I wish that reincarnation were a proven, reliable form of rebirth, with the choice of destination left up to the traveler.
If that were the case, I’d want to live in any of the places I’ve seen in some of my favorite British TV series. And I’d want to have the relatively uncomplicated lives of one of the villagers, living among wonderful, quirky characters who suffer not much more than indigestion, trifling inconveniences, and trivial personal conflicts.
For the past few months, I’ve been watching past and recent British TV series. They’re filmed in the most beautiful places, amid scenic, pastoral and verdant landscapes. Call it pure escapism. You can’t insult me over that. Of course, I’m escaping!
American TV series too often take place in sweaty, ugly Miami, the dingy streets of New York City, Philadelphia and LA, or, even worse, in an APARTMENT. It would take an uncomfortable distortion in my head to understand what anyone sees in the TV series, Big Bang Theory. The show takes place in an apartment building. You see the same rooms in each episode. Occasionally you’re treated to the inside of a stairwell.
And then there’s the felonious annoyance of canned laughter in too many of these American TV shows. If you have to add canned laughter to remind viewers that this line or scene is meant to be humorous, then the dialogue or action is NOT funny. In far too many of these show’s the characters force the humor and wryness. My favorite British TV characters glide easily into being humorous. When they speak their lines, they don’t appear to be listening for the laughter from the offstage audience or the TV viewers.
Perhaps life got too stressful here in Idaho, or a steady diet of murder and mayhem from hours of watching The Walking Dead and Dexter took its toll. One evening, after the season finale of The Walking Dead, my sister and I discussed the dynamics among the primary group in the series. We lamented the ongoing lack of cohesion in the group.
“They really need to pull it together. They’re falling apart!” my sister said.
“Yeah,” I said. “In the beginning they were a more cohesive group who cared about each other. Now all they do is scheme and bicker.”
“I know,” my sister said. “All they do is fight! Everyone is after each other. They need to snap out of it!”
“They’re never going to survive this ordeal if they don’t work through their conflicts,” I said.
“I’m getting sick of them. All of them. They have to get their act together and work as a team,” my sister said.
I stopped and looked over at my sister sitting next to me on the sofa.
“You do realize this is a TV series, don’t you?” I said.
I realized this then: The last thing I wanted was to become intimately involved with a bunch of dysfunctional people roaming the hillsides and forests of Georgia who are constantly running away from or killing zombies.
No, I’d rather become intimately involved with some mildly dysfunctional British folk who roam the villages and hillsides of Norfolk or the beaches of Cornwall. I wanted quirky, harmless characters in my life, not zombie killers and serial murderers with a noble mission.
So, I sought out shows with innocence and sweetness and much better scenery. And I found these:
And now, I’m in love with and enraptured by my British TV series. I can watch hour after hour of these shows. And then I go to bed and enjoy a sweet and peaceful sleep. For any of you craving a pleasant escape to beautiful places without obnoxious and irritating main characters, the following shows are for you.
I want to live in Port Isaac in my next life, if that reincarnation thing all works out. Port Isaac is scenery on steroids. I’m certain that the color green is an endorphin, because when I watch this show, all is right with the world, I’m calm and I want to give the world a hug.
But the scenery is only part of this show’s charm. The characters are sweet, odd, and normal looking—that is, none of them look overly quaffed and plasticized as so many Hollywood actors do.
Location filming for this marvelous series was primarily based in Swaffham. Shooting also took place in nearby Hunstanton, Holkham, Thetford and Dereham. Beach and harbor (harbor!) scenes were shot at Wells, as well as the Lifeboat station being used for that of Market Shipborough. The coastal scenes are filmed at Wells-next-the-Sea on the north Norfolk coast.
This series always opens with a scene of a man, presumably Peter Kingdom, standing on the beach facing the North Sea. It’s a gorgeous day with an expansive, clear blue sky. And from there we step into the quaint and mildly complicated world of Peter Kingdom and the show’s other characters. In the end, problems are solved, not always without a little pain, and once again the value in having good and loyal friends is reaffirmed. Amid the bit of drama, I relish in the scenery and imagine living there. I don’t care if the plumbing is substandard, either.
Inspector Lewis takes place in and around Oxford. Yes, it’s a detective drama with some murder thrown in, but I’m easily distracted and tranquilized by the scenery. The backdrop is soothing and verdant, and even when it’s raining during a scene, I still feel like I could cozy up to the TV with a nice hot cup of tea and escape. The main characters are perfectly matched to each other and their conflicts and misunderstandings seem natural and uncontrived.
All Creatures Great and Small
This is an old series about a small village veterinarian and his colleagues and patients (human and animal). It was filmed in North Yorkshire, with some scenes shot at Bolton Castle and in the village of Askrigg, which doubled for the fictional Darrowby. Parts of the beginning title sequence—in particular, the car passing through the ford—were shot on an unnamed road between Feetham in Swaledale and Langthwaite in Arkengarthdale. Gosh, even the names of those towns are scenic! Thank you, Wikipedia, I’m glad someone else enjoys this series as much as I did.
All of these TV series are so unlike the dozens of other American TV series that crowd out perfectly good commercials. All right, these British offerings are certainly unlike The Walking Dead, in which we must endure the main, unzombified characters turning against each other and plotting their demise. And very unlike those intolerable teen and twenty-something vampire shows whose characters are far too good looking and well-dressed to be undead and who spend most of their time bloodying up someone. Then toss in The Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men, and How I Met Your Mother, and you’ve got a cesspool of unfunny, trying too hard, and downright obnoxious. Let’s throw in “bloody insufferable” while we’re at it.
Quaint. That’s what I’m reaching out for, that’s what I crave. I need quaint, picturesque, charming and scenic. I need escapism just for awhile. I need humourous British TV series and as long as I’ve got Netflix, Acorn TV, Sidereel, and Masterpiece Theatre, I’ll be able to find them.