The ultimate guide to what to watch on TV this weekend
It's time to put away cynicism and embrace the inner child with our essential guide to this weekend’s TV.
Friday 2nd December
It’s the second day of December and time to put aside all the seriousness and cynicism and, for one night at least, pick up childish things. In other words, it’s time for The Late Late Toy Show (RTE1, 9.35pm).
I’ve always loved Christmas and never more so than when our three daughters were little girls. Christmas + small children = the best time you’ll ever have as a parent.
And it’s the children, as much as the toys, that really make the annual two-and-a-half-hour festive extravaganza such a treat.
Not, it has to be said, those all-singing, all-dancing stage school moppets, drilled with military precision and sporting painted-on smiles as sincere as an apology from Eric Bristow. They’re unbearable (in my experience, for other kids as well as adults) and enough to bring out your inner WC Fields.
I’m talking about the “real” kids, the ordinary girls and boys from all over the country who are drafted in to demonstrate the toys. They’re always a delight because they’re not playing to the camera, and so is the way Ryan Tubridy interacts with them. Of all the Late Late hosts, he’s the one who clearly enjoys The Toy Show the most.
The theme of this year’s set, said to be the biggest and most spectacular ever seen on the show, is The Jungle Book. While we’re at it, let’s send a Christmas goodwill wish to Gay Byrne, who started the bauble rolling with the first Toy Show way back in 1975.
Former Toy Show regular Dustin the Turkey finds himself working for the other side with Lucy and Dustin’s Toy Show Teaser (TV3, 8pm). A rather more modest affair (think Hector Grey versus Hamleys), it features Dustin and Lucy Kennedy looking at the most sought-after toys this Christmas.
I remember one Christmas when the talking Dustin doll was the most sought-after toy. I think there’s a couple of them somewhere in the attic, shouting “G’wan ya good ting!” at one another in the lonesome dark.
After a middling start last week, Walliams & Friend (BBC1, 9.30pm) has the potential to be a humdinger, as David Walliams’ one-off partner is Harry Enfield, a man who certainly knows his way around sketch comedy.
We’re promised, among other things, Enfield as the Queen, who takes part in Who Does One Think One Is? and can’t believe she has so many royal ancestors, and a mockumentary on his career, which suggests Little Britain was based on his binned outtakes.
For something a little more serious, try going online for French thriller The Passenger (All 4, first episode streaming from today), the latest from the Walter Presents collection.
Adapted by Jean-Christophe Grangé from his brick-sized novel, it stars Jean-Hugues Anglade as a troubled shrink who’s paired with Raphaelle Agogué’s police captain when a corpse topped with a bull’s head is discovered, suggesting the killer has knowledge of Greek mythology.
Friday is starting to turn into PBS documentary night. A strong run of films from the great US broadcaster continues with
Business of Disaster (PBS America, 9pm).
Laura Sullivan reports from Staten Island, where people whose homes were battered by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 are still waiting for repair work to be done on them. It’s a blood-boiling story of devious insurance companies reluctant to cough up, an inept compensation system and the agonisingly slow pace of New York’s rebuilding programme.
Saturday 3rd December
Bizarrely, the best offering of the day is on at an hour when many of us will still be in bed. I’m breaking my own rule by including Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan (BBC2, 7.30am), because this cinema documentary from 2011 is an absolute joy: a clip-stuffed tribute to the stop-motion animation genius who brought countless movie creatures to life, including the creepy sword-wielding skeletons in his masterpiece, Jason and the Argonauts. If you’re reading this on Friday, set the recorder.
You’re in for a threadbare night. Decency compels me to mention The People of the Year Awards (RTE1, 9.50pm), live from the Citywest Hotel, because it’s worthy and laudable. Then again, so is stuffing €50 in a charity box, but I wouldn’t care to watch people doing it for nearly two hours on a Saturday night.
Swedish thriller Modus (BBC4, 9pm) is unlikely to lift the spirits. It’s very well made in a gloomy sort of way, but it’s full of oddball characters saying oddball things — almost like a parody of a Scandi noir — and it’s difficult to figure out, at the moment, exactly what the hell is going on. Perhaps tonight’s double-bill will make things a little clearer.
Sunday 4th December
The bugs, beasties and creepy-crawlies can rest up for a while, it’s the very last visit to the jungle of this year’s I’m a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! (TV3/UTV/ITV, 9pm).
At the time of writing, the British public had just counted out Carol Vorderman (see what I did there?) and tonight, the choice is down to the three slebs still standing (or at least sitting around the fire) in what’s been an unusually happy and harmonious camp.
The smart money is on Scarlett Moffatt, from Gogglebox, to be crowned Queen of the Jungle. If she does, will it feature on the programme?
After Adrian Chiles’s excellent documentary last Sunday about the racism endured by black footballers in the 1970s and 80s, the feature-length Storyville film Forever Pure (BBC4, 10pm) takes another look at the ugly side of the beautiful game. It tells of what happened when Beitar
Jerusalem, Israel’s most popular club, signed two Muslim players from Chechnya in 2013. It wasn’t pretty.
The two players, blameless young men who just wanted to play football, were subjected to a campaign of racist abuse that sent the club spiralling out of control and exposed deep-
rooted divisions in both the game and wider society.
As Westworld heads for a big finale on Tuesday, TV’s other artificial-intelligence drama, Humans (Channel 4, 9pm), reaches episode six of eight.
The focus is on poor Odi, the broken synth who was given the consciousness code by his owner and is struggling to
handle human feelings.
Was he better off as a mere machine?