Dashing through the shows - the best festive entertainment with an Irish twist

Dashing through the shows - the best festive entertainment with an Irish twist

THE holidays are here which means it’s time to sit back, relax and enjoy some festive entertainment.

Whether you’re a telly fan or you prefer a spot of radio, there are plenty of cultural offerings to enjoy this Christmas which have an Irish edge to them.

From festive feasting and the annual comedy series classics to blockbuster films and poignant documentaries too, you’re bound to find something you’ll enjoy.

Here are our top picks for the days ahead…

Saturday, December 23

Patrick Kielty: BBC Radio 5 Live, 9am

Wake up on the last Saturday before Christmas to the soothing sounds of Patrick Kielty.

The Co. Down native, who took up the role of presenter of The Late Late Show in September, continues his weekly radio show with BBC Radio 5 Live.

For his December 23 edition he has gone all festive, with “great guests” due to appear, the two-hour show will be “the ultimate feel-good start to the Christmas weekend” the BBC claims.

Saturday Kitchen: Countdown to Christmas: BBC1, 10am

If you are after some last-minute culinary inspiration before the big day arrives, celebrity Irish chef Donal Skehan is on hand to help.

The Dubliner, who now lives in Howth after living in Los Angeles for four years, will join Matt Tebbutt in the Saturday Kitchen studio for their pre-Christmas special.

Chef Donna Hay will also be cooking up a storm for the show’s guests, which will include actor and comedian Chris McCausland.

Expect great moments from the BBC food archive, including clips from Rick Stein, The Hairy Bikers, Nadiya Hussain and The Two Greedy Italians (Gennaro Contaldo and Antonio Carluccio) as well as top tips for the perfect Christmas tipple from drinks expert Olly Smith.

The Hit List Christmas Special: BBC One, 6pm

You’d better watch out as it’s time for a star-studded Christmas ppecial of The Hit List.

The three teams joining co-hosts Marvin and Rochelle Humes for this festive episode are popstars Una Healy and Kimberly Wyatt, presenters Gregg Wallace and Kate Thornton and Union J’s George Shelley and drag queen Kitty Scott-Claus.

But who will jingle all the way to the Final Chart Rundown for a chance to win £10,000 for their chosen charity?

Get ready to play along and shout out the answers at the telly.

Here’s hoping The Saturdays star Healy, who hails from Thurles in Tipperary, does us proud.

Christmas Eve

The Heist Before Christmas: Sky Max, 8pm

Sky’s Christmas special for 2023 is set in Northern Ireland and features a stellar cast led by local actor James Nesbitt.

The Antrim man, who hails from Ballymena, stars in The Heist Before Christmas alongside Timothy Spall.

The pair play two opposing Santas in the film where twelve-year-old Mikey (Bamber Todd), finds two Santa Clauses in the woods.

One has just robbed a bank and is on the run with the cash, while the other Santa claims to have fallen out of his sleigh.

Mikey doesn’t believe in Santa - but does want that stolen cash – while his younger brother Sean (Joshua McLees) is pretty excited to be around Father Christmas.

Will the spirit of Christmas prevail? Tune in and find out….

Taken: Film4, 9pm

The presents are wrapped, the children are sleeping and Santa is on his way, so why not treat yourself to a Liam Neeson classic?

Watch another Ballymena-born actor at his best in the 2008 thriller Taken, which sees him go head to head with a criminal mob who have kidnapped his daughter.

Grab some mulled wine and cosy up as you wait for his iconic monologue - ‘what I do have is a very particular set of skills..’ - you know the one.

Sit back, relax and watch the Irishman take on the baddies in this brutal thrill fest.

Christmas Day

Sing 2: ITV1, 4.30pm

After Christmas dinner is done, settle down for some festive family fun courtesy of the cast of Sing 2.

The sequel to the 2016 animated classic Sing, which is based on the life of theatre-owning koala Buster Moon, features Bono in a lead role.

The Dubliner, who is lead singer with U2, plays Clay Calloway in the critically acclaimed second instalment, which was released in 2021.

