TV guide: 44 of the best shows to watch this week

From carols to cooking, children’s animation, documentaries and streaming dramas

Phoebe Dynevor and Regé-Jean Page in Bridgerton, streaming on Netflix from Christmas Day

Phoebe Dynevor and Regé-Jean Page in Bridgerton, streaming on Netflix from Christmas Day


Tunes in the Church
Sunday, TG4, 9.30pm
A concert of traditional music from St Nicholas’ Collegiate Church in the heart of Galway city, presented by Cormac Begley. During the 1990’s, the duet Begley and Steve Cooney reached national acclaim and were regarded as one of the foremost performers of Irish music. Cooney pioneered a new approach to traditional accompaniment and formed a perfect marriage with Begley’s energetic west Kerry style. They are joined by Canon Gary Hastings, Kevin Hough, Saileog Ní Cheannabháin and Clíodhna Ní Bheaglaoich, each bringing their own unique musical talents to this historic and majestic setting.

The Den’s Christmas Special
Sunday, RTÉ One, 6.30pm

The Den Christmas Special
The Den Christmas Special

What genius thought it was a good idea to bring Ray D’Arcy, Dustin and Zig and Zag back together on the telly? No really, it was genius. Viewers (and reviewers) have gone gaga for the return of the Den gang, describing the show as “chaotic and brilliant” and agreeing all round that Ray and the lads have saved Christmas 2020. The show has pressed all the right nostalgia buttons with parents while also entertaining their kids. D’Arcy may not have the floppy hairdo anymore, but he’s still got the Den Zen, and this Christmas special promises to be a merry hour of festive madness and mayhem as the gang look back on Chriistmas specials of the past – and create some special moments in the present.

Michael Palin’s Himalaya: Journey of a Lifetime
Sunday, BBC2, 8pm
Michael Palin is back with a one-off insight into another of his BBC travelogues. In 2004, he embarked on a six-month tour of the Himalayan mountain range. It was an often difficult yet rewarding and exciting trip that took in the sights and sounds of India, Pakistan, the Tibetan Plateau and Bhutan, all while under the shadow of the mighty Mount Everest – Palin even managed to visit base camp. The affable former Monty Python discusses his memory of making the series as well as the people he met and the places he visited, while celebrity fans reflect on the show itself.

Marcus Rashford: Feeding Britain’s Children
Monday, BBC1, 7pm
Cameras follow the Manchester United and England striker as he tries to better understand the effects of food poverty and how Covid-19 has contributed to the issue. The film comes after Rashford forced Boris Johnson’s government into not one but two U-turns in his ongoing efforts to ensure no child goes hungry. His campaign last month resulted in Westminster backtracking to announce free meals would be provided to disadvantaged children over the Christmas holidays. This was a repeat of the summer, when the footballer pushed the government provide free school meals during the summer holidays.

Monday, TG4, 6.30pm


Sol is a heart-warming children’s short filim about grief. Sol’s world is plunged into darkness when his beloved grandmother dies, and the drama explores the different aspects of grief through the eyes of a child. But Sol’s message is uplifting. Sent on an urgent quest to find the light that has gone out in the world, Sol’s adventurous journey enables him to realise his love for his grandmother is greater than the pain of his loss. Voiced by Fionnula Flanagan and Myra Zepf and 12- year-old Zana Akkoc as Sol. The film’s song was recorded by Moya Brennan of Clannad. Funding came from the British Film Institute’s Young Audiences Content Fund and from Northern Ireland Screen’s Irish Language Broadcast Fund and Screen Fund.

How to Cook Well at Christmas with Rory O’Connell
Monday-Tuesday, RTÉ One, 7pm

Rory O’Connell in the kitchen
Rory O’Connell in the kitchen

Rory O’Connell is back with recipes that include smoked salmon and cream cheese parcels, turkey and ham macaroni cheese gratin, and a baked apple with chocolate and hazelnuts. O’Connell, cofounder of the Ballymaloe cookery school with his sister Darina Allen, considers himself lucky to have learned how to cook simply by watching and helping his mother, who cooked brilliantly for her nine children. He says: “Perhaps one of the very few positives to have come out of this strange year, when we’ve been forced to spend more time at home, is having more time to cook.”

