thu 05/08/2021

TV reviews, news & interviews

Bo Burnham: Inside, Netflix review - a masterpiece about lockdown angst

Veronica Lee

Some people perfected their banana loaf or sourdough bread during lockdown. Others tried to learn a new language or how to play an instrument. Bo Burnham produced this masterpiece.

Professor T, ITV review - whimsical tales of boffinly detection

Adam Sweeting

ITV’s new detective mystery, Professor T, is an adaptation of a Belgian series of the same name, and was filmed in Belgium and Cambridge. Which is a bit weird since all the action supposedly happens in Cambridge.

Reclaiming Amy, BBC Two review - Winehouse family...

Liz Thomson

“My worst fear? What am I scared of?” Amy Winehouse ponders. She pauses thoughtfully: “Myself.”Ten years to the day since she died, Reclaiming Amy,...

Uprising, BBC One review - powerful documentary...

Saskia Baron

Earlier this year, Steve McQueen addressed the forgotten history of black British people through the Small Axe dramas he made for the BBC. Now...

Baptiste, Series 2, BBC One review - powerful...

Adam Sweeting

Baptiste (BBC One) has two powerful weapons in its armoury, in the shape of its stars – Tchéky Karyo as the titular French ‘tec, and Fiona Shaw as...

Lie With Me, Channel 5 review - abuse and betrayal in the Melbourne suburbs

Adam Sweeting

Anglo-Australian thriller doesn't fulfil its potential

Carlos Ghosn: The Last Flight - Storyville, BBC Four review - the tycoon who fell to earth

Adam Sweeting

Astonishing story of power, politics, money and corruption in the automobile industry

Sex/Life, Netflix review - Mills & Boon for the YouPorn era?

Adam Sweeting

Non-stop sex in the city (and elsewhere)

Ghislaine Maxwell: Epstein's Shadow, Sky Documentaries review - the iniquitous fall of the tycoon's daughter

Adam Sweeting

Squalid saga of the socialite who became embroiled with sex offender Jeffrey Epstein

Framing Britney Spears, Sky Documentaries review - the rollercoaster ride of the former teen icon

Adam Sweeting

The struggle to survive the sexism and savagery of showbusiness

Physical, Apple TV+ review - too much pain, not enough gain

Adam Sweeting

Dark comedy which could have been called 'never trust a hippy'

BBC Cardiff Singer of the World 2021 Final, BBC Four review – an embarrassment of vocal riches

David Nice

This year’s choice wasn’t easy – but Korean baritone Gihoon Kim deserved the prize

Loki, Disney+ review - the God of Mischief gets his own TV series

Adam Sweeting

Wacky time-bending adventures with Tom Hiddleston and Owen Wilson

Lupin, Part 2, Netflix review - master of disguise versus racists and lies

Adam Sweeting

Second coming of crowd-pleasing French drama hits virtuoso high notes

The Beast Must Die, Britbox review - a crime story which plumbs psychological depths

Adam Sweeting

Jared Harris seizes centre stage in Isle of Wight-based mystery

Time, BBC One review - grim and gritty study of life behind bars by Jimmy McGovern

Adam Sweeting

Sean Bean and Stephen Graham find themselves in different kinds of prison

Anne Boleyn, Channel 5 review - whispery and weepy

Matt Wolf

An imposing star presence undone by a prosaic script

Mare of Easttown, Season Finale, Sky Atlantic review - great performances in a town called malice

Adam Sweeting

Brad Ingelsby's brilliant but bleak drama storms to a close

Before We Die, Channel 4 review - Lesley Sharp excels as a detective in crisis

Adam Sweeting

The personal and the professional collide in brutal crime-gang drama

1971, Apple TV+ review - rock'n'roll's golden year?

Tim Cumming

Amazing music, incredible footage, and more amazing music: welcome to 1971

We Are Lady Parts, Channel 4 review - female Muslim punk band rocks the house

Adam Sweeting

Nida Manzoor's smart sitcom breaks new ground

Trying, Apple TV+ review - the road to parenthood takes a fresh path

Matt Wolf

Esther Smith triumphs anew in adoption-centred comedy-drama

The Underground Railroad, Amazon Prime review - a horrifying ride through America's heart of darkness

Adam Sweeting

Barry Jenkins's adaptation of Colson Whitehead's novel hits you with shock and awe

Domina, Sky Atlantic review - a little less conversation, a little more action required

Adam Sweeting

Sluggish start to Roman girl-power saga

Danny Boy, BBC Two review - when law and war collide

Adam Sweeting

Iraq war drama is powerful but lop-sided

The Pursuit of Love, BBC One review - extravagantly entertaining

Matt Wolf

Nancy Mitford novel makes a smashing small screen transfer

BBC Young Musician 2020 Finale, BBC Four review - poise versus extraterrestrial ecstasy

David Nice

After a year's wait, three finalists serve up first-rate professionalism - and something more

Line of Duty, Series 6 Finale, BBC One review - crafty ending leaves wriggle room for a sequel

Adam Sweeting

Jed Mercurio's harsh verdict on police corruption gives no grounds for optimism

Intergalactic, Sky One review - lovely CGI, shame about the drama

Adam Sweeting

Cosmic jailbreak yarn struggles to convince

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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