Thursday, 27 October 2016

English Telly in Texas

Apparently the BBC and ITV continued to make and broadcast new shows after I left England back in 2011, meaning that when I summon Hulu or Netflix to my massive Texas-sized HD flatscreen gogglebox, looking under categories headed either British Television Shows or Because You Watched Fresh Fields, I find tons of shit that I've never heard of. I sort of imagined the British would stop making new shows once I'd left and probably just stick to either repeats or Only Fools & Horses reimagined with Ant and Dec in the lead roles or something, but no...

So here are the English shows which I've watched since I moved, shows which I've only seen whilst slouched across a Texan sofa, eating tacos, and plucking cactus thorns from my shins. English telly looks very different now that it comes from five-thousand miles away.

Auschwitz: The Nazis & the Final Solution - My wife has always been fascinated by Nazis - although not in the sense of simply exploring controversial ideas and images like the man out of Death in June. In fact, as a general fascination it may even run in the family. I bought her mother a book about psychiatry during the Third Reich for Christmas, a title she said she had wanted. 'Nazis and psychiatrists - my two favourite things,' she chuckled as she opened the present and saw what it was.

'You can't go wrong with Nazis or psychiatrists,' I opined.

'Oh for sure,' she confirmed happily. 'Sometimes I can't decide which I like more.'

Anyway, this one had dramatisations - which always strikes me as a bit Discovery Channel and is something I don't usually like in my documentaries - but for once it worked; and this was a great series, and humongously disturbing, which is as it should be. It's nice to know that the Beeb can still make stuff of this calibre when they put their collective mind to it, assuming it was the Beeb.

Coogan, Steve - I've lost track of what we've watched because my wife fancies him so we've watched everything, some of which has been new to me. The most recent one was Happyish, although admittedly it was an American production presumably resulting from a massive team of writers attempting to turn Coogan into the next Seinfeld without actually understanding what makes him funny. We managed about five episodes but the last of these was so monumentally shite that we've left it at that. Happyish is about an advertising tosspot experiencing a mid-life crisis whilst married to a whiny analyst-seeking woman, in case you're wondering. In one scene we experience his wife's near unendurable suffering as, looking forward to an afternoon's ceramic work in her private craft studio, she is waylaid by a very boring man who won't stop talking, thus keeping her from making a few pots. It really put all the complaining and grousing of those moaning minnies at Auschwitz in perspective.

Detectorists, The - The skinny one from The Office teams up with that lumpy looking bloke who turns up in all the films these days for a comedy about metal detecting, which is mostly funny.

Doctor Who - I think I've seen three of these since I moved and they were all shit. One of them was called The God Complex, which I watched because everyone said oh it's a pity you missed The God Complex because it was by far the best of the season, much better than the rest, but that was shit as well. Doctor Who is unique in this list in being a show I've seen prior to my moving to Texas, but I've made the exception in the hope of upsetting a few people, particularly those whose enjoyment of Doctor Who is somehow ruined just by the simple concept of there being people who regard it as a pile of wank.

Helm's Heavy Entertainment, Nick  - This seems to be an hour-long one-man variety show in which the host invades the personal space of various audience members to comic effect. I've only watched one, and I sort of found it funny, but there was something about the tone I didn't like and I can't quite put my finger on what that might be. It somehow has a touch of the Mumford & Sons about it. It's probably significant that I can't help but regard anyone under the age of forty with a full beard as a complete arsehole.

Impressionists, The - Sometimes one yearns for a more elevated discourse, such as what you get with the arts 'n' shit; and thusly did we watch this four part documentary presented by a man who was such a total cock he could almost have been Robert Elms. The historical and biographical detail of the artists under examination was all very interesting, not least concerning the mighty Camille Pissarro who painted a house to which I delivered mail when I was a postman some hundred years later; but the presenter resembled Cosmo Smallpiece as portrayed by Les Dawson, and he kept playing the ordinary workin' class geezer like what I am card despite clearly being nothing of the sort, and it was all this Monet was the Liam Gallagher of his day crap so as to avoid alienating anyone too stupid to understand unless handed some laddish contemporary comparison every five minutes. It was approximately watchable but our man was no Robert Hughes.

