“It has what you don’t get from police dramas these days — realism. Some scenes feel so authentic that they are almost documentary-like”

Blue Lights

Blue Lights, BBC1

“Blue Lights was an unexpected gem of 2023, a Belfast police procedural that had critics like me groaning, “Oh great, another cop show,” then going: “Oh wait, this is actually brilliant.” It has what you don’t get from police dramas these days — realism. Some scenes feel so authentic that they are almost documentary-like. And the dialogue is, mostly at least, non-cheesy. Always a bonus. So its return is welcome even if, as I said last time, the title is terrible and sounds like a Seventies curaçao-based cocktail.”
Carol Midgley, The Times

“It doesn’t take long for series two to catch light, and once it does it is irresistible. New boss Thompson turns out to have some noble – if twisted – motives, creating a form of moral chaos to go with the actual chaos all around him. It all goes to foment an environment in which anything could, and does, happen, but crucially, one that skips effortlessly from comedy to breakneck drama, profundity to arguments about cake. When you have writers and a cast who can sustain that tension, you have must-see TV, both effective and affecting.”
Benji Wilson, Telegraph

“Is it a stretch to call Blue Lights, which is back for season two, the United Kingdom’s answer to The Wire? Well, yes. In all honesty that would be a bit much – it’s more like a cross between The Wire and Holby City. But the police drama was one of the breakout hits of 2023 because, beneath the soapy surface of its interactions between rookie cops, it has a clear-eyed, humane view of policing as an impossible job. Whatever we might think of the force generally, a combination of societal breakdown on the streets and corruption/mismanagement in the corridors of power makes any attempt to carry a badge and maintain order a futile gesture, like standing on a beach trying to mop away the tide. As it was in Baltimore, so it is in Belfast.”
Jack Seale, The Guardian

“One of the many invigorating things about Blue Lights, last year’s breakout Belfast-set cop drama from the BBC, is that it’s an ensemble piece. Although centred on three rookie officers – idealistic Grace (Siân Brooke), hot-headed Annie (Katherine Devlin) and naïve Tommy (Nathan Braniff) – it’s a programme that continually mixes up its officer duos. Just when you think you have the measure of a partnership, someone else jumps into the passenger seat, the dynamics change and you learn something new.”
Rachael Sigee, The i

“While the era of the Troubles is over, there’s a brooding sense that sectarian pressures are still bubbling below the surface. A similar hangover from past events makes some scenes in Blue Lights difficult to follow. If you don’t have total recall of last year’s series, you’re going to wonder who Tina (Abigail McGibbon) is, in her high-heeled boots. The touchiness of PC Annie Conlon (Katherine Devlin) isn’t clearly explained either. Don’t fret too much about the plot, and just enjoy the cake. As Clint Eastwood nearly said in the crime classic Dirty Harry, ‘Go ahead — bake my day.’”
Christopher Stevens, Daily Mail

“What’s striking about coming back to Jamie after a dousing in YouTube is that he now looks like a born YouTuber from before YouTube was invented. He’s preternaturally enthusiastic, verbally elastic and perfect for the snappy edit. He has been serving up what we now call “content”, smashing, hacking, wanging and happy days-ing it to camera, his whole career.”
Benji Wilson, Telegraph

“There are only two episodes in Jamie’s latest venture and things are starting to feel stretched long before the end of the first. I mean, there is not much you can say about a little oven that is good at making things crispy and does so slightly faster than a normal oven would. “Two minutes!” shouts Jamie as he pushes another basket home. “Real cooking, with love and care!” If you say so, petal.”
Lucy Mangan, The Guardian

“It is startling that ancient history feels so close. The new frescoes uncovered on the wall showed us what looked like an early pizza. A black loaf of bread recovered intact still bore the fingerprint of the baker who had touched it, presumably just before the eruption killed him. It was extremely sad and utterly gripping.”
Carol Midgley, The Times

Pompeii: The New Dig was a BBC co-production with the Open University and the worthy French state cultural broadcaster France Arte, which might explain its slightly stolid consistency. It’s easy to imagine Lance and Andy from Detectorists, or Alice Roberts and her Digging for Britain team, sitting riveted throughout as the archaeologists dug, scraped and brushed away at the ruins. The less invested might have become twitchy with the remote control, however. Archaeological digs require an awful lot of spadework for the occasional exciting discovery. Something similar could be said about this thorough but rather workmanlike documentary.
Gerard Gilbert, The i