tue 25/04/2017

TV reviews, news & interviews

Little Boy Blue review – 'the sum of all fears'

Adam Sweeting

Turning the real-life murder of an 11-year-old boy into a four-part TV drama carries obvious risks (might it be exploitative, sick or in bad taste, for instance?), but judging by this opening episode of Little Boy Blue (ITV), screenwriter Jeff Pope has skilfully walked the line.

The best TV to watch this week

Theartsdesk

It's a golden age of television, but is there just too much good stuff? Let theartsdesk help you make your choice of what to watch, whether it's broadcast live or as catch-up or a binge watch. Here's the best of what's up in the current week.  Monday 24 April

Broadchurch review - the final reckoning

David Benedict

“Take your pick. Who shall we talk to first?” DI Alec Hardy (David Tennant) and DS Miller (Olivia Colman) had their three prime suspects waiting for...

Homeland review - 'worryingly prescient'

Adam Sweeting

It was a long time coming, but Homeland’s sixth series at last awoke from its early-season slumbers to put on a late surge over the closing episodes...

Maigret's Night at the Crossroads review...

Jasper Rees

We’re three films into Rowan Atkinson’s tenure as Inspector Maigret and so far he’s barely twitched a facial muscle. Gone are the eye bulges and...

Guerrilla review – 'it takes itself fantastically seriously'

Adam Sweeting

Racism and revolution in 1970s London

Our Friend Victoria review – ‘Victoria Wood’s genius is irreplaceable’

Jasper Rees

Julie Walters presents the first part of BBC One's series celebrating a comedian without equal

Vera, Series 7, review - 'brilliant Blethyn stuck in bog-standard drama'

Mark Sanderson

More downbeat detection in a Northumbrian wilderness

Tim Pigott-Smith: from The Jewel in the Crown to King Charles III

Jasper Rees

The actor played pillars of the establishment, but there was much more to him than that

The Last Kingdom - 'one of the very best things on television'

Adam Sweeting

Karma comes to Kjartan the Cruel in the BBC Two blockbuster

Mary Magdalene: Art's Scarlet Woman, review - 'lugubrious'

Sarah Kent

In focusing on the titillating details, Januszczak misses a key question

Henry IX, UK Gold, review - 'return of sitcom classics'

Veronica Lee

Clement and La Frenais' latest sitcom is stuffed with gags

Catastrophe, Series 3, review - 'the end of the road?'

Jasper Rees

Good grief? Channel 4's marital sitcom turns deadly serious

How To Be a Surrealist with Philippa Perry, review - 'exhilarating'

Sarah Kent

The psychoanalyst investigates the world of Dalí, Buñuel and Man Ray on BBC Four

Decline and Fall review - 'a riotously successful adaptation'

Mark Sanderson

Evelyn Waugh brilliantly brought to BBC One with Jack Whitehall and Eva Longoria

Anna Maxwell Martin: 'I like playing baddies' - interview

Heather Neill

She's been Sally Bowles, Lady Macbeth and Elizabeth Darcy. Now for a gritty courtroom drama about rape

Harlots review - 'fun quasi-feminist costume romp'

Jasper Rees

Morton and Manville go head to head as Georgian madams

Line of Duty, Series 4 review – 'the tension rocketed to brain-jangling red alert'

Adam Sweeting

Jed Mercurio takes us back to the murky shadowland of police corruption

Paula Rego: Secrets and Stories review - 'in pictures you can let all your rage out'

Sarah Kent

The artist who talks freely about her marriage, but not the following 30 years

Syria’s Disappeared review - 'must-watch can't-look record of Assad's atrocities'

Jasper Rees

Channel 4 documentary makes the case against Assad with indelible images and testimony

Puerto Rico: Island of Enchantment – Natural World, BBC Two

Marina Vaizey

Caribbean conservationists fight back against man-made mayhem

SS–GB, Series Finale, BBC One

Adam Sweeting

It was the Germans wot won it

The Last Kingdom, Series 2, BBC Two

Adam Sweeting

Ninth-century Nordic noir rides again

Midnight Sun, Sky Atlantic

Mark Sanderson

Multinational mayhem inside the Arctic Circle

Big Little Lies, Sky Atlantic

Adam Sweeting

Murder and social one-upmanship in paradise

War Child, Channel 4

Jasper Rees

Harrowing, uplifting documentary follows resourceful refugee children fleeing wars to reach Germany

Back in the Line of Duty

Adam Sweeting

Jed Mercurio's fiendishly-wrought police thriller comes to BBC One

Mutiny, Channel 4

Jasper Rees

Modern masculinity in crisis measures itself against history's maritime survivors

Prime Suspect 1973, ITV

Jasper Rees

Can the polite young Jane Tennison in this prequel really turn into Helen Mirren?

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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