wed 17/07/2019

TV reviews, news & interviews

The Day We Walked on the Moon, ITV review - it was 50 years ago to the day

Adam Sweeting

It was on 16 July 1969 that Apollo 11 lifted off from Florida en route for the Moon, and exactly 50 years later, as we nervously anticipate the dawn of commercial flights into space, the event resonates louder than ever. Here, Professor Brian Cox called it “the greatest achievement in the history of civilisation.” According to veteran broadcaster Sir Trevor McDonald, it was “the most magnificent thing that ever happened.”

Inside the Social Network: Facebook's Difficult Year, BBC Two review - how big can it get?

Adam Sweeting

Not everybody is on Facebook, yet. So far, Mark Zuckerberg’s social media monolith has only managed to scrape together about 2.3 billion users, roughly one-third of the planet. But as this fascinating documentary revealed, Facebook’s plans are huge and its ambitions boundless.

8 Days: To the Moon and Back, BBC Two review -...

Tom Baily

The Apollo 11 mission remains the most celebrated journey humanity has ever made. It produced some of our most iconic images, as well as the greatest...

Charles I: Downfall of a King, BBC Four review -...

Adam Sweeting

“I want to discover how our government could fall apart and the country become bitterly divided in just a few weeks,” historian Lisa Hilton announced...

Cyclists: Scourge of the Streets?, Channel 5...

Adam Sweeting

Healthy, efficient and carbon-neutral, cycling ought to be a transport panacea. But in the dash for lycra, perhaps not enough attention has been paid...

Dark Money, BBC One review - powerful idea poorly executed

Adam Sweeting

Story of Hollywood child abuse fails to launch

On making The Left Behind: 'We've plugged into the mains'

Joseph Bullman

The director of Killed By My Debt introduces his new BBC drama about a hate crime

Stranger Things 3, Netflix review - bigger, dumber, better

Owen Richards

Netflix’s retro adventure plays to its strengths in latest season

Gentleman Jack, BBC One, series finale review - Anne Lister weds with pride

Jasper Rees

Sally Wainwright's triumphant homage to a lesbian pioneer reaches a romantic climax. CONTAINS SPOILERS

Inside the Ritz Hotel, ITV review - glitz and glam, but no detail

Tom Baily

Celebrity-packed documentary is all about the presentation

Inside the Bank of England, BBC Two review - economical with the actualité

Adam Sweeting

The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street keeps her secrets closely guarded

Judi Dench's Wild Borneo Adventure, ITV review - national treasure meets natural wonders

Adam Sweeting

Renowned thespian takes guided tour of the tropical rainforest

The Planets, Series Finale, BBC Two review - ice cold on Neptune

Adam Sweeting

Brian Cox's series concludes with a deep-frozen trip to the far end of the Solar System

Drag SOS, Channel 4 review - absolutely fabulous

Adam Sweeting

Being the best you can be with the Family Gorgeous

BBC Cardiff Singer of the World 2019 Final, BBC Four review - stage confidence, supportive set-up

David Nice

Invidious to choose between different voices, but Andrei Kymach is a worthy winner

Beecham House, ITV review - a cartoon version of 18th century India

Adam Sweeting

Murky colonial history reborn as melodramatic fantasy

Mum, Series 3 finale, BBC Two review - superb comedy bows out

Veronica Lee

Tears of laughter and sadness

Years and Years, Series Finale, BBC One review - soggy ending fails to inspire

Adam Sweeting

Doomy drama runs out of steam in the final furlong

Ackley Bridge, Series 3, Channel 4 review - we gotta get out of this place

Adam Sweeting

Education is a constant battleground in Yorkshire-set school drama

Thatcher: A Very British Revolution, Finale, BBC Two review - a heartbreaking account of her decline

Marina Vaizey

How time eventually ran out for the Iron Lady

Franco Zeffirelli: 'I had this feeling that I was special'

Jasper Rees

Recalling a two-day audience at the home of the great maestro, who has died aged 96

Wild Bill, Episode 1, ITV review - an American in Lincolnshire

Tom Baily

Rob Lowe plays top cop in goofy crime drama

What's My Name: Muhammad Ali, Sky Atlantic review - why they called him The Greatest

Adam Sweeting

Portrait of the boxing legend and his place in American history

Years and Years, Episode 5, BBC One review - darker and darker

Adam Sweeting

Soap opera family finds itself trapped in doomsday scenario

Big Little Lies, Series 2, Sky Atlantic review - supercharged start for new season

Adam Sweeting

Meryl Streep boosts an already formidable female cast

Bob Dylan Special - Rolling Thunder Revue, Netflix

Tim Cumming

Martin Scorsese reexamines the legendary 1975 tour

Killing Eve, Series 2, BBC One review - the award-winning show returns

Markie Robson-Scott

A new writer/director makes the relationship between the spy and the assassin as fascinating as ever

Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City, Netflix, review - sex and dope soap is back in San Francisco

Jasper Rees

The pioneering stories of LGBT+ lives and loves resume with new faces and old

The Virtues, Episode 4, Channel 4 review - a bitter redemption

Tom Baily

Gripping climax to Shane Meadows' harrowing series

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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