thu 17/06/2021

TV reviews, news & interviews

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

Adam Sweeting

After appearing in six of Marvel’s Avengers movies, Tom Hiddleston’s Loki (the God of Mischief) gets his own TV series.

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

Adam Sweeting

Lupin isn’t really about the fictional character it’s named after (the gentleman thief Arsène Lupin, created in 1905 by French writer Maurice Leblanc), but about Assane Diop, who’s an obsessive fan of the Lupin novels.

The Beast Must Die, Britbox review - a crime...

Adam Sweeting

They all laughed when the streaming service Britbox declared that it wanted to become a sort of UK-orientated Netflix, because so far it’s been...

Time, BBC One review - grim and gritty study of...

Adam Sweeting

Jimmy McGovern’s new three-part drama about prison life is about as far as you could travel from Ronnie Barker’s Seventies sitcom Porridge, even if...

Anne Boleyn, Channel 5 review - whispery and...

Matt Wolf

"Get out!" The order, spoken some way into the third and final episode of Channel 5's entry into the Tudor drama sweepstakes, Anne Boleyn, certainly...

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

Viewpoint, ITV review - the perils of the peeping tom police

Adam Sweeting

Who's watching whom in DC Young's surveillance operation?

Line of Duty, Series 6, Episode 6, BBC One review - the pace accelerates for AC-12's final countdown

Adam Sweeting

Apocalypse soon as the end of the line looms

The Winter's Tale, RSC, BBC Four review - post-war poise colours a solid production

Tom Birchenough

Overcoming lockdown challenges, a broadcast first for Stratford

Mare of Easttown, Sky Atlantic review - Kate Winslet shines in finely-drawn Pennsylvania mystery

Adam Sweeting

Tangled secrets in a dirty old town

Helen McCrory: 'If there's one interesting thing about acting it's trying to lose your ego'

Jasper Rees

Three encounters with the great actor who has died at the age of 52

Bent Coppers: Crossing the Line of Duty, BBC Two review - when crime paid handsomely for corrupt officers

Adam Sweeting

Astounding history of how the Met went rotten from within

Too Close, ITV review - capable cast struggles with unrewarding material

Adam Sweeting

Unconvincing TV treatment of Natalie Daniels novel

This is a Robbery: The World's Biggest Art Heist, Netflix - the last word (for now)

Florence Hallett

Three decades on and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum mystery is still hot

Intruder, Channel 5 review - implausible but watchable

Adam Sweeting

The death of a home invader opens a can of worms

Queen Elizabeth and the Spy in the Palace, Channel 4 review - how the Fourth Man burrowed deep into the British Establishment

Adam Sweeting

Did Anthony Blunt uncover secrets which threatened the survival of the house of Windsor?

Messiah highlights, English National Opera, BBC Two review – short-cut sorrow and redemption

Boyd Tonkin

Fine performances: but why this brutally truncated Handel?

Keeping Faith, Series 3, BBC One review - is the drama turning to melodrama?

Adam Sweeting

Last orders for the Carmarthenshire-based family saga

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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