wed 01/02/2023

TV reviews, news & interviews

DVD: Babylon Berlin, Season Four

David Nice

It’s coming up for two years since some of us watched the first three seasons of what’s increasingly coming to seem like television’s greatest dramatic triumph. Babylon Berlin. So we might be excused for being in a bit of brainwhirl when it comes to the multiple plotlines sown early on in Season Four.

Women at War, Netflix review - contrasting stories entwine during the chaos of World War One

Adam Sweeting

A sprawling French-made drama set in the early days of the First World War in 1914, Women at War tells the stories of a quartet of female protagonists as they struggle to make sense of the mayhem which suddenly engulfs them.

Stewart, Sky Documentaries review - touching and...

Adam Sweeting

“Stupid, dumb and thick” was how Jackie Stewart felt he was characterised at school in Dunbartonshire, and it wasn’t until he was 43 that he was...

Happy Valley, Series 3, BBC One review - tension...

Adam Sweeting

In this glittering era of global streaming, the viewer is constantly bombarded with the latest and most sensational TV drama from South Korea,...

Stonehouse, ITV review - history repeats itself...

Adam Sweeting

A disclaimer in the opening credits confessed that some scenes in this three-part history of disgraced Labour MP John Stonehouse had been “imagined...

Best of 2022: TV

Theartsdesk

Is too much TV choice making you tear your hair out?

Doc Martin Christmas Special, ITV review - Santa comes to Portwenn as the final curtain falls

Adam Sweeting

It's a wrap for the 18-year-old TV institution

Blu-ray: Ghost Stories for Christmas, Volume 1

Graham Rickson

Low-budget, high-intensity chills, handsomely remastered with plenty of bonus features

All Creatures Great and Small Christmas Special, Channel 5 review - life during wartime with the Yorkshire vets

Adam Sweeting

Siegfried Farnon grapples with an ethical crisis

Harry & Meghan, Netflix review - at home with the Harkles

Adam Sweeting

Media-shy couple can't keep out of the spotlight

George & Tammy, Paramount+ review - alcohol, violence and heartache in Nashville

Adam Sweeting

Jessica Chastain and Michael Shannon reincarnate country music's first couple

Slow Horses, Series 2, Apple TV+ review - Mick Herron’s spies make a welcome return

Helen Hawkins

The losers of Slough House are as winning as ever

Tokyo Vice, BBC One review - murder, extortion and corruption in the Japanese capital

Adam Sweeting

Eager American reporter Jake Adelstein plunges into the murky world of the Yakuza

1899, Netflix review - Atlantic voyage turns into cosmic nightmare

Adam Sweeting

Another mind-bending trip from the creators of 'Dark'

Blood, Sex & Royalty, Netflix review - yo, bros, get down with the GOAT, Henry VIII

Helen Hawkins

Netflix aims a hip hop historical drama about Anne Boleyn at the Young Adult audience

The White Lotus, Season 2, Sky Atlantic review - the sizzling hit drama moves to Italy, but with less fizz

Helen Hawkins

Sex has replaced cultural cringe as the show's new focus, though it's mostly offstage

The English, BBC Two review - Emily Blunt's date with destiny on the prairies

Adam Sweeting

Hugo Blick takes on the untamed West

The Crown, Season 5, Netflix review - is the royal epic outstaying its welcome?

Adam Sweeting

Strong cast rehashes some familiar themes

Leslie Phillips: 'I can be recognised by my voice alone'

Jasper Rees

Saying goodbye to the actor famous for saying hello

Blu-ray: The Owl Service

Graham Rickson

Unsettling, mesmerising mixture of teenage angst and folk horror

SAS Rogue Heroes, BBC One review - rock'n'roll desert warfare from the pen of Steven Knight

Adam Sweeting

Indecently enjoyable TV treatment of Ben Macintyre's book

All Creatures Great and Small, Series 3 finale, Channel 5 review - revived vet show still strikes a popular note

Adam Sweeting

Darrowby gears up for bovine tuberculosis and war with Germany

The Watcher, Netflix review - fear and loathing in the New Jersey suburbs

Adam Sweeting

Real-life story put through the fictional blender by Ryan Murphy

TS Eliot: Into The Waste Land, BBC Two / Four Quartets, Starring Ralph Fiennes, BBC Four review - a great 100th birthday present to a giant of modern literature

Helen Hawkins

Susanna White's documentary decodes a notorious poetic puzzle

Karen Pirie, ITV review - cold case mystery drags itself across the finish line

Adam Sweeting

Val McDermid adaptation is solid but unspectacular

Inside Man, BBC One review - strong cast trapped on a sinking ship

Adam Sweeting

Steven Moffat's continent-jumping mystery can't get its act together

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

Helen Hawkins

Kenneth Branagh gets Boris (mostly) right, but what does this docudrama hope to achieve?

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

Veronica Lee

Daisy May Cooper's new show is promising, looking set to get darker

'The first thing I do when I wake up is write.' Hilary Mantel, 1952-2022

Jasper Rees

An interview with the novelist the morning after she won the Man Booker Prize for the first time

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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