Monthly Archives: April 2012

A Harry Potter post

In exactly two weeks, I will be visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando.  Yay!  In honor of this momentous, long-awaited event in my young(ish) life, I’ve decided we’ve gone too long on this blog without an entire post devoted to my favorite thing in life (besides my dog, who is not British and I can therefore not post about him).

So, what can I possibly say about the series that hasn’t been said already? Probably nothing.  It’s all been said, argued, debated, and repeated by the millions of fans. The only truly individual, unique thing I can offer is my own story of how I came to love Harry Potter, and how it changed my life.  So, that’s what I’m going to share.  Feel free to skip this if you could care less, but I think it’s really important to look at how art (meaning visual arts, books, movies, music, etc.) changes our lives and ourselves on a grander scale than we realize most of the time. Plus, this blog wouldn’t exist without Harry Potter, as it was really the beginning of my anglophilia.

So, cut to my pre-HP life.  I was living in Minneapolis, and was incredibly miserable.  I had dropped out of university partially because of family reasons, and partially because of chronic depression. I was living with a boyfriend who cheated on me more than once, working two jobs and still not making enough to support myself (though I must admit that a lot of this was just bad money management on my part).  Life was bleak.  I had always been a reader when I was living at home, but once college started I only read for my assignments.  After I left school, I didn’t read at all. I don’t know what I did for fun; it’s hard to remember.  We didn’t have a computer; I can’t remember if we had a TV.  I don’t think I even had books in the apartment.  These are facts that are pretty scary to look back at, as they are so dissimilar to my life now.

So, I heard about Harry Potter for the first time on a morning show, when they were actually discussing the upcoming release of the first movie.  Yes, I was that late to the party.  The movies were starting to come out already. The first four books had already been released. So this would have been the fall of 2001, right after 9/11, and not a particularly pleasant time for the country or for me.  I knew a couple of girls at work that had read the books, and I remember asking them ‘aren’t they kids books?’ Curious about all the hype, I dragged my (then) boyfriend to see the movie, just one day after it came out in theaters. I had no idea what it was about.  In fact, I didn’t know Harry was a wizard until he found out himself.  I think from that moment, when I realized that this was about a life and a world with fate and magic and fantastic elements, that I was absolutely enthralled. Needless to say, I loved the movie. From that moment, it was like my depression lifted, and I had something to love again. I could be excited again.

Unfortunately, 4 hardcover books were completely out of my budget at that time.  They were really expensive.  I worked at the Mall of America for one of my jobs, so every day during lunch, I skipped eating and went down to the Barnes & Noble children’s section to read them. I was too impatient to read the first book; I wanted to know what happened next! I started reading the Chamber of Secrets.

I didn’t get very far doing that, but it kept me going until Christmas when those four books were the only thing on my Christmas list.  My grandma asked me if I wouldn’t rather wait until they came out in paperback as they were so big.  No!!!  So I got the books for Christmas and I think I finished them by about the first week of January. Then I read them again.  And again.

I think there are a few reasons why Harry Potter was so meaningful for me.

1-There are certain elements of his life that mirror my own.  My mother died when I was 15. My parents were divorced and I wasn’t very close to my dad, so I sort of thought of myself as an orphan. My mom didn’t really trust my dad that much, for whatever reason, so my official guardians were my aunt and uncle.  And they were, from my perspective at least, absolutely awful to me.  I never lived in the same house as them, so it isn’t exactly the same, but they made me feel the same.  Useless and pointless and like a bad person who will just ruin things if given the chance.  I’m not sure how much of this was them and how much of it was my sensitivity/mourning/depression, but I can definitely relate to the whole Dursley situation.  I even spent some time off at boarding school.  Sadly, no magic at my school, but the idea of escape from a family you weren’t really meant to be with is very familiar to me.

