wed 29/06/2022

TV reviews, news & interviews

Suspect, Channel 4 review - a stylised remake of a Danish psychological drama

Helen Hawkins

Suspect has a simple premise: a detective goes on a routine visit to a mortuary where an unidentified young woman has been taken after being found hanged. Suicide is the initial judgment: the cop, Danny Frater (James Nesbitt), grills the pathologist (Joely Richardson, pictured below) about the case and starts to leave.

Sherwood, BBC One review - a traumatic journey through a painful past

Adam Sweeting

Renowned for an impressive body of work that includes This House, Quiz and Brexit: The Uncivil War, playwright and screenwriter James Graham has looked inwards and backwards for his new six-part series Sherwood.

Borgen: Power and Glory, Netflix review -...

Helen Hawkins

Has there ever been a smarter television series than DR’s Borgen? It’s regularly compared to The West Wing for its twisty interrogation of government...

We Own This City, Sky Atlantic review - 'The...

Adam Sweeting

It has been 14 years since The Wire, David Simon’s labyrinthine epic about crime and policing in Baltimore, reached the end of the line. Yet it seems...

Ricky Gervais, SuperNature, Netflix review - a...

Veronica Lee

Irony can be a trump card for a provocative comic such as Ricky Gervais, and he plays it right at the top of his SuperNature, an updated version of a...

The Midwich Cuckoos, Sky Max review - the 1957 sci-fi classic is given a contemporary spin

Helen Hawkins

A drama where children are manipulative little beasts: science fiction or social satire?

Pistol, Disney+ review - Punk history repeats itself as farce

Adam Sweeting

Danny Boyle's Sex Pistols drama is fast, funny and furious

Prehistoric Planet, Apple TV+ review - David Attenborough presents life on earth, 66 million years ago

Adam Sweeting

Technology brings dinosaurs to life in microscopic detail

Das Boot, Series 3, Sky Atlantic review - submarine warfare finds new horizons

Adam Sweeting

Look out U-boats, Commander Swinburne is coming for you

The Essex Serpent, Apple TV+ review - tradition and superstition versus the march of progress

Adam Sweeting

The battle of ideas comes to the East Coast in exquisitely shot treatment of Sarah Perry's novel

Ozark, Series 4 Part 2, Netflix review - crumbling consciences and a last stand

David Nice

No spoilers, hopefully: farewell to this superbly-acted corruption saga

The Staircase, NOW review - addictive dramatisation of real-life murder investigation

Adam Sweeting

Colin Firth visits the dark side as suspected killer Michael Peterson

DI Ray, ITV review - Parminder Nagra battles killer gangs and cultural stereotypes

Adam Sweeting

Cops afflicted by sexism, racism and box-ticking mediocrity

Chivalry, Channel 4 review - Steve Coogan and Sarah Solemani's sharp Hollywood satire

Veronica Lee

Sexual politics in the post-MeToo world

Ten Percent, Amazon Prime review - a hit and miss British makeover of the French comedy 'Call My Agent'

Helen Hawkins

The guest stars shine, but 'Ten Percent' is a satire with an identity crisis

Life After Life, BBC Two review - déjà vu all over again

Adam Sweeting

Fine adaptation of Kate Atkinson's novel is touching and profound

Why Didn't They Ask Evans?, BritBox review - a feast of murder, deception, misleading identities and forgery

Adam Sweeting

Multi-tasking Hugh Laurie brings wit and insight to Agatha Christie's novel

Anatomy of a Scandal, Netflix review - sex, sexism and the abuse of power

Adam Sweeting

Sarah Vaughan's novel gets a binge-watching makeover from David E Kelley

Gentleman Jack, Series 2, BBC One review - the queer Victorian heroine swaggers back in style

Helen Hawkins

Suranne Jones’s performance as Anne Lister is as engaging as ever

Hacks, Prime Video review - what's so funny about a career in comedy?

Adam Sweeting

Jean Smart sizzles in caustic Sin City drama

The Split, Series 3, BBC One review - the Defoes are back, more conflicted than ever

Markie Robson-Scott

Will Hannah and Nathan's marriage survive? Nicola Walker and Stephen Mangan star in Abi Morgan's legal drama

Thatcher & Reagan: A Very Special Relationship, BBC Two review - when the Iron Lady met the Cowboy President

Adam Sweeting

The transatlantic partnership that helped to shape the Eighties

Slow Horses, Apple TV+ review - the sleazy underbelly of the espionage racket

Helen Hawkins

Oddballs and losers populate flavourful dramatisation of Mick Herron novel

Bridgerton, Season 2, Netflix review - power politics and love triangles as Regency fantasy returns

Adam Sweeting

No Duke of Hastings and not much sex doesn't bode well

The Last Kingdom, Season 5, Netflix review - Danes-and-Saxons saga hurtles towards an epic climax

Adam Sweeting

How much longer can the heroic Uhtred keep riding to the rescue?

Holding, ITV review - Graham Norton’s novel moves seamlessly to the small screen

Helen Hawkins

A fine Irish cast does justice to a gentle but dark whodunnit set in West Cork

Drive to Survive, Season 4, Netflix review - bitter rivalries on and off the track

Adam Sweeting

Ratings-grabbing F1 docuseries revisits the explosive 2021 campaign

Shane, Amazon Prime review - the outsized life and times of cricket's King of Spin

Adam Sweeting

Much-lamented Aussie legend tells the story of his remarkable career

The Ipcress File, ITV review – adaptation of Len Deighton thriller fires on all cylinders

Adam Sweeting

Joe Cole, Lucy Boynton and Tom Hollander light up this Cold War classic

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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