Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous Musings’ Category


It’s almost unimaginable to me that seven years, nearly to the day, have passed since I started this blog. What began as writing practice morphed into a passion (some would say, an obsession) for British TV and pop culture. The unexpected bonus of interacting with fellow bloggers, telly addicts and Anglophiles has made this exercise an even more rewarding pleasure.

For those who have been around for awhile, you may have noticed that the blog has been quiet recently. For over three months to be exact! There are several reasons for this extended absence.

One is that I’ve been dedicating more time and energy to my freelancing for PBS affiliate WETA’s Telly Visions blog. Gotta pay those bills. I’m sure you understand. This is in addition to my part-time reference duties at a local library.

I also made choices during this period to allocate more of my attention to family commitments. The holidays, obviously, but my children are also in different places in their lives than when I started this endeavor. And so I’ve been making time to help plan a wedding and arrange visits with one who has flown rather far from the nest.

But the main explanation for my truancy has been a change in mission, I suppose. When I began this blog, my main purpose was to share things I had learned about the UK by watching their TV programs. I considered myself a cultural explorer; seeking out traditions, vocabulary, and regional attitudes of the British public based almost solely on how they portrayed themselves in the television medium.

The more I watched, the more I learned. But inevitably, unfamiliar experiences – be they slang words, public institutions or historical references – became fewer and farther between. Indeed, sometimes a tweets-worth of information was all I had to share about an episode of any given show.

At this point I struggled with how to proceed. I had never wanted this to be a conventional review site. There are plenty of places where you can go to read recaps or opinions about the popular series of the day. And there are loads of people who do it better anyway.

Rest assured, I never stopped watching British telly. I was just struggling with a new direction that would be unique for readers and would make me want to write again. As many of you out there can attest, there is nothing worse than feeling the pressure to turn something out while simultaneously lacking any enthusiasm for the process.

With that in mind, I have been mulling over this idea for some time now and it seems 2017 may be the time to implement it. I’m inviting my son Ross to join me in an experiment. We will watch an agreed upon TV series or film and then compare our impressions. Just a 50-something woman and a 20-something man who share some DNA, employment in the library field and a few character traits, but live in different states and have widely varied tastes otherwise.



Our first joint venture will be a discussion of the 2004 costume drama North & South which stars Richard Armitage, Daniela Denby-Ashe and Brendan Coyle. Watch this space as we anticipate our inaugural post will be ready soon.

Thank you for your readership in the past and I hope you’ll join us as we undertake this new approach!

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Forget the Queen’s birthday. It’s National Tea Day, an occasion to celebrate a hot beverage that inspires very strong feelings across the United Kingdom!

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Twitter UK logo

Twitter UK logo

It’s been five years and a few months since I started my Twitter account.   A slow and frustrating process, I’ve learned by trial and error what and how to tweet. I like to think I’ve got a handle on this social media medium by now despite the fact I’ve only amassed 328 followers thus far. It’s definitely a two steps forward one step back sort of proposition.  I don’t know if being on Twitter has driven previously unreachable readers to my blogs, but I have found it to be rewarding as means of communication with all sorts of people.

I’ve had the opportunity to talk to published authors about their books. I found @LissaKEvans to be particularly gracious and approachable.

I was sent movie stills for a library screening of Tell Them of Us (@ww1Film) though Twitter contact.

I have voted to rescue talented young people from being eliminated from TV singing competitions. (#VoiceSaveOwen)

Mostly I can discuss British telly and culture in instantaneous and verbally economical exchanges with a subset of people who know who and what I’m talking about. They’re my witty, supportive virtual friends and they include bloggers such as @FrivolousMonsta and @LukeCustardtv.

But if the fan girl in me is honest, I have to admit the possibility of celebrity contact is what brings me back to check my feed time and again. I follow mostly British comedians and other creative types because, above all, I want my Twitter life to be more sparkling and clever than my real one. While one can never be certain, it’s painfully obvious in some cases that the feed isn’t maintained by the actual celebrity. Some like the tweets of Noel Fielding (@noelfielding11) are obviously being generated by the man himself. Besides all the photos he’s sharing from his North American tour, who else would say something like this?

