February 17, 2013

MOSER: For British Eyes Only

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As a well-practiced procrastinator, television viewer, braggart and anglophile, I have always taken a great deal of pride in my ability to find amazing British TV shows before they get ruined by MTV or other American networks. Many of my favorite British TV shows have been picked up by American networks: Skins, The Inbetweeners and Friday Night Dinner. The first two were remade by MTV and were disasters, and the third was made into a pilot written by Greg Daniels (The Office, Parks and Recreation) for NBC, but did not go to series (thank goodness).

For all of you that want to be able to hipsterly say “Oh, the original British version is so much better” like I love doing all the time, here is a list of four wonderful British comedies that I hope stay British. As an aside, The Office, Shameless and Antiques Roadshow were all very successfully adapted for American television. It can be done, I’m just cynical.

1. Friday Night Dinner.

This one probably will stay British as the American pilot, which starred Allison Janney and Tony Shaloub, was not well-receive. If anyone can adapt an amazing British TV show, it’s Greg Daniels, and even he couldn’t do it. So, at least for now, it seems like this show will be staying on that cold, rainy isle where it belongs. Friday Night Dinner is a sitcom about the Goodmans, a Jewish family in England. The series takes place at their family dinners every Friday night. The family includes Martin, the quirky father with a trilobite collection who always seems to end up with his shirt off half-way through the episode; Jackie, the sometimes-giggly, sometimes furious mother just trying to hold everything together; and Adam and Jonny, their two sons who take every available opportunity to prank each other. Adam is played by Simon Bird of The Inbetweeners, and Jonny is played by Tom Rosenthal, who is my future husband. Also appearing in every episode is Jim, the Goodmans’ crazy neighbor who is scared of his own dog, Wilson.

2. Fresh Meat.

You’ve probably seen ads for this one on Hulu, and you’ve probably muted said ads while rolling your eyes, but for real, check it out. It’s about a group of diverse “freshers” (freshmen) at “uni” (college) who were all late turning in their housing forms and ended up in a shared house instead of “halls” (dorms.) It also stars a former Inbetweener Joe Thomas as Kingsley.  Although Thomas, and the goatee he grows in the second “series” (season) is great, the real star of Fresh Meat is Jack Whitehall as JP, the posh, spoiled and generally douchey member of the house who, despite his wealth, did not get into a better school. He is given the best lines of the show, like in the pilot when he suggests to Kingsley that they should go get “a motherfucking baked potato” before imploring Kingsley to test if the cocaine he thinks he has is poisonous. Also wonderful is Greg McHugh as Howard, a Scottish geology student who has been living in the house for two years and has gotten so used to being on his own that when the new group moves in, he is pantslessly curing Peking ducks with a blow-dryer.

3. Bad Education.

Jack Whitehall is a busy man. In addition to wearing pink polo shirts on Fresh Meat, he plays Alfie Wickers on Bad Education: a 23-year-old history teacher at a “college” (high school) in Hertfordshire. Bad Education is like a real version of the fake show “Yo Teach” that Judd Apatow created as part of the fictional world of the film Funny People, crossed with the movie Bad Teacher starring Cameron Diaz — except that Mr. Wickers is basically a good guy, however lazy and immature he might be. In his constant efforts to impress his crush, fellow teacher Ms. Gulliver, he relies on his students’ help though they blatantly do not respect him. He also has to deal with the eccentricities of his deputy-headmistress whom he tells “would make an excellent member of the SS” and his headmaster who sits on a pilates ball in his office and relies on an iPhone app for pick-up lines.

4. Campus.

This last one gives you extra hipster/anglophile points: not only will it probably never get picked up by an American network, it was cancelled after only a season. It stars Andy Nyman (Death at a Funeral) as Jonty de Wolfe, a possibly schizophrenic, possibly magical, vice-chancellor of Kirke University: similar to Greendale Community College in the series Community. Unlike Community, Campus focuses on the lives of the faculty and staff instead of the students. It’s pretty weird, but hilarious … but definitely not for everyone. Hence why it was cancelled. I think that if you enjoy Community and Arrested Development, this isn’t that much stranger. This one, and Fresh Meat, are definitely worth the extended free trial Hulu Plus gives you with a .edu email address.

Original Author: Julia Moser