sun 04/12/2016

TV reviews, news & interviews

The Missing, Series 2 Finale, BBC One

Adam Sweeting

Anyone hoping for a few laughs and a nice bit of catharsis after enduring the eight unstintingly miserable episodes of The Missing would have got none of the former and hardly any of the latter.

Rillington Place, BBC One

Mark Sanderson

Howard Brenton (Christie in Love) and Ruth Rendell (Thirteen Steps Down) are just two of the many writers inspired by the sordid goings-on in 1940s Notting Hill. John Reginald Christie was a postman, a policeman and a psychopath who, as a back-street abortionist, enjoyed killing for company. A fantasist with an iron grip, he ensured that his lodger, Tim Evans, was the first to be hanged for his crimes.

MPs: Behind Closed Doors, Channel 5

Barney Harsent

TV can be a powerful tool of redemption. Take Strictly Come Dancing – anything that can shift perception of Ann Widdecombe from poisonous homophobe...

The Brits Who Designed the Modern World, BBC Two

Marina Vaizey

The Kenwood Chef! Intercity 125! Kodak Instamatic! Wilkinson Sword disposable razors! Bus shelters! Parking meters! They were all designed by a...

Walliams & Friend, BBC One

Jasper Rees

The sketch format goes in and out of favour. It was huge in the 1970s, crawled under a rock when alternative comedians found other means of...

Young, Gifted and Classical: The Making of a Maestro, BBC Four

Marina Vaizey

Is diversity the key to classical music's future?

The Grand Tour, Amazon Prime

Adam Sweeting

Clarkson's carmageddon arrives at last

Jack Taylor, C5

Veronica Lee

Iain Glen's Irish gumshoe returns


Markie Robsonscott

Queen's Park ranging: a spot-on adaptation of Zadie Smith's novel

My Mother and Other Strangers, BBC One

Jasper Rees

Hattie Morahan charms in cockle-warming wartime drama set in Northern Ireland

Deep Water, BBC Four

Mark Sanderson

Promising, disturbing opening to Sydney gay-themed detective drama

theartsdesk Q&A: Actor Robert Vaughn

Adam Sweeting

An encounter with the former Napoleon Solo, who has died aged 83

Close to the Enemy, BBC Two / Paranoid, Series Finale, ITV

Adam Sweeting

Stephen Poliakoff's thriller doesn't thrill, and can 'Paranoid' expect a second series?

Damilola: Our Loved Boy, BBC One

Veronica Lee

Affecting drama about a child's fatal stabbing

Poldark, Series 2 Finale / Planet Earth II, BBC One

Jasper Rees

Cap'n Ross makes his excuses, and David Attenborough tells of loved-up islanders

The Crown, Netflix

Adam Sweeting

So was it worth £100m?

Conspiracy Files: The Trump Dossier, BBC Two

Barney Harsent

How American politics became a stranger to the truth

The Choir: Gareth's Best in Britain, BBC Two

Marina Vaizey

Maestro Malone combs the British Isles for singers with soul and character

Dark Angel, ITV

Adam Sweeting

Joanne Froggatt excels in fact-based story of Victorian serial killer

Humans, Series 2, Channel 4

Jasper Rees

Sci-fi drama about robots developing feelings is short of humanity

Nicky and Wynton: The Making of a Concerto, BBC Four

Marina Vaizey

No sleep till the Barbican in musical labour of love

The Young Pope, Sky Atlantic

Adam Sweeting

Jude Law battles for the soul of the Catholic church

Cold Feet, Series Finale, ITV

Jasper Rees

Midlife crisis comedy drama is moreish to the end

Aberfan: The Green Hollow, BBC Four

Tom Birchenough

If British television makes anything better this year, it will be a surprise

Ordinary Lies, Series 2, BBC One

Jasper Rees

Cardiff is a new setting for dark stories of office workers' secrets

Paxman on Trump v Clinton: Divided America, BBC One

Marina Vaizey

Nightmare on Pennsylvania Avenue as acrimonious US election looms

Tutankhamun, ITV

Adam Sweeting

Edwardian derring-do on the trail of King Tut

The Missing, Series 2, BBC One

Adam Sweeting

How much doom and despondency do you really need?

Divorce, Sky Atlantic

Jasper Rees

Sarah Jessica Parker and Sharon Horgan are a marriage made in heaven

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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