Today Christmas Special
Monday-Wednesday, RTÉ One, 6.30pm
Neven Maguire, Rachel Allen and Kevin Dundon are back in the Today Kitchen to serve up their best Christmas dishes to their celebrity special guests. So for some special Christmas cheer. Maguire is front and centre today, Allen on Tuesdasy, andn Dundon on Wednesday.

Upstart Crow: Lockdown Christmas 1603
Monday, BBC 2, 9pm

David Mitchell in Upstart Crow
David Mitchell in Upstart Crow

David Mitchell returns as aspiring 16th-century playwright Will, who dreams of having a hit on the stage and escaping his humble origins in Stratford-on-Avon. But the young Bard has to contend with his uncouth dad (Harry Enfield), his landlady’s daughter Kate (Gemma Whelan), who has been pestering him to let her star in one of his plays despite the ban on women actors, and his nemesis Robert Greene (Mark Heap), who has labelled Will an “upstart crow” and will do everything he can to sabotage his rise to immortality. In this Christmas special, London goes into lockdown due to a pesky plague that’s ravaging Europe, and Will and Kate have to self-isolate in his lodgings. Will decides to use the forced confinement to come up with a cracker of a play to please the new king. Trouble is, he can’t find any inspiration, and if he doesn’t get past this dose of writer’s block, his head will be on the block.

Celebrity MasterChef Christmas Cook-Off
Monday, BBC1, 9pm
For the festive specials, John Torode and Gregg Wallace are inviting memorable celebrities from previous series back for another go. First up competing to be Christmas champion are broadcaster and journalist Janet Street-Porter, actor Christopher Biggins, DJ Dev Griffin and TV personality Vicky Pattison. To take the title they must tackle some festive challenges, beginning with an Invention Test where they select their ingredients from an advent calendar. They then undertake a seasonal Pairs Test before they create their Ultimate Christmas Dinner. The second helping will feature Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood, presenter Amar Latif, actress Crissy Rock and reality star Spencer Matthews.

The Busk – A Decade of Christmas on Grafton Street
Tuesday, RTÉ One, 10.10pm

Glen Hansard and the Doran Brothers at an impromptu performance on Dublin’s Grafton Street on July 19th, 2019. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw
Glen Hansard and the Doran Brothers at an impromptu performance on Dublin’s Grafton Street on July 19th, 2019. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

It’s Christmas Eve, you’re rushing down Grafton Street in a panic trying to get those last-minute presents, and your way is blocked by a large crowd surrounding a bunch of musicians caterwauling on the pavement. You crane your neck to see who the hell are these inconsiderate guitar-toting layabouts,,,Hey, it’s Bono, Glen Hansard, Imelda May, Hozier, Mundy, Hudson Taylor and a whole bunch of other stars belting out the Christmas carols and their greatest hits in aid of the Simon Community. Oh, well, might as well stop and enjoy it – Auntie Mary will just have to wait for her new slippers. Every year, the stars have gathered in Dublin’s city centre to raise their voices and raise money for charity, but this year the streets will be silent due to Covid restrictions. Never mind: we can relive some of the greatest moments from the Christmas Busk over the years via this special telly celebration, led by the master crowd-puller himself, Glen Hansard.

The Goes Wrong Show: The Nativity
Tuesday, BBC1, 7pm
It’s going to be some time before we get to see Mischief Theatre, the team behind the Goes Wrong shows, in their natural habitat. They began on stage, and it’s in front of a live audience, with a crowd’s immediate reaction, that their gags work best. Having said that, it’s pretty impressive on TV too. This time they (under the guise of the Cornley Dramatic Society) are taking on the Nativity, having been given a generous grant by a corporate sponsor. As is always the case, their best laid plans soon end in disaster. An ingenious pop-up book set turns into a lethal weapon, the Angel Gabriel becomes more interested in pyromania than miracles, there’s an unexpected flash of nudity when the actors inside the donkey fall out, and the baby Jesus is eaten by a sheep. And that’s just for starters...

