What is it about a British accent that not only makes me feel smarter when I watch TV, but also makes me laugh harder at jokes? I’m not sure, but it’s definitely the case.
Over the years, I’ve gotten a little frustrated with American TV (though there are still some gems like “Chuck,” “30 Rock,” “Eureka,” “How I Met Your Mother,” etc.), and have flocked to the holy grail of comedy, science fiction and mystery — BBC America.
This channel culminates the best British television for American audiences. God bless BBC America.
America has always had an odd relationship with British TV. Starting back in the ’60s with “Doctor Who” and “Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” British TV became more and more available to us. Since then, Hollywood has remade quite a few British shows for American consumption, for better or worse.
We’ve adapted well, as in the case of “The Office” (the American version features a nicer boss) and “Queer as Folk” (the groundbreaking series about gay life in Pittsburgh). We’ve copied verbatim (as in the case of SyFy’s newest show, “Being Human”) and we’ve completely rewritten and ruined (like the semi-illegal “Skins”).
HBO even has a new show about adapting British TV for the U.S. called “Episodes,” a farce with Matt LeBlanc playing himself.
But nothing is quite like the real thing. For some reason, the British have a knack for good science fiction (what would you expect from the culture that brought us the religion that is “Doctor Who”?).
Speaking of the blue police box and Timelords, “Doctor Who” is one of the best TV shows on right now. It’s funny, adventurous, exciting and extremely well-written. It also has one of the best sci-fi concepts of all time. Matt Smith as the Doctor has excellent comedic timing, and he has settled into his role nicely (I didn’t think anyone could top David Tennant, of Harry Potter 4 fame, and he hasn’t, but he’s close). So if you want a show about a sarcastic time-and-space traveling alien, this one’s for you.
Another excellent choice is “Primeval.” This show has an incredibly distinctive
plot, about the ARC (Anomaly Research Center) team. Anomalies are rifts in time that open randomly in modern day London. A ragtag group of scientists and
adventurers fight the dinosaurs, medieval creatures and terrifying monsters of the future in every episode. Be warned with
this one, however: British TV writers have no problem killing off main
characters. Four have already died in this four-season show.
Next is “Merlin.” While not entirely sci-fi in nature, it is about the famous wizard and his legendary friendship with King Arthur.
In this show, Arthur’s only the prince of Camelot (yeah, they messed with the legend quite a bit — get over it) and Merlin’s his servant. Together they fight monsters, sorcerers and rival countries. But no one can know Merlin is a warlock because magic is outlawed in Camelot. It’s definitely a fun show, and they’re making a fourth season now.
Finally, there’s the mini-series “Sherlock.” This one’s not sci-fi, but it’s still awesome.
It’s about, yes, Sherlock Holmes and his faithful companion, Dr. John Watson. But it’s set in modern times and Holmes and Watson call each other by their first names (for anyone who’s read the stories, you’ll know that’s crazy). Holmes texts and gets high using nicotine patches. It’s fast-paced, funny and incredibly intriguing. Plus, the actor who plays Watson starred in “A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” Cool, huh?
In the end, British television is smart, funny and refreshing. And those accents?
Yeah, they don’t hurt.
Caroline Russomanno can be reached at email@example.com.