sat 18/04/2015

TV reviews, news & interviews

BBC Young Dancer 2015, BBC Four

Hanna Weibye

Lest the BBC Four imprint prove not strong enough a signal, I'll say it loud and clear: don't go into this expecting Strictly, kids. On the evidence of last night's contemporary dance showdown, the first of four section finals, the brand new BBC Young Dancer competition is light years from the razzmatazz, sparkling scoreboards and celebrity judge infighting of the BBC One dance flagship.The first minutes offered the briefest sketch of contemporary dance's history and a couple of major...

Newzoids / Thunderbirds Are Go, ITV

Adam Sweeting

Who says satire is dead? After this, I would imagine just about everybody. According to Jon Culshaw, one of the prime movers in ITV's new puppet-CGI farrago Newzoids [*], this isn't just Spitting Image revisited because "the puppets have got more of a spikiness, more of an edgy exaggeration to them." You think? One other difference he forgot to mention was that Spitting Image was often really rather good.Where did it all go wrong? Of course, Spitting Image profited hugely...

Wild Ireland, ITV

Veronica Lee

“A place of ravishing beauty that would completely stop you in your tracks.” So said Christine Bleakley as she introduced the first episode of this...

Sex and the Church, BBC Two

Tom Birchenough

I’ve got no idea what the opposite of dumbing down might be. Swatting up? Whatever it is, it’s surely going to set the tone for the next couple of...

Code of a Killer, ITV

Jasper Rees

DNA: there’s a lot of it about. Random Googling reveals that, just in the past few days, a new study claims arachnophobia may be programmed into our...

Dennis Marks, 1948-2015

Mark Kidel

An arts and broadcasting giant who was an inspired head of music at the BBC

A Nation Divided? The Charlie Hebdo Aftermath, BBC Three

Adam Sweeting

Troubling investigation of the disaffection of French Muslims

The Ark, BBC One

Jasper Rees

Old Testament epic rendered as an animal-free northern soap

Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity, BBC Two

Fisun Güner

The presenter teases out the answers to the questions the viewer wants to ask

Coalition, Channel 4

Adam Sweeting

How traditional two-party politics was forced to confront the unthinkable

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Channel 4

Barney Harsent

The fantasy drama returns without much fantasy, or drama

Hillary Clinton: The Power of Women, BBC Two

Lisa-Marie Ferla

Awkward documentary draws few conclusions from a 20-year fight for women's rights

Storyville: Masterspy of Moscow - George Blake, BBC Four

Tom Birchenough

Intriguing espionage life-story of the British double-agent, and a brief encounter today

Written By Mrs Bach, BBC Four

Marina Vaizey

Did Anna Magdalena compose some of her husband's best-loved masterpieces?

Ordinary Lies, BBC One

Adam Sweeting

Car showroom saga makes a sluggish start

Raised by Wolves, Series One, Channel 4

Lisa-Marie Ferla

Caitlin Moran mixes fact and fiction with the help of her little sister

Nina Conti Clowning Around, BBC Four

Tom Birchenough

Ventriloquist fails to 'find' her clown, reduced to 'tears of...'

Britain's Racist Election, Channel 4

Matthew Wright

Recreation of cynically divisive campaign draws on nauseating archive footage

The Irish Rock Story: A Tale of Two Cities, BBC Four

Barney Harsent

Too many headline acts and too few supporting bands in this look at the Emerald Isle's rock history

Stop Cutting Our Girls: a Comic Relief Special, BBC Three

Lisa-Marie Ferla

Compelling documentary investigates FGM in the UK and Africa

In and Out of the Kitchen/BBC Four; Nurse/BBC Two

Veronica Lee

Two comedy transfers from Radio 4 fare differently

Sex, Lies and Love Bites: The Agony Aunt Story, BBC Four

Marina Vaizey

From lace gloves and corsets to sex, drugs and abortion

'Most of the time I play complete losers'

Jasper Rees

From the archive, an encounter with Hugh Bonneville as one of his finest roles at last appears on DVD

Poldark, BBC One

Adam Sweeting

Can this new version of Winston Graham's novels compete with its 1970s predecessor?

Boy George and Culture Club: From Karma to Calamity, BBC Four

Barney Harsent

The return of Eighties pop giants would be a sure-fire hit, if only they could nail the harmony

Banished, BBC Two

Jasper Rees

Jimmy McGovern's colonial convict drama grips from the off

Super-Powered Owls: Natural World, BBC Two

Marina Vaizey

Incredible secrets of the airborne nocturnal predators

Arthur and George, ITV

Matthew Wright

Conan Doyle is a bluff, romantic Holmes in ITV's splendidly thrilling three-parter

theartsdesk Q&A: Actress MyAnna Buring

Adam Sweeting

The Swedish-born doctor's daughter on her rapid rise from 'Kill List' and 'Twilight' to 'Downton', 'Ripper Street' and Jimmy McGovern's 'Banished'

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

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 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 gift subscription?


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

Carmen Disruption, Almeida Theatre

Simon Stephens’s new deconstruction of Bizet’s opera is strangely, feverish...

The Decent One

Documentary enters the toxic mind of SS Reichsführer Himmler

Alice's Adventures Underground, The Vaults

New subterranean Alice offers an engaging alternative journey

Classical CDs Weekly: CPE Bach, Busoni, Vivaldi

Sparky symphonies, 20th-century piano music and a ubiquitous Baroque work i...

The Pirates of Penzance, Touring

Where the maidens are men and every gag's a winner

BBC Young Dancer 2015, BBC Four

Impressive talents in remarkably gimmick-free Beeb competition

DiDonato, NYPO, Gilbert, Barbican

Sensual colours and spirited waltzes from the New York orchestra and its pr...

La Fille mal gardée, Royal Ballet

Ashton's pastoral comedy of love among the haystacks continues to thri...

CD: Passenger – Whispers II

Sequel album even more raw, spare and gritty, despite gentle folk-pop sound

We Made It: Digital Knitters Knyttan

Digital technology and craft principles creating one-off designs