Sunday 20 October 2019

Who to ring in the New Year with? Your essential guide to this weekend's TV

Memories of The Dubliners... and the best of New Year's Eve

Gay Byrne and Charles J Haughey in 1987 during the Late Late Show tribute to The Dubliners on their 25th anniversary - all the action is revisited tonight, 30 years on.
Gay Byrne and Charles J Haughey in 1987 during the Late Late Show tribute to The Dubliners on their 25th anniversary - all the action is revisited tonight, 30 years on.

Your essential guide to this weekend's TV:


They could almost have just let it roll in its original entirety, but surviving band member John Sheahan is among those providing colour and context tonight to the slightly faded footage of a Late Late Show tribute to The Dubliners on what was their 25-year anniversary three decades ago in 1987.

Even without these, The Late Late Show Dubliners’ Tribute — 30 Years On (RTE 1, 9.30pm) would have served to remind us what a day-cent aul’ raconteur Ronnie Drew was, especially as he recalled the Albert Hall gig when Barney told a taxi driver to drop him at “the big roundy place next to a park”.

And amidst the gushing tributes on the 1987 show being trawled over tonight, during which a certain Mr Charles J Haughey slithered onto the set (Fitzgerald was Taoiseach at the time), there were some undeniably goosebumps-inducing music moments, chiefly the definitive 1974 recording of Luke Kelly singing Phil Coulter’s Scorn Not His Simplicity in a pub in Tallaght.

Kelly had died just three years before and the sense of loss was still palpable in the studio for that tribute in 1987, though seeing Luke in full voice surrounded by pints and smouldering cigarettes, Dubliners in their natural environment, seems quite the contrast to the sterile TV studio environment.

The Pogues, still in their cheeky-faced prime, did a fine job of stirring things up on that same, now legendary night, with McGowan clutching a cigarette to the mic and Spider Stacy making pure punk of the tin whistle — and a young U2 seemed genuinely starstruck after a heartfelt rendition of Springhill Mining Disaster.

Thirty years on, it all seems rather quaint and choreographed, notwithstanding the quips and anecdotes that are pure Dubliners — and at the very least, this look back should trigger nostalgic memories of what was important to us before we all got ‘notions’.

Elsewhere, earlier in the evening, there’s TV nostalgia as well, in spades, on Eric & Ernie’s Home Movies (BBC 2, 8pm), which lets us in on archive footage back as far as the 1950s as we explore the lives and relationship of comedy legends Morecambe and Wise — but it’s Eric, Ernie & Me (BBC 4, 9 pm) that promises to be most enlightening.

For over a decade, Liverpudlian ex-market stall trader Eddie Braben penned Morecambe and Wise’s material. But it wasn’t all sunshine. The third man in this Golden Triangle was driven by perfection to point of exhaustion, culminating in a journey to the iconic 1977 Christmas Show.


Christmas chaos quickly ensues in A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong (BBC 1, 7.10pm), which is bonkers stuff altogether as Cornley Polytechnic Society infiltrates a rapidly disintegrating Christmas Carl... Christmas Carlol... Christmas Carrool... or Scrooge by the time a clearly panicking credits typist finally gives up in the intro.

It’s every possible way that you could hope a cosy Christmas classic could be inadvertently sabotaged by inept actors and hapless stage-hands as the entire set conspires to collapse around them.

Mischief Theatre Company, who perform ‘Goes Wrong’ plays live on tour to packed theatres over the pond, are the gremlins responsible for all the mischief in this comedy special that does to Dickens what Airplane! did to disaster films, and it follows last year’s brilliantly catastrophic Peter Pan Goes Wrong, while Derek Jacobi and Diana Rigg play themselves as unwitting participants in the production.

It’s pure slapstick, utterly over the top, and about as silly as it could possibly be, but just try not to chortle, dare you.

Prefer something substantially more serious? You won’t do better than episode one in the new sixth series of dark and twisted Parisian thriller Spiral (BBC 4, 9pm). OK, so you’ll have to be the sort of person for whom the small matter of subtitles is no barrier to enjoying sexy, violent and utterly compelling television — and if that’s you, you’ll already be familiar with the first five seasons of this multi-award-winning scorcher.

Imelda May
Imelda May

In the first of a two-parter tonight, we join Laure Berthaud (Caroline Proust) and her team as they try to identify a human torso found inside a sports bag.

Tense, superior stuff that makes The Wire look like Starsky and Hutch.


Who to ring in the New Year with? Well, if you’re not braving the crowds at Custom House Quay, where Kodaline are headlining what’s forecast to be a rather chilly countdown, you could do worse than to cuddle up on the couch for The Imelda May New Year’s Eve Special (RTE 1, 10.20pm).

We love Imelda, but wouldn’t it be a blast for someone to then hand the baton to Jerry Fish, who joins proceedings tonight along with The Corrs, Finbar Furey and The Strypes — and have him be master of ceremonies as the clock ticks down?

Jerry’s a natural ringmaster and it’s easy to imagine his sideshow style of circus antics, all fire-eaters and burlesque dancers, as the perfect centrepiece.

At least he’s in the fray, and Imelda’s home-grown hooley promises to keep things popping along just fine until ten to the hour, when Sinead Kennedy takes over and brings us to 2018 with fireworks and Kodaline.

I said you could do worse, which of the four main New Year’s countdown contenders tonight would be Alan Carr’s New Year Specstacular (Channel 4, 9pm) with special guests that wouldn’t be out of place n another  tired episode of I’m A Celebrity...

Meanwhile, though ever-entertaining, Graham Norton Show: New Year’s Eve Show (BBC 1, 10.20pm), doesn’t actually bring us anywhere near midnight. Still, Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron and Gary Oldman are sure to work well among tonight’s stars on the sofa.

Which brings us to Jools’ Annual Hootenanny (BBC 2, 11.20pm), where the great Mavis Staples is top of the heap of performing guests, for our money, so long as Jools doesn’t try to join in with that infuriating honky-tonk piano-playing of his, though he’s free to knock himself out with it when Ed Sheeran comes on.

Me? I’ll be running outside to bang the pots and pans, as is our family tradition, not necessarily at midnight, but just to cleanse the eardrums whenever Sheeran’s version of Fairytale of New York is played.

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