tue 28/01/2020

tv

The Lure of Las Vegas, BBC Two

Veronica Lee

“The Mob made Vegas,” says its mayor since 1999, Oscar B Goodman. And he should know, having defended plenty of mobsters in his time when - he and I are equally quick to point out - he was a defence attorney and didn’t know what they were really up to.

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Five Days, BBC One

Gerard Gilbert Flags of our Fathers? It's day five in Five Days

Benjamin Franklin once said that fish and guests start to smell after three days – and something similar happened to BBC One’s latest “event drama”, Five Days. The odour was that of decaying promise, and, if duty hadn’t called, I probably wouldn’t have hung around until the final episode of Gwyneth Hughes’s week-long saga. Not that it was boring exactly – in an unhurried,...

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Eddie Izzard: Marathon Man, BBC Three / The Man with the Golden Gavel, BBC Four

Adam Sweeting

Is Eddie Izzard running a lot of marathons really worth three hour-long documentaries? No, but it was worth watching this first one.

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Five Days, BBC One

Jasper Rees

We’ve been here before. In the first week of theartsdesk’s existence, the BBC began screening a daily drama by the name of The Cut. Daily drama has never been the BBC’s thing, unless you happen to speak Welsh and follow Pobol y Cwm, and so it proved with this online soap dished out in bite-size five-minute pieces.

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Michael Winner's Dining Stars, ITV1

Adam Sweeting Three of Michael Winner's Dining Stars means your cooking is 'historic beyond belief'

The national urge for self-flagellation on television continues apace with Michael Winner’s preposterous new series. Not content with having to eat cockroaches in Borneo, never mind being tongue-lashed by John Torode and that thuggish bloke who looks like a bailiff on Masterchef, the population is now queueing up to invite a cantankerous elderly man into their own homes to ridicule their cooking. At the end of the series, the winner gets to cook dinner for Michael's celebrity chums,...

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Damages, BBC Two

Gerard Gilbert

The new series of the Glenn Close litigation drama Damages began like the previous two series of Damages – in the future tense. Someone deliberately slammed their car into the side of Patty Hewes’s car, and a grisly discovery was made in a wheelie bin. How we get to this dénouement will be revealed over the next three months. Am I up for such a commitment? Because miss just 10 minutes of this tortuous legal thriller and you’re up the proverbial creek. It’s easy to see why...

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On Expenses, BBC Four

Adam Sweeting Brian Cox as Speaker Michael Martin: not even tribal loyalty could save him

As one of the opening captions put it, "you couldn't make it up",  and this sprightly drama about the House of Commons expenses scandal duly tacked its way skilfully up the channel between satire and slapstick. Concluding correctly that wallowing in moral outrage was not the way to handle a subject whose full ramifications have yet to land on us (and them) with their full crushing force, writer Tony Saint instead deftly depicted the Commons as a kind of Swiftian monstrosity, ludicrous yet...

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The Bible: A History, Channel 4

Jasper Rees

For six years from 1988, when Sinn Fein was banned from direct broadcasting, Gerry Adams could be seen on television, but not heard. Instead, actors would read his words while his lips soundlessly moved. What would the architects of that ban have said if they’d been told that one day the political face of the Provisional IRA would be given an hour on television to make a programme about Christ? "Jesus wept?" "He’s got a bloody cheek?"

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EastEnders live, BBC One

Veronica Lee

It was Stacey whodunnit. EastEnders’ first live broadcast last night, to celebrate 25 years on BBC One, ended with Stacey Branning (Lacey Turner) declaring, “It was me. I did it. I killed Archie. It was me.” So now we know, as one of the most drawn-out storylines in the history of soaps finally reached its conclusion (Archie Mitchell was killed at Christmas).

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The Great Offices of State, BBC Two

Gerard Gilbert The Great Offices of State: Michael Cockerell visits the Foreign Office

That title has been troubling me. The Great Offices of State is so stolid and dull, like an illustrated Ladybird children’s book from the 1950s - The Flags of the Commonwealth, or some such. And then you start trying to think of alternatives, a play on Yes, Minister perhaps, and you soon see that this flippancy wouldn't do justice to what is in fact a masterful achievement - the sort of television series that will (or should) be shown in schools and universities for...

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