Inbetweeners, The - I see this slagged off left, right and centre, but personally I think it's great. It's a sitcom about four teenagers failing to have sex. It reminds me of the sort of shit people used to talk about at Royal Mail, and as such fills me with a warm glow of nostalgia.

IT Crowd, The - The IT Crowd derives from the same hand that penned Father Ted, and if not quite as good, it's a reasonably close second. I've a feeling this may have been aired whilst I was still living in England but indentured to Marian, which might explain why I wasn't able to watch it. Humour wasn't really her bag. I seriously doubt she would have appreciated The Inbetweeners either.

'Do you think it's a good idea to encourage young boys to rape women?' she probably would have asked me.

Kingdom - I can't remember if his name's supposed to be Dave Kingdom or something, but I expect it's along those lines - as with so many current television productions utilising a single enigmatic word for the title. Dave is played by Stephen Fry and is a crime-fighting lawyer who specialises in gentle, scenic crimes soundtracked by classical music and maybe just a pinch of Sting. There was possibly also a horsey woman in green wellies called either Jocelyn or Margaret. It's okay, I suppose - maybe a bit plummy, which is sort of what I expected.

Lee's Comedy Vehicle, Stewart  - I'm amazed that I'm able to watch this here in Texas given that it's probably tantamount to communism, and I'm really not sure quite how many of my neighbours will be reduced to tears by a relatively esoteric English comedian sneering at Asher D of So Solid Crew. Jeremy Clarkson is unfortunately popular over here, so maybe there's a backlash and Netflix or Hulu or whichever one it is are attempting to cash in. That said, I see Jimmy fucking Carr is also available for my viewing pleasure here in the States, so maybe they just license English stuff because it's English, regardless of quality.

Miranda - This is a show about a woman called Miranda as played by a woman called Miranda. It's a comedy about how she's awkward and is easily embarrassed in certain situations. It's not very funny. I think I saw her live once at some stand-up comedy event. Her routine was mostly focussed on how awkward and embarrassing it was being on stage, and how we probably weren't going to find any of it funny, and we didn't. One of my wife's co-workers thinks Miranda is one of the funniest shows ever made, although to be fair said co-worker isn't actually from Texas.

Misfits - I wish we could go back to writers making the effort to come up with proper titles for what they've written, and could draw a veil across this collective noun thing. Close Encounters of the Third Kind was definitely a better title than Flying Saucers, and Dinosaurs would have been a terrible name for Jurassic Park, and thank God Steinbeck went with Of Mice and Men rather than Thick Losers. Misfits is about a bunch of super-powered ASBO types, and there's a lot of swearing and self-conscious efforts to appear edgy and down with the kids on the street, yeah? I found it difficult to care about this show and only watched two of them.

Moone Boy - This is about a small, rural Irish child and his imaginary friend. It has the potential to be the most twee thing ever broadcast - late period Last of the Summer Wine looking at itself in a mirror - and yet somehow it gets the balance just right and is very, very funny. Amazingly it's written by the bloke who plays the imaginary friend. I had kind of forgotten that written and starring shows don't necessarily have to be shite by definition.

Only Way is Essex, The - I know I've watched at least five minutes of this but I can't remember anything about it. I have a hunch that it might not be Alan Moore's favourite show, although I can't even remember where I got that impression. I have a feeling The Only Way is Essex may even be the English equivalent of Jersey Shore, which means I should probably make the effort to have another look*. Jersey Shore is horrible and yet fascinating.

Peaky Blinders - I watched five minutes of this, waiting for someone to say something, but it was mostly just moody high contrast and high definition shots of nineteenth century squalor with music which sounded like Nick Cave. It was a bit like watching a Nine Inch Nails video, and after five minutes I decided to watch something else. On the other hand, Paul Mercer defriended me on facebook after I posted disparaging comments about this show, so the five minutes weren't entirely wasted.