Calloway is a reclusive rock star that no one has seen for 15 years, who may be the key to saving Buster Moon’s latest show and the future of his troupe.

There’s a host of other stars in there too – including Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon and Scarlett Johansson.

Bono arrives stars in Sing 2

The Festive Pottery Throw Down: Channel 4, 7.30pm

Siobhán McSweeney returns to lead the second festive edition of the Great Pottery Throw Down.

For this Christmas outing, guests will include Hugh Dennis, Sophie Duker, Alice Levine and Joe Swash.

Judges Keith Brymer Jones and Rich Miller set two festive challenges for the celebrity potters – hand-building a Christmas birdhouse and a speed contest to see who can throw the most Christmas nibbles bowls.

As always, Cork native McSweeney, who has presented the Great Pottery Throw Down since 2021, will be there to oversee proceedings.

Caroline Ahern: Comedy Queen: BBC 2, 10.25pm

The unique talent of Caroline Aherne is celebrated in this new Arena documentary.

Featuring unseen photographs and contributions from a cast of her lifelong friends, including Steve Coogan, John Thomson, Craig Cash and producer Andy Harries, the film honours the life and career of the writer and actor who died in 2016, aged 52.

The comedy icon was born in Ealing, west London on December 24, 1963.

Her parents were Irish immigrants - father Bert worked on the railways, while her mother Maureen was a school dinner lady – and the family moved to Manchester when she was aged two, where she and her brother Patrick were raised.

The documentary highlights Aherne’s unique contribution to British television over the years, which saw her create a raft of comedy classics in the 1990s, from the Mrs Merton Show to The Royle Family and The Fast Show.

Mrs. Brown’s Boys Christmas - Mammy’s Mare: BBC One, 10.45pm

Christmas would not be Christmas without a Mrs Brown’s Boys special.

For 2023 all Mrs Brown wants is a nice, peaceful Christmas - but the family have other ideas. Cathy’s decided to cook Christmas dinner for the first time ever, a sentimental decoration has gone missing, and a surprise dinner guest has appeared.

All of which has the potential to ruin Agnes’ quiet Christmas.

Hilarity ensues, as the festive hijinks return for another year, with part two of the special airing on New Year’s Eve.

Murder They Wrote with Laura Whitmore and Iain Stirling: BBC Radio 5 Live, 11pm

Christmas Day might be just about done but if you are still up for some action there are crimes to be examined.

Dublin born but Wicklow raised, Laura Whitmore recently launched a new podcast with husband, Love Island voiceover Iain Stirling.

The series sees the crime-obsessed couple delving into some of the world’s most jaw-dropping crimes – and Christmas will be no different.

For their festive instalment expect murder, mayhem, blackmail and more.

Belfast: BBC Two, 1.45am

You may well have to set the recorder for this one as its on in the wee hours of the morning, but the Oscar and BAFTA-winning autobiographical drama Belfast is definitely worth it.

Set in 1969, young Buddy’s happy home life is rocked by the eruption of the Troubles.

On top of his concerns about ailing grandparents, a crush on a girl at school, and doing maths, street violence means the family face a stark future.

Written and directed by Belfast native Kenneth Branagh, the film stars Caitríona Balfe, Judi Dench, Jamie Dornan, Ciarán Hinds, Colin Morgan and Jude Hill.

Boxing Day

Father Ted: More 4, 8pm

What’s more Christmassy than a Father Ted marathon?

More 4 have scheduled nine classics from the hit Irish series which follows the lives of fathers Ted, Dougal and Jack on Craggy Island with their long-serving housemaid Mrs Doyle.

The Boxing Day line-up kicks off with Flight into Terror, which is followed by Are You Right There, Father Ted.

At 9pm you can enjoy the 75-minute festive special A Christmassy Ted before continuing your Father Ted binge with the likes of Chirpy Burpy Cheap Sheep, Speed 3, The Mainland and Escape From Victory.