Nigella’s Cook, Eat, Repeat Christmas Special
Tuesday, BBC2, 8pm

Nigella Lawson in Nigella’s Cook, Eat, Repeat
Nigella Lawson in Nigella’s Cook, Eat, Repeat

Christmas is traditionally time to eat, drink and be merry, and if any TV cook is going to encourage us to indulge a little, it’s Nigella Lawson. She begins by tucking into a Linzer cookie in the garden before heading out to enjoy a wintery walk and discuss her plans for a festive feast. It turns out she’s going for a Nordic theme, including pickled red cabbage and cucumber salad and no-knead black bread to accompany smoked salmon, washed down with cocktails of pomegranate fizz. There will also be Norwegian pork ribs, before the feast concludes with doughnuts served by the fire pit.

Being Bridget Jones
Tuesday, BBC2, 9pm

Helen Fielding, creator of Bridget Jones
Helen Fielding, creator of Bridget Jones

In 1995, diarist Bridget Jones made her first appearance in a British newspaper, sharing her relationships with men, booze and cigarettes. Though no one realised it at the time, Bridget was about to become one of the defining figures of the decade. The column didn’t carry a byline, but the character was the invention of writer Helen Fielding, who would go on to adapt her column into bestselling books, which would in turn become hit films. This documentary celebrates Bridget and her legacy, finding out why she struck such a chord, and how she reflects changing attitudes to women. As well as hearing from celebrity fans, the show features interviews with Fielding and the friends who inspired the characters.

Catherine Celebrates...Christmas
Wednesday, RTÉ One, 7.30pm

Catherine Fulvio in Catherine Celebrates...Christmas
Catherine Fulvio in Catherine Celebrates...Christmas

We’re all in the headwreck of Christmas preparations, and the anxiety levels are rising fast. Did we order the turkey? Has the supermarket run out of Brussels sprouts? Have we enough spuds? The last thing we need right now is another smug telly chef who has all their shitake together, creating the perfect festive feast and making the rest of us look bad. Happily, Catherine Celebrates is more focused on the simple joys of Christmas, as she meets up with Irish artisan producers and incorporates their ingredients into tasty but not too complicated yuletide recipes. She virtually visits the Carlingford Oyster Company and learns all about oyster-shucking and oyster cooking, then chats with Maria and David Flynn of Ballymakenny Farm, who grow heritage potatoes, and shows us how to best cook the different varieties (I’m taking notes). She also learns all about bitters – concentrated liquids that spice up any cocktail – and uses them to make a Christmas Negroni Mocktail. After a few of those, I’m feeling much less stressed about the season.

Donal’s Family Food at Christmas
Wednesday, RTÉ One, 8.30pm

Donal Skehan with his sons Noah and Oliver
Donal Skehan with his sons Noah and Oliver

It’s Christmas in the Skehan household and Donal has four festive recipes for a very merry Family Christmas. First we have a showstopper that is not the traditional turkey or ham – it’s a spicy Christmas pork shoulder, which will definitely have the family talking. Next, Skehan is making, with help from his son Noah, kids’ Christmas cookies that you can also use as decorations for the tree. Then we are making waffles with poached eggs and a delicious hollandaise sauce, a Christmas brunch which will keep you going. To finish, one for the adults, a boozy meringue cake with sparklers – the only way to finish a spectacular Christmas day.

Mary Berry Saves Christmas
Wednesday, BBC1, 6.30pm
While most of us love eating Christmas food, some feel daunted by the idea of preparing it – after all, not everybody is a confident cook. Thankfully, the ever-reliable Mary Berry is on hand to help three such members of the public get to grips with festive feasts by showing them how to make deliciously fuss-free dishes that really epitomise the season. Lending a hand are three celebrity sous chefs: The Repair Shop’s foreman Jay Blades, TV presenter Angela Scanlon and comedian Tom Allen.

Clannad: A Celtic Dream
Wednesday, RTÉ One, 7pm

Clannad in their Donegal studio with Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh
Clannad in their Donegal studio with Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh

Clannad reflects on their remarkable 50 years in the music business with Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh. This eclectic group has won a Bafta and a Grammy and their legacy lives on in their original sound. What started as a young family from the Gaoth Dobhair Gaeltacht performing at the Letterkenny Folk Festival in 1970 grew into Clannad. The most true Irish sound ever created, taking the showband performance talents from their dad and mixing with their mother Baba’s classical feel as well as their own sense of harmonies, they found a truly original Irish sound.