In a way, Twitter has become, for me, a sort of metaphysical autograph book if you will. What follows are examples of some of my close encounters with luminaries across the sea.

Chris O’Dowd aka @BigBoyler – Mr. O’Dowd follows me on Twitter which, in my universe anyhow, is a huge deal. I’m not sure how it happened, but my best explanation is that I was reading a tweet by Chris followed by the resulting replies when I came upon a spoiler for a movie O’Dowd was featured in called Calvary. I called the guy out for ruining the ending before people in the US had seen it and next thing I know, I get notified that Chris is following me! I like to think he liked my chutzpah, but he probably was trying to make up for the rogue tweeter’s faux pas. No matter, since then I’ve had no interactions with the lanky Irishman whatsoever, but at least he’s stayed around silently in the shadows, reading my tweets and smiling.

Chris O'Dowd twitter


Brenda Blethyn aka @BrendaBlethyn – More exciting than having this amazing actress follow me on Twitter (which she does) is the fact that I got to conduct a phone interview with her last year. When I tweeted about my experience, she kindly acknowledged our meeting. A classy lady and a judging by her tweets, an avid theater and arts supporter to boot.

Brenda Blethyn twitter

Count Arthur Strong aka @Arthur_Strong – I’ve had the great fortune to have several exchanges with Arthur (or the actor who created him, Steve Delaney). His tweets make and his sitcom make me laugh like nothing else. We’ve discussed trouser fires, show rankings and his  aversion to Game of Thrones. But my favorite was the very Arthurian answer he came up with below.

Count Arthur Strong twitter

Miranda Hart aka @mermhart- I never could have imagined I’d ever achieve Twitter communion with one of my British comedy idols, but it finally happened about a year ago. And just so you know, I kept my promise and went to see Spy in the theater. No lie, Miranda was in it quite a lot.

Miranda Hart twitter


Chetna Makan aka @chetnamakan- I have had likes and brief replies from several GBBO contestants including Richard Burr, Iain Watters and Luis Troyano. But I’ve found Chetna to be the most responsive of the former TV baking show contestants. She responds promptly and her appreciation of your interest and support feels so genuine.

Chetna Twitter

Reece Shearsmith aka @ReeceShearsmith- Now with Mr. Shearsmith I had to work a bit harder. I’d been tweeting complimentary remarks about his work in hopes of getting him to acknowledge my presence. Finally I pestered him for info about the upcoming series of Inside No. 9…and he took the bait!

Reece Shearsmith twitter

Others have retweeted and liked some of my input, most recently the two fine gentlemen you see pictured below. Each notification brings with it a little thrill that someone whose work I value has taken a moment to affirm my wish to connect with them.                                                        

Eddie Marsan @eddiemarsan

Eddie Marsan @eddiemarsan


Greg McHugh @gregjmchugh


In fact my very first celebrity “favorite” (now designated as “likes”) came from Russell Tovey aka @russelltovey. At that time I thanked him for his small but meaningful gesture which he then proceeded to “like” as well.

Russell Tovey twitter


I still have others in my sights including the aforementioned Noel Fielding, Richard Ayoade, David Mitchell and Sarah Millican to name a few. Just to clarify, I will not resort to the out and out plea for them to follow me because it’s my birthday or something. It’s annoying and requires no real thought. I will earn my tweets the hard way – with ingenuity, perseverance and maybe just a bit of old fashioned flattery. I can only imagine those hard earned tweets will be the sweetest of them all.

I’d really enjoy hearing who is in your Twitter “autograph book” or about your experiences in general. If you don’t follow me currently and would like to, you can remedy that by clicking the Follow button to your right under Telly Quotes and Other Tweetables!


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Vicar of Dibley's Geraldine and Jim  image credit BBC and Tiger Aspect Productions

Vicar of Dibley’s Geraldine and Jim
image credit BBC and Tiger Aspect Productions

The Christmas season which has been looming at the back of our consciousness for months is now suddenly and insistently in full swing. Christmas songs and adverts are in constant rotation, parties are underway and, while most of my halls are decked (thanks to my husband), we still have yet to finish trimming our tree.

