The friction between Mrs Coulter and Lyra is mounting in His Dark Materials episode 2 – review – The Independent

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The friction between Mrs Coulter and Lyra is mounting in His Dark Materials episode 2 – review – The Independent

Midway through the second episode of His Dark Materials (BBC One), the BBC’s vast-budget adaptation of Philip Pullman’s novels, the enigmatic Mrs Coulter (Ruth Wilson) has her young charge, Lyra (Dafne Keen), fitted for a party dress. Lyra, who until now has found her new surroundings more comfortable than Jordan college, is reluctant. Coulter replies that the clothes you wear determine what people think about you. The friction between the two women is growing. 

We might have added that you can tell even more by someone’s taste in interior design. Anyone can throw on a frock for a night. Fixtures and furniture are a much more reliable personality test, the aggregate of a thousand small decisions. Mrs Coulter’s gaff is pure oligarch psycho: marble corridors, designer chandeliers, oppressive bedrooms, absolutely no mess anywhere. Lyra doesn’t need an alethiometer to work out who the wrong’un is here. She could just look at the curtains.

Coulter assures Lyra she’s doing all she can to track down Lyra’s missing friend, Roger, but the girl would rather join the hunt herself. Creeping around her opulent new dwellings, she overhears titbits of suspicious information, slowly realising that she is a prisoner.

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Elsewhere in alt-Oxford, the plot’s machinery is cranking into gear. The Gyptians’ guerrilla efforts to free the children are causing headaches for the Magesterium. When the Master (Clarke Peters) refuses to cooperate with menacing Lord Boreal’s (Ariyon Bakare) investigations, Boreal decides to cross into the other side, real-world Oxford, which has worse clothes, better coffee and, in a neat updating of the books, smartphones. Compared to the steampunkish elegance of the imagined universe, ours is crass and noisy.

leftCreated with Sketch.
rightCreated with Sketch.

1/46

Click through to see the best TV shows of 2019 (so far)
>>>

Apple/Virginia McMillian

2/46 Doctor Who – New Year’s Day special (BBC1)

“As a slightly cheesy reminder of what we love about Doctor Who – i.e. the fact it gives us an intergalactic eccentric in a big flappy overcoat shouting at Daleks – this is a New Year treat that more than delivers”

BBC

3/46 Billy Connolly: Made in Scotland (BBC2)

“Billy Connolly: Made in Scotland is a meandering look back over his life, career, and national identity – a “Proustian wander through Scotland”. There’s a lot of mordant chat about the weather, illustrated with shots of dark grey clouds above even darker grey lochs.”

BBC/7Wonder/Jaimie Gramston

4/46 The Paras: Men of War (ITV)

“From the outset the production is elevated by its sensitive handling of the men – and the Paratroopers remain exclusively male – involved. These kinds of programmes have a tendency to fetishise toughness, lingering on assault courses and weaponry.”

Jonny Ashton/ITV

5/46 Brexit: The Uncivil War (Sky Atlantic)

“Despite what some feared, the casting of Cumberbatch doesn’t simply flatter Cummings – the A-lister is too good a chameleon for that. But, inevitably, as he scrawls out his campaigning brainwaves on a whiteboard, there is a touch of that deductive maverick Sherlock in his portrayal of this scruffy, balding political saboteur.”

Nick Wall

6/46 A Year of British Murder (Channel 4)

“The programme-makers must have done much to win the confidence of so many friends and families, as they went through unspeakable personal pain; but they repay that confidence with an understated and powerful film.”

Channel 4

7/46 The Secret Life of the Zoo (Channel 4)

“This documentary goes behind the shrubbery to show off these animals and their guardians. The humans are a pretty exotic bunch too, judging by some of the lines they come out with.”

Channel 4

8/46 Danny Dyer’s Right Royal Family (BBC)

“You see, saint or sinner, prince or pauper, we are all part of one race, the brotherhood of man. And the saintly and regal Danny Dyer stands as its finest ambassador.”

