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Top Gear: The Challenges – simple comic genius of three men in a car

From turning a truck into an amphibious vehicle and sailing it across the Channel to putting a Reliant Robin into space, Clarkson, Hammond and May clearly revel in the pure fun of their preposterous ideasSet aside your prejudices for a moment and consider the facts. Can you think of a potentially funnier 15 minutes of TV than an effort to convert three...

MacGyver review – all-American hero rides to the rescue

He never drank and only once fired a gun, but MacGyver always foiled the villains – including the world’s deadliest, cack-handed assassin, MurdocIs he a scientist? An ex-racing driver? Former special forces? All are hinted at, but all we really know for sure about MacGyver is that he’s the good guy and he wears a bomber jacket. In many ways, actually,...

The Good Wife review: a legal drama that breezes the Bechdel test

Over the course of seven series, Julianna Margulies excels as Alicia Florrick, juggling single motherhood, court cases and romanceGame of Thrones usually ends a season with the dismemberment of a much-loved principal or with a vast flotilla of CGI longboats setting sail for a dreadful war. The Good Wife doesn’t need to try so hard. The glossy legal-political...

Out of the Unknown review: 1960s BBC sci-fi from a Who’s Who of literary talent

Futurism by Forster, colonising space with Ballard and gleaming white hospitals designed by Ridley Scott – thank goodness it wasn’t all wipedThe list of writers on the BBC sci-fi series Out of the Unknown reads like a Who’s Who of literary talent: Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, John Wyndham, JG Ballard, EM Forster and JB Priestley.But this programme, which...

Jack Irish review: megachurches, massacres and authentic Melbourne grit

If you’re after a warm-blooded and witty crime series to counter all those stark Scandi noirs, who you gonna call? Guy Pearce’s lawyer in a cardigan is your manIf you need to track someone down in Melbourne, you call Jack Irish. A clean-cut lawyer who had his life upended by personal tragedy, Irish – in the scrawny form of former Neighbours star Guy...

If You See God, Tell Him review: a Richard Briers sitcom

After a bump on the head Briers’ Godfrey Spry believes he has to do exactly what the adverts say – with often disastrous resultsGodfrey Spry has had a bonk on the head and it has left him with no short-term memory. He now has a fixation with adverts, which he takes as gospel. “Go to Hamburg!” he reads in a piece of junk mail. And so he does, and his...

Butterflies review – Carla Lane’s midlife-crisis masterpiece

Just as Lane was one of the few women to crack the male-dominated world of 70s comedy, so Butterflies gave rare subversive voice to a mature suburban womanNews of screenwriter Carla Lane’s death this week sent TV viewers of a certain age scurrying to the sitcom queen’s back catalogue: The Liver Birds, Bless This House, Bread and especially Butterflies...

All You Need Is Love review: a glorious reminder of how pop docs used to be

Stuffed with amazing footage, this magisterial history of pop – partly narrated by Liberace, partly written by Stephen Sondheim – got more than a little help from John Lennon’s contacts bookThe subheading to this 17-part documentary says it all: The History of Popular Music. It shows what a massive undertaking this was, a seemingly impossible task....

The Knick review: like Ripper Street in surgical scrubs

Forget Clive Owen’s variable American accent and immerse yourself in the outrageous, cocaine-fuelled world of Victorian surgeon ‘Thack’ Thackery in this fast and furious period hospital dramaLike the commercially available heroin administered to Dr John “Thack” Thackery to ease withdrawal from his usual tipple of pharmaceutical cocaine, period medical...

Roobarb and Custard review: Britain’s answer to Top Cat

The setting was a suburban garden but the bizarre adventures of Roobarb (and Custard, the pink cat) were pure anarchyImagine Grange Calveley’s head as he watched cartoon import after cartoon import in the 1970s. These glossy all-American universes – featuring everything from lowly Top Cat to the space-dwelling Jetsons – just didn’t chime with him. His...

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