Weekend's favourite picks for festive TV viewing
From big movies to Christmas Television specials, Paul Whitington brings you his day-by-day guide to what to watch and when it’s on…
Strictly Come Dancing
Thirteen weeks of glitter and glamour comes to an end tonight in this two-part Strictly Come Dancing final. Celebrities like Judy Murray, Gregg Wallace and Pixie Lott have fallen by the wayside, leaving just four contestants hoping to be crowned the 2014 champion. A couple of terrifying dance routines and some opinionated judges stand between them and the prize. Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly (pictured far right) present, with Claudia Winkleman (pictured right) manning behind the scenes.
The Apprentice: The Final
Let's face it, most of us tune into The Apprentice to watch Alan Sugar (pictured) tear strips off the obnoxious wannabe Gordon Gekkos who enter this competition - and this year's series has been particularly satisfying in that regard. Amusing tasks like running a coach tour and setting up an online video channel have sorted the spoofers from the wafflers, and now just two candidates remain in the running to become Lord Sugar's latest business partner.
The RTÉ Sports Awards 2014
Darragh Maloney presents the 2014 RTÉ Sports Awards, with the RTÉ Sports Person of the Year and the RTÉ Sports Team of the Year among the honours up for grabs on the night. World and Olympic lightweight boxing champion Katie Taylor has had another great year, as did Kilkenny's hurlers and Kerry's resurgent footballers - but Joe Schmidt and his Six Nations-winning rugby team are surely favourites to win at least one award.
The Wrong Mans
James Corden and Matthew Baynton return as accidental heroes Sam Pinkett and Phil Bourne in a new series of their comic thriller. And this time Sam and Phil are 4,000 miles from home and languishing in a high-security Texan prison when they receive news from home that inspires them to plan a daring breakout. But the road home to Bracknell will be paved with danger and adventure.
Channel 4, 10pm
Ricky Gervais' acclaimed comic drama set in an English care home returns for one last time in this farewell festive special. The Broadhill regulars are preparing for the wedding of the year, but Kev's behaviour is getting on Hannah's nerves, Vicky's distracted by her imminent promotion and poor Derek is frantically trying to hold the show together. Kerry Godliman and Holli Dempsey co-star.
Unbreakable: The Mark Pollock Story
Released in cinemas a few months back, Ross Whitaker's moving documentary tells the uplifting story of Irish adventurer Mark Pollock. Diagnosed as near-sighted as a baby, Mark was totally blind by 22, but refused to let that stop him winning Commonwealth rowing medals and racing to the South Pole. Then, in 2010, Mark fell from an upstairs window and broke his back, leaving him without the use of his legs. But he has staged a remarkable comeback.
Republic of Telly: Christmas Special
Jennifer Maguire, Bernard O'Shea and Kevin McGahern present a decidedly salty festive Republic of Telly that's sure to offer a bracing antidote to the sickly sentimentality of most Christmas programming. And we'll get a sobering reminder of what Christmas in the 1980s was like as we pay another visit to the disastrous household of retro couple Bridget and Eamon and their unfortunate offspring.
Rachel Allen's Sweet Christmas
Everyone tends to worry about the turkey and the ham, but in this show Rachel Allen considers the sweet details that could make your Christmas dinner really special. She whips up a delicious mulled wine and goes to Dublin to meet the Merrion Hotel's acclaimed pastry chef Paul Kelly before making a fruity steamed pudding, mulled port pears with port jelly and a sliced plum tarte tatin.
The Savage Eye: An Irish Guide to Failure
Though not for everyone, David McSavage's fiercely satirical series The Savage Eye has at times mocked the nation as effectively as anything since Hall's Pictorial Weekly. And this festive compilation mixes the best sketches from the show's four series with observations from McSavage's various grotesque personas to paint a telling portrait of Ireland's many shortcomings.
