mon 27/05/2019

TV reviews, news & interviews

Summer of Rockets, BBC Two review - pride and prejudice in 1950s Britain

Adam Sweeting

Hallelujah! At last the BBC have commissioned a Stephen Poliakoff series that makes you want to come back for episode two (and hopefully all six), thanks to a powerful cast making the most of some perceptively-written roles.

Alastair Campbell: Depression and Me, BBC Two review - is there an alternative to a life on anti-depressants?

Adam Sweeting

Persistent depression is debilitating and terrifying, as Alastair Campbell illustrated vividly in this punchily-argued film. We first saw him looking like a disturbed, miserable ghost, as he described in his video diary a sudden plunge into depression at New Year, 2018. He seemed to be ebbing away before our eyes.

Heathrow: Britain's Busiest Airport, ITV...

Adam Sweeting

It’s remarkable that this meandering observational documentary about the five square mile airport west of London has stretched to a fifth series....

Hatton Garden, ITV review - ancient burglars bore...

Jasper Rees

Have we passed peak Hatton Garden? It’s now four years since a gang of old lags pulled off the biggest heist of them all. They penetrated a basement...

Thatcher: A Very British Revolution, BBC Two...

Marina Vaizey

Is there some tongue-in-cheek irony in BBC Two starting a five-part biographical documentary on Margaret Thatcher this Monday? Mrs Thatcher was...

Game of Thrones, Sky Atlantic, Series 8 Finale review – who will sit on the Iron Throne?

Demetrios Matheou

HBO’s epic saga ends a controversial final season on a high

Gentleman Jack, BBC One review - the revolutionary life of Anne Lister

Adam Sweeting

Suranne Jones shines in Sally Wainwright's swashbuckling dramatisation

Cannes 2019: Too Old to Die Young - nightmarish LA noir

Joseph Walsh

'Neon Demon' director Nicolas Winding Refn turns to TV with Miles Teller

What We Do In the Shadows, BBC Two review - black comedy vampire spin-off from cult movie

Saskia Baron

Squabbling neck nibblers raise the undead in spritely sitcom

David Harewood: Psychosis and Me, BBC Two review - actor confronts his painful past

Saskia Baron

The 'Homeland' star explores the mental health crisis he suffered in his twenties

Mum, BBC Two, series 3 review - welcome last hurrah for adult family sitcom

Jasper Rees

Mum's still the word as heavenly Cathy, hellish Pauline and co return

The Virtues, Channel 4 review - close and personal with stunning Stephen Graham

Tom Baily

Shane Meadows returns to directing TV with brutal realism

Years and Years, BBC One review - ambitious but amorphous

Adam Sweeting

New Russell T Davies drama may be trying on too many hats at once

Bear's Mission with David Walliams, ITV review - celebs go wild in the country

Adam Sweeting

Showbiz professionals ham up their survival skills for the cameras

Deep State, Series 2, Fox review - covert conspiracies in Africa

Adam Sweeting

Mali is the new battleground for superpower skulduggery

Chernobyl, Sky Atlantic review - a glimpse of Armageddon

Adam Sweeting

A real-life disaster movie you can't tear yourself away from

Trust Me, Series 2 Finale, BBC One review - dodgy doctors and unreliable nurses

Adam Sweeting

Middling conclusion to Glaswegian medical murder mystery

Win a Luxury Weekend for Two to Celebrate Brighton Festival!


An eclectic line-up spanning music, theatre, dance, visual art, film, comedy, literature and spoken word could be yours with boutique hotel and exquisite meals included

Line of Duty, BBC One, series 5 finale review - big highs and Biggeloe

Jasper Rees

A thrilling joust between superintendents, but the reveals lacked oomph. CONTAINS SPOILERS

My Extreme Drugs Diary, Channel 5 review - the tedium of taking heroin

Markie Robson-Scott

Documentary series featuring substance abusers wearing metallic masks

The Widow, Series Finale, ITV review - Congolese drama parts company with reality

Adam Sweeting

In which the Williams brothers jump the shark

Bake Off: The Professionals, Channel 4 review - farcical but fun

Adam Sweeting

Contestants compete to see who can provoke maximum hyperbole

Game of Thrones, Sky Atlantic review - The Battle of Winterfell

Demetrios Matheou

Excitement, horror, pathos and almost unendurable tension as GoT pulls out the stops: a spoiler-free review

Run for Your Life, ITV review - giving the nation's youth a sporting chance

Adam Sweeting

Can sport be a secret weapon in the battle against gangs and knife crime?

Looking for Rembrandt, BBC Four review - painter's biog is a mini-masterpiece

Adam Sweeting

Tim Niel's three-part series delivers a richly rewarding climax

Climate Change: The Facts, BBC One review - how much reality can humankind bear?

Katherine Waters

What's driving climate change and how long we have to do something about it

Chimerica, Channel 4 review - fake news, true drama

Tom Birchenough

Added Trump: Lucy Kirkwood’s play takes a revisionary path to the screen

Trust Me, Series 2, BBC One review - hospital killer chiller

Adam Sweeting

Beware the angel of death stalking the wards

Back to Life, BBC Three review - Daisy Haggard finds laughs in prison release

Jasper Rees

Comedy from Fleabag producers introduces another damaged woman seeking redemption

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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