For me the jarring effect of all things jolly and bright has somehow caught me off guard as it always seems to do each year. Therefore, I have concluded that the best way to join in with the spirit of the season is to immerse myself in the hilarious and often heartfelt genre of telly Christmas specials. As always my intention is to share as many as possible with you over the course of the next few weeks.

Let’s begin with an old favorite from 1986, Vicar of Dibley’s ‘The Christmas Lunch Incident.’

As the trailer explains, St. Barnabas’ beloved vicar Geraldine Granger (Dawn French) has been invited to share Christmas lunch at the homes of three different parishioners in very quick succession. After happily accepting the initial invitation from Frank (John Bluthal) and Jim (Trevor Peacock), Geraldine attempts to gently decline the others. However, soothing fragile egos and averting Alice’s threat of suicide end in the vicar agreeing to be the guest of honor at a trio of Christmas repasts.

Some highlights of this episode include:

After suffering a bit of writer’s block, it turns out that an off-the-wall gift of a Spice Girls biography, Zig-a-zig-ah, was the inspiration for Geraldine’s last ditch effort at her Christmas sermon. In her oration, she compared the girl group to Mary – virgins thrust into the public eye at a young age. And as Hugo noted, “Just like the Spice Girls, Jesus wants us to tell Him what we want!”


An already stuffed vicar engages in a sprout eating challenge with David (Gary Waldhorn). She does this in order to help Hugo (James Fleet) win this first ever bet against his overly competitive father.


Settling a long standing Horton family sprout wager image credit BBC and Tiger Aspect Productions


Alice (Emma Chambers) dressed for Christmas dinner in a ballerina ensemble complete with fairy wings.

Christmas Fairy Alice image credit BBC and Tiger Aspect Productions

Christmas Fairy Alice
image credit BBC and Tiger Aspect Productions


Two guest appearances stand out; that of Peter Capaldi as Songs of Praise producer Tristan Campbell who shows up at the vicar’s door on Christmas evening with an unexpected proposal. Earlier in the episode, Jim tells a predictable Doctor Who knock- knock joke. Coincidence? I think no, no, no. not.

A possibly less obvious cameo was Mel Giedroyc (of GBBO fame) in one of her earliest TV appearances as Alice’s even battier sister, Mary Tinker. Both sisters have an obvious penchant for festive attire but Mary has apparently confused Christmas with Easter seeing as she chose to wear a bunny jumper to Christmas dinner.

The episode concludes with poor Rev. Granger gastrically uncomfortable and alone until all her village friends arrive at her doorstep to cheer and thank her for how her presence has improved Dibley for the good. Alas she must receive their compliments and thanks from the loo where she plans to be until the New Year.

My only disappointment? The episode didn’t end with Geraldine telling Alice a joke to which the dim verger never gets the punch line. I guess for this special the running Christmas cracker joke, “What do you do when you see a spaceman?” Answer: “Park your car, man” will have to do. I much prefer “How does Good King Wenceslas like his pizzas?” “Deep pan. crisp and even.” Bah-dum-bum-ching!

Next time we’ll explore the joy and stresses of Christmas with the Shipmans and the Wests of Gavin & Stacey. 



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Last Tango in Halifax cast series 3 image credit Red Production Co., BBC

Last Tango in Halifax cast series 3
image credit Red Production Co/BBC Photographer – Ben Blackall

Don’t let the happy family photo above fool you. Last Tango in Halifax: Series Three was laden with tragedy, family clashes and secrets kept hidden away for years.

As you may or may not know, I wrote recaps for all the episodes from the most recent series for a PBS affiliate. According to comments we received on social media and the website for the channel, series three was notably polarizing. Some viewers felt it was the best series yet specifically praising the performance of Sarah Lancashire who plays Caroline.

