It’s a Cracker!
MRS BROWN’S BOYS GETS THE FESTIVE SEASON UNDER WAY WITH A BANG
If you had suggested even five years ago that the most anticipated programmes of the Christmas and New Year TV schedules would star a 59-year- old Dublin man dressed as a potty-mouthed granny, you would have been carted off for treatment.
Instead, Mrs Brown’s Boys is a full-blown phenomenon, a TV show, a sellout stage show, a book and even a (not very good) movie. With no full series this year, anticipation levels for the specials are astronomical – those who love the show can’t wait. One way or the other, around 14 million people in Ireland and the UK will tune in on Christmas Day ( RTÉ One, 10pm/ BBC One, 10.05pm) and again a week later (RTÉ One, New Year’s Eve, 10.15pm/ BBC One, New Year’s Day, 9.35pm) to join in the fun. The runner-up will be Down
ton Abbey (Christmas Day, UTV, 10pm/St Stephen’s Day, TV3, 9pm), where the Crawleys head off on a grouse shoot, which sounds anything but riveting, and Bates desperately tries to clear Anna’s name and prevent her being sent to jail for murder.
The gentle pace will come as a welcome relief, though, to parents of little girls, who will have to endure teeth- grinding g choruses of Let It Go, the smash-- hit tune from Frozen, which getss its first outing on cable TV on Christmas Day (Sky Premiere, 7pm). Christmas week kicks off tonight with the
RTÉ Sports Awards ( RTÉ One, 9.30pm), where Rory McIlroy surely must find some consolation after coming second to Lewis Hamilton on the BBC equivalent last Sunday (we’re still not over the Formula One champion winning any award with ‘personality’ in the title). The most uplifting programme you will see over the festive season is Unbreak
able: The Mark Pollock Story (RTÉ One, Monday 22, 9.35pm). Pollock became fully blind at 22 and, as if that wasn’t enough to deal with, a fall three years ago left the onetime champion rower paralysed. His refusal to feel self-pityself pity and his determina determination to walk again are humbling and inspirational.
For last-minute culinary tips, don’t miss RTÉ One’s back-to-back offerings on Tuesday 23 – Kitchen Hero: Donal’s Christmas Feast (8pm) and Rachel Allen’s Sweet
Christmas (8.30pm). If you’re looking for laughs, settle down for two and a half hours of them. There’s a celebrity Christmas special of Fifteen To One hosted by Australian comedian Adam Hills and an 8 Out Of 10
Cats special with Jimmy Carr, Sean Lock and more ( both Channel 4, Tuesday 22, 8pm/9pm), then a Mock The Week special hosted by Dara Ó Briain (BBC2, 10pm).
Last year, The Mario Rosenstock Christmas Special was one of the surprise high- lights of the schedules (we’re still not over seeing Amy Huberman’s brother Mark dressed as Miriam O’Callaghan), and the impressionist returns with a new show on RTÉ 2 (Christmas Eve, 10pm).
Ratings juggernaut Doctor Who sees Peter Capaldi in his first Christmas special as the Time Lord ( BBC One, Christmas Day, 6.15pm). It’s followed by the tiresome pratfalls of Miranda (7.15pm). One Direction fans instead will be glued to When Ryan
Met Niall ( RTÉ One, Christmas Day, 7.25pm), as Ryan Tubridy travels to Mullingar for an intimate portrait of Niall Horan told with the help of his friends and family.
Last year’s return of Open All Hours, the Ronnie Barker sitcom now featuring his hapless assistant Granville ( David Jason) as the main character, was painfully unfunny, so let’s hope this year’s offering is a lot better ( BBC One, St Stephen’s Day, 6.25pm). It’s followed at 6.55pm by The Boy In A Dress, a screen adaptation of the best-selling children’s novel by comedian David Walliams.
RTÉ One gives up all pretence of original programming on Stephen’s Day and, between 1.15pm and close of play, offers five news bulletins, six movies and EastEnders. Must try harder. Montrose’s new signing Ray D’Arcy hosts Superstar Dogs ( RTÉ One,
Sunday 28, 8pm). Gardener Diarmuid Gavin, chef Louise Lennox and model Rosanna Davison put their respective dogs – Roxie, Fagan and Ted – through competitions such as Swim and Fetch and the Dogstacle course. Highlights as we approach 2015 include
Callan Kicks The Year (RTÉ One, Tuesday 30, 9.30pm), with Oliver Callan casting an acidic eye on the events of the last 12 months;
New Year’s Eve Live (RTÉ One, New Year’s Eve, 10.55), hosted live from Dublin by Kathryn Thomas and Paddy McKenna; and the inimitable Jools Holland with Jools’ Annu
al Hootenanny 2014 (BBC Two, New Year’s Eve, 11.20pm), with guests Ronnie Spector, Ed Sheeran, Boz Scaggs and more.
UTV Ireland commences broadcasting on New Year’s Day at 7.25pm with Pat Kenny making his much-trumpeted return to television at 8.30pm with Out With The Old – In
With The U (geddit?). Lest we forget what the holiday is all about, Pope Francis’s Urbi Et Orbi address is on RTÉ One at 11am on Christmas Day.
And, finally, Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without It’s A Wonderful
Life, Frank Capra’s glorious hymn to redemption starring James Stewart. Put lunch to one side and watch it on RTÉ2 at 3.50pm on Christmas Day.
Michelle Dockery and Oliver Barker in Christmas Day’s Downton Abbey