I've never traveled abroad; but, I still hope to travel to Europe sometime in my life. And, when I go, I really want to travel to Britain. With its many historical and ethnic connections to the United States, the British Isles holds an important spot in the lives of most Americans.
Till such time as I make my travel plans, I make do with British television imports. My current favorite is the incomparable Downton Abbey which just finished its third season on PBS's Masterpiece Theater. PBS was responsible for much of my introduction to British popular culture and television programming, including the Poirot and Miss Marple series.
I remember watching "I Claudius" and thinking, "so that's how good acting is done."
During high school and into college, I started watching Monty Python and Black Adder. Later, there was "Keeping Up Appearances" and any number of other comedies that I would watch with friends.
Of course, any reference to the importance of British popular culture would be remiss if it didn't mention James Bond and the entire 007 series. George Lazenby, Sean Connery, Roger Moore and all the others bringing to life Ian Fleming's infamous super spy. Even now, decades later, the series continues with Daniel Craig and a whole new generation of avid fans.
We had all the great talents of Britain: Lawrence Olivier, Peter O'Toole, Maggie Smith, Derek Jacoby, all the Redgraves.... It seems that England never failed to provide the film and television industry with an endless supply of talented individuals to bring to life the characters we knew from literature.
The tradition continued on into the new millennium with the entire Harry Potter phenomenon. For twelve years, we watched the young actors playing the characters grow into young adults.
I think much of the fascination with the British has to do with their continuing nod to class differences. America, when it made its break with King George, began proving time and again that success had nothing to do with the class from which one had originated. The United States was "the land of opportunity," and we celebrated those who pulled themselves up from nothing to become leaders in business and industry.
Meanwhile, we watched the British still supporting a monarchy and a government based upon two classes: the elected and the hereditarily empowered. Much of the British humor plays off the differences in those classes and they often make light of the simpleminded upper classes being bested by the down-to-earth lower classes.
Downton Abbey has shown those class struggles well. They had a great story line involving the youngest daughter of the Earl of Grantham falling in love with the Irish chauffeur. The family was hard put to determine what it was that bothered them most - the unsuitability of the class from which the young man came, his Catholicism or the fact that he was Irish. Love won out, though other complications developed during the course of the series for the aspiring young couple.
I don't think I've been tempted to watch Italian or French shows or movies (though I've tried to sit through a few). The language barrier is but one of the obstacles. I don't seem able to identify with the characters in a Mexican telenovella nearly as much as with the English characters in even the silliest of their offerings. I've even watched some of the Japanese and Brazilian game shows; but, those folks could as easily be from a neighboring planet as from an adjoining country.
And now, with BBC only a channel click away on satellite, I can get my fill any day of the week. I just finished a marathon Dr. Who viewing jaunt, and can't wait to discover what will catch my attention next.
It’s all just my opinion.