Friday 23 August 2019

Must-see TV Christmas crackers... and the turkeys to avoid

With an array of on-screen treats, Ed Power brings you the complete guide on what to binge, what to savour - and what to avoid

Paul Hollywood with former The Great British Bake Off colleagues Sue Perkins, Mary Berry and Mel Giedroyc
Paul Hollywood with former The Great British Bake Off colleagues Sue Perkins, Mary Berry and Mel Giedroyc
Charlie Brooker's end-of-year review Screenwipe is back for 2016
The Last Dragon Slayer
Roald Dahl's Revolting Rhymes
Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
To Walk Invisible

Ed Power

The best part of Christmas comes after the presents have been unwrapped, the dinner scoffed, and the children bribed into silence with fizzy drinks and sweets. Finally you can put your feet up, grab a fistful of Quality Street, and switch on the telly. Let the binge watching begin!

But not all Christmas television is created equal. There will be shows that transcend the seasonal tackiness to deliver gripping, emotionally engaging experiences. And then there will be 'Mrs Brown's Boys', the comedy equivalent of a stocking stuffed with stale Brussels sprouts. Allow us take you by the hand then and lead you into the wonderland that is our Christmas television guide.

Ones to watch

We're Going On A Bear Hunt (Channel 4, Christmas Eve, 7.30pm)

Heart-warming animated special based on Michael Rosen's beloved children's book. Olivia Colman heads the cast in this tale of plucky siblings who, accompanied by their dog, set off into the deep dark wood in search of a bear.

The Great Christmas Bake Off (BBC One, Christmas Day, 4.45pm)

For those mourning the last ever series of 'GBBO' on the BBC, Mary Berry, Paul Hollywood, Mel and Sue reunite for the final time in this Christmas special, which also sees the return of fan favourites from seasons past as they compete for the title of Bake Off Christmas Champion.

Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC One, Christmas Day, 5.45 pm)

Doctor Who Christmas special 2016

A middle-aged eccentric with over-the-top dress sense returns to our screens after a prolonged absence. But enough about the Daniel O'Donnell special over on RTE One... Earlier on Christmas Day there's a chance to catch up with Time Lord Peter Capaldi, as he powers up the Tardis for another festive excursion. The plot is a carefully guarded secret, though we know the Doctor will hook up with a Marvel-type superhero named The Ghost.

The Last Dragonslayer (Sky1, Christmas Day, 5.45pm)

Going up against 'Doctor Who' is this epic Sky special, adapted from the best-seller by fantasy writer Jasper Fforde. Spirited teen Jennifer Strange is the heroine battling to protect the last dragon in the world. Swords and sorcery fans will be keeping an eye out for John Bradley (aka Samwell Tarley from 'Game of Thrones').

Roald Dahl's Revolting Rhymes (BBC One, St Stephen's Day, 6.30pm)

Roald Dahl's Revolting Rhymes

Dominic West, David Walliams and Rose Leslie are among the narrators in this gorgeous animated retelling of Dahl's collection of twisted children's tales. The author's subversive instincts are front and centre in his skewed takes on Snow White, Three Little Pigs and other classics.

The Witness for the Prosecution (BBC One, St Stephen's Day, 9pm)

A lavish two-part adaptation of the Agatha Christie short story, with Kim Cattrall and Toby Jones. The setting is 1920s London, where wealthy society lady Emily French has been murdered. As usual the production values are top notch while Christie can be depended upon to lead us on a merry dance.

Pull Like A Dog (RTE One, December 27, 9.30pm)

Speaking at 100mph and rowing nearly as quickly, Skibbereen's O'Donovan brothers were the toast of the Rio Olympics. A new documentary chronicles their return to West Cork as they come to terms with life in the spotlight. The siblings are television naturals, though you hope RTE resist framing them as novelty Corkonians.

To Walk Invisible (BBC One, December 29, 9pm)

To Walk Invisible

'Love/Hate''s Charlie Murphy swaps inner city Dublin for the Yorkshire Moors in this fictionalised retelling of the life of the Bronte sisters, written by 'Happy Valley' creator Sally Wainwright.

Bruce Springsteen: In His Own Words (Channel 4, December 29, 10pm)

Channel 4 scored big in securing an hour with Springsteen as he delves into his childhood, his difficult relationship with his father and the depression that floored him in his early 60s.

2016 Wipe (BBC Two, December 29, 9pm)

Charlie Brooker's end-of-year review Screenwipe is back for 2016

In 'Black Mirror', Charlie Brooker imagines an alternate reality where technology has driven us all slightly insane and in which demagogue politicians prey on the public's insecurities. None of that could possibly happen in the real world, of course - so heaven knows what the scatological journalist-turned-TV writer will have to talk about as he brings his caustic television review show back for a seasonal one-off.

Sherlock (BBC One, New Year's Day, 9pm)

Benedict Cumberbatch will seek to revive a Sherlock franchise that has creaked ominously in the aftermath of last year's nonsensical New Year's special. Martin Freeman returns as Dr Watson while the convoluted plot will be courtesy of Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffatt.

Avoid at all costs

Blankety Blank Christmas Special (ITV, Christmas Eve, 6.30pm)

Television has an uncontrollable nostalgia problem at the moment, as underscored by ITV's attempt to resurrect the old Terry Wogan quiz with the insufferable David Walliams as host. Here was an idea that should have stayed in the pub.

Bridget and Eamon (RTE2, Christmas Eve)

On the subject of nostalgia and the dangers thereof, RTE continues to flog its DOA "comedy" delving into the hilarity of USA Biscuits, wooden spoons, leaving the immersion on… stop, please, just stop. As a comic talent, Bernard O'Shea remains a small fish in a small pond while Jennifer Zamparelli continues to prove that her career highlight was getting fired from 'The Apprentice'.

Mrs Brown's Boys (RTE1, Christmas Day)

Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special

What a rough 12 months it has been. David Bowie has passed, Donald Trump was elected president, Brexit has generated enormous economic uncertainty. Now, as a special Christmas gift, along comes 'Mrs Brown's Boys' to remind us things could always be worse: Brendan O'Carroll might be on our television 52 weeks a year.

Strictly Come Dancing (BBC1, Christmas Day, 6.45pm)

Judge Len Wiseman bows out as the bafflingly popular ballroom dancing reality show pops up for a seasonal special. Quick, someone hand me the sherry - it will help with the pain.

Maigret's Dead Man (ITV, Christmas Day, 9pm)

ITV tries to persuade viewers that rubber-faced comedian Rowan Atkinson is serious actor material, as 'Mr Bean' returns to play the iconic Georges Simenon's sleuth. As Maigret, Atkinson gives his everything but, alas, lacks the gravitas to make you believe you are watching anything other than a comic trying to prove his hardcore thesp credentials.

Irish Independent

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