Thursday, June 3, 2010

Bronx Anglophile

A funny thing happened on the way to the Barnes & Noble bathroom at Union Square. I ended up in Piccadilly Circus. My bookshelves began sagging under the weight of biographies on the likes of Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, and Tony Blair. I’ve even read and thoroughly enjoyed an autobiography penned by the oh-so-gray John Major. And before everyone and his or her mother and father were selling used books on Amazon for a song, I paid top dollar for a then hard-to-come-by title called A Conservative Coup, by Alan Watkins, which chronicled the inter-party revolt that ended for all time the Iron Lady’s lengthy premiership, and cost me a pretty penny in the process. I don’t know exactly what is it about the Brits? But I just cannot get enough of them…one particular oil corporation excepted.

My Netflix queue runneth over with all things British at the moment: A Touch of Frost, Doc Martin, and even Hetty Wainthropp Investigates. I’ve got all of the Inspector Morse episodes on VHS tapes, all of the available Foyle’s War on DVD, and I’ve watched them over and over and over. With baited breath, I wait patiently for PBS’s Mystery Theater's showing of the third season of Lewis. Yes, I know Law and Order has been an American staple for a very long time, a series that has spawned multiple progeny, but I always found the show pretentious and unrealistic—a little too hip for its own good. And while I’m a big fan of New York’s Finest, their detectives just don’t communicate with one another like the Law and Order crowd—at least none that I’ve encountered. And who wants to take motion sickness pills before watching a TV show? How about holding the camera steady during filming? Oh, pardon me—that’s really cool, and I’m just a square peg in a round hole pining for classic American detective fodder like The Rockford Files and Kojak.

And there’s a wee bit more Anglo worship here. One of the few television programs that I’ve been faithful to over the past decade is C-SPAN’s Prime Minister’s Questions, a weekly, half-hour session live and direct from the House of Commons, when the United Kingdom’s head of government entertains questions from those ostensibly representing the average blokes. There are no teleprompters during this brisk give-and-take, which would likely discombobulate the leader of the free world. It’s ordinarily quite raucous and an almost always entertaining spectacle. I’ve tried many times watching our home-grown elected officials during live congressional debates and typically come away either bored silly or quasi-nauseous. It’s a matter of being too close to home, I guess. It's easier to watch politicians and their self-serving antics when separated by an ocean, particularly when one has no vested interest in what's pouring out of their mouths. No real difference exists in the moral fiber of the two countries' pols, but the Brits certainly do theater better.

And may I say for the record that I’m certainly no fan of royalty, the royal family, and ostentatious pomp. I’m glad we whupped their butts at Yorktown. Still, I’m grateful for the special relationship we have with the culture most responsible for a little thing called individual liberties, not to mention a pretty popular language. True, the English could be pretty beastly when the sun never set on them. But we’re in the new millennium now, so why not let bygones be bygones?

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