November 20, 2008

A Little Bit of British Humor

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It’s no secret – we’re different from our friends across the Pond. But the differences transcend politics, pastimes and accents. The United States and United Kingdom have incredibly divergent forms of entertainment. HBO tried to bridge the gap this year, after seeing New Zealand’s Flight of the Concords’ great success, with another series – Little Britain USA.

Already a huge success in the UK, the show’s characters have transplanted themselves into American scenarios. Made up of a number of vignettes, Little Britain USA follows a handful of characters, all played by two overweight Brits, in their new American grooves. The motley crew consists of personalities ranging from Marjorie Dawes, a demoralizing and verbally abusive team leader at Fat Fighters (read: Weight Watchers) to Vicky Pollard, a juvenile delinquent. (In the UK, Pollard is actually a chav, often described as “a young person who wears Burberry,” or British white trash.)

Vicky Pollard at an American boot camp for juvenile delinquents

The mini-season has already ended in the US-of-A and the show has been met with mixed reviews. I propose that it’s because Americans are used to viewing shows with, well, American eyes – and why not? We use this perspective and perception for all our shows, since this is America. But for this particular brand of show, it’s necessary to don our European cloaks and watch from a different angle, both shedding light on our own misgivings about our American heritage, as well as learning to understand how quickly British banter occurs.

A look inside a Fat Fighters meeting

But the show can be grotesque, too. One skit in particular depicts two homoerotic, steroid-abusing meat-heads in a locker room and it features quite a bit of full frontal nudity. If that’s too much for you, no problem – the other skits are a little easier to digest. One vignette tells the plight of a young gay man on a college campus, who refuses to believe that there are other gay people there, too. Claiming he is “the only gay on campus,” this Welsh, overweight, leather-clad young man denies everyone else’s admission into his start-up chapter of the Gay-Straight Alliance.

If HBO decides to bring the show back for a second season, I suggest taking heed of my advice, and giving it another shot if you didn’t like the episodes you saw. No, it’s not because I love the show, but because I believe there is true merit in understanding and appreciating that which other cultures find funny and entertaining.