mon 30/03/2015

TV reviews, news & interviews

Coalition, Channel 4

Adam Sweeting

Switched from last Thursday to accommodate the live standup gigs by Cast Iron Dave and "Tough Enough" Clint Miliband, this 90-minute drama took us back five years to the birth of the Conservative-Lib Dem pact. It purported to be based on "extensive research" and interviews with "people who were there", though there wasn't much that the average politico-freak wouldn't have known or surmised already. Some of the performances were fun though.Particularly relishable was Mark Gatiss's portrayal of...

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Channel 4

Barney Harsent

Warning! Spoilers ahead, etc… Bearing in mind the high-octane thrills of recent Marvel forays into cinema, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a surprisingly unshowy show. Some have taken this to be a good thing, though I suspect these people simply don’t like comic book adaptations or superheroes much. Me? I love comic-book characters – preferably covered in spandex and the sweat of battle. I want to see them have a massive scrap and fight personal demons along with extraterrestrial threats and...

Hillary Clinton: The Power of Women, BBC Two

Lisa-Marie Ferla

If the mark of a good documentary is that it teaches you something new, then the awkwardly titled Hillary Clinton: The Power of Women was a very good...

Storyville: Masterspy of Moscow - George Blake,...

Tom Birchenough

“The righteous traitor” must be as provocative a subtitle as any when the subject is espionage. Director George Carey nevertheless used it in this...

Written By Mrs Bach, BBC Four

Marina Vaizey

The Australian musician and musicologist Martin Jarvis, connected with Charles Darwin University in the Northern Territory, has been obsessed for the...

Ordinary Lies, BBC One

Adam Sweeting

Car showroom saga makes a sluggish start

Raised by Wolves, Series One, Channel 4

Lisa-Marie Ferla

Caitlin Moran mixes fact and fiction with the help of her little sister

Nina Conti Clowning Around, BBC Four

Tom Birchenough

Ventriloquist fails to 'find' her clown, reduced to 'tears of...'

Britain's Racist Election, Channel 4

Matthew Wright

Recreation of cynically divisive campaign draws on nauseating archive footage

The Irish Rock Story: A Tale of Two Cities, BBC Four

Barney Harsent

Too many headline acts and too few supporting bands in this look at the Emerald Isle's rock history

Stop Cutting Our Girls: a Comic Relief Special, BBC Three

Lisa-Marie Ferla

Compelling documentary investigates FGM in the UK and Africa

In and Out of the Kitchen/BBC Four; Nurse/BBC Two

Veronica Lee

Two comedy transfers from Radio 4 fare differently

Sex, Lies and Love Bites: The Agony Aunt Story, BBC Four

Marina Vaizey

From lace gloves and corsets to sex, drugs and abortion

'Most of the time I play complete losers'

Jasper Rees

From the archive, an encounter with Hugh Bonneville as one of his finest roles at last appears on DVD

Poldark, BBC One

Adam Sweeting

Can this new version of Winston Graham's novels compete with its 1970s predecessor?

Boy George and Culture Club: From Karma to Calamity, BBC Four

Barney Harsent

The return of Eighties pop giants would be a sure-fire hit, if only they could nail the harmony

Banished, BBC Two

Jasper Rees

Jimmy McGovern's colonial convict drama grips from the off

Super-Powered Owls: Natural World, BBC Two

Marina Vaizey

Incredible secrets of the airborne nocturnal predators

Arthur and George, ITV

Matthew Wright

Conan Doyle is a bluff, romantic Holmes in ITV's splendidly thrilling three-parter

theartsdesk Q&A: Actress MyAnna Buring

Adam Sweeting

The Swedish-born doctor's daughter on her rapid rise from 'Kill List' and 'Twilight' to 'Downton', 'Ripper Street' and Jimmy McGovern's 'Banished'

Pompidou, BBC Two

Veronica Lee

Few laughs in Matt Lucas's almost silent sitcom

Wolf Hall, Series Finale, BBC Two

Jasper Rees

Superb drama from another age reaches its chilling endgame

Picasso: Love, Sex and Art, BBC Four

Fisun Güner

Picasso's women and the role they played in his work

The South Bank Show: Mark Rylance, Sky Arts 1

Adam Sweeting

Lord Bragg explores an actor's life

Hostages, BBC Four

Tom Birchenough

Tension runs high in Israeli original of television drama we know already

Reinventing the Royals, BBC Two

Adam Sweeting

Belated arrival of the story they tried to ban

Saints and Sinners: Britain's Millennium of Monasteries, BBC Four

Florence Hallett

Dr Janina Ramirez throws light on the Dark Ages

The Romanians Are Coming, Channel 4

Tom Birchenough

Immigration story told from the inside - comedy unexpected

UKIP: The First 100 Days, Channel 4

Florence Hallett

A restrained but chillingly plausible cautionary tale

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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