However, complaints were many and varied. Therefore, I wanted to look at why this latest series rubbed folks the wrong way. In a nutshell, some of the main criticisms and pet peeves people expressed were as follows…

Editing of the British version by (or for) PBS: Some who have seen both the UK and US broadcasts were not pleased about what the American edits left out. Sexually suggestive scenes and shots of texts and notes that might have contained profanity were the most common things cut from episodes. Was PBS trying to be more family friendly (Last Tango did air in the 8 pm ET time slot) or were episodes just being trimmed for time? I don’t have the answer to that question, but some felt the network should be more forthcoming about the fact the installments were edited for US television and why.


Caroline (SARAH LANCASHIRE), Kate (NINA SOSANYA) image credit Red Productions, BBC

image credit Red Productions, BBC

Kate’s death – The mother-to-be’s demise eliminated two of the few diverse elements of the show. Kate was the only person of color who was a cast regular. It also ended the only same sex relationship of the series.



Celia Buttershaw (ANNE REID image credit Red Productions, Photographer: Rachel Joseph

Celia Buttershaw (ANNE REID)   image credit Red Productions, Photographer: Rachel Joseph

Celia emerging unscathed after her bad behavior: Whether she was making snide remarks about her daughter’s sexual orientation and life partner or behaving like a spoiled child when she found out her new husband had had a one night stand decades before he married her, the first half of the series was punctuated with Celia’s brooding and self-pity. After the sudden loss of Kate, Celia’s unkindness is forgiven which is understandable in the circumstances perhaps, but we don’t really see her grow from the experience. She continues to assert she is broadminded, an example to her family and “the bigger person” but we know that’s never going to be the case.


Alan (DEREK JACOBI), Gary (RUPERT GRAVES) image credit Red Production Co., BBC

image credit Red Production Co., BBC

Gary’s paranoia and insecurity got on a lot of people’s nerves: Alan’s new-found son Gary seems perfect at first – handsome, wealthy, successful. But the family is soon concerned with his fixation on them. Gary throws his money and influence around to impress and win them over and sulks when they politely reject his excessive overtures. He’s easily agitated when things don’t go his way and has the bad habit of pestering his new family until they surrender to his will. How else do you think he got so far in business?



GILLIAN (Nicola Walker) and JOHN (Tony Gardner) image credit Red Production Co., BBC

GILLIAN (Nicola Walker) and JOHN (Tony Gardner)
image credit Red Production Co., BBC

Gillian’s slutty ways: In the course of this series, Gillian slept with three men that I can recall and she was only engaged to one of them at the time. An abusive marriage has made her cautious but economic factors have made a new union a virtual life-line. Gillian’s  constant attempts to sabotage her own happiness as punishment for what she did to her first husband, however, were getting a bit stale by the end of the series.


Tipping over the edge from drama into melodrama: This sentiment was repeated again and again. Last Tango in Halifax used to be a good quality drama/romance about an adorable old couple who found one another after fifty years and now it’s become a soap opera.

As I wrote up my recaps for this series, I too felt some of the same frustrations.  My biggest complaint concerned what I felt was excessive repetition. Must we hear the same bit of news or gossip passed on from one character to another three or four times per episode? This is the way we pass information among our friends and family in real life, but it makes for boring television.

I think the problem many fans had with series three was actually the degree to which the characters’ behaved in realistic ways. People say petty, thoughtless things to one another. They can have racist or other prejudicial attitudes. They don’t think they are deserving of happiness so they do things to prove their unworthiness. In the middle of chaos and grief, people forgive their loved ones when in normal conditions they might hold a grudge much longer.

Show creator Sally Wainwright has given viewers a world that is simultaneously authentic in its human interactions, but rather extreme in the number of  tumultuous situations in which the characters find themselves. I surmise that the people who really enjoyed this past series prefer their characters flawed and their lives full of uncertainty. Those who don’t, probably gave up on the show already or will not tune in when it returns for series four next year. I’m still not sure which camp I’m in at the moment, but I know I wish these characters well no matter whether I decide to return to Halifax or not.


