A few weeks ago I wrote a post concerning the variety of places one might find British television shows in the US. I touched on the strengths and weaknesses of sources such as Hulu, Netflix and good old PBS.
We received a surprising amount of comments, but none were more strongly expressed than those who commiserated with my disappointment in BBC America’s programming choices.
Some of you apparently watched BBCA (as I will now abbreviate it) when it was on the right track, but I’ve only had access to this “premium” channel for less than a year. And besides watching up-to-date Doctor Who episodes and the occasional TV event like the upcoming Broadchurch, I very rarely tune in any more. Value for money? I’d say not.
All this got me to thinking, what would I do differently? And being as I like to tell people what to watch, whipping BBCA back into shape seems like the perfect project for me.
First let’s discuss the practices I would drop:
1. No more random marathons
No one needs to see more than one episode of Kitchen Nightmares in a 24 hour period. And while nothing tickles me more than watching Jeremy Clarkson drive a tiny car, programming an entire day of Top Gear is just plain lazy.
Marathons should be reserved for a special theme or occasion, the Doctor Who 50th anniversary for example.
2. Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica – Gone!
Why are these even shown on this channel? Because Patrick Stewart is English? Because there’s a proven correlation between Anglophiles and science fiction fans? I don’t get it.
I realize the British tendency in space-based sci-fi is to go for the humor – Red Dwarf, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and this little known show with a surprisingly stellar comedy cast called Hyperdrive.
If BBCA doesn’t feel comedies such as this would satisfy their still unexplained compulsion for science fiction programming, they should stick with their strengths in this genre like Doctor Who, Torchwood, and Primeval. You could even stray to series like Misfits, Jekyll and Life on Mars and still keep within the science fiction vein.
Now for things I would change or add to BBC America:
1. British Movies…please
Bond films are perfectly acceptable, Hook (classic English story with a minimum of British cast members) is questionable, but Escape from New York makes me scratch my noggin. These are some of the movies I’ve seen repeatedly aired on BBCA.
The main trend however tends to be towards epic Hollywood productions featuring famous British characters, both historic and legendary – Rob Roy, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves the King Arthur story as depicted in First Knight.
There are so many good British-made films out there! I could list enough to play a different one every night for a month just off the top of my head. Tyrannosaur, Educating Rita, The Full Monty, Death at a Funeral, Blow Dry, Billy Elliot, London River, Shaun of the Dead…you get the idea.
And a beautiful and original movie like Millions beats a miscast Kevin Costner as Robin of Locksley every time:
Long story short – play movies made about Brits by Brits.
2. E! News but not really
I recommend producing a weekly entertainment show to keep all of us British pop culture junkies sated. Not a chat show; Graham Norton does a brilliant job at that. I want casting news, behind the scenes pieces, and an in-depth interview or two with some of our favorite UK talents.
We just need the perfect presenter and I can tell you right now Chris Hardwick and his nerdist, shouty voice need not apply. But if this very funny lady is available, I think she’d do a champion job:
3. Bring Back the Ministry of Laughs
Comedy is something for which the British are famous yet there is no regularly scheduled comedy anywhere to be seen on BBCA. The Ministry of Laughs has apparently been dismantled. Once upon a time Ab Fab, The Inbetweeners, The Thick of It and Twenty Twelve graced its halls.
It would be so easy to do. For three hours a night, one night a week show only comedy – a block( not a marathon) of sketch shows –Monty Python, French and Saunders, A Bit of Fry and Laurie or Little Britain; broadcast an entire 6 episode sitcom series in one evening; or showcase the many fine panel shows that the UK has to offer – QI, Would I Lie to You or Have I Got News for You.
Just play something funny! The UK is the home of Comic Relief after all.
Obviously I have no knowledge of budgets or licensing rights or anything about programming a commercial television channel for that matter. I’m just a humble blogger. But I know that my expectations for BBCA have not been met. Forget about the original programming like Orphan Black or Copper.
I just want to get to watch what our friends across the pond are watching and the “BBC” in BBC America led me to believe that’s what I’d get.
What changes or additions would you make to BBC America?
Carmen is an American wife and mother of two college students who live away from home. With her yellow lab Malcolm by her side, she watches and writes about British television for her own blog Everything I Know about the UK I Learned from the BBC. Read more of Carmen’s posts here.