It’s time to put aside the special relationship and prepare for war as Team Union Jack faces off against Team Stars and Stripes. Representing Britain, we have The Stand’s resident Downton Abbey expert Ellie Midgley; defending our cousins across the Atlantic is Film&TV editor Jessica Brennan.
As I sit twiddling my thumbs before my Monday tutorials, all the talk is of what shows people have been catching up on over the weekend. I don’t recognise 99.9% of it, as it’s all apparently on the US version of Netflix. I, however, spend my weekends in front of my four favourite British TV channels and a stack of British films. Yes, the phrases ‘low-budget’, ‘Z-listers’ and ‘How many more people can die in one village?’ spring to your minds, but I believe the best is British. America has stacks of cash and celebrities you’ve actually heard of but, at the risk of sounding too soppy, there’s a sentimental feel you can get from a British television programme that doesn’t surface amongst the special effects and plastic surgery of American television. As I settle down to watch Downton Abbey and The Great British Bake Off I can see that they’re pretty simple, but that’s what makes it the best of British. You can get the message and enjoy a good story line, or get some comedy value, rather than having the plot clouded by the million dollar budget our American friends spend on making everything flashy. When I watch something from the US I become distracted by the snazzy sets, but when I tune into my weekly dose of Downton or the guilty pleasure of The X-Factor I’m drawn into the story rather than having aliens thrown at me left, right and centre.
This won’t help my argument but I can’t deny that 30 years ago British TV was untouchable. Red Dwarf, Blackadder, Fawlty Towers etc were examples of TV at its best. However, as shown by the lack of leg warmers on Market Street, this is not the 1980s. In 2013, America reigns supreme. The simple fact is that American studios have more money to burn. They can afford the slick kind of special effects usually reserved for a Michael Bay film, without his ingrained misogyny and terribly written characters. Led by American networks HBO and AMC, TV has become an art form. It pushes boundaries rather than limping behind films like an annoying sibling. As the fundamentalist segments of America lose their influence over producers, storylines have become gritter. Meth dealers, corrupt cops, sympathetic serial killers and mafia bosses have earned a place in our hearts thanks to the good ol’ U. S. of A. Britain can rock a moody drama or a one set sitcom, but despite our willingness to be controversial we lack the resources to fulfil our creativity. Even Game of Thrones– filmed largely in Ireland and starring every British actor ever- was produced by Americans for an American network. Both nations have their strengths, but America has the means to actually deliver.
Images courtesy of telegraph.co.uk and flags.net