Tuesday, April 2, 2013

TV Anorak: An American Intro To British TV-The B's

1. British: A person obsessively interested in a thing or topic that doesn't seem to warrant such attention.

This series of Challenge posts is an introduction to British TV shows for my fellow Americans. For instructions on how to play different region-coded DVD's, please go either here or here to read my previous blog posts that should clear up any confusion. Next up:


Another show from my youth, Blackadder is a surprising myriad of the best of British actors...Rowan Atkinson (before he was Mr. Bean), Hugh Laurie (Dr. House), Colin Firth, Miranda Richardson, my beloved Stephen Fry, Robbie Coltrane (i.e. Hagrid in the Potter-verse) and many others. Each series of this show (four in all and a series of specials) portrays a different era in time, with Edmund Blackadder (Atkinson) in his different ancestral incarnations and in different class groups, from the Duke of Edinburgh to a solider in World War I. It's typical of the dry black British humor which I so love! Blackadder constantly finds himself in trouble and always goes the worst possible way of getting himself out of it.

And just as an aside, most British shows have one-off specials or annual Christmas specials, often completely independent of the regular series. American shows usually have holiday episodes as well, but the British version is more of an event rather than the characters talking around Christmas trees.

Being Human
No, not the crappy American SyFy Channel version, but the original BBC series (that also aired on BBCA and SyFy) about a werewolf, a vampire, and a ghost that share a flat hiding in plain sight from the humans that can never know of their existence. There is romance between the vampire and the ghost, the werewolf gets a girlfriend (and accidently infects her as well), and has some great guest stars in the form of Robson Green (who makes several appearances in my list) as well as Nicola Walker from Spooks (who was Robson's co-star on one of my "T" submissions). The show just finished it's 5th series (which I have on pre-order), so no word on a 6th series as of yet. The original cast mostly departed at the end of series 3 and consisted of Aidan Turner (which you might recognize from The Hobbit), Russell Tovey (who I love), and Lenora Crichlow (who did manage to make it mostly through series 4).

But since I mentioned it, a huge pet-peeve of mine is the fact that so many great British shows are repackaged to appeal to American audiences. Why not just air the originals, despite Hollywood's view of the American public, we can actually understand a Brit. They do, afterall, speak better English than we do. Google it sometime, you'd be extremely surprised at the number of American shows that are British knockoffs, the identity of many of these might shock you more than the quantity! I think it's the Hollywood machine's way of not having to actually think up an original idea. Sorry, digressing again.

Oh, my beloved Stephen Tompkinson! You'll be seeing him several times through this challenge, so prepare yourself! Ballykissangel is about an English priest (Tompkinson) who takes over a parish in Ireland. He constantly butts heads with the resident pub owner and self-professed atheist Dervla Kirwan as well as tries to fight his attraction to her. Although there are cast changes mid series, it never really looses it's steam and continues to entertain throughout the entire 6 series arch. Most notably, enjoy a very young Colin Farrell in the later episodes!

So far there have been 2 series of Bedlam (and it has also aired on BBCA). Both series have almost an entirely different casts, but the location is the same, an abandoned and very haunted mental hospital called Bedlam that is being renovated into flats for unsuspecting renters. I don't think the British do "cutesy" ghosts, because this is another sleep-with-the-lights-on inducing show. Each ghost connects with a renter for whatever reason and then makes every attempt to kill them (and often succeeds). The first series brings us Theo James from the new American show Golden Boy and Will Young, the first Pop Idol winner (an American Idol type show) and very popular British music star. As the series progresses, you get more clues as to why the ghosts are hanging on in the first place. Excellent writing and series completion.

