Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Best In British TV vol. 1

I love British TV. In general I think they run a better model in the UK than we do in the states. Occasionally, I've mentioned a show here or there but haven't really delved into reviewing them and I thought it might be fun to start doing a few short write ups. Some will be old, some newer, and some current. I won't be ranking them or anything like that, it'll just be in whatever order I happen to think of them.

Jekyll (2007)
Starring: James Nesbitt, Gina Bellman
Series: 1 (6 episodes)
Netflix: Available to stream or DVD

Tom Jackman is the only living descendant of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hide. Struggling to contain the monster that grows within him, he does his best to keep his two lives separate and to protect his wife and children from Mr. Hide, all the while trying to find answers and a cure.

The show only had one series, and while it left an opening for the possibility of a return (and a few unanswered questions) it still finished with a satisfying ending. Surprisingly graphic but not really gory, it's dark but also very humorous. I didn't really like James Nesbitt at the start but the more I got to see of his interpretation of Mr. Hyde, the more I became a fan. The writing is superb, managing to balance well the sentimental, the horror, and the two separate identities. There were a couple things that bothered me slightly, but not really enough to take away from the enjoyment of the show. 9 out of 10

Gavin and Stacey: Season One
Gavin and Stacey (2007 - 2010)
Starring: Mathew Horne, Joanna Page, James Corden, Ruth Jones, Rob Brydon
Series: 3 (20 episodes + a Christmas special)
Netflix: Series 1 available to Stream or DVD

After carrying on a romance over the phone and internet between Essex and Whales, Gavin and Stacey decide to meet up. Love at first sight the two realize they are meant to be together. The only question is how to divide their lives between family and jobs in two separate countries?

Despite some very adult humor, I would describe the series as cute, sweet and extremely funny. It's one of those rare shows where not just one person steals the scenes, but each one does. The writing is sharp and with only three series it never has the chance to wear out its welcome. One of the pure joys of the show is the timing, each actor playing off of one another. Both ABC and NBC have purportedly had a go at American adaptations, though thankfully nothing has come of it. Just for the characters alone, I'd rate this 9 out of 10

Mulberry: The Complete Series
Mulberry (1992-1993)
Starring: Karl Howman, Geraldine McEwan
Series: 2 (13 episodes)
Netflix: DVD only

Mulberry is the son of death. His father wanting him to join the family business sends him out on his first job; the reaping of old Miss Farnaby. Not quite having the heart for it, he instead takes up employment with her, becoming her personal assistant and friend.

The show is sweet without being saccharine. It's filled with an innocent humor that even your crotchety old grandmother wouldn't mind. The writing is great (though there are a few moments where it falters slightly), as are the leads. I pretty much devoured the series when it first came out on DVD. The only real problem I had was that between series 1 and 2 they switched actresses for one of the roles. A change that I didn't care for. It also featured one of the worst theme songs ever. Sadly it ended after two seasons, before it come to any kind of logical conclusion. A third series could have finished it off properly. Still, even with its faults I give it an 8.5 out of 10


  1. I have never really been big on British tv, but I really enjoyed "Are You Being Served". That show is hilarious.

  2. Jeckyl one looks fantastic. Gotta download that one. There was another BBC show that was a buffy spinoff that wasn't bad. Can't think of the name though. UGH!!!!

  3. Oilfield, Are you being served is a classic. Love it.

    Copy, it's a fantastic show, I'm sure you'll love it.

    Camel, UK TV puts the emphasis on quality over quantity. Where American shows tend to burn out pretty quickly often having a lot of filler episodes, the Brits keep shows from overstaying their welcome.

  4. We started our addiction on BBC/ British TV shows.....Sherlock Holmes of course..then a lovely one on immigrants learning the queen's language...forget the name..
    oh yes...Mind your language...Jeeves and Wooster ...Yes, Minister..Tandoori Nights (on Asians)...all old ones...many more..loved them all...

