On the Topic of Television

I believe that there’s a lot that one can learn from looking at one’s taste in television.

Ever since I was in college, I have been an Anglophile. I love British culture. For me, Cadbury has the whole chocolate thing locked down. Screw Budweiser and Coors: hand me that Newcastle Brown Ale. But I especially love British telly. I’ve watched so much lately, in fact, that my speech is starting to take on a rather sallow, council house hue and I don’t give a toss.

It all started one night, as many good things do, with PBS. Bored with the networks, I decided to see what the folks who brought me Sesame Street could offer my allegedly adult tastes. I came across a funny little show called Are You Being Served?, which looked like it had been shot on someone’s sodomy dungeon Super 8 camera. What the hell is this?

Then Mrs. Slocombe talked about the fireman who risked his life on a ledge, trying to grab hold of her pussy.

I literally fell off the couch in shock and laughter. I discovered that the Brits will go where we dare not, that for all our sex and violence, a woman with a pussy and a pink wig had beaten them all, and with style.

I was hooked. Other shows followed: Fawlty Towers, The Vicar of Dibley, Blackadder, Monty Python, Chef!, and The Thin Blue Line. Oh, and Red Dwarf! Dear God, it’s the cheapest made shit by American standards, but the acting is so there that the crap effects and middle-school-art-class models become endearing instead of infuriating. I also learned from Dave Lister how to do a somewhat convincing scouse accent.

Then Netflix, YouTube, and Hulu brought me A Bit of Fry and Laurie, Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares, Peep Show, Mitchell and Webb, Downton Abbey, The IT Crowd, Black Books, QI, and my latest show, The Tudors.

Little Britain? Yeah, I’ve watched most of the episodes, but it’s really not that British; it’s got a far more American sitcom feel to me than any of the others, albeit with a tad more nudity and swearing, so it doesn’t hold my attention like the others. If I go out for Chinese, I had better taste some garlic, ginger and rice, not a hot dog with sweet and sour sauce, and that’s what I get from Little Britain: my culture overlaid with thin Brit caricatures.

The latest delight I’ve discovered is Charlie Brooker. He’s essentially a Lewis Black for the Brits. Here he is taking a big bite out of Berlusconi in a dated but hilarious monologue from Ten o’Clock Live.

He’s a cynical, misanthropic, sneering dick. But my GOD, is he good at it. Assholery like this can be forgiven if it’s funny enough. Charlie loves taking the piss out of any and all of life’s stupidities, but his favorite topic is the very medium that brings him to you: television. But, props to Charlie, when something is good or wrongfully ignored, he’ll stand up for it, like his favorite children’s show, The Clangers.

Also, as I was watching Brooker, I noticed the TV voiceover at the end of the show was describing the next program. They still have show announcers! Isn’t that darling!? I haven’t seen that in the US since I was two! Yep, the Brits have it on lock. Not to say that America slouches, with gems like Lost, The Big Bang Theory, and Gray’s Anatomy back when it was about doctors humping and not death and pain like it is now.

We’ve had a nice chat so far, but now I’m going to intentionally make you a bit uncomfortable…

Everyone has a deep, dark secret in the TV closet. Don’t sit there and shake your head; you know the show I’m talking about. That show you adore, but would never let anyone at work know that you’ve ever seen it. Bully Beatdown? Dancing with the Stars? Occasionally people try to deflect someone poking around in the closet.

“You know what my guilty pleasure is? Downton Abbey. I know it’s wrong, but I just can’t stop watching, tee-hee!”

Bullshit. I proudly watch Downton, and I feel more cultured and educated when I watch it than any show on the freakin’ History Channel! It’s not a guilty pleasure if it’s on PBS; therefore, you suck at lying and should give it up for less mentally taxing pursuits. You’re trying to get me off track, and I won’t have it.

No, no. I want your deepest shame. And mine is Beavis and Butthead.

Yep, those two retards get me every time. Not many shows can make a depressed man laugh like a hyena on GHB, but they can do it. Part of their appeal is that they take me back to a simpler time in my life, when I was in a band in high school and lived a very straight-laced version of the headbanger lifestyle. From any other show I wouldn’t accept their humor, but let Beavis get grabbed in the crotch by a pit bull they planned to adopt, and then drug off by the aforementioned crotch, and I’ll be unable to breathe for several minutes. And they still have the chops, after all these years! Here they are tearing into those genetic throwbacks on Shore.

So, what shows do you proudly carry a banner for? Which ones are you desperate to keep in the closet?