Reviews of books, film, theatre and TV

Review: All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace

Part One: Love and Power
BBC Two, Monday 23 May

“A series of films about how humans have been colonised by the machines they have built. Although we don’t realise it, the way we see everything in the world today is through the eyes of the computers.”

Adam Curtis’s opening premise was that this was “a story about the rise of the machines” (no, not Terminator 3); how it was believed that computers and non-hierarchical networks could replace systems of political control to produce stable and self-regulating social order, a new kind of global capitalism free of all risk and without the boom and bust of the past.

What Curtis gives us is a dissection of human follies, belief systems that could be enabled by technology, how they failed and how they continue to fail… …

Review: Perspectives Arts Documentaries

ITV’s new arts strand replaces the much-mourned, if little-watched South Bank Show.

Perspectives is the short-season documentary arts strand “providing unique, individual insights into the arts.” This season’s Perspectives consists of four single documentary films, each from different film-makers, featuring celebrity (but ‘non-arts’) presenters and contributors offering “their take on subjects that resonate within our culture.” …

Review: Birth of the British Novel, BBC4

Currently on rotation on BBC4’s freeview TV channel.

Author Henry Hitchings explores the lives and works of Britain’s radical and pioneering 18th century novelists who, in just 80 years, established all the literary genres we recognise today. It was a golden age of creativity led by Daniel Defoe, Jonathan Swift, Henry Fielding, Laurence Sterne, Fanny Burney and William Godwin, amongst others. Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver’s Travels, Tom Jones and Tristram Shandy are novels that still sparkle with audacity and innovation…