fri 20/01/2017

TV reviews, news & interviews

Meet the Trumps: From Immigrant to President, Channel 4

Jasper Rees

Tom Lehrer famously declared satire dead when the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Henry Kissinger not long after he'd bombed Cambodia back to the Middle Ages. Lehrer never wrote another song. Meanwhile other satirists battle on. Every day delivers fresh material to work with.

Sound of Musicals with Neil Brand, BBC Four

Marina Vaizey

"Oh what a beautiful morning! Oh what a beautiful day!" Curly the cowboy sang in the opening scene of Oklahoma!, the first musical from Rodgers and Hammerstein (1943).

Hospital, BBC Two

Jasper Rees

It’s the ghastly scenario of a grim morality play. A man called Simon comes into hospital for the removal of a tumour in his oesophagus and the...

Interview: Claire Foy, Netflix queen

Jasper Rees

It was a good night for British thespians at the 2016 Golden Globes. The stars of The Night Manager – Tom Hiddleston, Hugh Laurie and Olivia Colman...

David Bowie: The Last Five Years, BBC Two

Jasper Rees

It’s been 12 months since the news guy wept and told us: David Bowie, ever out in front, became the first to depart in the year of musical...

Taboo, BBC One

Adam Sweeting

Is this eerie new historical thriller Tom Hardy's own 'Heart of Darkness'?

The World's Most Extraordinary Homes, BBC Two

Marina Vaizey

Intrepid presenters seek out amazing architecture at the ends of the earth

Unforgotten, Series 2, ITV

Adam Sweeting

Nicola Walker and Sanjeev Bhaskar are back on another cold case

No Offence, Series 2, Channel 4

Veronica Lee

Welcome return of Paul Abbott's comedy drama about gobby cops

Sherlock, Series 4, BBC One

Jasper Rees

Welcome back: Cumberbatch and co return from the past in 'The Six Thatchers' (warning, contains spoilers)

Judi Dench: All the World's Her Stage, BBC Two

Mark Sanderson

Stellar guest list turns out to heap praises on much-loved Dame

To Walk Invisible, BBC One

Matthew Wright

Subtle but brilliant depiction of the Brontë sisters

Best of 2016: TV

Adam Sweeting

Ten highlights from a year stuffed with telly-treats

Bruce Springsteen: In His Own Words, Channel 4

Veronica Lee

Bio-doc that revealed The Boss's creative influences

The Witness for the Prosecution, BBC One

Jasper Rees

Toby Jones and Andrea Riseborough act softly softly in Agatha Christie's dark, dingy London tale

West Side Stories: The Making of a Classic, BBC Two

David Benedict

Excellent footage and interviews not always put to good use

Doctor Who: The Return of Doctor Mysterio, BBC One

Lisa-Marie Ferla

The Doctor tackles a very 2016-style threat - with a little help from a caped crusader

Maigret's Dead Man, ITV

Mark Sanderson

Is Rowan Atkinson growing into the role of Georges Simenon's sleuth?

Call the Midwife: 2016 Christmas Special, BBC One

Adam Sweeting

In which our heroines undertake a mercy mission to South Africa

Grantchester, Christmas Special, ITV

Adam Sweeting

Seasonal cheer undermined by murder and emotional turmoil

Alan Bennett’s Diaries, BBC Two

Marina Vaizey

Portrait of the artist as a diarist: Leeds to London, past to present

Last Tango in Halifax, Christmas special, BBC One

Tom Birchenough

Halifax, Harrogate, Huddersfield, wherever... They're back. Glorious

Darcey Bussell: Looking for Margot, BBC One

Marina Vaizey

Investigating the incandescent, complicated life of the former Margaret Hookham

Lenny Henry: A Life on Screen, BBC Two

Marina Vaizey

The long march from the West Midlands to the West End

Strictly Come Dancing 2016 Final, BBC One

Jasper Rees

Ore Oduba's win is evidence that light entertainment isn't just white entertainment

Ireland with Ardal O'Hanlon, More4

Veronica Lee

Comic's travelogue keeps it light

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, Netflix

Jasper Rees

Douglas Adams's sleuth rises again in a hyperactive US reboot starring Samuel Barnett

Westworld, Series 1 Finale, Sky Atlantic

Adam Sweeting

Cowboy movie morphs into philosophical disquisition

Planet Earth II: Cities, BBC One

Marina Vaizey

City co-existence: closing the series, David Attenborough charts unusual symbioses

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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