Thanks to Netflix and PBS, I can feed my British pop culture addiction without booking a Virgin flight. But American television executives are determined to ignore this luxury and cook up watered down versions of international shows like no one's ever heard of Pirate Bay (RIP).
Online, I have fallen down many an entertaining Brit-based rabbit hole. There's kickass Catherine Cawood on Happy Valley, Olivia Coleman as the bright-eyed but clueless detective on Broadchurch, Idris Elba as the weathered-but-still-hot detective on Luther, Cillian Murphy as the miraculously sexy Birmingham gang leader on Peaky Blinders and Scully over on The Fall. On PBS' Masterpiece Theater and Mystery, there's Downton Abbey, Sherlock, The Escape Artist (where I found Sophie Okonedo, whom I've really missed), Grantchester with cutie James Norton and my old faithful, Are You Being Served? So my question is, do I need the American version of any of these shows? The answer is no. If I ever saw a Yankee attempt at imitating Mrs. Slocombe, I think I genuinely might cry.
Today, news broke of a forthcoming American version of Black Mirror, the Netflix-imported strange British show along the lines of The Twilight Zone but with kidnapped royals and interfering with pigs. My opinions of this show aside—the pig episode sent me running and the pace of the second American Idol-ish storyline aggravated me—Black Mirror is good because it makes viewers uncomfortable, it's transfixing if only because you hardly understand—nor do you believe—what's happening. The strange story lines, each different from the previous, force you to think about how the show's manufactured world might relate to your real life and that's when fear sets in. Maybe we really are all just slaves to a system, baited with fame on contests like American Idol for a quick escape that turns out to be just another prison? Help.
Still, with globalization through the Internet and the international popularity of shows like Scandal, which my international friends watch on pirate websites because they can't view these gems abroad, can't we just let British shows be british and American shows be American? Full disclosure, I'm not just jumping on this bandwagon because I don't want to see some tattered reboot of Downton Abbey—although, if it must be stated, please don't, Hollywood.
Remember that Tom Cruise and Penelope Cruz movie Vanilla Sky back in 2001? Well, I saw the original Abre los Ojos first and, was aghast when I learned there'd be a remake. Why, I asked, when the first one is so good and it's already right there in the video store? (This was 2001, bear with me people) And then I realized: it is because we are lazy. We don't want subtitles to read or accents we don't understand. American rehashes of international hits allow us to watch while being culturally lazy bums.
Well, I quit. I quit being a bum.
I will watch the original shows and films with subtitles and rewind scenes a few times because I have no clue what David Tennant just said on Broadchurch thanks to his Scottish accent. It happens. I'll struggle because the art's that good—the first time.
Image via Channel 4.