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Clarissa Tan was a staff writer and TV reviewer for The Spectator.

Illustrated by Carolyn Gowdy

The Visit

5 April 2014

Clarissa Tan, who wrote articles and TV reviews for The Spectator, has died of cancer aged 42. She came to London from Singapore after winning this magazine’s Shiva Naipaul prize… 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

15 March 2014

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… Read more

Bendor Grosvenor searches for the lost portrait of Bonnie Prince Charlie

A quietly stunning quest for Bonnie Prince Charlie

1 March 2014

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… Read more

Race Demo

Britain has many major problems - racism isn't one of them

15 February 2014

I am a banana. In Singapore, where I used to live, this needs no explanation — it means I’m yellow on the outside but white on the inside, someone who… Read more

Joachim Klaus leads the raid on the Jonkhere bank in Salamander

So long, Scandinavia. Bonjour, Benelux! 

15 February 2014

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… 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?

1 February 2014

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… Read more


Clarissa Tan's Notebook: Why I stopped drinking petrol

25 January 2014

Florence was in fog the day I arrived. Its buildings were bathed in white cloud, its people moved as though through steam. The Arno river was a dense strip of… Read more

Will she or won’t she kill the President? Ellen Sanders’s family on tenterhooks

After Sherlock, TV will never be the same again

18 January 2014

You know the holiday season is over when, instead of being torn between The X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing on a Saturday night, you have to choose between The… Read more

Together again: Holmes (Martin Freeman) and Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch)

Is Sherlock starting to suffer from ADD?

4 January 2014

Sherlock’s not dead. A good thing, since on New Year’s Day BBC1 launched its third series of Sherlock, and it’d be inconvenient if the three episodes didn’t have Sherlock. Last… Read more

Besieged by troubles: Anne Reid (Celia) and Derek Jacobi (Alan)

Are events in Last Tango in Halifax too bad to be true? 

7 December 2013

Does love run out when life runs out? Or does it intensify, touching and changing all around it? Two series now on our screens make a strong case for the… Read more


Ben Saunders' digital expedition along Captain Scott's unfinished route

30 November 2013

I am following Ben Saunders into Scott’s Hut, the hut on Ross Island in Antarctica, the hut to which the Edwardian explorer never returned. All around is white. Ben is ahead,… Read more

An adventure in space and time Photo: BBC

Why doesn't Doctor Who travel far from Britain? 

23 November 2013

If I could go back in time, I’d watch Doctor Who from the very first episode. I wasn’t born in Britain, and with the 50th anniversary of the series hurtling… Read more

Gareth Malone (Picture: Pete Dadds/BBC)

Come to the Spectator office, Gareth Malone, and hear our 'Carmina Burana'

9 November 2013

They’re now televising proceedings from the Court of Appeal. Great. As if I didn’t have enough to do already, keeping tabs on Strictly Come Dancing and EastEnders, I now have… Read more

Davis (David Mitchell) and Neil (Robert Webb) (Picture: BBC)

Will the women of The X Factor stop perving?

26 October 2013

Will the women on ITV’s The X Factor (Saturday) stop perving? I suppose there are two ways to tackle the issue of gender equality — one is to dictate that… Read more

Dr Lucy Worsley presents A Very British Murder

Introducing the celebs of Victorian reality TV

12 October 2013

Did Dr Jekyll turn into Jack the Ripper? Besides becoming evil Mr Hyde, did Robert L. Stevenson’s fictional creation morph into the serial killer who terrified Whitechapel? In a way,… Read more

All eyes on George: Lady Mary and Nanny West in ‘Downton Abbey’

Downton Abbey is now a weird parallel universe of the royal family. Except with less action

28 September 2013

Are you following the world’s most watched aristocratic family? If you recall, they recently took into their ranks a member of the middle classes. The family, headed by a matriarch,… Read more


The ideal death show

14 September 2013

I am in a yurt, talking about death. Everyone is seated in a circle, and I am the next-to-last person to share. The last of the summer sun is shining… Read more

Mesmerising: Cillian Murphy as Thomas Shelby in Peaky Blinders

The Wipers Times - 100 years on, this newspaper still lives

14 September 2013

Funny what rises from the rubble. In 1916 British army officer Captain Fred Roberts was searching the bombed-out remains of Ypres. Among the ruins was a printing press. Soon words… Read more

Cake is for everyone: Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry

The sight of a rose-and-pistachio cake with lychee flavouring, strewn with petals, makes Clarissa Tan’s heart lift

31 August 2013

I’m not crazy about cookery shows. I suspect they indicate how little we are cooking, rather than how much. We’re fascinated with celebrity chefs because we think they’ve mastered something… Read more

Vulnerable: David Walliams as Mr Church, the chemistry teacher, in ‘Big School’

Big School left me po-faced

17 August 2013

How did our comedies become so sad? BBC1’s new sitcom Big School (Fridays) opened with a scene that would probably tickle the ribs of many, but I, in my usual… Read more


You’re never really on holiday with a smartphone

10 August 2013

I was sitting on some rocks by the Cornish coast when a teenager swanned by on the sun-warmed boardwalk in front of me. The boy stood on the burning deck,… Read more

Top Gear

Clarissa Tan experiences the greatest show on earth, and laughs

3 August 2013

I watched Top Gear (BBC2, Sunday) for the first time in my life last week (the rock under which I’ve been living is pretty large, practically a boulder). I thought… Read more

Chris O'Dowd stars in new BBC2 sitcom Family Tree Photo: BBC/NBC Universal/Ray Burmiston

If you’re craving some Kiwi bush angst, Top of the Lake fits the bill

20 July 2013

I sincerely hope you’re not watching television. With the glorious summer sun we’re having, you should be having picnics and swims, not sitting in front of a screen. So this… Read more

DCI John Luther Photo: BBC/Steve Neaves

TV review: Get out of my way, Tessa Jowell. Women are not all touchy-feely

6 July 2013

Luther is back, in Luther, and so is Donny Osmond, of Donny & Marie fame. Could there be two more differing cultural symbols of manhood? My feeling is no. Luther… Read more

Cézanne’s ‘Les Pommes’ sold recently for £42 million at auction

Investing in passion

22 June 2013

It’s a weird world, the one where love and money collide. Would you cough up £42 million for a depiction of a bunch of apples, as a lover of Cézanne… Read more