The Commitments: Channel 5, 11.25pm

You can’t go wrong with a Boxing Day film, and none come much better than The Commitments.

It’s been over 30 years since the now-iconic film, set in Dublin, first hit the big screen.

Released in 1991, the musical, based on the book by Roddy Doyle, made superstars out of its cast in Ireland – particularly the likes of Glen Hansard, Angeline Ball and Maria Doyle Kennedy – who went on carve a name for themselves overseas too.

The drama centres on a would-be music producer who believes he can make it big in Ireland by promoting a top-rate soul band.

He trawls Dublin city, auditioning unlikely singers and musicians, until he comes up with a group.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Treat yourself to one more Christmas gift and rewatch this absolute classic.

New Year’s Eve

The Graham Norton Show New Year’s Eve: BBC One, 10.25pm

Dublin-born and Cork raised, Graham Norton brings his Bafta and National TV Award-winning chat show back for its annual New Year’s Eve edition.

Sparkling chat, jokes and music are all on the menu as Norton takes a look back at the events of 2023, together with a sofa of star guests, including Emma Stone, Mark Ruffalo, Claudia Winkleman, Nadiya Hussein and Rob Brydon.

There will of course be end-of-year stories from the audience in the world-famous Big Red Chair and the Mercury Prize-winning Ezra Collective will perform.

Jools’ Annual Hootenanny: BBC Two, 11.30pm

As has become time-honoured tradition in the UK’s televised celebration of the New Year, Jools Holland and his Rhythm & Blues Orchestra take centre stage once again for Jools’ Annual Hootenanny.

Jools will be ringing in 2024 in typical style, bringing viewers the very best music from a fabulous mix of the biggest stars, as well as the brightest new talent and a host of special guests.

Making his Hootenanny debut this year is British rock and pop legend, Rod Stewart, who performs alongside Joss Stone, Olivia Dean, Paul Jones, PP Arnold, Raye, Sugababes and Co. Louth based Irish folk group The Mary Wallopers.

There’ll be music from Boogie Woogie Queen and powerhouse vocalist Ruby Turner and as always, the Pipes & Drums of the 1st Battalion Scot Guards will feature, as the hour strikes midnight.

During the two-hour show, Holland will hear from comedians, actors and more stars of 2023 from amongst the audience about their predictions and resolutions for the New Year.

New Year’s Day

The Tourist: BBC 1, 9pm

There’s a New Year’s Day treat in store for Jamie Dornan fans, as he returns to our screens in the second series of The Tourist.

Filmed in Dublin, the outback epic has moved to Ireland for its second instalment, where Co. Down native Dornan reprises his role as Elliot alongside Danielle Macdonald who returns as Helen.

The first series followed Elliot as he woke up in a hospital in the Australian outback with amnesia.

The Irishman was forced to use what few clues he had to discover his identity while his murky past attempted to catch up with him.

For the second series Elliot and Helen head to the Emerald Isle in a bid to rediscover his roots and hopefully shed some light on his life before his memory loss.

Series one of The Tourist launched on New Year’s Day in 2022.

With 11.4 million viewers across Britain, it was the most watched drama of the year in the UK, across all platforms.

For series two, Dornan and Macdonald are joined by a host of new faces - including Irish actors Conor MacNeill, Olwen Fouéré, Francis Magee, Mark McKenna, Diarmaid Murtagh and Nessa Matthews.

Greg Larsen also reprises his role as Ethan Krum for the six-part thriller has been created and written by brothers Jack and Harry Williams and is produced by their Two Brothers Pictures company.

The Tourist returns on New Year's Day

Mrs. Brown’s Boys New Year’s - New Year, New Mammy: BBC One, 10pm

The second and final festive instalment of the Mrs Brown’s Boys shenanigans arrives on New Year’s Day.

Mrs Brown and the gang start the New Year by attempting a tough new health and fitness regime. New year, new Agnes.

But while Maria and Cathy work hard to get the gang into shape, a mysterious visitor to Finglas raises some difficult questions from Agnes and Winne’s past.