I can tell you right now that usually I don’t watch documentaries (unless there are animals and David Attenborough involved) and I also had no intention of watching Piper Alpha: Fire in the Night (on BBC2) but this is one of most engrossing, well-handled and produced documentaries of a tragic event I have ever seen.
For those that don’t know Piper Alpha was a gas/oil platform based in the North Sea off the coast of North East Scotland. The disaster took place in July 1988 and took the lives of 167 of the crew (around 100 still alive but stuck inside when the rig sunk), with only 61 surviving.
The documentary is split into three different views, firstly from pictures of the time, then from reproduced imagery for the documentary and then from one on one interviews with those involved on the day of the accident. It is really moving to see a group of survivors (many of whom are from the North of England and Scotland, traditionally hard men areas) deal with the emotions on camera as they recount the traumatic events the unravelled in front of them on the longest night of their lives. The reproduction of scenes for the documentary were beautifully done and really allowed for you to feel the sort of panic and desperation that the men on the rig would have been going through as they battle with their own mortality. It is the sad fact that these sorts of events must take place for those in the future to live in a safer world.
I really cannot do the documentary any real justice but it really does handle one of the largest workplace disasters (the largest worldwide offshore oil disaster at the time of events) in the UK’s recent history incredibly well. Piper Alpha: Fire in the Night really is worth watching and again is an incredibly well produced documentary of the most dreadful event in Scottish offshore oil/gas production history.
The iconic show that is South Park has produced a total of 237 episodes over 16 seasons and has entered the pantheon of the greatest shows ever (I put it as no.3 comedy of all time). Although often ignored for the impact it had South Park spoke for and helped define the late 90’s early 2000’s generation.
Happy 4th of July my American cousins, the day that American’s join together and share their joint sadness in their decision to break away from the mighty British Empire! (or something like that). I know almost all American’s look northwards to Canada and go ‘damn if only we had stayed look where we’d be now’ and I am sure that if Obama asked nicely then the Queen would quite happily allow you back into the fold (Britain’s doing well right? Well David Cameron says so….). Seeing as I know how American’s just sit inside looking all depressed and what not on the 4th of July (no parades no fireworks no fun) I have decided to write up a list of TV shows that you could potentially watch as you wallow in the pity of leaving the United Kingdom!
The list will contain shows that have been made within the last 10 years (in no particular order) and are all still relevant TV shows if were to be watched today (this is not a list for your granny, it is a list for you).
Geeks be praised Doctor Who! I’m not talking old Doctor Who (where losers sit up to all times of night watching bad acting and worse set design) but new Doctor Who. Where young occasionally good looking (I’m looking at you David Tennant) Doctor’s save the world with their better looking assistants (I’m looking at you all of the Doctor’s companions [excluding Catherine Tate]).
Yes it is that great formula of boy meets girl, boy takes girl in a blue box, girl disappears for about 2 years and reappears or dies and nobody really notices. Yes that age old tale that we are all familiar with. Anyway if you like men (and sometimes women) dressed up as aliens or robots or if you just like reasonably well produced TV shows then give Doctor Who a shout.
A show about students first year at university where their life isn’t just about going to parties and getting mortal. Yes Fresh Meat the TV show about the grubby and very unglamorous life of being at a British university. Gone is the belief that university (or college for the Americans) is where really attractive cool people go and instead we are replaced with the idea that people that go to university are usually weird, not that smart and lazy, oh and useless and smelly and…. you get the point.
Big heads up to my man Greg McHugh (I would’ve put Gary Tank Commander on the list bro but I just get the feeling that if you don’t live in Scotland you’re not going to get it [even if you do live in Scotland you might not get it]) keeping it real and showing that not all Scottish people are totally weird….
I have talked about Peep Show in the past and don’t feel the need to do it again, trust me when I say that this show is very funny (it has tailed off in the last couple of years) and like nothing that you will have ever seen before. If you are a neurotic person (and let’s be honest who isn’t) then you will easily relate to the characters and no they aren’t medicated (herbal medication does not count).
This is ground breaking TV at its best (I’m talking about the first 4 maybe 5 seasons after that it is stupid, barely any original characters left). Many of you may have seen the shitty American re make where they manage to make it as American as they can (God damn it not everyone is good looking!), the British version however is nothing like the American version.
