One of the major benefits of British life is being exposed to a rich history of entertainment, culture, and the arts. This is the home of Shakespeare, the Beatles, and every romantic comedy’s favorite male lead, Hugh Grant. It’s also home to the BBC, Channel 4, ITV, and some incredible television. Downton Abby and Doctor Who are popular in America, and BBC News is well-respected.
But the joy of British television doesn’t stop there, and I’ve
spent hours sitting in my living room done some serious research to bring you a few gems that I’ve discovered.
Woudn’t it be funny to watch a TV show of people watching TV shows? Yes, it would, and Britain has beat you to it.
I know what you are thinking. This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. Why would you ever watch other people watching television? TRUST ME, I thought the same thing, but have now watched almost 3 seasons and have my favorite families and couples and, honestly, it is the best thing ever. I’m unsure if this is because I’m easily amused or because it’s quality television, but it’s won a BAFTA, so we’ll go with the latter.
Great British Bake Off
You do not even understand Britain until you watch Great British Bake Off (or GBBO for those super fans). Essentially, amateur bakers compete in 3 challenges each week, with one being eliminated until you have the greatest British baker left standing.
America has plenty of these programs on the Food Network, but they’re usually nothing more than filler that you flip to when your other show is on a commercial break. Not here, you guys. Not. Here. GBBO is BELOVED. My coworkers discuss it as if it’s last night’s election results.
There is more drama packed into one episode of GBBO than an entire season of Cops. There are (subtle) tears, there are failed souffles, there are grown men crumbling under the pressure of the latest pastry challenge. There’s a host tag-team who make bad puns and say “Ready..set…BAKE” in strange voices, and you would be stupid to miss a second of it.
British soap operas are noticeably different from their American counterparts. In America, soap operas are about the glitz and glam of the rich and the well-off, while in England, soap operas are centered on the darkness and the ‘grit’ of working class life. Following Eastenders, set in the East End of London, is one of the most famous, and while it’s impossible for me to follow given the constant character turnover, it’s been running since 1985 and is a true British institution.
The first time I saw Countryfile, I was sitting eating dinner during ‘prime-time’ wondering why there was a man standing in a field with a flock of sheep. Countryfile is huge across the UK, and it is a quaint little exercise in calmly and casually exploring the English countryside with various presenters.
The funny part about Countryfile isn’t the show itself. It’s well-produced and usually interesting. But I can’t help but think of ‘prime-time’ television in America compared to prime-time in England. In America, you’d better have at least 2 death scenes, a shocking reveal, and 13 minutes of violence or singing (take your pick) to be aired during the weekday evenings. In England, you need one cameraman, a few wild animals, and maybe a field of flowers or two, and the whole population is like, “Yep! This works! Show us more!” So cultured, England. Bravo.
I’m going to make a generalization here, so apologies for the stereotyping, but Brits LOVE Antiques Roadshow. It is like a national sport to make guesses at home on how much the ‘antique’ is worth before it gets revealed on screen. I have seen full-on family arguments ensue over the estimated price of a chipped plate from 1923. It seems to be airing 24/7 because you can always find an episode on, and the show publishes their upcoming filming dates ahead of schedule so you can bring in your old junk and see if your cracked vase you found in the basement from 1912 will make you a millionaire.