Transport of delight: Porters on a railway platform in Liverpool, 1890s. Photo: Getty
Making tracks: the parallels between cinema and train travel
By Antonia Quirke - 19 December 13:10

All was harmony, until Jon mentioned the legend of how people in the audience in 1896 had ducked when the train suddenly appeared on-screen.

Love, anarchy, and wonderful violence: how to remember Rik Mayall
By Jenny Landreth - 19 December 12:41

The death of Rik Mayall in June 2014 quite rightly made the front page of every newspaper. There is no one better than the BBC to make a warm and loving tribute to a comedy hero.

Jeff Daniels as Will McAvoy and Emily Mortimer as MacKenzie McHale in “The Newsroom”. Image: HBO
Why I (still) love Aaron Sorkin
By Jonn Elledge - 12 December 15:52

It’s become fashionable to disparage Sorkin’s later work, especially The Newsroom, and with good reason – the gender politics are terrible, for a start. But what if these problems were there all along, and we were just enjoying The West Wing too much to see them?

A school photo of Hae Min Lee alongside the news of her ex-boyfriend’s conviction.
Serial reveals how much more we care about justice for a man than the life of a woman
By Sarah Ditum - 11 December 12:21

As the podcast tries to investigate whether Adnan Syed killed Hae Min Lee, a discrepancy emerges – it’s so much easier to spot the cultural misogyny when it is applied to race rather than gender.

Orson Welles. Photo: Getty
Last orders: Antonia Quirke on radio
By Antonia Quirke - 11 December 9:58

A seducing documentary used recordings of Orson Welles speaking unguardedly over lunches in a restaurant in Hollywood between 1983 and 1985. 

Accused: Jason Watkins (right) as Jefferies.
Marked man: the careful kindness of The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies
By Rachel Cooke - 10 December 13:08

Christopher Jefferies stands for us all in the matter of what the newspapers can do to a person, should they happen to take against him.

Simon Day as Brian Pern, playing the flute on Top of the Pops 1975. Photo: BBC/Rory Lindsay
Cleverly, playfully pitch-perfect: the joys of Brian Pern: A Life in Rock
By Jenny Landreth - 09 December 13:26

The roc/doc/mockumentary returns for a second series and – oh no! – there’s a jukebox musical in the works...

Foxy: Alan Cumming at a Peta event in September. Photo: Getty
My two dads: Alan Cumming’s moving memoir of his father
By Antonia Quirke - 05 December 15:13

One day Cumming was warned that it might emerge that he was not his father’s biological son. It was a bad moment in his life, no question. And yet, on some sad level, he greeted the news with relief.

"Emotions burst out like molehills on an immaculate lawn": family tension in The Legacy
Greed, lust and great knitwear: The Legacy is a Danish drama that’s smarter than Borgen
By Rachel Cooke - 04 December 16:03

Everyone is white, and everyone is rich – or about to be. Where’s the grit in that? But grit there is: it is stupid to assume that for a drama to be a hit, it must be filled with “people like us”.

Smart set: Kate Reardon and staff at Tatler
Rah to the people: the mad world of Tatler brought to life
By Rachel Cooke - 27 November 16:11

A magazine peopled almost entirely by those who think Debrett’s New Guide to Etiquette and Modern Manners is full of genuinely useful advice.

Loose canon: a 1779 engraving of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Image: Getty
Rude awakening: how Mozart's filthy mind shocked Maggie
By Antonia Quirke - 27 November 10:00

Mozart was fond of “scatological smut” and found “the sound of rude words especially hilarious”.

Jeffrey Tambor (left) as Maura in Transparent
TV enters its Amazon Age – with the best show since Breaking Bad
By Mark Lawson - 25 November 16:12

Critic’s Notes by Mark Lawson. 

Heirs, spares and chairs: the Fulford family, stars of BBC3's Life is Toff. Photo: BBC Pictures
Inside Tatler, Life is Toff and British TV’s troubling obsession with all things posh
By Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett - 24 November 13:01

Call me a lefty conspiracy theorist if you must, but it has not escaped my notice that the trend for posh porn has coincided with the term of the poshest government in living memory.

Alexander Armstrong and Richard Osman, the kind and non-judgmental hosts of Pointless. Photo: Getty Images
At once fascinating, horrifying and mildly arousing, ignorance porn is everywhere (and I love it)
By Eleanor Margolis - 24 November 12:02

Shows like Pointless satisfy a new itch - to gawp at those who don't know obvious things, like what toast is. It's hardcore ignorance porn at its best.

Hostess cap: Sergeant Dorothy Ellis wearing her WPC uniform outside the Royal Parks Constabulary, 26th June 1978. Photo: Getty
Confessions of a Copper paints a not-so fuzzy picture of the fuzz
By Rachel Cooke - 20 November 16:07

I found it easy to keep my nostalgia in check. Tampering with evidence? Fitting up? Weird comments about “menopausal” shoplifters? No, thanks.

