The BAFTA awards for television (similar to our Emmy awards) were given out in London a couple of weeks ago and I’ve finally had the opportunity to study the list of winners. Since I live in the US and don’t have access to the original broadcasts of these programs, I use it as a tool to plan my viewing for the coming year. Creativity and perseverance are key to this exercise.
Let me take you through an example. In the category of Situation Comedy, the nominees were Mrs. Brown’s Boys, Fresh Meat, Friday Night Dinner and Rev. I hadn’t seen any of these series yet, so I sat down at my laptop and opened five, yes, five tabs to accommodate the five essential sites – IMDb, Hulu, Netflix, YouTube and my local library catalog. I usually start with the Internet Movie Database to research the show – the premise, who’s in it, etc. in order to determine whether I can be bothered to investigate further.
If it sounds worthwhile, I move on to each of the other sites listed to see if the program is available to order or view. I used to always look at the library catalog first as a matter of course. Sadly, I’ve been seduced by the idea of getting it fast instead of waiting for the physical dvd to arrive and watching it on my more luxurious television screen. So many shows, so little time. That is truly my motto.
In this case I was fairly lucky. Hulu has just begun to add episodes from series one of Rev. It stars Tom Hollander and Olivia Colman as The Reverend Adam Smallbone and his wife Alex who have recently moved from a country parish to a struggling urban church in London. Everyone seems to want something from the poor vicar – money, a school placement, surrender of his chapel, sex…that last one would be from his wife’s honey-do list. I’ve seen the first two episodes so far and have enjoyed it. It’s an urban Vicar of Dibley minus the chocolate cravings and the big bosooms.
Rev. Smallbone with his committed, albeit sparse, congregation/staff.
I was able to find both Friday Night Dinner and Mrs. Brown’s Boys on YouTube. After watching the first episodes of each series, it’s a draw.
I wasn’t very impressed with Mrs. Brown; however, I can see the more unique aspects that might attract viewers. Irish widow, Mrs. Brown (played by Brendan O’Carroll) speaks directly to the audience, walks among the sets exposing the cameras and crew, and even makes reference to the fact that “she” is actually a “he”. It appears to be an homage/parody of classic British sitcoms, but the broad humor and glut of sexual innuendos aren’t really my cup of tea. That being said, my rule of thumb is to watch two or three episodes before making a judgement, especially since the first episode must carry the burden of setting up the circumstances and characters. Besides I haven’t even met all of Mrs. Brown’s boys yet.
Despite winning the sitcom BAFTA, this jury’s still out on Mrs. Brown.
On the other hand, Friday Night Dinner, seems to be a more promising program for me. Starring Tamsin Greig and Simon Bird, this show centers around an empty nest couple and their two grown sons. In the first episode at least, all the action plays out during a Friday night dinner gathering – the parents’ constant bickering, the boys’ sibling rivalry and childish pranking, and the creepy neighbor (Mark Heap) constantly hanging about. When it comes to settling into a new series, I find that being familiar with a number of the actors in the cast jump starts the whole process for me since I already have a reason to watch.
Friday Night Dysfunction might be a more apt title and that’s just fine by me.
Fresh Meat, a show about first year students at university sharing a house, was the only one I had no luck finding. So I will add it to my list of non-available titles and eventually it will show up somewhere. I know there are other streaming websites out there , but I’m hesitant to venture into some of those more questionable URLs. It’s not about legality as much as a fear of contracting some virus, worm or spyware that will bring my already antiquated equipment to a literal standstill. In the meantime, there’s usually a stack of dvds and an ever-present queue of on-line material to watch. And if there’s something I absolutely must see, my multi-region dvd player and Amazon.co.uk stand at the ready.
Other BAFTA nominees and winners on my future to-watch list are:
Appropriate Adult – winner of three acting awards in the drama category
Call the Midwife– to be shown this September on Masterpiece Theater with Miranda Hart (yea!) nominated for a dramatic supporting actress role.
Stella – a dramedy starring and co-written by Ruth Jones, another of those performers who makes everything they’re in worth watching.
Spy– a comedy starring comedy BAFTA winner, Darren Boyd and currently available on Hulu.
Admittedly, it is a convoluted system which may soon become even more intricate if I add BBC America to the arsenal. Some might say it’s a sickness but this font of knowledge actually comes in handy at times. For example, the other day a library member asked me the name of the heavy-set character on Doctor Who with a son who wants to to be an IT computer guy instead of working with his father. I was able to answer without hesitation, “That’s Bert Large, the plumber from Doc Martin…who by the way played Churchill on Doctor Who. See how useful my addiction is?
Besides, if I do have Britishtellyitis, I don’t want to be cured as I’m convinced this condition will be responsible for making my fortune one day.
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