Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The underbelly of UK telly

TV is rather funny in the UK. Watching on satellite, we could still watch some North American based shows like CSI, Frasier and The Daily Show With John Stewart.

The UK produced shows all seem to be crime dramas. Gritty, dirty crime dramas. The one that seemed to be most of interest was Torchwood. A futuristic crime drama that is a spin-off from Doctor Who featuring Scottish-American actor John Barrowman. It is hard to tell whether he speaks with an american accent faking an english accent or the other way around. However, like the film Minority Report, it seems to take place in the near future with some cool special effects but the background still looks like current day Cardiff, Wales. As the show is co-produced by our own CBC network, it is sure to be premiering in Canada soon.

Of course, our Welsh hosts were rather befuddled by some of the North American shows we watched while at their house. We showed them an episode of Frasier. It was an episode where Frasier, Niles and his father were in the back of a cab and the cab driver went into labour. Pat commented on how cheap the sets looked in comparison to UK produced shows. He asked me where the show was filmed, I told him it was meant to look like Seattle but was shot on a soundstage in Hollywood.

Of course, my favourite british TV show will always be Fawlty Towers.

Top 5 Fawlty Towers Episodes
1. Communication Problems - Selectively deaf Mrs. Alice Richards, a woman with the power to annoy everyone and anyone, has chosen to stay at Fawlty Towers, to the dismay of Basil (John Cleese) who fails to cope with her repeated phrase "What?". When she loses some money she makes everyone's life hell until it turns up ... or is it hers?

2. The Germans - After a heavy blow on the head during a fire drill, Basil finds himself unable to stop himself mentioning 'the war' when a group of German tourists come to stay at the hotel.

3. Gourmet Night - Basil is trying to climb up the social ladder, and with it, the hotel. When VIPs of Torquay visit for a gourmet night, Basil's new Greek chef gets drunk, and once again teetering on a nervous breakdown, Basil tries desperately to repair the situation...

4. The Wedding Party - Basil is disgusted when two young lovers, Alan and Jean, begin 'hanky-pankying' under his very nose while checking in. He becomes convinced that they and two other guests are engaged in sexual misbehaviour, along with Polly (Connie Booth). Meanwhile circumstances conspire to put him in apparently compromising situations whenever they are around.

5. Waldorf Salad - Two demanding guests check in after 9 p.m. after a gruelling journey from London. They want to have a proper meal but unfortunately the chef stops at 9. Basil tries to convince the chef to stay, but having failed to do so, tries to cook the meal himself.

When UK television gets really interesting is at night. The channels are filled with quiz shows. Not game shows, but call-in quiz shows with names like It's Your Call and Quiz Call. The host talks to the camera and gets people to call in, pay 75p (about $1.50) and guess answers to questions like "Name an occupation that begins with the letter T". They have 6 predetermined answers, and callers have to guess what one of the six are. If you are correct, you can win around 200 pounds ($400). I found some clips on youtube of the most famous of the hosts of these shows Greg Scott, you have to see it to believe it.



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