fri 27/04/2018

TV reviews, news & interviews

The Split, BBC One, review - Abi Morgan’s densely packed divorce drama

Jasper Rees

A few years ago Abi Morgan was everywhere. For the cinema she scripted Shame, The Iron Lady, The Invisible Woman and Suffragette. On television she adapted Birdsong and created The Hour and, most recently, River. But she’s mainly been quiet for a couple of years.

Westworld, Series 2, Sky Atlantic review - big trouble in synthetic paradise

Adam Sweeting

Some critics complain that Westworld is too complicated for its own good, and you can see their point.

The Woman in White, BBC One review - camp...

Katherine Waters

The BBC excels at a very particular kind of drama, namely one where production values overawe dramatic content. Its version of The Woman in White (...

Home From Home, BBC One review - Johnny Vegas as...

Veronica Lee

Home From Home, written by newcomers Chris Fewtrell and Simon Crowther, first saw life as a pilot in the BBC’s Landmark Sitcom Season in 2016, the...

True Horror, Channel 4 review - a Ronseal...

Owen Richards

As if the real world wasn’t scary enough... Ghost stories are en vogue at the moment, and after the BBC’s hit-and-miss Requiem, Channel 4 brings True...

Occupied, series 2, Sky Atlantic review - political conflicts looking all too actual

Mark Sanderson

Jo Nesbo’s neo-Cold War drama of Russia vs the rest - aka truth vs lies - resumes

Stephen: The Murder That Changed A Nation, BBC One review - ‘He was a cool guy and everybody loved him’

Katherine Waters

New three part documentary marks 25 years since the murder of Stephen Lawrence

The Queen's Green Planet, ITV review - right royal arboreals

Marina Vaizey

Gentle cliché met gentle cliché, but this film was charming, and the concept is fabulous

Helaine Blumenfeld: Britain’s most successful sculptor you’ve never heard of

Rupert Edwards

The director of a new Sky Arts documentary profile of the sculptor explores her work

Lifeline, Channel 4 review - Spanish sci-fi drama on speed

Jasper Rees

'Walter Presents' what-if transplant drama from Madrid hits the accelerator pedal

Law and Order, BBC Four review - not a fair cop

Jasper Rees

GF Newman's 1978 series about police corruption still intrigues

Boy George and Culture Club: From Karma to Calamity, BBC Four

Barney Harsent

The return of Eighties pop giants would be a sure-fire hit, if only they could nail the harmony

Below the Surface, Series Finale, BBC Four review - tense and twisty to the bitter end

Adam Sweeting

Terrorist thriller ends in tragedy and true confessions

The City and the City, BBC Two review - detection in four dimensions

Adam Sweeting

David Morrissey manages to keep fantasy psy-cop show on the road

Civilisations: First Contact, BBC Two review - David Olusoga goes for gold

Jasper Rees

It's not all about colonialism as Europe establishes cultural contact with other continents

Deep State, Fox review - secrets, lies and spies

Adam Sweeting

Retired spy Max Easton is pulled back for one last mission, with sinister consequences

Ordeal by Innocence, BBC One, review - Agatha Christie goes nuclear

Jasper Rees

Delayed adaptation is a tangy brew of blood, bricks and bad mothers

Arena: Bob Dylan - Trouble No More, BBC Four review - up close and personal with Gospel Bob

Tim Cumming

You gotta have faith: powerful music, with sermons interleaved

In the Long Run, Sky 1 review - bright start for multiracial comedy

Adam Sweeting

Idris Elba revisits 1980s Hackney with a deft comic touch

Come Home, BBC One review - a drama of family disintegration, divided loyalties

Markie Robson-Scott

A mother leaves her children: Christopher Eccleston and Paula Malcomson star in Danny Brocklehurst's new creation

Mum, BBC Two, series 2 finale review - the perfect way to go

Jasper Rees

Lesley Manville and co should quit their unimprovable sitcom while they're ahead

Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words, BBC One review - emotional nomad with a fragile gift for joy

Jasper Rees

Imagine's intimate portrait of a Hollywood diva fills in the darkest shadows

The Good Fight, Series 2, More4 review - the longer they do it, the better it gets

Adam Sweeting

Public perils and private passions as the scintillating legal saga returns

Big Cats About the House, BBC Two review - irresistible feline-human bonding

Marina Vaizey

When a jaguar comes to stay... Wildlife television goes domestic

The Durrells, Series 3, ITV review - a winter warmer from Corfu

Adam Sweeting

Take a load off with some Mediterranean escapism

13 Commandments, Channel 4 review - murder most Flemish

Jasper Rees

Belgian crime drama from Walter Presents borrows the plot of 'Seven'

Annihilation, Netflix review - not quite a sci-fi masterpiece

Adam Sweeting

Girl-power cast can't send Alex Garland's Earth-in-peril saga into orbit

Being Blacker, BBC Two review - absorbing film about family, culture and society

Jasper Rees

Molly Dineen documentary puts race identity in Brixton under the microscope

Below the Surface, BBC Four review - terror in Copenhagen

Adam Sweeting

Dogged Danes versus ruthless subterranean hostage-takers

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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