Seven TV shows to watch this week

Christmas specials aplenty to watch: Bridget & Eamon, Nathan Carter, Doctor Who, Mrs Brown and French and Saunders. Plus: feed your technofear with season four of Black Mirror

 

The Bridget & Eamon Christmas Special
Christmas Eve, RTÉ 2, 9.45pm

'The Bridget & Eamon Christmas Special': expect lots of cheap, highly flammable decorations

Doctor Who has them. Del Boy and Rodney had them too. So did The Royle Family, the staff of The Office and the toffs in Downton Abbey. Even Star Wars had one, but we don’t talk about that. In tellyland, you’re nothing if you don’t have a Christmas special. Soon, even Scandi noir series and dark Netflix dramas will have a little seasonal jollity sprinkled in among the murder and mayhem.

Irish telly is partial to the Christmas special sauce, and this year there’s no shortage of seasonal silliness, starting with the 1980s festive celebration that is The Bridget & Eamon Christmas Special. Expect lots of cheap, highly flammable decorations, awful Christmas tank tops and brand new Christmas tunes by Shakin’ Stevens and Wham!

Bridget has been working out the household budget, and has come to an incredible realisation that Eamon is worth more dead than alive. All she needs is a dead husband and she’s on the pig’s back, living high off the hog on the life assurance and widow’s pension.

She can’t actually kill him (though she’d like to), so she gets him to fake his own death, and then holds a wake for him, inviting all the neighbours and friends to give him a big, boozy send-off. But Eamon can’t resist a good party, so he decides to turn up too.

Angela’s Christmas
Christmas Eve, RTÉ One, 6.20pm

Brown Bag Films's 'Angela’s Christmas', an animation based on Frank McCourt's book

We can’t resist a good animated Christmas special, which is why we’re always glued to The Gruffalo, The Snowman or Wallace and Gromit at this time of year. Brown Bag Films have added a new one to the canon with Angela’s Christmas , the story of a little girl living in poverty in the early 1900s who just wants everyone to be safe, warm and loved for Christmas.

It’s based on a children’s book by the late Frank McCourt, author of the ultimate misery lit classic Angela’s Ashes, and features the voices of Ruth Negga and Lucy O’Connell, with narration by Frank’s brother Malachy McCourt. You’d need a hard heart not to be warmed by this one.

Mrs Brown’s Boys Christmas Special
Christmas Day, RTÉ One, 9pm

Mrs Brown’s Boys Christmas Special. Photograph: Alan Peebles/BBC
Old-fashioned Crimbo laughs with 'Mrs Brown’s Boys Christmas Special'. Photograph: Alan Peebles/BBC

Brendan O’Carroll is getting ready for Christmas, digging out those old jokes from the attic and dusting them off for the Mrs Brown’s Boys Christmas Special. Agnes has a lot on her one-track mind this season. Rory’s getting plastic surgery, Cathy has an internet boyfriend, and Dermot’s one elf short of a Santa’s grotto. And Buster Brady has given Agnes a coin-operated Christmas tree he picked up for a bargain. The scene is set for some old-fashioned Crimbo laughs, just like the ones we used to know.

The Doctor Who Christmas Special
Christmas Day, BBC One, 5.30pm

We will see the timelord morph into a Ms when Peter Capaldi hands overs the sonic screwdriver to Jodie Whitaker. Photograph: BBC

Whovians were rocked by the news that their beloved Doctor is about to have a sex-change, and now the time has come for Peter Capaldi to hand over the sonic screwdriver to Jodie Whitaker, who will take over as the 13th Doctor. The Doctor Who Christmas Special will see the timelord morph into a Ms, but first, the 12th Doctor has to do a bit of universe-saving and paradox-reconciling before he can get regenerated into a new, vastly improved version.

He also will come face to face with his first-ever incarnation (if you remember William Hartnell, then you’re even older than I am). To achieve this time-travelling feat, Harry Potter and Game of Thrones actor David Bradley will do his best Hartnell impersonation. Mark Gatiss stars as a first World War captain, with Pearl Mackie returning as Bill Potts.

300 Years of French and Saunders
Christmas Day, BBC One, 10.35pm

Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders: back together after a decade. Photograph: BBC
 

And the time-travelling doesn’t stop there. The Beeb has some unabashed nostalgia lined up for Christmas 2017, and if you turn on your telly between now and New Year’s, you’ll swear you’ve been whisked back to the 1980s and 1990s. Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders reunite for their first show together in a decade. The show is a mix of classic clips and new sketches to celebrate the duo’s 30th anniversary.

Nathan Carter Christmas Special
St Stephen’s Day, RTÉ One, 9.20pm

Wrap some tinsel round your stetsons for Nathan Carter's  Christmas special. Photograph: James Connolly

Ireland’s love affair with that handsome young Liverpudlian country star Nathan Carter shows no sign of cooling off, and we’ll be wrapping some tinsel round our stetsons for his Christmas special. The singer will be teaming up to perform tunes with ex-Spice Girl Mel C (bet they do her Bryan Adams duet, Baby When You’re Gone), 1990s jazz-pop star Curtis Stigers, and former Saturdays girl Una Healy.

Black Mirror
From Friday, Netflix

Black Mirror: Arkangel asks how far would you go to be a helicopter parent?

Remember when we all worried about mobile phones overheating our brains? Those were innocent times. Now we’ve a whole menu of tech terrors to keep us awake at night, not least the threat of tweet-triggered armageddon. But just when you think we’ve reached peak paranoia, season four of Black Mirror (from Friday, Netflix) has come up with six new nightmare futures to feed our technofear. Arkangel, directed by Jodie Foster, addresses the quest for ultimate parental control, while Hang The DJ skewers the world of dating apps. Metalhead - the series’ first black-and-white episode -  stars Maxine Peake as a woman on the run from killer robot dogs, and USS Callister is, on the face of it, a Star Trek spoof, but what’s lurking behind the captain’s log? 

Vic & Bob’s Big Night Out
Friday, BBC Two, 9pm

Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer: trademark surreal game-playing. Photograph: BBC

Another dynamic duo from the 20th century, Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer, reunite for a 30-minute special packed with the pair’s trademark silliness and surreal game-playing. This high-octane show will go by in a blur, and you’ll swear you’ve spotted Matt Lucas, Mel Gibson and Idris Elba in there somewhere.

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