wed 28/09/2022

TV reviews, news & interviews

This England, Sky Atlantic review - how Boris's No 10 got Covid wrong

Helen Hawkins

From underneath the messy ash-white thatch of hair, a strange mooing suddenly issues: Sir Kenneth Branagh is wrestling with Boris Johnson’s odd way of saying the “oo” sound. It’s a brave attempt but ultimately a bit wayward, rather like the drama series Branagh is starring in, This England, Michael Winterbottom’s six-part reconstruction of Boris’s early days as PM, Covid, lockdown and all. 

Am I Being Unreasonable?, BBC One review - comedy thriller delivers the gags

Veronica Lee

In case you're not au fait with Mumsnet, the title of Daisy May Cooper's follow-up creation to the stupendous This Country is a nod to the parenting website's readers' questions corner, where the responses boil down to “Yes, you are” and “No, you're not” in equally judgmental proportions. (Although, it has to be said, sometimes the replies are far from that and can be funny or helpful.)

'The first thing I do when I wake up is...

Jasper Rees

Hilary Mantel, who has died at the age of 70, was a maker of literary history. Wolf Hall, an action-packed 650-page brick of a book about the...

Crossfire, BBC One review - pacy and nail-biting...

Helen Hawkins

A sun-baked island resort; Keeley Hawes taking a leisurely dip in an infinity pool as we hear her in voiceover musing on how events happen unchosen,...

The Capture, Series 2 finale, BBC One review -...

Helen Hawkins

[Here be spoilers.] If you have been glued to the second season of The Capture, just ended, does it bother you that its content is borderline...

Munich Games, Sky Atlantic review - superbly crafted thriller races to prevent a terrorist attack

Helen Hawkins

'Fauda' writer Michal Aviram delivers the set pieces alongside subtler detective discord

The Capture, Series 2, BBC One review - caught up in the China syndrome

Adam Sweeting

Ben Chanan's dystopian drama hits some sizzlingly contemporary notes

Van der Valk, Series 2 Finale, ITV review - sleaze, corruption and skulduggery in Amsterdam

Adam Sweeting

Marc Warren grows into the role of the yobbish detective

Better Call Saul, Season 6 Finale, Netflix review - end of the line for TV's most celebrated con artist

Adam Sweeting

Satisfying conclusion lets the punishment fit the crime

Marriage, BBC One review - a brilliantly executed drama series with a big heart

Helen Hawkins

Nicola Walker and Sean Bean triumph as a couple in a marital minefield

Shetland, Series 7, BBC One review - Douglas Henshall is back for the last time as Jimmy Perez

Adam Sweeting

Can new series recapture the show's former glories?

Murder in Provence, ITV review - a little light sleuthing amid fabulous French scenery

Adam Sweeting

Roger Allam and Nancy Carroll make an urbane crime-solving duo

The Newsreader, BBC Two review - a drama series of welcome substance from Australia

Helen Hawkins

It's 1986, and a Melbourne TV news team are battling rival stations and each other

The Control Room, BBC One review - twisty thriller set in an ultra-noir Glasgow

Helen Hawkins

A mysterious woman caller turns an ambulance dispatcher's life inside out

Trom, BBC Four review - there's something fishy in the North Atlantic

Adam Sweeting

Murder, conspiracy and ecological awareness in a cold climate

Freddie Flintoff's Field of Dreams, BBC One review - Lancashire all-rounder adds new strings to his bow

Adam Sweeting

A man on a mission to prove that cricket isn't posh and boring

Mick Jagger: My Life as a Rolling Stone review, BBC Two - the rock'n'roll enigma gives little away as the band reaches 60

Adam Sweeting

Impressive archive footage but no new insights

The Undeclared War, Channel 4 review - how would the UK cope with a devastating cyber-attack?

Adam Sweeting

Peter Kosminsky's drama probes the secret world of GCHQ's techno-spooks

Man vs Bee, Netflix review - or should it be Bee vs Bean?

Adam Sweeting

Rowan Atkinson's new comic character is no Blackadder

Suspect, Channel 4 review - a stylised remake of a Danish psychological drama

Helen Hawkins

James Nesbitt returns as another troubled policeman with a dark back-story (and matching eyebrows)

Sherwood, BBC One review - a traumatic journey through a painful past

Adam Sweeting

James Graham's drama exposes wounds that never healed from the 1980s miners' strike

Borgen: Power and Glory, Netflix review - Birgitte Nyborg is back, more fascinating than ever

Helen Hawkins

The Danish series about a top woman politician is still smarter than 'The West Wing'

We Own This City, Sky Atlantic review - 'The Wire' creator David Simon is back on the Baltimore beat

Adam Sweeting

Gruelling saga of institutionalised police corruption

Ricky Gervais, SuperNature, Netflix review - a provocateur at work

Veronica Lee

An equal opportunities offender delivers a masterclass in meta comedy

The Midwich Cuckoos, Sky Max review - the 1957 sci-fi classic is given a contemporary spin

Helen Hawkins

A drama where children are manipulative little beasts: science fiction or social satire?

Pistol, Disney+ review - Punk history repeats itself as farce

Adam Sweeting

Danny Boyle's Sex Pistols drama is fast, funny and furious

Prehistoric Planet, Apple TV+ review - David Attenborough presents life on earth, 66 million years ago

Adam Sweeting

Technology brings dinosaurs to life in microscopic detail

Das Boot, Series 3, Sky Atlantic review - submarine warfare finds new horizons

Adam Sweeting

Look out U-boats, Commander Swinburne is coming for you

The Essex Serpent, Apple TV+ review - tradition and superstition versus the march of progress

Adam Sweeting

The battle of ideas comes to the East Coast in exquisitely shot treatment of Sarah Perry's novel

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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