I'm Mark Hayter and I'm a sucker for British TV Programs
I would like you to be the first to know of my new career change. I haven’t told Kay yet, ‘cause she won’t take me seriously. We’re at a place in our marriage where Kay can read me like Times New Roman with a 48 font. What?
So, for your ears only. -- I’m seriously thinking about returning to school to study midwifery. I decided this because I like the sound of the word. Mid-wiff-eerie. Sounds like a position in a game of cricket.
Other than the cool name, I got the idea from a PBS series that I enjoy. “Call the Midwife.” I’m not afraid to mention here in print that I like “The Midwife” because I know that my brothers don’t read my column, and let me tell you, they have castigated me for much less than my preferences in TV viewing. Castigated?
I haven’t even told Jill that I watch Midwife. I was going to the last time she was here and we saw a preview of Midwife. Before I could recommend the show to her, she said, “Who on earth would want to watch that?”
Obviously, I hate the birthing scenes on Midwife. I have to close my eyes, plug my ears and hum the Mr. Ed tune. (Don’t ask.) The one thing I like most about Midwife is that it takes place in Britain. There’s something about British TV that is a big draw for me. It started with “Monty Python.” The first time I saw that show, I thought it was a hoot. It was so crazy. So different.
After Monty Python, I started watching British detective shows. What is so unique about the British is that they don’t care one bit what their leading characters look like. You can be old, ugly and weak as a worm’s sternum, doesn’t matter. They’ll let you be the lead detective.
British leading ladies are seldom anything close to gorgeous. They’d never make it on “Castle” or “Rizzoli and Isles.” But, their characters are so well written that after awhile they become attractive. I understand that intoxication can do the same thing. Except in the case of Miss Marple.
Granted, almost all British dramas move along slower than slow. Little action. Not a lot of chase scenes or fights. For some reason, when the unarmed detective tells the bad guy that he’s under arrest, the thug usually just gives up. Logic being, the real story is in the hunt, not the physical exertion required to the cuff the villain.
Right now I’m hooked on period pieces. I watch “Mr Selfridge” and “The Paradise,” two turn-of-the-century dramas about British retail stores. I have no explanation as to why I enjoy them. Why do I like peas with my mashed potatoes?
I watched the entire BBC series of “The Tutors.” I know more about Henry VIII than I do George Washington. Recently I found “Wolf Hall.” It’s another series about same King, only the facts are different. In TV shows as with politics, it is acceptable to skew the facts to enhance the story.
I also enjoy “Death in Paradise.” Great characters, great location, with a good sprinkling of humor. “Broadchurch” is darker than dark and slower than slow, and I really like it. “Luther” is about a black British detective who can sense who the bad guy is by being in the same room with him. He’s almost as good as Patrick Jane. And like the Mentalist, Luther just steals a scene the minute he sets foot in a room.
“Foyle’s War?” Absolutely my favorite. It’s the one show that caused me to become a contributor to PBS. By contributing, I got the entire set of “Foyle’s War” DVDs.
My favorite comendy today is found on Netflix. It’s called “The IT Crowd.” In this case “IT” stands for “Information Technology.” Like practically all of the British programs, by the time IT made it’s way to America, production had ended. The IT Crowd aired in Britain from 2006 to 2013. I’m fairly close to seeing the last 2013 episode. Drat!
|The IT Crowd|
With regard to sitcoms, 90 percent of the humor is tied to the unexpected, which makes the unexpected expected. For example: Bob: “I wouldn’t take that job for a million dollars!” – CEO: “I’ll give you $1000 more than you’re making now.” – Bob: “Throw in a red stapler and I’m yours.” (Eight seconds of canned laughter)
I’m certain that I will one day catch on to the sameness of British programs, but before that time, perhaps American TV shows will have evolved beyond the current state of creative stagnation. Until then, I will continue to watch “Peaky Blinders”, “Inspector George Gently”, and Midwife… but not the parts where the babies are being born. Who wants to watch that?