2-The idea of fate and magic.  When my mom died–when anyone dies, really–the overwhelming feeling is one of pointlessness.  At least, for me it was.  The idea that the world could have meaning or that there might be some reason why things happen the way they do, abandoned me.  With Harry Potter, it sort of allowed me to see a world where that could be true, and death could still have meaning, even if deep down I knew that it was only true in books. I’ve heard/read that depression makes you see the world more accurately, but that this isn’t necessarily a good thing.  Being a little bit in denial about the pointlessness/randomness of life is necessary to our well-being.  So, Harry Potter may have made me a little less in touch with reality for a while, in the sense that I would rather spend my time in a make-believe world than in my own, but it helped me survive better in the real world as well.

3-It got me reading again.  I was about 20 when I started reading Harry Potter.  Pretty old to get into children’s books, but very young in terms of my reading life.  I had stopped reading at that point, as I’ve said.  But after I had reread the series about 10 times, I wanted to read other things.  I found something to be happy about in books again, something to be enthusiastic about.  Here is a very short list of the books that have changed my life since then, that I don’t think I would have read without Harry Potter coming along:  Pride and Prejudice, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Jane Eyre, Fahrenheit 451, Slaughterhouse 5, The Sense of an Ending, The Book Thief, On Beauty, Atonement, Lolita, The Bell Jar, Flowers for Algernon, the list could go on and on.  But those books all changed my life, made little ripples in my consciousness that can never be un-rippled. Not that I would want them to.  Except maybe Atonement, which fucked me up as it is very depressing. But I digress. I also know that without HP, I never would have gone back to school as an English major, never would have planned to go into publishing.  I decided publishing was the career for me specifically because it would give me the opportunity to influence the world the way that HP had influenced my life.

4-Nerds!  I think before Harry Potter, I was trying to be ‘a normal’ too much.  I wasn’t indulging in anything that makes me me.  And, let’s be honest, I am not a normal, everyday person with normal, everyday interests.  And no wonder I wasn’t happy hanging out with people who didn’t share any of those interests.  Not only did Harry Potter help me embrace my own individuality and learn to say fuck everyone else’s opinion, but it helped me meet other nerds and fans, who became my good friends.  I still, 10 years later, use it as a gauge for future friends.  Don’t like HP? Won’t read it because it’s for kids?  We probably wouldn’t get along.

So, to make a loooong story short, it totally changed my life, introduced me to new ideas, new places, etc., lead me to go back to university and finish my degree, break up with my stupid boyfriend and get a better one, move to England (briefly, so far), start writing again, start reading again, the list goes on.  Most importantly, it just let me be happy again.  And the books still have that quality.  When I am depressed, when life sucks or I’ve had a terrible day, I can still pick up a HP book, or put on an audiobook and life is just better after a few minutes immersed in that world.

So, enough of my own story, here’s a list!

Top 5 most devastating moments in the HP series:

5. The moment  you finish the 7th book and you know that there isn’t any more to read. Ever.

4.

No explanation necessary.

3.

Dobby’s death and the ensuing scene with Harry digging his grave by hand.  That shit will fuck up your life.

2.

Fred was so much better than George.  Injustice!

1. It seemed to take Sirius an age to fall. His body curved in a graceful arc as he sank backward through the ragged veil hanging from the arch….
And Harry saw the look of mingled fear and surprise on his godfather’s wasted, once-handsome face as he fell through the ancient doorway and disappeared behind the veil, which fluttered for a moment as though a high wind and then fell back into place.

Can I even describe how much this destroyed my life?  Sirius was my favorite character, and I saw his struggle against his past and against the dementors as analogous to my struggle with depression.  I had a little mini depression after reading the fifth book, all because of this shit.  I am starting to accept it, but it pretty much killed me at the time.

Julian Fellowes’ Titanic miniseries

This miniseries aired last weekend, on Saturday and Sunday nights on ABC. For some reason, ABC chose to air three of the four episodes on Saturday night, and only one on Sunday night.  I am not sure if that was a great idea, as each episode was structured to start before the ship sailed and end as the ship went down. So watching three in a row was like taking 3 steps forward and then 2 back, again and again.

So, my thought on this miniseries, are sadly more in line with Gosford Park than with Downton Abbey. From the depths of my heart, there is a resounding sentiment of ‘meh’.

