What’s on TV: seven shows to watch this week

It’s all about the toys on RTE this week, with a series of looks back at 30 years of the ‘Late Late Toy Show’ leading up to Friday’s main event


Ireland with Simon Reeve
(Sunday, BBC Two, 8pm)

Sometimes you can be so busy exploring the world, you forget what’s been happening right next door. Ireland with Simon Reeve is a two-part series that examines the history, culture and politics of both the Republic and Northern Ireland and unravels Ireland’s complex relationship with its larger neighbour. “Unlike almost all the other telly travellers who’ve been there in recent decades, I’m not Irish – I don’t even have an Irish auntie. But that was part of why I wanted to go: there’s nowhere closer that I understood less,” says Reeve.

The Late Late Toy Show Unwrapped
(Monday, Wednesday and Friday, RTÉ One, 7pm)

Every year, record numbers of viewers in Ireland tune in to watch a man in a questionable jumper acting the maggot, surrounded by cute ickle kids and an array of toys, games and gadgets. It was the most-watched programme on Irish television last Christmas, with nearly 1½ million viewers, and only a complete Scrooge would deny that it’s a welcome sprinkle of seasonal magic from Montrose. In anticipation of this year’s extravaganza, running three evenings this week, The Late Late Toy Show Unwrapped looks back at 30 years of the toy show, with former guests such as Imelda May, Brendan O’Carroll and Al Porter sharing their memories of being on the show, and Joe Duffy and Mario Rosenstock giving their own take on the toy show. All three presenters – Gay Byrne, Pat Kenny and incumbent Ryan Tubridy – tell their own tales.

Mary McAleese and the Man Who Saved Europe
(Tuesday, RT
É One, 10.15pm)
It sounds like the title of a kids’ mystery adventure, but Mary McAleese and the Man Who Saved Europe has a truly interesting story to tell. The former president follows the journey of St Columbanus as he travelled through Europe keeping the flame of Christianity alive during the Dark Ages. This lowly monk and scholar, from a country seen by most of Europe as barbarian, met kings and religious leaders on his odyssey and set up more than 100 centres of learning and worship throughout the continent. McAleese, an expert in canon law, follows Columbanus’s trail to Bangor, Co Down, and Glendalough, then to France, Austria, Switzerland and Rome, where Columbanus dared to challenge the pope.

Vogue Williams – Wildgirls
(Tuesday, RTÉ Two, 10pm)

If you’re looking to meet a nice girl who wouldn’t say boo to a goose, look away now. Vogue Williams – Wildgirls is a new three-part series featuring some of the toughest women in the world. In the first episode, the model, DJ and presenter travels to the US to become an inmate of the Miami-Dade Prison Bootcamp in Florida, run entirely by women. This place makes Orange is the New Black seem like The Gilmore Girls. Vogue also visits a women’s prison in central Florida and meets Emilia Carr who , at 30, is the youngest female prisoner on death row.

(Tuesday, Sky Living, 9pm)

A naked woman covered in strange tattoos emerges from a holdall in Times Square with no memory of who she is or how she got there. Each tattoo is a clue to a crime and it’s up to FBI agent Kurt Weller and his team to decode the cryptic messages on her body and unravel a global terror conspiracy. That’s the pitch for the hit US series Blindspot. Although it sounds like another bit of high-concept hoo-ha from the school of Lost and Flash Forward, it comes across as more of a gritty, down-to-earth mix of CSI and Homeland. Jaimie Alexander plays the tattooed Jane Doe who, like Matt Damon in the Bourne movies, discovers hidden talents she could only have learnt from special ops. Patience must be one of them – the actor had to spend up to seven hours a day getting her tattoos drawn during filming.

(BBC One, Tuesday, 9pm)

Starring the terrific Toby Jones and Lesley Sharp, this Bafta-winning three-part adaptation of John Lanchester’s bestselling follows the denizens of a London street transformed by soaring property prices whose live begin to unravel when a veiled threat – “We want what you have” – is dropped through every letterbox.

The Late Late Toy Show
(Friday, RTÉ One, 9.35pm)

Santa and his elves have been working hard all year to make the toys and Ryan Tubridy’s mum has been frantically knitting his Christmas jumper (we’re not sure if the latter is actually true) in anticipation of the main event, The Late Late Toy Show. What has Ryan been doing in preparation for the big show? Practising his dance moves, apparently. “I will be doing some dancing lessons, God help us all, for the opening number,” he told us a couple of weeks ago. “Strictly Come Toy Show. Can you imagine?” As usual, the Late Late studio will be filled with the must-have toys and Ryan is sure to be upstaged by an army of precocious, prodigiously talented kids. Last year saw the surprise appearance of Ed Sheeran – who knows who might pop by this year?