The world is full of great television and, as anyone with an account on Netflix (or Amazon Prime) knows, it is all too easy to get hooked on the wide spectrum of shows constantly being offered. America has produced some pretty great ones in its time (and still is producing them). But, in my opinion, nothing compares to the incredible offerings of the one and only BBC.
Americans have a serious obsession with all things British, from our infatuation with the royal family (an ironic phenomenon considering that it was their monarchy that spurred us to declare independence almost 250 years ago!), to our swoons at their accents, to the all-too lovable hallmarks of their history/culture (who doesn’t like the idea of taking an hour in the afternoon to relax with some scones and a nice cup o’tea?), to their incredible TV. I have always been a fan of BBC and, as a young teen interested in the literature of the great Dickens and Austen, I first discovered the Corporation through their myriad adaptations of classic works like “Pride and Prejudice,” “North and South,” “Emma,” “Bleak House,” etc. As I got older, I immersed myself in the world of “Sherlock,” “Call the Midwife” and “Downton Abbey,” and this summer I have worked through “Grantchester” and “Poldark” with a hungry eye on “War and Peace” and the recent, “The Night Manager” series.
There are many reasons for BBC’s popularity here in the States and abroad, one of them being the assured quality of their productions: for one thing, the acting is always superb and this is true across the board, from the artists portraying the protagonist/antagonist all the way to the more minor roles and stock characters. And of course, there’s always plenty of British class and intelligence infused throughout the stories, and I have always noticed an almost palpable English dignity portrayed not only by the show's characters but the cultural settings and the insightful, engaging screenplays as well. (If some of you are raising your eyebrows a little at this last one, I should just admit that sometimes I am convinced that I am a British wannabe trapped inside an American girls body…I am also the kid who was depressed for hours after watching the "Pride and Prejudice" mini-series because “it’s just not fair that we don’t have elegant country dances anymore today.” Yes, it’s true.).
There’s plenty of fun in these shows, too, because I am yet to watch a BBC production that didn’t elicit either a few wry chuckles or full-on belly laughter. The Brits have the monopoly on razor sharp, dry wit and I always enjoy the fact that their humor is so, well, smart. The fact that the punchlines are delivered in adorable British accents doesn’t hurt them, either.
The one thing that I have come to appreciate the most about BBC, however, is how unique their offerings are in the global TV market. It’s rare (at least in my admittedly limited experience) to find a show here in the States that takes as its premise a historical event/significant bygone cultural period or is based on a famous literary work. BBC, however, is faithful in providing adaptions of both popular and somewhat lesser-known books and dramas in an excellent, sometimes culturally relevant way. Additionally, their historical shows (like “Poldark,” for instance) entertain AND inform the viewer at the same time, something that I (and I'm sure others) particularly enjoy.
All in all, if you’re looking for shows with class, quality, intelligence and cultural-scope that will open your perspective to different time periods and engage your mind instead of shutting it down (like a lot of soap opera television does here in America), then look no further than the British Broadcasting Corporation!