fri 19/08/2022

TV reviews, news & interviews

Better Call Saul, Season 6 Finale, Netflix review - end of the line for TV's most celebrated con artist

Adam Sweeting

It was the end of an era, as Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould’s bittersweet epic of the brilliantly devious Saul Goodman wound to a close. Hints of redemption were in the air, signalled by Saul reverting at last to his real name, James McGill.

Marriage, BBC One review - a brilliantly executed drama series with a big heart

Helen Hawkins

The gifted writer-director Stefan Golaszewski (Him and Her, Mum) has surpassed himself with his latest drama series, Marriage. Given hour-long episodes to play with, rather than the usual half-hour, he has created an unfeasibly rich four-parter out of the simplest of means.

Shetland, Series 7, BBC One review - Douglas...

Adam Sweeting

The last couple of series of Shetland (BBC One) brought the previously much-loved series alarmingly close to shark-jumping territory, converting the...

Murder in Provence, ITV review - a little light...

Adam Sweeting

Connoisseurs of the Britbox streaming service may already have caught up with this three-part series, which has evidently been pressed into service...

The Newsreader, BBC Two review - a drama series...

Helen Hawkins

Period drama from Australia is something of a rarity on our televisions, so The Newsreader scores for novelty alone. It’s not startlingly innovative...

The Control Room, BBC One review - twisty thriller set in an ultra-noir Glasgow

Helen Hawkins

A mysterious woman caller turns an ambulance dispatcher's life inside out

Trom, BBC Four review - there's something fishy in the North Atlantic

Adam Sweeting

Murder, conspiracy and ecological awareness in a cold climate

Freddie Flintoff's Field of Dreams, BBC One review - Lancashire all-rounder adds new strings to his bow

Adam Sweeting

A man on a mission to prove that cricket isn't posh and boring

Mick Jagger: My Life as a Rolling Stone review, BBC Two - the rock'n'roll enigma gives little away as the band reaches 60

Adam Sweeting

Impressive archive footage but no new insights

The Undeclared War, Channel 4 review - how would the UK cope with a devastating cyber-attack?

Adam Sweeting

Peter Kosminsky's drama probes the secret world of GCHQ's techno-spooks

Man vs Bee, Netflix review - or should it be Bee vs Bean?

Adam Sweeting

Rowan Atkinson's new comic character is no Blackadder

Suspect, Channel 4 review - a stylised remake of a Danish psychological drama

Helen Hawkins

James Nesbitt returns as another troubled policeman with a dark back-story (and matching eyebrows)

Sherwood, BBC One review - a traumatic journey through a painful past

Adam Sweeting

James Graham's drama exposes wounds that never healed from the 1980s miners' strike

Borgen: Power and Glory, Netflix review - Birgitte Nyborg is back, more fascinating than ever

Helen Hawkins

The Danish series about a top woman politician is still smarter than 'The West Wing'

We Own This City, Sky Atlantic review - 'The Wire' creator David Simon is back on the Baltimore beat

Adam Sweeting

Gruelling saga of institutionalised police corruption

Ricky Gervais, SuperNature, Netflix review - a provocateur at work

Veronica Lee

An equal opportunities offender delivers a masterclass in meta comedy

The Midwich Cuckoos, Sky Max review - the 1957 sci-fi classic is given a contemporary spin

Helen Hawkins

A drama where children are manipulative little beasts: science fiction or social satire?

Pistol, Disney+ review - Punk history repeats itself as farce

Adam Sweeting

Danny Boyle's Sex Pistols drama is fast, funny and furious

Prehistoric Planet, Apple TV+ review - David Attenborough presents life on earth, 66 million years ago

Adam Sweeting

Technology brings dinosaurs to life in microscopic detail

Das Boot, Series 3, Sky Atlantic review - submarine warfare finds new horizons

Adam Sweeting

Look out U-boats, Commander Swinburne is coming for you

The Essex Serpent, Apple TV+ review - tradition and superstition versus the march of progress

Adam Sweeting

The battle of ideas comes to the East Coast in exquisitely shot treatment of Sarah Perry's novel

Ozark, Series 4 Part 2, Netflix review - crumbling consciences and a last stand

David Nice

No spoilers, hopefully: farewell to this superbly-acted corruption saga

The Staircase, NOW review - addictive dramatisation of real-life murder investigation

Adam Sweeting

Colin Firth visits the dark side as suspected killer Michael Peterson

DI Ray, ITV review - Parminder Nagra battles killer gangs and cultural stereotypes

Adam Sweeting

Cops afflicted by sexism, racism and box-ticking mediocrity

Chivalry, Channel 4 review - Steve Coogan and Sarah Solemani's sharp Hollywood satire

Veronica Lee

Sexual politics in the post-MeToo world

Ten Percent, Amazon Prime review - a hit and miss British makeover of the French comedy 'Call My Agent'

Helen Hawkins

The guest stars shine, but 'Ten Percent' is a satire with an identity crisis

Life After Life, BBC Two review - déjà vu all over again

Adam Sweeting

Fine adaptation of Kate Atkinson's novel is touching and profound

Why Didn't They Ask Evans?, BritBox review - a feast of murder, deception, misleading identities and forgery

Adam Sweeting

Multi-tasking Hugh Laurie brings wit and insight to Agatha Christie's novel

Anatomy of a Scandal, Netflix review - sex, sexism and the abuse of power

Adam Sweeting

Sarah Vaughan's novel gets a binge-watching makeover from David E Kelley

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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