John Byrne’s TV choices for the week ahead (Dates covered: Saturday Dec 13 – Friday Dec 19)

It's goodbye to The Fall, The X Factor and many more. The big plus is Frances McDormand in Olive Kitteridge as telly starts its wind-down to Christmas.

Pick of the week

The Fall, Wednesday, RTÉ One

Fans have had to wait a further three days to see how season two of this delightfully nasty drama ends up, and hopefully it'll be worth every single one of those extra 72 hours. The investigation headed by Gibson (Gillian Anderson) leads her to Spector’s (Jamie Dornan) base, but there's no sign of the missing Rose Stagg (Valene Kane). Increasingly desperate to find Stagg alive, Gibson instructs her team to step up the interviews with Katie (Aisling Franciosi), Sally Ann (Bronagh Waugh) and Paul Spector. Despite their efforts it's only when Spector makes a final play to remain in control that Gibson is offered any sort of answers. As Gibson and Spector finally come face-to-face, both have a chance to look their nemesis in the eye, with both of them having their own battles to win.

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Star of the week

Frances McDormand

Olive Kitteridge, Sunday & Monday, Sky Atlantic

We just don't see enough of Frances McDormand, who is easily one of the greatest female actors of the last half-century. Best known for her Oscar-winning performance in Fargo, McDormand stars as the titular character in this critically acclaimed mini-series directed by Lisa Cholodenko and executive produced by none other than Tom Hanks.

Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Elizabeth Strout, the two-parter (showing in two-hour instalments on Sunday and Monday) tells the story of a seemingly placid New England town. Underneath the façade the town is filled with illicit affairs, crime and tragedy, as seen through the eyes of middle-school teacher Olive. Spanning 25 years, the series focuses on the witty but troubled Olive and her relationships with her loveable husband and resentful son Christopher, while chronicling how her abrasive manner impacts others around her.

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Starting this week

Black Mirror: White Christmas, Tuesday, Channel 4

Here's a feature-length seasonal special of the critically-acclaimed drama series, starring Jon Hamm, Rafe Spall and Oona Chaplin. It consists of three interwoven stories brimming with near-future madness. In a mysterious and remote snowy outpost, Matt (Hamm) and Potter (Spall), share a Christmas meal together, swapping creepy tales of their earlier lives in the outside world. Matt is a charismatic American trying to bring the reserved, secretive Potter out of his shell. But are both men who they appear to be? Along the way we see Hamm offering an unusual form of romantic guidance to an inexperienced young man, watch Oona Chaplin thrust headlong into a nightmarish world of 'smart' gadgetry, and explore what might happen if you could 'block' people in real life, just as you can on Facebook or Twitter.

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Ending this week

The X Factor, Saturday & Sunday, TV 3 and UTV

You know the drill – probably too well – by now. It's the final weekend and the last three hopefuls do their best to become the act chosen to record and potentially become a star. Just give me a shout when it's all over. I'll be in the kitchen with the radio on full-blast.

Here's Andrea Faustini from the X Factor semi-final:

Bressie's Teenage Kicks, 10.00pm, RTÉ 2

After six months of writing, rehearsing and recording, it's time to find out if everything comes together in the end for Bressie's Teenage Kicks.His aim was to help Calvin, Nathan, Damien, Sherisse, and Kelsey express themselves through music. It hasn’t been easy keeping everyone on track but the group will record their first ever EP in Windmill Lane Studios and then play their first gig in Limerick’s premier music venue, Dolan’s. This is a big moment for the band.

The Newsroom, Wednesday, Sky Atlantic

Aaron Sorkin’s quick-witted, fast-paced, but unfortunately far too preachy drama delivering sharp-talking tales from behind the scenes of a cable news channel concludes after three seasons. When Will and Mac receive bad news, it causes them to ponder the milestones that transformed the newsroom as they consider ACN’s uncertain future. Maggie also looks to the future as she lands an interview for a potential promotion, while Leona offers sage advice to Pruit.

The Knick, Thursday, Sky Atlantic

Outside of the gruesome surgery scenes this first season has been a bit ho-hum, but Steven Soderbergh’s acclaimed medical drama concludes as Thack refuses to collaborate with Dr Zinberg. Cornelia, meanwhile, turns to Cleary in her moment of need, and he’s only too happy to assist the daughter of the hospital patron. The future of The Knick is still in doubt and, as the board meet to discuss the hospital’s problems, they come to an extreme decision.

The Moment of Truth, Sunday, RTÉ One

Edward Horgan was a career soldier, a Commandant in the Irish Army, who saw active peace-keeping duty in several war zones, including Cyprus and Sinai. What he witnessed disturbed him so much that, in retirement, he became a peace activist.

The High Hopes Choir, Thursday, RTÉ One

The choir’s charity single is released and there is much excitement as they are invited on The Late Late Show to perform the song live on the show. David next reveals that the choir will be performing their very own charity gala concert in Dublin’s spectacular Christchurch cathedral where they will be supported by Brian Kennedy and Lisa Hannigan. The rehearsals step up as the choir work on the repertoire of songs for the big event.

Drama of the week

The Missing, Tuesday, BBC One

This tense drama starring James Nesbit as the father of a boy who goes missing in France in 2006 has been a riveting experience so far, and presumably this finale will tie up the many threads. The truth about Oliver’s disappearance finally comes to light, as the action moves between 2006 and 2014. What does the future hold in store for Tony, Emily, Julien and Mark after all this time? Can any of their relationships ever be whole again?

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Comedy of the week

Modern Family, 8.00pm, Sky 1

Former Ugly Betty star Michael Urie is a full-on fashionista once again, popping up here as Gavin Sinclair, an influential stylist who crosses paths with Haley Daunphy. She's also spending a lot of time with Andy this week, which leaves Phil and Claire with mixed feelings. A fresh face, meanwhile, is welcomed at the Pritchetts’ when Gloria hires a dashing Spanish teacher for Manny, while Mitch and Cam make headlines after meeting a news reporter at a school function.

On Demand

True Detective, Sky Atlantic

Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson give outstanding performances in this Emmy-winning crime drama, one of the TV highlights of 2014. It's a slow-burning tale that follows the story of two Louisiana police detectives and their 17-year hunt for a serial killer. All eight episodes from the opening season are available now, for a limited period.

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Documentary of the week

Gray Matters, Tuesday, RTÉ One

This explores the long, fascinating life and complicated career of architect and designer Eileen Gray, whose uncompromising vision defined and defied the practice of modernism in decoration, design and architecture. Making a reputation with her traditional lacquer work in the first decade of the 20th century, she became a critically acclaimed and sought after designer and decorator in the next before reinventing herself as an architect, a field in which she laboured largely in obscurity. Today, with her work commanding extraordinary prices and attention, her legacy, like its creator, remains elusive, contested and compelling.

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Film of the Week

Muppets Most Wanted, Friday, Sky Movies Premiere

Kermit and co join forces with Ricky Gervais and Tina Fey in this fun film for all the family. After saving their theatre, The Muppets are back together, and would-be manager Dominic Badguy (Gervais) is desperate to whisk them on an international tour. Despite Kermit’s reluctance, Dominic manages to win the gang over, but he has an ulterior motive which becomes clear when Kermit (Whitmire) is captured in Berlin and replaced by his criminal doppelganger Constantine (voiced by Matt Vogel).

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