tue 24/10/2017

TV reviews, news & interviews

W1A, Series 3 Finale, BBC Two review - the satire gets to the end of its joke

Barney Harsent

Repetition can help clarity. It emphasises significance, and shines a light more directly onto something hidden. It can guide us gently into an area we might have otherwise circumvented, and urge us to stare at something for long enough to see beyond, and transcend previous, long-held opinions. It can also, of course, become very tired very fast and that was, sadly, the case with the third series of John Morton’s BBC mockumentary sitcom.

Newnight: Grenfell Tower - The 21st Floor, BBC Two review - a simple, moving reconstruction

Jasper Rees

The streets around Grenfell Tower on the morning after it was consumed by fire heaved with people. A stream of donors brought food, clothes and toiletries, while news crews and journalists came in vans or on foot as if arriving in a war zone. Not half a mile from the smouldering sarcophagus, I cycled past a primary school with children playing as normal in the playground, and wondered if this was what the Blitz was like. An unfathomable disaster on the doorstep.

Jacqueline du Pré: A Gift Beyond Words, BBC Four...

Peter Quantrill

Hyperbole be damned. The most iconic English classical recording was made on 19 August 1965 in Kingsway Hall, London. Like Maria Callas singing Tosca...

Gunpowder, BBC One review – death, horror,...

Adam Sweeting

Much is being made of the fact that Kit Harington is not only playing the Gunpowder Plot mastermind Robert Catesby, but is genuinely descended from...

The best TV to watch this week


Bored with the great outdoors? So curl up in front of the telly with slippers, spaniel, chardonnay etc. We sift the schedules for you.Saturday 21...

Chris Packham: Asperger's and Me, BBC Two review - 'like an alien from another planet'

Marina Vaizey

How the nature broadcaster copes with life on the spectrum

George Michael: Freedom, Channel 4 review - just a supersized commercial?

Adam Sweeting

Much-anticipated official documentary fails to deliver

Jonas Kaufmann: Tenor for the Ages, BBC Four review - a musical megastar with sword and shortbread

Jessica Duchen

John Bridcut's portrait is beautifully made, but gives little away beyond the public laughter

David Oakes: 'I haven’t done anything as bad as my characters'

Jasper Rees

The actor stars opposite Natalie Dormer in Venus in Fur. Why is he always exploring the dark side?

Lucy Worsley's Nights at the Opera, BBC Two review - there's anti-elitism, and there's infantilism

Jasper Rees

The poshies' art form explained by use of the dressing-up box and the toy box

Russia 1917: Countdown to Revolution, BBC Two review - words stronger than pictures 100 years on

Jasper Rees

Historians compete to tell their version of events, while dramatic reconstructions add little

Snowfall, BBC Two review - blizzard hits South Central

Adam Sweeting

Multi-layered view of LA's 1980s crack epidemic

Black Lake, Series Finale, BBC Four review – Nordic noir comes to an unsatisfying end

Barney Harsent

Poorly paced and badly scripted, this Swedish horror didn't have a ghost of a chance

Nile Rodgers: How to Make It in the Music Business, BBC Four review - good times had by all

Jasper Rees

Rhythm king tells his story of disco conquest one more time

Basquiat: Rage to Riches review, BBC Two – death rides an equine skeleton

Marina Vaizey

How the poor boy from Brooklyn became an art world supernova

Doctor Foster, Series 2 finale, BBC One review - revenge is a dish best not served twice

Jasper Rees

Mike Bartlett's mock Jacobean drama never felt solid enough to go the distance again

h.Club 100 Awards 2017: The Winners


News from The Hospital Club's annual awards for the creative industries, plus theartsdesk's Young Reviewer of the Year

The Last Post, BBC One review - sundown on the Empire

Adam Sweeting

Lust and bloodshed on the Arabian Peninsula

Billion Dollar Deals That Changed Your World, BBC Two review - Big Pharma gets a diagnosis: it’s sick

Barney Harsent

Jacques Peretti's look at the pharmaceutical industry was a bitter pill to swallow

The Deuce, Sky Atlantic review - a magnificent, sleazy epic

Jasper Rees

The team behind 'The Wire' tackle sex in Seventies New York with Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Franco

h.Club 100 Awards: Broadcast - calling out around the world

Adam Sweeting

It's been said before, but the British are coming

The Child in Time, BBC One review - lost in translation

Adam Sweeting

Ian McEwan's novel doesn't feel entirely comfortable in this TV dramatisation

Bad Move, ITV review - Jack Dee resettles in the middle of the road

Jasper Rees

Grumpy country comedy is long on sitcom DNA, short on originality

Cinema Through the Eye of Magnum, BBC Four review - moving pictures

Marina Vaizey

French documentary about the agency's film work sheds light on James Dean and Marilyn Monroe

Black Lake, BBC Four review – Nordic blanc falls flat

Adam Sweeting

Swedish ski resort thriller urgently needs some hotting up

100 Year Old Driving School, ITV review – a warning with history

Barney Harsent

These reality stars had a lot to say, but little of it was from the Highway Code

Rellik, BBC One review - tricksy procedural messes with time

Jasper Rees

How long have you got to watch Richard Dormer's disfigured cop hunt down a psychopath?

Liar, ITV - who, if anybody, is telling the truth?

Adam Sweeting

Secrets and evasions in the Williams brothers' rape-allegation drama

Tin Star, Sky Atlantic - broken characters stalked by remorseless fate

Adam Sweeting

Tim Roth battles booze and bad guys in the Alberta wilderness

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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