Rubbernecking: Spitting Image artist Roger Law, subject of a recent Private Passions, pictured in 2000. Photo: Getty
Private Passions favours the gently gently approach
By Antonia Quirke - 20 November 15:49

Antonia Quirke on Radio. 

Dodgy pair: Gillian Anderson and Paul Spector in The Fall
Flirting with the enemy: The Fall’s baffling mission to make murder sexy
By Rachel Cooke - 13 November 16:48

The Fall continues to be shot through with imagery that subtly (and often not so subtly) connects violence against women with sex.

Ready to rumble: Ali and Foreman in the famous 1974 fight. Photo: Getty
Lords of the ring: reliving Muhammad Ali’s “Rumble in the Jungle”
By Antonia Quirke - 13 November 10:00

A running commentary by Ricky Hatton and fellow boxers to mark the 40th anniversary of the super-fight, in what turned out to be a brilliantly conceived and delivered programme

 

Acting out: struggling thespian Stephen Toast (Matt Berry)
Burnt offering: Matt Berry’s Toast is no laughing matter
By Rachel Cooke - 06 November 16:18

It’s as if two sixth formers had watched a few old DVDs – The Dick Emery Show, Rising Damp, the odd episode of Bottom or Alan Partridge – then written down the first thing that came into their heads. 

Think ink: a woman with a far less controversial tattoo at a convention in Cyprus in June. Photo: Getty
Strange geometry: is it ever possible to rehabilitate the Swastika?
By Antonia Quirke - 06 November 10:00

A community of tattoo artists in Copenhagen vehemently reject the swastika’s associations with all things menacing and want to “reclaim the symbol” as a deeply ancient emblem of well-being and peace. 

Desperate: James Nesbitt as Tony in episode two of The Missing. Photo: BBC Pictures
Vanishing interest: The Missing is ambitious but ultimately cheesy
By Rachel Cooke - 30 October 16:37

The plot reared up and hissed like a snake. Improbabilities. Coincidences. Unlikely connections. A frenzied cheesiness suddenly infected the story­telling.

Power of the popster: Iggy still thrills. Photo: Soren Andersson/AFP/Getty Images
Snap, crackle and Pop: the eloquence of Iggy
By Antonia Quirke - 30 October 9:00

Antonia Quirke on radio.

A woman in China sews protective suits for those handling ebola patients. Photo: Getty
Status update: the World Service’s reports on ebola
By Antonia Quirke - 24 October 10:16

Having listened to the show for three weeks, I am repeatedly struck by its unusually fluctuating tone.

Novel Gothic: George Gilbert Scott's St Pancras Station seen in 1905. Photo: Getty
Strawberry Hill forever: Two presenters with a distinctly Gothic side
By Rachel Cooke - 23 October 15:46

Cruickshank seems unable to speak in anything other than an urgent whisper while Graham-Dixon has the kind of face that looks particularly good rounding the top of a stone spiral staircase on a cold March morning.

Stand at easel: Mike Leigh overlays his stylised realism on to costume drama in Mr Turner. Photo: Courtesy of Liveright Publishing Corporation (Lovecraft)
With love and squalor: Mike Leigh’s brand of realism is perfect for Turner
By Ryan Gilbey - 23 October 15:42

An interesting tension exists in the film between that grunginess and passages of intense beauty. It is a compliment commonly paid to well-shot films to say that any one of their frames could be hung in a gallery. This is unmistakably the case here. 

A group of young British children watching television in October 1988. Photo Express/Getty Images
Tracey Thorn: When I got the TV request, I thought: don’t you know who I think I am?
By Tracey Thorn - 23 October 15:06

No thanks – I really don’t want to take part in the “Identity Parade” on Never Mind the Buzzcocks.

Cher wigs: but ITV's Great Fire fails to catch fire
Overblown vanilla awfulness: The Great Fire is more Great Farce
By Rachel Cooke - 17 October 11:00

With its 1990s Cher wigs, glossy modern make-up and Disneyfied London, even a lustful Samuel Pepys can’t save ITV’s The Great Fire. 

Theodore Roosevelt speaking at Grant’s Tomb, New York, in 1911. The following year, he was shot in the chest while campaigning. Photo: Browns Brothers/Stirling/PA
Meet Ken Burns, the US pioneer of long-form television
By Erica Wagner - 16 October 17:08

From baseball to the Roosevelts, the film-maker Ken Burns has devoted a career to resurrecting America’s history.

Rebel road: remembering James Dean
By Antonia Quirke - 16 October 15:55

The tenderly shaped ten-minute broadcast included an interview with the California highway patrolman who had taken Dean to task over speeding. Two hours later, Dean was dead.

Gillian Anderson as DSI Stella Gibson in “The Fall”. Photo: BBC/The Fall 2 Limited/Helen Sloan
Is violence against women on TV acceptable if there are complex female characters?
By Clare Wiley - 14 October 11:57

Violent scenes on TV form part of a wider picture of how the media portrays women: as degraded, objectified and patronised victims.

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