Who are you and why British TV?

I’m a former professor of television studies who lived and taught in England for seven years. I paid for a TV license the entire time and even went to TV court just for fun. On returning to the US I realized I really missed the British sensibility in TV dramas, soaps and comedies: self-deprecating, a clever way with words, and linguistic nuances influenced but class, region, imperialism, and colonialism.

What’s the difference between “TV” and “telly?”

None and I just them interchangeably. But I’m more likely to call it “telly” because I’m on friendly terms with the medium that entertains me, makes me cry and sometimes infuriates me.

There are, though, some differences (massive generalizations) between UK and US telly to note:

  • British TV producers and networks aren’t afraid of producing a set number of shows and not dragging things out until they jump the shark or Negan shows up auth Lucille to bludgeon the life out of a show. American production companies and networks are slowwwwly starting to experiment with this in the form of “limited series.”
  • British comedies don’t always have a happy ending or moral to the story or “lesson learned.” Sometimes life is rough. Find the humor in it and get on with it mate.
  • British consumers have, mainly, BBC One, BBC 2, BBCiii, Channel 4, E4, ITV, Sky and then a bunch of variations of those same networks filled with comedy, drama, sports, gameshows, reality TV and old programs. The TV license plays for these BBC, while adverts rule the rest.
  • The grass really is always greener on the other side of the pond. My friends ask me why American TV is so good (Breaking Bad) and I ask them why British telly is so quality (the original The Office or the original Getting On).

Why are these reviews for Americans?

Americans have a different, more obvious sense of humor that vacillates between earnestness and sarcasm. British telly can be darkly humorous, even when it’s deadly serious about murder and mayhem.

There are more and more co-producing between UK and US networks. For example, Channel 4 and AMC’s Humans and the boatload of moment Netflix poured into Black Mirror’s season 3. Now seemed like a good time to offer some guidance.

What’s the difference between a “series” and “season”? 

The basic difference is that in the UK they say “series,” while in the US we use “season.” When you think about it, season is becoming increasingly outdated since streaming services and some cable networks have disrupted the notion of releasing new programs seasonally. Moreover, streaming services have created their own pacing and scheduling based on binge-watching and data about how we watch TV these days.

Another thing to consider is the idea of the “limited series.” There are some long-running UK shows, but there are also some that are released solely for a short run. And now US cable networks are starting to pick up on the limited series as a way to tell a particular type of story in a confined timespan. I thought this article, Big Little Lies: In Defense of the Limited Series (a.k.a. No Season 2), is a good look at why Americans need to stop trying to make some series go on…and on…and on.

What does “suck it and see” mean…because it sounds dirty?

“Suck it and see” is a great bit of U.K. English slang that just means “try it and see.” That’s how we feel about British television: you won’t know if you like it until you’ve tried it.

But there’s a lot to try so Suck It and See TV watches a lot of U.K. television and U.S. remakes of U.K. television so you can enjoy the good stuff.

How do I watch these shows? 

Where possible, US streaming services or networks are noted. There are also VPN services and tips online for the more…determined amongst us. There are also more services carrying legacy British content and shows that eventually find their way to PBS after running in the UK months before.