Sunday, June 03, 2007

It is also customary, when entering a train carriage, to introduce yourself by shaking hands with all the other passengers.*

I am at a barbecue with, amongst others, a very nice American television network casting person, who has never been out of America before, and is still getting to grips with London on her third day in the city.

NCP: I got on this bus, and I tried to ask the guy if he went down a particular road? And he's like 'I don't know'. And then he wouldn't talk any more. I don't understand, how can he not know where his bus goes?

ME: Ah no, he just didn't want to engage with you. That would be a sign of weakness.

NCP: But you British people seem so polite!

ME: Only in certain situations. Aside from that, I'm afraid we're a bunch of complete cunts.

NCP looks a little disappointed. Later, she tells us how much she likes the fact that our more relaxed attitude to alcohol at an earlier age installs us with a respect for drink, and an ability to appreciate wine and beer for the taste rather than their ability to render us shit-faced and abusive. Shamefacedly, we have to tell her she is probably thinking of the French. NCP looks disappointed again.

Later on, whilst explaining how the BBC works, NCP looks shocked.

NCP: So this 'licence fee' is basically a tax? They make you pay a television tax?

We all shout at her.

I feel bad about this, as my policy has always been to treat Americans in the UK with the utmost sensitivity and tact, because they're the ones who have bothered to explore the rest of the world, and so should be rewarded. Also, the American tourists I have encountered have always been polite, enthusiastic and charming, so it's quite easy to be nice back. I decide to gird my loins, and shore up some support for my country, before NCP becomes utterly disillusioned. I tell her how enthused I am at the moment by American television, the best of which is making our stuff look like the load of lowest-common-denominator, celebrity-worshipping, mean-spirited pile of old plop that, er, it is.**

NCP: So what US stuff do you like?

ME: Um... Battlestar Galactica, The Wire, Arrested Development, Veronica Mars, Dexter, Heroes, The OC-

NCP: (doubtfully) 'The OC'?

ME: Well, only the first couple of series, but yeah, I think it's-

NCP: The OC's kinda shitty.

I narrow my eyes. Finally:

ME: Have you ever tried the echo in the british library reading room?

NCP: They let you do that?

ME: They love it.

* I think both these are courtesy of Alan Coren. Or possibly Willy Rushton, in which case I don't have to worry about it, because he's dead.

UPDATE: further research suggest both these jokes were originally released into the wild by Gerard Hoffnung

**Apart from Doctor Who, which has unaccountably turned in the last few episodes into the GREATEST TELEVISION EVER.


Fat Roland said...

Funnily enough, this reminds me of a conversation I had at a barbeque last night with a Canadian guy called Mexican Pete, and I said we paid a license fee because the BBC was a "world leader" in television.

This worries me now. I would never say anything is a "world leader"; it sounds like management speak.

Does that mean I've fallen for the BBC hype and this whole Auntie Beeb affection thing is a smokescreen to make us want to pay the piper, aka the government and not an actual piper?

Yeeks. I think I'm becoming a rebel.

Fat Roland said...

Edit: *licence* fee. Tut.

Sylvia said...

In future, just stick to talking about the weather.
It's easier.
Or don't go to barbecues. I don't. It's safer that way.

patroclus said...

In NCP's defence, it was very brave of her to attempt to get on a bus after only three days in the city. It took me about a year of visiting London regularly before I had the courage to go on a bus, and even then I had to be accompanied by a native guide.

Valerie said...

@#($@(#$!@*#(!@# (frustrated American for "What the heck does she think pays for PBS in the US if not her taxes?")

People really should be forced to leave the U.S. at least once before turning twenty...

Still, you do realize that most of us think American television is crap and UK television is the great pinnacle. I think this is because people like me watch absolutely no television at all, and simply import DVDs of Spaced, Green Wing, Dr. Who (sorry but I do like it), etc or whatever catches their fancy to the US via the great blessing of, and think ALL your shows must be like that.

(We took our Spaced DVDs to Australia, where no one seemed to get [possibly they were the wrong ages] and everyone tried to convince us to watch Little Britain. We saw about five minutes of it and I'm extremely dubious, but perhaps that's unfair.)

Valerie said...

er, no one seemed to get IT. I shouldn't be typing before breakfast.

james henry said...

I like series 1 of Little Britain, it just seemed to go astray after that.

Doctor Who is clearly as good as whoever is writing it at the time, more than any other show in the history of the world, and the pendulum has currently swung back to 'brilliant' (catching up with the second half of Human Nature in about half an hour).

Yeah, I think it's a case of 'the grass is always greener' etc etc, and I know there's more than enough rubbish there too. But at the moment, the good stuff is soooooo good, whereas nothing as good as Spaced has come along for ages.

spence said...

Apart from Green Wing that is!

Jayne said...

Disliked Little Britain - yuk.

Valerie - try Black Books if you can get hold of it. If you liked Spaced you'll like this.

And Green Wing of course *looking for brownie points*

james henry said...

Brownie points have been distributed to the worthy.

Well, the second part of 'Human Nature' wasn't rubbish, was it? You'll have to excuse me, I have something in my eye...

Valerie said...

Jayne -- oh yes, I basically started with Black Books. In fact I think I have a crush on Bill Bailey. (Might be due to the fact that he looks a bit like my own partner, though...)

Nicole said...

Jeez, am I glad I didn't run into YOU when I visited London! (Although I'm not gonna lie: I probably didn't do any better on my own, i.e. tipping the waiter at the first pub we went to, just after our tour guide told me not to, and thinking that Waterloo Bridge would be good place to watch the New Year's Eve fireworks....)

...the OC, though? I'll give you the first season, but after that....

Valerie said...

All this Dr. Who chatter has me watching The Girl in the Fireplace again. Ahhhh.

Dan Owen said...

I just had to say -- thank God someone else loves Dexter! It starts on the FX Channel in July in the UK and is must-see if you like pulpy airport novels about Miami forensics experts who moonlight as serial-killers. That whole genre. ;) Awesome show and Michael C Hall (Six Feet Under) is excellent in the title role.

james henry said...

Dexter is great - highly recommended.

Richard said...

French Widows in every bedroom. (obscure Hoffnung reference)

Ros x said...

The television licence is a bit irritating especially when I don't watch that many programs on BBC but it defo beats the amount of crappy adverts that they have in the US as they have a million times more then us on the other channels. and as for doctor who - the last 2 episodes have been the greatest episode ever! oh my gosh I have always loved DW especially the old ones but the past two weeks have made me love it even more - if that is at all possible