“The most moving thing I’ve seen on television for some time.”


River, BBC1

“Much of the credit also belongs to Skarsgård, an actor who has provided charming cameos in several recent blockbusters, but who is capable of great things, particularly when working with director Lars von Trier. His performance here was a revelation, switching in seconds from remoteness to fury, from twinkling avuncularity to withering scorn – and the emotional punch at the end of this episode, when River finally admitted the extent of his psychological distress, was the most moving thing I’ve seen on television for some time. Then he went home to find a dead man sitting on his bed. Personally, I can’t wait for next week.”
Tim Martin, The Telegraph

“It’s more than just crime drama – it’s about personal tragedy, demons; it’s a study of loss and grief (which it shares with the greatest Nordic noir of them all: the first series of The Killing). It’s also a study of that – killing – and why people do it. And why they did it – Mr Cream brings a historical perspective to it. And Abi Morgan, the creator of the series, brings a characteristic humanness to it all; it’s as much about who the people are as about what they do to each other. Good enough for me.”
Sam Wollaston, The Guardian

This one is slightly different from the likes of Broadchurch and The Missing. It is still well-written and shot beautifully, but the criminal investigation is not the crux of the drama. River’s mind becomes the crime scene as he struggles with psychotic hallucinations – or “manifests” as he calls them – of past victims. It’s not quite clear what brought the Swedish officer to London. There might be more than meets the glazed-over eyes to this solemn character after all.
Daisy Wyatt, The Independent

“It seems so desperate to look like another Nordic noir crime drama, in fact, that it has even forced Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgård into the lead role of DI John River. Currently, like all the vintage Ikea furnishings in River’s flat, it seems a step too far. Guided by visions and visitations, he still seems very good at solving crimes, mainly because he lives the loss and pain of all the victims and perpetrators he comes across. The result is a strange beast, part troubled cop-show, part fantasy.”
Matt Baylis, Daily Express

“Like all Scandinavian actors, apparently, Stellan Skarsgard does loss terribly well; far too well, in fact, for him, as River, to need the addition of this Truly, Madly, Deeply/Sixth Sense framework. Morgan has pretensions in this piece, seemingly believing she is writing about mental health. I have a strong feeling that this (abortion) is what should have happened to this project, with its ridiculous premise, its cheating denouements and its second-hand dialogue. Should there have been a worse scene in telly drama this year than River and Stevie (deceased) doing the karaoke to I Love To Love, kindly don’t remind me of it.”
Andrew Billen, The Times

Brett: a Life with No Arms, BBC1

“Roger Graef first filmed Brett 50 years ago, in a documentary aimed at persuading schoolteachers that children born with physical defects from Thalidomide should not be written off intellectually as well. Their reunion was fascinating. In Graef’s own words, the documentary offered a portrait of ‘an extraordinary ordinary man’. Like everything else here, that comment had the ring of truth.”
Time Martin, The Telegraph

“The follow-up made still more eloquently the point that it was not compulsory to feel yourself a victim. After 45 years of equanimity, he has finally got up a head of steam against the drug’s manufacturers. A video of his new ‘protest’ song ended the documentary. It was so beautiful, and the film so nuanced, I could not tell whether its refrain, ‘Isn’t it a pity’, was, or was not, ironic.”
Andrew Billen, The Times

Girls to Men, C4

“Alfie, Ethan and Billy (formerly Ana, Lauren and Connie) talk frankly and often movingly about being born in the wrong body. I’m just struggling a bit with some of the practicalities. It’s amazing and brilliant, but I’m watching and wincing through my fingers with my legs crossed. Obviously I’m an old-fashioned prude, but I’m not sure I want down-there surgery in 48-inch high definition.”
Sam Wollaston, The Guardian

Witch Hunt: A Century of Murder, C5

“They warned us at the start of Witch Hunt: A Century of Murder (Channel 5) that there were going to be some strong scenes. I wondered how bad could it be and watched. The answer was pretty awful. Dramatic reconstructions often make us cringe. Those in this show, however, unnecessarily detailed sequences of prolonged human suffering, did something else. They just made us switch off.”
Matt Baylis, Daily Express

Educating Cardiff, C4

“Finales of the Educating… series have come to mean one thing: an outpouring of crying face emojis on social media following a touching tale of a teenager making it against the odds. Educating Cardiff kept up the trend with pupils Sean and Coral, whose personal stories were as emotional as ever. Like the rest of Educating Cardiff, the finale didn’t quite live up to its predecessors.”
Daisy Wyatt, The Independent