I’ve never been one to watch a lot of television. I haven’t followed a show on US TV in years. I remember shortly before I moved to England the show Lost was just starting and everyone I knew was obsessed. My roommate would schedule social events so they wouldn’t interfere with her catching the show. If by some reason she did miss it, she DVR’d it and would avoid anyone until she saw it. I found it a bit weird. (yes, she show, but I’m actually referring to the fact that she was so obsessed with it)
When I was a kid, there were shows I watched faithfully. I was addicted to Dynasty (so glamorous!) And I did watch General Hospital every day when I got home from school. But other than that, I didn’t really care if there was anything on the television to watch.
Of course, when I moved to England things were a bit different. Firstly, most of the programs were completely new to me. It was actually a bit overwhelming. As my fiancée visa did not allow me to work, I spent the first few months puttering around the house. If I were cleaning or doing laundry, I’d put the telly on. That was my first introduction to Phil & Kirsty, Sarah Beeny, and the revolving door of hosts on Place in the Sun. I was intrigued. I never watched Trisha or Jeremy Kyle, but the lifestyle programs interested me. And it taught me all about the property market in the UK – something quite useful as we were selling our house for the big move.
Actually, the whole way that TV works over there is interesting. I was so used to the US formula – On the hour the show starts, then 5 mins of adverts; the program continues being broken up every 10-15 minutes for more adverts. Then at either 30 past or on the hour, the next program starts. And so it goes.
But not British TV…no, you have weird start times like 7:20. Some of your channels don’t even have adverts! What??? And then, just to complicate matters more, your soap operas are on in the evenings? Weird.
I think part of my fascination was that I felt watching TV gave me a better understanding of the country I was living in. I learned to recognize the different dialects. I picked up terminology that I wasn’t familiar with. Plus it just gave me an overall feeling of belonging – by watching what everyone else was watching I felt like I had something in common with my new neighbors. Yes, I did see that show last night; No, I can’t believe Jonathan Ross said that….
Anyway, the Yorkshireman introduced me to Eastenders. Nearly every night during the week we would eat dinner in front of the inhabitants of Walford Square. I was obsessed. Not just with that show, but with British TV as a whole. I really, really, enjoyed the documentaries and undercover exposes. BBC journalism, even with its current crisis, is vastly superior to anything that American news channels have to offer. It was refreshing to hear news presented without an opinion being foisted upon me.
And as I appreciated good British humour, I thoroughly enjoyed the shows on offer at the time: Little Britain, Catherine Tate show. And the quiz shows! I’d never seen anything like them here. No over-the-top music, production and screaming people competing for 10 MILLION DOLLARS!!!! No, just clever quips and interesting banter. Buzzcocks, 8 out of10 Cats – yes, more please!!
And let’s not forget the quality British dramas. Well acted, with clever writing and expert delivery. No wonder PBS pilfers anything it can – Downton Abbey is just the latest in a long line of British dramas that captivate the world.
I knew we would miss British telly when we moved here, but I totally underestimated how badly.
When we first moved here, we tried to watch regular television. We had difficulties, as the Yorkshireman really hated all the adverts. We subscribed to cable, but that didn’t solve that issue. And it seemed like we were paying for 168 channels that we never watched. He would get fascinated by a random program for a while (Swamp People, Moonshiners – basically anything that had to have subtitles for the redneck English these people were speaking) but then the novelty would wear off and he would lose interest. There’s been a few things that he has watched since before he came here (Simpsons, Family Guy) but not much.
I still remember when he finally realized that King of the Hill was not the fantasy he thought it was; there are hundreds of people like that roaming around Texas (and indeed most of the country.) Poor guy.
We were having a very difficult time. Then his parents sent us a DVD from Comic Relief. It stoked the fire. We missed British TV so badly!
We have found some services online that have allowed us to watch certain British programs. It was been our salvation. A little bit of home that has kept us sane. We’ve even been able to keep the Yorkshireman’s parents updated on their Emmerdale and Corrie when they come to visit. Oh, and the Christmas specials – I love telly this time of year!
There’s been some changes afoot, and it’s getting harder to find programs online. It seems people who are worried about illegal downloads on movies are also squashing people who download TV programs. It looks like early next year it may become just about impossible for us to watch our favorite shows. This makes me so sad. The Yorkshireman and I have repeatedly joked that we would gladly pay for a TV license if it meant we could continue to get the programs we love here. And it’s really not a joke – we value it that much.
It has allowed us to have a connection to the UK. We listen to satellite radio BBC and it keeps us in touch with current trends in music and news. We read the online news sites and tabloids (God help us, we were never Daily Mail readers when we lived there, but they have a free, non-subscription website so we end up reading it now) We watch the TV programs and feel like we are still a part of UK life. I hope that can continue – I can’t imagine how isolated we will feel if we don’t have that anymore.