mon 20/11/2017

TV reviews, news & interviews

The best TV to watch this week


Bored with the great outdoors? So curl up in front of the telly with slippers, spaniel, chardonnay etc. We sift the schedules for youMonday 20 November

I Know Who You Are, series 2 finale, BBC Four review - Spanish drama literally took no prisoners

Jasper Rees

So, if you’re reading this you probably trudged all the weary way to the very end of I Know Who You Are. Or you didn’t but still want to find out what the hell happened. After 20-plus hours of twisting, turning, overblown drama, long-service medals are in order for all who flopped over the line.

Love, Lies & Records, BBC One review - Ashley...

Jasper Rees

Love, Lies & Records (BBC One) is one of those bathetic titles that are very Yorkshire. See also Last Tango in Halifax, which didn’t do badly....

Peaky Blinders, series 4, BBC Two review - new...

Owen Richards

BBC Two’s flagship crime drama Peaky Blinders returns for another guilty dose of slo-mo walking, flying sparks and anachronistic soundtracks. In the...

Motherland / Detectorists review - comedy...

Barney Harsent

As Motherland settles down into its first series proper after last year’s pilot, it still seems to be going at a fair gallop. For those of you who...

Storyville: Toffs, Queers and Traitors, BBC Four review - the spy who was a scamp

Tom Birchenough

Fascinating portrait of Guy Burgess - charm, intelligence, and fantastic self-destruction

Howards End, BBC One review - EM Forster adaptation is finding its footing

Matt Wolf

The Schlegel sisters are back, but Julia Ormond (so far) steals the show

theartsdesk Q&A: Steven Knight and Cillian Murphy of Peaky Blinders

Ralph Moore

As the fourth series approaches, its star and creator explain the process behind the hit drama

Trump: An American Dream/Angry, White and American, Channel 4 review - a timely look at Trump and the causes of Trump

Barney Harsent

A sober reflection on the US president and the people who put him in the White House

The A Word, Series 2, BBC One review - is it turning into 'Emmerdale' with a twist of autism?

Saskia Baron

Return of the popular drama about everyday Cumbrian folk dealing with an autistic child

Douglas Henshall: 'You can get stuck when you’ve been in the business for 30 years' - interview

Jasper Rees

The Scottish actor on the National Theatre staging of 'Network' and going back to Shetland

Babylon Berlin, Sky Atlantic review – brilliantly promising Euro-noir

Owen Richards

Pre-Nazi Berlin comes alive in this big-budget tale of scheming, sex and violence

I Know Who You Are, Series 2, BBC Four review - get on with it, por favor

Jasper Rees

Interrupted crime melodrama grinds on with mounting implausibilities

Queen: Rock the World, BBC Four review - we won't rock you

Jasper Rees

Unseen footage of Queen 40 years on explains why punk was a necessary antidote

Strike Back, Series 6, Sky 1 review - more stories for boys

Adam Sweeting

Gung-ho special forces yarn charges back into action

66 Days, BBC Four review - Bobby Sands strikes again

Tom Birchenough

Packed documentary tells story of the IRA prisoner as man and myth

Inspector George Gently, BBC One review - power, corruption and lies in his last-ever case

Mark Sanderson

No more friends in the North East

W1A, Series 3 Finale, BBC Two review - the satire gets to the end of its joke

Barney Harsent

Funny but flat, the BBC mockumentary struggled with engagement

Newsnight: Grenfell Tower - The 21st Floor, BBC Two review - a simple, moving reconstruction

Jasper Rees

A powerful Newsnight special keeps the dead and the survivors in the public eye

Jacqueline du Pré: A Gift Beyond Words, BBC Four review - ode to joyful cellist

Peter Quantrill

More gush than grit in a greatest-hits compilation from the filmmaker who knew her best

Gunpowder, BBC One review – death, horror, treason and a hint of farce

Adam Sweeting

Dark and Gothicky treatment of the plot to blow up Parliament

Chris Packham: Asperger's and Me, BBC Two review - 'like an alien from another planet'

Marina Vaizey

How the nature broadcaster copes with life on the spectrum

George Michael: Freedom, Channel 4 review - just a supersized commercial?

Adam Sweeting

Much-anticipated official documentary fails to deliver

Jonas Kaufmann: Tenor for the Ages, BBC Four review - a musical megastar with sword and shortbread

Jessica Duchen

John Bridcut's portrait is beautifully made, but gives little away beyond the public laughter

David Oakes: 'I haven’t done anything as bad as my characters'

Jasper Rees

The actor stars opposite Natalie Dormer in Venus in Fur. Why is he always exploring the dark side?

Lucy Worsley's Nights at the Opera, BBC Two review - there's anti-elitism, and there's infantilism

Jasper Rees

The poshies' art form explained by use of the dressing-up box and the toy box

Russia 1917: Countdown to Revolution, BBC Two review - words stronger than pictures 100 years on

Jasper Rees

Historians compete to tell their version of events, while dramatic reconstructions add little

Snowfall, BBC Two review - blizzard hits South Central

Adam Sweeting

Multi-layered view of LA's 1980s crack epidemic

Black Lake, Series Finale, BBC Four review – Nordic noir comes to an unsatisfying end

Barney Harsent

Poorly paced and badly scripted, this Swedish horror didn't have a ghost of a chance

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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