Anybody tired of Brits on USA TV??

markbastable

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Brit and American humour are entirely different for a start.

Sort of.

The basis of American comedy is optimistic. The basis of British comedy is pessimistic.

When my (American) wife first encountered 'Steptoe and Son' (on which 'Sanford and Son' was based), she remarked that it was about the saddest sitcom she had ever seen. She's right - those two guys are trapped in a fractious, adversarial relationship that will never be resolved. Most of the funniest British comedy is based on that idea - that people are imprisoned in situations that frustrate and limit them. 'The Likely Lads', 'Til Death Do Us Part', 'The Office', 'Only Fools and Horses', 'Father Ted', 'Blackadder', most obviously 'Porridge'. None of these characters will ever escape - and if the writers do go there, it stops being funny immediately. Look at what happened to 'Only Fools and Horses' when they finally made some serious money.

Generally (not absolutely always), American sitcom humour tends to affirm the importance of family (in the broadest sense) not as a trap but as a survival mechanism - relationships are what keep you going, not what stop you growing. The end of each episode stresses that. In 'Friends', 'Frasier', 'Modern Family', 'Cheers', 'Taxi', 'MASH', the reinforced worldview is that, despite their differences, everyone has everyone else's back. The family is the one constant, and the thing that in the end matters.

The optimism carries through to the viewers' expectations of what'll happen. Nobody, surely, ever doubted that Ross and Rachel would end up together. We knew that Niles would eventually get it together with that carer with the appalling Manchester accent. The emnity between Hawkeye and Hotlips Houlihan developed into affectionate respect (and they dropped the soubriquet 'Hotlips'.) In American sitcoms, resolution is, in the end, guaranteed.

Incidentally, this is in part down to the way in which sitcoms are created in each country. Sitcoms in the UK are written by one person, or by a partnership of two. In the US they are written by teams of eight or ten people. This means, for a start, that there more gags in US sitcoms - every line, practically, is funny. Brit sitcoms have fewer gags, and we expect that - the space between the laughs is like the spaces in music. They heighten dramatic tension. It also means that in the UK there's just one or two writers in control of the 'tone' of the thing, and they tend to stick with their intial concept. In the US, you have many people contributing ideas, and the direction the characters take is decided by committee - which'll give you a lot more laughs, but also a dissipation of the original vision.

The evidence of this, I'd say, is demonstrated by the exceptions. 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' is written by two guys (I think). It's essentially pessimistic and it deals with the inescapability of circumstances. It's no surprise, really, that David and Gervais have such obvious admiration of each other's work.

To be clear, I'm not saying that one way of working is better than the other. 'Modern Family' and 'Frasier' are as dear to me as 'Porridge' and 'The Office'. And it can't be that American and British senses of humour are entirely different, otherwise we wouldn't laugh at each other's sitcoms.

That essential underlying distinction - the dark and deprecating worldview as opposed to the affirmative and optimistic one - isn't about our different sense of humour, but about our different national characteristics.
 

Chilli

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I watch TV programs and films from all over the planet. American, UK, whatever. I don't want to limit my capacity to enjoying any culture by sticking a label on what I like.
 

Bill Hicklin

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Markbastable, that's one of the most perceptive commentaries I've read in a while.

Even going back to Python, where the mainspring of the humor - sorry, humour - was unfortunate men trapped inescapably in Kafkaesque lunacy, cheese shops with no cheese, self-defense instructors who won't cover anything but fruit attacks. There's a very dark core there- "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" is really saying "there isn't one at all, you know, life is sh*t, but keep pretending in order to stay sane."
 

Zipslack

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I grew up watching re-runs of Monty Python, Benny Hill, and Doctor Who, so I guess I developed an early bias. And don't forget the Bonds. I actually prefer "Brit" humor - dry, sometimes over-the-top and sometimes sublimely understated. And while he's not technically British, I loved Craig Ferguson (Scot) when he did the Late Late Show.
 

Bill Hicklin

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I grew up watching re-runs of Monty Python, Benny Hill, and Doctor Who, so I guess I developed an early bias. And don't forget the Bonds. I actually prefer "Brit" humor - dry, sometimes over-the-top and sometimes sublimely understated. And while he's not technically British, I loved Craig Ferguson (Scot) when he did the Late Late Show.
Um, Scots are "technically British"
 

Otto tune

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Brits have better shows, but we have 150 channels.......of commercials.
 

MrGansburg

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Ever so slightly OT, but does anyone here have problems understanding British accents? It's just that I have a cousin who lives in NY and she was saying that some friends of hers like Shameless but have to put the subtitles on to understand it.

And as I've brought up David Threlfall there's a never repeated British comedy called [ame="http://www.amazon.co.uk/Nightingales-DVD-Robert-Lindsay/dp/B000CR6WZS"]Nightingales[/ame] available (some on YT). Absolutely brilliant if you like dark and surreal comedy.
 

Malikon

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Normally no, but sometimes yes. They have regional accents and dialects like the US, (every state speaks english a little differently).

I don't know which part of the UK does the real fast slurring together of words, but that's real hard to understand.

...but we have states that do the same thing. :laugh2:


(the US version of Shameless is great. And Fiona is fine. :dude: )
 

Howard2k

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I'm English and have problems with some UK accents and some U.S. ones!
 

X–Ray

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Nope - I typically get it first go round assuming the audio is loud enough

I seem to have an affinity for understanding most any accent regardless of region or country of origin (receptive language processing)

Ironically, I am mono-lingual to the point I have great difficulty pronouncing foreign words and generic pharmaceutical names (expressive language production)

An asset as a musician but a liability verbally

Anyone like this?
 

northernguitarguy

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Normally no, but sometimes yes. They have regional accents and dialects like the US, (every state speaks english a little differently).

I don't know which part of the UK does the real fast slurring together of words, but that's real hard to understand.

...but we have states that do the same thing. :laugh2:


(the US version of Shameless is great. And Fiona is fine. :dude: )
And Vee is the hottest black woman on the planet.

 

Spiteface

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I think American versions of English (and every other countrie's) shows end up being not nearly as good (The Office may be an exception), but otherwise, um, no.
That happens the other way round, too.

The one I remember most is "Married For Life" - A remake of "Married with Children" starring Russ Abbot:

[ame]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QpsXJeV9E08[/ame]

Needless to say, it sucked.
 




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