Culture

Culture

The good, the bad and the ugly in books, exhibitions, cinema, TV, dance, music, podcasts and theatre.

Utterly bog-standard: BBC2’s The Turkish Detective reviewed

Television

A partly subtitled show set in Istanbul might sound like a brave departure for a BBC Sunday night crime drama. But in fact, if you strip away The Turkish Detective’s minarets and bazaars (not hard given that they supply somewhat perfunctory local colour), what remains is, according to taste, either reassuringly familiar or utterly bog-standard.

Can Douglas Is Cancelled hold its nerve?

Television

Like many sitcoms, W1A featured a middle-aged man convinced that he’s the only sane person left in the world. Usually, of course, this merely goes to show how delusional the bloke is – but the subversive twist here was that Ian Fletcher, the BBC’s head of values, seemed to be right. Playing Ian, Hugh Bonneville

James Delingpole

Why you should never watch sci-fi series on streaming channels

Television

Jason Dessen, the hero (and, as you’ll discover shortly, anti-hero) of Apple TV’s latest sci-fi caper Dark Matter, is a physics professor at a second-rate university in Chicago. You can tell he’s not that good at his job because he introduces the concept of Schrödinger’s cat (surely the only interesting bit in the entirety of

When piracy meets protest

Television

Sometimes there are advantages to being ill-informed. Knowing embarrassingly little about why 30 Greenpeace activists were jailed in Russia in 2013, or the wilder assertions made by the broadcaster Alex Jones (emphatically not the woman from The One Show) meant that two documentaries this week unfolded for me like the twistiest – if not necessarily

James Delingpole

How a TikTok dance craze turned into a brainwashing cult

Television

Because you don’t – I hope – use TikTok you will never have heard of the Wilking sisters. But back in the day (2020) they were huge, their homemade videos of dance routines performed at their suburban Michigan home attracting 127 million views. A year later, it all turned sour. Dancing for the Devil: The

I worry Romesh Ranganathan might not have enough work

Television

Let’s say, for the purposes of this joke, that I was recently staying in a hotel and kept hearing through the wall a voice shouting, ‘Yes! Yes! Yes!’ At first I assumed it was someone having sex – but I later found out that the next-door room was occupied by Romesh Ranganathan’s agent. This year’s

How can anyone resist The Piano?

Television

One challenge facing any novel, drama or film about the Holocaust is to restore its sheer unimaginability. In Thomas Keneally’s Schindler’s Ark – filmed, of course, as Schindler’s List – when news reaches Krakow of what’s happening in Auschwitz, Keneally pauses for some editorialising. ‘To write these things now,’ he says, ‘is to state the

Danny Dyer’s new C4 programme is deeply odd

Television

Who do you think said the following on TV this week: ‘I love being around gay men – seeing a group of men expressing themselves the way they do is beautiful’? The answer, perhaps unexpectedly, is Danny Dyer, whose admittedly convincing schtick as the world’s most Cockney bloke was applied to the question of contemporary

Grey, gloomy, and utterly joyless: Ripley reviewed

Television

If you’ve spent any time gawping at Netflix over the past half-decade or so, you’ll already know that human culture has reached its final, perfect form. We made a good effort with cave paintings, epic poetry, theatre, literature and the rest of them, but the apex of culture is the bingeable, episodic rabbit-hole Netflix documentary

Dramatic, urgent and intriguing: BBC1’s This Town reviewed

Television

After conquering the world with Peaky Blinders (and before that by co-creating Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?), Steven Knight was last seen on British television giving us his frankly deranged adaptation of Great Expectations. Happily, he’s now returned to form with a show that, while not a retread exactly, is definitely Peaky-adjacent. In This

Was Carrie Fisher really ‘a genius’?

Television

‘People throw the word “genius” around a lot,’ said a talking head on BBC2 this week, ‘but she was a genius, truly.’ If it wasn’t for the heading on this column, I suspect it might have taken you a while to guess the unquestionable genius being referred to here. But then again, for Carrie Fisher:

Workmanlike romp: Sky Atlantic’s Mary & George reviewed

Television

If there’s such a thing as a workmanlike romp, then Mary & George might be one. This drama about political and sexual shenanigans during the reign of James I certainly has all the scheming, racy dialogue and nudity that any romp-lover could wish for. At the same time, there’s the slightly awkward sense that it’s

James Delingpole

A turkey: Netflix’s Avatar – The Last Airbender reviewed

Television

Blimey, Avatar: The Last Airbender is a load of tripe. And I really didn’t want it to be. There’s nothing I like more than trawling the networks for exciting new cultural phenomena from the burgeoning, weird oriental TV market – such as Squid Game and One Piece – and bringing it to your attention. Perhaps

James Delingpole

Evocative and immaculate: Netflix’s One Day reviewed

Television

One Day is a bestselling novel with a simple but effective premise: a delightful, made-for-each-other couple meet on their last day at university, narrowly miss getting off with one another, then continue narrowly to miss getting off with one another every year for 14 years until finally, eventually they do. Actually, I’m not sure about

How does Larry David get away with it? Curb Your Enthusiasm reviewed

Television

As Curb Your Enthusiasm begins its 12th and apparently final series, one key question remains: how does Larry David get away with it? While many entertainers are sent into exile for ancient tweets far less tasteless than the average episode of Curb, the show sails on – providing extended comic riffs on incest victims, Holocaust

James Delingpole

The unique hell of being a wartime bomber pilot

Television

Some years ago I did a short series of interviews for The Spectator with war veterans about their combat experiences. Most had found them exciting, fulfilling, even enjoyable: ‘I wouldn’t have missed it for the world!’ said infantryman Mike Peyton, who likened it to doing the black ski run at Tortin in Verbier. But the

James Delingpole

Gladiators was never good TV

Television

I’m sure there’s a Portuguese word which describes ‘enforced nostalgia for a thing you never enjoyed in the first place’. Whatever it is, it applies in spades to BBC1’s reboot of Gladiators, which we’re now told was one of the landmarks of 1990s Saturday TV entertainment but which I don’t recall fondly one bit, despite