BBC

9/46 Les Misérables (BBC1)

“West believes Valjean to be “the greatest hero in all literature”, and he plays the part with all the care and intricacy such a character deserves.”

BBC/Lookout Point/Laurence Cendrowicz

10/46 Inside Europe: Ten Years of Turmoil (BBC2)

“For anyone who’s not altogether sure how British politics turned so suddenly into a rolling dumpster fire from which all exits are blocked then Inside Europe: Ten Years of Turmoil is a necessary public service to explain exactly, and exactly how needlessly, we all came to be here.”

BBC/European Council Newsroom

11/46 Catastrophe (Channel 4)

“There’s really been nothing quite like Catastrophe on our screens before, and it deserves its cult status for the quality of everything the production team do, not least the stunning cinematography in this finale. Thanks, all. I’m glad Catastrophe died happy.”

Channel 4

12/46 Baptiste (BBC1)

“Yet again the Williams have woven a brilliantly tangled web, helped in no small part by Karyo’s quietly arresting central turn”

PA

13/46 The Umbrella Academy (Netflix)

“It is both a revisionist – and frequently batty – take on the caped milieu and a winningly knotty mystery. And it surely is the first big-budget superhero tale more indebted to Wes Anderson than to Stan Lee.”

Netflix

14/46 Shetland (BBC1)

“Like all the best detective dramas, Shetland engages the audience in the very process of detection. That way we grow intrigued, and we care. And so we find ourselves sitting next to Henshall in his (prominently featured) Volvo V70 estate, sharing his thoughts, intercepting suspects and being driven off the road by unidentified enemies.”

BBC/ITV Studios

15/46 This Time with Alan Partridge* (BBC1)

“This Time with Alan Partridge is such a consistently strong creative achievement that fears for the future of Alan Gordon Partridge, may, once again, be allayed. Or Alayned, perhaps.”

BBC

16/46 Leaving Neverland (Channel 4)

“Michael Jackson has long looked like a burning tire yard. There were the allegations, the out-of-court settlements, the arrest, the trial and not-guilty verdict. But there has been nothing like Leaving Neverland”

AFP/Getty

17/46 Home (Channel 4)

“Home is a rather gentle, unobtrusive variation on the sitcom theme – but one that is built on a quite a bizarre premise. The twist is that a family who returns to Surrey from a holiday touring around France discover a Syrian refugee stuffed in the back of their SUV. Not only that, but, after a few moments of blind terrified panic about a suicide bombing, they eventually adopt him like he’s stray cat that’s just wandered in.”

Channel 4

18/46 The Murder of Jill Dando (BBC)

“A tremendously sad, strange story then, and just as unfathomable today. Dando’s friends, family and the producer and director of the film have made a fitting and balanced tribute to her, something she deserves. I can’t really add anything to that.”

PA

19/46 Derry Girls (Channel 4)

“It is sometimes remarked that the Troubles in Northern Ireland make for an unpromising backdrop for a sitcom about adolescent kids. Well, yer man’s wrong, as they might say. Derry Girls, returning for a triumphant and exuberant second run, proves that humour, dark or otherwise, can be quarried from even the most unlikely of locations.”

Peter Marley

20/46 Fleabag (BBC)

“While there are plenty of well-turned one-liners, the deeper attraction of Fleabag is schadenfreude. The character is as old as Daisy Buchanan or Lydia Bennett or Scarlett O’Hara. The best compliment to Waller-Bridge and her cast is that they find fresh clothes in which to dress these ancient monsters.”

BBC/Two Brothers/Luke Varley

21/46 Road to Brexit (BBC)

“The Road to Brexit is easily the best thing to emerge from the whole brexit imbroglio. OK, not much competition, but still… Despite the po-faced title, you realise very quickly that it’s not yet another drama starring Benedict Cumberbatch or yet another attempt by Laura Kuenssberg to explain the inexplicable, or yet another show with the public arguing about stuff they don’t understand. Rather, it’s a very clever, very funny, very ‘different’ parcel of bollocks to Brexit.”

