sun 26/03/2017

TV reviews, news & interviews

Paula Rego: Secrets and Stories review - 'in pictures you can let all your rage out'

Sarah Kent

“My mother has always been a bit of a mystery to me not only as an artist but also as a mum,” declares Nick Willing by way of introduction to his film for BBC Two on the painter Paula Rego, who turned 82 in January. What follows is as far removed from a traditional biopic as you could hope to find. 

Syria’s Disappeared review - 'must-watch can't-look record of Assad's atrocities'

Jasper Rees

“The following images are extremely graphic.” The words appeared in white lettering against a black background, two-thirds of the way in. For the next minute, the screen filled with photographs of naked, emaciated corpses, some with crude writing across their bodies, others with labels affixed to foreheads. The eyes of one were gouged out; another’s mouth gaped open as if emitting a final scream of terror.

Puerto Rico: Island of Enchantment – Natural...

Marina Vaizey

The soothing voice of David Attenborough narrated this cautionary tale, which is improbably heading not for a happy ending but a happy new beginning...

SS–GB, Series Finale, BBC One

Adam Sweeting

In the end, SS-GB promised more than it could deliver, but it still left us with some memorable images (not least in the cleverly-crafted opening...

The Last Kingdom, Series 2, BBC Two

Adam Sweeting

It was the end of 2015 when we last rode out through the mud and blood of Saxon England with King Alfred and his doughty battlefield dynamo Uhtred,...

Midnight Sun, Sky Atlantic

Mark Sanderson

Multinational mayhem inside the Arctic Circle

Big Little Lies, Sky Atlantic

Adam Sweeting

Murder and social one-upmanship in paradise

War Child, Channel 4

Jasper Rees

Harrowing, uplifting documentary follows resourceful refugee children fleeing wars to reach Germany

Back in the Line of Duty

Adam Sweeting

Jed Mercurio's fiendishly-wrought police thriller comes to BBC One

Mutiny, Channel 4

Jasper Rees

Modern masculinity in crisis measures itself against history's maritime survivors

Prime Suspect 1973, ITV

Jasper Rees

Can the polite young Jane Tennison in this prequel really turn into Helen Mirren?

Dispatches: Under Lock and Key, Channel 4

Saskia Baron

Disturbing documentary about life inside a hospital for people with learning disabilities or autism

The Replacement, BBC One

Adam Sweeting

Unsisterly goings-on in the exciting world of architecture

Meet the Lords, BBC Two

Adam Sweeting

Was it really wise to let TV cameras loose inside 'the other place'?

Broadchurch, Series 3, ITV

Adam Sweeting

Odd-couple cops tackle their final case on the Dorset coast

10 Questions for TV Producers Stan Lee and Gill Champion

Ralph Moore

The Marvel Comics legend and his production partner talk 'Lucky Man', London and longevity

The Swingers, Channel 4

Jasper Rees

In Dutch it was called 'The Neighbours'. Does the translated title deliver?

Roots, BBC Four

David Nice

Kunta Kinte and his family rivet attention again in well-cast, finely filmed miniseries

The Halcyon, Series 1 Finale, ITV

Mark Sanderson

In which some scores are settled and the Luftwaffe takes a hand

Storyville: Life, Animated, BBC Four

Saskia Baron

Insightful documentary about an autistic young man connecting with the world through Disney animations

SS–GB, BBC One

Adam Sweeting

Len Deighton dramatisation depicts the terrors of enemy occupation

Tom Waits: Tales from a Cracked Jukebox, BBC Four

Liz Thomson

The musical life and times of 'an ordinary guy with a gruff voice'

The Kettering Incident, Sky Atlantic

Mark Sanderson

Noises off and incomprehensible goings-on Down Under

Life of a Mountain: A Year on Blencathra, BBC Four

Jasper Rees

Panoramic homage to a lesser-known Cumbrian peak

10 Questions for Actor Conleth Hill

Jasper Rees

He's George to Imelda's Martha, Varys in 'Game of Thrones', and an acting genius

Andrew Marr: 'I don’t want to look like I'm in pain'

Saskia Baron

Filmmaker Liz Allen explains how she persuaded a wary political journalist to let down his guard

Arena: Alone with Chrissie Hynde, BBC Four

Adam Sweeting

Reclusive rock'n'roller doesn't give much away

Unforgotten – Series 2 Finale, ITV / After Brexit: The Battle for Europe, BBC Two

Adam Sweeting

Historic crime unravelled, and the EU's existential crisis

The Moorside, BBC One

Mark Sanderson

Sheridan Smith excels in the story of the missing girl who wasn't really missing

Footnote: a brief history of British TV

You could almost chart the history of British TV by following the career of ITV's Coronation Street, as it has ridden 50 years of social change, seen off would-be rivals, survived accusations of racism and learned to live alongside the BBC's EastEnders. But no single programme, or even strand of programmes, can encompass the astonishing diversity and creativity of TV-UK since BBC TV was officially born in 1932.

Nostalgists lament the demise of single plays like Ken Loach's Cathy Come Home or Mike Leigh's Abigail's Party, but drama series like The Jewel in the Crown, Edge of Darkness, Our Friends in the North, State of Play, the original Upstairs Downstairs or Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy will surely loom larger in history's rear-view mirror, while perhaps Julian Fellowes' surprise hit, Downton Abbey, heralds a new wave of the classic British costume drama. For that matter, indestructible comic creations like George Cole's Arthur Daley in Minder, Nigel Hawthorne's Sir Humphrey in Yes Minister, the Steptoes, Arthur Lowe and co in Dad's Army, John Cleese's Fawlty Towers or Only Fools and Horses insinuate themselves between the cracks of British life far more persuasively than the most earnest television documentary (at which Britain has become world-renowned).

British sci-fi will never out-gloss Hollywood monoliths like Battlestar Galactica, but Nigel Kneale's Quatermass stories are still influential 60 years later, and the reborn Doctor Who has been a creative coup for the BBC. British series from the Sixties like The Avengers, Patrick McGoohan's bizarre brainchild The Prisoner or The Saint (with the young Roger Moore) have bounced back as major influences on today's Hollywood, and re-echo through the BBC's enduringly successful Spooks.

Meanwhile, though British comedy depends more on maverick inspiration than the sleek industrialisation deployed by US television, that didn't stop Monty Python from becoming a global legend, or prevent Ricky Gervais being adopted as an American mascot. True, you might blame British TV (and Simon Cowell) for such monstrosities as The X Factor or Britain's Got Talent, but the entire planet has lapped them up. And we can console ourselves that Britain also gave the world Jacob Bronowski's The Ascent of Man, David Attenborough's epic nature series Life on Earth and The Blue Planet, as well as Kenneth Clark's Civilisation. The Arts Desk brings you overnight reviews and news of the best (and worst) of TV in Britain. Our writers include Adam Sweeting, Jasper Rees, Veronica Lee, Alexandra Coghlan, Fisun Güner, Josh Spero and Gerard Gilbert.

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