What makes British television better than American?

First off, you should know that the post title this morning is the sort of thing that makes Mr. GreatBritishTV very unhappy. When I told him that I wanted to write posts about why and how British TV is better than American TV, he had a lot of questions. “Well, just network TV, or streaming programs too?” “Do you even know any shows that are on American TV right now?” “You know they have reality TV in Great Britain too, right?”

At which point, I tell him, he’s really overthinking it. The point is, I haven’t watched any American-produced shows on television for years and years now (unless you count cooking shows or kids’ cartoons on our PBS channels), while in the past week alone I watched episodes of: Poldark (from both the 1975 and 2016 series); Being Human (a BBC3 supernatural program); Black Books (I got sucked in again on YouTube after writing last week’s Irish posts); and an episode of the miniseries Wives and Daughters. I see news stories and headlines about American shows like “This Is Us” and “The Walking Dead” (among many others), but for the most part I just don’t care and there’s nothing on “regular” TV that I want to watch.

So the obvious question is, WHY do I love British TV? And the answer will come, I hope, in this series of posts I’m going to call “Reasons Brit TV is better than American TV.”

So what is today’s reason that British TV is better than American? Oh, there’s so many…let’s just pick one at random.

  1. Nobody does what I call “dark hilarious” like the Brits.

The great majority of my very favorite British programs, across all of the genres, feature a certain type of wry and often very dark humor. Black Books is a great example: one episode of Black Books features a very inebriated Bernard Black showing up at his friend’s house for a dinner party and proceeding to shock his friend’s young child with his vocabulary, and also by ahem…soiling…a wicker chair in the kitchen (the kitchen, mind you, that he has mistaken for the bathroom). Now, you just don’t SEE (or hear about) that sort of thing on American TV.

The show Being Human, which Mr. GreatBritishTV and I just started, is another case in point. Now, for large bits of the show, it’s actually quite scary and looks like a horror program (and features three main characters who are, respectively, a ghost, a vampire, and a werewolf). And yet, in other bits, it’s very, very funny: as when the werewolf yells at the vampire for inviting the neighbors around for a drink and a chat–mainly because he “cannot have one more conversation about Vin Diesel” with one of their neighbors who is a big fan. I’ve never seen anything like the Brits for being able to go dark, funny, dark, then funny again in such a short period of time. Let’s face it: that takes talent.

So there’s my first reason for loving British TV. What are some of yours? Here’s another list to get you started thinking.


  1. I’m far too scared to watch ‘Being Human’ – you’re far braver than me!

    British TV has a lot to offer everyone and it is lovely to see it being enjoyed by people around the world. I agree that our humour is different from that in the US. It has a special quality that I can’t quite put my finger on. So glad you’re enjoying it!

    • Jackie!
      Well, “Being Human” is not so much scary as unsettling–the thought of vampires being our hospital staff and police…especially such organization- and management-minded modern vampires…shiver! But sometimes a good scare is cathartic–I’ve also been scared by “Whitechapel” and “Penny Dreadful” but thought they were both good shows.

      I for one can’t wait to partake of a lot more of what British TV has to offer! (You see why I don’t have more time to watch any American TV.) But yes, your senses of humor are definitely where it’s at for me. A bit darker, a bit sassier, and at the same time often a lot more physical and broader…I love it all!

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