Thursday, September 23, 2004

Thank you BBC America

Last night after watching the very funny comedy My Family, on BBC America, my husband turned to me and asked “why are the British so much better at television than we are?”

I think it’s because we have too much TV. The British don’t have 147 channels to choose from, so the availability of airtime is limited. I think, therefore, there’s a higher level of quality because in order for a program to fit into one of the few spots on TV, it has to be good.

In America television, like most other things in American culture, quality takes a back seat to quantity. If there are 100 plus networks trying to fill the airwaves 24-hours a day, you’re going to get a lot of crap. After all, the can only show so many reruns of I Dream of Jeannie and Different Strokes. So it seems that any lame idea has its chance at getting on the air, if only to do nothing much than to kill time.

It goes hand-in-hand with that odd assemblage of American society that seems to demand their 15-minutes of fame. Like the instant so-called “celebrities” that are created out of tabloid mini-dramas, bad television arises, captures attention like a fat woman in too-tight neon green Capri pants, and then disappears (one hopes) as quickly as they came.

And so since it’s all about filling time rather than being good, you find that television is crammed with programs featuring celebrities playing poker, talk shows hosted by has beens that you can’t remember, freakishly strong Norwegian men pulling semis with their teeth, and shows that teach you how to redo your bathroom for under $50 and using materials scrounged from garage sale leftovers.

But the English, bless them, still like good acting and intelligent scripts. Oh sure, they have their share of crap too, but even their crap has a brain.

So bravo for BBC America. For My Family, The Office, As Time Goes By, and all those yummy mysteries. And thank you for a job well done.

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