fri 01/07/2016

TV reviews, news & interviews

Freud: Genius of the Modern World, BBC Four

Marina Vaizey

Recently the television historian Bettany Hughes, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, energetic, enthusiastic and rather astonished, has tramped across the continents on our behalf, making a clutch of hour-long documentary introductions to the individuals with the most profound influence on human society. For this third and final film (made in association with the Religion and Ethics department of the Open University), she had as her quarry the medical man whose insights, however intuitive rather than...

The Living and the Dead, BBC One

Adam Sweeting

This new series by Ashley Pharoah is dramatically different from his previous efforts in Ashes to Ashes and Life on Mars, though he still likes travelling though time. His method here was to saw off chunks of Far From the Madding Crowd, stir in some shavings from Henry James's The Turn of the Screw, and then, having donned protective clothing, to squirt in a distillation of The Exorcist. All that remained was to stand clear and watch the concoction explode.The story so far: it's 1894, and...

EU Referendum Results – BBC, ITV, Sky News

Barney Harsent

And so we come to the end of the most spiteful, divisive and downright deceitful political campaign in living memory. And while we’re on the Ds, I’ll...

The Good Wife, Series 7 Finale, More4

Adam Sweeting

It's amazing that they've managed to sustain The Good Wife over seven series and 156 episodes which have, by and large, maintained a standard of...

The South Bank Show: Joyce DiDonato, Sky Arts

Marina Vaizey

Take Rossini, Bellini and Donizetti, and add Handel and Mozart and the Frenchman Massenet, and you have the composers whose operas the Kansas-born...

The Border, Channel 4

Adam Sweeting

Polish border guard drama captures the zeitgeist

The Disappearance, BBC Four

Jasper Rees

French crime drama finally ditches the red herrings to keep it in the family

Eurotrash, Channel 4

Jasper Rees

Zut. The return of bent fruits, continental chortles and jiggling Euroflesh

Marx: Genius of the Modern World, BBC Four

Marina Vaizey

Bettany Hughes probes the legacy of the co-author of the Communist Manifesto

Guitar Star, Sky Arts / Outcast, Fox

Adam Sweeting

Rockers, jazzers, classicists and bluesniks compete for guitar stardom

New Blood, BBC One

Jasper Rees

Anthony Horowitz's moreish Big Pharma drama is light on its feet

Versailles, BBC Two

Mark Sanderson

Sex, scandal and lots of dressing up in historical Euro-romp

Cameron and Farage: Live, ITV

Barney Harsent

The big hitters from either side of the referendum debate lost to an impressive audience

Handmade: By Royal Appointment, BBC Four

Marina Vaizey

New series examines the renaissance of the artisan artefact

Wallander, Series 4 Finale, BBC One / Dicte: Crime Reporter, More4

Adam Sweeting

A gloomy farewell from Kenneth Branagh, and the arrival of Dicte Svendsen

Ben Building: Mussolini, Monuments and Modernism, BBC Four

Adam Sweeting

Il Duce gets the treatment in Jonathan Meades's gallery of great dictators

Revolution and Romance: Musical Masters of the 19th Century, BBC Four

Marina Vaizey

The birth of the notion of musician as superstar

The wisdom and wit of Carla Lane

Jasper Rees

The creator of 'The Liver Birds', 'Bread' and 'Butterflies' recalled in her own words

A Midsummer Night's Dream, BBC One

Matt Wolf

Russell T Davies's revisionist Shakespeare delivers on its own, often puckish terms

Top Gear, BBC Two

Matthew Wright

The starry partnership of Chris Evans and Matt LeBlanc misfires in series relaunch

Going Going Gone, BBC Four

Tom Birchenough

Nick Broomfield in elegiac mode holds out for history

Rovers, Sky1

Jasper Rees

Lo-fi football sitcom starring Craig Cash and Sue Johnston has its heart in the right place

Wallander, Series 4, BBC One

Adam Sweeting

Agreeable scenery can't compensate for feeble plot and unconvincing characters

The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses - Richard III, BBC Two

Matt Wolf

Benedict Cumberbatch chills in a notably bleak account of Shakespeare's crook-backed king

Antonia Bird: 'I get lumped together with Ken Loach'

Jasper Rees

The uncompromising director to whom a new feature-length documentary pays tribute

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

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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