Television: What to watch this week if you're staying in
Doug Whelan brings you hit top small screen picks...
One Million Dubliners
Thursday 20th, 10.15pm, RTE One
You may have heard a little about this documentary over the past number of months - first when it won the Best Irish Feature Documentary Award at the Galway Film Fleadh back in July, and more recently when it enjoyed a short run in Irish cinemas last month. Now, after a thankfully brief interval, it arrives on TV screens for one and all to enjoy.
Glasnevin Cemetery, in the heart of North Dublin, has a singular claim to fame. The final resting place of an estimated 1.5 million souls, it is reckoned that there are more Dubliners buried there than there are walking the streets today. And with one million Dubliners comes one million stories, as this beautifully shot and realised film proves. This is a film about death, but also about life. The lives of those buried in Glasnevin inevitably intertwine with those who keep the place ticking over; the tour guides, florists, gravediggers, executives and even those that visit the place all have a unique relationship with Glasnevin, and director Aoife Kelleher captures each with warmth and a keen eye.
The film may be consumed and revolve around the topic of death, but this is the very reason it is teeming with life. Many historical figures and icons are buried at Glasnevin (a chapter examining the cult of celebrity that exists around Michael Collins's grave is particularly entertaining), as well as countless ordinary men and women. Tour guide and historian Shane Mac Thomais is one of the focal points of the story and provides more than one emotional beat - in the documentary, he outlines his plans to be buried at Glasnevin himself, beside his father. Sadly, following this, on March 20, 2014, his body was discovered at the cemetery with no foul play suspected.
In short, there is much to love about One Million Dubliners - the tales of life and death, the practicalities of running and funding Glasnevin, the characters that reside there above and below ground, as well as its striking visuals and original soundtrack. Highly recommended.
Season 3 on Netflix from Friday 21st
Scandinavian TV drama has been catapulted on to the world stage in recent years with such hits as The Killing, Borgen and Sky Living's upcoming The Legacy; among those has been this little Netflix gem starring Steven Van Zandt, best known for his role in The Sopranos as Tony's right-hand man Silvio Dante, as well as his role in the E Street Band as Bruce Springsteen's right-hand man.
In Lilyhammer, he plays semi-reformed mobster Frank Tagliano, who was relocated to a new life under the witness protection program and found himself living in picturesque Lillehammer, Norway. As you would expect, the fish-out-of-water antics ensue, but the unique combination of mafia sensibility and down-home Norwegian charm makes for some very entertaining viewing. The third season arrives on Netflix this Friday, and sees a "family friend" of Frank's arrive in town and quickly set about exploiting the opportunities the area offers a man of his "talents". Will Frank stand by and let his new friends suffer or step in to do something about it? Keep a close eye on this third series for Stevie's former Sopranos co-star, Tony Sirico, as well as The Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen.
Tomorrow's Worlds: The Unearthly History of Science Fiction
Saturday 22nd, 9.45pm, BBC Two
In 1952, the author Damon Knight said of science fiction: "[It] is what we point to when we say it." This deceptively complex definition is one of the most memorable descriptions of the immensely popular, wide-ranging and ever-evolving areas of literature, cinema and entertainment, and in this new documentary series, a host of famous faces join historian Dominic Sandbrook to share their personal and professional experiences of it. The first episode focuses on sci-fi's enduring fascination with outer space - from Jules Verne's 1865 From the Earth to the Moon to more recent and iconic stories such as 2001, Avatar and Star Wars, Sandbrook learns how space has come to represent many different aspects of human culture and also how science fiction has a tendency to sometimes become fact. Features contributions from William Shatner, Nichelle Nichols, Zoe Saldana, author Neil Gaiman and more.
The TV3 Christmas Toy Show
Friday 21st, 8pm, TV3
No matter what age you are, you're never too old for the Toy Show. Or "a toy show" as the case may be, as we're in a situation these days when TV3 has its own festive spectacular to rival the one we all grew up with over on RTE. Hosted by Brian McFadden and Karen Koster with the aid of none other than Jedward, the TV3 Christmas Toy Show comes live from Dublin's RDS and will feature entertainment, music, Santa and, of course, all the best and must-have gifts of the year. Yes, it's that time of year people, so get involved. The night also marks the start of the RDS's nine-day Christmas event encompassing shopping, markets, ice skating and basically all the Christmassy stuff under one roof. And the Late Late Toy Show comes next Friday night, the 28th. You just know you're going to end up watching that as well. But this is TV3's big night, so let the festivities begin. Show-stealing kids TBC.