It’s a Cracker!


The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - FRONT PAGE -

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

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