From Harry’s Game to In a Lifetime they seemed to evolve with the country and its people. The true honesty of Moya’s voice reflects that Irish soul, with Ciarán and Pól’s rhythm and melodic keys transporting Ireland’s identity as an island. The uncles, the late Pádraig Duggan and Noel Duggan, brought the original storytelling from Tory Island and the wild landscape of Gaoth Dobhair to the group with song and style. For all the music of the time that might have influenced them it was truly their surroundings that made them believe in their own sound. On this special tribute, Moya, Ciarán, Pól and Noel bring viewers on a journey home to Donegal, where we meet their mother Baba, who along with her late husband Leo exposed Clannad to music and culture from the cradle.

Wednesday, BBC2, 9pm

Lucy Punch (left) as Amanda and Anna Maxwell-Martin (3rd from right) as Julia in Motherland
Lucy Punch (left) as Amanda and Anna Maxwell-Martin (3rd from right) as Julia in Motherland

When we think of Christmas specials, we think heartwarming, touchy-feely, messages of hope and goodwill. Well, you can stick that up the chimney. In the cut-throat world of the “Alpha Mums”, Christmas is just another arena in which to assert your dominance and cruelly sleigh all who get in your way. Anna Maxwell Martin stars as working mum Julia, who is trying to hold her own among a south London parenting clique that makes GoodFellas look like a knitting circle. In this Christmas special she arrives uninvited to chief alpha mum Amanda’s annual seasonal soiree. Non-spoiler alert: this does not go remotely merry and bright.

Laochra Thar Lear
Wednesday, TG4, 9.30pm
As we look forward to the delayed 2020 Olympic games, due to be held in Tokyo next summer, here is a celebration of Ireland’s Olympic heroes. Laochra Thar Lear looks back to a time when Irish athletes were to the forefront in many Olympic disciplines, telling the stories of Irish Olympic champions during the first 60 years of the modern games. These include John Pious Boland’s two gold medals in Athens in 1896 and Ronnie Delaney’s record-breaking win in Melbourne in 1956.

The Magical World of Julia Donaldson
Wednesday, BBC2, 7.30pm

The Gruffalo
The Gruffalo

Zog, The Highway Rat, Stick Man and, of course, The Gruffalo – Julia Donaldson has created some of our best-loved and best-selling children’s books. Now, using interviews, home movies and specially commissioned animated drawings from her long-term illustrator Axel Scheffler, this documentary brings Donaldson’s own story to life. The film uncovers the surprising inspirations behind her most famous characters and explores how her books have appealed to children and adults alike by covering serious themes in a subtle way.

Jennifer Saunders’ Memory Lane
Wednesday, ITV, 9pm
Over the years ITV has tried to find a format to rival the success of the BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are. The latest sees Jennifer Saunders take, as the title suggests, a trip down memory lane with Michael Sheen. She gets behind the wheel of a classic E-Type Jag while he regales her with tales of growing up in Port Talbot, stopping off at various sites that have special meaning for him. He also shows her old family photographs and shares memories of growing up in the industrial town, which also spawned his fellow actors Richard Burton and Anthony Hopkins. Sheen then reveals why, despite walking the red carpets of LA, London and Cannes, he decided to resettle in south Wales.

Christmas at Home
Christmas Eve, RTÉ One, 9.10pm

Mary Kennedy in Christmas at Home
Mary Kennedy in Christmas at Home

We can’t attend a carol service this Christmas, so the carols are coming to us, with help from presenters Mary Kennedy and Ruth Smith and host of singers and musicians. Home is the theme of this year’s special programme, as we’ve all had to tune into our home space during this pandemic year. Such talented guests as Lisa Hannigan, Loah, Imelda May, Una Healy, Mick Flannery and Susan O’Neill will be beaming Christmas cheer straight into your home. Musical highlights include country’n’Irish legend Ray Lynam, who will join Healy to perform a Christmas song by the late John Prime,; teenage YouTube sensation Allie Sherlock; and Celine Byrne, who will deliver a stunning rendition of Silent Night with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra and Cor na nÓg.

