely lost the use of his legs, but carried on in his wheelchair, making his way through Donegal, Sligo, Mayo, Clare, Limerick and Cork. Before he was struck down by MND, Fr Coote was an inspirational figure in his community, preaching a gospel of kindness, inclusivity and advocating for a nonjudgmental style of pastoral care. By the time he reaches his destination, Fr Coote and his supporters have found themselves closer to God and, more importantly, to humanity.
Escape from Dubai: The Mystery of the Missing Princess
Thursday, BBC2, 9pm
Last February the 32-year-old daughter of Dubai’s ruler boarded a boat and set sail for India with a plan to start a new life in the US. But within days Princess Latifa’s boat was stormed by Indian commandos. She was captured and presumably returned home – and no one has heard from her since. However, Latifa had made a video in case she was caught and entrusted it to a lawyer in America, and days later it was released on YouTube. This fascinating documentary pieces together Latifa’s life and reveals that, far from living the charmed life, she claims she was imprisoned and tortured at the orders of her father, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum. The programme also investigates the mystery of her older sister Shamsa, who disappeared from the streets of Cambridge in 2000 after fleeing the family’s British mansion in Surrey.
Secret Life of Farm Animals
Thursday, BBC4, 8pm
This new series examines the behaviour of farm animals, testing their intelligence, discovering unlikely relationships and uncovering a side to them that may never have been seen before. The first film focuses on sheep, following 12 weeks in the life of a lamb on a Welsh hill farm, and reveals them to be highly sociable and with a remarkable ability to recognise not just each other but human faces too. Other animals featured include a lonely goose looking for company and a piglet that thinks it is a cow.
The Graham Norton Show
Friday, BBC1, 10.35pm
It’s that time of year when celebrities start bringing out their autobiographiess. Jumping on the bandwagon this yuletide season is high-kicking movie star Jackie Chan, whose new memoir, Never Grow Up, offers insights into his early life, including the childhood years he spent at the China Drama Academy, his brushes with death both on and off set, and his role as a husband and father. Also on Graham Norton’s couch are professional wrestler and actor John Cena promoting his new sci-fi film Bumblebee, and Jamie Oliver, who waxes lyrical about his latest book, Jamie Cooks Italy – another surefire festive hit.
Amach an Sliabh
Friday, TG4, 7.45pm
Oisín Mistéil’s compact (15-minute) drama was inspired by a walk he took in the Comeragh Mountains of Co Waterford. Amach an Sliabh follows two sisters, Lisa and Kate, on the anniversary of their mother’s death as they hike a mountain in search of a lake their mother loved. On the journey the sisters are forced to confront their relationship and how they have each dealt with their grief.
Barbra Streisand: Becoming an Icon
Friday, BBC4, 9pm
In 1969, the 26-year-old Barbra Streisand picked up a Best Actress Oscar for her debut movie Funny Girl, four years after she’d conquered Broadway in the stage version. As this documentary reminds us, her early achievements were all the more remarkable when you consider the future superstar’s relatively humble beginnings. The film explores Streisand’s determination to escape her tough childhood in working-class Brooklyn and finds that it initially looked as if her academic ability would offer her a way out. However, the young Barbra was determined to become an actor and landed her first role when she was still 16. But it was only when she started singing that her career truly took off.
Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast
Friday, Channel 4, 8pm
The first episode of Jamie Oliver and Jimmy Doherty’s latest series should be out of this world: it features Doctor Who star Jodie Whittaker, who has her feet firmly on terra firma as she takes up residence in the boys’ cafe, which is a lot smaller than her usual Tardis home. Whittaker helps them rustle up some tasty treats, including roast pork with a double helping of crispy crackling, although it’s an authentic Thai beef massaman curry that really tickles her tastebuds – she’s been dreaming of getting another taste of it since she was 18.