fri 02/12/2022

TV reviews, news & interviews

Tokyo Vice, BBC One review - murder, extortion and corruption in the Japanese capital

Adam Sweeting

There was originally a plan to make Tokyo Vice a movie starring Daniel Radcliffe, but it has ended up as a TV series starring Ansel Elgort. It’s almost certainly the better for it, because the eight episodes of this first season – the way it ends, or rather doesn’t, makes a second helping inevitable – give it space to explore Japanese culture and its often mutually uncomprehending relationship with American or European values.

1899, Netflix review - Atlantic voyage turns into cosmic nightmare

Adam Sweeting

Baran bo Odar and Jantje Friese won delirious acclaim for their previous Netflix series Dark, a labyrinthine and fantastical account of children vanishing from a small German town. Anyone familiar with its baffling events and leaps across different timelines will probably feel at home with 1899, the duo’s similarly mind-bending follow-up.

Blood, Sex & Royalty, Netflix review - yo,...

Helen Hawkins

“It was like Woodstock on steroids,” opines an expert in Netflix’s new release about the doomed marriage of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn (yes, another...

The White Lotus, Season 2, Sky Atlantic review -...

Helen Hawkins

Why did Maui work better than Taormina? Mike White’s second series of The White Lotus, which has relocated for its second season from an upscale...

The English, BBC Two review - Emily Blunt's...

Adam Sweeting

Writer and director Hugo Blick isn’t afraid of getting stuck into some knotty and morally complicated issues, whether it’s Middle Eastern politics (...

The Crown, Season 5, Netflix review - is the royal epic outstaying its welcome?

Adam Sweeting

Strong cast rehashes some familiar themes

Leslie Phillips: 'I can be recognised by my voice alone'

Jasper Rees

Saying goodbye to the actor famous for saying hello

Blu-ray: The Owl Service

Graham Rickson

Unsettling, mesmerising mixture of teenage angst and folk horror

SAS Rogue Heroes, BBC One review - rock'n'roll desert warfare from the pen of Steven Knight

Adam Sweeting

Indecently enjoyable TV treatment of Ben Macintyre's book

All Creatures Great and Small, Series 3 finale, Channel 5 review - revived vet show still strikes a popular note

Adam Sweeting

Darrowby gears up for bovine tuberculosis and war with Germany

The Watcher, Netflix review - fear and loathing in the New Jersey suburbs

Adam Sweeting

Real-life story put through the fictional blender by Ryan Murphy

TS Eliot: Into The Waste Land, BBC Two / Four Quartets, Starring Ralph Fiennes, BBC Four review - a great 100th birthday present to a giant of modern literature

Helen Hawkins

Susanna White's documentary decodes a notorious poetic puzzle

Karen Pirie, ITV review - cold case mystery drags itself across the finish line

Adam Sweeting

Val McDermid adaptation is solid but unspectacular

Inside Man, BBC One review - strong cast trapped on a sinking ship

Adam Sweeting

Steven Moffat's continent-jumping mystery can't get its act together

This England, Sky Atlantic review - how Boris's No 10 got Covid wrong

Helen Hawkins

Kenneth Branagh gets Boris (mostly) right, but what does this docudrama hope to achieve?

Am I Being Unreasonable?, BBC One review - comedy thriller delivers the gags

Veronica Lee

Daisy May Cooper's new show is promising, looking set to get darker

'The first thing I do when I wake up is write.' Hilary Mantel, 1952-2022

Jasper Rees

An interview with the novelist the morning after she won the Man Booker Prize for the first time

Crossfire, BBC One review - pacy and nail-biting, the holiday from hell

Helen Hawkins

Keeley Hawes gets caught up in a tense but heartless thriller

The Capture, Series 2 finale, BBC One review - gripping ride to a barnstorming conclusion

Helen Hawkins

But could the AI drama have been more chilling if less intent on being thrilling?

Munich Games, Sky Atlantic review - superbly crafted thriller races to prevent a terrorist attack

Helen Hawkins

'Fauda' writer Michal Aviram delivers the set pieces alongside subtler detective discord

The Capture, Series 2, BBC One review - caught up in the China syndrome

Adam Sweeting

Ben Chanan's dystopian drama hits some sizzlingly contemporary notes

Van der Valk, Series 2 Finale, ITV review - sleaze, corruption and skulduggery in Amsterdam

Adam Sweeting

Marc Warren grows into the role of the yobbish detective

Better Call Saul, Season 6 Finale, Netflix review - end of the line for TV's most celebrated con artist

Adam Sweeting

Satisfying conclusion lets the punishment fit the crime

Marriage, BBC One review - a brilliantly executed drama series with a big heart

Helen Hawkins

Nicola Walker and Sean Bean triumph as a couple in a marital minefield

Shetland, Series 7, BBC One review - Douglas Henshall is back for the last time as Jimmy Perez

Adam Sweeting

Can new series recapture the show's former glories?

Murder in Provence, ITV review - a little light sleuthing amid fabulous French scenery

Adam Sweeting

Roger Allam and Nancy Carroll make an urbane crime-solving duo

The Newsreader, BBC Two review - a drama series of welcome substance from Australia

Helen Hawkins

It's 1986, and a Melbourne TV news team are battling rival stations and each other

The Control Room, BBC One review - twisty thriller set in an ultra-noir Glasgow

Helen Hawkins

A mysterious woman caller turns an ambulance dispatcher's life inside out

Trom, BBC Four review - there's something fishy in the North Atlantic

Adam Sweeting

Murder, conspiracy and ecological awareness in a cold climate

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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