When it comes to TV, the UK and America have very different takes on what is considered good and what is not. And TV is not the only difference – Christmas, Autumn, driving… you name it. Moving to The States is a huge culture shock for a proud Brit like me. But if I’m honest, it’s the British TV I miss the most about living in America. There is honestly nothing better than costing up by the fire to watch a good BBC drama on a Sunday evening with a cup of tea in hand. And a chocolate hobnob or two.
However I’d be lying if I claimed that America doesn’t have any good tv – “Friends” will never stop being funny, “Mr. Robot” gives a perfect insight into the struggles of our generation and no one can resist the beauty of Sam and Dean from “Supernatural”.
But who does TV better? Us Limeys or the Yanks? To get to the root of this highly contentious issue, let’s do a comparison… Nothing like a bit of healthy competition.
"The Batchelor" vs. "Love Island"
Both of these shows are equally terrible yet undeniably addictive. The trashier the drama, the more we crave it, so of course these shows are carefully designed to create as much drama as possible.
While the basis of each show is essentially the same – to win you need to be insanely fit/hot and be the cutest couple – there are some key differences.
“The Bachelor” sees girls competing to win the affections of one guy during their stay at a mediocre resort. At the end of each round he chooses which girl receives a rose, signalling who he likes best. So, of course, catfights are guaranteed every 5.8 minutes.
On “Love Island”, another mediocre resort is filled with both guys and gals. The key difference here is they ALL need to find a partner and the public votes for their fav.
Both shows are filled with arguments and crying and love triangles, but on “Love Island”, the simple love triangle of “The Batchelor” gets upgraded to a love square. Or hexagon. DRAMA. Because who doesn’t love watching pretty people arguing? However, the REAL reason to watch “Love Island” is for the delicious variety in British accents. It truly is an eye-opener for non-Brits. Spoiler alert, very few of us actually sound like the queen.
"Riverdale" vs. "The Inbetweeners"
My younger cousin was beside herself when she found out I was going to live in America. All she wants to do is go to high school and escape Britain’s frumpy school uniforms. But why is it that an American highschool seems so much more glamorous than secondary school?
It’s not just the style of uniform or lack of, I think it’s something to do with the VERY different styles of teen dramas on tv.
“Riverdale” is a perfect example of the polished American highschool drama. Now, I’m all for the trashy drama (see above) but everyone looks like they just walked out of a photoshoot for Vogue, whilst fighting crime, having lots of sex (often in the school music room), getting top grades and winning all the sports. Oh and some of these kids also run night clubs, rum businesses, are secretly serial killers and sing like angels. THESE ARE NOT TEENAGERS.
In stark comparison, the British offering of teen drama is a lot less… glam. “The Inbetweeners”, for example, is downright disgusting yet utterly hilarious.
When I showed my American husband this show for the first time he was convinced there was no way this was an accurate representation of British schools. Me and my 18-year-old brother, who was living through a state secondary school at the time, delighted in the shame of declaring that yes, this IS scarily accurate.
It’s a perfect insight into what teenagers are *actually* like. Or more specifically, teenage boys. They do not all have perfect grades and get accepted to Cambridge, they boast about all the girls they are getting but actually get zero, have stupid haircuts and are never short on insults to hurl at their closest friends and utter strangers. What “The Inbetweeners” does is highlight just how awkward and awful those years of 15-18 can be. Let’s be real, being a teenager is hellish. Let’s not sugar coat it with makeup and expensive clothes.
"Vampire Diaries" vs. "Being Human" (UK)
So a better comparison would be “Being Human” (UK) vs. Being Human (US). But I only just realised America copied this one and I’ve not seen it. But frankly, just from the photos the US version looks like a crap, cheap knock off. I’m not gonna be wasting my time on that one.
Instead, I wasted my time on “Vampire Diaries” and it was bloody worth it.
Both “Being Human” and “Vampire Diaries” involved vampires, werewolves and ghosts. However one is sent in this beautiful fictional American town, Mystic Falls and the other is in Bristol, a beautiful place for VERY different reasons.
