×

Television

Otherworld, Comedy Feeds

In which James Delingpole gets down with the kids, finds they’re sex-obsessed…

Television

If there’s one thing everyone knows about BBC comedy it’s that it’s going downhill. According to Danny Cohen, now Director of BBC Television, it’s too white and middle class; according to producer John ‘Blackadder’ Lloyd, it’s run by idiots like… Read more

A series of indisputable masterpieces: Nile Rodgers of Chic

The quest for the perfect guitar riff is a noble one – if not quite the key to unlocking the mysteries of the universe

Television

A few weeks ago, my eight-year-old son, who’s taken up the guitar, announced that he’d learned something new. He then played a sequence of chords — approximately, Duh-duh-duuh, Duh-duh-da-duuh — that I’ve been hearing from all guitarists since I was… Read more

Photo: ITV/REX

Your starter for ten: why do we Brits so love University Challenge?

Television

‘Fingers on buzzers!’ says Jeremy Paxman on University Challenge. But technically this is inaccurate. Only one of the teams actually has buzzers. The other side has push-button bells, instead. I’ve been watching the programme religiously for God knows how many… Read more

A woman of substance: Maggie Gyllenhaal as the saintly Nessa

The Honourable Woman could have done with some help from an overpaid executive in a suit

Television

BBC2’s The Honourable Woman (Thursday) began with a rather portentous voice-over bringing us the unsurprising news that ‘We all have secrets. We all tell lies just to keep them from each other and …pause to indicate psychological profundity …from ourselves.’… Read more

Vikings, History Channel

Looking for a Game of Thrones substitute? Vikings is the closest you’ll get – but it ain't close

Television

Did you know that the 8th-century Kingdom of Northumbria was the epicentre of an international exotic reptile trade? I only discovered this myself from watching episode six of Vikings (History Channel, Tuesday) and being introduced to the snake-pit maintained by… Read more

The Girl Who Talked to Dolphins, BBC Photo: John Lily Estate

The girl who had sex with dolphins

Television

BBC4’s The Girl Who Talked to Dolphins (Tuesday) began with the overstated-sounding claim that it would be tackling ‘perhaps the most remarkable period in the history of animal science’. In fact, though, the longer the programme went on, the more… Read more

Alesha Dixon, David Walliams, Simon Cowell and Amanda Holden Photo: WireImage

We need something less evil than Britain's Got Talent. How about public executions?

Television

You know what the world needs most right now? What it needs is five good-looking-ish, talented-ish blokes dressed in a mélange of artfully deconstructed dove-grey suits singing one of the songs out of Les Misérables, like a boy band but… Read more

Gabriel Byrne as Quirke and Geraldine Somerville as Sarah, BBC

Is BBC1’s Quirke bravely unhurried – or too slow?

Television

The work of John Banville — Booker-winning novelist and impeccably high-minded literary critic — might seem an unlikely source for a primetime crime series. But since 2006, under the telling pseudonym of Benjamin Black, he’s also published a series of… Read more

Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer in 24 Photo: Fox/Getty

The rights and wrongs of box-set viewing

Television

Admit it. Say it! ‘My name is Blah and I am a boxaholic.’ Life on hold, marriage in bits, job swinging from a rusty nail, the box-set fanatic grabs every available minute to feed an addiction. I mean, you can’t… Read more

Paul Hollywood (Harry Enfield) with Mary Berry (Paul Whitehouse) in a spoof of ‘The Great British Bake Off’

Harry and Paul’s Story of the Twos is just too funny for its own good

Television

On Harry and Paul’s Story of the Twos (BBC 2, Sunday), there was a particularly cruel sketch in which Paul Whitehouse gave Harry Enfield a Paxman-style grilling as to whether he felt bitter that his comedy series had never won… Read more

Tom Hollander as Dylan Thomas Photo: BBC

So Dylan Thomas was a drunk: does this TV drama have anything else to say?

Television

According to its executive producer Griff Rhys Jones, A Poet in New York (BBC2, Sunday) sought to rescue Dylan Thomas from the ‘forces of sanctity and hagiography that now hover over his shade’. Instead, we’d be reminded that he was… Read more

Facing his greatest challenge yet: Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister

Thank God for the Game of Thrones imp – and the heaving breasts

Television

Which character are you in Game of Thrones? For me it’s got to be the imp, Tyrion Lannister. As Ed West suggested in his erudite Speccie article a few weeks ago, Tyrion is about the only character with a vaguely… Read more

Jack's back!

