tue 28/09/2021

TV reviews, news & interviews

Thomas Hardy: Fate, Exclusion and Tragedy, Sky Arts review – too much and not enough

Harriet Thompson

Born in 1840, Thomas Hardy lived a life of in-betweens. Modern yet traditional, the son of a builder who went on to become a famous novelist, he belonged both to Dorset and London. When he died, his ashes were interred at Westminster Abbey, but his heart was buried separately alongside his first wife in the village of Stinsford in Dorset.

Schumacher, Netflix review - authorised version of the life of an F1 legend

Adam Sweeting

Michael Schumacher’s skiing accident in December 2013, which left the seven-times Formula One world champion with a severe brain injury, added a shocking postscript to one of the greatest stories in motor racing. Having survived a decades-long driving career which included numerous accidents (including a motorcycle smash in 2009 which was apparently far more serious than the Schumi camp would admit), he was near-fatally stricken on a family Christmas holiday in Méribel.

The North Water, BBC Two review - a terrible...

Adam Sweeting

It’s perhaps unfortunate that The North Water arrives on BBC Two only a few months after The Terror, since it’s impossible to avoid the parallels...

The Blood Pact, All 4 review - a (tax) inspector...

Sebastian Scotney

In Klem (meaning "clamp"’), we find ourselves in the calm, ordered and ordinary world of Amsterdam-Zuid. There are parents’ evenings to be attended,...

Clickbait, Netflix review - fiendishly cunning...

Adam Sweeting

It seems Covid-19 may not be the only plague threatening mankind. The virus is nowhere to be seen in Netflix’s grippingly twisty mystery Clickbait,...

Vigil, BBC One review - murder most watery

Adam Sweeting

What does the Navy have to hide at its Trident submarine base?

The White Lotus, Sky Atlantic review - dark side of a tropical paradise

Adam Sweeting

Hawaiian hotel haunted by the ghost of Basil Fawlty

Britannia, Series 3, Sky Atlantic review - murder, mysticism and anaemic slapstick

Adam Sweeting

Welcome to a bizarre pre-Britain where anything can happen

Hit & Run, Netflix review - Lior Raz excels as a hard man on a hazardous mission

Adam Sweeting

Covert war erupts between Israeli and American spy agencies

Deceit, Channel 4 review - how Colin Stagg became prime suspect in the Rachel Nickell case

Adam Sweeting

Damning account of the Met's ill-conceived honeytrap operation

theartsdesk Q&A: writer and comedian Tom Davis

Adam Sweeting

From singing Disney songs in drag to 'Murder in Successville' and BBC One's 'King Gary'

The Windsors: Endgame, Prince of Wales Theatre review - fitfully pointed fun

Tom Teodorczuk

Popular TV show gets a sometimes riotous stage perch

Watch the Sound with Mark Ronson, Apple TV+ review - riveting survey of the technology that transformed music

Adam Sweeting

Sonic evolution through synths and drum machines to samplers and Auto-Tune

I Am Victoria, Channel 4 review - improvised drama in need of more substance

Adam Sweeting

Powerful performance by Suranne Jones lacks dramatic context

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

Veronica Lee

Tour de force of confessional comedy

Professor T, ITV review - whimsical tales of boffinly detection

Adam Sweeting

Ben Miller illustrates the power of mind over matter

Reclaiming Amy, BBC Two review - Winehouse family and friends remember

Liz Thomson

A great voice silenced too soon

Uprising, BBC One review - powerful documentary about the New Cross fire

Saskia Baron

How a tragic teenage birthday party led to protests calling for police reform

Baptiste, Series 2, BBC One review - powerful comeback for the sorrowful French detective

Adam Sweeting

Another knotty missing-persons mystery from Harry and Jack Williams

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

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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