sat 24/08/2019

TV reviews, news & interviews

Power, politics and Peaky Blinders - the Shelby family return for Series 5

Adam Sweeting

This is how Steven Knight pictured Peaky Blinders when he first set about creating it. “I was very keen not to do a traditional British period drama, especially where it comes to depictions of working class people.

Bauhaus 100, BBC Four review - a well-made film about the makers

Sebastian Scotney

The Bauhaus school and its subsequent influence make an extraordinary story, and this film by Mat Whitecross, which has assembled a whole range of different voices and perspectives and woven them together, told it well.

Heartbreak Holiday, BBC One review - can it match...

Markie Robson-Scott

The BBC’s version of Love Island has familiar ingredients: ten 20-somethings, many with pale manicures and hair extensions, on an island, in this...

Train Your Baby Like A Dog, Channel 4 review - an...

Markie Robson-Scott

Animal behaviourist Jo-Rosie Haffenden, who lives in Spain, has some very good dogs (and a charming toddler, who knows how to sit). Can she transfer...

The Day Mountbatten Died, BBC Two review - the...

Liz Thomson

It was a lovely summer’s day in southern England, much as it was in County Sligo. I was with my parents, driving to visit a very elderly relative. We...

Kathy Burke's All Woman, Channel 4 review - warts and all

Owen Richards

Comedy legend asks what is beauty, and why is there so much pressure to achieve it?

Keeping Faith, Episode 4 Series 2, BBC One review - murders aplenty

Owen Richards

Husband Evan leaves prison, just as Faith risks going in

This Way Up, Channel 4 review - hilarity with a dark undercurrent

Markie Robson-Scott

Funny or die: Aisling Bea stars in her self-penned comedy series

I Am Hannah, Channel 4 review - last in trilogy leaves us dangling

Adam Sweeting

Gemma Chan stars as a woman agonising over mid-life choices

Euphoria, Sky Atlantic review - teenage nervous breakdown

Adam Sweeting

Gen-Z drama pushes the envelope of sex, drugs and emotional turmoil

Inside the Secret World of Incels, BBC One review - involuntary celibacy, violence and despair

Markie Robson-Scott

A disturbing documentary about men who feel rejected

The Chef's Brigade, BBC Two review - you're in the army now

Adam Sweeting

Jason Atherton wants to build a team to take on the finest cooks in Europe

Manifest, Sky 1 review - late arrival causes cosmic upheaval

Adam Sweeting

Where has flight 828 been for five and a half years?

Who Do You Think You Are? - Naomie Harris, BBC One review - shocks old and new

Veronica Lee

Naomie Harris's fascinating story stretched back to Caribbean slavery

Cindy Sherman: #untitled, BBC Four review - portrait of an enigma

Tom Baily

A glimpse into the secretive life and complex work of a major American artist

Keeping Faith, Series 2, BBC One review - family misfortunes

Adam Sweeting

Dark secrets are lurking in the exquisite Carmarthen landscape

I Am Nicola, Channel 4 review - not really love, actually

Adam Sweeting

Vicky McClure excels in claustrophobic relationship drama

The Day We Walked on the Moon, ITV review - it was 50 years ago to the day

Adam Sweeting

You've heard it all before, but this was an entertaining ride

Inside the Social Network: Facebook's Difficult Year, BBC Two review - how big can it get?

Adam Sweeting

A force for good or Big Brother in the making?

8 Days: To the Moon and Back, BBC Two review - intimate peek at life in lunar capsule

Tom Baily

Insightful doco-drama combines re-enactments with real cockpit audio

Charles I: Downfall of a King, BBC Four review - beheaded monarch upstaged by exotic presenter

Adam Sweeting

Decadence, pomp and popery prove fatal to the Stuart court

Cyclists: Scourge of the Streets?, Channel 5 review - can we make the roads a safer place?

Adam Sweeting

Provocative documentary unlikely to promote harmony on the highway

Dark Money, BBC One review - powerful idea poorly executed

Adam Sweeting

Story of Hollywood child abuse fails to launch

On making The Left Behind: 'We've plugged into the mains'

Joseph Bullman

The director of Killed By My Debt introduces his new BBC drama about a hate crime

Stranger Things 3, Netflix review - bigger, dumber, better

Owen Richards

Netflix’s retro adventure plays to its strengths in latest season

Gentleman Jack, BBC One, series finale review - Anne Lister weds with pride

Jasper Rees

Sally Wainwright's triumphant homage to a lesbian pioneer reaches a romantic climax. CONTAINS SPOILERS

Inside the Ritz Hotel, ITV review - glitz and glam, but no detail

Tom Baily

Celebrity-packed documentary is all about the presentation

Inside the Bank of England, BBC Two review - economical with the actualité

Adam Sweeting

The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street keeps her secrets closely guarded

Judi Dench's Wild Borneo Adventure, ITV review - national treasure meets natural wonders

Adam Sweeting

Renowned thespian takes guided tour of the tropical rainforest

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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