“All in all, a staircase well worth climbing”

The Staircase

The Staircase, Sky Atlantic

“Like the documentary, it is as much a portrait of how we construct a truth and the impossibility, once humans in all their messy complexity get involved, of ever uncovering a single, shining, objective one. Colin Firth and Toni Collette are, as you might expect, brilliant. All in all, a staircase well worth climbing.”
Lucy Mangan, The Guardian

“Firth doesn’t quite capture the unreadability of the real-life Peterson, and doesn’t disappear into the role: we’re always aware that we’re watching Colin Firth, famous actor. But he does convey something of Peterson’s strangeness, his blase reactions as fresh revelations start piling up. The drama is compelling for the same reason the documentary was compelling: did Peterson do it? Or did Kathleen really die in a freak accident?”
Anita Singh, The Telegraph

“What made the documentary version of The Staircase an extraordinary work was not the details of the crime itself but the unparalleled access to the trial’s protagonist, Michael Peterson. Peterson was a slippery presence in the narrative, charismatic but shifty, and the question posed again and again was: how much of this is an act? However competent Firth’s performance is, the simple act of fictionalising the story removes that question. The acting is definitely acting. It erases the element of voyeurism, that sense of the viewer becoming the 13th juror, and replaces it with something more concrete but altogether less captivating.”
Nick Hilton, The Independent

Paul Merson: A Walk Through My Life, BBC2

“Here was a previously tortured soul in recovery from alcohol and gambling addiction and the spectacular scenery of North Yorkshire was his medicine. Yes that sounds corny, but I found it hard to be cynical about this film, a man viewing the world with fresh eyes. The format for these celebrity walks, which are framed as a sort of confessional/meditation on life, is effective, because we get to breathe in nature with the subject, rather than just seeing them interviewed in a boring chair. Merson is clearly a good man with a bad illness and there is an innocence about him that makes him endearing.”
Carol Midgley, The Times

“The programme was more therapy session than nature show. Merson talked candidly and sometimes tearfully about his addictions to alcohol and gambling. There was a lot of self-analysis, and evidence that he is still plagued by anxiety: about being an older father, or feeling that he has taken his wife for granted. But Merson also did his best to sound optimistic. Perhaps because it was stretched to an hour, the programme felt more studied than Winter Walks. But it was good to see Merson appreciating life, after many dark days.”
Anita Singh, The Telegraph

Tehran, Apple TV+

“All the standard hacker/thriller tropes are present, and used with effect. No episode is boring – everything is taken right up to the wire. Tehran is one of a raft of better dramas that suggest Apple is getting its act together as a streaming service worth paying attention to, after a long period of treading water.”
Rebecca Nicholson, The Guardian

“It is impossible to imagine anyone remaking Tehran, which returns fully formed and crackling with icy poise. Tense, atmospheric and now with Glenn Close bringing her movie-star heft, it’s a corkscrewing drama that paints a nuanced portrait of a country often caricatured as one-dimensionally theocratic and anti-Western. Just as importantly, it ratchets up the tension with bruising panache.”
Ed Power, The Telegraph

The Pentaverate, Netflix

“It is a sweet, silly, charmingly harmless thing – and funny, if you like that sort of thing, or if you are scrabbling around for any succour you can find. You could do better; you could do worse. But for between 25 and 28 minutes at a time, it should take you out of yourself and into a world of mustard-robed elders, bum jokes and general daftness.”
Lucy Mangan, The Guardian

“Let’s cut straight to the chase. However much Netflix paid Mike Myers for this six-part comedy series, they should donate the same amount to the Disaster Emergency Committee’s Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal. Only then will there be a silver lining to this staggeringly unfunny, horrendously bloated, ego-driven, faeces-obsessed white elephant.”
Chris Bennion, The Telegraph


“In the space of a week, the series, executive-produced by Jed Mercurio, went from highlighting daily racist microaggressions visited on a female Hindu detective (Parminder Nagra) to a full-on Line of Duty-esque potboiler with a corrupt officer, a hitman and a sex trafficking ring. I enjoyed it, even if it did get very silly and the dialogue corny.”
Carol Midgley, The Times