sat 19/01/2019

TV reviews, news & interviews

American History's Biggest Fibs with Lucy Worsley, BBC Four review - rewriting history in the Land of the Free

Marina Vaizey

The multi-costumed Lucy Worsley is television marmite, loved or loathed: her gesticulating enthusiasm can grate, as can her stream of bland platitudes. Typically the title is Worsley-twee, evoking fibs instead of lies and falsehoods; are we in the nursery, as smart Nanny Worsley seems to think?

Magnum P.I., Sky 1 review - slick and formulaic remake of Eighties original

Adam Sweeting

Perhaps inspired by the success of the revived Hawaii Five-O, CBS and Universal have gone back to the Eighties, and back to Hawaii, to see if the venerable Magnum P.I. could benefit from a similar overhaul. Early evidence suggests that as formulaic American dramas go, it’s… sort of business as usual.

Cold Feet, Series 8, ITV review - mortality lite

Jasper Rees

How much more is there to say about the thrills and spills of midlife? Cold Feet made a surprisingly nimble return to ITV a couple of series ago...

On Drums... Stewart Copeland!, BBC Four review -...

Marina Vaizey

On Drums was inhabited by a parade of fine-looking young and middle aged multi-ethnic anglophone drummers, all introduced by Stewart Copeland, the...

Catastrophe, Series 4, Channel 4 review - final...

Veronica Lee

Some may have thought that Catastrophe (Channel 4) had neared the end of the road with the third series, but I disagree. It was still managing, with...

Call My Agent!, Netflix review - French movie stars turn out for witty and waspish TV show

Adam Sweeting

Gallant Gallic screen icons throw themselves in as bait

Brexit: The Uncivil War, Channel 4 review - Benedict Cumberbatch gets the best tunes

Jasper Rees

James Graham's bullish Brexit fantasia is more gripped by Leave than Remain

Luther, Series 5, BBC One review - welcome return for Idris Elba's maverick 'tec

Saskia Baron

A psychotic killer, a sneering shrink, Dermot Crowley and Ruth Wilson - it's like he's never been away

Escape at Dannemora, Sky Atlantic review - Ben Stiller's breakout drama impresses

Jasper Rees

Benicio del Toro, Paul Dano and Patricia Arquette glitter in grim prison drama

Les Misérables, BBC One review - Dominic West looks the part in new Victor Hugo adaptation

Adam Sweeting

Andrew Davies's non-musical Misérables makes a promising start

Best of 2018: TV


An appointment to review the past year's telly

The ABC Murders, BBC One, review - John Malkovich's dark reboot of Poirot

Jasper Rees

Sarah Phelps's seasonal Agatha Christie strips the gloss off the little Belgian detective

Upstart Crow, BBC Two review - Shakespeare does Dickens in seasonal tale

Veronica Lee

Ben Elton's literary mash-up melds comedy and tragedy

Torvill & Dean, ITV review - skating into history

Adam Sweeting

The duo's journey from working-class Nottingham to Olympic glory

Merry Christmas Baby - Gregory Porter & Friends, BBC Two review - mellow becomes slo-mo

Sebastian Scotney

Great singing from Gregory Porter but the overall effect is lacklustre

The Dead Room, BBC Four review - ghosts at the microphone

Adam Sweeting

Simon Callow shines in Mark Gatiss's supernatural tale

Watership Down, BBC One review - run rabbit run

Adam Sweeting

Richard Adams's leporine legend gets a state-of-the-art makeover

The Sound of Movie Musicals with Neil Brand, BBC Four review - genius of song and dance

Marina Vaizey

From the Forties to the Sixties, the 'Second Golden Age' of the film musical explored

The Long Song, BBC One, series finale review - a stirring adaptation

Jasper Rees

Andrea Levy's novel set in 19th-century Jamaica draws a wonderful performance from Tamara Lawrance

Springsteen on Broadway, Netflix review - one-man band becomes one-man show

Adam Sweeting

An emotional trip into the mind of New Jersey's patron saint

The Good Place, E4 review - episode one trails clouds of glory

Markie Robson-Scott

Michael Shur's metaphysical sitcom about the afterlife combines ethics and hilarity

Mrs Wilson finale, BBC One review - stranger than fiction

Saskia Baron

Alison Wilson's search for the truth keeps turning up new mysteries

Sir Cliff Richard: 60 Years in Public and in Private, ITV review - bachelor boy bounces back

Adam Sweeting

How the pop veteran weathered career-threatening accusations

Care, BBC One review - a blunt but powerful polemic

Adam Sweeting

Jimmy McGovern asks what we're doing about caring for the elderly

Barbra Streisand: Becoming an Icon 1942-1984, BBC Four review - the way she was

Adam Sweeting

The diva's journey from Brooklyn to Broadway and beyond

The Little Drummer Girl, BBC One, series finale review - Le Carré drama comes to the boil at last

Jasper Rees

Charlie stands by her man. But which one? Contains spoilers

Kidding, Sky Atlantic review - tears of a clown

Owen Richards

Jim Carrey-led series provides a surprisingly deep lesson in loss

Death and Nightingales, BBC Two, review - slow, lyrical, slightly dull

Jasper Rees

Jamie Dornan reunites with The Fall creator to explore passion and bigotry in 19th-century Fermanagh

Mrs Wilson, BBC One review - real-life secrets and lies

Adam Sweeting

Ruth Wilson stars in her own family's amazing tale of deception

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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