Tuesday 23 January 2018

The definitive Halloween weekend TV guide - what to watch Friday, Saturday and Sunday

Dame Maggie on Graham Norton, the best of Halloween movies, women in rock and roll, Ray D'Arcy, and kids on the dole

Colin Farrell in Fright Night
Colin Farrell in Fright Night

Pat Stacey

Pat Stacey chooses the best of this weekend's TV so you don't have to trawl the listings all by yourself...


HALLOWE’EN, the Season of the Witch, is upon us once again. For the moment, though, it’s not witches we’re concerned with, but rather wizards.

Specifically, one wizard: the formidable but kind-hearted Professor Minerva McGonagall, played by the wonderful Dame Maggie Smith in the Harry Potter movies.

Dame Maggie — who, of course, has gained a whole new audience as the acid-tongued Dowager Countess in Downton Abbey and effortlessly steals every single scene she’s in — is a guest on The Graham Norton Show (BBC1, 10.35pm).

Dame Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess: "She's tricky on the set, but she delivers when the time comes."

Expect Graham to be even more excited than usual, because this is a really big deal. The double-Oscar-winning actress has resolutely avoided appearing on chat shows for 42 years.

That’s quite a feat in an era when so many celebrities practically live their lives through Twitter, terrified that if they shut up for more than 30 seconds, people might forget who they are.

Nobody will ever forget who John Lennon was. Plenty of people, however, seem to have forgotten one of his most infamous remarks. No, not the one about The Beatles being bigger than Jesus (and let’s face it, they still are), but this one: “Girls with guitars — that’ll never work out.”

Lennon was talking to fellow Merseybeaters The Liverbirds, who are among the countless hugely talented rock women contributing to superb documentary Girl in a Band: Tales from the Rock ‘n’ Roll Front Line (BBC4, 10pm). Any Beatles fan knows that Lennon’s famously liberal credentials weren’t always supported by his erratic attitude to women, especially early on, but the film is full of other more surprising revelations.

girls in a band.jpg
Girl in a Band: Tales from the Rock 'n' Roll Front Line

Talking Heads’ bass player Tina Weymouth tells of how David Byrne thought the rock ‘n’ roll world was too dangerous for women. Brilliant session player Carol Kaye played on some of the 20th century’s biggest hits, working with Brian Wilson (on California Girls), Sam Cooke, Phil Spector and others, yet still had to waste an inordinate amount of time defending her right to even be in the studio.

And if anyone thought the Britpop era was progressive, forget it. The opposite was the case. Miki Berenyi from Lush says female band members were fully expected to get their kit off for magazine covers without complaint.

There’s a lot more here — almost too much to pack into a single hour — some of it shocking, some of it funny, including New Order’s Gillian Gilbert revealing she was the one that had to pen the England World Cup song, because none of her (all-male) bandmates liked football. Terrific stuff.

From remarkable women who made it on pure talent, to one that owes her spurious fame to, well, hard to say, really. Maybe Chris Evans might know.

Cheryl Tweedy-Cole-Fernandez-Versini

He’s the one who has Cheryl Fernando-Versace... no, wait, Cheryl Formaggio-Venetia — oh, Christ, it was so much bloody easier when she was called Cole or Tweedy!

Cheryl FERNANDEZ-VERSINI, that’s it! Anyway, she’s on TFI Friday (Channel 4, 8pm). There was a time when ol’ Ginger Nuts, the coat-holder at the height of lad-culture excess, would have spent the programme oozing and drooling over her. But those days are long gone, which is why TFI Friday looks like a ghost of its old self.


Tonight is the night when the dead rise from their graves. Behold the creature, its empty eyes staring blankly ahead, nary a flicker of life behind them, its mouth twisted into a ghastly rictus, its dull brain barely comprehending what dimension it’s in as it drifts between this world and the one beyond the veil. Yes, folks, it’s time for The Ray D’Arcy Show (RTE1, 9.50pm)!

Ray D'Arcy.png
The Ray D'Arcy show featured a Jack Nicholson lookalike on Saturday

After last week’s hide-behind-the-sofa encounter between D’Arcy and a very bad Jack Nicholson lookalike, this could well turn out to be the most horrifying thing you see the whole of this Hallowe’en weekend.

While there are plenty of good horror movies around tonight — the decent Colin Farrell-led Fright Night remake (RTE2, 9pm) and a brace from the late, great Wes Craven and A Nightmare on Elm Street (Dave, 10pm) are the two I’d plump for — the channels have made very little effort to provide original Hallowe’en-themed programming.

More4 probably fares best with Britain’s Medieval Vampires (9pm), a repeated documentary suggesting that Dracula’s roots lay in very real and very disturbing rituals from Britain’s past.

Sky Living repeats all three episodes of The Enfield Haunting (from 9pm), a highly fictionalised account of a 1970s suburban haunting that was most probably a hoax anyway. It looks better than it scares.

The Enfield Haunting

In truth, the highlight of the night has nothing at all to do with Hallowe’en nightmares and everything to do with casting directors’ dreams.

It’s a star-studded adaptation of Ronald Harewood’s famous play The Dresser (BBC2, 9pm), starring Sir Anthony Hopkins as the tyrannical actor-manager of a touring theatre company and Sir Ian McKellen as his loyal dresser, who has to hold the production together on a fateful night during WWII. Pure class.


Forget George Lee sucking up to Irish Silicon Valley millionaires over on RTE1. There’s only one programme everyone should be watching tonight and that’s Dole Life (RTE2, 9.30pm), a new three-part observational documentary series about how our young people have been effectively thrown on the social scrapheap, their futures in this country vaporised already.

dole life.jpg
Dole Life

It follows a group of 20-somethings whose potential is being wasted on slave-wage jobs, useless courses that will lead to nothing and JobBridge — the greatest scam since the invention of the pyramid scheme.

Emblematic of her generation is 21-year-old Shauna, who lives with her dad and has to scrape by on a derisory €77 a week in benefits, which wouldn’t be enough to buy a plane ticket out of this place.

Kenny, Burton, Noonan and Howlin should watch this, and hang their heads in shame. They’ll do neither, of course.


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