wed 11/12/2019

TV reviews, news & interviews

Traces, Alibi review - pedigree cast battles implausible plot

Adam Sweeting

Alibi is usually your one-stop shop for re-runs of Father Brown or Death in Paradise, so well done them for commissioning this new murder mystery.

How They Built the Titanic, Channel 5 review - the great liner revisited again, but why now?

Adam Sweeting

The appalling fate of the allegedly unsinkable liner Titanic in 1912 has fuelled endless feature films and documentaries, not to mention a dismal drama series by Julian Fellowes (there was also a proposed Titanic II vessel which would have been built in China, but which remains mysteriously un-launched).

Elizabeth Is Missing, BBC One review - a tender...

Jill Chuah Masters

In films, as in life, unreliable narrators are not hard to find. But there is something remarkable about the unreliable narrator of Elizabeth is...

Giri/Haji, Series Finale, BBC Two review - a...

Adam Sweeting

Happily, Joe Barton’s tinglingly original thriller (BBC Two) finished as smartly as it began, not by any humdrum tying-up of loose ends but by giving...

The Family Secret, Channel 4 review - lives...

Adam Sweeting

“Restorative Justice Practitioner” sounds like a euphemism for a Mad Max-style lone avenger, but in director Anna Hall's devastating film for Channel...

Takaya: Lone Wolf, BBC Four review - enigmatic predator baffles boffins

Adam Sweeting

Outcast of the islands poses intriguing questions about animal behaviour

The Man Who Saw Too Much, BBC One review – death camp in the clouds

Tom Baily

Holocaust survivor documents his experiences as a prisoner and salvaged writer

Tutankhamun with Dan Snow, Channel 5 review - too many presenters spoil Egyptian boy-king doc

Adam Sweeting

Is this really the farewell tour for the pharaoh's priceless treasures?

8 Days, Sky Atlantic review - could armageddon really be this boring?

Adam Sweeting

If you had eight days to live, you probably wouldn't spend them watching this

The Sinner, Series 2, BBC Four review - a white-knuckle ride into spiritual darkness

Adam Sweeting

Bill Pullman returns as detective Harry Ambrose, investigating a murderous child

Country Music by Ken Burns, BBC Four review - grand history of fiddlers on the hoof

Jasper Rees

America's great documentarian takes to the country road to explore a musical melting pot

Greg Davies: Looking for Kes, BBC Four review - touching insights into the story of Barnsley boy Billy Casper

Adam Sweeting

How Barry Hines's classic novel became a great British film

Vienna Blood, BBC Two review - psychoanalysis and murder in turn-of-the-century Vienna

Markie Robson-Scott

Set in a thrilling era, Steve Thompson's adaptation of Frank Tallis's Liebermann novels fails to excite

The Crown, Series 3, Netflix review - if you want binge TV, there's none finer

Adam Sweeting

Peter Morgan's royal saga has a new cast as the Windsors negotiate the turbulent 1960s

The Accident, Series Finale, Channel 4 review - ambitious mini-series leaves many unanswered questions

Jill Chuah Masters

Jack Thorne’s tragic drama aims to give us closure, but is hampered by flat and unconvincing characters

Britain’s Lost Masterpieces, Episode Three, BBC Four review – more than a bit of Botticelli

Tom Baily

A hidden Renaissance gem in Cardiff Art Gallery

Gold Digger, BBC One review - Julia Ormond tackles those mid-life blues

Adam Sweeting

Marnie Dickens's family drama asks if life can begin again at 60

Ant Middleton and Liam Payne: Straight Talking, Sky 1 review - when the commando met the pop star

Adam Sweeting

Manly true confessions under African skies

World on Fire, BBC One, series finale review - may this fine war drama fight on

Jasper Rees

Peter Bowker's ambitious series ended on a cliffhanger, with viewers waiting to learn its fate

Arena: Everything is Connected - George Eliot's Life, BBC Four review - innovative film brings the Victorian novelist into the present

India Lewis

Artist Gillian Wearing captures Eliot’s life and legacy through the voices of the common man (and woman)

The Fall of the Berlin Wall with John Simpson, BBC Four review – the future we’ve left behind

Tom Baily

BBC's longest serving correspondent revisits his biggest story

Dublin Murders, Series Finale, BBC One review - eerie detective drama grips tightly

Adam Sweeting

Adaptation of Tana French novels exerts a supernatural allure

Rich Hall's Red Menace, BBC Four review - laconic comic referees the Free World versus Communism

Adam Sweeting

A sideways look at the madness and paranoia of the Cold War decades

Rick Stein's Secret France, BBC Two review - is the travelling chef's palate growing jaded?

Jill Chuah Masters

Stein's latest culinary tour produces unconvincing results

His Dark Materials, BBC One review - generic TV fantasy with ready-made twists

David Nice

High production values and the imagination of Philip Pullman carry a thin first episode

Get Rich Or Try Dying: Music’s Mega Legacies, BBC Four review – inside the RIP business

Tom Baily

Brief glimpse into music's unknown industry

The Great British Bake Off, Series 10 finale, Channel 4 review - bittersweet end to a divisive series

Jill Chuah Masters

Tenth anniversary marred by quixotic judgements and unfeasible challenges

Guilt, BBC Two review - dark Scottish comedy starring Mark Bonnar and Jamie Sives

Markie Robson-Scott

Neil Forsyth's stylish drama gathers conviction and momentum after a slow start

Love and Hate Crime, BBC One review - Abel Cedeno was a killer, but was he also a victim?

Adam Sweeting

Punchy documentary probes controversial murder case and the US justice system

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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