April 14, 2004

Spittin' Cross the Pond

I watch a lot of BBC America.

I'm not proud. Certainly not as proud as those smug bastards they have on the BBC America commercials: "Hi, my name is Lauren, and unlike the glassy-eyed mouth-breathers who've spent 10 years stretched on tenterhooks over whether Ross will, finally, really, no, I swear to god, this time, get together with Rachel; unlike the Bob-Sagat-employing cretins who can't recognize a joke that doesn't kick them in the nuts with a foot covered in banana cream; unlike, that is, those half-a-chromosome-away-from-the-monkey-house mullet-lovin' slack-jaws that populate the vast wasteland they dare call my country, I am a BBC American."

(Yeah, marketing department? I enjoy The Office. My choices in basic cable viewing do not imply a droit de seigneur to sneer at my countrymen, nor a desire to do so.)

But I rather like my makeover pap in the original; the British versions of TLC's schedule seem to leaven their shrill enthusiasm with a fair bit of dry understatement and bashfulness, and the addition of these crucial ingredients is like unto dropping jigger of gin and a spot of brandy into a Shirley Temple, thereby transforming it into a Singapore Sling.

Particularly Trinny and Susannah, the original What Not to Wear chicks, who seem to grasp that there exists a whole "…which is a shame, because in reality you're very attractive and deserve to look great," codicil to "That hideous rag makes you look fat, old, short, wrinkled, and none too bright." The American hosts don’t seem to grasp that bit, and come off as harsh, even cruel, rather than frank. Not to mention that, given straw and a spinning wheel, their output seems mostly to consist of slightly glossier straw.

But, mind-numbing pap though they be, BBC America's rotation of home & garden numbers has managed to provoke a couple of questions on my part:

1. What the fuck is up with your fireplaces? I was under the impression that this was Europe, incubator of antiques. Y'alls shit is supposed to be old. So what the hell is up with those little rectangles y'all mark out on the living room wall, as if to suggest, "This is where a fireplace would have been, at one point in time. If you sit and stare at the wall for a while, imagining very very veddy hard, you may begin to think you feel a slight warmth." Is there a fireplace there? Is this just supposed to act as some sort of frame for your radiators? There's often an electric radiator plugged into the wall inside the frame. Why do you want to attract attention to your ugly-ass electric radiators, if I may ask? If the frame is there to mark out an actual fireplace hidden behind the wall, I'm even more befuddled. If you think fireplaces are neat --- we do, here, they cost a shitload extra in an apartment or a house, even more if you can actually burn wood in 'em ---- why not knock out the hole so you can see it? Surely the radiator can be moved elsewhere --- it has a plug. If you think fireplaces are primitive relics of another age or whatnot, and put up walls to hide them --- why frame the goddamn things? It's like filling in the pit and leaving the outhouse box standing.

2. Why do you hire Americans to yell at you? You're perfectly comfortable with having your fellow Britons sneer at you (*cough*Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen*cough*) but for yelling, you turn to us? Actually, yelling is a poor choice of words on my part; admonish is closer. But a peculiar kind of hand-holding admonishment. See, there's these two new shows, "The House Doctor," and "The Life Laundry." (Neither are really very good.) Each centers on the idea of bringing in an outside expert to evaluate your lifestyle and force you to accept change --- the former in order to help people trying to sell their homes keep prospective buyers from running screaming out the door, the latter intended to prevent junior Collyer brothers from suffocating in a landslide of their own junk. You might say, well, What Not to Wear has the same outside expert admonishment thing going on, and that's British. True. But What Not to Wear is marked by combativeness, bluntness --- the hosts no-nonsense, the subjects feisty. Whereas with these two shoes, the approach is far more, "There, there. We know what's best. Now, just settle down and help me put the stuffed bird collection away, Mrs. Perkins, and maybe we can introduce you into general pop." The desired effect on the subject is less, "Damn, I look good," and more, "I have been healed." Let me quote from some of the hosts' own websites:

"[House Doctor Ann Maurice's] most recent interior design project is a studio garden flat conversion in San Francisco. It is quite modern with a "Pacific Rim" influence…a hint of Zen-like features and ecological consciousness, reflecting her growing interest in Feng Shui and the 'Healthy Home'….She has earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Michigan, studied Interior Design at the University of California and is a graduate of the Colour Research Institute of America."


"[The Life Laundry's] Dawna Walter On Why People Hoard…'We have so many failed dreams that we don't let go of that prevent us from moving forward. There's the man that has assembled bits and pieces of computers thinking he is going to build a super computer. Trust me, it's never going to happen. The old appliances that you are going to get around to fixing – it never happens. Clutter holds you back from actually releasing you from things you really don't want to do anymore. We change in our lives and it's important to acknowledge that we can change…'"

Do you hear this shit? Do you see? You, whose home-grown advice experts are famous for their stern astringence ---- You secretly long to be swept up in the whole therapeutic California crunchy granola healing crystal Feng Shui Scientology plastic fantastic self-help Dr. Phil permanent self improvement is an airport paperback away (so choose carefully) zeitgeist, doncha? You pack of stiff-upper-lip eccentrics! You, who have infested our theaters for years now with your purportedly charming quirks! So much so that Naked Ugly English People has become a recognized subgenre of film!

Bloody hell.

Posted by Diablevert at April 14, 2004 11:42 PM

Post a comment

Thanks for signing in, . Now you can comment. (sign out)

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)