Archive for the ‘British TV Friday’ Category

It’s time for something a bit different for this British TV Friday. Many of the shows I’ve already discussed are high on humor, but another sort of television I appreciate is drama, especially drama based on classic literature.

A number of films and television series, often made by the BBC, for example, achieve the rare accomplishment of being as good as or better than the books they are based on. I think one aspect of the productions that make this possible is the willingness to create a lengthy series that contains most of the details of the source rather than cutting them and then trying to spice up the story up for the viewers in ways that are inconsistent with the original material.

When I think of this category, I think of “Upstairs, Downstairs” and “Daniel Deronda” and “The Buccaneers” and “North & South” and “Middlemarch” or the catalog of works by authors such as Charles Dickens and Jane Austen or the recent series featuring Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes.

Many of these have prompted me to read books I enjoy, introduced me to authors that were unfamiliar or told a story I’d already come to love.  Sometimes they help me to learn about history – at other times, they’re just entertaining.

These are definitely the types of shows and films that are best watched with a mug of tea, a big blanket and maybe a few kittens. This sounds like a great plan for today, actually, although I’m missing the kittens.


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In this British TV Friday post, I’ve chosen to highlight another form of television that the British do well, quiz shows. There are a number of British quiz shows, and what sets many of my favorites apart from the stereotypical quiz show is that winning is not the point. Being witty is the primary goal. They often feature comedians and other celebrities who prove that being intelligent can be very, very funny, or, on occasion, that being dumb can be pretty amusing as well.

(Warning: Some of these shows contain swearing and risqué jokes. If that’s the sort of thing that bothers you, don’t watch them. For those of you who aren’t bothered, you can find most of these shows on YouTube.)

A favorite is “QI,” or Quite Interesting, hosted by actor Stephen Fry. This panel show features guests displaying their knowledge or lack thereof by answering trivia questions. Points are awarded for interesting answers, not only for correct ones, and during the “general ignorance” round, viewers will probably discover that what they believed to be true about the issue under discussion is a pack of lies, as common misconceptions are debunked.

Another classic is “Never Mind the Buzzcocks,” a panel show focused on music. It features celebrities (Josh Groban, for example) and comedians who answer questions about pop stars, try to identify intros of songs hummed and beat-boxed by teammates and pick semi-recognizable musicians out of a line-up. As mentioned above, the point is primarily to be witty, although some guests don’t seem to be able to manage that. Search “Never Mind the Buzzcocks, Jedward” to be treated to two of the most annoying twin teenagers in the world. You’re welcome.

Side note: I’ve have a strange love for “Never Mind the Buzzcocks” regular Noel Fielding (who is the one who legitimately hates Coldplay in this clip, although I actually like Coldplay.) and Alan Davies, longstanding panelist for QI. Not sure why.

 “Would I Lie to You” is a panel show in the spirit of a number of other enjoyable British shows, such as “Mock the Week” and “8 Out of 10 Cats.” Many of the same guests star in those shows, and they’re all quite amusing. I chose “Would I Lie to You” to describe further because it’s my favorite of the genre. It features guests reading statements about their lives that may be true or false. They don’t know which it will be before reading them and must answer questions from the opposing team members, who then decide if they think their claim is truth or a lie. I also mention this show because I got some of my friends to play a version of this game at a recent Halloween party, and it was quite fun.

Also, David Mitchell, who is one half of “That Mitchell and Webb Look,” featured in last week’s edition of British TV Friday, is a frequent guest on these shows, and both his rants and stories about his life never fail to amuse.

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Welcome back to British TV Friday, the day of the week where – you guessed it again – I talk about British TV.

For this post, I’m going to focus on something the British are known for doing well – sketch comedy. Whether it’s the classic and incomparable Monty Python, or something a bit newer, like my favorite “That Mitchell and Webb Look,” the British know how to wield this form of humor effectively.

An added bonus is that this type of show is perfect for when you need a bit of entertainment but don’t have much time to take a break. Got 20 minutes to eat dinner between getting home from the office and heading off to cover a Town Board meeting? If you work fast, and settle for eating a Hot Pocket, you just might be able to watch “The Argument Clinic” before you have to go listen to government officials talk about land use. Or maybe that’s just me.

(Note: some these shows include swearing, innuendo and other things that may be offensive to some. I chose clips that are fairly tame, but if those things bother you, other episodes of these shows are probably not for you.)

Funny story: I once took a several hour trip with two friends, one who was also a big “That Mitchell and Webb Look” fan and one who had never seen the show. I and my fellow fan spent an unconscionable amount of the drive talking about the show. I must apologize to my other friend, who mostly sat there looking confused and bored. Here is one sketch that amuses me no matter how many times I watch it:

Catherine Tate played a companion to the Doctor on “Doctor Who” (see previous British TV Friday post) and has been a guest on the show “The Office.” She’s also the star of “The Catherine Tate Show.” She recycles some of her ideas to the point where they can get a bit boring, in my opinion, but they’re pretty hilarious on first encounter. Here’s a sketch that features one of her stock characters, as well as the amazing David Tennant and an ample amount of “Doctor Who” references, a win-win as far as I’m concerned.

Those of you who are used to picturing actor Hugh Laurie as Dr. House may enjoying discovering a different side to him in “A Bit of Fry and Laurie,” a show that also features the illustrious Stephen Fry, host of the quiz show “QI” that I’ll probably write about in a future edition of British TV Friday.

Rowan Atkinson is classic as the awkward and hilarious Mr. Bean. He was also invited to William and Kate’s wedding because he’s BFFs with Prince Charles. I know this thanks to the ever-helpful Yahoo homepage. This show is quite funny and is pretty family friendly, so those of you who might want to stay away from most of the “That Mitchell and Webb Look” sketches, should be OK with Mr. Bean. I want to reenact this scene in a restaurant someday:

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Welcome to “British TV Friday” where I, not surprisingly, blog about British TV programs. If you’ve hung around me for any length of time recently, you’re probably aware that I’m a big fan of a number of British TV programs. If I was British, it would be a bit cheesy. I would just be a fan of television. But since I’m not British, it clearly demonstrates that I have amazing taste. Or something.

This year, I started watching the show “Doctor Who,” which actually predates both “Star Wars” and “Star Trek,” although I had never heard of it until recently.

Once I started watching it, I became a huge fan. It probably should be embarrassing how much I love this show, and yet, I am not embarrassed.

The show centers on the Doctor. Doctor Who? Yeah, the writers of the show use that joke in practically every episode.

The Doctor is an alien, a “Time Lord” with two hearts who travels time and space with companion/s basically saving the universe repeatedly. He’s got a soft spot for humans despite being much cooler than them, and can regenerate into another body if he’s seriously wounded, so there have been 11 incarnations.

If you enjoy science fiction, you’ll probably like this show. (Since this is the Internet, you may be aware of “Doctor Who,” but a lot of people I run into never seem to have heard of it, which is a terrible shame.)

The special effects get a bit cheesy at times, but the strengths of the show override that for me. The spinoff show “Torchwood” is a darker and edgier  – and it’s pretty awesome as well.

I haven’t seen many of the older episodes, but I’m pretty much totally addicted to the newest series that began in 2005. (And yes, I’m a 10th doctor David Tennant fangirl, although the other doctors are cool too.)

Here’s a clip of the show. You should totally start watching it so we can geek out about it together.

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