John Byrne sifts through the many TV specials - there are more than 50! - on offer over the festive season and picks the 20 essential ones to watch between Christmas Day and New Year's Day . . .

Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas Special, 10.00pm Christmas Day, RTÉ One (10.30pm, BBC One)

There's a double dose of Brendan O'Carroll and co to look forward to, beginning with the Christmas Special episode, A Wonderful Mammy, where Agnes' world is turned upside down by the arrival of an angel, and Winnie’s worried when a friend is released from prison.

That's followed by Mrs Brown's Boys New Year's Special (9.40pm New Year's Eve, RTÉ One/10.30pm New Year's Day, BBC One), where the gang are concerned at the news that the poisoner Peggy Piper has been released from prison.

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The Great Christmas Bake Off, 7.10pm Christmas Day, Channel 4

Noel, Sandi, Prue and Paul are back in the tent for their traditional Christmas get-together. Joining them for the celebrations are Tom and Yan from 2017 and Briony and Terry from 2018, who compete in festive-themed challenges for the title of Christmas Star Baker.

Call the Midwife, 7.00pm Christmas Day, BBC One

As Christmas approaches, a bout of influenza sweeps through Nonnatus House. When Mother Mildred (Miriam Margolyes) declares that God is calling her to set up a branch house in the Outer Hebrides, it seems an ideal opportunity for some of the team to convalesce in the fresh Scottish air.

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Gavin & Stacey Christmas Special, 8.30pm Christmas Day, BBC One

It’s been ten years since the last trip to Billericay to spend Christmas with the Shipmans and the Wests. This year we’re off to Wales for the festivities, where Bryn is cooking dinner for 13 people. Understandably, he’s tense.

Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special, 4.40pm Christmas Day, BBC One

Six of the most-loved Strictly stars return to the dance floor for the annual special. This year the leading ladies are Debbie McGee, Chizzy Akudolu and Gemma Atkinson and the gentlemen returning to the ballroom are Joe Sugg, Mark Wright and Richard Arnold.

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Michael McIntyre's Big Christmas Show, 6.00pm Christmas Day, BBC One

Recorded at the London Palladium in the heart of Theatreland, Michael McIntyre presents a night jam-packed with treats and unmissable surprises - including Sharon Osbourne trying to cope when she hands over her phone to play Send to All.

Pat Shortt's Music from D'Telly Christmas Special, 6.25pm St Stephen's Day, RTÉ One

The bould Pat picks out some festive favourites and rarely seen performances, featuring some of Ireland’s best loved musical artists including Mary Black, Colm Willkinson, Sonny Knowles, Elvis Costello and more.

Have I Got 2019 News for You, 9.30pm Friday Dec 27, BBC One

Team captains Paul Merton and Ian Hislop are joined by a variety of guest hosts and panellists from the worlds of comedy, journalism and current affairs for a compilation that looks back at the big news of 2019.

The Decade the Music Died, 9.00pm Friday Dec 27, Sky Arts

The 2010s saw a staggering amount of music legends head off to that great recording studio in the sky. This special looks back at the lives of icons such as Amy Winehouse, David Bowie (below), Prince, Whitney Houston, and George Michael, and also featuring pioneers such as Leonard Cohen, Chuck Berry and Aretha Franklin.

Brendan Grace - Thanks for the Memories Concert, 9.30pm Friday Dec 27, RTÉ One

This one-off concert was an opportunity for the nation to experience the magic of a night to remember and a fitting send-off to a man who loved a party – the much-loved Brendan Grace.

Niall Tóibín: Everyman, 9.30pm Sunday Dec 29, RTÉ One

Niall Tóibín passed away on November 13, just eight days shy of his 90th birthday. This documentary celebrates his long life and amazing career which spanned seven decades entertaining us with great characters and compelling stories.

The Late Late Show – Gay Byrne Tribute, 10.30pm Monday Dec 30, RTÉ One

If by any chance you missed this – and even if you didn't - here's a welcome repeat of a marvellous Late Late tribute to the show's first host, the late great Gay Byrne.

Shane Lowry: Open, 9.30pm Monday Dec 30, RTÉ One

It's fair to say that Shane Lowry isn't just a great golfer and an Irish sporting legend – he's also a top, top bloke. Award-winning filmmaker Ross Whitaker (Katie, Anthony Foley - Munsterman) tells the remarkable tale behind the Offaly man’s glorious British Open win this summer.

Frankie Boyle's 2019 New World Order, 10.00pm Monday Dec 29, BBC Two

Acerbic Scot Frankie Boyle returns with his New World Order end-of-year special, where with the help of guests Sara Pascoe and Miles Jupp, he dissects the bewildering year that was 2019.

The Graham Norton New Year's Eve Show, 10.20pm New Year's Eve, BBC One

As usual, gregarious Graham's New Year's Eve guests are an impressive bunch: Tom Hanks (below), Matthew Rhys, Motsi Mabuse, Stephen Graham, Florence Pugh, Anthony Joshua and Melanie C featuring Sink the Pink.

Mary Kennedy: as Seen on TV, 8.40pm New Year's Eve, RTÉ One

From continuity announcer to newsreader, Eurovision host and beloved presenter of Nationwide, Mary Kennedy is regarded as one of the country's most accomplished TV presenters. Spooling back through the archives, she selects some memorable moments from her television career.

Jools' Annual Hootenanny, 11.15pm New Year's Eve, BBC Two

Get your dancing shoes ready to see out the decade. Joining Jools Holland (below) are Stormzy, Brittany Howard, Rick Astley, Stereophonics, Melanie, La Roux, and - of course - The Pipes and Drums of the 1st Battalion Scots Guards.

Una Healy's New Year's Eve Party, 10.25pm New Year's Eve, RTÉ One

Party into the New Year with Tipperary star Una Healy and the RTÉ Concert Orchestra together with a star studded cast, including The Waterboys, David Gray, Wallis Bird, Brian Kennedy and many more guests for what promises to be a truly magical night.

Fáilte 2020, 11.20pm New Year's Eve, TG4

Hector Ó hÉochagáin, Eibhlin Ní Chonghaile and friends welcome in 2020 from Tigh Pheacocke in Conamara.

Dara Ó Briain – Voice of Reason, 10.00pm New Year's Day, BBC Two

Here's an excellent way to start 2020. Filmed at London's Eventim Apollo, Dara addresses problems with virtual reality, having too much technology at home, how to deal with missing members of the front row and how to cope with reports of your own demise.

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