BBC

22/46 Our Planet (Netflix)

“The footage is glorious, especially the side-on tracking shots of the birds and the hunting, where it is as if the cameramen were able to set up a rail along the ocean. Most spectacular of all is the sequence of a glacier collapsing into the ocean, where 75m tons of ice being sloughed off in less than 20-minutes. But at times Our Planet feels a little unfocused. Attenborough’s last big BBC series, Dynasties, won almost unbearable amount of emotional resonance through its focus on animal families. Our Planet is more of a greatest-hits parade, with overblown orchestral soundtrack and ponderous intonation. You can’t buy love, even if you pay for David Attenborough.”

Netflix

23/46 Line of Duty (BBC)

“Plausibility is a spectrum; Bodyguard became ridiculous but Line of Duty stays just the right side, and as usual there is more plot in an hour than in whole series of other programmes. As well as being gripping entertainment, Line of Duty has become an effective examination of the relationship between the state and the individual. The shadowy government forces are elected; the organised crime gangs are fuelled by the drug trade. The police are there to save us from ourselves but can only do it if they are subjected to constant scrutiny. It’s exhausting work, policing the police.”

BBC

24/46 The Virtues

“Joseph is almost never out of shot, whether seen from afar, contemplating a bottle of strong cider in a playground, or in visceral close-up, clutching his doner to his face. There are few actors you could trust with so much screen time, especially with such a pared back and naturalistic script. The fact any of it is remotely watchable is testament to Stephen Graham’s abilities. No man working in Britain today can drink a pint with more pathos.”

Dean Rogers/Channel 4

25/46 Good Omens

‘Good Omens is a hugely enjoyable, imaginative premiere, as close to Pratchett’s vision as anyone could have dared dream. And while the melancholy tone may not be for everyone, fans of the book will surely be sated.’

Amazon Prime

26/46 Years and Years

“Years and Years, then, is favoured by some wit, a cornucopia of fab talent and promising characters. The dominant one as we continue our quest into the 2030s and beyond, will be Vivienne, or Viv, Rook, played brilliantly by Emma Thompson. As a bit of a long-term Emma-sceptic I was actually startled by how good she is in the role of the epitome of everything she has spent her life hating and campaigning against, for Viv is a horrifically nasty businessperson turned populist politician with the most terrifying of views. Viv Rook makes Ann Widdecombe look like, well, Emma Thompson at an Extinction Rebellion sit-in.”

BBC

27/46 Killing Eve

“As the series develops, it’s clearer than ever that Eve and Villanelle are more similar than they are different. Villanelle’s new vulnerability invites us to question what it is exactly she wants from Polastri. First time around she was toying with a more worthy adversary, but why now? Polastri, by contrast, is frayed around the edges, a terrible wife to her husband Nico (Owen McDonnell) and an even worse intelligence agent to her boss Carolyn Martens (Fiona Shaw). The script is still tight and the jokes are still there, as are Villanelle’s accents, outfits and abrupt killings, but without the will-they/won’t-they energy of the initial plot, it is harder to care.”

BBC/BBC America

28/46 Chernobyl

“Timely, bleak, intelligent and compelling, Chernobyl is a triumph of a disaster.”

HBO

29/46 The Handmaid’s Tale

“Season three’s knuckle-whitening finale is far less disappointing than the last.”

Hulu

30/46 This Way Up

“The writing is sharp and well observed, probing the fault lines between small talk and real problems.”

Channel 4

31/46 Jade: The Reality Star Who Changed Britain

“A touching tribute to a flawed reality TV star.”

Channel 4

32/46 Succession

“Despite the strength of its ensemble cast, Succession is a feat of writing above all. Although it is ostensibly a business show, you won’t learn much about the minutiae of media deals by watching it. Its key dynamic, between father and children, means that it is limited in the amount that can actually happen without risking the magic. The writers, led by the creator Jesse Armstrong, who also gave us Peep Show, weave just-about-plausible and sympathetic characters from a web of insults and backstabbing, and tight editing and camerawork ratchets up tension from a slow-moving plot.”

