TV guide: 29 of the best shows to watch this week
The Toy Show looks back, Ireland in the Junior Eurovision, a Kirstie Allsopp Christmas, Hillary and Chelsea on Graham Norton, and Damien Grey chasing a Michelen star
Toy Show stars down the years: Noah and Leah Kirwan . . .
. . . Ava O’Donovan and family . . .
. . . Stella McGirl . . .
. . . and Mia Farrell and family
How to Spend It Well at Christmas
Sunday, UTV, 7pm
Phillip Scofield is back with his guide to the best gifts and gadgets on the market (with help from his better half, Steph), from expensive beauty tech to personalised stocking fillers. Coronation Street’s Jack Shepherd, Alan Halsall and Colson Smith give their verdicts on personal electric vehicles. Thirty Christmas shoppers play Phillip’s new seasonal gameshow, Higher or Lower. Clare Balding is on a mission to find the perfect present for our pets. And Scofield invites Eddie the Eagle Edwards to put some of the most popular gift experiences to the test. At the end, Schofield reveals his top picks of the best gifts and gadgets.
Junior Eurovision 2019
Sunday, TG4, 7pm
The main event is finally on! After months of nationwide auditions and six weeks of televised heats, Anna Kearney (13) from Foxrock, Dublin will take to the Junior Eurovision stage in Gliwice, Poland to represent Ireland. Competing against 18 other countries, Anna will be hoping that her Irish-language song Banshee will win the prestigious event for Ireland. Anna is no stranger to large crowds, having played the title role in Annie at the National Concert Hall. She is also not the first in the family to appear at Eurovision: her mother, Eileen Martin, was part of Riverdance, which was the interval act at the 1994 event in Dublin.
Our Guy in Japan
Sunday, Channel 4, 9pm
Guy Martin’s latest adventure takes him on a 2,500-mile journey around Japan to find out how the country works. He meets an 85-year-old engineering grandmaster who made parts for Japan’s first nuclear power stations. He also finds out how Japan deals with 1,500 earthquakes annually via the intense simulators at Tokyo’s Disaster Training School. After entering the gang culture of Tokyo, Guy messes around with some uniquely modified trucks, and decides to get his own “tebori” tattoo. Using sharp bamboo sticks, these hand-carved, painful works of art are a taboo in Japan because of their association with organised crime. And Guy also tries to hold his own in the auto race arena, the unique form of Japanese speedway.
Kill Your TV: Jim Moir’s Weird World of Video Art
Sunday, BBC4, 9pm
The comedian (aka Vic Reeves) explores how different generations “hacked” the tools of television to pioneer new ways of creating art – especially now that we experience so much of the world through screens. The programme features contributions from leading British artists, including Isaac Julien and Rachel Maclean, as Jim discusses how new technology led to a creative explosion, from works of cosmic abstraction to feminist visions and Dadaist TV pranks. There is also a look at how the latest developments, such as artificial intelligence, may be used.
Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas
Monday-Friday, Channel 4, 5pm
There was a time when Kirstie Allsopp was only famous for flogging houses. These days she’s better known as the queen of crafting, now back with a fresh run of creative ideas. Each episode (Monday through Friday for three weeks) focuses on a tightly fought competition, bringing the best of craft artists together to take part in a challenge for a handmade trophy. In the first episode, the Christmas HQ is bursting with festive crafters hoping to clinch victory in the best decorated tree competition. The competition judges also reveal how to make a sophisticated woodland garland that won’t just get thrown away in January. There’s also a chance to witness amazing slip-trail ceramics and two mini makes for a cosy Christmas.
Meat: A Threat to Our Planet?
Monday, BBC1, 11.15pm
According to the UN, our excessive meat consumption is pushing us to a climate catastrophe. Here Liz Bonnin embarks on an ambitious and occasionally dangerous mission to discover the true impact of meat on our planet. In the Amazon rainforest, sje joins zoologists attempting to save rare animal and plant species whose habitat is being cleared for cattle. She also travels to Chinese “super farms” to understand the huge growth of the meat industry, and the harrowing predictions of its effect on our planet’s climate and resources. And in the US and Europe, Bonnin investigates how humans can continue to eat meat – how to rear it, feed it and graze it – without killing our planet.
Murder in the Bush: Cold Case Hammarskjöld – Storyville
Monday, BBC4, 9pm
This captivating, unusual and intriguing political documentary won the 2019 World Cinema Documentary Directing Award at the Sundance Film Festival. It follows an investigation into the mysterious plane crash over Zambia in 1961 that killed idealistic United Nations secretary-general Dag Hammarskjöld as he was working to negotiate a ceasefire in the Congo. With the case still unsolved 50-plus years later, the documentary lead viewers down an investigative rabbit hole to unearth the truth.
