sun 25/06/2017

TV reviews, news & interviews

The best TV to watch this week


Channel-rich but time-poor? We sift the schedules for you.Friday 23 JuneVersailles, BBC Two – final episode of Series 2, with Louis XIV (George Blagden) arresting, torturing and burning his opponents to tighten his grip on the throne. The Celebrity Crystal Maze, Channel 4 – Richard Ayoade plays the Maze Master in this reboot of the vintage game show. Competing slebs include Vicky Pattison, Ore Oduba and Alex Brooker.

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

Barney Harsent

Immigration…immigration… immigration… that’s what we need! Not the words of record-breaking, tap-dancing trumpeter Roy Castle, rather it’s the gist of a Times leader from 1853 (admittedly, fairly heavily paraphrased).

Chance, Universal review – Hugh Laurie is reborn...

Adam Sweeting

Hugh Laurie, in his new role of forensic neuropsychiatrist Eldon Chance, tells us that he works with those who are “mutilated by life”, and we soon...

Ripper Street, BBC Two, Series 5 review – ...

Adam Sweeting

There has always been an air of incipient doom hovering over Ripper Street, since the show is more of a laboratory of lost souls than a mere...

Murdered For Being Different, BBC Three review -...

Jasper Rees

Heaven alone knows we have pressing anxieties enough to preoccupy us, but if you the emotional bandwidth to accommodate more, the iPlayer can oblige...

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

Ackley Bridge, Channel 4 review – can the town's new academy bring racial and social harmony?

Adam Sweeting

Staff and pupils face a steep learning curve

Lord Lucan: My Husband, The Truth review - the coldest case of all

Jasper Rees

Extraordinary ITV interview with the missing earl's widow

The Handmaid's Tale, Channel Four review - triumphant dystopian drama

Markie Robson-Scott

Rape, executions, Scrabble: it's all go in Gilead. Blessed be the fruit

Sgt Pepper's Musical Revolution, BBC Two review - how the Fab Four changed pop music forever

Adam Sweeting

Howard Goodall's forensic examination of the making of a masterpiece

Broken, BBC One review - things look bleak in McGovernville

Adam Sweeting

Misery and moral hazard in a northern town

Paula, BBC Two review - Denise Gough's the real thing

Jasper Rees

Conor McPherson's thrillerish TV drama debut is lifted by star turn

White Gold, BBC Two review – rattling pace and razor-edged dialogue

Adam Sweeting

Sleaze and sharp practice in the exciting world of double glazing

Three Girls, BBC One review - drama as shattering public enquiry

Jasper Rees

Truthful acting earns audience trust for a story of catastrophic institutional failure

Kat and Alfie: Redwater, BBC One review – 'EastEnders' spinoff suffers from no fixed identity

Adam Sweeting

Can the 'EastEnders' couple survive without the Albert Square life support system?

A Time to Live, BBC Two review - an exquisite legacy

Veronica Lee

Sue Bourne's remarkable documentary produces laughter as well as tears

A Time to Live: 'I did not want to reveal at the end who was alive or dead'

Sue Bourne

Sue Bourne had a huge impact with her 2016 film 'The Age of Loneliness'. Here she introduces her new documentary

Born to Kill finale, Channel 4 review – a full-blown psychotic nightmare

Mark Sanderson

Did psychopathic Sam inherit his father's demon seed?

King Charles III, BBC Two review - royal crisis makes thrilling drama

Adam Sweeting

Palace intrigue takes a giant leap from stage to television

Babs review - Barbara Windsor's playful screen therapy

Jasper Rees

Tricksy theatrical retelling of a starlet's dramatic life on BBC One

Britain's Nuclear Bomb: The Inside Story review - 'power, politics and national identity'

Adam Sweeting

BBC Four tells how Britain battled for a seat at the nuclear top table

Midnight Sun finale review - 'terminal silliness, wholesale slaughter'

Mark Sanderson

Life is cheap in Sky Atlantic's berserk Lapland thriller

theartsdesk at The Hospital Club


Announcing a new partnership with the most creative club in London

Line of Duty, Series 4 finale review - 'great acting, great writing'

Jasper Rees

A satisfying, complicated comeuppance for Thandie Newton's Roz Huntley. Contains spoilers

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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The best TV to watch this week

Channel-rich but time-poor? We sift the schedules for you.

Friday 23 June

Versailles, BBC Two – final...

Gloria, Hampstead Theatre review – pretty glorious

As with life, so it is in art: in the same way that one can't predict the curve balls that get thrown our way, the American playwright Branden...

The Book of Henry review - staggeringly awful

It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen a movie as staggeringly awful as The Book of Henry. If it was just a touch more shrill it could...

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