HBO

33/46 Kathy Burke’s All Woman

“In Kathy Burke’s All Women on Channel 4, the unapologetic, effing-and-blinding, salt-of-the-earth actor meets lots of different women – from nuns to reality stars – to understand what it means to be a member of the fairer sex, so to speak, in 2019.”

Channel 4

34/46 The Capture

“So here we have an intriguing, but rather flawed sort of Big Brother thriller set in our contemporary world of digital snooping, near constant surveillance and (a topical touch) widespread use of facial recognition technology.”

BBC/Heyday Films/Nick Wall

35/46 Top Boy

“Top Boy can be bleak and violent, with dialogue so naturalistic that it verges on the impenetrable, but in telling stories that rarely get heard, it asks us to think differently about the city we live in.”

Netflix

36/46 Criminal

“Criminal uses its small canvas to ask big questions. The focus on these intricate dances means that after a while we begin to question the idea of objective truth, as well as the facts at hand. I have no idea if it is a realistic depiction of detective work, but it makes for gripping drama.”

Netflix

37/46 Tories at War

“After an hour of Tories at War (Channel 4), I felt I had to get out into the fresh air and go for a walk. The foul language; the visceral hatred; the unbearable tensions; the violence being inflicted on ancient institutions and this poor old knackered country by the Tories, as if with chainsaws and zombie knives – it was like watching my first Saw movie.”

Pro Co

38/46 World on Fire

“In a TV world where too often we are encouraged to see the Nazis as warm and cuddly real people with emotions, it’s refreshing that they are here relegated back to pure baddies, strafing cafes, shooting surrendering fathers and generally being Nazi-ish about things.”

BBC/Mammoth Screen

39/46 Catherine the Great

“At last, an answer to the question, what could be more fabulous than Helen Mirren playing The Queen? Helen Mirren playing an empress, altogether madder, badder and more dangerous to shag. Better costumes, too.”

Sky Atlantic

40/46 Dublin Murders

“Sarah Phelps’s adaptation of crime writer Tana French’s novels finds two detectives trying to solve the murder of a young girl, with plenty of twists and turns.”

BBC

41/46 Modern Love

“Romance is complicated, cathartic and messy, regardless of age or circumstance. But such uncomfortable realities are swept beneath the rug in John Carney’s rigorously whimsical new Amazon series. Modern Love is adapted from a New York Times column (it also spawned a hit podcast) and is as much a valentine to a fantasia vision of Manhattan as it is a dissection of the human heart.”

Amazon Studios

42/46 Watchmen

“Damon Lindelof’s version of the beloved graphic novel is a compelling demonstration of what can happen when source material is treated with sensitivity and imagination.”

HBO

43/46 Warrior Women

“Arriving in the wake of Marvel’s Black Panther, the film highlights the links between the saga of the real-life Agoji women, who fought in the former Kingdom of Dahomey (located in modern-day Benin), and the all-women comic-book world protectors known as Dora Milaje.”

Channel 4

44/46 The Accident

“The writer Jack Thorne says his latest four-part drama, which explores the aftermath of a disaster on a small community, was shaped by the Grenfell Tower fire. Rather than overcrowded west London, his takes place in Glyngolau, a fictional run-down town in Wales. A new building project, The Light, is being built on the outskirts. It’s unclear what The Light is, exactly, which is deliberate. The point is not what it is, exactly, but what it represents: 1,000 new jobs and a rare moment of economic optimism for families who have forgotten what hope feels like.”

Channel 4/ Warren Orchard

45/46 Seven Worlds, One Planet

“Watching Seven Worlds, One Planet, it’s hard to know what to worry about most: the future of wildlife – catastrophically imperilled by our fondness for fossil fuels, long-haul travel and convenience food – or Attenborough himself, now 93 and one of the few people that the world will listen to about the impending apocalypse. Like the species on whose behalf he speaks, his continued existence is vital for us all.”