The 2 Johnnies Christmas Spectacular
Christmas Eve, RTÉ2, 10.15pm

The 2 Johnnies Christmas Special
The 2 Johnnies Christmas Special

You thought Morecambe and Wise were the champs of the Christmas variety special? Well, think again, because Eric and Ernie are about to be ousted by the podcasting duo of Johnny B and Johnny Smacks, aka The 2 Johnnies. The Tipp twosome have lined up a winning team of guests, including Una Healy, Marty Morrissey, Des Cahill, sports impressionist Conor “Sketches” Moore and Kerry sports star Kieran Donaghy. Among the entertainment delights in store is a special “Club Around the Corner” featuring kids from Cahir GAA shooting straight from the hip; a “Mammy Bake Off” with Darina Allen; and the reunion of a very famous boyband. “They’re going to really think we’ve lost the run of ourselves around Tipperary now.” You have, lads, you have.

Cherish the Ladies a Christmas Concert
Christmas Eve, TG4, 7.15pm
Due to Covid-19 and the Ladies inability to tour their annual successful Christmas show in America, Cherish the Ladies find themselves in Ireland for yuletide for the first time. Bandleader Joanie Madden assembled the group in beautiful Spanish Point in Co Clare to record a special socially distanced Christmas program featuring a 12-piece ensemble of incredibly talented musicians, singers and dancers.

The Great Christmas Bake Off 2020
Christmas Eve, Channel 4, 7.40pm
Let’s hope Matt Lucas truly feels at home in the tent now that his first series is over, because for this Christmas special he won’t have Noel Fielding to guide him. Instead, Bake Off: The Professionals host Tom Allen is on copresenting duties. They’ll be joined by judges Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith, and former contestants Jamie and Rosie from 2019, Ruby from 2018 and James from 2017, who are all ready to battle for the title of Christmas Star Baker. There’ll also be a guest appearance from Alexandra Burke, who performs her version of Silent Night.

Anúna: On a Cold Winter’s Night 2020
Christmas Eve, TG4, 8.15pm
Filmed by candlelight in front of a live audience in St Bartholomew’s Church in Dublin on a wild and stormy evening. The songs span 1,000 years of music created for the winter season, performed by the combined voices of this legendary Irish-based vocal group who brought gravitas and elegance to the original Riverdance. The evening includes classic songs of the season such as Away in the Manger, Jingle Bells and Ding Dong Merrily on High as well as classic favourites Dúlamán, Pie Jesu and Fionnghuala.

Roald & Beatrix: The Tale of the Curious Mouse
Christmas Eve, Sky One, 8.15pm

Dawn French in Roald & Beatrix: The Tale of the Curious Mouse
Dawn French in Roald & Beatrix: The Tale of the Curious Mouse

Christmas is a time to believe, and you will really believe this tale of a true-life meeting between two great children’s authors – one nearing the end of her brilliant career, and the other just starting off on his own wondrous journey of the imagination. Beatrix Potter (Dawn French) is under pressure to write another book for her vast young readership, but her eyesight is failing and she’s growing weary of the writing process. As Christmas approaches, she just wants a quiet life in her Cumbrian cottage. Meanwhile, in Wales, an unhappy young boy named Roald Dahl (Harry Tayler) is dealing with tragedy by escaping into his Beatrix Potter books. He wants nothing more than to meet his literary heroine, and when he sets off to find Potter, both their lives are changed. Two giants of children’s literature for the price of one? I’m in.

Worzel Gummidge: Saucy Nancy
Christmas Eve, BBC1, 5.55pm
Despite some  concerns when the slightly creepy first-look images were released, Mackenzie Crook’s charming take on the talking scarecrow turned out to be one of the highlights of the 2019 Christmas schedule. So it’s great to have him back for a new adventure. This time, Worzel Gummidge, Susan (India Brown) and John (Thierry Wickens) visit a scrapyard where the scarecrow overhears the grumblings of his foul-mouthed old friend Saucy Nancy (Shirley Henderson). She’s a ship’s figurehead who is sick of languishing on land and wants to get back to sea. The kids promise to help her return, but Worzel worries that her ship will not be waiting for her. And then there’s the logistics of how they are going to get there... Watch out for guest stars Vanessa Redgrave and Brian Blessed.

