sat 28/05/2016

TV reviews, news & interviews

Going Going Gone, BBC Four

Tom Birchenough

In Going Going Gone Nick Broomfield was fighting to get access all over again – but it wasn’t exactly the same kind of challenge he’d faced with Sarah Palin or some of his previous targets. Doors were closed, but the keepers of the keys here were anonymous local council functionaries, or the “media department” of Cardiff docks (who’d have known?). Broomfield seemed bemused more than anything else when told he couldn’t just turn up and film in the latter’s public spaces; of course, he kept the...

Rovers, Sky1

Jasper Rees

Football seeps into every cranny of British culture, but it's hard to name a great comedy or drama about the game of two halves. The history of fictionalised football is mainly a catalogue of failure. The liveliest portraits of the game have come at it from the female perspective – The Manageress, or Footballers’ Wives, or Bend It Like Beckham – or at an oblique angle such as Ken Loach’s Looking for Eric, or from another source altogether in the case of David Peace’s novel The Damned United....

Wallander, Series 4, BBC One

Adam Sweeting

Having enjoyed so many Scandinavian dramas created in their own homelands, it feels like taking a step backwards to return (for its final series) to...

The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses - Richard...

Matt Wolf

Benedict Cumberbatch, it turns out, was born to play the blasted, blighted Richard III, as one might expect from an actor whose long-term...

Antonia Bird: 'I get lumped together with...

Jasper Rees

Antonia Bird died in 2013 at the age of 62. The last television drama with her name on it was the first series of The Village, but the career which...

Love, Nina, BBC One

Mark Sanderson

Culture clash and class collision in bohemian north London

Grayson Perry: All Man, Channel 4

Jasper Rees

More whimper than bang as insightful series on modern masculinity ends in the City

Marcella, Series Finale, ITV

Adam Sweeting

London-based Scandi noir avoids Stockholm syndrome

David Attenborough's Zoo Quest in Colour, BBC Four

Marina Vaizey

Amazing archive film from the pioneer days of wildlife film-making

Undercover, Series Finale, BBC One

Jasper Rees

Implausible drama about institutional racism in the UK and US had its heart in the right place

Mum, BBC Two

Jasper Rees

Lesley Manville is surrounded by gargoyles in a gentle comedy about widowhood

Billions, Sky Atlantic

Mark Sanderson

New power-and-money drama is smart and slick, sleazy and cheesy

Cunk on Shakespeare, BBC Two

Matthew Wright

Charlie Brooker's satirical presenter is pitch-perfect

Upstart Crow, BBC Two

Veronica Lee

Superb Ben Elton sitcom about Shakespeare

The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses - Henry VI Part 1, BBC Two

Adam Sweeting

A black storm rises in the court of the English king

The Windsors, Channel 4

Veronica Lee

Gloriously rude spoof of the royals

Peaky Blinders, Series 3, BBC Two

Adam Sweeting

Further down the road to perdition with Tommy Shelby and family

Thicker than Water, Series Finale, More4

Mark Sanderson

Scandi midsummer murders sets us up for series two

The Silk Road, BBC Four

Marina Vaizey

How 2,000-year-old trade routes carried merchandise, ideas and inventions between Europe and China

Line of Duty, Series 3 Finale, BBC Two

Jasper Rees

Vicki McClure takes charge in pulsating showdown to round off gripping series

Mary Beard's Ultimate Rome: Empire without Limit, BBC Two

Marina Vaizey

How did all the roads in the ancient world end up leading to Rome?

Louis Theroux: Drinking to Oblivion, BBC Two

Adam Sweeting

Sympathetic documentary throws new light on a woefully familiar topic

Arena: All the World's a Screen – Shakespeare on Film, BBC Four

Mark Sanderson

How the Bard has become part of our collective movie memory

Blue Eyes, Episode 5, More4

Mark Sanderson

Racism, mutual mistrust and murder in fraught Swedish drama

Elizabeth at 90: A Family Tribute, BBC One

Marina Vaizey

Slightly wearisome jog down memory lane with the royal home movies

Victoria Wood: 'Please could you repeat the question?'

Jasper Rees

She was the most gifted comedian of her generation, male or female

Tom Jones's 1950s: The Decade That Made Me, BBC Two / Jim Carter: Lonnie Donegan and Me, ITV

Adam Sweeting

Veteran entertainers recall the music that changed their lives

Normal for Norfolk, BBC Two

Jasper Rees

Posh doc about East Anglian farmer clinging to the wreckage provides blameless fun

The Tunnel: Sabotage, Sky Atlantic

Mark Sanderson

Franglais 'tecs battle baffling epidemic of Euro-crime

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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