TV guide: 26 of the best shows to watch this week
Gary Barlow, Euphoria, Neven’s Christmas Menu, Brian Kerr: A Life in Football, The Prom
Lingwei Lee in Detention: The Series. The supernatural drama from Taiwan streams on Netflix
Jamie: Keep Cooking at Christmas
Sunday, Channel 4, 8pm
Jamie Oliver has loads of handy tips for a bespoke Christmas. He begins his two-part special by looking at ways to make cracking gifts for those we can’t meet in person. Plus, we might not be able to sit around a table all together as normal this year, but that doesn’t mean we can’t share gorgeous festive food, starting with a sumptuous roasted mulled wine ham. Accompanied by cheeses you can flavour and deliver ready to be baked, it’s the perfect gift for those we might be missing this December. Jamie and the children also create the ultimate yule log for their grandparents. And for the big day itself, Jamie shows us how we can make a beautiful sage, onion and apricot stuffing that that can be rolled and placed in the oven at the same time at the turkey.
Small Axe: Alex Wheatle
Sunday, BBC1, 9pm
Director Steve McQueen tells the remarkable life story of award-winning writer Alex Wheatle, from young boy through to his early adult years. Having spent his childhood in a mostly white institutional care home with no love or family, Wheatle finds a sense of community for the first time in Brixton, where his passion for music grows. Then, when he is thrown in prison during the Brixton Uprising of 1981, he confronts his past and embarks on a path to healing. Newcomer Sheyi Cole shines in the lead role, alongside Robbie Gee and Jonathan Jules and Fumilayo Brown-Olateju.
Gary Barlow’s Night at the Museum
Sunday, Virgin Media One/ITV, 9pm
The Take That singer takes over Ben Stiller’s role as the night watchman in a magical museum where all the exhibits come to life at night and, uh…wait a minute, that’s not right. In fact, Barlow plays himself in this one-off concert special, filmed at London’s Natural History Museum in front of an audience of dead animals, and featuring a supporting cast including Michael Bublé, Alesha Dixon, Jason Donovan, Beverley Knight, Jack Whitehall and Ronan Keating, none of whom you would call a fossil. Backed by a full orchestra, Barlow will perform tracks from his new album, Music Played by Humans, and no doubt some old Take That favourites such as Rule The World, which was recently performed by a worldwide cast of kids (including Barlow himself) on The Late Late Toy Show.
The Vicar of Dibley in Lockdown
Monday, BBC1, 8.50pm
Dawn French is back in her iconic role as the Rev Geraldine Granger, but we’re not talking full sitcom episodes here. Instead this is a series of three short sermons delivered by the vicar to her parishioners during lockdown. She’ll administer some down-home wisdom about living through the pandemic, including explaining the two-metre rule to a congregation more accustomed to imperial measurement, and will also discuss the perils of getting your farming friends to give you a haircut during lockdown. These new episodes may be short and sweet, but the good news is that the Beeb are also rerunning classic episodes of The Vicar of Dibley – still high in the list of best-loved sitcoms – in the run-up to Christmas.
Euphoria Christmas Special
Monday, Sky Atlantic, 9pm
Zendaya returns as troubled teen Rue Bennett in this holiday one-off, but warning: may not contain much in the way of comfort and joy. The series took a hard look at teenage addiction as it tracked the tumultuous relationship between Rue, fresh out of rehab, and Jules, a new girl in town who has brought a lot of baggage with her. In this Christmas special, Rue is slipping back into addiction following a dramatic parting with Jules, but can she pull back from the brink and have a happy Christmas of sorts?
Coronation Street – 60 Unforgettable Years
Monday, Virgin One, 9pm/ITV, 8.30pm
On December 9th, 1960, a TV legend was born when the first episode of Coronation Street was aired. Despite originally only being commissioned for 13 episodes, it’s still going strong today. During its time, the famous cobbles have been home to hundreds of unforgettable characters, including Ena Sharples, Elsie Tanner and, of course, Ken Barlow. William Roache, who appeared in the very first episode and has appeared in nearly 4,000 episodes, is among those contributing to this programme, which looks back at amazing moments in the soap’s history. Expect Roache’s own participation in the Ken-Deirdre-Mike Baldwin love triangle to feature, alongside many more iconic storylines.