Shortscreen: Take Me Swimming
Monday, RTÉ2, midnight
In Claire Dix’s 15-minute short from 2017, Thady (Barry Ward), home for a funeral, is shocked at how much his mother’s Alzheimer’s has worsened, especially when Eileen (Olwen Fouere) fails to recognise her husband of 40 years. Marcus (BJ Hogg) tries to underplay it but clearly he too is upset. Later, Thady finds a lover’s contract between Marcus and Eileen in which Marcus promises to “take her swimming” the day she no longer knows who he is.
Monday, RTEjr, 8am
Sir Mouse, a comedy series of 26 episodes, is about the unusual friendship between a bossy knight, Sir Mouse, and her forgiving, gentle friend Dragon. Each episode tells a daring tale about two heroic friends in a medieval universe. With a modern feminist twist, together the two friends challenge our preconceptions of all the existing fairytale cliches. The series is an adaptation of the award-winning series of books, Mouse and Dragon, written by Dirk Nielandt and illustrated by Margonlein Pottie.
The Mallorca Files
Monday, BBC1, 2.15pm
The Beeb’s latest daytime drama focuses on the partnership between a British detective (Elen Rhys) and her German counterpart (Julian Looman), who crack crimes on the sun-kissed titular island.
Save My Child
Tuesday, Channel 4, 8pm
This moving one-off documentary follows two families as they set out to raise money to pay for life-changing operations for their children. First is Pranav (6), who is determined to walk one day despite his cerebral palsy. His only ray of hope is a pioneering operation that the NHS doesn’t offer free for children as seriously disabled as Pranav. So his parents attempt to raise the £100,000 needed to pay for the operation and aftercare. However, they soon discover fundraising is far from easy. Cameras also head to Northern Ireland, where determined mum Jo hopes to correct her daughter’s curvature of the spine. But the cost of an operation in Turkey is a challenging £32,000.
The Late Late Toy Show Unwrapped
Wednesday/Thursday/Friday, RTÉ One, 7pm
Friday is Toy Show day, when Ryan Tubridy dons the dodgy Christmas jumper and leads another troupe of kids for another gala night of singing, dancing and playing with the latest toys and gadgets. To get everyone in the mood, comedian Bernard O’Shea presents three preview shows, looking back on magic moments from Toy Shows past, and getting a few sneak peeks into preparations for this year’s seasonal spectacle. A few memorable past child guests will return, including avid horologist JohnJoe Brennan, farm girl Stella McGirl, and Ava O’Donovan, the young disabled girl who danced the cha cha. Expect some heart-melting stories, but don’t forget to save a few tears for the big night itself.
Saol an Mhadra Bháin/The Secret World of Working Dogs
Wednesday, TG4, 9.30pm
Two-part bilingual documentary series tells the stories of those whose lives are dramatically changed and improved by their working dogs. It also shows how the extraordinary abilities of these working dogs are helping doctors and scientists with breakthrough medical solutions to health problems. This series blends science with human interest to learn about the special relationship between dog and owner, and how that bond enhances and empowers the lives of people with disabilities and life-debilitating illnesses. Scientists at the research centers in Ireland and the UK show how dogs are revolutionising the treatment of many illnesses, from cancer, epilepsy and diabetes to autism and visual impairment. Could it be that dogs will soon play an even more prominent role in out national health services?
The Baby Has Landed
Wednesday, BBC2, 9pm
Ah, the joys of parenthood. The patter of tiny feet; safeguarding every element of your home, and trying to carry out day-to-day tasks on a few hours sleep. As shocks to the system go, few things are more of an upheaval as that major lifestyle change kicks in. This new series follows families throughout their first weeks of parenthood, lifting the lid on one of the most joyful yet intense times in a family’s life. Episode one introduces the inaugural set of the six expectant families featured, including young first-time parents Syler and Mo Nicholson-Bayoumi, and Helen and Nigel Pierce, who are expecting their fourth child. Plus, overdue mum Hermisha and same-sex couple Paul and Craig also prepare for the arrival of their new babies.
My Grandparents’ War
Wednesday, Channel 4, 9pm
Marking 80 years since the start of the second World War, the first of four films featuring four actors explores their grandparents’ wartime stories. This one focuses on Helena Bonham Carter’s grandparents – one set in France, one in England. Neither were conventional war heroes. Though they didn’t fight in any battles, they did save many lives. Her maternal grandfather was Spanish diplomat Eduardo Propper de Callejon, who defied his government and helped Jews escape as the Nazis invaded France. Her paternal grandmother, Violet Bonham Carter, also took her own stand against anti-Semitism. This mother of four was also ahead of her time, volunteering as an air raid warden and campaigning for women’s rights.