Jack Bauer hits, er, West Ealing

Television

Whatever worries Kiefer Sutherland may have had about reprising the role of Jack Bauer in 24: Live Another Day (Sky1, Wednesday), learning his lines for episode one won’t have been one of them. After a four-year break, the show returned… Read more

Generation War, BBC2

Generation War does something very un-German – bottles it

Television

I was so looking forward to Generation War (BBC2, Saturday) — a three-part drama series covering the second world war from the perspective of five young men and women on the German side. Any nation capable of producing the ME-109,… Read more

One sympathises with agents to an extent: it’s not entirely their fault that houses are so expensive

Estate agents: we were right about the bastards all along

Television

Television executives must be longing to make a programme about estate agents that casts the agents in a good light. There would be a national outrage, and in these Twittering, Facebooking times nothing is more appealing to a producer than… Read more

Martha Kearney: on course to make her first proper wildflower honey

Without a strong woman in charge, bees are doomed — just like us

Television

God bless the BBC. And I’m not being entirely sarcastic here. There are some things the BBC does very well and one of them, sadly, was The Review Show, its monthly critical round-up of theatre, film, books and new art… Read more

Opinionated and recalcitrant: Oona Chaplin as Kitty Trevelyan

Gas gangrene, shell shock and flinty women: BBC One's new Sunday night offering is no soother

Television

Sunday nights. What are they for? Eggs. Tea. Toast. Nerves about the week ahead. Something comforting on TV.  But comfort comes in many forms. For some, it’s twee life at Downton Abbey. For others, it’s the thrill of Homeland. With… Read more

Shameless libertarian-right-leaning agitprop: Martin Durkin and Nigel Farage on Channel 4

The EU is worse than you thought

Television

For me, by far the most surprising revelation in Martin Durkin’s documentary Nigel Farage: Who Are You? (Channel 4, Monday) was just how astonishingly vast, unwieldy, authoritarian, interfering, undemocratic, sclerotic, and sinister the European Union actually is. As a Eurosceptic,… Read more

Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen in ‘Game of Thrones’. Photo: Home Box Office

Game of Thrones tells the story of Britain better than most histories

Television

A young pretender raises an army to take the throne. Having recently learnt of his father’s beheading, the adolescent — dashing and charismatic and descended from the old kings of the north — vows to avenge him. Despite his youth,… Read more

My Life: Theodore Hall, James Yuen and Faramade Bashoron

Eton vs snobbery

Television

One of the stranger things about Eton is its near-total lack of class snobbery. Yes, all right, you still get the occasional away match where their supporters will chant at the opposition ‘You’ll be working for our Dads’ but that’s… Read more

EDL Girls, Amanda, Gail and Antonia Photo: BBC

If BBC3 was allowed to keep its hits, perhaps it wouldn't be getting booted online

Television

So BBC3 will be online-only from next autumn. If the Beeb had presented this news as the channel being the first one to take the daring step of migrating to the internet, instead of it being booted out to save… Read more

Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey in True Detective

Is True Detective worth sticking with? The jury's out

Television

I’ve got this brilliant idea for a major new cop series. It’s called Chalk and Cheese and, though you won’t have guessed this from the title, it’s about these detective partners who couldn’t be more different. Why, they’re like two… Read more

Bendor Grosvenor searches for the lost portrait of Bonnie Prince Charlie

A quietly stunning quest for Bonnie Prince Charlie

Television

What if Bonnie Prince Charlie, as he swept down from Scotland towards London to lay claim to the throne, hadn’t lost his nerve at Derbyshire but had instead pressed on — and won? What would Britain be like today? In… Read more

Storage Hunters Lori and Brandon with auctioneer Shawn Kelly

The TV shows my children allow me to watch at half-term

Television

Half-term again, so naturally all my TV viewing plans have gone out of the window. In some households — my bearded Victorian brother Dick’s, for example — parents still cleave to the old-fashioned values whereby a sofa-blocking child in front… Read more

Joachim Klaus leads the raid on the Jonkhere bank in Salamander

So long, Scandinavia. Bonjour, Benelux! 

Television

So long, Scandinavia. Bonjour, Benelux! BBC4, your subtitle-friendly channel, has filled the hole left by Nordic-noir The Bridge with Belgian crime drama Salamander (Saturday). At first, I thought this might involve a series of murder mysteries set in Flemish country… Read more

Colonel Muammar 'Mad Dog' Gaddafi Photo: Getty

How did Colonel Gaddafi get away with such evil for so long?

Television

What a vile piece of work Colonel Gaddafi was. For some of you, perhaps, this will be a statement of the glaringly obvious. But I suspect there will be many others for whom, like me, this week’s Storyville documentary on… Read more

A comforting combination: WWI and Jeremy Paxman (Photo: BBC)

Jeremy Paxman's Great War is great. But is 2,500 hours of WW1 programming too much?

Television

Why are we so fascinated by the first world war? As its 100th anniversary approaches, we’re already mired in arguments about whether for Britain it was a ‘just war’ or a ‘pointless sacrifice’ of millions of lives. I don’t see… Read more

Great Sunday evening viewing: Maimie McCoy as Milady in ‘The Musketeers’

The Three Musketeers is a triumph - because, like Game of Thrones, no one is safe

Television

‘Pshaw!’ That was my first reaction to news of the BBC’s new ten-part Sunday night adaptation of The Three Musketeers. After all, wasn’t it about a fortnight ago I was in the Gaumont in Redditch watching the classic 1973 movie… Read more