tue 12/11/2019

TV reviews, news & interviews

World on Fire, BBC One, series finale review - may this fine war drama fight on

Jasper Rees

A bit like all those people on the home front in 1940 (but only a little bit), we sit and nervously wait for news. Is World on Fire (BBC One) still listed among the living? Or even now is someone typing up the letter and sticking it in a brown envelope?

Arena: Everything is Connected - George Eliot's Life, BBC Four review - innovative film brings the Victorian novelist into the present

India Lewis

Gillian Wearing’s Arena documentary Everything is Connected (BBC Four) is a quietly innovative biography of an author whose works still resonate with their readers and the country within which she wrote.

The Fall of the Berlin Wall with John Simpson,...

Tom Baily

John Simpson remains the BBC’s longest serving foreign correspondent. Here, he returns to the biggest moment of his career. This personalised...

Dublin Murders, Series Finale, BBC One review -...

Adam Sweeting

You wouldn’t expect a drama called Dublin Murders (BBC One) to be a laugh a minute, but the cumulative anguish, menace and torment of this eight-...

Rich Hall's Red Menace, BBC Four review -...

Adam Sweeting

Who won the Cold War? Nobody, according to comedian Rich Hall in this 90-minute film for BBC Four. His theory is that after the symbolic fall of the...

Rick Stein's Secret France, BBC Two review - is the travelling chef's palate growing jaded?

Jill Chuah Masters

Stein's latest culinary tour produces unconvincing results

His Dark Materials, BBC One review - generic TV fantasy with ready-made twists

David Nice

High production values and the imagination of Philip Pullman carry a thin first episode

Get Rich Or Try Dying: Music’s Mega Legacies, BBC Four review – inside the RIP business

Tom Baily

Brief glimpse into music's unknown industry

The Great British Bake Off, Series 10 finale, Channel 4 review - bittersweet end to a divisive series

Jill Chuah Masters

Tenth anniversary marred by quixotic judgements and unfeasible challenges

Guilt, BBC Two review - dark Scottish comedy starring Mark Bonnar and Jamie Sives

Markie Robson-Scott

Neil Forsyth's stylish drama gathers conviction and momentum after a slow start

Love and Hate Crime, BBC One review - Abel Cedeno was a killer, but was he also a victim?

Adam Sweeting

Punchy documentary probes controversial murder case and the US justice system

Ben Fogle: New Lives in the Wild, Series 10, Channel 5 review - living off your wits and below the radar in Sweden

Adam Sweeting

Perceptive film about an astonishingly independent single mother

Pose, Series 2, BBC Two review - satisfying return for one of TV's most triumphant dramas

Jill Chuah Masters

Ryan Murphy’s excellent series about 1980s ball culture is getting grimmer, but it’s still a whole lot of fun

The Accident, Channel 4 review - Sarah Lancashire leads another bleak but gripping drama

Jill Chuah Masters

Jack Thorne's latest miniseries depicts the aftermath of a disaster in small-town Wales

The Troubles: A Secret History, BBC Four, finale review - peace at last, but at what price?

Adam Sweeting

Concluding part of shocking and sobering documentary series

The British Tribe Next Door, Channel 4 review - risible culture-clash farrago

Adam Sweeting

What have Namibia's Himba tribe done to deserve the Moffatts from Bishop Auckland?

Spiral, Series 7, BBC Four review - hard-hitting return of our favourite French cop show

Adam Sweeting

Crime, slime and real-life issues in a de-glamourised Paris

Giri/Haji, BBC Two review - inspired Anglo-Japanese thriller makes compulsive viewing

Adam Sweeting

Two worlds collide after synchronous murders in London and Tokyo

In the Long Run, Series 2, Sky 1 review - Idris Elba's warm-hearted comedy returns

Jill Chuah Masters

An entertaining brew of culture clash, social commentary and belly laughs

Lenny Henry's Race Through Comedy, Gold review - illuminating account of TV's struggle to become multicultural

Adam Sweeting

Dudley's most famous son delivers home truths about sitcom history

Chaos in the Cockpit: Flights from Hell, Channel 5 review - do we really want to watch plane-wreck TV?

Adam Sweeting

The aircraft might be ok, but there's no accounting for human error

Studio 17: The Lost Reggae Tapes, BBC Four review - a perfectly paced tale of world-shaking basslines and human frailty

Joe Muggs

The inside story of the evolution of reggae and the family that helped facilitate it

The Capture, BBC One, series finale review - nimble drama alive with twists

Jasper Rees

Ben Chanan's paranoid what-if surveillance thriller goes out on another question

Doing Drugs for Fun, Channel 5 review - why the cocaine trade is no laughing matter

Adam Sweeting

Blissfully ignorant Brits collide with crushing home truths in Colombia

The Great British Bake Off, Episode 7, Channel 4 review - bakers hampered by pointless celebrities

Adam Sweeting

Too many guests spoil the TV broth

DVD: Do Not Adjust Your Set / At Last The 1948 Show

Graham Rickson

What the Pythons did first: the remnants of two iconic 1960s shows, restored with respect

Catherine the Great, Sky Atlantic review - a glorious role for Helen Mirren only gets better

Tom Birchenough

Initial Russian intrigue may confound, but hold out for the emotional heart of a landmark drama

The Capture, Episode 5, BBC One review - the man who knew too much

Adam Sweeting

Ben Chanan's twisty conspiracy thriller is boiling to a climax

Snackmasters, Channel 4 review - superchefs take the clone-a-KitKat challenge

Adam Sweeting

Preposterous battle to decode the secrets of the world's best chocolate bar

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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