PA

46/46 Dickinson

“Hailee Steinfeld is perfectly cast. She has a face – and a set of elastic expressions – that feels both well-suited to a period piece (as first displayed in her Oscar-nominated role in True Grit in 2010), and resolutely out of place in it. Just as Emily Dickinson was. Steinfeld crackles with charm and impropriety.”

Apple/Virginia McMillian

1/46

Click through to see the best TV shows of 2019 (so far)
>>>

Apple/Virginia McMillian

2/46 Doctor Who – New Year’s Day special (BBC1)

“As a slightly cheesy reminder of what we love about Doctor Who – i.e. the fact it gives us an intergalactic eccentric in a big flappy overcoat shouting at Daleks – this is a New Year treat that more than delivers”

BBC

3/46 Billy Connolly: Made in Scotland (BBC2)

“Billy Connolly: Made in Scotland is a meandering look back over his life, career, and national identity – a “Proustian wander through Scotland”. There’s a lot of mordant chat about the weather, illustrated with shots of dark grey clouds above even darker grey lochs.”

BBC/7Wonder/Jaimie Gramston

4/46 The Paras: Men of War (ITV)

“From the outset the production is elevated by its sensitive handling of the men – and the Paratroopers remain exclusively male – involved. These kinds of programmes have a tendency to fetishise toughness, lingering on assault courses and weaponry.”

Jonny Ashton/ITV

5/46 Brexit: The Uncivil War (Sky Atlantic)

“Despite what some feared, the casting of Cumberbatch doesn’t simply flatter Cummings – the A-lister is too good a chameleon for that. But, inevitably, as he scrawls out his campaigning brainwaves on a whiteboard, there is a touch of that deductive maverick Sherlock in his portrayal of this scruffy, balding political saboteur.”

Nick Wall

6/46 A Year of British Murder (Channel 4)

“The programme-makers must have done much to win the confidence of so many friends and families, as they went through unspeakable personal pain; but they repay that confidence with an understated and powerful film.”

Channel 4

7/46 The Secret Life of the Zoo (Channel 4)

“This documentary goes behind the shrubbery to show off these animals and their guardians. The humans are a pretty exotic bunch too, judging by some of the lines they come out with.”

Channel 4

8/46 Danny Dyer’s Right Royal Family (BBC)

“You see, saint or sinner, prince or pauper, we are all part of one race, the brotherhood of man. And the saintly and regal Danny Dyer stands as its finest ambassador.”

BBC

9/46 Les Misérables (BBC1)

“West believes Valjean to be “the greatest hero in all literature”, and he plays the part with all the care and intricacy such a character deserves.”

BBC/Lookout Point/Laurence Cendrowicz

10/46 Inside Europe: Ten Years of Turmoil (BBC2)

“For anyone who’s not altogether sure how British politics turned so suddenly into a rolling dumpster fire from which all exits are blocked then Inside Europe: Ten Years of Turmoil is a necessary public service to explain exactly, and exactly how needlessly, we all came to be here.”

BBC/European Council Newsroom

11/46 Catastrophe (Channel 4)

“There’s really been nothing quite like Catastrophe on our screens before, and it deserves its cult status for the quality of everything the production team do, not least the stunning cinematography in this finale. Thanks, all. I’m glad Catastrophe died happy.”

Channel 4

12/46 Baptiste (BBC1)

“Yet again the Williams have woven a brilliantly tangled web, helped in no small part by Karyo’s quietly arresting central turn”

PA

13/46 The Umbrella Academy (Netflix)

“It is both a revisionist – and frequently batty – take on the caped milieu and a winningly knotty mystery. And it surely is the first big-budget superhero tale more indebted to Wes Anderson than to Stan Lee.”