For one thing, it took way too long to comprehend who people were, and by the end I still had a hard time remembering who was who.  In typical Fellowes’ fashion, we are confronted with 20 or so characters with a quick and perfunctory introduction to each. It works in Downton Abbey because a-he went a bit slower introducing everyone and b-there is more time to learn about people. But for a big ensemble cast, 4 hours just wasn’t enough time to go slowly or to let characters evolve and develop.  We, as the audience, didn’t have enough time to bother to care about most of the people.

The other problem I had, and this is a problem I really have with a lot of Fellowes’ work, is the women.  The men are smarter, more compassionate, and more capable than the women.  All of the women are sheltered, moronic, incredibly catty and prejudiced, and not very fun to watch.  I don’t understand why Fellowes does this, or what particularly makes him do this.  The women in Downton Abbey aren’t like this–even O’Brien, who is the true bitch of the piece, has had a redemption of sorts and is, from that point on, very empathetic.  But his novel that I read had a really skewed set of women as its stars.  So I’m really not sure what to say, except Downton Abbey is his one-trick pony, at this point.  All of the rest of his stuff seems to just be a disappointment to me.

I will say that there were a few parts that I enjoyed: Gli Italiani (Paulo and Mario) and Annie the cabin steward were cute and sad.  Also, I got to use my deteriorating Italian language skills, which is always a plus.  I also liked the Wideners, or their son at least.  But the real key moment for me was when John Jacob Astor (IV) freed the dogs from the bottom of the ship.  That made me love the man so much! I would have a-never taken a trip where my dog had to be in steerage in a cage for days on end, and b-punched anyone in the face if they tried to keep me from saving him. If I’d ended up in the water, I would have been holding my dog above my head to keep him dry.  But those are just my priorities.  So, needless to say, JJA is my new hero.

Since that was a short and unsatisfactory review of an unsatisfactory miniseries, I am going to share some great news I discovered today.  Apparently this was announced months ago and I am just very slow to hear about it.  But, I’m thrilled regardless.  Ricky Gervais’ next project, instead of a third series of An Idiot Abroad, is something called The Short Way Round.  This is, essentially, a spoof of The Long Way Round, which was an awesome documentary that followed Ewan MacGregor and his friend Charley Boorman as they rode motorcycles from London to New York, going East. So, this show of Ricky’s will feature Warwick Davis and Karl Pilkington riding a moped around the world.  According to Ricky, the plan is to have Warwick ride in a basket on the front, but I’m hoping this is a joke.  I don’t think they’ve started any filming yet, since I heard about this from a tweet Warwick …tweeted about getting preparatory inoculations. IMDB has air dates for this in December, but I’m not certain if that will be in the US or just the UK. Still, it’s something to look forward to.  Unlike Julian Fellowes, Ricky Gervais has never put out a show that I didn’t like.

TV review: Life’s Too Short, Season 1

Almost every Ricky Gervais/Stephen Merchant project has been on this blog at this point, so I will continue the tradition.  As a Harry Potter fan, I love Warwick Davis, and I was really excited to hear about this series.

This show is a lot like Extras.  The format is similar, the main character is very similar.  Instead of Ricky being the protagonist,  Warwick (pronounced Warrick, apparently) plays him.  He plays a warped and completely egotistical version of himself. Just like in real life, the Warwick from LTS is a famous dwarf actor, and he also runs a talent agency for little actors.  Unlike real life (at least, I assume), he’s kind of a dick.  He always wants to seem more famous than he is, more attractive than he is, more everything than he is.  The irony of the show’s premise is that it’s not his dwarfism that makes him insecure or unlikeable in any way. It’s his personality, his insecurity that makes him so ridiculous.  The Warwick from LTS is facing huge tax fees because his completely idiotic accountant has been doing his taxes wrong for years.  As a result, he is strapped for cash.  He is also, simultaneously, going through a messy divorce.  Ricky and Stephen are featured usually once per episode as Warwick comes to visit them to try to get work, advice, or even a loan.

Just like Extras, LTS features a TON of celebrities playing themselves–1 or 2 per week, typically.  The very first episode features Liam Neeson who tells Ricky & Steve that he wants to get into comedy.  What proceeds is too hilarious for words.

