What do you think of the television in your host country?
If you want to accentuate the single biggest difference between US and UK Television, the question should read, “Do Tits Belong on the Telly?”
Now, I profess to be one of those ‘sensitive’ type males you read about—I’m in touch with my feminine side, I feel the pain of women who are regarded as mere sex objects—but my answer to the above question is still a resounding, “Yes!” and not simply because I like to see women with their kit off.
I never truly appreciated how prudish Americans are (personally, I blame the Puritans) until I saw full-frontal nudity on the television and nobody here blinking an eye. Sexuality in Britain, and even more so on The Continent, is greeted with a casualness unknown in America outside of hippy communes, the impromptu party after the Senior Prom and the make-believe world of Sex and the City which, happily, leads me back to the telly.
Television seems more ‘real’ to me when I hear people swearing and see them doing things normal people actually do. And the best thing about it is, if I don’t want to watch normal people doing those things, I can turn it off, or surf to one of the three dozen or so channels broadcasting American shows.
As for the overall quality of programming, I think the Brits are the clear winners. I’m not saying Britain would end up as a wallflower at a “Crap Television” disco, or that the US hasn’t produced some cracking shows, but for my money (Note to the Americans: I mean that in the most literal sense) nothing beats a BBC documentary.
In America, sponsors fund programs, and sponsors have agendas. The BBC, funded by yours truly and 60 million other conscripted contributors, has the freedom to make shows simply for the sake of making shows and that has lead to some spectacular programs that otherwise would never have been made. Okay, it also led to “Lark Rise to Candleford” but you can’t have everything.
One thing I will say in favor of America is, I liked the programming schedule. While it may have become a bit less formalized in my absence, my recollection is that new programs started in the autumn, were show at the same time on the same day throughout the winter and in the spring went into reruns. Here, a new series, or a new season of a series, might start at any time. And the season might be four, eight, twelve or thirty-seven episodes long. If you watch the first two or three and really get into it, they’ll change the time or the day or both, and sometimes they’ll show several episodes in one week and then none for a few weeks after that.
It really makes it hard to plan your day, and I find it sort of sad that the only program I can really count on to be regular as clockwork is Big Brother.
Well, once again, I find myself in a violent agreement with Mike. (We’ll have to find a topic that causes an “international incident” next time.) Anyway, yes, I find American TV to be woeful on the whole. I have cable TV which, I believe, gives me about 4200 channels, yet I quite often can’t find a thing to watch.
(I have to preface all this with the admission that I rarely watch TV. With a ten year age gap between the oldest and youngest sprog, my evenings consist of dinner, bath, bed, nagging teenagers about homework, proof-reading said homework, getting stuff ready for next day, blogging, bed.)
My viewing window is usually 9-9.30pm if I’m lucky, - a slot on many channels reserved for forensic crime shows (yawn) or “news”, which we know in the US means east coast, west coast and perhaps a bit about the Middle East. The “harder-hitting” news shows generally consist of whoever is trying to sell a book and can shout louder than everyone else. If I want to sink my teeth into international news, I turn to BBC America, where segments last longer than three minutes, the anchors really grill the guests, and the ads are relatively infrequent. Oh yes, and they cover events all over the world.
One thing I don’t miss on US tv are soaps. Most of the soaps here are on daytime TV and feature impossibly gorgeous people leading ridiculously complicated lives. I can’t even relate, but at least I avoid the coma-inducing “real life” or “gritty” British soaps like Emmerdale, Corrie and East Enders. The mere sound of the opening drum beats of East Enders has me reaching for a vat of gin to drown their sorrows.
So in summary, I eschew most US tv, except for my dirty little secret – American Idol. I’ve already picked my winner and they’ve only just announced the final 12!
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