Tom Sutcliffe

Tom Sutcliffe was The Independent's first Arts Editor in 1986 and is a former columnist and television reviewer

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The Queen in her private sitting room in Balmoral

TV review: Her Majesty’s door still remains firmly closed to behind-the-scenes film-makers of Our Queen

“This is supposed to be like a secret door” said a palace functionary, pulling open the panelling of a Buckingham Palace reception room to reveal an ante-chamber. The hint was obvious. Our Queen, ITV’s feature-length documentary about the Diamond Jubilee Year, was going to grant us special access to the back rooms of monarchy.

Inmates: Zac Efron, Matthew McConaughey, Nicole Kidman and David Oyelowo in ‘The Paperboy’

As in The Paperboy and Side Effects, there's nothing more thrilling than a jump between genres

Plus, the spirit of the Blitz in Kate Atkinson's Life After Life and a funny man who can pull off straight roles

Last Night's Viewing: Horizon: The Creative Brain - How Insight Works, BBC2
Prisoners' Wives, BBC1

I sometimes wonder what our phrenology or phlogiston will turn out to be. There's bound to be one – a field of science that is all the rage for a time, but then turns out to be a bit of an embarrassment, even though it feints in the right kind of direction.

Last Night's Viewing: A Very British Wedding, BBC2
The Mimic, Channel 4

The title of A Very British Wedding is a bit of a tease. It relies on the assumption that most of us will read it with an unwitting cultural parochialism, sketching a picture in our heads of a country church, a bride in white and men in tailcoats. And then you watch and find that it's actually about a Punjabi wedding or an Eastern European one and you're meant, I guess, to do a slightly guilty double-take and say, "Oh... of course... the definition of British is so much more interesting than it used to be."

Last night's viewing - Planet Ant: Life Inside the Colony, BBC4; Heading Out, BBC2

Remember ant farms? Two sheets of glass filled with earth and topped off with a cartoon rendering of a Midwestern cattle ranch? In my experience, they seemed to offer a matchless way for a budding entomologist to study the process by which live ants turn into dead ones – or, just occasionally, how excitable human matriarchs can become when the ant colony breaks free and heads across the kitchen for the sugar bag. Having watched Planet Ant: Life Inside the Colony, though, I can see that these rudimentary affairs barely deserved the name of ant farm.

Last night's viewing - A History of Syria with Dan Snow, BBC2; America's Gun Addiction – Panorama, BBC1; Broadchurch, ITV1

"If you want to understand what's happening in Syria and this region at the moment," said Dan Snow, "there's only one place to start... the past." Do we want to understand, though? Really? Of course, we absolutely know we should – a grasp of intractable sectarian conflicts being a kind of secular obligation. In fact, it's quite likely that a fair proportion of those watching A History of Syria with Dan Snow had already gone through the ritual once already, in one way or another.

The Prince of Wales with Countryfile presenters Matt Baker (left) and Adam Henson
Family ties: Nicole Kidman and Matthew Goode star in Park Chan-wook's psychological thriller 'Stoker'

A far from faultless royal appointment in The Audience, but Helen Mirren is still majestic

Plus: Stoker restores one's faith in film and the National Gallery's Barocci exhibition has a masterpiece that really nails it

Last Night's Viewing: Michael Grade and the World's Oldest Joke, BBC4
Anna & Katy, Channel 4
Parks and Recreation, BBC4

Old Roman joke: "That slave you've sold me has just died." "My God, he never did that when he belonged to me!" Ah well...perhaps you had to be there...and by "there", I mean a tavern somewhere in the Suburra around 40BC, because the gag didn't exactly bring the house down in Michael Grade and the World's Oldest Joke.

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Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there