In the not too far off past, a friend commented that if he wanted to know what British shows to watch, all he had to do was read my Twitter timeline to garner a list. He wasn’t too far off. I find that about once or twice a week, at least, I’m making recommendations to someone that if they liked X, they may also like Z. And it’s not just TV either, as it tends to also move into radio, movies, and music.
Usually the first question asked is why I’m so obsessed with British television shows? While it is no secret that I’m an anglophile, I genuinely don’t remember how I got into watching British shows almost exclusively. I think it began about ten years ago when I noticed most movies, music, and books that I was watching, listening, and reading all happened to be from the UK. It also got to the point for awhile where I knew based on a riff, a plot line, or a blurb where in the UK that piece came from.
The follow up question usually ends up moving towards HOW do I get all this content? For the music and books, the answer is usually through Amazon.co.uk. Sometimes in the case of books, UK friends may sort through charity shops or other stores for my wants. I also have a couple of friends who ship me things on a regular basis. A lot of the times, the reason I am buying from a UK site is due to it may be an item that has a long US release or will never be released in the States. Movies are a bit tricky, since the region encoding is different, but I still make do. Radio programs can be had live via the BBC, or whatever the broadcasting network happens to be, or archived directly from the show’s site without much fuss. UK licensing scheme is not applied to radio, it seems, only television.
Television, on the other hand, is a whole ‘nother beast. Sometimes UK shows show up on PBS (like Downton Abbey and Call The Midwife), BBC America (Doctor Who and Top Gear), Showtime (Episodes), or SyFy (Merlin) as a regular series. Other times, they just show up in Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu,or iTunes. Perusing my local library has also unearthed treasures. Sometimes I have to resort to the back of the truck to get something, but not that often.
Even after explaining all of this, the next question is: How do I find out about all of this stuff? The books and music is pretty easy – usually via recommendations from friends, magazines, samples I read/heard from blogs, or recommendation engines on a website (GoodReads, Amazon, whatever). A lot of the time it comes from pure research on a topic I’m interested in, with suggestions for authors/musicians in that genre. An example would be I used to listen to a Scottish podcast that showcased unsigned Scottish bands, so finding their music usually meant buying directly from the band. With television, it typically follows along the same lines as the research, and almost always there is an influence. Since I have a love of history, I check BBC History Magazine’s weekly TV/radio suggestions. Podcasts that are UK centric that I listen to on occasion also make reference to upcoming shows/movies.
Alice keeps me updated on older shows I may have missed and most especially my beloved radio shows. (V. important.)
TheHusband jokes that if it’s British, I will almost certainly like it – and I can’t fault him too badly on this observation since it is most always seemingly true. This doesn’t mean I glorify everything from the UK as being awesome, for that is certainly not true. In terms of television and movies, the productions values, continuity, acting, and subject matter are almost always inline with my tastes over something produced here in the US. Does this mean all UK series are full of wonder and splendor? No, but it does mean if I have an option of watching Shameless UK vs Shameless US, I’ll pick the UK version every time. I’d also be hard pressed to find a US version of a UK show that was superior to the original.
Note: Seemingly only twelve actors work in all of the UK. This is truth.
I think ultimately it is the rich and long history, coupled with the diversity of island that draws me to it. So much has happened! So many cultures, peoples, languages, and histories, it’s overwhelming. The US is a great plucky upstart, but it has nothing on the depth and breadth of the UK.
It is with this introduction I decided to start (and keep updated) a guide to UK tv& radio, so next time someone says, “I really like X, can you make a recommendation?” I can just give them a link. (You can also contact me if you think something is missing!)