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Any Gary and Miranda kiss is heartwarming. image credit BBC

image credit BBC

The internet tells me it’s National Kissing Day. This senselessly manufactured day of swapping spit prompted me to devise a list of cheer worthy TV smooches. You know, the kind that take forever to actually happen and warm your heart when you finally witness them. For example, any kiss that ever transpired between the constantly on again off again Miranda and Gary.


So without further ado, here are a few more telly kisses you might remember fondly…

Caroline and Mac proposal kiss – Green Wing



2.  Mark and Sophie first kiss at a wake – Peep Show



3. Tim and Dawn Christmas party soulmate kiss – The Office



4. The Doctor and River Song first and last kiss – Doctor Who


Which kiss will you try out on your loved one today?

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Tonight Britain’s TV  industry will honor its own at the House of Fraser BAFTA Television Awards. Seeing as telly is my bag, I’ve decided to offer my picks on the categories – at least the ones where I’ve been able to watch the programs and have an opinion. My choices are based on my personal taste and not on who should or probably will win so don’t place any bets based on this post please!

So without further ado, the envelopes please!



The Lost Honour of Christopher Jeffries

Our World War


I only had the opportunity to watch Cilla and Prey. I tried to find a way to see the Christopher Jeffries biopic, but to no avail so. I enjoyed learning about Cilla Black and if Aneurin Barnard had been nominated for supporting actor I probably would have given him the nod.

However, Prey stood out as a Fugitive-esque thriller about a policeman framed for the murder of this family and on the run while trying to prove his innocence. The twists were well-placed and the betrayal was surprising but not from out of nowhere. John Simm delivers as usual especially when playing the maligned man with a wrong to make right.

John Simm in Prey image credit Red Production Company, ITV

John Simm in Prey
image credit Red Production Company, ITV



Happy Valley

Line of Duty

The Missing

Peaky Blinders

I saw all four of these nominees and enjoyed each one except Peaky Blinders. They all deal with crime and they all had great writing. Happy Valley and The Missing had the most masterful performances. In the end, I chose The Missing because of its plot twists, back and forth storytelling and James Nesbitt’s portrayal of a guilt and grief-stricken father.

James Nesbitt in The Missing image credit New Pictures, Two Brothers Pictures, BBC

James Nesbitt in The Missing
image credit New Pictures, Two Brothers Pictures, BBC


Scripted Comedy


Harry and Paul’s Story of the Twos

Moone Boy

The Wrong Mans

I’m not even sure what H & P’s Story of Twos is, but I have seen the other three contenders. Being such a huge fan of Chris O’Dowd (I traveled to NYC to see him on Broadway last summer if you’ll recall) you might expect me to choose Moone Boy. But I had to follow my heart and go with the gentle, quirky comedy about two friends who happen to be metal detecting hobbyists. It’s hard to explain, but the characters and stories stuck with me long after the jokes faded.

Mackenzie Crook and Toby Jones image credit Channel X and BBC

Mackenzie Crook and Toby Jones
image credit Channel X and BBC


Female Performance in a Comedy

Olivia Colman -Rev.

Tamsin Greig – Episodes

Jessica Hynes – W1A

Catherine Tate – Catherine Tate’s Nan

All these ladies are talented comediennes, but I’m going to cast my vote for Olivia Colman every time, even if she was just doing a advert voiceover.

Olivia Colman in Rev. image credit Big Talk Productions, Ingenious, BBC

Olivia Colman in Rev.
image credit Big Talk Productions, Ingenious, BBC


Leading Actor

Benedict Cumberbatch – Sherlock

Toby Jones – Marvellous

James Nesbitt- The Missing

Jason Watkins – The Lost Honour of Christopher Jeffries

I respect and enjoy watching every one of these actors in whatever roles they undertake. It might be wishful thinking to believe Nesbitt could beat the red hot Cumberbatch, but Sherlock is no longer the new buzz worthy show so I’d like to think the luck of the Irish could be with him tonight.

James Nesbitt in The Missing  image credit New Pictures Ltd.

James Nesbitt in The Missing
image credit New Pictures Ltd.


