American audiences fancy U.K. television
January 29, 2014
Television is a valued part of popular culture in both England and the United States — a diverse range of shows cross the Atlantic every day. Considering Hollywood’s large output of film and TV productions, Americans are surprisingly dedicated to British shows such as “Sherlock.” U.S. viewers’ obsession with their counterparts across the pond can be explained by a variety of reasons.
We have a natural curiosity about a culture whose language we share but whose lifestyle is foreign. The lack of a language barrier provides an opportunity to understand cultural differences through the arts.
Series such as “Downton Abbey” showcase eras unseen in the United States. Television allows us to take part in experiences we have never had, satisfying our sense of historical intrigue.
This fascination with all things British is a colonial holdover felt in countries previously occupied by the empire upon which the sun never set. The phenomenon may be rooted in a desire to better understand a part of our own history that is often discussed separately.
Perhaps the interest lies in a false nostalgia for the grandiose ways of old British life. The viewer may wish to be the stereotypically stuffy, well-mannered, tea-drinking, strongly accented lord or lady of wheresoever they please. Who wouldn’t want to live in a stately manor house outside of London and go to garden parties with the Queen?
The BBC’s popular “Sherlock” attracts a wide viewership (nearly 4 million people tuned in for the third season premiere) thanks to its dark humor and quick pace, which can be hard to find in an American series. This is not to say that our VH1 and MTV shows are unsuccessful — they have charming one-liners of their own, though not the kind of quips that Sherlock Holmes would deliver.
And there is no way to avoid the most obvious attraction of British TV: those terribly attractive accents. The jury is still out on whether Brits consider American accents as sexy as we find theirs, but almost everyone can agree that Benedict Cumberbatch’s voice is a gift to us all.
A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, Jan. 29 print edition. Daita Goswamy is a contributing writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.