Carols from Kilkenny Castle
Get in the Christmas mood with Mary Kennedy as she presents an evening of carols and festive songs in the beautiful surroundings of Kilkenny Castle. There'll be music and chat from special guests including Donal Lunny, Eimear Quinn, Mairtín O'Connor, The Voice Squad, Hermitage Green, The Riptide Movement, Fr Ray Kelly, hurling legend Henry Shefflin and the RTÉ Concert Orchestra.
My Big Fat Gypsy Christmas
Channel 4, 8.30pm
The immensely popular fly-on-the-wall reality show returns for a suitably over-the-top seasonal special, in which the tinsel and fake tan will fly as a bride organises an impressively lavish Christmas-themed wedding. Elsewhere a young entrepreneur hatches plans to stage a gypsy-only Christmas party, and we follow a Traveller family as they prepare to make an emotional return to Ireland for the holidays.
The Mario Rosenstock Christmas Special
Mario Rosenstock has been impersonating Roy Keane now for well over a decade, and the Cork man's recent adventures are sure to find their way into this special edition. As indeed will Rosenstock's other favourites, including Michael D. Higgins, Vincent Browne, Joan Burton, Mick Wallace, Ming Flanagan, Daniel O'Donnell and, of course, Miriam O'Callaghan.
Doctor Who: Last Christmas
Peter Capaldi's first season as the Doctor has been a big success, and he and Jenna Coleman return for this hour-long Christmas special. Things, as usual, are looking rather grim for the Time Lord and his resourceful companion Clara, who find themselves trapped on an Arctic base and under attack from terrifying aliens. But help comes from a most unexpected source. With guest stars Nick Frost, Dan Starkey.
Call the Midwife
This episode of the hugely popular period drama (pictured left) opens in 2005, and as Jennifer Worth prepares to celebrate Christmas with her family, she's reminded of her old nursing friends back at the convent. We then shift back to 1960 to find Nonnatus House preparing for Christmas until Cynthia gets drawn into a disturbing case involving two former residents of a Victorian nursing home who've been left to fend for themselves.
Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas Special
It wouldn't be Christmas for a lot of people without a bracing dose of Mrs B (pictured above), but this year she's in grim mood as she faces into the festive season. A large package has arrived for Cathy, and Agnes is not amused when she realises she's the only one who doesn't know what it contains. Rory then announces that Dino's buying him a facelift for Christmas before Buster delivers a special tree that might just cheer everyone up.
As hammy as your average pantomime, the Christmas edition of Julian Fellowes' hugely popular period drama (pictured right) usually drops a bomb of some sort, and this year promises to be no exception. Rose's father-in-law Lord Sinderby has rented a castle in Northumberland - as you do - and invited the Crawleys to a shooting party for the holidays. But a butler with an axe to grind is determined to spoil everyone's Christmas break.
Miranda Hart's nostalgic sitcom comes to an end in two emotional final episodes, in which Miranda has been offered not one but two marriage proposals. But she finds it hard to choose between Gary and Mike, and in any case wonders if she'll be able to cope with the pressures of being a wife. Patricia Hodge and Tom Ellis co-star.
St Stephen's Day
Thank GAA It's 2014
As well as reflecting on the highs and lows of an eventful year in Gaelic Games, this show will also visit Our Lady's Children's Hospital in Crumlin, where the children are awaiting two exciting guests - Santa, and the 2014 Hurler of the Year Richie Hogan, who spent two months in the hospital as a child and has a special connection with the place.
Angela Raisin and the Quiche of Death
Sky One, 8.30pm
Ashley Jensen is best known for her portrayal of Maggie in Extras - or Ugly Betty to others - and takes a starring role in this nicely silly new comedy. London PR woman Angela Raisin decides to retire and retreats to a Cotswolds village where she's not warmly received by the locals. She tries to fit in by baking a quiche for a village contest, but when a slice poisons someone, Angela gets the blame.
The Boy in a Dress
These days comedian David Walliams is a bestselling children's author, and this new BBC drama is based on his debut novel. Dennis is a 12-year-old boy who lives with his father and brother in an ordinary town, but feels different. When he sees Kate Moss on the cover of a fashion magazine, he's introduced to a new world of colour and creativity, and a girl at school then helps him explore his feminine side.