Deborah Ross

Mail on Sunday

There are precious few water-cooler TV moments any more. Viewers are just as likely to be watching Netflix as BBC1. And so, the role of the television critic has changed to one that must advise and inform as much as critique a show the entire country has seen.

Ross has recognised this and walks that tightrope brilliantly. After reading her weekly column, the reader is never left in any doubt as to whether a show is worth their time or not. First and foremost, she never fails to entertain. She can wittily despatch the latest dating show to clog up the schedules (My Mum, Your Dad, ITV1), which was ‘caught between having its heart in the right place and the demands of reality TV, where something always has to happen. For long periods nothing does.’ And then, in the next paragraph, she will lend serious attention to a polemic such as David Baddiel: Jews Don’t Count (Channel 4), which was ‘rivetingly uncomfortable’. Ever in touch with TV and streaming trends, the hawk-eyed Ross can spot a cult smash long before it’s come to readers’ attention. If anyone can help a show become a word-of-mouth hit, it’s Ross. Take Jury Duty (Amazon Freevee). ‘OK. Stop what you're doing. Go to wherever you watch television. Bring up Amazon. Find Jury Duty. It sounds like the driest, dustiest show ever, like Crown Court. It isn't. Watch the first episode. You will immediately watch the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth. See if you don't.’ The Truman Show-style series that blurred the boundaries between documentary, comedy and reality was ‘a brilliantly original and addictive series starring a star who didn't know he was starring’. She also championed The Cockfields (Gold/BBC2), a ‘charming, gentle, affectionate’ under-the-radar comedy. ‘It takes a lot to make me happy, as you know, and this so did,’ she wrote to readers. ‘You're going to love it, and you are going to want to thank me for bringing it to your attention.’ And guess what, the mailbag bulged as readers wrote to thank her in their droves. Just when you might think you know what she’s going to write about next, Ross, known to her readers for her disinterest in sport, unexpectedly fell in love with At Home With The Furies (Netflix), a true heir to The Osbournes, which she instantly declared ‘TV reality gold’ and one of those rare instances ‘where I put off watching the final episode so I could save it as a treat for later.’ Elsewhere, she heroically stayed awake though the snoozefest that was Great Expectations (BBC1), the Dickens adaptation that ‘rather than excise the boring bits, added new ones of its own.’ She loved Nolly (ITVX), Russell T Davies’s Noele Gordon biopic with a script that ‘cannot be improved’. For more than a decade, Ross has reflected the evolving landscape of television. In these changing times, when everyone’s a critic, there’s only one TV critic who can cut through and that’s Deborah Ross.