sat 23/03/2019

TV reviews, news & interviews

Pose, BBC Two review - transgender goes mainstream

Markie Robson-Scott

NYC, 1987. AIDS is ravaging the city, Reagan’s in power, Trump is in his tower. The American dream is available - to some. And for some of those to whom it’s not, there’s the world of balls, vogueing and competing for trophies. If your family has kicked you out for being gay or trans, the balls are a place where you can strike a pose, find acceptance and make your legendary mark.

The Bay, ITV, review - Broadchurch goes north

Jasper Rees

In the 1970s, the Mancunian stand-up Colin Crompton had a famous routine about Morecambe. He characterised Morecambe as “a sort of cemetery with lights” where “they don't bury their dead, they stand them up in bus shelters with a bingo ticket in their hand”.

Shetland, Series 5 Finale, BBC One review -...

Adam Sweeting

Thing is, a lot of this unpleasantness could have been avoided if DI Jimmy Perez had just watched the second series of The Missing. From this he...

Showbands, BBC Four review - an Irish cultural...

Veronica Lee

Ask most people what a showband is and they’ll give you a blank look. But ask any Irish person (or those born in the Irish diaspora) who is north of...

Cheat, ITV review - fear and loathing in academia

Adam Sweeting

As fans of Inspector Morse are well aware, there are plenty of snakes lurking in the grass at our premier seats of learning. In place of Morse’s...

After Life, Netflix, review - Ricky Gervais's grief emoji

Jasper Rees

The comedian does death in a sitcom about a widower who can't move on

Leaving Neverland: Michael Jackson and Me, Channel 4 review - sordid revelations from the court of the King of Pop

Adam Sweeting

Dan Reed's sprawling documentary makes for sickening viewing

Derry Girls, Series Two, Channel 4 review - welcome back, gang

Owen Richards

Reigning comedy heroes return, this time with added Protestants

Fleabag, Series 2 review - a standing ovation

Veronica Lee

Phoebe Waller-Bridge knocks it out of the park as the show returns to BBC Three and BBC One

Marianne Faithfull, BBC Four review - more than a vagabond life

Tim Cumming

An intimate female-directed portrait of the mythic singer

Soft Cell: Say Hello, Wave Goodbye, BBC Four review - an electro-pop celebration

Thomas H Green

Enjoyable if prosaic doc about the iconic Eighties synth duo

Strike Back: Silent War, Sky 1 review - bullets, bodies, baddies and a stolen atom bomb

Adam Sweeting

Mac McAllister and Section 20 are back to do what they do best

This Time with Alan Partridge, BBC One review - a man out of time?

Adam Sweeting

Shameless return of Steve Coogan's cringetastic broadcaster

Curfew, Sky One, review - belt up for a budget-price Mad Max

Jasper Rees

Sci-fi car race stars Sean Bean, Phoebe Fox and a nasty virus

Sleeping with Extremists: The Far Right, Channel 4 review - insightful but flawed documentary

Owen Richards

Alice Levine follows far right activist Jack Sen with mixed results

Traitors, Channel 4 review - Cold War thriller fails to reach room temperature

Adam Sweeting

Battling Stalin's secret infiltration of Whitehall

Baptiste, BBC One review - detective from The Missing gets his own hand-me-down show

Saskia Baron

Middle-aged policier drama gets off to a slow start

Catastrophe, Channel 4, series 4 finale review - sitcom saves the best till last

Jasper Rees

Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney go out on a grief-stricken, hope-filled cliffhanger

Shetland, Series 5, BBC One review - uneven start to new season

Adam Sweeting

Dismembered bodies, drugs and sex-trafficking... in Shetland?

Endeavour, Series 6, ITV review - reassuringly accomplished return of the brainy copper

Adam Sweeting

Dexterous detection and psychological insights in satisfying season opener

David Bowie: Finding Fame, BBC Two review - the most touching instalment of Francis Whately's trilogy

Howard Male

Bowie’s long and slow climb to the top gets the documentary it deserves

Safe Harbour, Series Finale, BBC Four review - too much message, not enough drama

Adam Sweeting

Australian refugee saga reaches a soggy climax

Das Boot, Sky Atlantic review - menacing drama on land and sea

Adam Sweeting

Sequel to the 1981 movie brings new dimensions to the story

Don McCullin: Looking for England, BBC Four review - a hard look at home

Marina Vaizey

Class, conflict, comedy, charm: the great photographer rediscovers his native land

Les Misérables, BBC One, series finale review - more moving than revealing

Jasper Rees

David Oyelowo takes Javert's secret motive to the grave, while Adeel Akhtar triumphs

Camping, Sky Atlantic, review - Lena Dunham's tentative British export

Jasper Rees

Julia Davis comedy pitches tent in America with David Tennant and Jennifer Garner

Pure, Channel 4 review - sex, OCD and the single girl

Markie Robson-Scott

Tormenting thoughts: a triumphant drama series that tackles mental health taboos

The Last Survivors, BBC Two review - living on

Marina Vaizey

Harrowing Holocaust testimony from some who came through the concentration camps

Screenwriter Adam Price on 'Ride Upon the Storm' - 'If we discuss faith, we will possibly not kill each other'

Adam Sweeting

Lars Mikkelsen stars in new Channel 4 drama Ride Upon the Storm about a flawed priest battling his many demons

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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