sun 03/12/2023

TV reviews, news & interviews

Boat Story, BBC One review - once upon a time in Yorkshire

Adam Sweeting

It was as long ago as January last year that the prolific Williams brothers, Jack and Harry, delivered their absorbing Australian Outback thriller The Tourist. Hitherto, product seemed to have been pouring out of them almost hourly, whether it was Liar, The Missing and Baptiste or The Widow, Rellik and Angela Black.

The Crown, Season 6, Netflix review - royal epic in a vain search for authenticity

Helen Hawkins

A man is taking his little dog for a late-night walk. This being the opening scene of The Crown’s final season, when the illuminated Eiffel Tower looms up at the end of his street we know exactly where we are, and exactly what the date is. 

Brawn: The Impossible Formula 1 Story, Disney+...

Adam Sweeting

When they read the roll-call of British Formula One champions, the likes of Jackie Stewart, Graham and Damon Hill and Nigel Mansell tend to grab the...

Shakespeare: Rise of a Genius, BBC Two review -...

Gary Naylor

Four centuries on from the publication of the First Folio, is there anything new to be said about William Shakespeare? Well, the fact that there is...

Shetland, Series 8, BBC One review - same place...

Adam Sweeting

The question they’re all asking is, can Shetland survive the loss of Douglas Henshall as DI Jimmy Perez? After all, it was Henshall’s shrewd and...

Robbie Williams, Netflix review - tormented superstar bares his soul

Adam Sweeting

Gruelling rockumentary explores the price of fame

Fellow Travellers, Paramount+ review - four-decade saga of power, politics and gay love

Adam Sweeting

Plush TV treatment of Thomas Mallon's bestselling novel

The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories from the Life of John le Carré, Apple TV+ review - outstanding, intriguing portrait of David Cornwell

Helen Hawkins

Errol Morris's film puts the author in a hall of mirrors where the truth is satisfyingly elusive

Frasier, Paramount+ review - he's back! But should he be?

Adam Sweeting

Can Kelsey Grammer and a new cast make lightning strike again?

The Reckoning, BBC One review - Savile saga that doesn't tell the whole story

Helen Hawkins

The BBC’s finely acted docudrama is too little, too late

Reckoning with the Jimmy Savile legacy - Steve Coogan stars in BBC One's four-part 'factual drama'

Adam Sweeting

Is Savile's career of evil suitable for prime-time entertainment?

Boiling Point, BBC One review - chef drama that's simmering nicely

Helen Hawkins

Terrific drama series has been whipped up from Stephen Graham's hit film

The Continental, Prime Video - welcome to the expanding John Wick universe

Adam Sweeting

Origin story of the hitman's hotel makes a sluggish start

Wilderness, Prime Video review - twisty thriller that leaves a nasty aftertaste

Helen Hawkins

Gilded couple explore the barren lands of their blighted marriage

Top Boy, Season 5, Netflix review - grime and punishment

Adam Sweeting

Ronan Bennett's Hackney crime epic reaches a fiery conclusion

Who Is Erin Carter?, Netflix review - secrets and ultra-violence under the Catalan sun

Adam Sweeting

Anglo-Spanish thriller is daft but addictive

The Woman in the Wall, BBC One review - deliciously dark murder mystery with a tragic hinterland

Helen Hawkins

Ruth Wilson is a magnetic presence as a bedraggled victim of the Magdalene Laundries

The Following Events Are Based on a Pack of Lies, BBC One - deliciously bingeable drama from the Skinner sisters

Adam Sweeting

Alistair Petrie's unscrupulous conman is at the core of this twisty tale

Harlan Coben's Shelter, Prime Video review - what the hell is going on in Kasselton, New Jersey?

Adam Sweeting

High school confidential with a supernatural twist

Only Murders in the Building, Disney+ review - this comedy crime drama is a class act

Adam Sweeting

Guest star Meryl Streep is the icing on the cake

Enemy of the People, Channel 4 review - murder and corruption in the age of digital media

Adam Sweeting

The death of a famous Finnish footballer triggers a violent chain reaction

Wolf, BBC One review - a load of old...

Adam Sweeting

Credulity-stretching adaptation of Mo Hayder's Jack Caffery novel

Special Ops: Lioness, Paramount+ review - high-octane female cast conducts war on terror

Adam Sweeting

Latest slam-bang action from the prolific Taylor Sheridan

Rosie Jones: Am I a R*tard? Channel 4 review - disappointing documentary

Saskia Baron

Shallow exposé of disability hate crimes fails to explore its causes

World on Fire, Series 2, BBC One - return of Peter Bowker's panoramic view of World War Two

Adam Sweeting

Lesley Manville continues to shine as the matriarch Robina Chase

Disturbing Disappearances, More4 review - headstrong 'tec tackles Pied Piper mystery

Adam Sweeting

Abducted children case unlocks a tortuous family history

Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan, Season 4, Prime Video review - final outing for John Krasinski's CIA hero

Adam Sweeting

In which the Agency battles a treasonous conspiracy

Hijack, Apple TV+ review - trapped at 40,000 feet with a bunch of armed thugs

Adam Sweeting

How is Idris Elba going to rescue his fellow-passengers from this?

Spiral of Lies, Channel 4 review - bodies, fibs and bad karma in Biarritz

Adam Sweeting

The past returns to haunt the not-always-truthful Audrey

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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