sat 15/05/2021

TV reviews, news & interviews

Domina, Sky Atlantic review - a little less conversation, a little more action required

Adam Sweeting

Ancient Rome has always been a popular playground for film and TV, whether it’s Ben Hur, Gladiator or the 2005 TV series Rome. This Italian-made series for Sky Atlantic was shot at the renowned Cinecittà Studios in Rome, where Visconti, Leone, Scorsese and Bertolucci have all worked, but sadly none of that old-time movie magic has rubbed off on it.

Danny Boy, BBC Two review - when law and war collide

Adam Sweeting

The issue of public inquiries into the conduct of the military is in the headlines again, with a current focus on Northern Ireland, but at the centre of screenwriter Robert Jones’s Danny Boy was the attempt to find British soldiers guilty of war crimes in Iraq.

The Pursuit of Love, BBC One review -...

Matt Wolf

Nancy Mitford's 1945 literary sensation looks poised to be the TV talking point of the season, assuming the first episode of The Pursuit of Love...

BBC Young Musician 2020 Finale, BBC Four review...

David Nice

“You have to be careful you’re not judging the piece,” cautioned a pearl-necklaced Nicholas Daniel, great oboist and winner of the 1980 BBC Young...

Line of Duty, Series 6 Finale, BBC One review -...

Adam Sweeting

WARNING - CONTAINS SPOILERSHalf the fun of this series of Line of Duty has been the crescendo of conspiracy theories surrounding it, fuelled by the...

Intergalactic, Sky One review - lovely CGI, shame about the drama

Adam Sweeting

Cosmic jailbreak yarn struggles to convince

Viewpoint, ITV review - the perils of the peeping tom police

Adam Sweeting

Who's watching whom in DC Young's surveillance operation?

Line of Duty, Series 6, Episode 6, BBC One review - the pace accelerates for AC-12's final countdown

Adam Sweeting

Apocalypse soon as the end of the line looms

The Winter's Tale, RSC, BBC Four review - post-war poise colours a solid production

Tom Birchenough

Overcoming lockdown challenges, a broadcast first for Stratford

Mare of Easttown, Sky Atlantic review - Kate Winslet shines in finely-drawn Pennsylvania mystery

Adam Sweeting

Tangled secrets in a dirty old town

Helen McCrory: 'If there's one interesting thing about acting it's trying to lose your ego'

Jasper Rees

Three encounters with the great actor who has died at the age of 52

Bent Coppers: Crossing the Line of Duty, BBC Two review - when crime paid handsomely for corrupt officers

Adam Sweeting

Astounding history of how the Met went rotten from within

Too Close, ITV review - capable cast struggles with unrewarding material

Adam Sweeting

Unconvincing TV treatment of Natalie Daniels novel

This is a Robbery: The World's Biggest Art Heist, Netflix - the last word (for now)

Florence Hallett

Three decades on and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum mystery is still hot

Intruder, Channel 5 review - implausible but watchable

Adam Sweeting

The death of a home invader opens a can of worms

Queen Elizabeth and the Spy in the Palace, Channel 4 review - how the Fourth Man burrowed deep into the British Establishment

Adam Sweeting

Did Anthony Blunt uncover secrets which threatened the survival of the house of Windsor?

Messiah highlights, English National Opera, BBC Two review – short-cut sorrow and redemption

Boyd Tonkin

Fine performances: but why this brutally truncated Handel?

Keeping Faith, Series 3, BBC One review - is the drama turning to melodrama?

Adam Sweeting

Last orders for the Carmarthenshire-based family saga

The Flight Attendant, Sky One review - first-class entertainment

Markie Robson-Scott

Turbulence, murder and one-night stands: Kaley Cuoco excels as a hard-drinking air stewardess

Line of Duty, Series 6, BBC One review - fasten your seatbelts, it's back

Adam Sweeting

Attention-grabbing return of Jed Mercurio's dark and knotty police corruption thriller

My Father and Me, BBC Two review - Nick Broomfield's moving voyage around his family

Tom Birchenough

Acclaimed documentarist's most personal film acutely catches social history

Drive to Survive, Season 3, Netflix review - the agony and the ecstasy of the 2020 F1 campaign

Adam Sweeting

Enthralling inside story of how the teams raced Covid and each other

The One, Netflix review - the downside of scientific matchmaking

Adam Sweeting

John Marrs's novel transformed out of all recognition

Grace, ITV review - sun, sea and skulduggery in sunny Brighton

Adam Sweeting

John Simm shines in patchy adaptation

Unforgotten, Series 4, ITV review - is the familiar formula wearing thin?

Adam Sweeting

Even DCI Cassie Stuart looks fed up with her latest cold case

Deutschland 89, Channel 4 review - the Wall comes down, what next?

Tom Birchenough

Compulsive start to final series of the East German spy drama that's much more

The Terror, BBC Two review - nightmare in the Arctic wastes

Adam Sweeting

Powerful cast in doomed search for the Northwest Passage

Your Honor, Sky Atlantic review - Bryan Cranston suffers fear and loathing in New Orleans

Adam Sweeting

A road accident sets off a terrifying chain of events

DVD: T S Eliot - The Search for Happiness

Graham Fuller

Competent documentary revises the poet's reputation as a callous husband

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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