wed 28/09/2016

TV reviews, news & interviews

Damned, Channel 4/ Morgana Robinson's The Agency, BBC Two

Veronica Lee

Damned (★★★) is the third comedy drama in what could be termed Jo Brand's social/healthcare triptych (after Getting On, set in a geriatric hospital ward, and Going Forward, in which she appeared as a care-home worker). Damned, in which she also stars, is set in a child protection social services unit.Co-created with Morwenna Banks (who appears as co-worker Ingrid), Damned follows in the tracks of Getting On and Going Forward by being low-key, dark-humoured and full of throwaway lines, but - on...

Kew's Forgotten Queen, BBC Four

Marina Vaizey

The indefatigable Victorian spinster Marianne North (1830-1890) is the most interesting artist you've never heard of. The upper-middle-class Ms North thought marriage a terrible experiment, and with her single state allowing her control of her fortune, she took to cultural and physical independence. Her rich landowner father, Frederick, MP for Hastings, knew everyone who was everyone, including Sir William Hooker, director of Kew. It was a visit to the gardens that turned his daughter’s...

Paranoid, ITV

Jasper Rees

They keep on coming, these crime dramas, from every direction. The Viking invasion continues, the co-productions with France, the ongoing American...

Brexit: A Very British Coup?, BBC Two

Barney Harsent

This look back at the events earlier this year when the country elected to buy a car, sight unseen – and from proven liars – to drive us into an...

Gaga for Dada: The Original Art Rebels, BBC Four

Florence Hallett

If you’ve had half an eye on BBC Four’s conceptual art week, you’ll have noticed that the old stuff is where it’s at, with Duchamp’s urinal making...

National Treasure, Channel 4

Adam Sweeting

Beloved entertainer helps the police with their inquiries

Bricks!, BBC Four

Marina Vaizey

Forty years on: the accidental furore around Carl Andre's work remembered

The Night Of, Sky Atlantic

Adam Sweeting

A dark voyage through the heart of American law and order

Natural World: Jaguars – Brazil's Super Cats, BBC Two

Marina Vaizey

Conservationists to the rescue of one of the world's most elusive animals

British Sitcom: 60 Years of Laughing at Ourselves

Veronica Lee

BBC Four documentary with too little time to examine a big subject

Absolutely Fashion: Inside British Vogue, BBC Two

Markie Robson-Scott

Richard Macer enters the elusive realm of frocks

Motherland, BBC Two

Veronica Lee

Promising pilot of comedy about middle-class parenting

Cold Feet, ITV

Jasper Rees

Mike Bullen's drama tackles midlife as if it's never been away

Poldark, Series 2, BBC One

Jasper Rees

Return of Cornish yarn low on pecs appeal as the drama heads for court

Narcos, Season 2, Netflix

Jasper Rees

Thrilling conclusion to the teeming saga of billionaire druglord Pablo Escobar

All Together Now: The Great Orchestra Challenge, BBC Four

Graham Rickson

Another 'Bake Off', with violins and trumpets

One of Us, BBC One

Mark Sanderson

The deaths continue - but new series from 'The Missing' writers frustrates

Victoria, ITV

Tom Birchenough

The young queen's innocence tested by plotting; downstairs antics aplenty

Fleabag, BBC Three

Jasper Rees

Phoebe Waller-Bridge's brilliant dark comedy about loneliness and grief

Ripper Street, Series 4, BBC Two

Mark Sanderson

A slow start back in Whitechapel: London busy before Jubilee

There's Something about Romcoms, Channel 4

Marina Vaizey

Thirty years of the romantic comedy remembered with wit by leading players

Kate Humble: My Sheepdog & Me, BBC Two

Jasper Rees

Charming investigation into canine identity

Preacher, Amazon Prime Video

Barney Harsent

Smart, funny and very violent: the Vertigo Comics classic hits the small screen

Versailles, Series Finale, BBC Two

Mark Sanderson

Francophone junk TV leaves us thirsting for more

Brexit: The Battle for Britain, BBC Two

Jasper Rees

Inside Out: Laura Kuenssberg tells the referendum story from soup to nuts

The Living and the Dead, Series Finale, BBC One

Adam Sweeting

Gripping conclusion to time-travelling supernatural thriller

The Girl from Ipanema: Brazil, Bossa Nova and the Beach, BBC Four

James Woodall

The song made famous by Astrud Gilberto is explored by Katie Derham

Masters of the Pacific Coast: The Tribes of the American Northwest, BBC Four

Marina Vaizey

Fascinating revelations about the rich culture of America's little-known peoples

Naked Attraction, Channel 4

Jasper Rees

New dating game in which contestants compete in their birthday suits

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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