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Posts Tagged ‘british television’

You want a strong female character? I’ll give you a strong female character.

Catherine Caewood (played by Sarah Lancashire) is the lead role in BBC’s Happy Valley, a crime drama set in working-class West Yorkshire; it’s a valley, but it isn’t happy.

This character is perhaps the most conflicted, complex, and yet utterly understandable creations I’ve seen in a while. Caewood, a sergeant with the local police, is forty-seven, divorced, with two kids—one dead, one that won’t talk to her—and a grandson. She lives with her sister, a recovering heroin addict and, well, you get the picture. Her life’s a mess.

Except it isn’t. (more…)

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The British television industry has a tradition of creating short-lived series. In America, a show may have 23 episodes in a season; in Britain, it is often only half that or, as fans of the recent Sherlock reboot well know, only three. In addition, the Brits will create a “series” that is only expected to live one, maybe two years. Where we Yanks will keep a show going well past its sell-by date, the Brits make a show, air it, and move on to the next idea, the next story.

Naturally, they have their long-standing staples like Coronation Street, East Enders, Top Gear, and Time Team (which sadly was canceled after two decades of wonderful programming), but by and large this “one-off” approach to television creates a more varied viewing landscape where, if you don’t like a show, just wait a month or two and something new will be on.

And so, British television will often take risks that would give American television execs apoplexy.

Hit & Miss is a perfect example. (more…)

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I watch a lot of British television–a lot for an American, that is–and not just on BBC America. I watch Masterpiece Theater, I subscribe to Acorn TV, and I even buy DVDs direct from the UK so I can see some shows not available any other way (“New Tricks” is a good example). But there’s one thing I hate about British television series: They’re too damned short.

Now that my beloved “Ripper Street” has completed its stingy 8-episode Season One, I was jonesing for a new series. I saw the ads for the new show called “Orphan Black,” but to be honest, I wasn’t going to watch. Then an advert for the opening 3-minutes popped up on my Facebook feed and I thought, why not?

In the first minutes, we meet Sara (Tatiana Maslany) at a train station somewhere near New York City. She’s a Brit, and she has serious problems. But whatever she’s up against, it’s  nothing compared to the what’s bothering that woman over there, crying at the end of the train platform. Sara goes over to the woman, and discovers that the woman looks just like her…right before the woman steps in front of the oncoming train. Sara, distraught, has a moment of panic, then a moment of clarity; she grabs the dead woman’s purse and flees the scene.

That’s the three-minute setup, and it was pretty good. Good enough, in fact, to get me to plunk it on the DVR and watch the whole episode.

Is it as good as “Ripper Street”? No. Is it better than most things on American network television? Yes.

(more…)

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