Have I Got 30 Years for You
Christmas Eve, BBC1, 10.15pm
Thirty years ago in September, a pilot for a new satirical comedy show was broadcast on BBC2. Chaired by Angus Deayton, with team captains Ian Hislop and Paul Merton, the panellists on the first episode of Have I Got News for You were Sandi Toksvig and Kate Saunders. HIGNFY has since provided the inspiration for an explosion of comedy quizzes.Hislop and Mertonl look back at three decades of the daddy of all satirical panel shows, with contributions from Germaine Greer, Gary Lineker, Victoria Coren Mitchell, Ken Livingstone and Alexander Armstrong. They will recall such memorable moments as the timethe duo slayed former host Deayton, as well as Brian Blessed’s bellowing, Boris Johnson’s numerous appearances, the friction between Hislop and Piers Morgan, Roy Hattersley’s no-show, and Bruce Forsyth’s triumphant comeback.

Mrs Brown’s Boys – Mammy of the People
Christmas Day, RTÉ One, 9.45pm/BBC1, 10pm

Brendan O’Carroll in Mrs Brown’s Boys – Mammy of the People
Brendan O’Carroll in Mrs Brown’s Boys – Mammy of the People

Let’s face it: Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without Brendan O’Carroll effing and blinding in a pinny and hair curlers. So the good news is that Covid hasn’t stopped O’Carroll and his family and friends from getting together to deliver another brace of bawdy seasonal specials, just to remind us that there’s something even more infectious than coronavirus: laughing your head off at dirty filthy jokes. In this first comedy special, Agnes has emerged blinking from lockdown, and the Brown family is getting ready for a very different sort of season, where they can’t get up to their usual boundary-crossing shenanigans. Happily, Agnes and Winnie have something to keep them busy: they’ve entered a Radio Times contest to come up with an alternative queen’s Christmas speech. Will Finglas become the new Balmoral? One suspects this will be a right royal set-to. The second special hits our screens with a rolling pin on New Year’s Eve.

Angela’s Christmas Wish
Christmas Day, RTÉ One, 5.15pm

Angela’s Christmas Wish
Angela’s Christmas Wish

Writes Irish Times film critic Donald Clarke: “Brown Bag Films’ sequel to the Irish studio’s Angela’s Christmas tells another story from the childhood of Frank McCourt’s mother. Limerick is beautifully rendered. Voice work from Ruth Negga, Caitriona Balfe and Jared Harris is strong. The end is not an enormous surprise, but it would still draw tears from the dear old Treaty Stone. Also available on Netflix, but it deserves its old-school terrestrial outing on the big day.”

Michael McIntyre’s Christmas Wheel
Christmas Day, BBC One, 6pm
We hear the same complaints every year about RTÉ shows pulling from a shallow pool of colleagues and presenters for their “celebrity” guests. (Louis Walsh famously labelled one RTE show “Dancing with the Staff”.) Well, we’ve had enough griping from you people, especially since the worst offenders in that regard are the BBC, which seems reluctant to wander even 10 yards from Television Centre in search for guests for their latest series. To be fair, they went a bit further afield for Michael McIntyre’s festive episode of The Wheel, bringing in Holly Willoughby, who presents This Morning on ITV, and Alan Carr, usually to be found doing his chatty man thing on Channel 4. These celebs, along with Strictly dancer Oti Mabuse, will be competing to complete the Wheel and win money for their chosen charities. They will have help from a panel of celebrity experts, not all of whom have a day job with the Beeb.

