December 24th – Christmas Eve
Star Of Bethlehem: Behind The Myth (Bbc 2).
What exactly was the mythical Star of Bethlehem? New developments in technology are allowing scientists, astronomers and historians to map the night skies of the ancient world with extraordinary accuracy. As they study the movements of the planets and stars around the time of the birth of Christ, experts are challenging the traditional image of the star as a comet and putting forward new theories. Astronomers are uncovering new evidence to support the view that the story of the Star of Bethlehem was based upon a real event – a triple conjunction of planets, an occultation of Jupiter and Saturn or even a supernova. Drawing on evidence from as far afield as Rome, Prague, Babylon, Persia and even China, this film examines clues in Biblical texts and ancient artefacts and uses state-of-the-art computer imaging techniques to reassess the date of Jesus’s birth, investigate the identity of the Wise Men, and shed new light upon the story of the Star of Bethlehem.
Gavin & Stacey Christmas Special (Bbc 1).
It’s Christmas Eve and the Wests join the Shipmans for one of Mick’s famous turkey dinners. Smithy can’t wait to spend his first Christmas with baby Neil, but doesn’t count on Dave Coaches tagging along and playing happy families with Nessa. Jason and Bryn, meanwhile, have a heart-to-heart about “that” fishing trip and Gavin and Stacey’s revelation to Pam and Smithy doesn’t quite turn out to be the Christmas present they were expecting.
December 25th – Christmas Day
The Royle Family: The New Sofa (Bbc 1).
Two years after The Queen Of Sheba, the last Royle Family Christmas special, Jim, Barbara, Denise and Dave return to television screens for their latest festive episode. Caroline Aherne, Craig Cash and Phil Mealey bring back the regular characters as they contemplate Christmas Royle style. The last time Jim, Barbara, Denise and Dave were seen, viewers were moved to tears as they witnessed the moving and compassionate passing of Nana. The Bafta-winning writers promise that nobody dies in this episode, but the family is on form in a programme packed with laughs as they treat the festive holiday with their usual irreverence. Jim and Barbara still bait one another in their cosy (but over-decorated) room; Denise and Dave still aspire to better things as they prepare for Christmas morning; and Twiggy barges in on Christmas Eve with his unique take on life.
Dr Who (Bbc 1).
It’s Christmas Eve in 1851 and Cybermen stalk the snow of Victorian London, in this special Christmas edition of Russell T Davies’s award-winning time-travelling drama. When the Doctor arrives and starts to investigate a spate of mysterious deaths, he’s surprised to meet another Doctor, and soon the two must combine forces to defeat the ruthless Miss Hartigan. But are two Doctors enough to stop the rise of the CyberKing? David Tennant stars as The Doctor, David Morrissey as The Doctor and Dervla Kirwan as Miss Hartigan.
A Bit Of A Fillum (Rte 1).
Ryan’s Daughter transformed Dingle and its hinterland, and in the years since its original cinema release it is the behind-the-scenes story that transformed itself into the stuff of legend. David Lean may have arrived in Kerry with the expectation that he and his cast — a stellar gathering that included Robert Mitchum, Sarah Miles and John Mills — were to be the stars of his latest masterpiece. It wasn’t long however before both the director and his troupe realised that the real star was West Kerry itself. And bit players, by-standers and eager observers were the locals. Panned by critics on its initial release, the film won two Oscars, one for acting, one for cinematography and, in recent years, revisionists have looked again at one of modern cinemas most misunderstood and under-rated films. This new documentary goes behind-the-scenes to explore the real story behind the making of Ryan’s Daughter, observing a community in subsistence living counterpointed against a glamourous film-maker and his legendary stars. Featuring footage from RTÉ’s own archive as well as from the UCLA Etnographic Program, the documentary talks to those who had ring-side seats at the biggest show in town. Long after the village came down, the legend lives on …
Blackadder Rides Again (Bbc 1).
Rowan Atkinson and the cast of the legendary comedy series Blackadder are back for a one-off documentary special this Christmas on BBC One featuring the iconic cast in a documentary to mark 25 years since the original BBC transmission of the much-loved sitcom, first broadcast in 1983. Blackadder Rides Again includes the first-ever in-depth interview with Edmund Blackadder himself, Rowan Atkinson, about his personal experience of being involved in the sitcom and its phenomenal success. Set to join him are the core cast and writing team – Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Richard Curtis, Ben Elton, Miranda Richardson, Tim McInnerny and Tony Robinson.
Kilnaskully (Rte 1,
Christmas day & St Stephens Day). There is a special double helping of Killinaskully this Christmas, as we go back in time and recall DeValera’s visit to the village of Killinaskully. Old favourites such as Dan Clancy, Timmy & Jimmy, Pa Connors and Sgt. O’Toole, Mrs.Gilhooley and Dieter have once again been brought to life by the writing team of comic Pat Shortt , Limerick writer, Mike Finn and Joe Rooney. Limerick native, Eugene O’Connor also returns in the director’s chair. It’s Christmas 1944 and the precious Faggart power station is in the hands of the Killinaskully Local Defence Force. When a surprise visit from DeValera finds the troops AWOL and the Defence Committee tired and emotional, Killinaskully will have to mobilise the entire village to get back in the Taoiseach’s good books. Killinaskully is in the grip of the Emergency and DeValera is in the grip of paralysis. The skies are filled with Germans, the shelling never stops and to make matters worse, there’s a shortage of booze. But there’s still time for a morale boosting Christmas ceilí with an explosive conclusion.
