mon 19/11/2018

TV reviews, news & interviews

Louis Theroux's Altered States: Choosing Death, BBC Two review - profound and moving

Marina Vaizey

The toughest subject you can imagine: when, and how, would you choose death over life? This riveting film examined that excruciating dilemma within the legal frameworks on offer to some of the terminally ill in the United States.

Our Classical Century, BBC Four review - enthusiasm and delight

Marina Vaizey


They Shall Not Grow Old, BBC Two review - Peter...

Saskia Baron

Peter Jackson has form when it comes to re-examining cinema history. In 1995 he made Forgotten Silver, a documentary about Colin McKenzie, a New...

WW1: The Last Tommies, BBC Four review - Great...

Jasper Rees

“Why should I go out and kill somebody I never knew? There was no reason at all in it in my way of thinking.” Britain’s very last Tommy was Harry...

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Netflix review -...

Adam Sweeting

Not to be confused with Nineties supernatural sitcom Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Netflix’s new incarnation of the high-schooler with infernal powers...

Imagine... Becoming Cary Grant, BBC One review - contemplative portrait of a star

Saskia Baron

Beautifully rendered depiction of the troubled life of a consummate actor

Strangers, Series Finale, ITV review - Eastern promise goes unfulfilled

Adam Sweeting

Hong Kong mystery gets across the finishing line at last

The Little Drummer Girl, BBC One, review - latest Le Carré just passes audition

Jasper Rees

The latest spy drama pits a young English actress against Islamic terror

Berlin Station, More 4 review - spooks in Euroland

Adam Sweeting

Richard Armitage goes undercover in new CIA thriller

Imagine... Tracey Emin: Where Do You Draw the Line, BBC One review - entertaining but deferential

Markie Robson-Scott

A year in the life of the queen of confessional art

There She Goes, BBC Four review - mining disability for family comedy?

Saskia Baron

Writer Shaun Pye's family experience makes for less than parental paradise

Informer, BBC One review - keeping tabs on terror

Adam Sweeting

Going underground with the Confidential Informant Programme

Barneys, Books and Bust Ups, BBC Four review - the Booker Prize at 50

Marina Vaizey

The award's half-century has brought scandals aplenty, welcome publicity pay-offs, too

Press, BBC One, series finale review - scarcely credible but highly entertaining

Jasper Rees

Mike Bartlett's newspaper saga races towards mutually assured stalemate

The Bisexual, Channel 4 review - joyless comedy drama

Veronica Lee

No taboos broken here

Wanderlust, BBC One, series finale review - you can't have your cake and eat it

Jasper Rees

Nick Payne's marital examination asks questions to the very end

Doctor Who, The Woman Who Fell to Earth, BBC One review - a captivating debut from Jodie Whittaker

Lisa-Marie Ferla

The 13th official incarnation of everybody's favourite time-travelling alien

The Cry, BBC One review - every parent's nightmare

Adam Sweeting

How do you cope with the unthinkable?

Queen of the World, ITV review - born to run and run

Marina Vaizey

A year in the life of the Queen and her Commonwealth

Bodyguard, BBC One, series finale review - gripping entertainment of the highest calibre

Jasper Rees

Was it the police, the government or MI5 who murdered Julia Montague? And was she really dead? CONTAINS SPOILERS

A Discovery of Witches, episode 2, Sky 1 review - when the sorceress met the vampire

Adam Sweeting

Supernatural chills and thrills in TV version of the 'All Souls Trilogy'

James Graham: 'the country of Shakespeare no longer recognises arts as a core subject'

James Graham

Full transcript of the playwright's passionate speech about the importance of the arts at the Hospital Club's h100 Awards

Strangers, episode 2, ITV review - conspiracy theories multiply

Adam Sweeting

Hong Kong locations may be the real stars of this tortuous thriller

Killing Eve, BBC One review - the dying game

Adam Sweeting

Sisters are doing it for themselves in semi-comic spy caper

Classic Albums: Amy Winehouse - Back to Black, BBC Four review - suffering turned into song

Mark Kidel

How the singer's second album made musical gold out of the blues

Black Earth Rising, BBC Two review - Blick's new blockbuster

Adam Sweeting

Politics, genocide, race and the law collide in ambitious thriller

Wanderlust, BBC One review - an unflinching look at stale sex

Owen Richards

A strong cast and well-crafted script offer a new take on marital infidelity

Vanity Fair, ITV review - seductions of social climbing

Mark Sanderson

Much fun at Thackeray's fair: Gwyneth Hughes rolls out an accomplished romantic romp

Keeping Faith, BBC One, series finale review - we need to talk about Evan

Jasper Rees

Triumphant Welsh drama starring Eve Myles ends on a question. Contains spoilers

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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