Saturday, November 5, 2011

Stables of Talented Actors: Truly the Best Thing About British Television

I've been taken to task for claiming that British television is better than American (I'm not complaining; it was fun). Rather than press the point, I'll exercise a woman's prerogative to modify the subject and say that, whether or not on the whole, British tv is of better quality than ours, what is actually the very best thing about British productions -- is British actors.

Nobody gets to quarrel with me on this. There can simply be no question that British actors are better than American ones. And by "actors" of course I mean actors and actresses. And by "better" I don't just mean better at their craft, (I'm willing to concede that there are some very talented American actors too) but on the whole, all things considered, British actors are just . . . better.  They're more interesting, more pleasant. More worthy of admiration and respect as individuals and humans. I can watch them and not feel shallow and dirty.

I understand that there are plenty of British actors who become famous and enter the stratosphere of celebrity -- the machine that sullies us all with uber-celebrities bumbling around trying to sell us their politics, their beauty products, or their lifestyles, writing their autobiographies when they are in their 30s and talking self importantly while concurrently doing everything they can to mess up their personal lives.

But I'm not talking about them.

I'm thinking of the scores of working actors who turn in excellent performance upon excellent performance, who put in a starring turn and then willingly follow it with supporting roles. Who can be found in many projects over the years producing great trails of great viewing. For instance, by watching North and South, I tapped into Brendan Coyle who I then followed to Lark Rise and Downton Abbey. While there in North and South, I also recognized Anna Maxwell Martin whom I'd enjoyed in Bleak House and who I later followed to South Riding, where she shared space with Peter Firth of Spooks -- in which he appeared with Richard Armitage who starred in North and South with Coyle. And back at Lark Rise, I met Julia Sawalha from Pride and Prejudice and Claudie Blakely from, well, a different adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. The possibilities are endless. It sort of makes me want to do a chart. . . uh oh, better watch out for that :)
. . . also reminds me of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, in which you can link any two Hollywood actors in six steps or less through the tool of Kevin Bacon. You could probably link most of these actors working in British dramas in about 1 step. My mental chart is getting very cluttered. . .
British television drama provides so many opportunities to enjoy performances by people who I can watch in countless different combinations of great dramas and in interviews speaking with humor, class and fun and making me proud rather than ashamed that I enjoyed them; people for whom I can truly wish success, though not too much success (lest they join the machine).


  1. I agree with you, I largely believe it's because in the main British actors and British TV in general isn't as obsessed with the perfect person. Most British actors aren't good looking in a Hollywood type way and get to where they are because of their talent. While on American TV it's all about looks and glamour, and although the two are mutually exclusive there are too many people in American shows that ruin the show for me because they're as natural as a plank of wood (also in a few British shows as well).

    Love your blog in general, I came across it via Spooks and it's a great read. I hope you've come to terms with the ending, I have. It took a long time and I'll always be disappointed (because I like thousands of others wanted the happy ending) but I believe it was a fitting end.

  2. Thank you for your comment. Yes! Exactly why American tv is so unappealing and feels shallow. I really like that combo of talent and naturalness that British actors have -- it truly is so much better and more attractive than pure looks.

    And thank you for your kind comments on my blog :) As for Spooks I don't think I have come to terms with that ending... I'm glad that you ultimately did and found it fitting. I suppose if I felt more generous I could concede that some of it was fitting, but I don't feel generous towards it :) I would have loved a happy ending too -- though don't think anyone was foolish enough to really expect one. Somehow the plot felt pulled and twisted to get to that result and that rang false for me -- something Spooks rarely does. And I did hope Harry could just retire! I hate to think of him alone in his office in perpetuity.