wed 17/07/2019

tv

Nurse Jackie, BBC Two

Adam Sweeting Edie Falco as Nurse Jackie, dedicated nurse and serial rule-breaker

The first episode of a new series is always a minefield. How do you introduce the main protagonists, set the scene, hint at what you hope will be the show's long and brilliant future and still cram in enough storyline to keep viewers watching until the end? In this regard, perhaps Nurse Jackie was assisted by its brief 30-minute slot (of which the actual show only filled about 26), since this left no alternative but to focus and trim ruthlessly.

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The Turn of the Screw, BBC One / Sleep with Me, ITV1

Gerard Gilbert

Television doesn’t do eroticism at all well. Perhaps, rather like a truly horrifying horror film being unwatchable, a properly erotic drama would never pass TV’s internal censors. Dennis Potter tried it with his 1989 love letter to Gina Bellman, Blackeyes, but ended up dubbed “Dirty Den” for his troubles. And what is erotic anyway – just a glimpse of stocking, or the full-on and (for me, anyway) embarrassing sight of Billie Piper in fishnets and suspender belt?

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Day of the Triffids, BBC One

Adam Sweeting A battered Dougray Scott as Bill Masen, protecting mankind from rampant man-eating vegetation

Saving the planet from ecological disaster is all very laudable, but be careful what you wish for. In this two-part Anglo-Canadian production of John Wyndham's 1951 sci-fi novel, the voracious man-eating plants called triffids had been artificially cultivated as a fuel source, so successfully that triffid oil had enabled the world to wean itself off fossil fuels and thus curtail global warming. The story didn’t bother itself...

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An Englishman in New York, ITV1

Jasper Rees

There was something very postmodern about the resumption of Quentin Crisp’s story. To recap, in case you missed episode one back in 1975, The Naked Civil Servant has been turned into a successful television drama, and its subject into a celebrity.

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The South Bank Show, ITV1

Adam Sweeting

The end of the South Bank Show? Surely some mistake. But there was Melvyn, looking into the camera with a resigned air, telling us that this film about the Royal Shakespeare Company (“possibly the greatest theatre company in the world”) was indeed the end of the line, give or take the occasional retrospective special.

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Christmas TV Comedy Review

Veronica Lee

Time was when British families planned Christmas Day around The Queen in the afternoon and (depending which generation you fall into) Morecambe and Wise, Victoria Wood, French and Saunders or The Vicar of Dibley in the evening. But now it seems television bosses have all but given up on offering family entertainment, as BBC One's comedy fare was transmitted entirely after the watershed and ITV1’s sole offering, Ant & Dec’s Christmas Show, was broadcast on Boxing Day.

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Hamlet, BBC Two / Doctor Who, BBC One

Adam Sweeting

The BBC's reinvention of Doctor Who under the auspices of Russell T Davies has proved to be an inspired upgrade of a legendary 1960s marque fit to rank alongside BMW's resuscitation of the Mini, though it would hardly be sensible to argue that the new-look Doctor is distinguished by Germanic precision engineering or a coolly mathematical design philosophy. Quite the opposite.

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The Royal Ballet in Cuba, More4 / The Rite of Spring, BBC Three

ismene Brown

There were some odd sights in Christmas Day viewing but none more discomfiting, I’d bet, than seeing a ballerina lying on a physio’s couch having a leg dragged quickly up to touch the side of her head while the other leg lay perfectly still pointing downwards. Can the body really do that? Another weird sight - dozens of people in full 18th-century French costume and wigs dancing in 40-degree heat on a Cuban stage.

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Television 2000-9: Reality TV

Jasper Rees

It’s possible Endemol didn’t give the book too close a reading. George Orwell conceived Big Brother as an all-seeing eye whose function was to enforce social and political conformity. Let us not revisit here the gallery of desperadoes, sextroverts and day-release wannabes who formed a disorderly queue to parade themselves for days, weeks, months and indeed years on end in the Big Brother house. They did conform in a sense: every single one of them wanted to stand out from the crowd...

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Television 2000-9: TV in the Age of Uncertainty

Adam Sweeting

 

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