Vic and Bob’s Big Night Out
Wednesday, BBC4, 10pm
It’s nearly 30 years since Vic Reeves’ Big Night Out was launched on Channel 4, turning Jim Moir and Bob Mortimer into comedy superstars. They wouldn’t let it lie, and following a successful first run or revamped laughs, now they’re back with another helping of surreal mayhem. In the first episode, Judge Nutmeg dispenses punishment to an unsuspecting audience member. Plus, the Ghost Hunters are on the prowl, and Bob takes viewers back to the 1980s with a special performance.
The Man Who Saw Too Much
Wednesday, BBC1, 11.45pm
At 106, Boris Pahor is the oldest living survivor of a Nazi concentration camp; he has written about his time in his literary masterpiece, Necropolis (1967). In this film, Pahor discusses life and death at Natzweiler-Struthof in France, where almost half the prisoners died. Pahor, who was not Jewish, was arrested for resisting the Nazis and handed over to the Gestapo and SS. Alan Yentob visits Pahor at his home in Trieste. His harrowing descriptions are illustrated with remarkable drawings by fellow prisoners to create a moving record of conditions in the Nazi death camps.
Thursday, RTÉ One, 10.15pm
What’s it like to lose a Michelin star? Is it like losing a family member, or losing a part of yourself? When Damien Grey’s Michelin-starred Heron & Grey restaurant closed down, it was the pain of losing the star that Greu felt most acutely. This documentary follows the chef as he sets up a new restaurant and embarks on a mission to regain his Michelin star. It opens with the closure of Heron & Grey in Blackrock, Co Dublin, which Grey cofounded with Andrew Heron. Grey vows to get his new restaurant, Liath, up and running, and regain his Michelin star within six months. His journey will take him down some unexpected paths as he is forced to re-examine his own methods and reassess the role of chef in a changing culinary world. He’ll meet chef and producers from around the world, learn how the global chef shortage is affecting his industry, and see climate change is impacting on food producers. The programme brings us all the way to a nailbiting showdown at the Michelin awards, where Grey will finally learn if his quest has been successful.
Elton John: Uncensored
Thursday, BBC1, 9pm
It’s 50 years since the release of Your Song, Elton John’s first hit single. To mark the anniversary, he agreed to chat to Graham Norton about his extraordinary life and career in an interview conducted at his South of France home. It’s a candid discussion in which John describes some incredible events, sharing personal and laugh-out-loud stories from his childhood, which was spent in postwar Pinner, to the present day. There’s also a chance to see classic archive performances of some of his biggest hits. Followed at 10pm on BBC4 by Elton John at the BBC.
Hector USA Ó Chósta go Cósta
Thursday, TG4, 9.30pm
Hector Ó hEochagáin’s journey through Texas continues as he hits the beaches at Galveston before meeting up with nine-time Gold-winning Olympic sprinter Carl Lewis, tries out some arm wrestling and then heading for Dallas. It’s a lot of long hauling on the interstates as he turns south again for San Antonio and gets up and close with some cowboys buying a hat and going to the rodeo. Then it’s time for the epic trip across the desert to El Paso to meet the US Border Patrol and get his first view of Donald Trump’s infamous wall.
The Work Presents
Thursday, RTÉ One, 11.15pm
From the heart of the Donegal Gaeltacht, Moya Brennan has been the voice of Clannad for 50 years. From singing in her father’s pub in Meenaleck to the great theatres in the world, Clannad – singing mostly in Irish – has sold more tan 50 million albums. The multi-award-winning band has, without doubt, done more than any other group to take Irish music and the Irish language to a worldwide audience. Fusing elements of traditional with more contemporary folk, new age and rock, they have created a beautifully unique and ethereal sound. To mark their 50th anniversary, next year Brennan & co will set off on a final farewell tour.
Fíorscéal: Ocean Grabbing
Thursday, TG4, 10.30pm
The rights of use and ownership of marine and coastal zones are being reallocated worldwide. In line with global market rules and largely kept hidden from the public, changing national and international legislation is leading to a development that is overruling the traditional rights of use of local communities. The beneficiaries of this gradual process of privatisation and commercialisation are international corporations, organisations and states. This investigative documentary examines the consequences of these trends in India, Sri Lanka, Costa Rica and Kenya.
