Heck Yes British Television!

Anglophilia and Me: A Love Story.

By Beth Meroski

I remember when I first heard the news.  It was a weekday morning, no less than fortnight ago.  I was brushing my teeth and listening to WBUR in the loo, when suddenly I heard the message come crackling through my transistor radio: WGBH 44 would be airing all-British programming on weeknights.  I yelped, I whooped, I thought about how much I love public broadcasting and radio.  Then I thought about how awesome British television is.

My mother indoctrinated me into Anglophilia at a tender age.  I fondly remember spending many an evening with her, finagling our wire-hanger-as-makeshift-antenna to watch Michael Palin travel documentaries.  For most of my childhood, Sunday night meant a new installment of Masterpiece Theater (until those dopey pre-teen years came along – then Sunday was all about Charmed. Funny story: I once forced my family to cut short a ski trip because our hotel didn’t have The WB and I needed to watch Charmed.).  Out of all the British series my mother (and the public broadcasting system) showed me, my favorite was Keeping Up Appearances.  This gem of a program centers on Hyacinth Bucket, a middle class woman who is always attempting (but failing) to impress wealthy people.  She also insists that her last name be pronounced “Bouquet”.  Eight-year-old Beth loved these kinds of shenanigans.  Come to think of it, 21-year-old Beth does as well.  Until 1998, local PBS stations were the only real destinations for British programming.  Then, BBC America happened.  I was stoked.  Well, I was eight, so I was probably too busy writing what was going to be my promising debut novel, “Sandy the Pig”, to watch BBC America. (Sidenote: Why didn’t that brilliant tome make me into a wunderkind?)

After a sad period of liking Pokemon and Charmed too much, I wisely got back into British television.  During my teen years I devoured Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Fawlty Towers, Little Britain and Skins. I even got really into British talk shows like Friday Night with Jonathan Ross and The Sunday Night Project. More recently I have come to adore Doctor Who, Torchwood, Outnumbered (a family-comedy that – and I will physically fight people about this – is funnier than Modern Family) and the so-smart- and-well-made-it’s-sickening crime-drama Luther (which has new episodes currently airing on BBC America).

While BBC America is awesomesauce, until recently it felt a little like “The Gordon Ramsay Channel”.  There were constantly repeats of THREE different of the chef’s series (Kitchen Nightmares, Gordon Ramsay’s F Word and Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares) programmed in overwhelmingly huge 3-4 hour blocks.  I wasn’t having it.  I think the folks at BBC American heard my grumbling, because just this summer BBC America did an awesome job at rebranding and reprogramming itself. These days it is has a snappy new slogan, “Television From the Other Side,” and is airing more gold standards of British television, like the 2003 series State of Play.  It also doesn’t hurt the station’s future that Doctor Who is gaining popularity in America. As a Whovian, I find this both thrilling and horrifying.  Thrilling because I adore that show and good for them, but horrifying because I fear an American exec might get the idea into his or her noggin to remake it – and ruin it. They have a tendency to do that (see: AbFab, Coupling, Skating with Celebrities, Prime Suspect Minus Helen Mirren Plus a Fedora and Skins).

Although American remakes of British series are more often than not rubbish, that’s not to say there aren’t a few exceptions (ie: The Office).  And it’s not that I dislike American television (we’re the country of HBO and AMC, clearly we know how to make television). British series just seem to always be one step ahead of us in terms of intelligence and especially humor.

Remember up there ^ when I said Outnumbered was funnier than Modern Family?  I think someone at Fox had the same idea, because Fox has picked up a remake of the series.  I don’t have high hopes for it.  Mainly because the 9-year-old daughter character probably won’t be able to say “twat” on Fox.

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One Comment on “Heck Yes British Television!”

  1. I will fight beside you if it ever came to fisticuffs over Outnumbered vs. Modern Family.
    I highly recommend watching Spaced if you haven’t seen it and if you’re a fan of Shaun of the Dead/ Hot Fuzz/ anything Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright, or Nick Frost touch.


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