I have memories of sitting in the living room with my Mom and siblings and laughing uproariously as we watched episodes of Benny Hill. Never mind that there was plenty of innuendo in that rascal’s old show, 100 percent of which not one of us kids understood–other than loving the zany music and physical comedy, it was all part of my British television upbringing. Ever since I can remember, British TV shows were in our household. My mother fed off all things Brit, and as such, shared her love with us. (Dad was more of the golden age of comedy lover: Sid Caesar, Carl Reiner, Lucille Ball. Needless to say, I got my sweet fill of those performers and their films/TV shows, as well.) From those old days until now, you can typically find me watching TV fare from across the pond. Here are some of my old and new favorites:
Are You Being Served? Seriously, I can watch episodes of this 70s-era show about hilarious staffers of a Harrods’ like department store all day. The antics of the kooky employees of Grace Brothers bring tears to my eyes, so much so that when I watch episodes during lunchtime at the OK Corrall, I have to remember that although I’m hiding in a vacant office, people in the hallway can hear me screeching with laughter. If you haven’t watched it, please, please do.
Keeping Up Appearances. The title says it all: Mrs. Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced BOUQUET, if you didn’t know) would do anything to prevent her neighbors–with whom she’s created a hilarious facade of class and elitism–from finding out the actual truth about her life: her ne’er-do-well son, her blue-collar sisters and brother-in-law, and her crazy father. Absolutely hysterical. The best is how quickly most of her neighbors (and strangers and postmen and her husband) try to avoid her when they see her coming.
Hercule Poirot. Oh, boy. Goodness. I’ll be brief: I love everything about Masterpiece’s adaptation of Agatha Christie’s famous detective. Everything. I’ve seen 99% of the episodes. It’s set in London (and almost everywhere else around the world) during the age of Art Deco and the 1930s, with Poirot and his little Belgian gray cells (played by the amazing David Suchet) solving murders and assorted crimes with his associate, Captain Hastings. The show feeds my love of mystery, detectives, and the fashion/jargon of the Thirties. So well-written and well-acted.
Miss Marple. Like all my Brit TV favorites, my mom turned me on to Miss Marple, especially the latest episodes with Julia McKenzie playing the intelligent and resourceful detective. Just plain good. I especially love the guest stars that pop up here and there in some of the episodes, like Matthew Macfadyen, the second Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, or half the cast of Four Weddings and a Funeral. Again, if there’s a detective snooping around to solve a mystery, you can be sure I’m there.
Sherlock. I think this made it clear that I’m a fan. If you need more evidence, it’s arguably one of the best, most wonderfully written shows on the telly today. More opinion than evidence, but we can discuss it if you want to. (No, not really.)
As Time Goes By. This show usually preceded Are You Being Served on the TV schedule. In the beginning, I watched it with Mom only because the show I really wanted to see was coming afterward, but in the end, I began to join this sweet show about a couple that reunites after years apart. The leading lady was one of my favorites, Judi Dench, so it’s no surprise that it ended up growing on me.
Honorable mentions go to The Vicar of Dibley, One Foot in the Grave, Waiting for God, and especially Last of the Summer Wine, a show about aging goofballs in a small town in the English countryside that found a rabid fan in my little brother. Seriously, he still has episodes of the show on VHS. VHS.
Shout out to Mom for creating Brit TV loving monsters. If anything, more than comedy and entertainment, we were introduced to a culture other than our own.