  5. I really love British TV too. The do drama and comedy so much better than anyone else. Shows are done well then let go. They don't drag and drag and drag on for years like they do here. 'Little Britain' is just amazingly funny. Torchwood - Children of the Earth was one of the best scifi shows that I have seen in years and I just started watching 'Outcasts' - a 'humans trying to settle on an alien planet' type miniseries (six episodes - mondays and tuesdays for the next three weeks). Even their version of 'Law and Order' (which are just britishfied scripts from America's L&A) is terrific. They know how to do TV right.

  6. I even remember 'The Two Ronnies' from years ago. Came on right after 'The Prisoner' and 'Space 1999' on CBC on Sundays when I was a kid.

    Love all those Gerrry Anderson shows like 'Thunderbirds' and 'Captain Scarlet'.

  7. Rek, I adore Jeeves and Wooster, I shall be featuring that one soon.

    Kal, I'm going to have to get you to do a guest Brit show review. You've mentioned some really great ones.

  8. Anytime. I love that stuff. Give me a chance to do some research and writing for someone else.

  9. The long distance one has my attention ...

    One thing I've heard about UK shows is that they don't tend to run way long, which I like. I enjoy some shows in the states that have/did go on for a long time ... but I think most overstay their welcome and just end up sad.

  10. Have you seen the BBC show Sherlock? It's freaking fantastic.

  11. what?!! no fawlty towers or ab fab?!!!
    please tell me you mentioned them in the past.

    great post otherwise, haha.

  12. I was brought up with UK shows, they played them a lot where I grew up (in New Zealand) and a lot of my sense of humour comes from them. I still watch a lot of shows, and particularly enjoy their panel shows and dramas.

    A couple of shows you might enjoy:


    Spaced - Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Jessica Hynes in a domestic comedy with a geek-reference extravaganza.

    Not Going Out - fast paced old-school sitcom, with silliness.


    Doctor Who - needs no explanation.

    Merlin - a fun retelling from young Merlin and Arthur's point of view. Building to a very exciting conclusion.

    Survivors - After a virus outbreak, only a few people remain on Earth.

    Historical Drama:

    Downton Abbey - Pre-WWI story of a Noble family and their servants.

    Lark Rise To Candleford - set during the 1880s, a gentle drama of a simpler time.

    Pillars of the Earth - Mediaeval drama about a political war over the building of a cathedral.

  13. I agree with you Guano Lad (sounds like someone from the Legion of Substitute Heroes). I firmly believe that the reason Canadians are so funny is that we were raised with the best of British comedies on CBC. Britain has smart comedy and you combine that with American stand-up and you get some of the best comedians in the world coming from the Tundra. Having to entertain each other during the cold winters doesn't hurt our ability to make with the funny either.

  14. I haven't seen any british tv for years and years! I may have to do some downloading and check these shows out!

  15. British TV is indeed, hilarious! I loved Benny Hill and Some Mothers Do 'ave 'em!

  16. Brad, there are some American shows I've enjoyed through a long series, it's just unusual to have that kind of staying power.

    Abbie, yes I have. It's really quite fantastic.

    RMb, This is only the first post on the subject. I will get to Fawlty Towers. As far as AbFab I do enjoy it, but I can only take so much at a time.

    Guano, Good to hear from you again. I've seen all the ones you mentioned except for two of the historical dramas. I will have to check those out. I absolutely loved Survivors. Both the 70's version and the newer one. Though I thought the writing on the newer one was just so crisp and fantastic. I'm also as many would attest to, a Doctor Who junkie.

    Kal, see all the good suggestions people are coming up with? Plenty of material to cover, so we will have to set up a guest post or two to assure it's all covered. And the Canada is partially responsible for my love of Britcoms.

    Pat, I really think Jekyll would be up your ally.

    Marlene, I haven't watched Some Mothers Do Ave Em in awhile. Good fun there.

  17. I stumbled upon and old "Keeping Up Appearances" a couple of days ago. Totally made my afternoon.

    I am going to have to check a couple of these out.

  18. My sister is a British TV nut.
    I'll have to let her know you're doing this.

  19. Thanks for introducing us to these. I've already thrown one in my netflix queue.


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