I have a couple hundred things I could and should have done today but rather than waste time playing World of Tanks or other games, I decided to waste it binge watching Inspector Morse and that has me thinking about British television and the odd influence it’s had on my life.
When I was growing up, I would occasionally catch snippets of British TV on PBS. Please remember, we only had four channels at the time, one of which was “educational” The first show I remember seeing and being freaked out by was The Tomorrow People. which is basically the X-Men with annoyingly perfect people and lots of 70’s hair and clothing.
There was also bits of The Benny Hill Show, which I’m still not actually sure I was supposed to watch. I mostly remember him not speaking very much and him being surrounded by lots of occasionally clad women. I also learned the many meanings of “crumpet” from that show.
The other comedy show was Monty Python’s Flying Circus which I mostly remember for the Spam sketch and people getting hit with fish. Later I would see all the Python movies. Yes, I can recite them all word for word, and no, I’m not going to do it now. The best part about Python was revisiting the shows years later and finally getting the jokes.
I also remember, a late 70’s series called Blake’s 7 which was gruelingly pessimistic, full of moral ambiguity, didn’t have seven people, got rid of Blake for a while and wasn’t afraid to kill off main characters. That said, it’s the kind of show that I suspect I’d hate if I watched it again. (Which means I have a moral obligation to watch it again. I’ll add it to the procrastination viewing list.)
The biggest show, though, was and remains Doctor Who. It was another show that I’d watch in fits and starts because, in those days, a week was a long time to have to remember the time something was on. It was also the first show I remember triggering a “What the hell is that?” when I saw a version with a different Doctor. (I didn’t yet know yet that Time Lords regenerate as a new person when they die/ask for more money per episode.)
The first Doctor I saw was Tom Baker and, quite frankly, he’s still the best Doctor. David Tennant did a great impersonation of him as did Matt Smith, but only Tom Baker could properly deliver a line like “I say, what a wonderful butler. He’s so violent.” He was also good at being the clown and then suddenly getting dark and moody. The worst Doctor was Colin Baker followed closely by the guy who had celery on his jacket.
Since then I’ve seen, I think, every available episode of Doctor Who and a couple webisodes. I’ve even watched bits of The Sarah Jane Adventures, based around former Doctor Who Companion Sarah Jane Smith after Elisabeth Sladen’s dazzling return to Doctor Who.
I’m not sure why I liked British TV. I think it was just different enough to count as vaguely exotic and I tended to latch on to things most other people didn’t like or didn’t yet get (Styx; dark beer; sci fi; mustard on French fries; potato chips on sandwiches; peanut butter on celery; Christopher Eccleston as Doctor Who).
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got more Inspector Morse to watch. I just wish I had a pint of real ale nearby.