Leading Actress

Georgina Campbell –Murdered by My Boyfriend

Keeley Hawes – Line of Duty

Sarah Lancashire – Happy Valley

Sheridan Smith – Cilla

Sarah wins this one hands down in my book. Lancashire’s Catherine Cawood was the heart and soul of Happy Valley and I can’t wait to see what she gets up to in the next series. There is going to a next series, right?


Sarah Lancashire in Happy Valley image credit Red Production Co. and BBC

Sarah Lancashire in Happy Valley
image credit Red Production Co. and BBC


Male  Performance in a Comedy

Matt Berry – Toast of London

Hugh Bonneville – W1A

Tom Hollander – Rev.

Brendan O’Carroll – Mrs. Brown’s Boys – Christmas Special

This one was a toss up between Bonneville and Hollander since I actively dislike Mrs. Brown’s Boys. And while Matt Berry makes me laugh, I prefer him as a supporting character. I leaned in favor of Bonneville because his Ian Fletcher who works at the BBC is even better than Ian Fletcher who worked on the Olympic Deliverance committee in Twenty Twelve.

Hugh Bonneville from W1A image credit BBC

Hugh Bonneville from W1A
image credit BBC


Supporting Actor 

Adeel Akhtar – Utopia

James Norton – Happy Valley

Stephen Rea – The Honourable Woman

Ken Stott –The Missing

Another tough category filled with some very convincing baddies, but Stephen Rea’s complex portrayal of a soon-to-retire MI-6 agent had nuance and sensitivity that the others lacked.

Stephen Rea from The Honourable Woman credit image Drama Republic

Stephen Rea from The Honourable Woman
credit image Drama Republic


Supporting Actress

Gemma Jones – Marvellous

 Vicky McClure -Line of Duty

Amanda Redman – Tommy Cooper: Not Like That, Like This

Charlotte Spencer –Glue

On this one I wavered between Gemma Jones as a dying mother trying to ready her son to care for himself and Vicky McClure’s undercover cop on the corruption squad. In the end I went for McClure since Line of Duty is an ongoing series and Marvellous was limited to the length of a TV movie.

Vicky McClure from Line of Duty image credit BBC Drama and World Productions

Vicky McClure from Line of Duty
image credit BBC Drama and World Productions



Just wanted the opportunity to say – “You know nothing, Jon Snow.”

News presenter Jon Snow image credit Channel 4

News presenter Jon Snow
image credit Channel 4


Special Award 

Thanks to writer Jeff Pope for teaching me about serial murderers, train robbers, pop singers and just about any other British person of note through his compelling biopics. You make my British Celebrities I Still Don’t Know list much shorter.

Screenwriter Jeff Pope Image credit The Guardian

Screenwriter Jeff Pope
Image credit The Guardian

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As I write this, the British public are voting for their new government. I hear it could possibly be the closest election in UK history and another coalition will probably have to be created.

I have watched this election cycle with some interest. While today’s polling outcome will not affect me directly which I admit is part of the attraction, I believe it has held my attention mainly because the campaigning hasn’t gone on so long that I’ve become numb to the main players and their party messages. It may not feel like it to UK citizens but your democratic process is a sprint compared to our grueling marathon of a system.

I mean in the US, our next presidential election is eighteen months off and already we have half a dozen Republican candidates who’ve thrown their hats in the ring with who knows how many more on the horizon. Forgive us if our eyes glaze over because the American public will soon be enduring infuriatingly negative TV ads, incessant campaign phone calls (for those still possessing a land line) and a whole lot of mud-raking, fact twisting and pseudo-patriotic rhetoric being thrown about for the next year and a half. Not to mention the caucuses, primaries and conventions that predict, eliminate and finally anoint the official candidates for the actual general election. The UK’s twenty-five day campaign period sounds like an impossible dream that could never be achieved matter how desperately we wish it to be so.

So how have I been following this more imminent election, you may ask? Well, I did watch a portion of the Leaders’ Debate on YouTube.

