Hugo Rifkind

The Times

I’m a journalist for The Times, where I write an opinion column, leaders, regular features, a satirical column, and this entry, my Saturday television review. I also host a Saturday show on Times Radio which includes a television review section in which I discuss many of the same programmes with fellow critics.

As this column runs on a Saturday, I tend to think that the job is not just to list programmes and say whether they’re any good or not - although this is obviously an important part of it. When things are thought-provoking, I also allow my thoughts to be provoked. I’d like to think that readers can always find a few ideas in my columns to take away and discuss on their own. I’d also hope there is plenty there for people who have never seen the programmes being discussed, and who have no intention of watching them, either. This makes the column an absolute joy to write, giving me the opportunity to move between a light-hearted romp, serious criticism and something closer to op-ed, as the situation demands. Usually I cover between two and four programmes, but there is always a main one. Better Call Saul is not only the best thing on TV in recent years, but perhaps also one of the best things that has been on TV ever. The finest television deserves to be written about in exactly the same way that we’d write about the best literature or theatre, and that’s what I tried to do with this review. When something has occupied so much of our evenings and our headspace, it deserves serious thought in return. It’s always fun to slag something off, but engaging readers while utterly loving something is really what this job is all about. Bluey, likewise, was a pleasure to watch and to write about. Children’s TV occupies a huge and important space in the lives of parents, and few critics ever touch it, even when it’s as good as this. I’m also proud of the “needle-scratch segue” in this review when I go on to discuss Ramy, which is definitely not for kids. Likewise, Good Grief, in which Richard Coles discusses death. The point of this column, though, is that it can treat all three in the same way. Friends: The Reunion, finally, was a landmark bit of television. This was as much a chance to remind people of the huge cultural relevance of Friends as it was a discussion of whether the new show deserved to be watched. (My verdict was: maybe.) Like many of my favourite reviews, it offered me the chance to use a shared nostalgia for the old as a springboard to discuss the new. Reading it back now, I’m thrilled afresh that I get to do this fun, fascinating gig, and get paid for it, too. As I put it in that column, “No one told me life was going to be this way.”