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Observations Of American and British TV (Telly)

Living in London was the longest I’ve ever lived abroad. The longest I’ve lived outside Colorado since I was very tiny.

Many things feel a bit off, somehow. The usual WHY IS EVERYTHING SO BIG except WHY ARE THE PINTS SO SMALL problems. But there are other things.

How few people there seem to be in…everywhere. Empty streets, day or night. Empty busses, most of the time. Large shopping centres, largely empty all day every day. Weirdly comforting Top 40s music drifting over the sofas and stairways that should hold many more thousands. Flatirons Crossing just is not Westfield in Stratford.

The unbelievable price of coffee, with its not-so-subtle notes of Burned and Acidic folded into the $15 per pound price (and yes, that’s more expensive than London even with the conversion rate). For that matter, the tea isn’t right. It’s far too light in colour and flavour. I never understood why British people insist on milk in tea. Now I know that US tea is quite a bit more watery. I may need some emergency PG Tips soon. 

But perhaps the biggest difference is the TV.

I’ve been in the US for a month, and I want my British telly back. No, BBC America is not (entirely) sufficient. I am starving for witticisms. Famished for brilliant historical documentaries. Peckish for political commentary that is actually mostly tolerable to watch. 

Television is a huge habit when unemployment creeps in. We’re sitting around my parents’ house, trying not to go crazy from boredom while we try to save money. No income coming in. My freelance gigs that I’d hoped to rely on fell through completely. Savings are flying out of hand at a rather alarming rate.

TV it is. Or would be.

There is so very little to watch. From the TV Guide menu: My 600 Lb. Life. Booze Traveler. Hannity. Nancy Grace. Skinny Gut Vibrant You. TMZ. Endless, ceaseless rerun marathons of How I Met Your Mother, Law & Order, Swamp People, and Catfish. (Ok, I might watch the endless marathons of Catfish. It’s one of the few I can stand).

It can be hard to put one’s finger on the reasons British telly is infinitely superior to US TV. It might be the fact that you don’t get bombarded with adverts every 20 seconds. Seriously. There are so many adverts that Top Gear lasts 1.5 hours instead of just one. Food, pharmaceuticals, and Full Tanks of Freedom. Repeat.

Even if we’d had a TV license at our London house, we would have had far higher quality telly to watch. It’s subtly different from TV in the US. There are intellectually challenging shows, and documentaries that have a deeper meaning than My Strange Addiction. Sure, there’s Benefits Street and Immigration Street. Guilty pleasures. Still, even the ‘trashier’ shows contribute something or challenge views. At the very least, they provoke the papers to write about it and make people think. Sorta.

Admittedly, I avoided Eastenders, Strictly Come Dancing, and I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here. There’s a lot of crappy British telly. It’s just that it doesn’t seem to be on all the time! I miss Winter Watch and Prime Minister’s Questions. I miss University Challenge. I miss the Undateables.

Thank all good things for my VPN. 

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