Other celebs include Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Steve Carrell, Sting, and a lot of British celebrities I’m not that familiar with.

Also similar to Extras, Warwick is surrounded by idiots.  He has the dumbest assistant in the entire world, and, similar to Stephen’s character in Extras, Warwick has an accountant that is his only friend and also a complete moron.  On one hand, you know that Warwick is smarter than these people, but on the other hand, he is such an asshole that you know these are the people he deserves to be with.

It’s a very physical sort of humor in this show. Sometimes you don’t want to laugh, because of a sort of PC sense of guilt, but then you realize that Warwick (as a producer) wants you to laugh…and you cant really stop yourself anyway.  When Warwick is descending from his large SUV and falls, you’re not laughing at a small person in a large car.  You find yourself laughing at the ludicrousness of a small person feeling so insecure that only a large car will make them feel good enough. Here’s an example:

It’s a hilarious show, and made me really really love Warwick Davis (even more than I did).  My only complaint is that it is sort of following the Ricky & Steve formula at this point; the similarities to Extras are almost too much.  I just sort of wanted something different.  But, maybe this is because I just rewatched Extras.  After all, it’s been 7 years since that show was on TV, and since then, Ricky and Steve have done An Idiot Abroad and The Ricky Gervais Show, a few movies and comedy specials, etc.  And those were all very different from one another.  So it’s excusable. And, most importantly, it’s funny.

The IT crowd, Seasons 3 and 4

Well, I’ve finished watching seasons 3 and 4 of The IT Crowd, and I am gutted that it is over! Yes, they’re planning some sort of special sometime in the future, but it’s all so vague that I don’t really think it’s ever going to happen.

To continue my raving review from last week, I must say that this show gets funnier and funnier as the seasons go on.  As a result, the second to last episode of season four was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.  Yes, it’s unsubtle, it’s a bit predictable, but it is so good and the acting is so funny, that I absolutely adore it.

On a side note, I have done a bit of research and find that NBC made a pilot of an American version of this show.  What?  First of all, why do American networks just take shows from England and make them worse, then show them here?  (Have I mentioned, they are making some shite American version of Sherlock where Watson is a woman?) Can anyone think of an example of when we’ve taken a show and made it better? Ever? Secondly, I have learned that Richard Ayoade was still going to play Moss, but Joel McHale was playing Roy?!  what.

Also, as this video shows, just like with the first episode of the US Office,they have taken it scene by scene and recreated it, but worse.  Joel McHale is great at playing an incredibly self-absorbed douche on Community, because it seems believable.  No one believes he would be best friends with Moss, or would work in the basement in IT.  You can’t just slap a goofy t-shirt on him and convince us he’s socially awkward. Not with all that gel in his hair.

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So, pretending that travesty never existed, I return to the purity of the UK version. Season three features some great scenes, including one where Roy and Moss try to hang out with ‘real’ guys by memorizing some football speak from a website called Bluffball, such as “Did you see that ludicrous display last night?” and “The problem with Arsenal is they always think they can walk the ball in”…and the two of them end up aiding and abetting a ring of criminals, after Roy has called the police on those same criminals.  After that, they learn not to try to hang out with normals. Another highlight is Roy and Moss convincing Jen that the internet is this:

After promising to be careful with it, Jen is permitted to take it to give a speech after she wins employee of the month. Jen declares how important and valuable the box is to her audience, stressing the total shutdown of modern society if anything should happen to it. Roy and Moss thinks it’s hilarious, but the audience believes her completely. When the box gets smashed, they panic and start looting the place.

Season four includes an episode where Moss becomes a pseudo-celebrity after appearing on the brainy TV quiz show Countdown, and goes to a special Countdown groupies club. The greatest episode of the season, as I said, is the second to last one, where Roy and Moss skip out of work halfway through the day and Moss goes through a bit of a rebellious phase. Moss steals DVDs, the two attempt to help defuse a bomb, and the entire department is threatened with firings.