Netflix

14/46 Shetland (BBC1)

“Like all the best detective dramas, Shetland engages the audience in the very process of detection. That way we grow intrigued, and we care. And so we find ourselves sitting next to Henshall in his (prominently featured) Volvo V70 estate, sharing his thoughts, intercepting suspects and being driven off the road by unidentified enemies.”

BBC/ITV Studios

15/46 This Time with Alan Partridge* (BBC1)

“This Time with Alan Partridge is such a consistently strong creative achievement that fears for the future of Alan Gordon Partridge, may, once again, be allayed. Or Alayned, perhaps.”

BBC

16/46 Leaving Neverland (Channel 4)

“Michael Jackson has long looked like a burning tire yard. There were the allegations, the out-of-court settlements, the arrest, the trial and not-guilty verdict. But there has been nothing like Leaving Neverland”

AFP/Getty

17/46 Home (Channel 4)

“Home is a rather gentle, unobtrusive variation on the sitcom theme – but one that is built on a quite a bizarre premise. The twist is that a family who returns to Surrey from a holiday touring around France discover a Syrian refugee stuffed in the back of their SUV. Not only that, but, after a few moments of blind terrified panic about a suicide bombing, they eventually adopt him like he’s stray cat that’s just wandered in.”

Channel 4

18/46 The Murder of Jill Dando (BBC)

“A tremendously sad, strange story then, and just as unfathomable today. Dando’s friends, family and the producer and director of the film have made a fitting and balanced tribute to her, something she deserves. I can’t really add anything to that.”

PA

19/46 Derry Girls (Channel 4)

“It is sometimes remarked that the Troubles in Northern Ireland make for an unpromising backdrop for a sitcom about adolescent kids. Well, yer man’s wrong, as they might say. Derry Girls, returning for a triumphant and exuberant second run, proves that humour, dark or otherwise, can be quarried from even the most unlikely of locations.”

Peter Marley

20/46 Fleabag (BBC)

“While there are plenty of well-turned one-liners, the deeper attraction of Fleabag is schadenfreude. The character is as old as Daisy Buchanan or Lydia Bennett or Scarlett O’Hara. The best compliment to Waller-Bridge and her cast is that they find fresh clothes in which to dress these ancient monsters.”

BBC/Two Brothers/Luke Varley

21/46 Road to Brexit (BBC)

“The Road to Brexit is easily the best thing to emerge from the whole brexit imbroglio. OK, not much competition, but still… Despite the po-faced title, you realise very quickly that it’s not yet another drama starring Benedict Cumberbatch or yet another attempt by Laura Kuenssberg to explain the inexplicable, or yet another show with the public arguing about stuff they don’t understand. Rather, it’s a very clever, very funny, very ‘different’ parcel of bollocks to Brexit.”

BBC

22/46 Our Planet (Netflix)

“The footage is glorious, especially the side-on tracking shots of the birds and the hunting, where it is as if the cameramen were able to set up a rail along the ocean. Most spectacular of all is the sequence of a glacier collapsing into the ocean, where 75m tons of ice being sloughed off in less than 20-minutes. But at times Our Planet feels a little unfocused. Attenborough’s last big BBC series, Dynasties, won almost unbearable amount of emotional resonance through its focus on animal families. Our Planet is more of a greatest-hits parade, with overblown orchestral soundtrack and ponderous intonation. You can’t buy love, even if you pay for David Attenborough.”

Netflix

23/46 Line of Duty (BBC)

“Plausibility is a spectrum; Bodyguard became ridiculous but Line of Duty stays just the right side, and as usual there is more plot in an hour than in whole series of other programmes. As well as being gripping entertainment, Line of Duty has become an effective examination of the relationship between the state and the individual. The shadowy government forces are elected; the organised crime gangs are fuelled by the drug trade. The police are there to save us from ourselves but can only do it if they are subjected to constant scrutiny. It’s exhausting work, policing the police.”

