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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Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game