sat 22/01/2022

TV reviews, news & interviews

Rules of the Game, BBC One review - feminist workplace drama topples into farce

Adam Sweeting

The BBC have billed this as a “four-part thriller about sexual politics in the modern workplace”, which is slightly misleading because it looks as though it’s taking place in about 1983.

Witch Hunt, All 4 review - dark deeds and dirty money

Adam Sweeting

When business and politics collide, the result may very well be corruption. Such is the case in this taut, streamlined thriller from Norway, one of many gems from the Walter Presents stable.

The Apprentice, Series 16, BBC One review - will...

Veronica Lee

“Will they never learn?” people must have been screaming as they watched the opening episode of the 16th series of The Apprentice – I certainly was....

The Tourist, BBC One review - gripping Outback...

Adam Sweeting

This latest outing from the astonishingly prolific Jack and Harry Williams (The Missing, Baptiste, The Widow, Strangers etc) gives itself a huge leg-...

Best of 2021: TV

Theartsdesk

There's so much stuff on TV, in all its many multi-streaming hats, that I somehow haven't got around to watching Succession. Apparently it's the best...

A Very British Scandal, BBC One review - the wild life and times of the Duchess of Argyll

Adam Sweeting

Claire Foy stars in notorious tale of aristocratic sleaze

The Amazing Mr Blunden, Sky Max / The Mezzotint, BBC Two reviews - blundering Blunden eclipsed by M R James

Adam Sweeting

Double dose of Mark Gatiss is a mixed blessing

The Girl Before, BBC One review - high-tech dream home contains many a heartache

Adam Sweeting

Compulsion, obsession, deception and confusion

Landscapers, Sky Atlantic review - Olivia Colman and David Thewlis star as a pair of convicted killers

Adam Sweeting

Is post-modern jokiness suitable for this real-life murder mystery?

You Don't Know Me, BBC One review - true love meets inner-city crime wave

Adam Sweeting

Adaptation of Imran Mahmood's novel is strongly cast but slightly preposterous

Hellbound, Netflix review - supernatural assassins usher in an age of terror

Adam Sweeting

Nightmare alternative reality from director Yeon Sang-ho

The Beatles: Get Back, Disney+ review - 1969 revisited in Peter Jackson's three-part documentary

Adam Sweeting

Eight hours of vintage Fab Four footage may be a trifle excessive

Death of England: Face to Face, National Theatre at Home review - anti-racist trilogy ends with a bang

Aleks Sierz

Roy Williams and Clint Dyer bring their monologue sequence to a triumphant conclusion

Dopesick, Disney+ review - the harrowing inside story of America's OxyContin scandal

Adam Sweeting

How corporate greed rode roughshod over regulatory oversight

Showtrial, BBC One review - drama a cut above the rest

Adam Sweeting

A sharp script fuels this twisty murder mystery

Dalgliesh, Channel 5 review - doleful detective fails to fire on all cylinders

Adam Sweeting

Bertie Carvel's Adam Dalgliesh is decent but dull

Temple, Series 2, Sky Max review - more calamitous adventures of rogue surgeon Daniel Milton

Adam Sweeting

Berserk medical thriller held together by a commanding Mark Strong

Shetland, Series 6, BBC One review - too many cooks and too many crooks

Adam Sweeting

Douglas Henshall is terrific, the plot not so much

Invasion, Apple TV+ review - sci-fi epic or a pile of space junk?

Adam Sweeting

Grandiose space-invader series is dreary and uninvolving

All Creatures Great and Small, Series 2, Channel 5 review - familiar formula continues to satisfy

Adam Sweeting

More gentle dramas in the Dales as World War Two looms

Squid Game, Netflix review - murderous game show hits the ratings jackpot

Adam Sweeting

South Korean series mixes slaughter and greed with a dash of moral philosophy

Ridley Road, BBC One review - Jewish community fights Nazi nightmare in 1960s London

David Nice

Enlightenment about a resurgence of English Fascism wrapped up in a well-acted thriller

DVD/Blu-ray: Maigret - The Complete Series

Graham Rickson

Entertaining, idiomatic Simenon adaptation, brilliantly cast

Thomas Hardy: Fate, Exclusion and Tragedy, Sky Arts review – too much and not enough

Harriet Thompson

Programme does its best to shine a light on the bleak Wessex writer

Schumacher, Netflix review - authorised version of the life of an F1 legend

Adam Sweeting

Portrait of German race ace doesn't dig deep enough

The North Water, BBC Two review - a terrible voyage into the great beyond

Adam Sweeting

Director Andrew Haigh brings cinematic heft to this bloody whaling odyssey

The Blood Pact, All 4 review - a (tax) inspector falls

Sebastian Scotney

Themes and characters entwine in the third series' masterly denouement

Clickbait, Netflix review - fiendishly cunning thriller keeps everybody guessing

Adam Sweeting

The dark side of social media under the spotlight

Vigil, BBC One review - murder most watery

Adam Sweeting

What does the Navy have to hide at its Trident submarine base?

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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