“The approach taken by this programme was fantastically misguided.”


What A Performance! Pioneers of Popular Entertainment, BBC4

“Perhaps unwittingly, double act Skinner and Klein showed us why this form of popular culture has indeed passed into history: it wasn’t all that good. It was in its time, for sure. The truth, not quite acknowledged by Skinner and Klein, is that ” variety” – the idea of a succession of singers, comedians, ventroloquists, performing animals, child actors and so-called speciality acts (such as “The Mexican Boneless Wonders”) – never quite died as a concept. It just transmogrified.”
Sean O’Grady, The Independent

“Episode one of the documentary series looked at music hall and its forerunners, the penny gaffs and supper rooms. While it was always good to hear the stories of Dan Leno and Marie Lloyd, the approach taken by this programme was fantastically misguided. In what must have seemed a wonderful idea over the original lunch, Skinner and Klein were encumbered by a Get Your Act Together format in which they had to perform the old stars’ routines. Neither performance was very good but the deeper problem was that even it had been, it was hard to imagine that these songs with the tepid innuendos would be at all funny to modern ears.”
Andrew Billen, The Times

Detectorists, BBC4

“Life for Andy and Lance, the Detectorists, is a field of dreams. They scythe through it with their metal detectors hoping for intimations of immortality, but their headphones pick up only ‘iffys’ and ‘pops’. The television schedules are like the expanses of rural Essex. You search for gold in them but they yield mostly ring-pulls. Deep in BBC Four’s schedules, however, lies that treasure. Detectorists has this season dug deep into character’s’ backstories. Sitcoms are usually full of characters who do not know themselves well enough to detect these differences. Detectorists is unusual in that Andy and Lance have begun to get a handle on themselves. The gold dance they performed in the field of dreams at the end of this finale, filmed with a lovingly slow aerial pull-out, was a celebration truly earned.”
Andrew Billen, The Times

“Detectorists, as I have mentioned before, moves at a pace that makes Last of the Summer Wine resemble a Bond caper. Not until the very last moments of this last episode in the second series do we witness Lance, played by Toby Jones, following his sixth sense and digging up the medieval amulet thing that, we viewers know, has been resting in the middle of an Essex field for, well, about a millennium. If Jones and co-star/director Mackenzie Crook can bring themselves to “get their coil on the soil” again, a third series would be just as welcome to me as Lance’s remarkable discovery was to him and his fellow members of the Danebury Metal Detecting Club.”
Sean O’Grady, The Independent

The Last Kingdom, BBC2

“It’s bloody, it’s gutsy, it draws us into a period of history generally ignored by drama. But among the very best things about the 9th century-set The Last Kingdom are its gut-wrenching set-piece battles and raids which use the series’ low production budget to advantage, recreating them as hard-fought skirmishes between fairly small bands of desperate men and putting the focus on the grit and savagery of close-quarter fighting. Keeping it visceral, in every sense, adds a veneer of authenticity.”
Gerard O’Donovan, The Telegraph

Scandal, Sky Living

“From the upbeat soundtrack packed with classic soul tunes to an opening credits sequence that is barely long enough for the show’s title to register on screen, and the way Sally’s Sodom and Gomorrah rants double as a Greek chorus to help the audience catch up, Scandal is a hyperreal night-time soap that plays out with almost cosmic efficiency. It effortlessly glides from political intrigue to romance to conspiracy theory, juggling its many out-there plots with long, rapid-fire speeches (it’s Portia de Rossi’s turn here). It never gives you time to call it on the wilder, more unbelievable edges, because in the hands of master TV magician Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy, How To Get Away With Murder) it never forgets to be anything less than ruthlessly entertaining.”
Richard Vine, The Guardian

A Very Murray Christmas, Netflix

“The barely visible premise is that a blizzard has brought New York to a Christmas Eve standstill, sabotaging the live special Murray was about to perform in the swanky Carlyle Hotel. Disgruntled, he lashes out at his producerAmy Poehler and would-be managerMichael Cera. He tries to recruit a reluctant Chris Rock to join him on the special. That’s a lot of funny people, and if you had no prior knowledge of them, on the evidence of their performances here, you would not guess that any of them made livings in the field of comedy. Some way in, a dream sequence transports Murray to an all-white studio set with a full band, George Clooney and Miley Cyrus. Say what you will about Miley Cyrus, she belts out Sleigh Ride, Let It Snow and Silent Night with everything she’s got, and is by far the best thing about this indulgent hour. It’ll make you wish you were watching a show called A Very Miley Christmas.”
Jonathan Bernstein, The Telegraph