Black Books
I wouldn't have picked this series out on my own without help from my friend Kate, but she knows me well and I absolutely loved it! Dylan Moran (of Shaun Of The Dead fame) plays a very neurotic, people-hating, constantly inebriated, and no-so friendly book store owner who's best friends with the next door shop owner Tamsin Greig (American's might know her from Episodes on Showtime) and his reluctantly hired employee Bill Bailey who he belittles at every given opportunity. You might think that three people hanging out in an Indie bookstore can't get into much trouble, but think again! Through all three series I continually laughed (and found more than just a passing similarity between Dylan's character and myself-well, except for the excessive drinking that is). It is definitely not a "PC" comedy, but I'm from the 80's, before there was such a thing as political correctness, so I wasn't offended.

Max Beesley, one of my top five hottest British actors (and former piano man for Robbie Williams) plays a young OB doctor who starts his medical career in a maternity ward of a hospital who's patient care is constantly being interfered with by the administration. It really sheds the light on the problems in the National Health System (and, as a medical employee, also is very reminiscent of the American health services). Also starring Keith Allen (you you might know from the BBC Robin Hood as the Sherrif or otherwise as singer Lily Allen's father) as his senior, womanizing, sometimes consultant. This show is extremely graphic (who-ha's figure prominently and they spare no gore with births) and Max's sexual exploits with a married nurse are borderline soft porn, but the many shots of his naked bum make it all worth while. This is two series, both of which keep you glued to your seat, but the Finale show you could probably skip since it is definitely not the ending I would have liked.

There are several honorable "B" mentions:
Bonekickers - pre-Downton Abbey Hugh Bonneville at his finest. This show bombed and only lasted one series, but I absolutely loved it! It was about a group of archaeologists who always managed to get into Indiana Jones type situations, solving history's mysteries and failing to keep their personal lives from intertwining.

Bob & Rose - a very controversial comedy about a gay man played by Alan Davies, who ends up falling in love with a straight woman. Created by Russell T. Davies (of Doctor Who and Queer As Folk fame), it also lasted only one series, but was very heartwarming none the less (and I'm not just saying that because I absolutely adore Alan Davies!).

The Body Farm - the only show I gave a review of on Amazon.uk after several very undeserved negative reviews. A spin-off of one of my "W" submissions, it's about a group of pathologists and anthropologists using their "Body Farm" to solve modern day crimes with the police (another Keith Allen role). Quite a good guest list on this show as well! Sadly, there was only one series.

Bad Girls - If anyone would have told me I would enjoy a show about a women's prison, I would have laughed in their face, but enjoy I did! The storylines were fantastic, sometimes sad, sometimes maddening, but never dull. It not only dealt with the prisoner side of life, but the guards and wardens as well.

Blue Murder - One of the first British cop shows I watched starring Caroline Quentin (who manages to be in several of my favorites). It's about a police detective recently abandoned by her cheating husband and trying to handle her unruly children, life after her failed marriage, sexism from her colleagues, and a strong attraction to her partner. Good stuff.

That's it for "B" (I warned you it was a big one)! Any "B" shows you can recommend? I'm all ears!


Kate N said...

Well, Being Human and Black Books are two of my favourite shows EVER! I also really like a TV show called Benidorm which isnt to everyones liking and a lot of Americans may not find it funny at all, but I like Jonny Vegas and the silliness of the whole show that plays up to stereotypes. Growing up I remember Bread & Birds of a Feather which were both situation comedies and both I would think would still be funny now, especially Bread. The Brittas Empire was also another brilliant sit-com along with Brush Strokes. Who knew there were so many? These are all 80s/90s though except Benidorm.

Kate N said...

I nearly forgot Boon! Anyone else remember that? My mum used to love it :)

Siobhan Fox said...

You forgot the most important B from BlackAdder - Baldrick :-)

SoCal Debbie said...

What a great post to read today, Keebles! Of course, I have never heard of any of these shows or actors. It's all new to me!

Siobhan Fox said...

Just thought of one I loved Band of Gold. http://m.imdb.com/title/tt0111890/ it's about a group of prosititutes and is similar to Bad Girls

Rebeccah Giltrow said...

Black Books is brilliant. Always manages to make me laugh. If you're looking for more 'B' programmes, check out Brass Eye. It's a little bit dated, but funny nonetheless.