Seven party leaders on one stage - debate or game show image credit ITV

Seven party leaders on one stage – debate or game show
image credit ITV

It was a bit overwhelming, but I got the gist of it. Farage is a xenophobe. Cameron, as you would expect, is defensive. Miliband is being mistaken for Tony Blair and Nick Clegg is still in the doghouse for breaking his no-tuition fees promise from the last election.

I realize I have no right to suggest what’s best for another country’s people, but based on that debate performance perhaps your best option is to allow the ladies to form a coalition and let them get on with running things. Though with the SNP and Plaid Cymru as two-thirds of equation, you might not have much of United Kingdom left in the end.

Apart from the aforementioned debate the rest of my political research comes from my telly viewing (of course). I have the background of shows like Yes, Minister, The Thick of It and House of Cards. That’s not to insinuate that any of the current leaders would go to the cold-blooded extremes of Francis Urquhart.

I also watched the TV movie Coalition for more understanding on how the current government was negotiated.


I was taken with Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg’s dilemma between joining the Tories or Labour and his idealistic desire to finally put his party in a position to make a difference in government. Alas I didn’t know about Tuition-gate nor the fact that Clegg had the option to pull out of the coalition when it was obvious the Tories weren’t going to play nice. I understand this would have forced another election, but he apparently chose to go with the status quo which turned him into an ineffectual deputy prime minister instead.

There has been one series, however, that has really given me the clearest picture of this highly-contested national campaign and that is the satirical sitcom, Ballot Monkeys. In it we follow the campaign teams of the four major parties as they travel up and down the country trying to inspire the British public to vote for them. There is nothing more revealing than seeing things from the point of view of a politician’s staff.


Desperate for the women’s vote and trying hard not to come across as posh toffs, the Tories seem to be sending a mixed message about who their leader really is – David or Boris.



Ed Miliband has the loyalty and trust of his party staff. Nevertheless, their campaign strategy is to focus on the team rather than their leader who they perceive as having some public appeal issues.


Lib Dems

Having your leader be seen as a failure has put a lot of pressure on Lib Dem coordinator Kevin Sturridge (Ben Miller) in particular. He carries on his shoulders the stress of supporter apathy and the virtual shunning of his entire party in the media. It’s bound to take a toll on such a committed supporter.



And finally we come to UKIP. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Farage’s Army are portrayed as ultra-nationalistic, anti-immigrant and homophobic as well as violent. Poor Gerry Stagg (Andy Nyman) seems to be the only level head in the entire party, but he’s wasted by constantly having to stamp out fires created by supporters, candidates and the party leader himself.


I realize Ballot Monkeys is deliberately exaggerating the foibles of the candidates and the character of their voter base. That being said, no party gets preferential treatment and everyone gets roasted equally. Another aspect of this show is that they waited until the last minute to film each episode so national events and the inevitable campaign trail gaffes could be included in a timely fashion. If that’s not a commitment to accuracy, I don’t know what is.

Since I’m not a UK citizen (and under a UKIP government, I never will be), I obviously don’t have a vote. Nor do I have the perspective of one who lives under the unique conditions and problems of that country. However, I did take a 25 question on-line quiz which identified the party with which I most agree philosophically. Let’s just say my coalition’s color would be orange…

As my British readers go to the polls today  I bid you to vote your conscience whatever your political views might be. It’s the way democracy works and if you don’t like the outcome you only have to wait five years at the most to change it!

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I’ve been told that math-minded people get very excited for Pi Day because the first sequence of digits of a mathematical constant which expresses the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter corresponds with the numbers in today’s date. Coincidence or one of those mysterious laws of nature that binds our world together? I’m not really bothered either way. What is more interesting to me is a sciencey man resembling Michael Palin (in profile only) who sets out to solve for pi using actual pies as visual aids.


More fascinating still is trying to guess who the winner of my Favorite Pie Poll will be. Please vote below and if your preferred pie isn’t on the list, simply tick “other” and type in your choice. Vic and Bob clearly favor a pork pie but don’t let those fools sway you.