BBC

24/46 The Virtues

“Joseph is almost never out of shot, whether seen from afar, contemplating a bottle of strong cider in a playground, or in visceral close-up, clutching his doner to his face. There are few actors you could trust with so much screen time, especially with such a pared back and naturalistic script. The fact any of it is remotely watchable is testament to Stephen Graham’s abilities. No man working in Britain today can drink a pint with more pathos.”

Dean Rogers/Channel 4

25/46 Good Omens

‘Good Omens is a hugely enjoyable, imaginative premiere, as close to Pratchett’s vision as anyone could have dared dream. And while the melancholy tone may not be for everyone, fans of the book will surely be sated.’

Amazon Prime

26/46 Years and Years

“Years and Years, then, is favoured by some wit, a cornucopia of fab talent and promising characters. The dominant one as we continue our quest into the 2030s and beyond, will be Vivienne, or Viv, Rook, played brilliantly by Emma Thompson. As a bit of a long-term Emma-sceptic I was actually startled by how good she is in the role of the epitome of everything she has spent her life hating and campaigning against, for Viv is a horrifically nasty businessperson turned populist politician with the most terrifying of views. Viv Rook makes Ann Widdecombe look like, well, Emma Thompson at an Extinction Rebellion sit-in.”

BBC

27/46 Killing Eve

“As the series develops, it’s clearer than ever that Eve and Villanelle are more similar than they are different. Villanelle’s new vulnerability invites us to question what it is exactly she wants from Polastri. First time around she was toying with a more worthy adversary, but why now? Polastri, by contrast, is frayed around the edges, a terrible wife to her husband Nico (Owen McDonnell) and an even worse intelligence agent to her boss Carolyn Martens (Fiona Shaw). The script is still tight and the jokes are still there, as are Villanelle’s accents, outfits and abrupt killings, but without the will-they/won’t-they energy of the initial plot, it is harder to care.”

BBC/BBC America

28/46 Chernobyl

“Timely, bleak, intelligent and compelling, Chernobyl is a triumph of a disaster.”

HBO

29/46 The Handmaid’s Tale

“Season three’s knuckle-whitening finale is far less disappointing than the last.”

Hulu

30/46 This Way Up

“The writing is sharp and well observed, probing the fault lines between small talk and real problems.”

Channel 4

31/46 Jade: The Reality Star Who Changed Britain

“A touching tribute to a flawed reality TV star.”

Channel 4

32/46 Succession

“Despite the strength of its ensemble cast, Succession is a feat of writing above all. Although it is ostensibly a business show, you won’t learn much about the minutiae of media deals by watching it. Its key dynamic, between father and children, means that it is limited in the amount that can actually happen without risking the magic. The writers, led by the creator Jesse Armstrong, who also gave us Peep Show, weave just-about-plausible and sympathetic characters from a web of insults and backstabbing, and tight editing and camerawork ratchets up tension from a slow-moving plot.”

HBO

33/46 Kathy Burke’s All Woman

“In Kathy Burke’s All Women on Channel 4, the unapologetic, effing-and-blinding, salt-of-the-earth actor meets lots of different women – from nuns to reality stars – to understand what it means to be a member of the fairer sex, so to speak, in 2019.”

Channel 4

34/46 The Capture

“So here we have an intriguing, but rather flawed sort of Big Brother thriller set in our contemporary world of digital snooping, near constant surveillance and (a topical touch) widespread use of facial recognition technology.”

BBC/Heyday Films/Nick Wall

35/46 Top Boy

“Top Boy can be bleak and violent, with dialogue so naturalistic that it verges on the impenetrable, but in telling stories that rarely get heard, it asks us to think differently about the city we live in.”

Netflix

36/46 Criminal

“Criminal uses its small canvas to ask big questions. The focus on these intricate dances means that after a while we begin to question the idea of objective truth, as well as the facts at hand. I have no idea if it is a realistic depiction of detective work, but it makes for gripping drama.”

