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  1. #1

    [TV] The difference between US and UK television shows

    When I look at most of my favorite TV shows I must say they're mostly American. These include Breaking Bad, Dexter and especially Sci-Fi shows like BSG and Firefly. The main reasons seem to be the obviously larger budgets and "level of perfection".

    On the other hand, I must give credit to British TV shows especially, because they have their very own flair. But I'm having a hard time pin-pointing what exactly I like about British TV shows compared to American ones.

    Here's a few reasons I could come up with:

    -British TV has less "unwritten rules" about what's ok and what's not. Yes, children can die and pretty women can get killed as well. Something that rarely happens in U.S shows.

    -More realistic characters: To me it seems like British characters come across more realistically and believable than in some american shows. It's not so much about the acting but rather how a character is written. E.g. it's far more believable that a certain British TV show character might exist in real life than it would be for some US show characters. They have a tendency to the extremes.

    -More believable plots: U.S. shows tend to be very dramatic and up the stakes to increase the dramatic effect. The world is saves twice a week at least and the villains tend to always strive for the highest possible goals. In U.K. show however, things tend to be kept simpler. This might be partially due to budget constraints but it also adds a lair or "realism". Just compare a Series like Misfits with Heroes for example.

    -Story defines the length of a Season: For U.S. shows it seems you have the standard formula of either 13 or 22-24 episodes per season. This is probably due to how the TV show business works in America. However, U.K. shows seem to follow different rules and so a TV season can last anywhere from 4 to 24 episodes. In a way, the plot defines the length of a Season, rather than the industry.

    -Humor: While there are exceptions, I've found that even the most serious British TV show will contain a few one liners or quick jokes.

  2. #2
    The Insane
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    I quite agree with your points, also while I do like a varied bunch of american shows, I still prefer the british ones, or the ones with british flair, say House, since Hugh Laurie is infact british, despite playing american he still has that snide british attitude incorperated into the character of the american doctor.

    Also I find that the british humor shows, such as Black Adder, Monty Python and whatnot to be oh a gazillion times more fun than the average american sitcom... Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy the various american sitcoms but not as much.

    Oh and I *love* british crime shows, such as Barnaby or Frost... Awesome stuff.
    *broken link*
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  3. #3
    british shows suck, i hate looking at ugly people.

  4. #4
    Agreeing with the OP.
    Btw also check out the IT Crowd hilarious show

  5. #5
    British TV tends to have more originality and innovation. I mean look at how many UK shows have US versions - which often flopped really hard.

    American comedy tends to be quite low brow, trite or just plain unfunny - not to mention smug. Friends especially suffered from the smug factor in later seasons...

    Americans are better at sci-fi. Bar when they mix teen drama into it (oh dear god, Caprica...).

    Quote Originally Posted by jakeic View Post
    british shows suck, i hate looking at ugly people.
    To be honest, I think American casting is worse. Most of the women they pick are dogfaced. At least British TV uses more realistic women that someone might actually want to meet.
    Last edited by Durandro; 2011-06-05 at 08:24 AM.

  6. #6
    Epic! Skizzit's Avatar
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    It seems to me that UK shows are alot more willing to take chances and try something different. American TV is all about the $$$ so they keep rehashing the same crap over and over, or when a UK show does do well, tries to copy it and fails.

    Part of that may be due to the fact that most UK shows don't just keep going and going till they are no longer popular and fizzle out. They know how to tell a story and then end it. Look at some of the great UK series like Spaced or Life on Mars. Both ran for only two seasons and then stopped. While part of me wishes for more, I think it is better that they went out on a high note and did not run on and on till they turned to crap.

  7. #7
    US dramas and sci-fi's and all that are better than UK ones most of the time, but British sitcoms will always be better than all that 'how I met your mother' rubbish!

