8 Best TV Progammes over Christmas.

Bonnie and Clyde.

Bonnie and Clyde.

What with digital top boxes, VOD and the various Players and the general box set culture that has done so much to transform television programming and watching, the Christmas TV schedule isn’t, inevitably, what it was once was. Nevertheless, this year’s offerings seem especially dull.

Kind Hearts and Coronets.

Kind Hearts and Coronets.

Here are 8 of the very few things on offer to distract you from the annual rows, indulgence and over-stimulation. In chronological order, set the Record for:

1. Sunday Dec 22nd BBC1 5:15pm, Alice In Wonderland. Classic Disney, from a prelapsarian age when cartoons were made with playfulness and wit. Not a lesson in sight.

2. Sunday Dec 22nd BBC2 10pm, Translations. A look at Brian Friel’s most enduring play, and one of the very few interesting to things to emerge from the Irish stage in the last few decades.

3. Sunday Dec 22nd RTE 2 11:50 Bonnie And Clyde (1967), Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway in Arthur Penn’s famously amoral biopic. The US indie film movement that saw the likes of Coppola, Scorsese, Towne, Schrader, Ashby (see below) et al emerge in the 70s begins here.

Jack Nicholson in "The Last Detail".

Jack Nicholson in “The Last Detail”.

4. Christmas Eve RTE1 9:30pm Irish Pictorial Weekly (reviewed earlier here). Last in series. Not to be missed. Shock horror, an Irish comedy that’s actually funny and is aimed un-apologetically at a triple digit IQ.

5. Sunday Dec 29th BBC4 8pm, Christmas Lectures 2013: Life Fantastic, Allison Woollard gives a talk on Natural Selection.

6. New Year’s Eve BBC4 8pm, Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949), Alec Guinness plays the 8 relatives keeping Dennis Price from what’s rightfully his.

The only must watch on British TV.

The only must watch on British TV.

7. New Year’s Eve, BBC1, 10:15pm, the Graham Norton Show. Still the best way to kick off any New Year’s Eve.

8. Thursday Jan 2nd/Fri Jan 3rd. Film 4 01:30am, The Last Detail (1973), Jack Nicholson (reviewed earlier here) in Hal Ashby’s engrossing and quietly moving low-key drama.

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Irish Pictorial Weekly, Shock Horror, an Irish Comedy that’s Actually Funny.

Irish Pictorial Weekly.

Irish Pictorial Weekly.

Comedy programmes on Irish television have a long and shameful past. There have been many, many of them, each one, mesmerically, even more unfunny than the one before. From Upwardly Mobile, the Big Bow Wow – which I think was a comedy… – right up to the current, execrable Republic Of Telly.

Paths to Freedom was a rare and lonely beacon of light – you can see Rats and his brother in alms in Belfast here. But even they stumbled when trying to deal with the middle classes instead of sticking to Rats and his drinking class buddies.

So it’s something of a culture shock, to say the least, to see a programme on RTE that’s genuinely funny. I was trying to think of a simile. But it’s actually a simile in its own right. When next confronted with something that’s grotesque and unbelievable, bizarre and unprecedented, you’ll be able to say that whatever it is is rather like finding a comedy on RTE that’s actually funny.

What they were up against.

What they were up against.

Irish Pictorial Weekly is made by Blinder Films and written and performed by, amongst others, Barry Murphy, Gary Cooke, Eleanor Tiernan, John Colleary, Paul Howard, Alan Shortt, Colum McDonnell, and Tara Flynn. It manages to foreground sharp political satire against a succession of wonderfully surreal backdrops in a mixture of doctored clips and sketches. The results are both reliably consistent and brilliantly funny. And as such, it’s something of a revelation.

Poor Swift can at last stop spinning in that grave of his. We can it seems produce satire aimed at viewers with a triple digit IQ. Our talents do stretch beyond The Phoenix after all.

It’s on RTE1 on Thursdays at 22:15. Here are a couple of clips. A Gerry Adams clip here. An Eamon Gilmore clip here. A Pat Rabbitte clip here.

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Subscribe here for regular updates. And get your FREE GIFT of the first 2 chapters of my book, A Brief History Of Man.