Luxury Christmas for Less
Monday, Channel 4, 8pm
Many of us are being forced to tighten our belts for Christmas, having been hit hard financially by the pandemic. Thankfully, according to Helen Skelton and Sabrina Grant in this special programme, spending less doesn’t necessarily mean we can’t enjoy ourselves. The duo speak to supermarket insiders who reveal how we can use what stores know about people’s tastes and shopping habits to pick up bargains. Retail psychologists also discuss a cunning ploy that persuades customers to spend more than they need to on party food, and there’s a look at cheap but equally as satisfying alternatives to champagne.
Tuesday, TG4, 9.05pm
This 2010 documentary is an intimate portrait of John Lennon’s life in New York in the 1970s, before he was shot dead by a crazed fan outside the Dakota Building where he lived with Yoko Ono and their baby son Sean. Lennon had moved to the Big Apple following the break-up of The Beatles in 1971, and soon the city “became part of who John and I were”, according to Ono. “We couldn’t have existed the same way anywhere else. We had a very special relationship with the city.” This re-airing coincides with the 40th anniversary of Lennon’s death, when he would have been 80.
Ireland Under Lockdown: Covid-19 Stories
Tuesday, Virgin One, 9pm
In this compelling documentary Virgin Media News reporter Zara King explores the impact of coronavirus on life in Ireland. She meets families who tragically lost loved ones and explores the effect the virus has had on our mental health and wellbeing. She interviews the key public health decision makers, including Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan, former minister for health Simon Harris, and HSE Director General Paul Reid. She also explores what the future holds and how the country will recover from a once in a lifetime crisis.
The Truth About Amazon: Can You Trust It This Christmas?
Tuesday, Channel 4, 9pm
More people than ever are heading online to do their Christmas shopping – and one retailer in particular is benefitting from that. Amazon is a huge multinational business that sells just about anything, so there’s no wonder its coffers are bulging even more than usual. But is it really as reliable as it should be? Sabrina Grant and Helen Skelton find out by investigating customer complaints and marketplace issues while also revealing how to bag a bargain.
Accused: Trial in the Outback
Tuesday-Wednesday, Channel 5, 9pm
In 1988, Meryl Streep received an Oscar nomination for her performance in A Cry in the Dark. For those unaware of the controversial Australian case on which the film was based, this would have been their introduction to Lindy Chamberlain, her husband Michael and their tragic story – and the movie was released just two months after they were exonerated of all charges against them. This two-part documentary takes viewers back to the events of 1980 when Lindy was accused of the murder of her and Michael’s nine-week-old daughter Azaria while camping near Uluru during a family holiday. The couple always maintained the baby was taken by a dingo, but when no evidence of their claim could be found and public opinion turned on them, they found themselves on trial in court and in the media.
Neven’s Christmas Menu
Wednesday, RTÉ One, 7.30pm
If Donal Skehan is the Niall Horan of cooking, with his whiz-bang recipes that can be knocked up in the space of a three-minute pop hit, then Neven Maguire is more Van Morrison, with a repertoire of virtuoso meals that – like rock’n’roll – will never die. Maguire returns to help us with the tricky business of cooking Christmas dinners, and now that we can entertain up to two other households over the festive period, we’ll need all the help we can get. These recipes are designed for a reduced dinner guest list, as we all (hopefully) adhere to Covid guidelines. Episode one is already a mouthwatering prospect: sizzling prawns and crab cocktail for starters, lamb hotpot and spicy turkey broth, and two chocolatey desserts to die for. And there was me thinking I’d be able to lose the lockdown tummy.
Gogglebox Ireland’s Christmas Cracker
Wednesday, Virgin One, 9pm
This festive special sees Gogglebox Ireland add three “Irish abroad” homes into the mix. Unable to experience an Irish Christmas due to current restrictions along with the usual Gogglebox cast they’ll be feasting their eyes on some classic Irish Christmas telly as the show goes from Cabra to Berlin, Limerick to London and Cork to Auckland in the name of bringing a little bit of home to those who can’t be here for the usual festive fun.
