Hogmanay TV preview: Paul Whitelaw's guide to the best New Year viewing

In addition to all the regular New Year’s Eve favourites, there are one or two more unusual televisual treats to enjoy this Hogmanay, writes Paul Whitelaw

As we bid farewell to 2023 with empty promises of keeping in touch, let us now look forward to the arrival of its successor – the strange yet intriguingly titled “2024”. We will almost definitely need some television to ease ourselves into those deep uncharted waters.

Or we could just dive off a cliff straight into the whirlpool of Free Your Mind: The Matrix Now (Hogmanay, BBC Two, 6:55pm), an hallucinatory theatrical experience directed by Danny Boyle in which the Waschowskis’ science-fiction fantasia is celebrated within the sprawling confines of immersive Manchester arts hub Factory International via hip-hop choreography and a striking musical score.

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If your fragile concept of reality is still intact after that, then you may have the wherewithal to enjoy Queen of the New Year (Hogmanay, BBC One, 11pm), a topical That Was The Year That Was sketch show from Greg Hemphill and Robert Florence of Burnistoun renown. Subjects under consideration include the ascendance of King Charles, climate activism, Sam Smith and smoking bans, all of which will doubtless be reviewed via that de rigueur “sideways glance”.

Rambert Dance in Peaky Blinders: The Redemption of Thomas Shelby PIC: BBC/RambertRambert Dance in Peaky Blinders: The Redemption of Thomas Shelby PIC: BBC/Rambert
Rambert Dance in Peaky Blinders: The Redemption of Thomas Shelby PIC: BBC/Rambert

And now we come to the meat – vegan and vegetarian options are also available – of our journey into tomorrow. Edith Bowman brings in the bells with Hogmanay Live (Hogmanay, BBC One, 11:30pm), featuring all the usual Edinburgh fireworks and cannon blast hoopla, plus music from Celtic rock band Skerryvore and singer-songwriter Shereen Cutkelvin, who will be performing ever popular Hogmanay smasheroo Auld Lang Syne.

To the surprise of absolutely no one, Jools’ Annual Hootenanny (Hogmanay, BBC Two, 11:30pm) is back for its umpteenth year of insisting that we enjoy ourselves, because it’s later than we think. Jools’ guests on this spontaneously pre-recorded occasion include Rod Stewart, Joss Stone, PP Arnold and Sugababes, plus those Hootenanny stalwarts Ruby Turner and the Pipes & Drums of the 1st Battalion Scot Guards.

The morning after can be enjoyed in the altogether less Boogie Woogie-fied company of the New Year's Day Concert Live from Vienna 2024 (New Year's Day, BBC Two, 10:15am), in which the Vienna Philharmonic – a great bunch of lads – present a fine array of polkas, waltzes and gallops by the Strauss family and their various contemporaries.

The fossilised skull of a Pliosaur is the star turn in Attenborough and the Giant Sea Monster (New Year's Day, BBC One, 8pm). Those prehistoric remains were recently discovered in a Dorset cliff face, much to the delight of Sir Dave and his fellow dinosaur enthusiasts. We follow the great man as he brings this formidable ocean-dwelling predator to life. Could it be, as experts believe, a hitherto undiscovered species of Pliosaur?

Michelle Yeoh as Mama Sun in The Brothers Sun PIC: Courtesy of Netflix © 2023Michelle Yeoh as Mama Sun in The Brothers Sun PIC: Courtesy of Netflix © 2023
Michelle Yeoh as Mama Sun in The Brothers Sun PIC: Courtesy of Netflix © 2023

The sadly late and indubitably great poet Benjamin Zephaniah delivers some spoken-word accompaniment to Rambert Dance in Peaky Blinders: The Redemption of Thomas Shelby (New Year's Day, BBC Four, 9:25pm), a vibrant stage adaptation of the hit TV series featuring a live band performing music by the likes of Radiohead, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and, of course, Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds. Put your red right hand in the air and wave it like you just don’t care.

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The absorbing three-part documentary Wild Scandinavia (Hogmanay to Tuesday 2nd, BBC Two, 8:25pm and 9pm) celebrates the wildlife, landscapes and culture of that magnificent and oh-so-groovy region of the world. I’m contractually obliged to describe it as A Veritable Smorgasbord of fjords, seal pups, puffins, bears and volcanic eruptions, although not necessarily in that order.

Back in Blighty, Greg Davies and Alex Horne present Taskmaster's New Year Treat (Tuesday 2nd, Channel 4, 9pm), a one-off edition of the ingeniously daft gameshow in which celebs go tactile puzzle crazy. Your contestants include Zoe Ball, Deborah Meaden and Lenny Rush, the latter of whom joins the cast of Doctor Who in 2024.

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A promising six-part drama with a blackly comic edge, Truelove (Wednesday 3rd, Channel 4, 9pm) follows a group of septuagenarian friends as they engineer dignified deaths for each other. Better that than a slow decline into obsolescence. It’s co-written by Charlie Covell, who adapted graphic novel The End of the F***ing World for Channel 4 with considerable cult success. That should give you some idea of the tone. Last of the Summer Wine it ain’t.

Masters of the Air PIC: Courtesy of AppleMasters of the Air PIC: Courtesy of Apple
Masters of the Air PIC: Courtesy of Apple

A quick January streaming round-up to end with, then. The Brothers Sun (Friday 4th, Netflix) is a mordant comedy action series starring Micelle Yeoh as a gangster family matriarch, while Masters of the Air (Saturday 26th, Apple TV+) is a Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks-produced companion piece to Band of Brothers and The Pacific commemorating the World War Two endeavours of the US Army Air Force.

Happy new TV year, folks. Good luck, if you need some.