sun 18/02/2018

TV reviews, news & interviews

Troy: Fall of a City, BBC One review - soapification of the Trojan War

Adam Sweeting

The plan to bring drama back to Saturday nights on BBC One enjoyed mixed success with Hard Sun, but now threatens to slide over a cliff with this trip back to the Homeric era. In the era of Game of Thrones and now Britannia, you can see why somebody fancied having a go at the swords-sandals-and-sorcery of the Trojan War. The question is, how?

The best TV to watch this week

Theartsdesk

No need to trawl through the schedules. Use our guide to the pick of the best dramas and documentaries coming to a TV near you or already available for streaming.Saturday 17 FebruaryTroy: Fall of a City, BBC One – the Trojan War, adapted by David Farr who wrote the screenplay for The Night Manager.Modus, BBC Four – the Feds (including Greg Wise) fly in to Stockholm to try to find the AWOL US President (Kim Cattrall).

Trauma, ITV, review - surgically imprecise...

Jasper Rees

When you’re hot, you’re hot. In the past two years Mike Bartlett has had the following works staged or broadcast: Wild, a play about Edward Snowden...

Collateral, BBC Two review - a lecture or a drama?

Adam Sweeting

It says something about the state of television that sooner or later every actor has to play a cop or a spy. Latest in line is Carey Mulligan,...

McMafia, Series finale, BBC One review - the last...

Tom Birchenough

McMafia has taught us to recognise one thing – you might call it the “Norton stride”. As the charismatic Alex Godman, James Norton has been advancing...

Derry Girls, Channel 4 review – bring on series two!

Owen Richards

Final episode cements place as one of the funniest new shows on television

Listed: Suffragettes portrayed

Theartsdesk

From theartsdesk archive: How have the pioneering days of women's emancipation fared in works of art?

John Mahoney: 'I wanted to be like everybody else'

Jasper Rees

How the Manchester-born star of 'Frasier' became a naturalised Midwesterner

Spiral, Series 6 Finale, BBC Four review - hot fuzz hit new heights

Adam Sweeting

Storming climax to multi-layered Parisian police drama

Requiem, BBC One review – everything but the scares

Owen Richards

New horror series hits familiar notes, but struggles to leave a mark

Gomorrah, Series 3, Sky Atlantic review - there will be blood

Adam Sweeting

Godfathers and wiseguys, Neapolitan style

Strike Back, Series 6 part 2, Sky 1 review - shoot first, talk later

Adam Sweeting

Terror at Chernobyl with Warrington's jihadi queen

Hits, Hype and Hustle: An Insider's Guide to the Music Business, BBC Four review - how gigs got big

Adam Sweeting

A bean-counter's journey through rock'n'roll

Inside No 9, series 4, BBC Two review - laughter in the dark

Jasper Rees

Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith's latest black comedy is unexpectedly topical

Great American Railway Journeys, Series 3, BBC Two review - edutainment despite shortage of trains

Marina Vaizey

The train buff journey continues: Michael Portillo embarks on his East Coast route

Rebecka Martinsson: Arctic Murders, More4 review - Swedish sleuth is a cold case

Jasper Rees

Crime drama from the far north looks good but doesn't quite grip

Britannia, Sky Atlantic review - Druids, sex and sorcery

Adam Sweeting

Roman legions versus warring tribes and hippie squatters

Before We Die, Channel 4 review - underwhelming and unengaging Scandi noir

Owen Richards

Swedish crime drama offers dull production and a meandering plot

Art, Passion and Power: The Story of the Royal Collection, BBC Four review - monarchs knew the power of the portrait

Marina Vaizey

A cornucopia of great works, but a little too much Andrew Graham-Dixon

Big Cats, BBC One review - how cats conquered the world

Marina Vaizey

Felines from the fastest to the strongest, the smallest to the biggest

Kiri, Channel 4 review - transracial adoption drama muddies the waters

Jasper Rees

No easy answers in Jack Thorne's latest four-parter, starring Sarah Lancashire

Hard Sun, BBC One review - cops versus the end of the world

Adam Sweeting

Sizzling start for Neil Cross's pre-apocalyptic thriller

Girlfriends, ITV review - Kay Mellor helps the middle-aged

Jasper Rees

Cheerful new drama high-fives women refusing to be left on the shelf

McMafia, BBC One review - James Norton looks promising in a murky le Carré world

Tom Birchenough

Crime - and punishment? Gangster capitalism, à la Russe, set to challenge integrity

Best of 2017: TV

Theartsdesk

The ones that did and the ones that didn't - we pick the good, the bad and the ugly from 2017

Spiral, Series 6, BBC Four review - grime pays in the City of Light

Adam Sweeting

Welcome return of the superior French police drama

Eric, Ernie and Me, BBC Four review - he brought them sunshine

Jasper Rees

The moving story of Morecambe and Wise's scriptwriter Eddie Braben, plus a gentle hour with Eric & Ernie's Home Movies

The Miniaturist, BBC One review - a lovely supernatural soap

Jasper Rees

Jessie Burton's novel is ravishingly visualised with 21st century highlights

Alan Partridge: Why, When, Where, How and Whom?, BBC Two review - a helping of Christmas Partridge

Owen Richards

Joyful documentary on how Coogan’s repulsive creation won (and kept) the nation’s heart

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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