 

I am really sad that this show is over just when I discovered it, but that’s not unusual for me. I usually fall in love with things three or four years after they’ve stopped being on the air.  Still…here’s hoping they make that special after all.

TV Review: The IT Crowd, Seasons 1-2

I started watching this with my boyfriend because he is a big computer nerd and heard good things about it  I was unsure at first, because there is a ludicrous laugh track and I hate those on any show.  Technically it’s filmed in front of a studio audience, so it’s not a laugh track but is actual laughter.  Regardless, I hate it.  But, just like with other shows, I have eventually gotten used to it.  Still, I must say I do not comprehend why a laugh track is ever necessary, or why shows should be filmed in front of a studio audience.  What is this, 1950?

Sorry, that was a slight digression.   Anyway!  Sometimes I dislike shows like this because they aren’t…the humor isn’t surprising.  Sometimes I can predict the exact punchline in sitcoms, and I find them less funny because a large part of humor is the unexpected.  The point is that once I got about 5 or 6 episodes into the show, I found myself laughing hysterically at every episode.  The humor isn’t always surprising, but it is all done extremely well.  A lot of what is brilliant about this show is the comedic timing.

The show revolves around two computer nerds in the IT department of a large corporation in London, who get a new manager with zero technological knowledge.

Roy, on the right, is played by Chris O’Dowd, who got pretty famous last year as the Irish cop from Bridesmaids. He plays your typical slacker type, complete with nerdy t-shirts, a bad attitude at work, and general snarkiness.  At the beginning of the show, I imagined he would be my favorite character. This was before I knew how amazing Moss was.

Jen, the girl, is their new tech un-savvy manager, also known as a ‘normal’. She is disappointed to end up in the creepy basement with the creepy nerds.  She thinks she belongs up on the higher floors, where the pretty, successful people are.  Jen is obviously necessary for the show, and she can be quite funny, but she’s just not as interesting to me as the other two.

Then there’s Moss, on the left.  Played by Richard Ayoade, whose name will become more familiar soon, I think.  He directed a movie last year, Submarine, which is supposed to be a really good coming-of-age type film.  I’ve put it on my queue.  Later this year, he is starring in Neighborhood Watch with Ben Stiller, Jonah Hill, and Vince Vaughn.  The film has been pushed back because of the bad associations with the Trayvon Martin case in the news, but I think it is still coming out later this year.  Or maybe they have just pushed back the marketing side of things, I’m not sure.  News sources are a bit vague on what is going to happen in the next few months.  Anyway, I am hoping it will be pretty funny because, and let me be clear on this, this dude deserves to be really famous and really successful.  He is hilarious.  Moss is your typical complete and utter computer nerd.  Very few social skills.  Very few life skills, if it comes to that.  Ultimate example: He accidentally sets the office on fire and then emails the fire department.

The seasons of the show are short, so we watched seasons 1 and 2 in just a manner of days.  They’re both only 6 episodes long.  And now that I’m loving this show so much…I learn that they are not doing another season. Argh.  Season 4 ended last year, I think, and they are doing a special sometime this year, but then that’s it.

Anyway, back to my review! No more tangents.  This isn’t the sort of show with a real plot, so much so that you can watch most of the episodes in the wrong order and it won’t make much difference.  Each one is a stand-alone, and once again this is not something  I really like in shows.  But this show does it so well and makes me laugh so much that it negates all my previous feelings about the traditional ‘sitcom’.

In some ways, it resembles Seinfeld or Curb Your Enthusiasm, etc, because it features people who do one strange thing or tell a lie, and that forces them into stranger and stranger positions to hold up their original lie.  An example:  To avoid a bathroom at a theatre where there is one of those creepy attendants, Roy uses a handicapped bathroom.  He pulls on the cord to flush the toilet and then realizes that the cord is actually an emergency handle.  When stewards rush into the bathroom to help the handicapped person within, he lies on the floor and pretends to be disabled and that someone has stolen his wheelchair.  Moss, also to avoid a creepy bathroom attendant, uses a staff bathroom.  When someone catches him, he claims to be a staff member, and is put to work at the bar.  Here’s some bits from that episode, just the first 3 minutes of the clip.