Do you think the American Shameless is gritty, greasy and scumtastic? Well imagine that but with a much better benefit system and a much more dirty and scummy family. Exactly that is ground breaking TV and it makes you feel better, that your life isn’t quite as shit as theirs (two bonuses from watching it!).
Another Sherlock Holmes remake? How many times can it be done? Well apparently as many as they feel like can make them money. This is the best Sherlock Holmes adaptation that I have ever seen (sorry Robert Downey Jnr). It has more grown up themes, and then throws in the mix Benedict Cumberbatch (a man with a name that screams aristocracy) and Martin Freeman (a man with a name that screams regularness).
This is what a good adaptation of a British classic looks like not that mess that CBS produced with Lucy Liu and Angelina Jolie’s discarded ex-husband (since when did Watson become a woman?).
The Thick of It
Have you seen the show Veep? If the answer is yes and you like it then I am glad to say that you may like the Thick of It (the show Veep is based upon). However don’t expect Veep, expect Veep’s far superior and more flamboyant (language wise [that means swearing]) cousin. The Thick of It is everything Veep is not, it is cutting edge, it is edgy, it is current and you get the feeling that unlike Veep that the events of the Thick of It could actually happen in real life.
If you haven’t been paying attention and you don’t understand the premise of the Thick of It, it is about the inner dealings of British politics. However instead of making the politician the star of the show (let’s be honest they aren’t in real life so why would they be on TV) the star of the show is Malcolm Tucker (moan the Scots!) a civil servant. The Thick of It is how you make a relevant satire based comedy show, watch and learn Veep.
I have written about this show in the past and described it as the best school based comedy ever (which it is). Another high quality British show that got a shity American remake (feel like I say that a lot) that got cancelled after one season because American’s can’t take the idea of seeing a 17 year old boy have a loose testicle now and again or get caught jacking off by his mum (we’ve all had those days). I digress and further point out that this show is really good and should be watched by all.
The IT Crowd
If you watch the Big Bang Theory and are not brain dead you are probably thinking ‘why can’t people make a good TV show about some geeks?’ well look no further because that is essentially what the IT Crowd is (what potentially the Big Bang Theory could’ve been if it were well written and well-acted and actually a good show).
It also launched the careers of Chris O’Dowd (that Irishy guy) and Richard Ayoade (that guy with the crazy hair) so there is that as well.
The IT Crowd is that quirky comedy that you look at from across the room but are afraid to go and talk to because it might be totally weird and once you’ve started you’ll regret it straight away and have to talk to it until it goes to the toilet and you can run away, but take that risk because there is a good chance you will like it and if you don’t just run away to the toilet and hope it won’t be on your TV when you get back (that’s what I’d do).
Life on Mars
Another great British show that received a god awful American remake (I was right it is a theme of the post, I thought it might be good as well because Harvey Keitel and Christopher from the Sopranos were in it). What can you say about Life on Mars? It’s a great show, with great acting which didn’t overstay its welcome, a perfect TV show.
A lot of the time you don’t necessarily know what’s going on but damn does it look fun to be a police man in the 70’s Britain. Driving about in fancy cars beating people up with their 1970’s one liners and know it all. Those were the days (I wouldn’t know I wasn’t alive in the 70’s but I can imagine). Yes Life on Mars is one of those rare pieces of TV genius that come around every so often and should be viewed by everyone and their grannies as well.
So there you go, to my American friends try and avoid becoming too depressed on this 4th of July because things can only get better (Paul Ryan 2016, make it happen America [please don’t]). Let me know what other British TV shows you just love to watch or maybe you think British TV is stupid and that we should all get dental work (or whatever other stereotype American’s like about British people). All comments are welcomed as I know what a hard day it is for all of you.
As a further side note, could any Americans please explain to me why you have to adapt British made TV into an American show when we both speak the same language? Why can you just not watch the original one?
Let me finish this article with a few bars of the national anthem: God save our gracious Queen! Long live our noble Queen! God save our Queen! (that’s all I know, it isn’t personally my national anthem….oh well).