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Irish Independent
Irish Independent
Pat Stacey

Pat Stacey’s weekend TV picks: It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas telly

Dafne Keen as Lyra and Amir Wilson as Will are back on Sunday in the long-awaited third and final season of His Dark Materials, based on Philip Pullman’s novels

Noah Centineo is, so the young folk under our roof tell me, a teen romcom heartthrob. The Recruit (Netflix), not to be confused with the Noughties Colin Farrell film of the same name, sees him stepping up to something a bit more grown-up as a young lawyer whose first week working at the CIA plunges him into unexpected peril.


There’s one for the kiddies in Gangsta Granny Strikes Again (CBBC, 5.30pm), an adaptation of David Walliams’s sequel to his 2013 book, which was also dramatised by the Beeb.

Young Ben (Archie Yates) is trying to come to terms with the death of his beloved nan, an expert jewel thief, when he hears reports of a copycat. Walliams and Sheridan Smith play his parents.

Ashley Roberts and Ashley Banjo are involved as, respectively, presenter and judge on Dance Monsters (Netflix), a new competition in which contestants are disguised as their favourite CGI avatars. Any resemblance to The Masked Dancer is, obviously, a simple coincidence.

Not being able to watch TV in the afternoons due to being kept busy writing about TV in the afternoons, Shakespeare & Hathaway: Private Investigators (BBC1, 2.15pm) are strangers to me.

In this Christmas episode, the sleuths (Jo Joyner and Mark Benton) try to find out who is out to ruin he “Wintermas” festival.

It might be called The Big Narstie Show (Channel 4, 11.05pm), but the breakthrough star has been supposed sidekick Mo Gilligan, who reunites with his pal for a Christmas one-off. There’s more of him in his own new vehicle tomorrow, about which more in a moment.

​There’s also a festive odour in the air over on the revived Never Mind the Buzzcocks (Sky Max, 10pm), hosted by Greg Davies. Basically, it’s chaotic business as usual, but with some tinsel around the set and a round of questions about Christmas songs.

If you want to enjoy Comedy Classics: Porridge (Channel 5, 9pm), you’ll either have to have manually added the channel to your satellite box or resort to the VPN and go online.

Should be worth it, though, for this 90-minute celebration of the brilliant 1970s prison sitcom, a highpoint in the careers of writers Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, stars Ronnie Barker and Richard Beckinsale, and everyone else involved.


Celebrating a Christmas TV tradition could well become a Christmas TV tradition in itself if the hour-long documentary The Snowman: The Film that Changed Christmas (Channel 4, 5pm) is as good as it sounds.

We’re promised several revelations, including how a last-minute alteration to the animation spared Channel 4, which commissioned it, some embarrassment and the feelings, 40 years on, of Walking in the Air singer Peter Auty about his rendition, the one used in the film, being overshadowed by Aled Jones’s cover.

Video of the Day

For those who love this sort of thing, and there are many of them, it’s the final of Strictly Come Dancing (BBC1, 7.05pm), although it will be back with the traditional special on Christmas Day.

The aforementioned Mo Gilligan (see Saturday) cements his stardom by fronting new entertainment show That’s My Jam (BBC1, 9.35pm), a British adaptation of a successful US series that’s presented by Jimmy Fallon.

Interestingly, it’s actually recorded in America on the same set as Fallon’s version. Two teams of celebrities compete in various music-themed games.

Having pretty much vowed never to have anything to do with the BBC again (and who could blame him?) after it rashly broadcast live coverage of a police raid on his home relating to accusations of sexual assault that were subsequently withdrawn, Cliff Richard seems to be practising his Christian ideal of forgiveness.

Cliff at Christmas (BBC2, 9.35pm) is a recent concert recorded at St John-at-Hackney Church in London. Between songs, he talks to Sara Cox about his 64-year career in an interview at Abbey Road Studios.

Grace Dent’s What We Were Watching (BBC4, 8.30pm) is always good fun. Here, she looks at what was on the box over Christmas 1988. A repeat, but a worthwhile one.


The most controversial World Cup Final (RTÉ2, BBC1, ITV, 2pm) ever is upon us, with Argentina facing reigning champions France. There’s been some fantastic football played and no end of upsets, but it will forever be tainted.

After a two-year gap, partly because Covid-19 delayed production, the third and final season of His Dark Materials (BBC1, 8pm), the excellent adaptation of Philip Pullman’s terrific fantasy novels, arrives.

If you’re expecting an on-screen recap, you’re out of luck. It dives straight into the story, so you’ll need to do your own refreshing.

Dennis Herdman and Tom Hiddleston in The Play What I Wrote

The Play What I Wrote (BBC4, 8pm), Hamish McColl, Sean Foley and Eddie Braben’s smash-hit Morecambe and Wise meta comedy, finally comes to TV in a production recorded at the Theatre Royal Bath. A mystery guest star features in every performance and here it’s Tom Hiddleston.

As if miniature-making wasn’t a demanding enough craft, Sandi Toksvig’s Tiny Christmas Challenge (Channel 4, 7pm) asks the competing amateurs to turn doll’s house-sized cabins into mini-homes at the festive season, complete with tiny Christmas adornments, including trees, presents and even food. Any drunken uncles, I wonder?

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