“Vampire Diaries” is basically a better “Twilight”, while “Being Human” deals with the real issues you’d imagine supernatural beings would have while trying to live a semi-normal life in South West England.
While the drama in “Vampire Diaries” got me through my final year of Uni (and Damon let’s be honest), the never endign love triangle and recycled vampire moral question gets OLD. I do enjoy the twists in the relationships, but it feels dragged out. “Being Human” seems to cover much more ground, in waaaay less time. It’s a hilariously touching show that manages to feel down to earth and human through its non-human protagonists. (Plus Aiden Turner fulfills the need for a stereotypically hot vampire…)
I could say “Being Human” is better than “Vampire Diaries”, but there is a time and a place for everything. “Being Human” is for when you wanna watch a funny, offbeat drama. “Vampire Diaries” is for when you have a looming dissertation deadline and should be in the library, but find yourself in bed with a pot of Ben and Jerrys.
(But FYI don’t watch either after the main characters leave, it’s not worth it).
Period Dramas vs. No Period Dramas
The UK has such a long history that there’s no need to make up original stories. Just take real events for the past thousand years or so and boom, a premise for a TV show. However, our best ones seem to center around the Tudors, World War I or World War II. Because that’s all British schools really teach – who wants to know about colonial atrocities or fighting with those traitors across the pond??
In contrast, America doesn’t have an awful lot of history, so the only period they have to offer are Westerns. But once you’ve seen one guy in a cowboy hat on a horse you’ve seen em all. So to spice things up a bit and escape the Wild West now and then, American’s take British history, British actors and add a few dragons. (Cough cough, “Game of Thrones” is basically the English War of the Roses from the 1400s).
The Office (UK) vs. The Office (US)
For a long time, I refused to watch “The Office” (US). How could you possibly think anything would be better than the genius of the original? Well, I decided that it’s unfair to judge something I’ve never seen so I watched it. So now I have no issues with judging it.
Yes, it’s funny. But not in the same way “The Office” (UK) was. “The Office” (UK) was more subtle and a perfect illustration of what life in an office could be like. Like with a lot of American humour, the American version takes it too far and gets too ridiculous.
What made The original British “The Office” so unique was its believability. When it first aired, a huge portion of the British public thought it was a real documentary or a real office.
The American version pushes the boundaries further and headed down the slapstick route a bit more. However, the Jim and Pam storyline is sublime and realises all the dreams I had for Tim and Dawn. However, what’s with Pam failing art school?? Dawn would have completed it. DON’T KILL THE DREAM AMERICA!!! PAM CAN DO WHAT SHE WANTS.
But maybe I enjoyed the British Office because it’s British. NO bias here… move along.
"Say Yes to the Dress" vs. "Don't Tell the Bride"
The premise of these two shows couldn’t be more different. “Say Yes to the Dress” is all about the bride and making her day as perfect as possible, while “Don’t Tell the Bride” is all about the groom and prides itself on making the bride’s day as miserable as possible.
On “Don’t Tell the Bride”, the bride has ZERO control over what happens and the groom is encouraged to create the most ridiculous wedding day possible. Nightmare, right?? Yet somehow, “Say Yes to the Dress”, which only looks a the bride choosing her wedding dress, seems to have more drama…Explain???
That's All Folks!
British TV feels much more real. While American TV is beautiful and great to fill an evening, I find the British comparisons much more rewarding. Maybe it’s the style of humor, the absence of drama for its own sake, the depth. However, if I am honest I will always prefer British TV because that is what I grew up watching. And there are so many more classic shows I haven’t even mentioned like, “Doctor Who”, as there simply isn’t a worthy American comparison.
Yet there are plenty of unique American shows that I also adore and cannot be compared. “Friends” is a prime example and one show which will NEVER be beat. Even with the obvious 90s vibe and references going over my head, it still feels timeless. And I will say my childhood was dominated by amazing American cartoons like The Simpsons, The Power Puff Girls, Avatar, Dexter’s Laboratory, and Looney Tunes, so America can make good TV. Although I hear American kids love the British Kids show, Peppa Pig, so much that they are picking up British accents. We Brits must be getting something right…