Sunday 11 December 2016

The best of Christmas TV: A date with Lady Mary, Luke Kelly and Dr Who

As TV gets into full festive swing Ian O'Doherty trawls the listings and handpicks his Christmas crackers, corkers - and turkeys

Published 23/12/2015 | 02:30

Lady Mary says a final farewell in the ‘Downton Abbey’ Christmas episode. Photo credit: ITV/PA Wire
Lady Mary says a final farewell in the ‘Downton Abbey’ Christmas episode. Photo credit: ITV/PA Wire
RTE honours Luke Kelly in 'Luke Kelly Prince Of Dublin'
‘Doctor Who’ returns for its annual special
Maureen O’Hara is remembered in TG4 documentary ‘Maureen O’Hara and The Quiet Man. Credit: Web Overlander/Part of the National Photographic Archive
Panti Does 2015 (December 26, RTE2, 10.55pm)
Hozier will be performing live on The Jools Holland Annual Hootenanny 2015 (New Year’s Eve, BBC2, 11.10pm). Photo credit: Theo Wargo/Getty Images

So, you've finally got all the presents you wanted to get. The mother-in-law thinks that bottle of perfume you bought on a stall in Henry Street is the nicest gift you've ever given her, the kids have settled down with Santa's presents and everything is done and dusted. Which brings us to the best part of every Christmas - the TV.

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If Christmas comes earlier every year, so does seasonal telly, but the next 10 days has some interesting crackers, some absolute corkers and a few turkeys.

Anyone who thinks doing the Christmas shopping is hard work should check out Christmas Shopping Fever 2015 (tonight, BBC 2, 9.30), which takes a behind-the-scenes look at working in John Lewis.

Everything from the madness of the hideous America import known as 'black Friday' to the more usual seasonal panic buying are all featured and there's even a segment on the John Lewis Christmas ad, which still reminds me of the paedophile from Family Guy.

Before that, also on BBC 2, is Gorilla Family And Me (7pm) which features a man who always wanted to live with a family of gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo. There's nothing particularly festive about it, but by the time your in-laws finally go back to their own house, the idea of living with a family of gorillas might seem quite appealing.

Nobody likes a bad loser and Brendan O'Carroll's even worse - a bad winner. Yet despite his often bizarre attacks on those critics who refuse to hop on the Mrs Brown's Boys bandwagon, he is Ireland's most successful comedy export since Fr Ted. Make of that what you will.This year provides not one but two specials - I'm not sure whether that's a treat or a punishment and tomorrow night (RTE One, 9pm), sees Cathy's 'fitness equipment ready to hurt anyone who uses it!'

Whatever floats your boat, I suppose.

Younger fans may be more inclined to tune into The Al Porter Show (Christmas Eve, RTE 2, 9.45pm) although their parents will surely recognise Porter's debt to the likes of Frankie Howerd and, like Howerd before him, Porter can make you both laugh and want to punch him - often within the same sentence.

Peter Kay is another of those marmite performers, but he receives the ultimate Beeb recognition with his own tribute show (Christmas Eve, BBC One, 9.05pm).Friends and colleagues turn up to honour him in the kind of show which looks hopelessly outdated ever since American roasts began to be shown on our screens.

If the nana has been annoying everyone with her incessant demands to turn the heating higher and replenish her brandy glass, she might shut up for a while with Maureen O'Hara And The Quiet Man (Christmas Day, TG4, 5.45pm).

O'Hara - whose only blot on an otherwise impeccable life was her long support for Shamrock Rovers - passed away this year and this is a well-timed documentary of the kind that TG4 specialise in.

They also have another Christmas Day treat with Robert Shaw - Jaws, Deoch and Deora (10.10pm), which examines the hell-raising actor's career and his love affair with Ireland.And if anyone says 'we're gonna need a bigger boat' in your household, you have permission to beat them around the head with a half-chewed turkey drumstick.

This season may have been infuriatingly patchy but Doctor Who (BBC One, 5.15pm)is still a Christmas must-see.

As lost as Peter Capaldi sometimes appeared to be when playing the Doctor, the last few episodes of the recently concluded season were certainly enough to have Whovians tuning in for more - if only because this will be their last chance to see Jenna Coleman who, frankly, was never as good an assistant as Karen Gillan, anyway.

Who thought the Irish were so obsessed with the goings on of the British gentry? Well, everyone loves a toff, it would appear and although Downton Abbey (December 26, TV3, 9pm) always struck me as bland, patronising and smug, plenty of households will be tuning in with their hankies at the ready for what promises to be an emotional farewell. Well, that's what the production notes say -many of us won't even notice its absence.

From dames to a Queen, Panti (right), to be precise. Panti Does 2015 (December 26, RTE2, 10.55pm) sees one of the most tediously ubiquitous Irish worthies of them all hosting his own look back at the events of the year. He may not be everyone's cup of hemlock but there's no denying the fact that Panti was one of the most newsworthy people of the year. He will be joined by surprise guests and while I don't know who they're going to be, I have a pretty good idea who won't be appearing.

RTE could never boast an over abundance of on-screen talent, which is why they missed Mike Murphy so much. Now the steely yet genial presenter returns to telly with Play It By Ear (RTE One, December 27). While he may have been missed, I'm not sure about the format: "A new gameshow in which remembering the hi-jinks of yesteryear is the key to victory."

I don't want to denounce a show before it has even aired, but let's be honest, that sounds rather horribly like the kind of thing that Twink would appear in. So don't say you haven't been warned.

Remarkably, Luke Kelly died more than 30 years ago and would have celebrated his 75th birthday this year.

Of all the old folkies, Kelly always remained relevant, even in death, and Luke Kelly Prince Of Dublin (December 29, RTE One, 9.30pm) is a fitting and timely reminder of the man and the voice. Contributors include Imelda May and long-time Luke Kelly tribute act, Damien Dempsey. While the young guns will no doubt be waxing lyrical about a man who died before they became musicians, there will also be interviews with those who knew and worked with him.

But let's be honest, the ideal Luke Kelly tribute show would simply be a loop of him singing On Raglan Road for an hour - it is, after all, one of the greatest Irish songs ever written and remains Kelly's finest hour.

One of the many baffling things about tradition is that so many of them seem to make absolutely no sense whatsoever,such The Jools Holland Annual Hootenanny 2015 (New Year's Eve, BBC2, 11.10pm).It returns every year and the only interest is seeing it is as terrible as it was the previous year. If you're one of those people who hates New Year's Eve and prefers to go to bed, this year's line-up will certainly help you sleep - Hozier (left), Tom Jones, Paul Weller and the Pipes and Drums of the 1st Battalion Scotch Guards are just some of the many reasons why people won't be tuning in.

Irish Independent

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