Maureen O’Hara: Banríon Hollywood
Christmas Day, TG4, 9pm

Maureen O'Hara in How Green Was My Valley (1941)
Maureen O'Hara in How Green Was My Valley (1941)

If you think Maureen O’Hara was just about The Quiet Man, you’ve got that one wrong. Hollywood’s first Irish leading lady had a lot more strings to her bow. She was a superstar of the screen, making more than 65 movies in a career that spanned eight decades. Often cast as a fiercely independent woman, O’Hara was also fiercely independent in real life, and a role model for young Irish actresses hoping to make it in showbiz. This documentary, marking the 100th anniversary of O’Hara’s birth, looks at her career as well as her full life outside Hollywood, exploring her talent as a singer, her reputation as a businesswoman, and her activism in the cause of women’s rights. Ah, sure, go on – might as well watch The Quiet Man again, just for the craic.

The Dubliners – The Parting Glass
Christmas Day, TG4, 9.55pm
In January 2012, the last two surviving members of The Dubliners’ original line-up – John Sheahan and Barney McKenna – decided to go out with one last gig, a 50th anniversary concert at Dublin’s Christ Church Cathedral. It was a long way from O’Donogue’s pub (well, actually, just a taxi ride away), where The Dubliners played their first, raucous shows in 1962. For this farewell gig, they were down three original members (Ronnie Drew, Luke Kelly and Ciarán Bourke) but were joined by “new guys” Sean Cannon, Eamonn Campbell and Patsy Watchhorn, And they had no shortage of talented “deps” eager to join them on stage, including Declan O’Rourke, Máire Breatnach, Sean Keane from The Chieftains and the Dublin Gospel Choir. At the last minute, Sheahan thought it might be a good idea to film the concert, so he hired a crew to capture the event. Two months later, McKenna died, and the film immortalises his rendition of I Wish I Had Someone to Love Me. The film also features such Dubliners classics as Dirty Old Town, Whiskey in the Jar and The Irish Rover.

Call the Midwife
Christmas Day, BBC, 7.40pm
Coronavirus kicked in just as the Call the Midwife actors were about to start filming the 2020 Christmas special, and they had to wait five months before they could go back on set, working flat out to get the programme finished in time for its Christmas day airing. They also worked doubly hard to make sure no one could tell the programme was being made while keeping to hygiene and social distancing protocols. While some TV dramas can incorporate the pandemic into their storylines, Call the Midwife has no such luxury, as it’s set in a time when measles and mumps were the big public health menaces. The year is 1965, and the nurses of Nonnatus House are looking forward to kicking off their Scholls and kicking back for a quiet, traditional Crimbo. But of course, nothing goes according to plan, and when the circus arrives in Poplar, the nurses find themselves having to juggle several different tasks.

Blankety Blank Christmas Special
Christmas Day, BBC1, 7pm
It’s the gameshow famously hosted by Terry Wogan, Les Dawson and Lily Savage, and David Walliams also took over for a one-off revival in 2016. Those are some big shoes to fill, but if anyone can manage it, it’s Bradley Walsh, who has proved time and time again that he’s one of Britain’s best presenters. For anyone who’s unfamiliar with the format, Walsh invites the contestants to fill in the missing blanks in a question; comedian Jimmy Carr, pop star Danny Jones, actress Emilia Fox, boxer Amir Khan, comedian Sue Perkins and presenter Anita Rani are the celebrity panel who will be trying to help them win some brilliant prizes. (Which is at least a change from the Les Dawson era, when the poor-quality prizes were a running joke.)

The Repair Shop at Christmas
Stephen’s Day, BBC1, 6.45pm
If you think the regular programmes are tear-jerkers, wait until you get a hold of this. There’s the usual mix of nostalgia and moving tales, but throwing some festive season sentimentality into the mix is enough to push even the hardest of hearts over the edge. First up, Vicar Steve and his wife Amanda hope the experts can revive the rocking horse they bought for their daughter when she was five years old; tragically she passed away just two years later, but the couple are hoping the sister she never met will be able to play with it in the future. Then siblings want to breathe new life into a battered stereogram that was once at the heart of their family Christmas. A toy truck made by engineers during the second World War and a vintage musical ornament from the US are also in need of some TLC.