Another incident involves Jen needing someone to pretend to be her husband to fool old classmates at a reunion.  Roy is busy on a date with someone he doesn’t care for, so she enlists Moss’ help.  Then Roy, wanting to get rid of his terrible date, turns up at the reunion claiming to be Jen’s lover, and the three of them have it out at the reunion in front of everyone.

I am not sure what about this show is so funny.  It has a lot of the qualities that I don’t like in a show, but it also has brilliant acting and timing that is unbeatable.  I find with a lot of British shows like this one, Black Books, and Spaced, I grow more fond of them as the seasons continue.  By the end, I love them, whereas my first impressions aren’t usually great.  So, if you give this one a try, give it at least three episodes to make you laugh.  If you don’t laugh by the point when Moss spreads a rumor throughout the office that Jen has died…then you’re not going to laugh at all.

At the rate I’m going, I expect to finish seasons 3-4 this weekend, so expect yet another blog post discussing the greatness of this show.

Top 5 British Everything! part 2

Ok, time for yet another installment in my ever-growing number of pointless lists! First off, my picks for top 5 British TV shows.  You’ve no idea how difficult this was!  I can’t imagine how much harder it would be if I’d actually seen large amounts of British TV, not just the stuff that trickles across the pond.

1. The Office/Extras

I’m cheating a little bit by putting these together.  They are both written and starring Ricky Gervais, so it is justified, but I love them enough that they might deserve individual spots on the list.  Too bad, though, because I don’t have enough room for that!  I think the Office was my first introduction to British TV, and I have to admit it took me at least two watch-throughs to understand what the fuck they were saying.  The accents are thick, but the show is also completely full of utterly unintelligible cultural references that I still don’t get.  But the parts I could understand were hilarious.  I can only guess how much funnier it is if you have any idea what they’re talking about.  Luckily, the DVD provides a slang glossary that explains some of it.

Ricky Gervais’ David Brent is hilarious in the show, but of course my heart belongs to Martin Freeman (who is becoming a common fixture on this blog), as Tim.

Extras is a bit more easy to digest for an American audience (though I hear they actually changed some of the scenes for the American audience), and has a mind-boggling amount of guest stars.  Just to name a few: Ben Stiller, Vinnie Jones, Kate Winslet, Patrick Stewart, Samuel L Jackson, David Bowie, and, most importantly, Daniel Radcliffe in possibly the most hilarious scene ever on tv.

As with the Office, my favorite character on this show is not Ricky Gervais. Stephen Merchant is a very odd looking fellow, especially with the ludicrous glasses and hair he has in this show.  He looks a bit like a stick insect with a turtleneck and thick spectacles.

It doesn’t help that the guy is something like 12 feet tall.  But anyone who has seen Extras, or played Portal 2 knows how awesome he is.  Plus, he co-created the Office and Extras with Ricky, so I like that he gets to be on camera in this show.

It’s interesting to think about Ricky Gervais’ shows.  He always has himself as the central character, and he always plays a semi-terrible person, surrounded by much nicer characters.  This simultaneously makes me think he is an incredibly egotistical, but also very self-deprecating person.  Whatever his motives, his shows are hilarious.

2.Doctor Who

A couple of disclaimers before I explain my love for Doctor Who: 1-I have only seen the newest incarnations of the show, and don’t really have much desire to go back and watch the episodes from the ’70s, 2-David Tennant is the only Doctor for me, 3-The production values on the show are terrible, the effects are terrible, occasionally the music is terrible–I acknowledge all of this, and love the show anyway.

Here’s a show that makes almost no sense, on the face of it.  The concept is ridiculous: time traveling alien with two hearts and one sonic screwdriver travels through time/space (usually ending up in England, for some reason) with human companions finding and solving catastrophes that usually have something to do with aliens.  Many of these aliens look like ‘pepper pots‘ or cheesy 50s robots.

