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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