mon 29/08/2016

TV reviews, news & interviews

Fleabag, BBC Three

Jasper Rees

Have you seen Fleabag yet? If not, here’s the one-word review: brilliant. You need three hours to watch the lot on the iPlayer, which is BBC Three’s main address these days. Do come back afterwards and read this longer appreciation, which contains spoilers.So, Fleabag. Brilliant. It was written by and stars Phoebe Waller-Bridge as the eponymous singleton, and began life as a fringe play at Edinburgh before moving south. Like Miranda it features a dark-haired single woman making confiding asides...

Ripper Street, Series 4, BBC Two

Mark Sanderson

H Division has a new home in Whitechapel that basks in the white heat of the technological revolution. The police station not only has a telephone but a “microreader” that allows the user to check thousands of miniaturised card indexes. Alas, a wry smile is all the viewer is likely to get from this opening episode of the fourth season. Nothing happens until the last ten minutes.When it was originally broadcast on Amazon Prime, Ripper Street 4 began with a two-hour episode. Terrestrial viewers...

There's Something about Romcoms, Channel 4

Marina Vaizey

Ever since Britain shipped Cary Grant across the Atlantic, the romcom has been a transatlantic English-language staple. This spirited and hilarious...

Kate Humble: My Sheepdog & Me, BBC Two

Jasper Rees

There is a grand ongoing project in Wales at the moment, the goal of which is to hunt for the deep ancestral DNA of the Welsh people. CymruDNAWales...

Preacher, Amazon Prime Video

Barney Harsent

If you’re going to go toe-to-toe with Daredevil and Jessica Jones, the first two series in Netflix’s supremely realised and blood-spattered depiction...

Versailles, Series Finale, BBC Two

Mark Sanderson

Francophone junk TV leaves us thirsting for more

Brexit: The Battle for Britain, BBC Two

Jasper Rees

Inside Out: Laura Kuenssberg tells the referendum story from soup to nuts

The Living and the Dead, Series Finale, BBC One

Adam Sweeting

Gripping conclusion to time-travelling supernatural thriller

The Girl from Ipanema: Brazil, Bossa Nova and the Beach, BBC Four

James Woodall

The song made famous by Astrud Gilberto is explored by Katie Derham

Masters of the Pacific Coast: The Tribes of the American Northwest, BBC Four

Marina Vaizey

Fascinating revelations about the rich culture of America's little-known peoples

Naked Attraction, Channel 4

Jasper Rees

New dating game in which contestants compete in their birthday suits

Saddam Goes to Hollywood, Channel 4 / Keith Richards: The Origin of the Species, BBC Two

Adam Sweeting

Drunkenness and debauchery with Oliver Reed in Saddam Hussein's Iraq

Imagine... Danger! Cornelia Parker, BBC One

Marina Vaizey

The artist who destroys things in order to create new ones

The Secret Agent, BBC One

Adam Sweeting

Joseph Conrad swamped in melodrama and turgid music

The Hunter, All4

Matthew Wright

Glossy, superficial and cartoonish – you may be hunting for the remote

The Banker's Guide to the Art Market, BBC Four

Florence Hallett

Not comedy, not documentary and offering some very poor advice

The Job Interview/My Worst Job, Channel 4

Barney Harsent

Flashes of promise, but mixed results for Channel 4's inconsistent CV

The Secret Life of Children's Books, BBC Four

Marina Vaizey

The Victorian fairy tale that influenced social reform

19-2, Spike

Mark Sanderson

Variation on cop buddy drama unfolds on the clean streets of Montreal

Brief Encounters, ITV

Jasper Rees

Penelope Wilton sells sex toys in the foundation myth of Ann Summers

Freud: Genius of the Modern World, BBC Four

Marina Vaizey

Dr Freud takes his turn in the psychiatrist's chair

The Living and the Dead, BBC One

Adam Sweeting

Enlightenment battles superstition in this new historical chiller

EU Referendum Results – BBC, ITV, Sky News

Barney Harsent

In an evening of unexpected victories, Sky News did surprisingly well

The Good Wife, Series 7 Finale, More4

Adam Sweeting

Outstanding legal drama draws to a not-quite-perfect close

The South Bank Show: Joyce DiDonato, Sky Arts

Marina Vaizey

Not in Kansas any more – the mezzo who conquered the world

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

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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