Coleen’s Christmas At Alder Hey (Itv).
In this exclusive documentary, Coleen Rooney presents a behind-the-scenes look at one of the most famous children’s hospitals in the world at the most magical time of the year – Christmas. In the hour-long special from Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool, Rooney’s ‘better ‘alf’ gives viewers an insight into her personal connection with the hospital, takes a look at the important work of the staff and shares the excitement of the build up to Christmas with the children being treated there. Coleen takes viewers through the doors of the hospital to introduce them to a world full of activity as she meets up with her parents and her adopted sister Rosie, who suffers from a rare genetic disorder, and they tell the film why the hospital has a special place in their hearts.
Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special (Bbc 1).
Strictly Come Dancing returns for a special festive edition featuring favourite contestants from Christmas past and present. Jill Halfpenny, Kelly Brook and Alesha Dixon are back to battle this year’s three finalists for the title of Strictly Christmas Champions. Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly return to present the special and, as ever, judges Craig Revel Horwood, Arlene Phillips, Bruno Tonioli and head judge Len Goodman are on hand to give their verdicts on the competing couples. All the music featured in the programme is festive and “The Voice”, Russell Watson, makes a special guest appearance.
Wallace & Gromit: A Matter Of Loaf And Death (Bbc 1).
After the incredible success of last year’s Curse Of The Were-Rabbit, Nick Park returns with a new, 30-minute episode and is reunited with writer Bob Baker, who co-wrote both The Wrong Trousers and A Close Shave. Sally Lindsay (Coronation Street) guest stars as the voice of Piella Bakewell, while Peter Sallis continues to provide the voice of Wallace. In this new masterpiece, viewers catch up with Wallace and Gromit who have opened a new bakery called Top Bun. Business is booming, not least because a deadly “cereal killer” is targeting all the bakers in town and competition is drying up. Gromit is worried that they may be the next victims but Wallace doesn’t care – he’s fallen head over heels in love with Piella Bakewell, former star of the Bake-O-Lite bread commercials. So Gromit is left to run things on his own when he’d much rather be getting better acquainted with Piella’s lovely pet poodle, Fluffles.
December 26th – St Stephens Day
Caught In A Trap (Itv).
Connie Fisher seeks solace in her secret passion – Elvis Presley. She’s obsessed with the rock and roll legend. He never lets her down, unlike every other aspect of her life. Living at home with her overbearing step-mother and down trodden father, Gemma has a boring, and low paid job emptying car park meters. But then her life takes a dramatic turn when she finds an easy way to fund her obsession with Elvis Presley, and that spending gives her a sense of thrill she’s never experienced before as she starts to dip into cash from the parking meters and goes on a spending spree with Elvis memorabilia top of her shopping list.
Your Bad Self (Rte 2).
Featuring performances from some of the country’s best comic actors including Michael McElhatton, Peter McDonald, Justine Mitchell, Domhnall Gleeson, Hugh O’Conor, and Andrew Bennett, this is a darkly hilarious sketch show, produced by the same team who made the comedy films, I Went Down and Mad About Dog.
Apres Match And All That (Rte 2).
The outrageous trio return with a review of a very memorable Euro 2008 tournament that took place last June. A reminder of key goals and other unforgettable moments come from Bill O’Herlihy, John Giles, Eamon Dunphy and Graeme Souness, while the Après Match boys provide the best of their inimitably satirical sketches.
The Late Late Show Joe Dolan Tribute
Pat Kenny presents a very special tribute to Irish singing legend Joe Dolan.
With some of Joe’s long-standing fans taking seats in the audience alongside close family and friends, performers on the night include Johnny Logan, Dustin and Niamh Kavanagh, Paul Brady and Shane MacGowan. Contributors include Ben Dolan, Larry Gogan and Sam Smyth.
John Adams (Ch4).
Starring Paul Giamatti in the title role and Laura Linney as his wife Abigail, this seven-part multi-Emmy-Award-winning series explores American history and offers an intimate portrait of one of its great founding fathers, John Adams. With the fervent support of his wife Abigail and through a lifelong friendship and political rivalry with Thomas Jefferson, Adams rose to be America’s strongest, most effective advocate for independence, serving as the nation’s first minister to the Netherlands and England, the first vice-president, the second president and father of the sixth president.
Mise, Sean O’riordain (Tg4).
Louis de Paor’s acclaimed documentary on the great Irish poet made on the 30th anniversary of his death last year. Celebrating not only O’Riordain’s linguistic genius that saw him feted as one of the country’s greatest poets, it also delves behind the fascade into the private life of an intensely private individual.
The South Bank Show: The One Ronnie (Itv).
Melvyn Bragg charts the lime and times of Ronnie Corbett in a year where his comedy partner Ronnie Barker shrugged off his mortal coil for the great stage in the sky. Following the careers of two of Britain’s most beloved funny men through the memories of the one remaining, Bragg brings us back to the early 70s and how the pair’s career journey reflected all that was happening in the changing world around them.
Help I’m No Bigger Than A Bug (Itv).
Unbeknown to most of us, a secret world with life-threatening dangers, deadly predators and endless wars exists right on our doorstep. The average garden is a melting pot of thousands of creatures all fighting for survival in their very own ‘jungle’. Intrepid naturalist Nigel Marven undertakes a unique dramatised exploration of this habitat, going on safari on his own back garden after being ‘shrunk’ down to the size of an ant. This new documentary uses the latest in motion-control camera movement, CGI, macro-photography and pioneering computer software to view the typical garden in stunning detail.