James Walton

James Walton is The Spectator’s TV critic

When piracy meets protest

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

I worry Romesh Ranganathan might not have enough work

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?

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

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

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

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’?

‘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

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

Riveting and heart-wrenching: BBC1’s Time reviewed

‘Only with women’ is a phrase used by more cynical TV types for a show that takes something that’s been done before with men, but by changing the gender of the characters can pose as ground-breaking. It sprang to mind this week when both of BBC1’s big new dramas unblushingly took the only-with-women approach; the

Shocking: Channel 4’s Partygate reviewed

If there were special awards for Most Subtlety in a Television Drama, Tuesday’s Partygate would be unlikely to win one. You could also argue that, in contrast to most of its characters, it didn’t really bring much to the party. And yet, in a rare challenge to the law of diminishing returns, the more it

A Picasso doc that – amazingly – focuses on how great he was

Earlier this year, the Guardian took a break from arguing that ‘cancel culture’ is a right-wing myth to ask the question, ‘Should we cancel Picasso?’ He is, after all, ‘the ultimate example of problematic white guys clogging up the artistic canon’. Given the programme’s title – and the BBC’s increasing loss of nerve – you