John Byrne’s TV choices for the week ahead (Dates covered: Saturday Dec 20 – Friday Dec 26)
It's Christmas, so there's no shortage of great shows over the coming days. Considering all that's been left out here, I'd highly recommend a trip to the shops for a copy of the RTÉ Guide Christmas & New Year Issue and a bright marker.
Pick of the week
Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas Special
Christmas Day, RTÉ One & BBC One
The critics hate it but the public simply can't get enough of Brendan O'Carroll's comic express train, back for its now customary Christmas special. It’s the usual chaos for Agnes as Christmas descends on the Brown household. The arrival of a large box for Cathy has Agnes intrigued . . . and she’s even more intrigued when she realises that she’s the only family member who doesn’t know what’s inside it!
Agnes reacts badly when Rory announces that husband Dino is buying him plastic surgery for Christmas. And things go from bad to worse when Agnes gets the wrong end of the stick about exactly what sort of nips and tucks Rory will be having.
Winnie receives some bad news when Jacko’s brother Willie passes away, prompting her to make a life-changing decision. Could Winnie’s announcement spell the end of her and Agnes’s lifelong friendship?
Meanwhile, Buster Brady has delivered Agnes a magical new Christmas Tree which is sure to restore Agnes’s festive spirit. If only it would co-operate . . .
Star of the week
Christmas Day, Sky Movies Premiere
From last Christmas's must-see movie to this year's must-have present, Frozen and its star, Princess Elsa have created a phenomenal success for Disney. And why not? Disney delivers a stone-cold hit with this animated musical phenomenon.
Arendelle’s Princess Elsa (Idina Menzel) has the magical ability to generate ice and snow; a seemingly harmless power that has the potential to spin dangerously out of control. When, one day, it causes her to accidentally injure her sister Anna (Kristen Bell), their parents decide to keep them separate and keep Elsa’s power under wraps.
Years later, Elsa is crowned queen and at the ceremony Anna meets the man of her dreams (Santino Fontana). Elsa’s refusal to give her blessing to a whirlwind wedding triggers a fight between the sisters that sets Elsa’s powers into overdrive and freezes the entire kingdom, sending her into hiding and setting Anna on a quest to find her sister.
With a combination of memorable songs, top voice work and a contemporary feel, Frozen scooped the 2014 Oscar for Best Animated Feature and has since become the highest-grossing animation film in cinema history.
Starting this week
Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death
St Stephen's Day, Sky 1
Forget turkey and trimmings, this Christmas is all about the quiche on Sky 1. Based on the bestseller by MC Beaton – the brains behind Hamish Macbeth – this tasty twist on the classic TV ‘whodunnit’ stars Ashley Jensen as Agatha Raisin, a PR whizz who finds herself in the frame for murder after relocating to the countryside. Jensen is joined by a cracking supporting cast that includes Hermione Norris (Spooks), Robert Bathurst (Cold Feet) and Mathew Horne (Gavin & Stacey).
Still Open All Hours
St Stephen's Day, BBC One
David Jason is reprising his role as Granville for a six-part run. The former shop assistant is now boss after inheriting the grocery store from his great Uncle Arkwright, played in the original Open All Hours sitcom, which ran from 1973 to 1985, by the late Ronnie Barker.
Jason is joined by Lynda Baron as feisty, no-nonsense nurse Gladys Emmanuel, Maggie Ollerenshaw as indecisive Mavis and Stephanie Cole as the prim-and-proper Mrs Featherstone. Viewers will also see comedian Johnny Vegas play the irritating Wet Eric who made his debut in last year’s Christmas special sequel to the original.
Una's Dream Ticket
Christmas Day, RTÉ 2
Back for a second season, Una Foden from The Saturdays returns to make children's dreams come true this Christmas. Jack Moloney gets his dream come true with a behind-the-scenes visit to Carrigstown and Fair City.
Ending this week
Whose Holiday is it Anyway?
Sunday, RTÉ One
The Finnerans kids have booked their family holiday in Andorra, and they're in charge of everything for the week. How will Mum and Dad cope with not being in control?