The Masked Singer UK
Stephen’s Day-Jan 2, Virgin One/ITV, 7pm
Bafta-winning comedian Mo Gilligan takes up a chair and the challenge of figuring out “who’s that behind the mask?” Host Joel Dommett is back to preside over the unique guessing game that gripped Britain and Ireland at its first outing. Davina McCall, Rita Ora and Jonathan Ross will all resume their celebrity sleuth roles. Across eight shows a fresh cast of 12 celebrities, complete with new and ever flamboyantly elaborate character costumes, will be singing and concealing their identities as they attempt to stump viewers and the panel alike.

5 Gold Rings
Stephen’s Day-New Year’s Eve, Virgin One, 5pm
Simon Gregson (Corrie’s Steve McDonald) and Matthew Wolfenden (Emmerdale’s David Metcalfe) play to win more than £50,000 for their teammates in the game show hosted by Phillip Schofield. The soap stars answer visual questions by placing rings on an LED floor in five increasingly difficult stages.

It’ll Be Alright On the Night at Christmas
Stephen’s Day, Virgin One, 8.30pm
David Walliams unwraps brand-new cock-ups for Christmas. In addition to festive foul-ups, he’ll review this year’s greatest TV blunders, featuring the UK’s most-famous faces.No one is safe as Walliams reveals which world leaders and royals have been caught-out on camera.As disaster strikes on all of the nation’s favourite programmes, will the show go on this Christmas?

Big Fat Quiz of the Year 2020
Stephen’s Day, Channel 4, 9.05pm
It’s Stephen’s Day, we’ve all probably indulged a little too much and can’t be bothered to shift ourselves from the comfy groove we’ve worn into the sofa during the festive period. Thankfully, the most exercise we need to do is reach for the remote and switch between programmes. This offering, hosted by Jimmy Carr, is a stalwart of the seasonal schedules and once again features some star question-setters, including Charles Dance and Jon Snow, as well as pupils from Mitchell Brook Primary School.


The Midnight Sky
From Wednesday, Netflix
George Clooney directs this dystopian drama and stars as Augustine Lofthouse, a lonely scientist eking out in existence in the snowy wastes of a post-apocalyptic Arctic. He’s desperately trying to contact a group of astronauts to warn them not to return to Earth, because life as they know it no longer exists. The film has been described as a potential Oscar nominee, while Clooney says it’s a cross between Gravity (in which he also appeared) and The Revenant. If it turns out to be that good, viewers are really onto a winner. Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo and Kyle Chandler are among the supporting cast.

From Christmas Day, Disney+

Piixar’s Soul
Piixar’s Soul

Pixar’s latest animated movie was originally meant to debut in cinemas in November but, it is launching on Disney’s streaming service instead – and promises to be a real Christmas treat for the entire family. Jamie Foxx provides the voice of Joe Gardner, a music teacher who finally gets a chance to perform jazz on stage after impressing other musicians at a local club. However, tragedy strikes when, during an accident, his soul is separated from his body and travels to the Great Before, the place where souls go before being reincarnated as newborn babies of transported to the Land of the Dead. Joe asks for help from souls-in-training to get him back to the Land of the Living so he can be reunited with his body, but a soul-counter called Terry has other plans for him... Tiny Fey, Phylicia Rashad and Angela Bassett are among the vocal cast.

From Christmas Day, Netflix
Nothing gussies up the yuletide TV schedules quite like a good costume drama. All that lace and taffeta, and those chandeliers and big drawing-rooms – it just screams traditional Christmas. Here’s Netflix’s contribution to the petticoat parade, an eight-episode series “inspired by” the novels by Julia Quinn. Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor), eldest daughter of the powerful, well-connected Bridgerton family, is a debutante with definite ideas about what she wants in a suitor. But her idea of perfect husband material doesn’t necessarily coincide with the opinions of her family, or reality. Sure, her own parents married for love, but that’s not always practical in the unforgiving world of Regency London’s high society. Things become more complicated when the local gossip columnist, the mysterious Lady Whistledown (Julie Andrews!), starts dishing out the dirt on Daphne. And when the dashing Duke of Hastings (Regé-Jean Page) appears on the scene, well, it’s not long before love is a battlefield, and Daphne must get armed and ready for hand-to-hand romantic combat.

Contributing: PA

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