Christopher Stevens

Daily Mail

Christopher Stevens's acerbic TV reviews are feared by broadcasters for their unerring knack of capturing the public response, even before the first viewing figures are in.

This is summed up by his searing mockery of Amazon Prime's billion-dollar Lord Of The Rings epic, The Rings Of Power. Before it was available for public streaming, as soon as the review embargo lifted, the Mail ran his uncompromising appraisal – a demolition. Almost every other publication was either tentatively positive or sycophantically adoring. No other reviewers dared to savage the series – and so the Mail was the only paper to honestly and accurately warn of how bad it was. It took one broadsheet paper six weeks to admit how wrong its initial assessment had been ("visual splendour of this rich, gorgeous Tolkien drama will make you gawp throughout," it said in August; "woeful acting – was so inept that every episode left you sniggering," came the admission in October). Stevens’s fearless and sometimes ruthless reviewing style, married to an irreverent humour that frequently leaves the reader laughing out loud, make his reviews one of the most popular items on the front page of MailOnline. The Tolkien review, for instance, was the most widely read, shared and debated article published on the platform that day. That style, caustic without being cruel, and always explosively witty, is displayed to great effect in his takedown of This England, the Sky Atlantic drama about Boris Johnson and the pandemic. But there is a very different and intensely personal side to his writing, which has been published in the Mail – a half-page, five days a week – for almost ten years. As the father of a severely disabled son, his response to the one-off documentary by Paddy and Christine McGuinness, whose three children are all autistic, was heartfelt. "I understand the wracking emotions the couple are suffering, and I wanted to explain how much I empathised," he wrote. At the same time, his personal knowledge of the subject enabled him to provide a counterweight to the programme's assumptions about autism.

These two elements to his critical reviews, sometimes excoriating and sometimes emotive, make him one of the most popular Mail voices with our readers, who never know what to expect. His compendious TV knowledge is also appreciated by readers, particularly in an era of remakes, from 1970s Van Der Valk to 1990s Darling Buds Of May. This is reflected in their responses – it's not unknown for the paper to fill most of a letters page with their reactions to one of his reviews.