Keep Calm and Watch British TV: When You Feel Like No One Knows the Real You.


Feel like no one knows the real you?

Some days you just feel misunderstood. You didn’t really mean to end up in project management—you have an artistic soul, and the Etsy store to prove it (no one has yet bought your crocheted tea cosy in the shape of Jane Austen’s face, but that is just further proof of your unappreciated genius). Or maybe your spouse thinks you really have become one of those wives who cares only about the kids’ soccer performance, when really you go to the games mostly so you can sneak in some reading time (or watch some British TV on your phone).

It can be lonely, all this harboring of secret dreams and ambitions and longings. And let’s not even talk about how tiring it is to keep bigger, more damning secrets, or to maintain a double life; that’s the sort of thing that can really cut into your television-watching time.

Keep calm and watch…

MI-5, titled Spooks in the UK, was an hour-long espionage drama that ran for ten series, and featured an ever-refreshed cast as old characters gave their all—truly—in the defense of Queen and country, and new characters arrived to take their place in MI-5, the British domestic spy service. From the very first episode the tension between doing the job and trying to maintain outside relationships was apparent, as Tom Quinn, Spy Extraordinaire, found himself spinning ever less likely tales to explain to his girlfriend and her daughter why he, a run-of-the-mill IT guy, had to rush to work at a moment’s notice, or even, on one memorable occasion, why they became the target of a bomb threat in their own home. That’s the sort of thing significant others tend to wonder about.

Things were no easier if you tried to go the route of falling in love with your co-workers in the service; the show’s sometimes alarming habit of killing off its main characters meant that at least one spy husband was widowed when his spy wife was shot in the line of duty. Likewise, falling in love within the service meant that you and the object of your affection sometimes had to deny your feelings for years, to avoid complications and being compromised; as was the case with the service’s bureau chief Harry Pearce and one of MI-5’s sharpest minds and most loyal of women, Ruth Evershed. It was just all so heartbreaking.

Hiding their true natures was also of tantamount importance to the three main characters in the horror/humor hybrid Being Human. When friends Mitchell and George rent a flat together in Bristol, they are a bit disturbed to learn they have another roommate who is not on the lease: the ghost of the woman who lived there before them, and who died falling down the flat’s stairs. Moreover, because Mitchell is a vampire and George is a werewolf, and they are both trying to focus on their identities as human, employees of a nearby hospital, all three of the roommates (then friends) provide affection and a support group of sorts for one another.

Being Human yo-yos between generally scary bits and heartwarming flatmate humor and hijinks, but overall the attachments felt between the very different characters and their often heart-rending attempts to blend into their very human surroundings and community make this a surprisingly gentle program.

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