wed 27/01/2021

TV reviews, news & interviews

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

Adam Sweeting

Anna Friel’s unstable detective Marcella Backland has been on the brink of existential burn-out ever since her first appearance on ITV in 2016, but it seems audiences have a perverse desire to see what psychological black holes she might plummet down next.

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

Laura De Lisle

Polly Walker's character in Netflix's sumptuous new Regency romance, Bridgerton, could've easily been little more than a villainous Mrs Bennet.

It's a Sin, Channel 4 review - poignant,...

David Nice

Finally, it seems, the time is right for a major British TV drama about how the AIDS crisis hit the early 1980s London gay scene. We’ve come a long...

Call My Agent!, Series 4, Netflix review - the...

Adam Sweeting

Sad to report, this fourth series of Call My Agent! (Netflix) will be the final outing for this caustically addictive saga of actors and their agents...

Silenced: The Hidden Story of Disabled Britain,...

Saskia Baron

What a television programme gets called is not always the choice of the people making it, but it certainly is the choice of its broadcaster. In the...

Servant, Apple TV+ review - shocks, shivers and black humour in missing-baby saga

Adam Sweeting

M Night Shyalaman's drama is fascinating and confounding

Finding Alice, ITV review - thriller, comedy or melodrama?

Adam Sweeting

Keeley Hawes leads a strong cast in no particular direction

Spiral, Series 8, BBC Four review - dark days in the City of Light

Adam Sweeting

Final series of the show that's more than just a 'policier'

Steve McQueen: The Lost Movie, Sky Documentaries review - the classic motor racing film that never was

Adam Sweeting

How fate conspired against the car-crazy star's Formula One movie

The Great, Channel 4 review - Russian history gets a whirl in the fictional blender

Adam Sweeting

Screenwriter Tony McNamara refuses to let the facts stand in his way

The Serpent, BBC One review - tracking down the hippie-trail murderer

Markie Robson-Scott

Charming psychopath Charles Sobhraj's motives remain elusive in real life and on-screen

Doctor Who: Revolution of the Daleks, BBC One review - a perfectly predictable romp

Laura De Lisle

Jodie Whittaker's Doctor sparks up a festive adventure with no real surprises

Best of 2020: TV

Theartsdesk

A terrible year for many, but a priceless opportunity for television

Black Narcissus, BBC One review - a haunting in the Himalayas

Saskia Baron

'Sister Act 4'? Only if you've eaten too many brandy-soaked mince pies...

Roald and Beatrix: The Tail of the Curious Mouse, Sky One review – twinkly tale for troubled times

Joseph Walsh

Dahl-meets-Potter Christmas drama with Dawn French, Rob Brydon and Jessica Hynes

Bridgerton, Netflix review - bodice-ripper cliches recycled in Regency romp

Adam Sweeting

Mixed-race historical mashup is entertaining but shallow

All Creatures Great and Small: Christmas Special, Channel 5 review - big and little dramas in the Dales

Adam Sweeting

Revived vet show hits a Yuletide home run

Upstart Crow: Lockdown Christmas 1603, BBC Two review – plaguey beaks and bubonidiots

David Nice

Ideas needed for a Scottish play from David Mitchell’s Will and Gemma Whelan’s Kate

Small Axe: Education, BBC One review - domestic drama concludes groundbreaking film series with quiet power

Thomas H Green

Systematic prejudice in the 1970s school system gives emotional punch to Steve McQueen's finale

Tin Star: Liverpool, Sky Atlantic review - massed mayhem on Merseyside

Adam Sweeting

It's high noon as Jack Worth and family come looking for vengeance

Coronation Street: 60 Unforgettable Years, ITV review - inside story of the world's longest-running TV soap

Adam Sweeting

They said it wouldn't last, but 'Corrie' became an all-time classic

Small Axe: Alex Wheatle, BBC One review - elliptical telling of a writer's troubled early life

David Nice

Steve McQueen engages powerful performances and fine filming to show rather than tell

The Dambusters, Channel 5 review - yet another telling of the Bouncing Bomb story

Adam Sweeting

An eager Dan Snow recreates the fabled mission of Guy Gibson and 617 Squadron

The Undoing, Series Finale, Sky Atlantic review - bluff and double-bluff as the truth is revealed

Adam Sweeting

Murder mystery reaches dramatic courtroom climax

Small Axe: Red, White and Blue, BBC One review - sobering real-life story of police officer Leroy Logan

Adam Sweeting

One man's bid to change the Metropolitan Police from the inside

What a Carve Up!, Barn Theatre online review – ingenious whodunnit

Aleks Sierz

Film adaptation of Jonathan Coe’s 1994 bestseller is a postmodern masterpiece

Arena - Fela Kuti: Father of Afrobeat, BBC Two review - the music that never dies

Tim Cumming

Intimate and in-depth portrait of West Africa's great cultural icon

The Good Lord Bird, Sky Atlantic review - picaresque account of the myth of John Brown

Adam Sweeting

Ethan Hawke leads an outlandish ride through American history

Offended by Irvine Welsh, Sky Arts review - are we seeing the end of free speech?

Adam Sweeting

'Trainspotting' author examines the insidious march of cancel culture

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.

Close Footnote

Advertising feature

Dance meets film in a unique digital season from English National Ballet

 

Brilliant new works from leading choreographers created in collaboration with exciting filmmakers. Watch world class ballet from home when you rent these original titles, released as world premieres via the brand new Ballet on Demand service from ENB.

 


newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters

latest in today

Marcella, Series 3, ITV review - Anna Friel returns as the d...

Anna Friel’s unstable detective Marcella Backland has been on...

Album: Steve Hackett - Under A Mediterranean Sky

Never have the early months of the year felt more cruel. Escape is what we all yearn for - from home, from ourselves and our shrunken lives. Never...

Christian Blackshaw, Wigmore Hall online review - pure as th...

From a distance, the pianist Christian Blackshaw bears an uncanny resemblance to Franz Liszt, silver hair swept back à la 19th...

Eddie S Glaude Jr: Begin Again - James Baldwin's Americ...

I suspect that the work of James Baldwin is not all that...

Romances on British Poetry / The Poet's Echo, English T...

A darkened stage; a pool of light; a solitary figure. And then, flooding the whole thing with meaning, music – even it’s just a soft chord on a...

DVD/Blu-ray: Relic

Relic's deliberate drabness hits home first; set in Victoria,...

theartsdesk Q&A: actor Polly Walker on 'Bridgerton...

Polly Walker's character in Netflix's sumptuous new ...

Album: Arlo Parks - Collapsed in Sunbeams

“Hope”, from the debut album by 20 year old London...

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

Finally, it seems, the time is right for a major British TV drama about how the AIDS crisis hit the early 1980s London...

Reissue CDs Weekly: Richard Hell & The Voidoids - Destin...

"Three plus versions of the same album. It’s ridiculous, but I’m glad.” The first paragraph of Richard Hell’s text in the booklet accompanying...