British Television is weird – notes from a New Zealander

Originally published here. 

When this column gets published, I will not be in London. I will not be in the UK, nor will I be in the Northern Hemisphere. I will be in New Zealand.

This is pretty much all you need to know about New Zealand.

It is my homeland, and I am very much looking forward to being back there for a while, not least of all because it really does look like this, all the time, even when the weather is bad, even in the middle of winter.

The middle of winter, 2012.

But as I am supposed to write about television, I thought, in my absence, I would share with you the things I found most bizarre and striking about UK television when I first arrived here. You guys have odd viewing habits, you really do, and you don’t even know it.

Quiz shows

My god, you guys like quiz shows. I will never, ever understand the apparent rampant desire for ordinary people to put themselves on television screens, juxtaposed with abnormally intelligent people, and make fools of themselves. And you! You want to watch it! Does it make you feel better about yourself? Do you like to celebrate the occasions when you know an answer? Is this fame and success to you?

They are openly judging you and you don't even care.


Now, I know that many countries suffer from this addiction. Even New Zealand has its own soap (it’s been running for over 20 years, that’s basically since the dawn of time, bitches), Shortland Street, in which harried women run around in pastel uniforms and occasionally die. It’s basically the cold hard heart of fame in New Zealand. If you’ve appeared on Shortland Street, you’ve made it.

There’re two things that set you guys apart, though. The first is that you have SO MANY soaps. How do you decide which one you want to watch? How do you know where your loyalties lie? Is there some kind of hot people/death rate/intrigue equation that you perform in order to decide which one to devote all your evenings for the rest of your life to?

These characters are probably all dead now.

And the second is the addiction to knowing what is going to happen ahead of time. Why do you like spoilers so much? As someone who will leap over tall buildings in a series of short, arduous bounds in order to avoid spoilers (if you talk about Walking Dead to me, I will feed you the heart of your own child/mother/postman/whoever you care most for) I will never understand the glee with which people learn when and how which character is going to die, and then await it. SUSPENSE, people. It’s what made your country great. Does no one remember the Spanish Inquisition?

You really should have expected them.

Old men

No two ways about it, there is a dearth of young hot things on your small screen. They must all divert into movies and music because all the gaps are filled with craggy cadaverous types who muse about the days when one made one’s own cheese. The day when one of them dies on live television will be the day when I am not even a small bit surprised.

Why do you choose to look at these people while you eat dinner?

Why do you choose to look at these people while you eat dinner?


Most days, I have no idea whether to view this looming governmental being as a benevolent force or the source of all evil. I understand that it is responsible for Sherlock, and I’m grateful for that, but doesn’t it seem dangerous for one broadcaster to have so much power? Isn’t it kind of dictatorial that I can’t even urinate whilst I watch one of their shows? And do you really think it’s a coincidence that searching for “BBC” on tumblr is one thing almost guaranteed to get you fired from your job?

Sherlock, Sherlock, Big Black Cock

Sherlock, Sherlock, Big Black Cock

Do you agree with me? Or are you patriotic enough to be certain that whatever quirks your broadcasters have, they know what’s best for you? Either way, I don’t care. We don’t even have electricity in New Zealand, so I’m off to denude a sheep. Ta!

One thought on “British Television is weird – notes from a New Zealander

  1. I was laughing reading this one. Well noticed 🙂
    I’m not British, but I used to live in the UK, and I sure do enjoy watching some British series (Doctor Who, My Mad Fat Diary, Pramface, Top Gear, and many other still running or already canceled ones), and what I find so compelling and refreshing after an overload of American production with lots of bleached teeth and usually with no one older than 35, is that British actors come in all shapes, states of fitness, with gaps in their teeth, old, etc. and I’m loving it.

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