Yet another thing I was looking forward to when going to England was the TV. Yes, watching TV on vacation. But this is a country that has brought us such quality programs as AbFab, Monty Python, The Office, and the original Drew Carey-free Whose Line is it Anyway?!
The first show I discovered there was Homes Under the Hammer. It's basically a program where they show a property (usually in questionable condition), then show the auction, then show the winners and check back later on their renovation progress. It's excellent if you like to look inside other people's houses and the auction winners are generally not very telegenic with unintelligeable accents, which makes for TV gold. Who wouldn't want to buy an old post office in a dodgy neighborhood in Scotland?! What can't you learn from a man who buys falling down house without an inspection because he thinks the surrounding buildings will "hold it up fine"?! Sadly, my ghetto cable company doesn't carry BBC America, but if you have it, you can enjoy it Sunday mornings.
While I am not generally a reality TV person, I will watch anything with an acerbic Brit judge. Naturally, I want American Idol, but the dance competition So You Think You Can Dance? is even better as it features ballroom dancers doing hip hop and liberal use of jazz hands. My absolute favorite is Hell's Kitchen, with the incomparable Gordon Ramsay. HK features some very cheesy production values and all of the contestants are hateful, but you get to hear Gordon call all of them "stupid f*cking donkeys" and make aspiring chefs cry. So I figured, if we were getting such meanness from British TV personalities that is probably watered down for American television, the judges on BBC must be totally ruthless! I was lucky enough to see the debut episode of How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?, where girls compete to be Maria in a new production of The Sound of Music. Did I mention it features Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber?! I am not a big fan of his work, but he really should be on more TV shows. HDYSAPLM? shows him watching audition tapes in his home and while the (disappointingly) perky and encouraging judges pass girls through to the next round, he mutters "Oh…no" and pretty much passes through whoever he wants to. I think my ears might bleed if I had to hear "A few of my favorite things" over and over, but it's pretty awesome.
On a final (non-British) note, if you don't already watch HBO's Deadwood, go rent the DVDs and catch the final (ever?) episode next Sunday. It's is the best f*cking show in ages. Ian McShane is magnificent as Al Swearingen, the dialogue is like Shakespeare in prison (see this counter for the latest number of curses per episode), and the characters are (sort of) based on real people! See this great L.A. Times article for more on the show and it's fantastic language.
Back to London recap soon..