Buy It Now for Christmas
Thursday, Channel 4, 8pm
Inventors of possibly “perfect” gifts are invited into the studio to try and get their product on the shelves in time for Christmas. Rylan Clark-Neal welcomes the inventors who pitch to an audience of real shoppers and get live feedback on the new ideas. Retailers Amazon Launchpad, Lakeland and JML then decide whether or not to make a big order. In the first of four episodes, a retired Yorkshire couple believe their cafetiere with a twist is worth the life savings they invested. We also meet Bridget from Newcastle, who thinks her marmalade will make perfect Christmas cocktail. A new card game, courtesy of a nine-year-old girl, could be the perfect stocking filler, and musical director Roger hopes his innovative roasting tin will leave him quids in.
Chris Packham: Plant a Tree to Save the World
Thursday, Channel 5, 8pm
Many of us want to do our bit for the environment but aren’t sure where to start. Luckily, Chris Packham has an idea. The naturalist, along with guest presenters including former Today Programme host John Humphrys, aims to raise enough money to plant 100,000 trees across Britain by asking viewers to contribute to the Woodland Trust. Martin Hughes-Games, JB Gill and Clare Nasir also take a closer look at the science of trees, exploring how they can lower carbon emissions, fight flooding and reduce pollution.
The Late Late Toy Show
Friday, RTÉ One, 9.35pm
Once upon a time, there was a young TV presenter who wanted to give a special treat to all the boys and girls before Christmas. He thought, why not put on a special edition of The Late Late Show, where the kids can try out toys and maybe do a little party piece as well. I could wear a funny jumper – that’ll be comedy gold! Who knows, perhaps a few families might tune in. But the show became so popular that soon, every Irish person in the world was watching, and the young TV presenter suddenly found himself under pressure to come up with something bigger and better and more spectacular each year. Before long, his benign smile was replaced by a haunted look, as the demands of The Late Late Toy Show consumed his very soul . . . Happily, Ryan Tubridy has not yet been reduced to a hollow shell by 10 years of fronting the Toy Show. In fact, he’s positively blooming, and even burst into song for last year’s opening number, not sounding at all like a foghorn. It’s clear the Toy Show brings out the kid in our Tubs, and he’s promising an even bigger extravaganza for his 11th outing in the naff Christmas jumper. This year’s theme is being kept under wraps, but given the events of the year, I’m guessing climate could get a mention. One thing’s for sure: there’s bound to be a nod or two to the man who started the snowball rolling, the late Gay Byrne. So gather round the telly, boys and girls, mums and dads, grannies and grandads, and get ready for the year’s biggest night in.
The Graham Norton Show
Friday, BBC One, 10.35pm
Hillary Clinton and daughter Chelsea drop into the studio to promote their latest collaboration, The Book of Gutsy Women: Favorite Stories of Courage and Resilence. Chef Jamie Oliver will discuss his life and career, while his latest cook book Veg gets a moment in the spotlight. Comedian and actor David Mitchell doesn’t want to feel left out, so his collection of satirical columns, Dishonesty Is the Second-Best Policy, also gets a mention. And giving us a break from all this literary promotion is Kesha, there to belt out her latest single.
Friday, Channel 4, 7.30pm
It’s almost three years since a former gameshow host took office as President of the United States, and became the most controversial POTUS in living memory. Reporter Karishma Vyas visits California to meet the “TradWives”, a growing movement of women in the US, young and old, who idolise President Donald Trump. They are putting him at the heart of their anti-feminist, traditional family values and working hard to help secure him a second term. This is despite the fact that women have often borne the brunt of Trump’s political and personal barbs.
Cruising with Jane McDonald
Friday, Channel 5, 9pm
In the first of a new run, the singer uncovers a little-known cruise route in the Great Lakes of America and Canada. Heading to Cleveland, she explores the sights of this re-emerging city, popping into the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame to revel in memorabilia from her musical heroes. McDonald later visits one of the world’s most photographed sites: Niagara Falls. She opts to take a pulse-pounding zip-line across the falls, and ends her cruise by jet-boating across the rapids outside Montreal.
Raising Hell: Margate, Turner and the Prize
Friday, BBC2, 11.15pm
The titular seaside town has left an indelible mark on the minds of many artists over the years, but what is it about Margate that inspired the likes of painter JMW Turner, the man whose name was used for one of the most prestigious prizes in the annual arts calendar? When Turner first came to Margate, he marvelled at “the loveliest skies in all Europe”. Others have also been drawn to the seaside and the sense that they might be able to find a new beginning here. This film reveals how these influxes of incomers – and the arrival of the Turner Institute – have affected the town. There are also contributions from Margate-born Tracey Emin, the Turner Prize shortlist artists and some local residents.