James Walton rss

David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)

Channel 4's The Coalition reviewed: heroically free of cynicism

28 March 2015

In a late schedule change, Channel 4’s Coalition was shifted from Thursday to Saturday to make room for Jeremy Paxman interviewing the party leaders. With most dramas, that would mean… Read more

Should he stay or should he go: Aidan Turner as Ross Poldark

Poldark review: drama by committee

14 March 2015

By my calculations, the remake of Poldark (BBC1, Sunday) is the first time BBC drama has returned to Cornwall since that famously mumbling Jamaica Inn — which may explain why… Read more

Kazuo Ishiguro Photo: Getty

Kazuo Ishiguro’s latest novel, set in a mythical fifth-century Britain, may try the patience of even his most devoted fans

28 February 2015
The Buried Giant Kazuo Ishiguro

Faber, pp.352, £20, ISBN: 9780571315031

If you’d been asked at the beginning of the year whose new novel would feature ogres, pixies and a she-dragon called Querig, I suspect you might have taken a while… Read more

The cast of Critical

Critical on Sky1 reviewed: a new medical drama where everyone radiates an unusual degree of competence and concern

28 February 2015

Sky1’s new hospital drama Critical (Tuesday) can’t be accused of making a timid start. Within seconds, an urgent request had come over the loudspeaker system for ‘the trauma corps’ to… Read more

Law in action: Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman

Better Call Saul review: the box set equivalent of a (very) well-made play

14 February 2015

I lost count long ago of the number of dinner parties and pub conversations where I’ve had to utter the humiliating words, ‘Actually I haven’t seen Breaking Bad.’ The social… Read more

Dark thoughts: Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell

Could it be that Wolf Hall is actually the teeniest bit dull?

31 January 2015

In January 1958, the British government began working on the significantly titled Operation Hope Not: its plans for what to do when Winston Churchill died. The plans, it turned out,… Read more

Maisie Williams as Casey Jacobs in Cyberbully

Channel 4’s Cyberbully: an unashamedly old-fashioned drama in being both well made and moral

17 January 2015

Channel 4’s Cyberbully (Thursday), written by Ben Chanan and David Lobatto, turned out to be a brilliantly gripping drama, even if the average middle-aged viewer might have found the early… Read more

Dustin Hoffman in Roald Dahl's Esio Trot

BBC1’s Esio Trot: like Fawlty Towers played at quarter speed

3 January 2015

As a New Year’s Day treat for all the family, Esio Trot (BBC1) seemed to be taking no chances. It was based on a book by Roald Dahl, had a… Read more

Michael Palin stars in (the last four minutes of) BBC drama Remember Me

BBC1s Remember Me: in search of Michael Palin

6 December 2014

BBC1’s authentically spooky three-part ghost story Remember Me hasn’t yet revealed what’s really going on in that gloomy Yorkshire town. Nonetheless, the second episode did clear up one mystery. We… Read more

Rush hour hell Photo: Getty

The darkest secret about commuting: some of us enjoy it

29 November 2014
Rush Hour: How 500 Million Commuters Survive the Daily Journey to Work Iain Gately

Head of Zeus, pp.378, £16.99, ISBN: 9781781854068

In the early days of Victorian railways, train journeys were (rightly) considered so dangerous that ticket offices sold life insurance as well as tickets. There were no onboard toilets until… Read more

Confessions of a Copper: Stephen Hayes

Jaw-dropping confessions of a very un-PC Plod

22 November 2014

There can’t have been many people who watched Confessions of a Copper (Channel 4, Wednesday) with a growing sense of pride. Among those who did, though, will presumably have been… Read more

Country music legend Dolly Parton

James Walton uncovers the sound of Nashville - money

8 November 2014

Twenty minutes into BBC4’s The Heart of Country (Friday), there was a clip of Chet Atkins, country music’s star producer of the 1960s, being asked to define ‘the Nashville sound’.… Read more

Carrie's back: Clare Danes in Homeland

Hooray for Homeland - Carrie’s back blasting America’s enemies to pieces with drones

25 October 2014

One of the more welcome and surprising things about television at the moment is that Homeland (Channel 4, Sunday) is good again. As I’m not the only person to have… Read more

Chilean miner Jorge Galleguillos is brought to the surface following a 10 week ordeal in the collapsed San Jose mine Photo: Getty

From working-class heroes to Disney World mascots: the sad fate of the Chilean miners

18 October 2014
Deep Down Dark Héctor Tobar

Sphere, pp.309, £20, ISBN: 9781444755398

On 5 August 2010, 33 men entered the remote San José mine in Chile’s Atacama desert to begin their 12-hour shift. They came out again 69 days later, to be… Read more

Brian Cox's Human Universe

We're great and baboons are losers: this week's lesson from Brian Cox

11 October 2014

Anybody feeling a bit depressed about the shortcomings of humanity could do worse than watch Brian Cox’s new series Human Universe (BBC2, Tuesday) — which, judging from the first episode,… Read more

Author Colm Toibin Photo: Getty

Colm Toibin’s restraint – like his characters' – is quietly overwhelming

4 October 2014
Nora Webster Colm Tóibín

Viking, pp.311, £18.99, ISBN: 9780670918140

In Colm Tóibín’s much-loved 2009 novel Brooklyn, Eilis Lacy, somewhat to her own surprise, leaves 1950s Enniscorthy (Tóibín’s own home town in County Wexford where several of his books are… Read more


Marriage and foreplay Sharia-style

27 September 2014

Needless to say, it’s not uncommon to hear single British women in their thirties and forties saying that all the good men are married. But in The Men with Many… Read more

British Jewish author and journalist Howard Jacobson Photo: Hindustan Times via Getty

Howard Jacobson’s J convinced me that I’d just read a masterpiece

13 September 2014
J Howard Jacobson

Jonathan Cape, pp.327, £18.99, ISBN: 9780224101974

At first sight, J — which has beenshortlisted for the Man Booker Prize — represents a significant departure for Howard Jacobson. It’s set in a future Britain where some sort… Read more

Asking the questions: Victoria Coren Mitchell

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

13 September 2014

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… Read more

Second coming: Kate Bush is now regarded with almost universal awe

Kate Bush Hammersmith Apollo review: Still crazy after all these years

30 August 2014
Kate Bush Hammersmith Apollo

It says something about Kate Bush’s standing in the music world that, perhaps uniquely in the history of long-awaited live comebacks, nobody has suggested — or possibly even thought —… Read more

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

BBC2’s Hotel India: slums? What slums?

30 August 2014

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… Read more


The case of the amnesiac autobiographer

16 August 2014
The Answer to the Riddle is Me: A Tale of Amnesia David Stuart MacLean

Short Books, pp.256, £10.99, ISBN: 9781907595165

In October 2002, 28-year-old David Stuart MacLean woke up at Hyderabad railway station. He was standing at the time, and had no idea where or who he was. A kindly… Read more

Novelist Haruki Murakami Photo: PA Images

Murakami drops magic for realism in this tale of a lonely Tokyo engineer

2 August 2014
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage Haruki Murakami (translated by Philip Gabriel)

Harvill Secker, pp.298, £20, ISBN: 9781846558337

When Haruki Murakami — Japan’s most successful novelist at home and abroad — was interviewed by the Paris Review in 2004, the questions weren’t always characterised by their pithiness. Many… 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

2 August 2014

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… 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

19 July 2014

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 —… Read more