Television - The true American artform! - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Television - The true American artform!

Regular contributor Richard takes a humorous look back at how his appreciation of American television began. It's all thank to the imports shown on British TV in the 1970s...

Growing up in 1970s Britain wasn't a barrel of laughs. As a kid it just seemed that everything about the country was depressing, 3 day work weeks, strikes, violence, crime and the guy who lived opposite with a green Mohican who scared the life out of 7 year old me. The one escape I had was television, I loved the Cartoons like Hong Kong Phooey and The Flintstones, I just wasn't aware that they were imported. Unfortunately they were only on once a week and the rest of the time I was stuck with these rubbish English shows like Camberwick Green, Rainbow and Bagpuss. I know many people have fond memories of them but they were just too 'safe' and never really interested me.

The shows my parents were watching always looked like they were made in our shed. Take the Onedin Line, a big favorite of my Dad's, a show about boats that seemed to always take place in an office! Then there was Z Cars, that's another I remember enduring, I'm pretty sure no-one had told the producers that color broadcasting was now available. I know it's old hat to moan about Last Of The Summer Wine, but my Lord! How many times did they have to go down a hill with a bath tub?

 But then one night something fantastic happened.

It became the treat of the week. I was allowed to stay up on a Saturday night for it, sure I had to sit through Saturday Special first but then I could watch the amazing Starsky and Hutch. A show that our PYE 17" Television seemed unable to contain, it burst out into the living room in glorious color and was just BIG! It was like watching a movie at the cinema, a new movie every week, with people in it who didn't look like Physics Teachers. Amazingly at this time I never realized that this wasn't made by the BBC, the accents and location should have been a giveaway, or the fact that there was a Black guy in it who wasn't Lenny Henry, but I was young and nobody thought to mention it to me.

It was shortly after first finding Starsky and Hutch that a show appeared on kids TV called Big John, Little John and this was the one that truly started my life long love of American TV. Just what on earth were the BBC thinking by scheduling something like this between Play School and Newsround? Chloe Ashcroft and John Craven just could not compete with the 25 minutes of madness on offer here. If you don't know the show (which is quite likely as they only made about a dozen episodes) it's about a 40 year old man who keeps turning into a 12 year old kid without warning. It also started my love of Florida, as Big John had drunk some of the magic water whilst there, causing his temporary changes. Wow, if Florida could do that it must be the place for me, but that's another story.

More American shows appeared on kids TV and I was hooked. Between these shows I had to put up with the BBC continuing to broadcast British films that were intended to scare the life out of me, showing how I'd lose my arm in a Combine Harvester or how best I should cross the road, I couldn't even fly my kite without fear of electrocution!

I mean really? If you were 7 what would you enjoy more? The Hair Bear Bunch...

or this?...

Over the pond, the kids in America depicted in The Red Hand Gang could wander the City and solve crimes. For the love of God! I wasn't even allowed to go to the corner shop by myself!! How come American children get this kind of freedom? How come they don't have to fear lurking farm machinery???

Then came Dallas and that was the final nail in the cuddly old UK TV coffin for me.

I know over the years the production values of British television programs have risen but with the sizes of the two countries there is no way they can ever fully compete with the American networks and the many high quality cable channels available. Yes they also produce a lot of crap but for every one Broadchurch we make in the UK, the US will give us ten quality shows; Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, The Big Bang Theory, Dexter, Homeland, Parks & Recreation, Modern Family, etc etc. Hell I even have a soft spot for Arrow! We just don't do things like that here in Blighty.

I'm not saying I've never enjoyed any British TV, as there are several British shows I do watch and a couple I get quite obsessed about *cough*Doctor Who*cough*, it's just that I love US TV. They understand that television is about escapism, it doesn't have to be all depressing real life Eastenders style, it's about relaxing at the end of the day and enjoying yourself.

Television is America's gift to the world, even if they didn't invent it!

To quote Kenneth Parcell from 30 Rock...
"More then jazz, or musical theater, or morbid obesity,
television is the true American art form."
And I think he's right!

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