We take a look at the best of Christmas TV

Des O’Driscoll selects some viewing highlights for all tastes over the next few days
We take a look at the best of Christmas TV

TONIGHT

Carols from Áras an Uachtaráin

RTÉ One, 6.15pm

It’s a busy night in many households, but this show could even provide a seasonal soundtrack to some of your chores as the likes of Iarla Ó Lionaird and Mick Flannery join President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina for a programme of music introduced by Mary Kennedy.

Mrs Brown’s Boys

RTÉ One, 9pm

You may be seeing a lot of Brendan O’Carroll’s phenomenally successful character over the next week or so, with two new seasonal episodes and a broadcast of Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie tomorrow. In this first instalment, Agnes is driven mad by the constant interruptions by feckin’ carol singers, while Winnie gets to work on her bucket list. We’ll see another show on New Year’s Eve, and then it’s set for a break until June for a one-off live special and the launch of an animated version.

Gravity

RTÉ One, 9.45pm

This space adventure was probably a mite unlucky not to take the best film Oscar over 12 Years a Slave in 2013. It did pick up a raft of other prizes, including best director and best cinematography gongs, and while your domestic TV probably won’t provide the thrills of the big-screen 3D experience, it should still keep you gripped. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney star as the astronauts who hit a bit of bother on a routine space walk.

CHRISTMAS DAY

Queen of Ireland’s Christmas Message

TV3, 3pm

Panti Bliss will be on Irish tellies over the Christmas almost as much as Mrs Brown. Insert own sociological/psychological theories here. Of course, it was a momentous year for civil rights in Ireland, and presumably today’s speech will reflect that. But, despite the backdrop of serious issues in Irish society, you can be sure Rory O’Neill’s creation will deliver it all with a sense of fun and positivity.

At Your Service To The Rescue — Penny Dinners

RTÉ One, 7.35pm

Packaging the work of Cork Penny Dinners into a feelgood Christmas special may draw criticism from some quarters, but while Francis and John Brennan don’t do political, they will, in their own way, be highlighting the issues that cause a need for an increasingly busy soup kitchen in post-Tiger Ireland. The brothers begin by helping with a refurbishment of a premises that needs everything from a new roof to a new kitchen. Their celebrity power gets combined with local generosity as a temporary facility is established to ensure people don’t go hungry during the renovation.

Hozier Special — Other Voices

RTÉ2, 10.20pm

There’s an impressive selection of music shows on offer on RTÉ2 this evening, as this special on Hozier is preceded by One Direction: This Is Us (7.05pm) and followed by U2: Innocence + Experience Live In Paris (11.10pm), with footage from the Irish band’s recent return to the French capital after some of their original shows were postponed in the wake of the recent terror attacks. There’s also The Abba Christmas Party (TV3, 10pm) in which group member Bjorn Ulvaeus will be among the guests for a show that has everyone from Susan Boyle to Alexandra Burke performing Abba cover versions.

Film choice

Way back, the Christmas Night film was an Irish TV institution to rival the Toy Show. Times have changed, but there are still some decent movies for smallies and grown-ups alike. RTÉ One has early offerings of Up (1.35pm) and Brave (5.05pm), while Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie (9.40pm) and the enjoyable modern remake of True Grit (11.10pm).

ST STEPHENS DAY

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

RTÉ One, 5pm

If you have young kids accustomed to watching the usual Saturday film at this time, you may be better steering them away from Gollum, the Orcs and some of the other potentially frightening characters of the first instalment of Peter Jackson’s trilogy. For those who feel up to the adventure, you’ll get thrills and spills galore from Bilbo Baggins and co.

Downton Abbey

TV3, 9pm

If you don’t watch the grand finale on ITV on Christmas Day, this broadcast on the Irish channel will give you a chance to see how Julian Fellowes brings his hugely popular show to an end after six series. Set between September and December, 1925, we know that a moving rendition of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ will bring final tear to the eye of long-term fans. Other than that, it’s mostly speculation, but it looks like there might be bad news for Isobel Crawley, and some resolution of Lady Edith’s love issues. Fellowes, the show’s creator, has been working on a script for a film, but it’s still unclear as to whether that will ever get made.

Soccer

The strife at some of the big clubs really has made for a fascinating season in the Premier League, and the unpredictability looks set to continue with four live games in today’s Boxing Day offering: Stoke City v Man Utd (Sky Sports 1, ko 12.45pm), Liverpool v Leicester (Setanta 1, ko 3pm), Newcastle Utd v Everton (BT Sport 1, ko 5.30pm) and the clash of Southampton v Arsenal (BT Sport 1, ko 7.45pm).

A full week of TV listings will be published in the Weekend supplement of the Irish Examiner on St Stephen’s Day

Soap watch

EastEnders

The show that has proven that many of us like a large dollop of misery amidst all this seasonal cheer. Things get really juicy around the wedding of Mick and Linda on New Year’s Day, but in the meantime, we’ll have the timely birth of Stacey’s baby around a Nativity play, and the simmering feud between Vincent Hubbard and Phil Mitchell contributing to the latter’s destructive alcohol bender. Ho Ho Ho!

Coronation Street

Tracy Barlow certainly has a way with the lads, but the Wetherfield temptress may have bitten off more than she can chew this time around. At least there is a heart-warming storyline involving Hope, the seriously ill daughter of Fiz and Tyrone.

Fair City

There’s turmoil in Carrigstown all this week in the aftermath of Emmet accidentally finding out how his brother was really killed. Tension between Neasa and Caoimhe also escalates tonight.

Red Rock

It’s a big few days for the TV3 soap, with the loss of a major character by the New Year.

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