An American Girl’s (Honest) Guide to British Television

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One of the major benefits of British life and differences between British and American television is the opportunity to be exposed to a rich history of entertainment, culture, and the arts.

American fans of British TV will know that 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.

Hey, sidenote! If you’re traveling to the UK or live in the UK, whether for a short period of time or as an expat, why don’t you join my Facebook group where you can ask questions, get advice or just look at pretty pictures of this part of the world! Just click here to request to join and I’ll add you!

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.

Gogglebox

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Credit: Channel 4

Wouldn’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 Odff

guidetobritishtelevision

Credit: BBC

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.

EastEnders

guidetobritishtelevision

Credit: BBC

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.

Countryfile

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Credit: BBC

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.

Antiques Roadshow

guidetobritishtelevision

Credit: BBC

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.

You might also enjoy  Is there a Bath and Body Works in the UK or London?

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Julienne, Ink.

4 years ago

These are good suggestions! I just saw Great British Bake Off pop up in my Netflix, so I’ll definitely have to watch it now. Miranda is another amazing one! My husband & I saw it when we were on our honeymoon in London. Can’t find it readily online here, so we bought the DVDs and an international DVD player. LOL That’s how good it is! (She’s Chummy from Call the Midwife!)

girlgonelondon

4 years ago

That is such dedication! I’ve never heard of it, but I’ll definitely look it up. I had NO idea Great British Bake Off was on Netflix so thanks for sharing that! There are a few we missed and past seasons, etc, I’m going to have a search for. You’ll love Great British Bake Off. It’s just very British and charming and fun. Thanks for reading. 🙂

claudiarant

4 years ago

I watched Great British Bake Off for the first time this year and must admit I wasn’t sure about it at first but ended up loving it! Also, I suggest watching The Apprentice with Lord Sugar! It’s another must watch 😉

girlgonelondon

4 years ago

I suggested Great British Bake Off to my boyfriend a little bit as a joke and we ended up watching the whole season, so I know what you mean! I’ll add the Apprentice to my watching list 🙂

dkweiss

4 years ago

I nominated you for a Liebster award. I found you through the post on the Blogging boots FB page. My post is here. http://www.thehungoverwidow.com/the-liebster-award/

girlgonelondon

4 years ago

Thank you very much! You’ve put together some great questions as well. I really appreciate you checking out my blog. 🙂

Amanda Afield

4 years ago

I get a lot of grief from my coworkers for not watching bake off. Maybe next season! I do appreciate that we get to watch downton before it comes out in the US though!

girlgonelondon

4 years ago

You 100% MUST watch bake off next year! It’s so perfectly British and fun and charming and witty (for a baking competition). I was telling my boyfriend that it’s so different to American shows where everyone is so aggressive and give statements like “I’m NOT HERE TO MAKE FRIENDS, I’M HERE TO WIN!”. in GBBO it’s like “Oh, no, your apple frangapine custard tart is falling apart, let me come help you with that!” 🙂

Jaime

4 years ago

I love GBBO! I saw it randomly on PBS last year and then proceeded to watch all the other seasons! I think they should stick an American on the show as one of the contestants; it would be funny to see them struggle through what the heck is a victoria sponge? Why are we putting all this fruit in cakes? and to see some true American flavors! On the show “American” seems to be just peanut butter or bacon. I wonder if people in England bake more simply because it’s baking weather (rainy) more often.

Dan

4 years ago

Being English i grew up watching Eastenders and the Antiques Roadshow, and you’re right Eastenders is a bit gritty and if i’m honest a bit dreary really. Did you ever catch an episode of Only Fools And Horses? Definitely a great British favourite. 🙂

girlgonelondon

4 years ago

I’ve seen a few episodes of Only Fools and Horses and definitely loved it! I’m slowly making my way through British television and finding some great things (and some really terrible ones!)

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