Wednesday 25 April 2018

New on netflix: Have yourselves A Very Murray Christmas!

Mariah Carey's Merriest Christmas Available now

The smash hit, A Very Murray Christmas
The smash hit, A Very Murray Christmas
Mariah Carey's Merriest Christmas
The Royle Family. Photo: BBC.
Blackadder's Christmas Carol with Rowan Atkinson
Donal Lynch

Donal Lynch

So, if we tell you that this was originally produced a couple of years ago for the Hallmark Channel you might get some sense of the diabetes-inducing sweetness and sentimentality it contains but, really, would you prefer that or someone crying into a drink on EastEnders? We'll take Mimi any day.

The one-hour musical special features outstanding performances of Christmas songs by the one woman meme machine herself - Mariah Carey - including a duet with 11-time Grammy Award winner Kenny 'Babyface' Edmonds.

Mariah Carey's Merriest Christmas

Emmy-award winner Kelsey Grammer gives an unforgettable reading of 'The Night Before Christmas'. Billy Gardell (Mike & Molly) appears as Santa Claus. Additionally, cast members from A Christmas Melody - Lacey Chabert, Brennan Elliott and Fina Strazza - join the celebrations, sharing holiday memories and experiences from working with Mariah on-set during production of the movie. Just let it wash over you.

A Very Murray Christmas

Available now

Is there anyone who doesn't like Bill Murray and if so, what's wrong with them? Who else does deadpan, cynical and humane all in one raised eyebrow? This film explores the schizophrenic nature of Christmas - is it an orgy of consumerism, a religious holiday or an annual chance to be tortured by your family? The premise: Bill Murray, playing himself or an approximate version (we're left guessing), has signed on to do one of those celebrity extravaganzas (see above), this particular one set at the Carlyle Hotel in New York, on Christmas Eve. He does not want to do the show. This is mostly because he thinks it's all a bit ridiculous, but also because, apparently, he is racked with holiday ennui. We are meant to understand this because A Very Murray Christmas's opening musical number features Murray, bedecked in a tux and an antler headband, crooning Christmas Blues, Bing Crosby style, as Paul Shaffer accompanies him on the piano. And because Murray announces to his producers that "I feel so alone" and also that "God hates me". It's a film for everyone who has trouble stomaching the festive season in any of its guises, yet secretly longs for that one moment of Yuletide magic.

The Royle Family: Christmas Special 2000

Available now

The Royle Family. Photo: BBC.

With due respect to Bowie and Leonard Cohen, Caroline Aherne was one of the biggest celebrity losses of 2016. This unassuming and troubled writer and performer tore up the comedy rule book with her performances in Mrs Merton and The Royle Family. Years before anyone thought of Gogglebox Aherne knew that the simple conceit of a family sitting around and listlessly commenting on the silliness of television would make for some brilliant comedy.

The Royle Family would have been a very different show if the TV execs had got their way. They wanted a studio audience or laughter track - Aherne rejected it. They wanted to have bigger, more obvious storylines - Aherne again rejected it. And they wanted to take the show out of the Royle's living room and set it in different locations - but once again Aherne stood up to the suits.

Interestingly, this was meant to be the last-ever episode of The Royle Family because Aherne was planning to move abroad from Britain because of the stress which her fame and her personal life was causing her. But the show returned a couple of more times with 'one-off' specials.

Blackadder's Christmas Carol

Available now

Blackadder's Christmas Carol.jpg
Blackadder's Christmas Carol with Rowan Atkinson

Dickens'S classic tale of kindness, truth and virtue is given the antic Blackadder take. It turns the story on its head by having Scrooge start out all lovely and generous - an easy target for moochers - and ending up happily transforming into the oul miser that Dickens imagined.

Stuffed with deeply unpleasant people (many of whom are enormously fat) and heaving with oodles of seasonal bottom jokes, it manages to squeeze in not only a Victorian Blackadder but also his famous Elizabethan, Regency and Space Age relatives into a huge Christmas cake of comedy, that will satisfy all but the most humour-impaired viewers.

Catch up now

Emily Hourican

Ireland's Fittest Family

RTE Player, until December 28, series 4

Some of the best-fun family viewing around. This is the one we're glued to in our house. Watch the toughest, fittest families in Ireland battle it out across impossible courses that include tyre-pulls, bog runs, sprints, and the kind of wall-scaling that isn't possible without serious SAS-style training. Over the course of four series, I'm beginning to work out that those with a GAA background are the ones to watch...

Best of all is seeing the ways in which the families pull together - or not - and watching how they deal with challenge and failure. The emergence of unexpected heroes (here's a tip - this year, the women have it, in spades!) keeps the excitement mounting towards the muddy, gruelling grande finale. Plenty of scope for speculation as to how you might manage in their place, not to mention recreating some of the more manageable tasks at home (try 'Hanging Tough' for a real stretch). Everyone's a winner.

In Plain Sight

UTV Player, until January 6

This is part of a spate of crime dramas based on real, if distant, murder cases. Dark Angel explored the story of Mary Ann Cotton, who murdered her husband and several children in Victorian England. Then there was the gripping Rillington Place, with a new perspective on the John Christie murders of the 1940s and 1950s. Now it's In Plain Sight, which deals with Peter Manuel, a Scottish serial killer from the 1950s who killed at least eight people.

Martin Compston is Manuel, an arrogant, delusional sadist, with Douglas Henshall as William Muncie, the decent, idealistic detective inspector trying to chase down a man he knows is evil so that the justice in which he so firmly believes, can triumph. Around them, the life of a small rural town carries on, as its inhabitants slowly try to get to grips with the growing menace in their midst. Excellent direction, plotting and acting, and the perfect antidote to some of the more schmaltzy Christmas offerings.


Emily Hourican

Mayo Boy, Vietnam Hero

This fascinating documentary traces the story of Patrick ‘Bob’ Gallagher, who grew up near Ballyhaunis in rural county Mayo and emigrated to the United States in the early 1960s. He joined the US Marine Corps, and was stationed in Vietnam during some of the most intense fighting of the war.

Patrick was just 23 years old and a Marine Corporal when he was killed on duty in southeast Asia. Just before he died, Patrick was awarded a Navy Cross, the second highest honour in the US military. The documentary is made by Kathy Raftery, whose mother knew Patrick growing up in Ballyhaunis, which gives the story a very touching and personal edge. She talks to people who knew Patrick, his family and comrades, and hears about the extraordinary act of bravery that warranted him receiving a Navy Cross. Such was Patrick’s heroism that family and friends have now started a  campaign to have a US services vessel named after him.


This podcast tells the stories behind the stories, taking as starting points the kind of longform non-fiction pieces that are the best kind of journalism, and discussing them in detail. Hosts Aaron Lammer, Max Linsky and Evan Ratliff talk to authors and editors, about what they have written and why. A quick browse through the site will show plenty of interest- Jason Zengerle’s piece on Henry Heimlich, who invented the life-saving technique for choke victims named after him, a history of the first African-American President, nine ways to oppose Donald Trump, and far more.

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