Plebs - This is a cross between The Inbetweeners and Up Pompeii but missing the crucial ingredients which would have rendered it watchable, namely Frankie Howerd and jokes. I vaguely recall the single episode I watched revolving around misunderstandings relating to women's tits, or something of the sort. It wasn't very good.

Pramface - I think this was sort of like The Inbetweeners but with the humourous content replaced by wry, touching observations about school kids getting knocked up. All I can remember for sure is that it didn't make me laugh.

Primeval - Well, it's no I, Claudius but it has CGI dinosaurs and can be watched without my having to shout oh fuck off and throw things at the screen every few minutes, so that's good enough for me. I think the most recent series was made in conjunction with some sort of US-based nerd channel and was thus a complete waste of time, but then nothing lasts forever. I quite liked the one where they went into the future and encountered weirdly evolved monsters which looked like something from a harrowing Hungarian claymation.

Rev. - This is about a regular Church of England vicar living in Hackney and struggling with the fact of no-one giving a shit about going to church any more. Despite the not particularly promising premise, Rev. was fucking brilliant once it got going. Weirder still was watching this thing and recognising bits of London in the outside shots filmed around where my friend Andy once resided. In one episode there's a block of flats in the background and you can clearly see that it's Fellows Court which I used to visit regularly when Andy lived there. I even knew a bloke who went mad and tried to jump from the roof of Fellows Court whilst believing he could fly. The character of Mick also brought back some happy memories for me.

Spy - Crap dad inadvertently becomes a secret agent in an effort to impress his shit son, or so it is claimed, although I didn't watch enough of this to get to the part where he presumably phones MI5, or however it's supposed to happen. All BBC dramas now look like this one to me - same bit of suburbia with the granite effect work surface and the coffee machine and someone chopping up a kiwi fruit, same comically apologetic father figure taking his kid to football practice with the Arctic Monkeys playing in the background. He's played either by Martin Clunes, that bloke who looks like the blonde one from The Green Wing but isn't him, or the funny one from The Now Show, Outnumbered, and Mock the Week - funny being very much a relative term here, obviously.

Stella - Happily nothing to do with McCartney's jumper-designing kid, but instead a drama with jokes - as the format is known in the telly biz - concerning the trials and tribulations of Ruth Jones as a Welsh cleaning lady. It also features a bloke called Alan who strongly resembles my old boss, one of the few Royal Mail managers I didn't actually hate, so I find that somehow pleasing. I also find Ruth Jones both entertaining and very easy on the eye, so it's nice to discover that I have a whole five series of this thing to get through. Some of them get a bit drippy in places, and I could do without the turdy indie music, but otherwise it's mostly watchable.

Surf-Twat Disappoints Girlfriend's Father - Teenage girl brings digeridoo-playing knob-end back from a festival and her father accurately identifies him as a digeridoo-playing knob-end, with hilarious consequences, or probably just consequences. I think the father was Martin Clunes, but I don't remember what the show was called and there's no way of finding out. Perhaps we will never know.

Wrong Mans, The - This one featured James Cordon and some dude resembling Silvio's right-hand man from Lilyhammer, which was actually why I watched it - because I thought it was him, the ferrety looking chap with the baseball cap and the bumfluff. Anyway the two of them endure a series of improbable scrapes and chuckles derived from having been mistaken for other people. I've never hated James Cordon with quite the same venom as almost everyone else I know, although he can occasionally be irritating, but I thought he was okay in this. It was fairly funny, although the second series was stretching it a bit. It's hardly the greatest show ever broadcast, but it could have been worse, and Alison Steadman's always good.

*: I did and it was horrible.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, that sounds like a decent mix of the shite and not so shite of the past half decade. Glad to see I'm not the only one who thinks The Inbetweeners is funny (though I also think Miranda is pretty good). Detectorists is the tv equivalent of lying stoned in a bath -
    very, very mellow and comfortable, but not a great deal happens (lovely theme tune though).