fri 28/07/2017

TV reviews, news & interviews

Top of the Lake: China Girl, BBC Two review - thrillingly murky

Jasper Rees

In the riveting first series of Top of the Lake, it was personal for Down Under detective Robin Griffin. She headed to a hilly corner of New Zealand to be around for the death of her mother while looking into the disappearance of a young girl.

Against the Law, BBC Two review - uplifting and deeply moving

David Benedict

The thing almost no one remembers about the great Nora Ephron/Rob Reiner 1989 romcom When Harry Met Sally is that the love story is intercut with real couples talking to camera about the mechanics and longevity of their true-life loves. It shouldn’t work, but it does. Remarkably, Fergus O’Brien’s deeply moving BBC film Against the Law, armed with far darker material, pulls off the self-same trick. Surprising though that may sound – this is a drama about fear and loathing in 1950s Britain – it...

Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy, ITV...

Adam Sweeting

The death of Princess Diana 20 years ago had an extraordinary emotional effect on millions of people who had never met her, so what on earth must it...

Olivia Williams interview: 'Are you on drugs...

Jasper Rees

Olivia Williams’s first film was, (in)famously, seen by almost no one. The Postman, Kevin Costner’s expensive futuristic misfire, may have summoned...

It's So Easy and Other Lies, Sky Arts review...

Barney Harsent

Duff McKagan is a survivor. He’s a bass player too, from the fledgling Seattle punk/proto-grunge outfit 10 Minute Warning to the stadium-filling...

The best TV to watch this week


What to watch and where to find it

Fearless, Series Finale, ITV review - big build-up to an anticlimax

Adam Sweeting

Fearless human rights lawyer battles increasingly improbable conspiracy

Game of Thrones, Series 7, Sky Atlantic review – slow, but it's just the beginning

Adam Sweeting

The fate of the Seven Kingdoms is hanging in the balance

I Know Who You Are, BBC Four review - preposterous but hypnotic

Jasper Rees

Involving Spanish legal drama flouts the concept of conflict of interest

'I were crap at school': Jodie Whittaker, the new Doctor Who

Jasper Rees

She made her debut opposite Peter O'Toole, faced down aliens in Peckham, and has Yorkshire vowels as flat as caps

Enter theartsdesk's Young Reviewer of the Year Award


In association with The Hospital Club's h.Club 100 Awards, we're launching a new competition to find a brilliant young critic

Orange Is the New Black, Season 5, Netflix review - counterpoint in a three-day prison riot

David Nice

Jenji Kohan's drama narrows the time span but enriches its characters and storylines

GLOW, Netflix review - not quite comedy or drama

Jasper Rees

Wrestling show fakes OITNB's moves

In the Dark, BBC One review - missing girls mystery promises hidden depths

Mark Sanderson

Very bad things in rain-sodden Derbyshire

Grandad, Dementia and Me, BBC One review - no easy solutions to terrifying mental condition

Marina Vaizey

Sensitive account of one man's personality-changing decline

Broken, BBC One series finale review - Seán Bean's quiet immensity

Jasper Rees

Jimmy McGovern's portrait of the Catholic church in crisis ends in moving redemption

50 Shades of Gay, Channel 4 review - no better place in the world to be gay?

Mark Sanderson

Sparkly snapshot of Britain 50 years after homosexuality was decriminalised

Melvyn Bragg on TV, BBC Two review – too many talking heads, too little action

Adam Sweeting

'The Box That Changed the World' makes laborious viewing

Sudan: The Last of the Rhinos, BBC Two review - requiem for disappearing wildlife

Adam Sweeting

Scientists fight a rearguard action against animal extinction

Who Should We Let In? Ian Hislop on the First Great Immigration Row, review – how history repeats itself

Barney Harsent

The Private Eye editor's eye-opening examination of our attitudes to immigration, past and present

Chance, Universal review – Hugh Laurie is reborn as a film-noir shrink

Adam Sweeting

Dr House finds a new home in San Francisco

Ripper Street, BBC Two, Series 5 review – apocalypse looms in Victorian Whitechapel

Adam Sweeting

Not so much a police series as a laboratory of lost souls

Murdered For Being Different, BBC Three review - unbearable but unmissable

Jasper Rees

Sophie Lancaster, killed for being a goth, is at the heart of the online channel's latest real-life dramatisation

Riviera, Sky Atlantic review - codswallop on the Côte d'Azur

Mark Sanderson

Sun, sex, sleaze and Eurotrash

Fearless, ITV review - Helen McCrory lights up dense conspiracy thriller

Jasper Rees

Tough human rights lawyer enters the crosshairs of the secret state

The Loch, ITV review - hokum shrouded in Scotch mist

Mark Sanderson

New murder mystery is a Loch Ness monstrosity

Poldark, Series 3, BBC One review - tempestuous passions and pantomime villains ride again

Adam Sweeting

Screenwriter Debbie Horsfield has got the formula down to a tee

Summer of Love: How Hippies Changed the World review - the weird and wonderful roots of the Sixties counterculture

Adam Sweeting

BBC Four reveals the secrets of the mind-expanding summer of '67

Election Night 2017, BBC One, ITV, Channel 4, Sky News

Barney Harsent

May's massive miscalculation let Corbyn's costed commitments gain ground

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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