thu 16/08/2018

TV reviews, news & interviews

On the Edge, Channel 4, review - fast and furious new dramas

Jasper Rees

Television drama is living through a golden age, yes, but one thing mainly absent from the vast choice available on terrestrial and streaming broadcasters alike is the short story. Short dramas used to be a regular fixture on television, when schedules were more fluid and pre-satellite channels less risk-averse.

h 100 Awards: Broadcast - TV's national treasures

Adam Sweeting

In the ever-expanding field of broadcast, it’s easy to get lost in the deluge of product raining down from swaggering global providers who sometimes seem to have more money than critical acumen.

Murder in Soho: Who Killed Freddie Mills?, BBC...

Jasper Rees

They don’t make boxers like Freddie Mills any more. A granite lump of grinning charisma, he had a brow and jawline straight from a kids’ cartoon and...

Age Before Beauty, BBC One review - mid-life...

Adam Sweeting

If you were looking for the antidote to Love Island, this might be just the job. Instead of airbrushed 20-something Instagram fanatics flaunting...

Hidden, Series Finale, BBC Four review - a...

Adam Sweeting

Some contend that this Snowdonia-set mystery was a Scandi hommage too far, a mere recycler of gloom-shrouded riffs familiar from the likes of The...

The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco, ITV review - the ludicrous in search of the preposterous

Adam Sweeting

History repeats itself as farce

Who Is America?, Channel 4 review - sudden return of Sacha Baron Cohen

Adam Sweeting

Satirical mayhem in post-Trump USA

Unforgotten, Series 3, ITV review - death on the M1

Adam Sweeting

Detectives Stuart and Khan are back to tackle another long-buried mystery

Keeping Faith, BBC One review - this summer's watercooler drama

Owen Richards

New BBC Wales drama promises to grip from opening episode

Picnic at Hanging Rock, BBC One review - camp girls' school gothic

Jasper Rees

Natalie Dormer leads a rebooted adaptation of the contemporary Australian classic

Sharp Objects, Sky Atlantic review - Amy Adams battles her demons

Adam Sweeting

Gillian Flynn adaptation is a dark and deadly Southern Gothic drama

Eric Clapton: A Life in 12 Bars, BBC Two review - blues, booze and dues

Adam Sweeting

The longer it lasts, the less it says about the inner Eric

Duran Duran: There's Something You Should Know / A Night In, BBC Four, review - chaps on film

Jasper Rees

The highs, the lows, and the cultural influences of the old-time New Romantics

Reporting Trump's First Year: the Fourth Estate, BBC Two review - all hands on deck at the Gray Lady

Adam Sweeting

The President vs 'the enemy of the people' at the New York Times

Natural World: The Super Squirrels, BBC Two review - silliness and facts

Katherine Waters

Gleeful take on overlooked rodent family

Enter theartsdesk / h Club Young Influencer of the Year award


In association with The Hospital Club's h.Club100 Awards, we're looking for the best cultural writers, bloggers and vloggers

Julius Caesar, BBC Four review - electrifying TV launch of all-women Shakespeare trilogy

David Nice

Harriet Walter and Jade Anouka are the superlative opposite poles in a perfect ensemble

Panorama: Putin's Russia with David Dimbleby, BBC One review - jolly football weather

Tom Birchenough

As the World Cup kicks off, a sober - and sobering - insight into the host country today

Get Shorty, Sky Atlantic review - Elmore Leonard meets Tarantino

Mark Sanderson

Sex, sleaze and violence as gangland comes to Hollywood

Hidden, BBC Four review - a death in Snowdonia

Adam Sweeting

A strong start from the heir to 'Hinterland'

Our Girl, Series 4, BBC One review - 2 Section versus Boko Haram

Adam Sweeting

Implausible military melodrama tackles terrorism in Nigeria

Line of Separation, All 4, review - handsome if soapy epic

Jasper Rees

Deutschland 45? The division of Germany dramatised in three feature-length episodes

Africa: A Journey Into Music, BBC Four review - too little, too late?

Peter Culshaw

All around Nigerian music in just one hour

Peter Kay's Car Share: The Finale, BBC Two review - happy ever after?

Jasper Rees

Take that! John and Kayleigh get it together in a wonderful last road trip

King Lear, BBC Two review - modernised TV adaptation is a mixed blessing

Adam Sweeting

A towering Anthony Hopkins just about saves the day

Hip Hop Evolution, Sky Arts review - foundations of a revolution

Owen Richards

Originators and moguls unite for four-part documentary on the genesis of rap

Big Sky, Big Dreams, Big Art: Made in the USA, BBC Four review - unexpected facts aplenty

Marina Vaizey

From the Wild West to Abstract Expressionism, Waldemar Januszczak on an enthusiastic journey

Manchester: The Night of the Bomb, BBC Two review - devastating account of the lottery of terror

Jasper Rees

A year on, a heartrending reconstruction of the Ariana Grande concert from hell

A Very English Scandal, BBC One review - making a drama out of a crisis

Adam Sweeting

Tragedy and farce in glittering recreation of the Jeremy Thorpe saga

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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