mon 12/04/2021

TV reviews, news & interviews

This is a Robbery: The World's Biggest Art Heist, Netflix - the last word (for now)

Florence Hallett

It’s no surprise that 30 years on, the individuals most closely connected to the world’s biggest art heist are showing their age.

Intruder, Channel 5 review - implausible but watchable

Adam Sweeting

Channel 5 is rather partial to its four-night dramas, though recent effort The Drowning seemed to have sneaked unseen past the quality control department on its way to the screen. It pulled in the viewers though, and Intruder will probably do the same.

Queen Elizabeth and the Spy in the Palace,...

Adam Sweeting

Director of the Courtauld Institute, Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures and a particular expert on the art of Poussin, Sir Anthony Blunt spent decades...

Messiah highlights, English National Opera, BBC...

Boyd Tonkin

Well, it wasn’t quite Messiah, but it was a source of joy. In ENO’s end-of-lockdown staging, BBC Two’s transmission of Handel’s resurrection song...

Keeping Faith, Series 3, BBC One review - is the...

Adam Sweeting

After arriving with a bang in 2018, Keeping Faith (BBC One) disappointed many (though not all) of its fans with 2019’s second series. It’s had a bit...

The Flight Attendant, Sky One review - first-class entertainment

Markie Robson-Scott

Turbulence, murder and one-night stands: Kaley Cuoco excels as a hard-drinking air stewardess

Line of Duty, Series 6, BBC One review - fasten your seatbelts, it's back

Adam Sweeting

Attention-grabbing return of Jed Mercurio's dark and knotty police corruption thriller

My Father and Me, BBC Two review - Nick Broomfield's moving voyage around his family

Tom Birchenough

Acclaimed documentarist's most personal film acutely catches social history

Drive to Survive, Season 3, Netflix review - the agony and the ecstasy of the 2020 F1 campaign

Adam Sweeting

Enthralling inside story of how the teams raced Covid and each other

The One, Netflix review - the downside of scientific matchmaking

Adam Sweeting

John Marrs's novel transformed out of all recognition

Grace, ITV review - sun, sea and skulduggery in sunny Brighton

Adam Sweeting

John Simm shines in patchy adaptation

Unforgotten, Series 4, ITV review - is the familiar formula wearing thin?

Adam Sweeting

Even DCI Cassie Stuart looks fed up with her latest cold case

Deutschland 89, Channel 4 review - the Wall comes down, what next?

Tom Birchenough

Compulsive start to final series of the East German spy drama that's much more

The Terror, BBC Two review - nightmare in the Arctic wastes

Adam Sweeting

Powerful cast in doomed search for the Northwest Passage

Your Honor, Sky Atlantic review - Bryan Cranston suffers fear and loathing in New Orleans

Adam Sweeting

A road accident sets off a terrifying chain of events

DVD: T S Eliot - The Search for Happiness

Graham Fuller

Competent documentary revises the poet's reputation as a callous husband

Billie Eilish: The World's a Little Blurry, Apple TV+ review - sprawling account of the singer's rise to superstardom

Adam Sweeting

Would RJ Cutler's documentary work better in bite-sized chunks?

Stand Up and Deliver, Channel 4 review - how to make a comic

Veronica Lee

Comedians teach celebrities the art of stand-up

Bloodlands, BBC One review - ghosts of the Troubles return to poison the present

Adam Sweeting

James Nesbitt stars in Chris Brandon's dark and twisty thriller

Framing Britney Spears, Sky Documentaries review - the rollercoaster ride of the former teen icon

Adam Sweeting

The struggle to survive the sexism and savagery of showbusiness

Whirlybird: Live Above LA - Storyville, BBC Four review - rise and fall of the first couple of airborne TV news

Adam Sweeting

Matt Yoka's fascinating account of obsession, media madness and the price of fame

ZeroZeroZero, Sky Atlantic review - how drug money makes the world go round

Adam Sweeting

Lavish and violent multinational drama from the makers of 'Gomorrah'

The Drowning, Channel 5 review - unbelievable

Adam Sweeting

Lost-child drama demands herculean suspension of disbelief

theartsdesk Q&A: Isabella Pappas on how 'Finding Alice' is a blueprint for bereavement

Laura De Lisle

Youngest star of the ITV drama discusses grief, teenage girls, and getting into character

Spiral, Series 8 Finale, BBC Four review - justice is done in stormy climactic episodes

Adam Sweeting

Epic French cop show rides off into the sunset

Marcella, Series 3, ITV review - Anna Friel returns as the defective detective

Adam Sweeting

Terror and trauma in a high-risk mission in Belfast

theartsdesk Q&A: actor Polly Walker on 'Bridgerton' and the new breed of period drama

Laura De Lisle

Talking wigs, women, and her (brief) experience of coronavirus

It's a Sin, Channel 4 review - poignant, funny, vibrant masterpiece

David Nice

Russell T Davies's deep and shapely drama about the impact of AIDS on 1980s London

Call My Agent!, Series 4, Netflix review - the final bow for the Parisian showbiz saga?

Adam Sweeting

It's daggers drawn in the caustic actors-and-agents drama

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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