Netflix

37/46 Tories at War

“After an hour of Tories at War (Channel 4), I felt I had to get out into the fresh air and go for a walk. The foul language; the visceral hatred; the unbearable tensions; the violence being inflicted on ancient institutions and this poor old knackered country by the Tories, as if with chainsaws and zombie knives – it was like watching my first Saw movie.”

Pro Co

38/46 World on Fire

“In a TV world where too often we are encouraged to see the Nazis as warm and cuddly real people with emotions, it’s refreshing that they are here relegated back to pure baddies, strafing cafes, shooting surrendering fathers and generally being Nazi-ish about things.”

BBC/Mammoth Screen

39/46 Catherine the Great

“At last, an answer to the question, what could be more fabulous than Helen Mirren playing The Queen? Helen Mirren playing an empress, altogether madder, badder and more dangerous to shag. Better costumes, too.”

Sky Atlantic

40/46 Dublin Murders

“Sarah Phelps’s adaptation of crime writer Tana French’s novels finds two detectives trying to solve the murder of a young girl, with plenty of twists and turns.”

BBC

41/46 Modern Love

“Romance is complicated, cathartic and messy, regardless of age or circumstance. But such uncomfortable realities are swept beneath the rug in John Carney’s rigorously whimsical new Amazon series. Modern Love is adapted from a New York Times column (it also spawned a hit podcast) and is as much a valentine to a fantasia vision of Manhattan as it is a dissection of the human heart.”

Amazon Studios

42/46 Watchmen

“Damon Lindelof’s version of the beloved graphic novel is a compelling demonstration of what can happen when source material is treated with sensitivity and imagination.”

HBO

43/46 Warrior Women

“Arriving in the wake of Marvel’s Black Panther, the film highlights the links between the saga of the real-life Agoji women, who fought in the former Kingdom of Dahomey (located in modern-day Benin), and the all-women comic-book world protectors known as Dora Milaje.”

Channel 4

44/46 The Accident

“The writer Jack Thorne says his latest four-part drama, which explores the aftermath of a disaster on a small community, was shaped by the Grenfell Tower fire. Rather than overcrowded west London, his takes place in Glyngolau, a fictional run-down town in Wales. A new building project, The Light, is being built on the outskirts. It’s unclear what The Light is, exactly, which is deliberate. The point is not what it is, exactly, but what it represents: 1,000 new jobs and a rare moment of economic optimism for families who have forgotten what hope feels like.”

Channel 4/ Warren Orchard

45/46 Seven Worlds, One Planet

“Watching Seven Worlds, One Planet, it’s hard to know what to worry about most: the future of wildlife – catastrophically imperilled by our fondness for fossil fuels, long-haul travel and convenience food – or Attenborough himself, now 93 and one of the few people that the world will listen to about the impending apocalypse. Like the species on whose behalf he speaks, his continued existence is vital for us all.”

PA

46/46 Dickinson

“Hailee Steinfeld is perfectly cast. She has a face – and a set of elastic expressions – that feels both well-suited to a period piece (as first displayed in her Oscar-nominated role in True Grit in 2010), and resolutely out of place in it. Just as Emily Dickinson was. Steinfeld crackles with charm and impropriety.”

Apple/Virginia McMillian

The central revelation about the identity of Lord Asriel (James McAvoy), is inelegantly done. Coulter has been upset by the arrival of a couple of goons from the Magesterium, who threaten to shut down her research. When Lyra confronts her afterwards, Coulter sets her vicious monkey daemon on Pantalaimon. It is a one-sided proxy conflict, an act of pure bullying, and in the aftermath Coulter blurts out the truth. Keen is an expressive physical actor, but less convincing in the angry moments that follow. 

There are a couple of other clunky notes, such as when Coulter tells Lyra about her fear of heights. But perhaps programmes made with children in mind must signpost some of their beats more clearly than an adult series. In a way, it’s a compliment. Because the look, feel, scope and imagination of the series are equal to the glossiest of HBO dramas for adults, it’s easy to forget this is meant to be dark material for the whole family. 

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