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cultural vandal | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Are Brits taking over American TV, and does anyone care?

John Patterson — who writes for the British Guardian from Los Angeles — sees a new British invasion in progress:

In the last few years US network drama line-ups have been headed by the imported likes of Tim Roth (Lie To Me), Damian Lewis (Life, since cancelled, sadly), Michelle Ryan (Bionic Woman – ditto), Dominic West and Idris Elba (The Wire), and Jamie Bamber (Battle- star Galactica). This season Joseph Fiennes is starring in FlashForward while Jared Harris is guest-starring in Mad Men. There are even Brits in Gossip Girl.

British actors come without a career hinterland that’s discernible to the average, insular, incurious American couch-potato. No one here has ever heard of Fry and Laurie or their Jeeves and Wooster series or the novels each star has written. A cheap, blank-slate actor is often as welcome here as an expensive home-grown one. But Laurie’s position in one of the best-loved and most-watched shows of recent years has drawn Brits to California in droves (where would you prefer to sit out the recession – Santa Monica or Shoreditch?), and alerted casting directors to the usefulness of Brits. US TV ratings are in the toilet thanks to competition from cable outfits and the British do come very cheap. They are also generally more proficient at mimicking various American accents nowadays, and there’s currently a real boom for accent coaches.

Now, it’s not exactly true that “no one here has ever heard of Fry and Laurie or their Jeeves and Wooster series or the novels each star has written” — I have, and that was the reason I watched House in the first place: because I love Hugh Laurie. But I know I’m in a tiny minority.

Still, Patterson may be right that there are more Brits on American TV than ever before. But is that a problem. British TV is overloaded with American faces and American accents, and no one in the U.K. seems to have much of a problem with that.

Are Brits taking over American TV, and does anyone care?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)



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