wed 18/09/2019

TV reviews, news & interviews

Defending the Guilty, BBC Two review - trials and tribulations of a trainee barrister

Adam Sweeting

This new legal comedy is based on a well-received book by Alex McBride, but the transition from print to the BBC Two screen hasn’t been an unalloyed success.

Love in the Countryside, BBC Two review - reaping a harvest of marital bliss?

Adam Sweeting

If you’re a farmer who works round the clock to feed sheep, milk cows and so forth, how on earth do you make time to find a partner and reap a harvest of marital bliss?

Temple, Sky 1 review - down in the tube station...

Adam Sweeting

At first, the opening episode of Sky 1’s enticing new drama Temple looked like it was going to be mostly concerned with a heist gone wrong. A gang of...

Suicidal: In Our Own Words, Channel 5 review -...

Adam Sweeting

September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day, and Channel 5 marked the occasion with this sobering documentary. Focusing on male suicide – incredibly...

Spotlight on The Troubles: A Secret History, BBC...

Adam Sweeting

“The Troubles” is a polite euphemism for the ferocious storm of sectarian violence and political chaos which convulsed Northern Ireland for 30 years...

The Capture, BBC One review - gripping drama about the surveillance society

Veronica Lee

Ben Chanan's tale is bang-up-to-the-minute

High Society: Cannabis Café, Channel 4 review - pointless investigation into drug-taking

Veronica Lee

Watching people get high for no purpose

Sink or Swim, Channel 4 review - the Channel awaits for these celebrities

Veronica Lee

The latest celebrity format lacks tension or conflict

The Affair series 5, Sky Atlantic review - a new cast member adds intrigue

Veronica Lee

Final season starts strongly with the addition of Anna Paquin

Prince Albert: A Victorian Hero Revealed, Channel 4 review - dramatic documentary filled with intelligent detail

Rachel Halliburton

The privileged prince who was simultaneously an oppressed outsider

Power, politics and Peaky Blinders - the Shelby family return for Series 5

Adam Sweeting

Steam-punk gangsters invade the corridors of Westminster

Bauhaus 100, BBC Four review - a well-made film about the makers

Sebastian Scotney

A fascinating centenary tale of God-like architects and punks

Heartbreak Holiday, BBC One review - can it match up to Love Island?

Markie Robson-Scott

Ten strangers and their not so achy-breaky hearts

Train Your Baby Like A Dog, Channel 4 review - an animal behaviourist tackles tantrums

Markie Robson-Scott

Who's a good boy then? Children are just like dogs - or are they?

The Day Mountbatten Died, BBC Two review - the IRA's audacious strike at the heart of the British Establishment

Liz Thomson

Everyone remembers Lord Mountbatten’s death but a score of other people died on that sunny August day

Kathy Burke's All Woman, Channel 4 review - warts and all

Owen Richards

Comedy legend asks what is beauty, and why is there so much pressure to achieve it?

Keeping Faith, Episode 4 Series 2, BBC One review - murders aplenty

Owen Richards

Husband Evan leaves prison, just as Faith risks going in

This Way Up, Channel 4 review - hilarity with a dark undercurrent

Markie Robson-Scott

Funny or die: Aisling Bea stars in her self-penned comedy series

I Am Hannah, Channel 4 review - last in trilogy leaves us dangling

Adam Sweeting

Gemma Chan stars as a woman agonising over mid-life choices

Euphoria, Sky Atlantic review - teenage nervous breakdown

Adam Sweeting

Gen-Z drama pushes the envelope of sex, drugs and emotional turmoil

Inside the Secret World of Incels, BBC One review - involuntary celibacy, violence and despair

Markie Robson-Scott

A disturbing documentary about men who feel rejected

The Chef's Brigade, BBC Two review - you're in the army now

Adam Sweeting

Jason Atherton wants to build a team to take on the finest cooks in Europe

Manifest, Sky 1 review - late arrival causes cosmic upheaval

Adam Sweeting

Where has flight 828 been for five and a half years?

Who Do You Think You Are? - Naomie Harris, BBC One review - shocks old and new

Veronica Lee

Naomie Harris's fascinating story stretched back to Caribbean slavery

Cindy Sherman: #untitled, BBC Four review - portrait of an enigma

Tom Baily

A glimpse into the secretive life and complex work of a major American artist

Keeping Faith, Series 2, BBC One review - family misfortunes

Adam Sweeting

Dark secrets are lurking in the exquisite Carmarthen landscape

I Am Nicola, Channel 4 review - not really love, actually

Adam Sweeting

Vicky McClure excels in claustrophobic relationship drama

The Day We Walked on the Moon, ITV review - it was 50 years ago to the day

Adam Sweeting

You've heard it all before, but this was an entertaining ride

Inside the Social Network: Facebook's Difficult Year, BBC Two review - how big can it get?

Adam Sweeting

A force for good or Big Brother in the making?

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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