  8. #8
    The Insane
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    Quote Originally Posted by jakeic View Post
    british shows suck, i hate looking at ugly people.
    With a picture of Uncle Sam it's rather obvious what you think of Britain... Derp
    *broken link*
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  9. #9
    Herald of the Titans Scotia's Avatar
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    Well its hard to say what I prefer. Most of my favourite tv shows are american, but I do like the average 7episode story driven series' of UK shows. Like Episodes, that was brilliant. S2 of Misfits was ok...Lip Service was very cool, as was Sugar Rush which were very realistic shows about real people as compared to the few times I see gay people in american shows with silly stereotypes :3

  10. #10
    The US shows are a bit unrealistic. Maybe it's more entertaining to the public this way, I don't know. But when you watch a criminal show you expect criminal stuff and not some elements that are so ridiculous that the show can be called "sci-fi" just because of them. For example House is pretty ridiculous if you have any medical education. I don't but a friend of mine has one. I guess that's why I find it more entertaining.
    Though the sci-fi US shows are better. For example Fringe, Star Trek, etc.
    Last edited by haxartus; 2011-06-05 at 01:26 PM.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Venziir View Post
    With a picture of Uncle Sam it's rather obvious what you think of Britain... Derp
    Damn beat me to it
    Quote Originally Posted by Wells View Post
    We force stuff on kids all the time, no one ever cares until there's a penis involved.
    Quote Originally Posted by Bergtau View Post
    What are you talking about?
    This is AMERICA you and I live in. We would have people lining up by the thousands to go on missions to conquer this new nation of worm monsters.

  12. #12
    I'm British and I prefer US shows overall - though some of my favourite shows are British.

    Misfits vs Heroes for example. I bought the DVD boxset of Heroes and I really wanted to love it and I did enjoy it but it always felt a bit formulaic and it didn't completely click with me. Misfits on the other hand was hilarious and was a rare example of a British series with fantastic production values. Also, the characters in Misfits were much more believable and lived in a grey moral area whereas US shows tend to me more black and white - which makes for more dramatic effects, but lowers the realism factor.

    Another example of this was in Queer as Folk. The original UK version was much grittier and as a 15 year old boy at the time it mirrored my life when I was first going out on the gay scene (illegally I know). It was very realistic (apart from the crappy razzle dazzle "let's go to America" end scene - what was that about?). The US version was not as groundbreaking to me; but what the US does well is develop it characters more with the many episodes they can put in a season. I think the characters in the UK version were betters seeds, but the US version spent more time developing and nourishing its weaker seeds so that by the end of the 5 seasons there were a lot of fully grown characters that you can care about.

    This character development was most in evidence for me in the UK show Martina Cole's: The Runaway. It was a 6 x 1hour show (I think) but I think the Americans would have doen it better. The production values were good, but there were so many characters that deserved a lot more air time. The first two episode covering the early 60s with the prostitute mother etc could have been done more justice if it was over 8-12 hours. The characters and the style of the 60s there would have been wonderful more fully fleshed out. The 2 main characters were well written but it felt as though a lot was edited out.

    Secret Diary of a London Call Girl is another great show (especially the later series) but is guilty of concentrating on just Belle's character. For it to grow I think it needs to build up the secondary and tertiary characters which is admidditedly difficult to do in the limited number of episodes in a British series.

    Overall, the US definitely does Sci-Fi much better (MisFits would be the only UK expception I can think of and I don't think that would work very well outside of British audiences); but the UK does period drama better.

    Sit-coms in the US are better in my opinion - I can't think of any UK sit-com that I enjoy that doesn't feel dated and formulaic, although the US does have some clangers that get shown over here. The UK has nothing to rival Frasier, South Park or The Big Bang.

    My favourite show from the last ten years would have to be Six Feet Under. There is a host of characters that are brilliantly written and acted and each season is long enough to develop the characters in wonderful ways. This is the type of drama that I think the UK could produce in flashes but cannot sustain, as most UK series like this would be written by one person, whereas in the US there are writing teams which admittedly tend to push characters further and round out some of the rough edges, but make them a little more formulaic too.

