tue 12/12/2017

TV reviews, news & interviews

Blue Planet II, BBC One review - just how fragile?

Katherine Waters

The eel is dying. Its body flits through a series of complicated knots which become increasingly grotesque torques. Immersed in a pool of brine — concentrated salt water five times denser than seawater — it is succumbing to toxic shock. As biomatter on the sea floor of the Gulf of Mexico decomposes, brine and methane are produced, and where these saline pockets collect, nothing grows.

The best TV to watch this week

Theartsdesk

Sick of the early onset of Christmas? Just watch television instead (though preferably not the news). Try these out for size?Sunday 10 DecemberBlue Planet II, BBC One - 7th and final episode of David Attenborough's epic of the oceans, with disturbing evidence of the effects of man-made pollution, but also proof that fish stocks can be revived by suitable regulation.

The Crown, Series 2, Netflix review - all our...

Adam Sweeting

Beneath the creamy overlay of gowns, crystal chandeliers, palaces, uniformed flunkies and a sumptuous (albeit CGI-enhanced) Royal Yacht, a steely...

Howards End finale, BBC One review - who isn...

Jasper Rees

How good was Howards End (BBC One)? Practically flawless. Even if it broke into a bit of an action-packed sprint towards the dénouement, it’s been a...

Imagine... Rachel Whiteread: Ghosts in the Room,...

Sarah Kent

Eureka! A programme about a woman artist that doesn’t define her as a wife and mother first and an artist second. In fact, Rachel Whiteread’s husband...

The Farthest: Voyager's Interstellar Journey, BBC Four review - awe-inspiring and life-affirming space odyssey

Owen Richards

'Storyville' celebrates humanity’s most daring exploration into our solar system and beyond

'She has escaped from my Asylum!': The Woman in White returns

Jasper Rees

Two more versions of Wilkie Collins's thriller on stage and screen join a long rollcall

Witnesses: A Frozen Death, BBC Four review - plummeting temperatures in the Pas de Calais

Adam Sweeting

Multiple murders most sadistic in absorbing French thriller

Joe Orton Laid Bare, BBC Two review - charming look at theatre's irresistible upstart

Owen Richards

Talent and personality shine through the BBC's celebration of Orton's life and work

Godless, Netflix review – a proper wild west ride

Owen Richards

An excellent cast and engaging story make Godless far more than standard Western fare

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

Jasper Rees

All who got to the end of the draining telenovela deserve a medal. CONTAINS SPOILERS

Love, Lies & Records, BBC One review - Ashley Jensen too good to be true

Jasper Rees

Kay Mellor's city hall drama tries hard to please all parties

Peaky Blinders, series 4, BBC Two review - new threats, same thrills

Owen Richards

Opening episode brings another helping of violence and shocks

Motherland / Detectorists review - comedy classics go at their own pace

Barney Harsent

From fundraising cash to buried treasure, these BBC sitcoms are comedy gold

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

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.

Close Footnote

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters

latest in today

The Prince of Nothingwood review - come for the man, stay fo...

In the most unlikely of places, there is one of the world’s most prolific...

Chineke! Ensemble, RNCM, Manchester review - musical advocac...

The Chineke! Orchestra has won golden opinions for its ground-breaking work and musical achievement, and Manchester caught up to the extent of a...

DVD: A Journey Through French Cinema

Bertrand Tavernier’s trip through French cinema...

Bolshoi's controversial Nureyev ballet opens – to ovati...

Nureyev, the most notorious new production at the ...

Salonen conducts Sibelius, RFH/Oramo conducts Salonen, Barbi...

After Sakari Oramo's dazzling Sibelius rattlebag with the...

Cell Mates, Hampstead Theatre review - intriguing yet opaque

The play that famously got away when one of its stars (quite literally) jumped ship is back. In 1995, Stephen Fry abandoned the...

From Life, Royal Academy review - perplexingly aimless

Dedicated to a foundation stone of western artistic training, this exhibition attempts a celebratory note as the...

Blue Planet II, BBC One review - just how fragile?

The eel is dying. Its body flits through a series of complicated knots which become increasingly grotesque torques. Immersed in a pool of brine —...