Along the way Gearóid’s hatred of camping will be tested when he is stuck for a night half way up the Pyrenees with a tent minus its assembly instructions. Imelda’s lack of enthusiasm for water sports is challenged when the kids book her onto a wakeboard course. The kids get into a rolling row over a giant-sized jar of chocolate spread. And the whole family will have to sink or swim when they face the challenge of an Olympic white water rafting adventure.
Sunday, BBC Two
With just two candidates left to battle it out for the £250,000 investment, the finalists receive a call summoning them to the Bloomsbury Ballroom as Alan Sugar points his finger for the last time.
Joe Duffy's Spirit Level
Sunday, RTÉ One
Given the week that's in it, Joe Duffy immerses himself in the Yuletide spirit as he looks back at childhood Christmasses through the eyes of a host of special guests from all over Ireland and beyond.
Drama of the week
Call the Midwife Christmas Special
Christmas Day, BBC One
Beyond charming, the Beeb's hugely popular period drama returns with this Christmas special. The episode opens in 2005 with Jennifer Worth at home preparing for Christmas with husband Philip. She reminisces about the friends and colleagues of her youth at Nonnatus House, and as she talks, the years roll back to 1960. Rehearsals are underway for the Sunday School Christmas Concert, and while Chummy tries to choreograph dancing snowflakes, Trixie sets to work designing a Father Christmas outfit for Fred to wear. Chummy is enlisted to help run a poorly managed mother and baby home, and with Patsy's help succeeds in bringing some Christmas joy into the residents' lives.
Cynthia is drawn deeply into a case concerning two former residents of a Victorian mental hospital who have been left to fend for themselves, and are barely coping. This causes Cynthia to make a life-changing decision.
Comedy of the week
The Savage Eye: An Irish Guide to Failure
Tuesday, RTÉ 2
He can be a bit hit-and-miss but when David McSavage is on form he's both hilarious and scathing. This time around the comic will draw a damning but hilarious conclusion about Ireland and its people. The show will include a summary of the most pertinent questions and will revisit the most memorable sketches from the four seasons of The Savage Eye, linked together by its trusty narrator.
Here's a Savage Eye look at social media: WARNING: some of the language in this clip may cause offence
Now, Sky Atlantic
Don't miss this. Former Friends' star Lisa Kudrow gives an excruciatingly brilliant performance in this smart, self-aware comedy – unfortunately axed after one season, but revived nearly a decade later - that charts a washed-up sitcom star’s attempt to return to prominence by appearing in her own reality TV show. Season two arrives on Sky Atlantic in January.
Documentary of the week
Rik Mayall: Lord of Misrule
Saturday, BBC Two
Narrated by Simon Callow, this documentary salutes Rik Mayall – who died suddenly last June - and celebrates his part in the UK’s comedy history, using rare and unseen archive footage, and talking to the people who knew or admired him. Mayall's blend of rocket-fuelled physical comedy, surrealism, subversive satire and pompous punk wit left a body of work that spanned four decades.
Mayall’s characters include the Black Country’s investigative nerd Kevin Turvey; Felicity Kendall-adoring student and ‘Peoples Poet’ Rik in The Young Ones; ruthless MP Alan B’Stard in The New Statesman; seedy violent loser Richie in Bottom; and larger-than-life characters Robin Hood and flying ace Lord Flashheart from Blackadder.
Contributors include Michael Palin, Simon Pegg, Lenny Henry, Ben Elton, Alexei Sayle, Christopher Ryan, Tim McInnerny, Jools Holland, Ruby Wax and Greg Davies.
Here's a clip from The Young Ones:
Film of the Week
The Lego Movie
December 24, Sky Movies Premiere
This just about stumps Skyfall (Christmas Eve, UTV & St Stephen's Day, RTÉ One), and is simply unmissable, and one of the films of the year. Emmet (Chris Pratt) is an ordinary Lego construction worker living in the city of Bricksburg until one day when free spirit Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) mistakes him for the saviour of the world. Emmet has stumbled upon the ‘Piece of Resistance’, an artefact that, it’s said, will fall to the hero who can stop the evil Lord Business (Will Ferrell) getting his hands on a super weapon, and is hauled along on a quest to stop him. But can this unremarkable chap find his inner hero?