Friday, February 1, 2013

Five Things on Friday - BBCAmerica Edition

Once upon a time, I visited London. I spent 28 days in the City that totally sleeps, but does it classy-like, and even though I mostly wandered around and tried to shove a whole city into my brain, I also watched TV. Like as an experiment. Because I'd never watched TV anywhere but America. (Full disclosure: I also went to McDonald's once, saw a completely American movie, and drank fancy-imported Jim Beam. I am clearly not right.)

So, I watched British TV and here was my takeaway: that's some weird pants. One night, I watched a reality show competition about strippers. I should point out that this was in 1998, so the rest of the world had not yet run out of reality show competition ideas. One night I watched something that was quite possibly in Welsh. I'm guessing because I couldn't understand a single, solitary word of the whole show. But people laughed a whole lot.

So, when my cable company first added BBC America, back in the day, I was torn. On the one hand, I loved Monty Python and on the other hand, competitive stripping.

What I have discovered, however, is that no matter what other stuff is on the telly across the Pond,  the Brits kick our pants in genre programming. Thank you, BBC America and Supernatural Saturday. I'll even forgive you for your inclusion of Battlestar Galactica which is neither British nor supernatural.

Five Genre Shows that Prove Brits Do It Better

1. Doctor Who - I'm pretty sure that my love and adoration for Doctor Who and its titular Doctor (especially in his tenth and eleventh incarnations) is fairly well-documented. *swoon* I'm gonna be honest, though, I've never really gotten the original series. I mean, it was fine, just a little goofy. The Doctor of today, however, is pretty amazing.The best of what Science Fiction has to offer, mixed with a dash of horror (the Angels are scary), a touch of magic (always explained), and genuine human drama - all mixed together into a glorious, gloopy mess.

2. Being Human - So, SyFy, that glorious non-name-having network that sometimes has amazing success and sometimes fails miserably, is in its second season of the American version of this show.  The basic premise, a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost share a flat, sounds like the set up to a joke. But the actual show, about what makes us human, and how sometimes we just aren't, was brilliant, simple and easy to replicate. What wasn't easy to replicate (take note SyFy) was the pain. Watching the British version of Being Human is terrible. Heart wrenching. Amazing. You want, more than anything else for that hour of programming, to save these characters. The American version: you want to know what happens next. Which isn't bad. I mean, honestly, the American version is good. I watch it. It's nice. But it just doesn't live up to its namesake.

3. Primeval - I didn't think I'd find anything at all interesting about this show where dinosaurs slip through holes in time and find themselves in our world. But then I realized that Andrew-Lee Potts was in it and I'd watch him read a telephone book. In the end, though, Primeval was a wonderful marriage of science, politics, espionage and adventure. And despite all this, it was also whimsical, occasionally goofy and never-ever took itself too seriously. This should also be a note for American science fiction producers: sometimes you have to acknowledge the ridiculousness.

4. Bedlam - Bedlam is a flat-out ghost story, taking place in the partially-renovated-into-apartments Bedlam hospital that is kinda famous for treating crazy people horribly. Now, I don't know about you, but you couldn't pay me enough to live in Bedlam. I would, however, pay good money to hang out over night and see what I could see. In any case, the best thing about this show, in my opinion is that is strikes a perfect balance. Part season-long drama with a big bad, a continuing story, relationships and supernatural interference, part monster-of-the-week goodness, the show is always moving, never sitting still and the cast is, shall we say, fluid.

5. Torchwood - I debated about including Torchwood because it's a spin-off of Doctor Who, but in the end, it's just so totally different. Focusing on Captain Jack Harkness and his band of misfits, the  show pits our heroes against all manner of aliens. Who are mostly terrible. As opposed to Doctor Who, where they are mostly misunderstood. Also, this is not a show to watch with the kiddies. Unless you like explaining bisexuality and flaying to your children in the same paragraph. That's fun.

I have a theory. My theory is that because most of these shows only have a dozen or so episodes a season, they can be bigger, crazier and follow every weird idea totally down. Also, because the actors can have other lives, the shows become about those crazy ideas instead of the actors. Each of these has loved and lost more than it's loved and kept. Being Human has not one actor from the original season still ticking. Doctor Who built its concept around an evolving and changing cast. I think we're afraid that losing a beloved character will mean losing viewers, but what it really means is higher stakes. And when the stakes are this high, you can't help but watch. That's my theory.


Suze said...

I think your theory is spot on! For example, the newest Sherlock series is good (though the main actor talk so fast he's impossible to understand) because they haven't made a million episodes and run out of ideas. Ditto the original The Office. The American version just fell flat because they tired out the plot.

Jessi said...

Sherlock is a great example. That is downright cinematic quality television.

Elementary (which, full disclosure, I do watch) is nice. It's fine. But it's not jaw dropping amazing.