fri 28/02/2020

TV reviews, news & interviews

The Windsors, Series 3, Channel 4 review - perfect timing for return of the bogus royals

Adam Sweeting

The rage and bitterness surrounding the Brexit brouhaha have made it immune to comedy and satire, but perhaps change is in the wind.

Back in Time for the Corner Shop, BBC Two review - open all hours with the Ardern family

Adam Sweeting

Since Back in Time for Dinner in 2015, this BBC Two social history strand in which families travel into a recreated past to experience ways in which society, leisure and lifestyles have changed has proved a robust perennial.

Flesh and Blood, ITV review - Vivien's new...

Adam Sweeting

“Everybody lies," says property developer Tony to his PA and secret lover Natalie. “Even your mum probably.” And of course he’s not wrong.Sarah...

Locke & Key, Netflix review - comic book...

Adam Sweeting

The comic book of Locke and Key, written by Joe Hill (son of horror writer Stephen King) and illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez, was first published in...

Hunters, Amazon Prime review - bringing God'...

Adam Sweeting

Apparently network executives initially reacted with alarm to the premise of Hunters, Amazon’s new big-ticket series chiefly (though by no means...

How To Stay out of Jail, Channel 4 review – a bold rehabilitation programme from Durham police

Adam Sweeting

Touching and insightful film about offenders trying to seize a second chance

Royal History's Biggest Fibs with Lucy Worsley, BBC Four review - is this version more valid than anyone else's?

Adam Sweeting

Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn and Thomas Cromwell are spun in the pop-history blender

Confronting Holocaust Denial with David Baddiel, BBC Two review - grappling with the incomprehensible

Marina Vaizey

Writer and comedian tries to fathom how so many can deny such well-documented history

The Stranger, Netflix review - strong cast grapples with labyrinthine plotting

Adam Sweeting

Adaptation of Harlan Coben's novel is improbable but watchable

Classic Albums: Tears for Fears, Songs From The Big Chair, BBC Four review - anatomy of an anthem

Jill Chuah Masters

Latest BBC Classic Albums documentary hits the right notes, mostly

Sex Education, Series 2, Netflix review - the teen sex show we deserved

Jill Chuah Masters

Happy Valentines: this humdrum holiday is the perfect occasion to stream the most affirming sex comedy in years

The Split, Series 2, BBC One review - where the law and family fortunes collide

Adam Sweeting

Does Abi Morgan's legal drama really want to be a soap?

The Pale Horse, BBC One review - when in doubt, do another Agatha Christie remake

Adam Sweeting

The Queen of Crime's supernatural murder mystery gets the Sarah Phelps treatment

Secrets of the Museum, BBC Two review - the incredible hidden worlds of the V&A

Marina Vaizey

From Leonardo's notebooks to superstar Dior dresses, they've got it all at the Victoria and Albert

The L Word: Generation Q, Sky Atlantic review - is the new Word as good as the old Word?

Adam Sweeting

Despite new themes and fresh characters, it's still soap

Universal Credit: Inside the Welfare State, BBC Two review - drowning in a bureaucratic quagmire

Adam Sweeting

Is it actually possible to reform the benefits system?

Baghdad Central, Channel 4 review - thriller set in the aftermath of the Iraq war

Adam Sweeting

Adaptation of Elliott Colla novel introduces us to Middle Eastern noir

Shock of the Nude with Mary Beard, BBC Two review - when does art become erotica?

Marina Vaizey

Strangely bland survey of the naked body in Western art

Belsen: Our Story, BBC Two review - inside the unfathomable horror of the Holocaust

Adam Sweeting

Eyewitnesses retrace their journey through the Nazi nightmare

Young, Sikh and Proud, BBC One review - siblings divided by their attitudes to faith

Adam Sweeting

Journalist Sunny Hundal examines the legacy of his late brother Jagraj Singh

Stewart Copeland's Adventures in Music, BBC Four review - an essay on the emotional power of music

Marina Vaizey

The polymathic drummer explores the ways in which music can tell stories

Chris Packham: 7.7 Billion People and Counting, BBC Two review - is it too late to get population growth under control?

Adam Sweeting

Campaiging naturalist surveys the damage we're inflicting on our overcrowded planet

Crazy Delicious, Channel 4 review - the most ridiculous cooking programme on TV ?

Adam Sweeting

Heston Blumenthal's culinary deities encourage crackpot foodism

The Outsider, Sky Atlantic review - double trouble in small-town Georgia

Adam Sweeting

The terror mounts in gripping Stephen King adaptation

Cobra, Sky 1 review - entertaining mix of political mischief and cosmic chaos

Adam Sweeting

Robert Carlyle's Tory prime minister battles internal and external crises

Messiah, Netflix review - con-artist or the Second Coming?

Adam Sweeting

It's sometimes sluggish, but it keeps asking provocative questions

This Is Our Family, Sky Atlantic review - can Emma and Tony live happily ever after?

Adam Sweeting

New documentary series digs deep into the lives of its subjects

How to Steal Pigs and Influence People, Channel 4 review - the arcane world of the online vegan influencers

Adam Sweeting

Fascinating tale of zealous vegans and militant meat-eaters

Deadwater Fell, Channel 4 review - dark murder mystery in a Scottish village

Markie Robson-Scott

Just what the doctor ordered? David Tennant as a GP under suspicion in a gripping first episode

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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