Brian Kerr: A Life in Football
Wednesday, Virgin One, 10.15pm
The legendary former Irish international football manager discusses his life and career in an in-depth conversation with Virgin Media Sport’s Tommy Martin – and he tells his football stories like no on else can. In this episode Kerr takes us through his sport-obsessed childhood, early run-ins with Jack Charlton, winning with St Pats and football in war zones.
Christmas in New York: Inside the Plaza
Wednesday, Channel 4, 9pm
Manhattan’s Plaza Hotel is one of the most famous hotels in the world. Steeped in 100+ years of history and having featured in countless movies, the iconic Fifth Avenue institution has played host to celebrities, socialites and world leaders. The festive period is when the hotel truly comes into its own, and this documentary follows the staff at their busiest time. From arranging a taste of Christmas movie magic with themed $3,000 welcome packages to planning the hotel’s star attraction, the Grand Christmas Buffet, the filmmakers get priority access to see how much effort goes into ensuring that 400 guests have the happiest holidays. We also meet the VIPs willing to spend up to $30,000 a night for the Christmas holiday of a lifetime.
An Post Irish Book of the Year
Thursday, RTÉ One, 10.15pm
During the lockdowns and restrictions over the past few months, many of us have become reacquainted with a traditional pastime: reading a book. You remember books: They’re about the size of an iPad but usually a lot thicker, and made up of hundreds of small, ultra-thin screens (known as pages) layered closely on top of each other. You scroll by licking your thumb and flicking each page over (wash your hands first). The An Post Book Awards are a celebration of Irish writing, when some of our finest wordsmiths are rightly rewarded for their excellent literary efforts. This year’s awards ceremony, held on November 25th, was a very different affair due to Covid restrictions, and this special programme, presented by Miriam O’Callaghan, rounds up the winners in each category. It also tells the story of how the Irish have embraced reading again. (It’s like viewing, except you’re looking at a printed piece of paper rather than a collection of pixels. Seriously, try it.)
Nadiya’s American Adventure
Thursday, BBC1, 8pm
When some think of US cuisine, burgers and fries might come to mind. But as Nadiya Hussain points out in her new two-part documentary, America is home to more immigrants than any other country, and that’s reflected in its vibrant food. So, the former Bake Off winner visits culinary melting pots Louisiana and California to learn more about their local delicacies. She begins in New Orleans, which for centuries has attracted newcomers from Europe and the Caribbean and, more recently, Vietnam. Hussain has timed her arrival to coincide with the first day of Mardi Gras and she joins in the celebration by making indulgent king cakes. She also visits the Lower Ninth Ward, an African-American neighbourhood that was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, to meet local hero Bernell and help his mum out in the kitchen of his soul food cafe.
Tin Star: Liverpool
Thursday, Sky Atlantic, 9pm
Tim Roth is back as haunted lawman Jack Worth for the third and final series of the cop thriller, but don’t be expecting a return to the wide-open spaces of the Canadian Rockies. Season three sees Jack and his family returning home to Liverpool. Why is he going back? Well, if you’ve seen the first two series, you’ll know that things didn’t go too well for the family (or for anyone else) in Canada. Having well and truly disturbed the peace in his once-sleepy village, Jack decides it’s time to return to his home town to face the demons that drove him out of the place 20 years ago. This will involve killing a whole bunch of people from his past, and also taking down ruthless local criminal Michael Ryan, who has gained a stranglehold in the city while presenting himself as a legit businessman. Ian Hart plays Ryan, with Genevieve O’Reilly returning as Jack’s wife, Angela, and Abigail Lawrie as their daughter, Anna.
The Works Presents: John Banville
Thursday, RTÉ One, 11.15pm
John Kelly meets John Banville, internationally recognised as one of Ireland’s finest writers. His first novel, Nightspawn, was published in 1971 and many landmark novels have followed, including Birchwood, Kepler, The Book of Evidence and The Sea, the latter a winner of the 2005 Man Booker Prize. Banville, is perceived as a key figure in European literature, so it perhaps came as a surpise when he then began publishing a series of crime novels under the pseudonym Benjamin Black. His most recent, Snow, is the first of these to appear under his own name – a classic whodunnit set in his home ground of county Wexford.
