tue 07/07/2015

TV reviews, news & interviews

Vet School, ITV

Marina Vaizey

The clinically white buildings of the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Medicine, nickname Dick Vet, are just outside Edinburgh, with departments for wildlife, exotic animals, domestic pets and large animals, from horses to cattle. It was founded by William Dick, a human anatomist, in 1823. It is among the top 10 such schools in the world, and came to worldwide fame by cloning Dolly the sheep.This octet of short programmes looking at the life of the school over the past several years examines...

A Song for Jenny, BBC One

Matthew Wright

Rev Julie Nicholson, bereaved by her daughter’s death in the 7/7 bombings, became known as the vicar who can’t forgive. Her 2010 memoir, also entitled A Song for Jenny, detailed the way her pain undermined her vocation, to the point where she gave up preaching the following year. Playwright Frank McGuinness has been working on this adaptation since the book was published, and in human terms, it’s superb. But it doesn’t have much to say about Julie’s faith: where it came from, and why her...

Rock 'n' Roll America, BBC Four

Barney Harsent

One, two, three o’clock, four o’clock rock… For those who orchestrated the swing from blues to rock ‘n’ roll, it’s getting late. Like the Chelsea...

Imagine... Jeff Koons: Diary of a Seducer, BBC One

Fisun Güner

Feelings. Whoa whoa whoa feeeelings. Just like that Morris Albert hit of the Seventies for star-crossed lovers everywhere, I lost count of the number...

Dan Cruickshank's Civilisation Under Attack...

Marina Vaizey

This was one of the most disturbing, terrifying and informative programmes imaginable, made more so by Dan Cruickshank’s calm demeanour as he...

Arena: Nicolas Roeg – It's About Time, BBC Four

Adam Sweeting

Absorbing portrait of one of British cinema's most influential directors

Pappano's Classical Voices, BBC Four

Marina Vaizey

Series about great opera singing begins with the queens of the high Cs

The Saboteurs, More4

Barney Harsent

Jaw-jaw not war-war makes for an involving and tense drama

Imagine... Frank Gehry: The Architect Says Why Can't I?, BBC One

Marina Vaizey

Portrait of the artist with a passion for questioning everything

True Detective, Series 2, Sky Atlantic

Adam Sweeting

Plenty of acting talent, but the story sounds strangely familiar

Black Work, ITV

Jasper Rees

Sheridan Smith elevates crime drama about undercover policing

La Traviata: Love, Death and Divas, BBC Two

Adam Sweeting

How Verdi's opera outraged Victorian London

Glastonbury Golden Greats, BBC Four

Barney Harsent

A musical montage that sacrificed spirit on the altar of showbiz

Thomas Chatterton: The Myth of the Doomed Poet, BBC Four

Jasper Rees

The original druggy young genius is brought back to life

Humans, Channel 4

Adam Sweeting

Ghost of 'Blade Runner' hovers over promising new sci-fi series

The Trainer and the Racehorse: The Legend of Frankel, Channel 4

Marina Vaizey

The emotional story of an extraordinary bond between man and steed

TFI Friday, Channel 4

Barney Harsent

The Nineties return for one night only. Aaaaaaand… cue spontaneous fun!

Stonemouth, BBC Two

Matthew Wright

Pacy and racy, but Iain Banks adaptation nearly trips over its own coincidences

Napoleon, BBC Two

Marina Vaizey

Historian Andrew Roberts analyses how the Little Corporal came to rule an empire of 40 million people

The Interceptor, BBC One

Jasper Rees

New crime caper introduces an all-action complicated cop hero

The Met: Policing London, BBC One

Adam Sweeting

Is this documentary just telling us what the Bill want us to hear?

The Truth About Your Teeth, BBC One

Jasper Rees

Grim tour of the nation's unlovely gnashers

Strike Back: Legacy, Sky1

Adam Sweeting

Action man fantasy goes to Thailand

The Syndicate, BBC One

Barney Harsent

Kay Mellor's latest instalment of her cautionary tale delivers a little differently

When Pop Ruled My Life, BBC Four

Jasper Rees

Study of obsessive fandom from the Beatles to One Direction is funny but sad

SunTrap, BBC One

Matthew Wright

Austin Powers meets Tim Vine meets a script of breathtaking flimsiness

Gotham, Series 1 Finale, Channel 5 / Daredevil, Netflix

Adam Sweeting

Comic book heroes battle for control of the small screen

1945: The Savage Peace, BBC Two

Tom Birchenough

The story of the cruel aftermath of war told in bruising documentary

Perspectives: War Art with Eddie Redmayne, ITV

Marina Vaizey

Oscar-winning actor proves that he did learn something as a Cambridge art history student

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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