Friday, March 8, 2013

Life in the UK: On television

Do you know that you still have to pay for a tv license in the UK?  If you don't, the authorities will send you a very nice letter warning you that they will come and inspect your premises.   I happen to know this because we received one.   It was actually for the previous owner who had vacated the house months ago and had probably let his license lapse.  But it was enough to send me and Dear Hubby scurrying off to apply for our own TV license.  A tv license costs £145.50 for a colour tv and £49 for a b&w tv.  Do we still have b&w???

If you're wondering why UK households have to pay a TV license fee, click here to see how your money is being spent.  It's actually part of the BBC's income.   They use it to fund the various shows on free tv and radio.

As for the programmes... well, we had only terrestrial stations for the first two months I was here in the UK.  We were in rented accommodation and the place didn't subscribe to Sky TV which is the Astro of UK.

What were the free programmes like?

It seemed to me free tv is filled with comedy shows or at least shows where people try to be funny.  These people are usually middle-aged men who are stand-up comedians and they sit around in groups of four and pass around funny comments about everything and anything under the sun.

It was either that or Top Gear or re-runs of Star Trek: Voyager.   There is also those weird antique programmes where people bring stuff from their attics to antique experts for evaluation.  That's actually quite interesting because every now and then, some clueless chap will find out that the teacup Aunt Greta left him is actually very rare and used to belong to Napoleon and will fetch gazillion pounds at current market prices.

And then there is of course Dr Who.  For those not in the know, Dr Who is a long-running British sci-fi show.  It's like the UK sci-fi equivalent of Neighbours... just bloody goes on and on.  I don't get the British fascination with it or how anyone can be terrified of a Dalek, a baddie that looks like a postbox on steroids.  But try telling that to a nation that actually devotes column inches in the serious mainstream papers to discuss who will be the next Doctor.

Most British programmes are quirky and clearly written by people who love wordplay.  That's great because it sure takes something to distract from all the erm... not-so-pretty people on telly.  Raised on a diet of US programmes,  I'm accustomed to beautiful people on my small screen.   Beverly Hills 90210?  Everyone was gorgeous.  Friends?  Even the guy in the coffee place was kinda cute.  The new Hawaii 5-0?   Phwoar.    Battlestar Galactica (the new series)?  My husband cannot stop thinking about the hot Korean chick who played the Cylon while I had a thing for her tv hubby.

But in Britain!  What's with all these ugly mugs on my small screen?  It looks terrible on a 42" screen and EVEN worse when in HD!   Takes a bit getting used to.  Just try watching Eastenders vs Glee... and you'll soon see which one is easier on your eyes.

However, I quickly realised that British tv is (usually) more intelligent that its US counterpart and those ugly mugs were pretty good at their job.  When we were here last summer for a holiday, we watched a TV show starring Kenneth Branagh that was an adaptation of a hit Danish tv series.  Riveting to say the least.  And if you've ever had the misfortune to not catch Cracker, starring a pre-Hogwarts Robbie Coltrane, you don't know what you're missing.  Excellent, excellent TV series.

Do I miss TV in Malaysia?  Not really as I usually watched Astro for just sports and news.  Anything I could watch on Astro is available here on Sky so there's not much of an adjustment.  It's just that quirky made in Britain programmes which fascinate me because it's something new to me.  The Brits do that really well.  It's when they go Hollywood and do reality tv and weird talent shows that it all falls apart.

And after just 2++ months in the country, I can tell you right now that Stephen Fry is far superior to Raja Lawak.

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