Thursday, Channel 4, 8pm
It’s easy to take mass-produced snacks for granted, but just how simple would it be to recreate them in your own kitchen? That’s what Fred Sirieix is finding out in the new run of the series that challenges chefs to make their own versions of popular foodstuffs. First up are lunchbox legends, Quavers. Anna Haugh and Aktar Islam have just seven days to work out the secrets of the curly, cheesy snacks, but getting the right taste and texture proves to be much trickier than they may have expected. Who will get closest?
Jo Brand’s How to Stay Sane in a Mad World
Friday, Channel 4, 8pm
Before she became a comedian, Jo Brand spent 10 years working as a psychiatric nurse. So if anyone knows the importance of looking after our mental health as well as our physical wellbeing during the pandemic, it’s her. Brand shares her A-Z guide on the best ways to keep mentally strong during a stressful time. The emphasis is on keeping it fun, creative and, of course, Covid-friendly as she touches on everything from health to horticulture, QR codes to UV rays, and hibernation to isolation. To prevent Jo herself getting too stressed out, a few other famous faces will be on hand to share their advice.
The Graham Norton Show
Friday, BBC1, 10.45pm
Claudia Winkleman hasn’t just been working on Strictly Come Dancing – she’s also penned her debut book, Quite, which deals with “life, love and eyeliner”. Here she joins Graham to chat about it. Actor Nicola Coughlan is probably best known for her role as Clare Devlin in Derry Girls, but now she’s striking out in the American period drama Bridgerton, And comedian Lee Mack discusses the return of his long-running sitcom Not Going Out. The music comes courtesy of McFly, who perform their current single Tonight Is the Night.
Detention: The Series
Streaming now, Netflix
Not to be confused with a US TV show of the same name dating back to the turn of the millennium, this eight-part supernatural drama hails from Taiwan, a nation with a long tradition of horror movies. Among them is 2019’s Detention, which, like this series, was inspired by a hit video game. The action takes place at a high school in the 1990s. New student Yunxiang Liu (Lingwei Lee) accidentally wanders into a forbidden area on the campus where she comes face to face with a ghost who tells her about the institution’s hidden history. The spirit reveals how, over the course of the past 30 years, students and teachers alike have been persecuted for their efforts to fight for freedom in an era of censorship – and how their stories continue to haunt the premises.
From Wednesday, Netflix
With the world in flux, escaping from it all on your own personal island probably sounds like rather a good idea at the moment. One man who tried that in 1967 was Giorgio Rosa, an Italian engineer – and his remarkable, mostly forgotten story forms the basis for this engaging Italian comedy-drama (original title: L’Incredibile Storia dell’Isola delle Rose). Elio Germano plays Rosa who, at the start of the movie, is suffering from a slump: he’s lost his job, the love of his life has left him and his parents aren’t talking to him. With seemingly nothing to lose, he designs and funds the construction of a restaurant, bar, nightclub, shop and post office on a platform off the coast of Rimini. He declares himself its president and all goes well until the Italian authorities decide the new community may cause a threat to society.
From Friday, Disney+
Chances are that few viewers on this side of the Atlantic have heard of ex-Clemson University football player Ray McElrathbey. Jay Reeves plays the talented sportsman, revealing how, at the age of 19, he sacrificed a regular student lifestyle to take over custody of his 11-year-old brother Fahmarr after their drug-addict mother entered rehab. “Safety is a movie about brotherhood and coming together for the greater good, which is a message our society needs right now,” says director Reginald Hudlin. “It’s the story of a young man stuck in a situation where failure is not an option. Through sheer force of will, he does the impossible, which inspires the whole community around him to do the same.”
From Friday, Netflix
Super-producer Ryan “Glee” Murphy’s latest project looks very promising indeed: a film adaptation of a hit Broadway musical. The plot focuses on New York stage stars Dee Dee Allen and Barry Glickman (Meryl Streep and Jamese Corden), whose expensive new show (Eleanor!, a musical about the Roosevelts) is a flop, a fact that seems set to kill off both their careers. After hearing about small-town Indiana high school student who has been banned from attending her prom with her girlfriend, they decide to help her reverse the PTA’s decision, believing it will provide them with the perfect way to resurrect their public images. Nicole Kidman, Tracy Ullman and Kerry Washington co-star.