House of Fools Vic, Bob and gigantic pie image credit BBC

House of Fools Vic, Bob and gigantic pie
image credit BBC



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When I say “historical” in relation to television programming, what comes to mind? Drama, right? Human rights campaigns, wars, ancient civilizations; these are serious subjects which must be treated with solemnity and reverence.

Apparently not in the UK where history has been the backdrop for many a comedic series. Look at the WWII era alone- It Ain’t Half Hot Mum, ‘Allo ‘Allo and Dad’s Army. All three of these series are consistently named at the top of British sitcom polls.

The Home Guard volunteers of Dad's Army  image credit BBC

The Home Guard volunteers of Dad’s Army
image credit BBC



Blackadder famously visited the Middle Ages, Elizabethan and Regency periods as well as WWI. Monty Python often set their sketches and films in olden times to very humorous effect.  And while technically considered a children’s program, the BAFTA-winning Horrible Histories is full of fun and “100% accu-rat” facts.


Not that historical settings have never been employed with American comedies. In the 60’s and 70’s, there were a number of WWII sitcoms on network television from McHale’s Navy and Operation Petticoat to the classic POW camp series Hogan’s Heroes. Though to be fair, these shows might have been considered more nostalgic than historic since the war had ended only 20-30 years earlier.

In what seems like an entertainment anomaly now, we even had a very silly Civil War era sitcom, F Troop set during the most painful and divisive period in our history. Watching it today would probably be rather cringe-inducing particularly the cartoonish portrayals of Native Americans in characters such as Chief Wild Eagle and his sidekick Crazy Cat.

That being said, the aforementioned programs were from a different era in American TV history, 40 to 50 years ago to be exact. The point is that the Brits are still setting sitcoms in historical contexts and being rather entertaining the process.

In fact in the past three or four years several such comedies have been produced in the UK. Plebs is a prime example of this trend. Three young men (or more specifically two young men and their slave) are trying to make it in the big city of 27 BC era Rome. Despite the classical setting, viewers are meant to understand that boys will be boys no matter the time period they find themselves in.

Plebs stars Joel Fry, Tom Rosenthal and Ryan Sampson  image credit Rise Films

Plebs stars Joel Fry, Tom Rosenthal and Ryan Sampson
image credit Rise Films


Move forward 1800 years or so and we find ourselves in the English coastal village of Hunderby. This is a dark and sexually fueled period sitcom about Helene (Alexandra Roach) who is saved from a shipwreck as she attempts to escape her horribly shameful and unfortunate past. The young woman catches the eye of several men in the village including Edmund (Alex McQueen) a widowed vicar and Dr. Foggerty (Rufus Jones) who is burdened with a invalid wife.

The darkly  funny cast of Hunderby image credit Baby Cow Productions

The darkly funny cast of Hunderby
image credit Baby Cow Productions

This award winning series is available in the US on Hulu and it has recently been reported that Hunderby will return for a two-part special later in the year.

Set in WWI England, 2011’s Chickens is a sitcom about three young men who stay home. Cecil (Simon Bird) has flat feet, George (Joe Thomas) is a conscientious objector and Bert (Jonny Sweet) is a clueless womanizer who keeps forgetting there’s a war going on. Ostracized by the women of the village, the trio must band together to weather the abuse and hardship of their situation.

The one and only series of Chickens is available to stream on Hulu.


One of my favorite shows at the moment is a sitcom that would never get made in the US. Putting the slightly quirky title aside, Up the Women is a series that follows a group of hapless suffragette wannabes led by the very earnest but ineffectual Margaret (Jessica Hynes).

If you want to find this one, I’ve had to resort to YouTube since series 2 is currently airing on BBC2.

The question is, for those of you who care, why do historical sitcoms get commissioned and find an audience in the UK and not in the States? In part, I believe the British are much more aware of history and their place in it. British audiences are raised on costume dramas so why couldn’t programs set in the past be funny as well? Though attitudes are changing in the US, corsets, togas and ridiculously manicured facial hair used to be code for the hoity toity types of shows you could only find on Masterpiece Theater. 

Let’s just hope that if Hollywood TV execs finally do pick up on the historical sitcom, they don’t go back this far again…


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