wed 20/06/2018

TV reviews, news & interviews

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

Katherine Waters

Squirrels are a breed as diverse as they are ubiquitous: they inhabit environments as extreme as desert and tundra, and all the lush greenery, rainforest and urban jungle imaginable between. So bless the producers of The Super Squirrels who humorously avoid a straight-down-the-line profile of the nearly 300 species around the world and instead showcase their not inconsiderable abilities through a series of gleeful reality TV piss-takes.

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Are you a young blogger, vlogger or writer in the field of the arts, books and culture? If so, we've a competition for you to enter.

Julius Caesar, BBC Four review - electrifying TV...

David Nice

Who would have thought, when Phyllida Lloyd's Donmar Julius Caesar opened to justified fanfare, that two more Shakespeare masterpieces would be...

Panorama: Putin's Russia with David Dimbleby...

Tom Birchenough

There was a lovely moment at the beginning of this Panorama where David Dimbleby was chatting to a schoolgirl – not just any schoolgirl actually,...

Get Shorty, Sky Atlantic review - Elmore Leonard...

Mark Sanderson

Emma Daly (Carolyn Dodd) tells her estranged husband Miles (Chris O’Dowd): “There is always an angle, a shakedown.” Of course there is: Davey Holmes’...

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

The Handmaid's Tale, Series 2, Channel 4 review - it's not getting any better for Offred

Adam Sweeting

Further horrific adventures in the Republic of Gilead

Innocent, ITV review - David Collins wants his life back

Adam Sweeting

Wronged husband and father battles to make it right

Patrick Melrose, Sky Atlantic review - an olympiad of substance abuse

Adam Sweeting

Edward St Aubyn's drug-addled toff meets the cult of Cumberbatch

The Bridge, BBC Two, series 4 review - Scandi saga is darker than ever

Jasper Rees

Saga Norén is back for one last grisly case

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The Woman in White, Series Finale, BBC One review - good-looking, but flat

Tom Birchenough

Frisson lost in Wilkie Collins adaptation low on individuality, drama

Homeland, Series 7 Finale, Channel 4 review - Russian roulette

Adam Sweeting

Washington rocked by fake news and cyberwarfare

Ballet's Dark Knight - Sir Kenneth MacMillan, BBC Four review – hagiography and home videos

Hanna Weibye

Little is revealed about the enigmatic choreographer's life or why we should care about his legacy

Friday Night Dinner, Channel 4 review - predictable but fun

Veronica Lee

Welcome return of the family sitcom

Jazz Ambassadors, BBC Four review - the cool war

Matthew Wright

Fascinating account of America’s secret sonic weapon

Syria: The World's War, BBC Two review - anatomy of a conflict, brilliantly told

Tom Birchenough

A view from the streets and the chancelleries: Lyse Doucet attempts a perspective on the conflict of our century

Jeff Beck: Still on the Run, BBC Four review - a legend without portfolio

Adam Sweeting

Superstars queue up to praise mercurial guitar hero

The Split, BBC One, review - Abi Morgan’s densely packed divorce drama

Jasper Rees

Nicola Walker is the real deal in a hectic family law saga

Westworld, Series 2, Sky Atlantic review - big trouble in synthetic paradise

Adam Sweeting

Apocalypse looms as androids go on the rampage

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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