  13. #13
    Warchief Orby's Avatar
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    I agree with OP while America does offer awesome some kick ass sci-fi shows, when it comes to realism we British tend to be more down to earth.

    I love American shows though, I take nothing away from it and I wouldn’t have them any other way.

    Even in home grown movies from the UK compared to America are different. The British movie scene can at times be really gritty and harsh where as America has that every cloud has a silver lining attitude... Once again its not a bad thing... where as British cinema can be rather depressing its nice to tune into American TV to be cheered up again :P

    I mean I love world cinema too, Japanese, French, German or Greek movies all have awesome atmospheres

    the wonderful land of culture I guess :P

    EDIT: Also nice to see a thread that hasnt been hyjacked by trolls yet...
    Last edited by Orby; 2011-06-05 at 02:04 PM.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by thecraftybee View Post
    Sit-coms in the US are better in my opinion - I can't think of any UK sit-com that I enjoy that doesn't feel dated and formulaic, although the US does have some clangers that get shown over here. The UK has nothing to rival Frasier, South Park or The Big Bang.
    The IT Crowd is the funniest thing on earth, lol. "This, Jen, is the Internet."

  15. #15
    Mechagnome Pum's Avatar
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    American humour is fucking awful.
    Quote Originally Posted by tweekzlol View Post
    but then again, The Coon is obviously unbeatable as he will just manipulate you into being his friend

  16. #16
    Stood in the Fire
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    US can take more chances than the UK, So many Pilots Never see the light of day and so many Great or could be great series never get a second turn

    The UK Cant really afford to do that, well not so much now, so TV shows are just dumbed down, they repeat what works, that's why 90% of UK show have a judging element to them now, from singing show to dancing on ice, even cooking shows In the UK need people to judge them on how good they are, this kind of TV is crap...

    We did make some Fantastic shows Once Like Cracker, Red Dwarf, and some excellent minds like working behind the scenes Armando Iannucci, Chris Morris etc, But when a writer or someone in the media has some talent, why soon move to the US like Space's Simon Pegg..

    When it come to General TV entertainment the US does it better, we do fluke out and make the Odd great show now and agian like Peep Show, The IT crowd, but they just get milking to death, I think we have better and more orignal Comedies and Comedians and for natural history and science based show, you can't beat a bit of David Attenborough or Brain Cox.

    Oh and the us got Hugh Laurie and we kept stephen fry, we got the better half ;-)
    Last edited by Sant; 2011-06-05 at 02:20 PM.

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by jakeic View Post
    british shows suck, i hate looking at ugly people.
    There is so much unintentional truth in this statement. US TV and Hollywood as well always cast beautiful people. Everyone must look great. Inversely people who have to have a certain unflattering attribute for the plot often barely have it. Often fat women are actually just overweight, ugly people are just normal, and so on. Such a twisted mentality that has a pervasive and negative effect on culture . . .

  18. #18
    Why has no-one mentioned the awesomness that is doctor who?

  19. #19
    I don't know why but British shows are almost always painfully boring. Their voices kind of add to it. Then again, I don't watch too much t.v., either.

  20. #20
    Epic! Skizzit's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by thecraftybee View Post
    Sit-coms in the US are better in my opinion - I can't think of any UK sit-com that I enjoy that doesn't feel dated and formulaic, although the US does have some clangers that get shown over here. The UK has nothing to rival Frasier, South Park or The Big Bang.
    I was with you till this point. South Park and Big Bang? Really? "Hey, lets do 200 episodes of the same 3 jokes over and over" Bleh. Maybe I just have a dryer sense of humor, but I find UK sit-coms to be much better.

    Then again, I think that us living in the US have a slightly twisted view of UK TV. We really only ever see the good stuff. I have a pretty strong feeling that 90% of their tv is rehashed crap just like US TV, we just never see it over here cause it is crap.

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