Asking the questions: Victoria Coren Mitchell

Now for the really tricky question: can Only Connect survive BBC2?


For some of us, the biggest TV question of recent weeks hasn’t been how Newsnight is doing without Jeremy Paxman, British drama’s fightback against American competition or even the treatment of Diana Beard by the editors of The Great British… Read more

Where are the Betjemans de nos jours?

We need more opinionated English eccentrics making documentaries like, ahem, me...


Is it just me or are almost all TV documentaries completely unwatchable these days? I remember when I first started this job I’d review one almost every fortnight. Always there’d be something worth watching: on the horrors of the Pacific… Read more

Showing up to your prom in a tank is a bit 2013

BBC2’s Hotel India: slums? What slums?


Viewers who like their TV journalism hard-hitting should probably avoid Hotel India, a new BBC2 series about the Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai. The tone of Wednesday’s episode was set immediately when the narrator introduced us to ‘one of the… Read more

Adeel Akhtar plays Wilson Wilson in Utopia

Eye-gouging within the first half-hour: the edgy new rules of TV drama


Where is Jessica Hyde? If those words mean nothing to you then I have some excellent news. If not, then you’ll already be aware that I have failed you totally. And not for the first time, either. I was about… Read more

The new journalism: Vice leaves the rest of the West’s media standing

Scoops, snark and jihad – this is Vice News's war


War can reshape the medium of television. The First Gulf War was a landmark moment in broadcasting: CNN had reporters in Baghdad when the first bombs fell, no one else did, America was riveted and the concept of 24-hour news… Read more

Gomorrah, Sky Atlantic

Gomorrah is gangsters without glamour – but it's still not as scary as Dance Moms


Gomorrah (Sky Atlantic, Monday), the new, must-see Mafioso series, started promisingly. We met two hoods — one young, shaven-headed, good-looking; one weary, brow-beaten, middle-aged — filling up at a petrol station in Naples, an unfamiliar (to me anyway) setting that… Read more

The Terracotta Army Museum: the warriors were built to protect Quin Shi Huuang, China’s first emperor

Barbie dolls? This girl aims for the head


Channel 4’s Kids and Guns (Thursday) began with an American TV advert in which a young boy’s eyes shone with gratitude when his parents gave him a large gun, proudly marketed as ‘My First Rifle’. And just in case that… Read more

Otherworld, Comedy Feeds

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


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


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?


‘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


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


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


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?


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?


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


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


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?


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


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


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


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 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


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


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


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


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


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


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