It’s better than all other television.
I almost ended this blog post with that sentence, but I thought I should explain why I think this (even though I know you won’t disagree with me). British television is the best, and that’s a fact. Steven Moffat changed my life, and if he hasn’t changed yours, you need to get your priorities straight.
Now, when I say British television, I primarily mean my three favorite shows: Doctor Who, Sherlock and Merlin, but older (and probably less-well-known-in-America) shows such as Keeping Up Appearances, The Vicar of Dibley, Midsomer Murders etc. are also included. I probably mean Downton Abbey, too, but as I’ve only seen one episode I can’t speak to its true merits.
One can’t just watch British television. British television is part of one’s life. It’s a kind of cult–a subculture incomprehensible to outsiders. Even if you know nothing else about a person, an unbreakable bond forms when they say “I like BBC shows,” and you become friends for life.
We anglophiles reference Doctor Who in most conversations (There’s a Time Lord reference in Star Trek Into Darkness); my family quotes Keeping Up Appearances to each other (It’s my sister Violet. The one with the Mercedes, sauna and room for a pony.); we worship Benedict Cumberbatch; and we consider the bromance between Merlin and King Arthur as equivalent to that of Sam Gamgee and Frodo Baggins.
I love American shows like The Walking Dead, but not with cult-fascination like I love my British shows. So, why do I (and other people) love British TV with religious devotion?
I have a few theories, and my friends on Facebook have been so kind as to offer some of their theories as well (thanks, friends!).
Perhaps it is British humor. The British aren’t afraid to be silly. Probably because they are so confident that their culture, language and way of life are superior to all others. Or probably not, but in my mind they’re superior. Their TV comedies are silly, but also a little wry. It’s a refined silliness. Silly humor plus intelligent humor. Take this sketch from Monty Python’s Flying Circus:
It’s both silly and clever (No it isn’t. Yes it is). The way they blend the absurd and the intelligent is just brilliant, if you ask me. Other shows such as Doctor Who, Keeping Up Appearances and The Vicar of Dibley combine silly and intelligent humor, too.
Perhaps it is their slang and turns of phrase. “Clever” seems to be one of their favorite words (probably because they’re so clever), and I love when they add “done” onto the end of certain phrases:
— Did you take out the trash?
— No, but I should have done.
Perhaps it’s because British TV is different, therefore interesting. They’re accents are different, some of their words are different. The scenery is different from what we’re used to in America (for beautiful countryside/small village scenery, I recommend Midsomer Murders). British television seems special, because it doesn’t come on any old American TV station. It’s not something we grew up with, or something we see every day. It’s something that has to be sought out.
Perhaps it’s the hipster effect. Because British shows aren’t widely available, or widely consumed, its the TV equivalent to “bands you’ve never heard of.” It’s cool to watch British TV. It’s even cooler to watch British TV no one else who watches British TV watches. Even if you watch a British show with more silly humor than intelligent humor, the moment you tell an outsider that your favorite shows are all BBC shows, they think, “Oh. Well they must be very cultured and intelligent.” Or, “Oh. I’ve never heard of that. They must be very cool, because all cool people like things no one else has ever heard of.”
Or maybe Steven Moffat and Benedict Cumberbatch are just superior human beings.
Thank you again, Facebook friends for giving me your thoughts on British television. Shout outs to Meg Donahue, Amanda Stables and Patrick Hobbs, whose opinions on British TV helped me write this post!
À bon vin, point d’enseigne,
P.S. Do you watch British TV? What do you watch? Do you love British TV? Why or why not?