tue 25/10/2016

TV reviews, news & interviews

Cold Feet, Series Finale, ITV


In the end, what makes a good drama series? It’s probably that you want more of it. This is the end of Cold Feet until a next time which has already been promised, and more is certainly what’s wanted. No one was quite sure if a reincarnation of Cold Feet was a good idea eight episodes ago. Back when the characters were in their 30s the show slowly turned into a bit of a weight round its own neck. Fay Ripley opted out of one season. Helen Baxendale was written out of another. The show began...

Aberfan: The Green Hollow, BBC Four


Television is not a medium we much associate with any sense of the "sacred". It grapples with "momentous" frequently enough, in snatches of news tragically reported; it rings in, and out, the history that defines our lives. We may debate, equally, whether the small screen is replacing the big one as the bringer of what was once considered cinema art. But for that far most elusive thing, the miraculously elevated experience shared across a nation, and somehow revalidated by that breadth of...

Ordinary Lies, Series 2, BBC One


The concept is somewhere between single drama and series: to stay in one place while shifting focus from one character to another. Paul Abbott did it...

Paxman on Trump v Clinton: Divided America, BBC...

Marina Vaizey

Could Jeremy Paxman explain the inexplicable, so that viewers could begin to understand the meaning of the astonishing theatre that is the 2016...

Tutankhamun, ITV

Adam Sweeting

Freshly minted for ITV's Golden Age of Empire slot on Sunday nights, this new four-parter breezily splices together Edwardian derring-do toffery with...

The Missing, Series 2, BBC One

Adam Sweeting

How much doom and despondency do you really need?

Divorce, Sky Atlantic


Sarah Jessica Parker and Sharon Horgan are a marriage made in heaven

Victoria, Series Finale, ITV


Jenna Coleman and Tom Hughes were made for each other in classy dynastic romp

The Apprentice, Series 12, BBC One

Matthew Wright

New contestants just as full of bullshit and bluster

A World Without Down's Syndrome?, BBC Two


Sally Phillips ponders the ethics of prenatal screening in a passionate documentary

Westworld, Sky Atlantic

Adam Sweeting

Boy, have they got a vacation for you

Louis Theroux: Savile, BBC Two


Little light, but powerful television, as Louis Theroux dealt with Jimmy Savile a second time

Oasis in Their Own Words, BBC iPlayer

Bernadette McNulty

Gallagher brothers career overview in soundbites from a long time ago

Crisis in Six Scenes, Amazon Prime


Woody Allen knocks out all the old tunes starring in his first ever TV series

Hip Hop World News, BBC Four

Joe Muggs

Want to know the old-man rap consensus? We've got just the show for you

The Fall, Series 3, BBC Two

Adam Sweeting

Too much sympathy for the devil?

Damned, Channel 4/ Morgana Robinson's The Agency, BBC Two

Veronica Lee

Social comedy and sketch impressions

Kew's Forgotten Queen, BBC Four

Marina Vaizey

How Marianne North mastered the art of capturing nature

Paranoid, ITV


Hectic northern crime drama starring Lesley Sharp and Indira Varma lacks characters

Brexit: A Very British Coup?, BBC Two

Barney Harsent

A look back at recent events helps to get clarity, but not closure

Gaga for Dada: The Original Art Rebels, BBC Four

Florence Hallett

Inspiring student pranks and political satire, Dada is the lifeblood of 20th century culture

National Treasure, Channel 4

Adam Sweeting

Beloved entertainer helps the police with their inquiries

Bricks!, BBC Four

Marina Vaizey

Forty years on: the accidental furore around Carl Andre's work remembered

The Night Of, Sky Atlantic

Adam Sweeting

A dark voyage through the heart of American law and order

Natural World: Jaguars – Brazil's Super Cats, BBC Two

Marina Vaizey

Conservationists to the rescue of one of the world's most elusive animals

British Sitcom: 60 Years of Laughing at Ourselves

Veronica Lee

BBC Four documentary with too little time to examine a big subject

Absolutely Fashion: Inside British Vogue, BBC Two

Markie Robson-Scott

Richard Macer enters the elusive realm of frocks

Motherland, BBC Two

Veronica Lee

Promising pilot of comedy about middle-class parenting

Cold Feet, ITV


Mike Bullen's drama tackles midlife as if it's never been away

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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