Sunday, March 25, 2012

Tele reviews

Some of you guys may wonder why I give television show reviews and I may have explained this before, but I feel like doing it again! The only American television shows I watch are Once Upon A Time (which I seem to get more and more obsessed with every episode) and Mike and Molly (which I probably wouldn't watch if I didn't have a DVR). Throughout the years it's always been that way, I've always been more of a movie person than a tele person and maybe only one show a year catches my attention and it rarely ever keeps my attention. Some shows I watch when they come out on DVD instead of weekly...Supernatural, The Vampire Diaries, and House, simply because I'm horrible at cliffhangers, or I don't care enough to watch them every week even though I may like them.

Throughout the years, only a few American shows have left lasting impressions on me...Wings, ER, South Park, Queer As Folk, and Moonlighting and that's about the lot and probably about in that order of importance. I still think Joe's proposal to Helen on Wings is one of the finest in television moments and if I'm flipping through channels and Wings is on, I will stop and watch it, even to this day and I own all the DVD's!

British tele, on the other hand, is a whole other ballgame. Most Americans don't take the time to watch British television other than what's on PBS (which is a lot of period stuff) or BBCA (when it's not Gordon Ramsay or Top Gear) and, unfortunately, that's just the tip of the iceberg! I may be Southern born and bred, but my interests have never been on this side of the channel! But fortunately, it's a very easy thing to get British television shows, all you need is an all-region DVD player (and almost all DVD players can be made all-region or you can just buy one) and you're all set. I've blogged before about different region DVD's, but basically the US and Canada is region 1 and the UK and Europe is region 2...there are 9 different region codes. An all-region player is basically set to 0. But there is another catch with British DVD's...most countries use the NTSC television system, whereas the UK uses the PAL system. Most newer DVD's play NTSC and PAL DVD's even if they aren't all region (but can be made that way) and aren't advertised that way. It's how they are encoded for the television, not for the DVD player. It sounds a lot more complicated than it is. There is a great software decoder called DVD43 that works with VLC player that will make any computer an all region player for free.

You can purchase DVD's from Amazon UK just as easily as you can Amazon.com (but with the caveat that you can only purchase directly from Amazon UK and not from third party vendors). British DVD's are also much cheaper than American DVD's are. But there is a reason for this. Our shows are typically 20-24 episodes per season with an average of 42 minutes per hour show, theirs are 6 to 8 per series with an hour per hour show. They also don't always do scheduled seasons like we do, some shows may only have 7 series, but they may have been over 20 years, like the Vicar Of Dibley, for example, depending on the actors schedules because most actors work on more than one show at a time. What they lack in quantity, they make up in quality. Another caveat is that if you buy the American version of a British show, it will cost a fortune and all they are doing is making them region 1!! I've never understood that! I've paid $100 for series of Spooks in their MI-5 incarnation, but you can get the same thing from Amazon UK for 11.99 which, depending on the exchange rate is still less than $20. Yes, you may have to wait a couple of weeks for it to make it through customs (which, BTW, it's American customs it gets stuck in), but it's definitely worth it! Shipping is typically less than ordering from an American vendor as well! And UK shows come out on DVD almost immediately after the series has ended...there is no waiting practically a year for it to come out on DVD like Supernatural.

And don't even get me started again on how many American shows are remakes of British shows and everyday I keep seeing in the news how we're stealing more and more...Mistresses and Sherlock are the next two up on the register...an American Sherlock Holmes!! Yeah...about as stupid an idea as an American Doctor Who, but hey, guess what...another idea that they are actually working on!! What are they gonna use for a Tardis? A port-a-potty?

I went off topic again...the reason I give these reviews is to give Americans a peek into the wonderful world of UK tele and what great shows that we have easy access to, but don't even know exist! With the popularity of Downton Abbey, more and more people are starting to watch even more UK shows. But Downton Abbey also plays into the cliche of the British only do period dramas and I try to show that this is not the case! Yes, there are a couple period shows...Lark Rise To Candleford (one of my favorites), and of course Downton and Upstairs Downstairs, but they are more rare than you think.

I have seen tons of American shows that totally suck but of my UK tele collection, only a couple have been disappointing...none have totally sucked and my collection is quite large now. No two have been the same (No CSI Miami, NY, Vegas, Timbuktu, etc) even if the actors might be (they don't have thousands of actors like we do, but that's OK, it's much easier to follow your favorites that way!).

And for the Jane Austen fans, you've all heard of the game 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon? I like to play 3 degrees of Jane Austen because every British actor can be traced in 3 or less steps to a Jane Austen adaptation! Just for example, lets take Hugh Bonneville from Downton Abbey (since he's known by most Americans now)...I don't even have to go 3 degrees on him, but I can go 3 choices...Lost In Austen, in the '99 Mansfield Park, and Miss Austen Regrets! Want a more famous actor? How about House himself, Hugh Laurie, who was in Sense and Sensibility and then you can trace him to Spooks (one of the best heads of 6 that the show ever had) which had Matthew MacFayden (Pride and Prejudice), Rupert-Penry Jones (Persuasion), and Peter Firth (Northanger Abbey) and Richard Armitage who you can trace to The Vicar Of Dibley and back to Hugh Bonneville or Richard Armitage to Keith Allen in Robin Hood to Max Beesley in Bodies to Julie Graham in Survivors back to Hugh Bonneville in Bonekickers (OK, so that was four but I got stuck on Richard Armitage and you get the point)! Trust me...I could do this all day!!

So, I hope that my reviews will give you a bit of insight into some really great shows and I hope that you give them a shot, they aren't as far out of reach as you might think!

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