tue 22/10/2019

TV reviews, news & interviews

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

Adam Sweeting

And welcome back to our favourite French cop show – perhaps our favourite cop show from anywhere, in fact – which has raced into its seventh series (on BBC Four) with some typically grimy storylines about death and lowlife in a very de-romanticised Paris.

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

Adam Sweeting

Well here’s an interesting one. We’ve been up to our eyebrows in Eurocops for the past few years, but this Anglo-Japanese fusion from BBC Two (the title translates as "Duty / Shame") feels strikingly fresh and different.

In the Long Run, Series 2, Sky 1 review - Idris...

Jill Chuah Masters

Dust off the record player: Idris Elba’s Eighties comedy In the Long Run (Sky 1) has returned for a second series. Loosely based on Elba’s childhood...

Lenny Henry's Race Through Comedy, Gold...

Adam Sweeting

Sir Lenny Henry, PhD and CBE, is scarcely recognisable as the teenager who made his TV debut on New Faces in 1975. He’s been a stand-up comedian,...

Chaos in the Cockpit: Flights from Hell, Channel...

Adam Sweeting

Apparently your odds of dying in a plane crash are about one in 11 million, while chances of death in a car accident are about one in 5,000....

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

World on Fire, BBC One review - more melodrama than drama

Adam Sweeting

Peter Bowker's World War Two saga needs more depth and less breadth

My Life is Murder, Alibi review - whimsical tales of detection from Down Under

Adam Sweeting

Lucy Lawless upholds the law as investigator Alexa Crowe

Saving Lives at Sea, BBC Two review - derring-do on the ocean wave with the RNLI

Adam Sweeting

Feelgood stories from the diaries of the tea-drinking volunteers

The $50m Art Swindle, BBC Two review - ramblin' gamblin' man comes home to roost

Adam Sweeting

Vanessa Engle's story of art fraudster Michel Cohen is better than fiction

The Cameron Years, BBC One review - quite interesting but a bit boring

Adam Sweeting

The former Prime Minister finally opens up about the EU referendum

City on a Hill, Sky Atlantic review - power, corruption and larceny in 1990s Boston

Adam Sweeting

The cast is strong, the action is brisk and the politics are poisonous

Defending the Guilty, BBC Two review - trials and tribulations of a trainee barrister

Adam Sweeting

New legal comedy struggles to get off the ground

Love in the Countryside, BBC Two review - reaping a harvest of marital bliss?

Adam Sweeting

Sara Cox's dating game for rural singletons is more fun than it ought to be

Temple, Sky 1 review - down in the tube station at midnight

Adam Sweeting

Mark Strong leads powerful cast in fascinating medical thriller

Suicidal: In Our Own Words, Channel 5 review - why are so many men killing themselves?

Adam Sweeting

Harrowing and heartbreaking documentary in which six male mental health patients open up

Spotlight on The Troubles: A Secret History, BBC Four review - Ulster's bitter sectarian war revisited

Adam Sweeting

Meticulous and horrifying account of 30 years of terror and political chaos

The Capture, BBC One review - gripping drama about the surveillance society

Veronica Lee

Ben Chanan's tale is bang-up-to-the-minute

High Society: Cannabis Café, Channel 4 review - pointless investigation into drug-taking

Veronica Lee

Watching people get high for no purpose

Sink or Swim, Channel 4 review - the Channel awaits for these celebrities

Veronica Lee

The latest celebrity format lacks tension or conflict

The Affair series 5, Sky Atlantic review - a new cast member adds intrigue

Veronica Lee

Final season starts strongly with the addition of Anna Paquin

Prince Albert: A Victorian Hero Revealed, Channel 4 review - dramatic documentary filled with intelligent detail

Rachel Halliburton

The privileged prince who was simultaneously an oppressed outsider

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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