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My TV Induced Metamorphosis

Updated: Feb 11, 2021

This lockdown that we’ve been living under for almost a year has had an impact on people in a wide variety of ways, very few of them good. For most of us it’s meant separation from family and friends, and for far too many it’s led to loss of livelihood, depression, and worse. For some of the lucky ones, however - the ones who are able to keep their jobs, or overcome the financial challenges of the times - it has a been a time to discover, or rediscover, activities and interests for which there was never enough time in the pre-Covid days. People are dusting off their long-neglected stamp collections, tuning up their abandoned violins, and rediscovering the joys of gardening.

The virus has turned many people from work-obsessed rat-racers into philatelists, violinists, and botanists.

It’s turned me into a Brit.

Granted, it hasn’t taken much for my conversion. Although I’m Canadian, both my parents were English, I lived near London for a while as a pre-adolescent, and most of my teen musical idols were British prog-rockers.

But since we’ve settled in for the duration, my wife and I have found ourselves living a large chunk of our lives in British stately homes, medieval castles, and quaint thatch-roofed villages, hobnobbing with the upper classes, searching for clues about murders in rural hedgerows with eccentric detectives, and helping cash-challenged country cousins sort out their romantic troubles.

Yes, we’re talking about British TV.

I’ve long been a big fan of television from Blighty. I grew up on the comic wonders of Monty Python, Fawlty Towers and the Goodies, and over the years I spent more time than I care to admit in the company of Jeremy Brett’s Sherlock Holmes, Jeeves and Wooster, and a variety of Austen’s feisty heroines.

Recently, however, the proportion of my life that I’ve spent in these fictional worlds, with these fictional characters, has increased significantly, and alarmingly.

I blame Britbox, the BBC and ITV.

The BBC and ITV for creating all those addictive programs, and Britbox for making them so readily available. Of course, Amazon Prime and Netflix aren’t entirely blameless either. (In case you aren’t familiar with it, BritBox is a subscription channel with a very healthy selection of British TV shows. I highly recommend it.)

And as I spend so many of my waking hours in the company of British people in British places, I’m becoming more and more British myself. I’ve always had a love of tea, but I’m now officially a tea junkie, and I’ve been scouring our local grocery stores for Brit food like Cornish pasties, Scotch eggs, and steak and kidney pies. I’ve also begun, annoyingly, to pepper my language with British slang - slang that’s probably decades out of date, since most of what I watch is not new. I haven’t yet referred to potato chips as ‘crisps’, but it’s only a matter of time.

And what specific shows have been responsible for this transformation? Well, it’s a long list - British TV is very, very good, and they’ve been making the stuff for a long time. Most them I had seen previously, but I've revisited my favourites during the lockdown, and here are a few of the culprits:

  • Foyles War - a wonderfully low key police inspector investigating crimes during WWII. Possibly the best cop show I’ve ever seen.

  • Midsomer Murders - light and frothy murder mysteries set in a collection of picturesque villages. Lots of fun.

  • An almost endless set of Jane Austen adaptations (Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Mansfield Park, Persuasion, etc.) - plucky daughters on country estates facing economic and romantic hardships, but everything always works out in the end.

  • Fawlty Towers - hands down the funniest sitcom in history. And John Cleese just might be the funniest human being in history.

  • Downton Abbey - you’ve all seen it, so I don’t need to describe the classy soap opera pleasures of this huge hit.

  • War and Peace - the first mini-series that I ever saw, and my first introduction to Anthony Hopkins. It’s a bit dated now, but still a great watch.

  • Poirot - David Suchet is perfect as Agatha Christie’s fussy Belgian detective. Could he be the best version of a literary character ever brought to the small screen?

  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Jeremy Brett gives Davis Suchet a run for his money as the best literary character on TV.

  • Brideshead Revisited - wow.

  • The Forsyte Saga (both versions) - wow again.

  • Jeeves and Wooster - witty, charming, and very, very funny. What a marvellous collection of characters.

  • Blackadder - history as it should have been. Some of the funniest dialogue I’ve heard. Balances clever and stupid to great effect.

  • And the list goes on - Father Brown, Upstairs Downstairs (both versions), Alexei Sayles’ Stuff, all the Dickens adaptations, Doc Martin, Miss Marple, etc.

  • And, of course, Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

With all of that goodness on offer, how could I possibly avoid losing myself in those worlds, and surrendering to my inner Britness. I challenge you to watch these gems and resist the temptation to let a few ‘chuffeds’, ‘knackereds’, and ‘mates’ slip into your daily conversation. Unless you’re actually British, in which case you’re already a part of that world, and I assume that you either spend your days lounging in idle luxury while the downstairs staff attend to your every need, or you find yourself having to solve a mystery each week, since every time you leave the house you stumble on a new grisly murder.

So, I’m going to put the kettle on, settle down with a cuppa, and watch a couple of episodes of Peaky Blinders.


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