Add to that some truly low-budget effects and Billie Piper’s annoyingly overdone mascara, and it should be a terrible show.  But it’s not.  It’s witty, funny, adventurous, light-hearted, occasionally moving, and always worth watching.  Also, it’s a bit uncanny that the show can have had 11 different actors portray the eponymous Doctor and still have you believe that he is the same person.  Rather ingenious, the way the writers worked that into the character’s back story.  I’ve watched through three doctors now, and while Tennant will always be my favorite, I liked seeing how each one brought a new idea to the same frantic and infectious energy at the core of the show.

3. Fawlty Towers

A classic British show from the ’70s starring John Cleese and his actual (then) wife as Mr. and Mrs. Fawlty, who run a small hotel on the English seaside. Basil Fawlty (Cleese) is a cowardly misanthrope who is constantly yelled at by his controlling wife, and he, in turn, takes out his anger on Manuel, the Spanish waiter with limited English skills.  It was voted one of the best British tv shows of all time, and is actually more popular now than I think it was when it originally aired.  It’s a slapstick, over-the-top sort of show, which took me a while to get into, I confess.  It’s certainly not the sardonic, mockumentary style of humor you’d find in the Office.  It’s totally different, and more in line with the traditional British sitcom.  There are only twelve episodes of the show (2 six-episode seasons), so you can polish off the whole series in a few days’ time.  The show gets better with each episode, and by the end of the first season, I was hooked.  If you’re in the mood for something silly, Fawlty Towers is perfection.

4. Sherlock

What’s this? Martin Freeman again?  I’m sensing a theme.  If you recall, I’ve already done a few posts about this show and my love for it. As such, I won’t repeat myself.  I will say, however, that this show is about to overtake Fawlty Towers, and maybe Doctor Who, in my long-term estimation and adoration.  It is a paragon of everything you can do with TV drama.

5. The Inbetweeners

This show is, without a doubt, the sickest thing I’ve seen on TV in a long time.  But, as it’s about 16-18 year old boys, that makes sense.  It is painfully embarrassing to watch, shockingly foul-mouthed, and absolutely hilarious.  It taught me at least 5 new, incredibly awful words for female genitalia, unfortunately. That’s the sort of show it is.  I didn’t want to like it, what with absolutely every other line being horrifying, but it is too damn funny to ignore. Plus, the knowledge that absolutely all of these boys are completely clueless makes their slightly misogynistic tendencies more bearable.  There was also a movie, which I saw thanks to a multi-region dvd player–I don’t think it was ever released in US theaters or on format 1 dvd.  If you doubt how funny this is, a scene from the movie should clear it up:

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Honorable Mention: Top Gear, Downton Abbey–It was very, very difficult for me to pick just 5 shows, and as I have already talked about these two on this blog, I’ve left them as honorable mentions rather than putting them in the top 5.  Nonetheless, they are awesome.

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British Music–if the tv shows were hard to choose (and they were), this was like choosing between my children…if I ever had them and was faced with a Sophie’s Choice type situation… The point is, this was really hard. The only easy choice was number one…

1. The Beatles

I’m fairly certain that anyone who has spent more than half an hour with me knows this is my favorite band of all time.  I can’t even begin to discuss the amount of influence the Beatles have had on my life, or on music in general.  There’s nothing I can say about them as musicians that hasn’t already been said.  What I can say about my personal love for them, is that it all has to do with my mom.  She loved the Beatles and played 60s and 70s music almost exclusively when I was growing up.  As a result, I went into middle and high school knowing all the lyrics to I Am the Walrus, while other kids were really into N Sync.  Not to imply that I was some sort of cool music kid, I was not cool in any way, but I do appreciate that I was exposed to this sort of music from an early age.  It is much more in keeping with my views on music and on the world, and every time I hear a Beatles song, even if it’s one I’ve never heard before, it’s the aural equivalent of nostalgia.  It sounds like home to me.

2. David Bowie

I got into Bowie late in life…Or late in life so far. I think I was 24 or 25 before I set out to listen to some of his stuff.  It was never on the radio when I was growing up…Too old to be on the top 40 stations, too new to be on the oldies station.   And, where I grew up, we had those two kinds of stations, plus a lot of country music and some religious crap.  So I wasn’t directly exposed to Bowie until I set out to listen to his stuff.  Wow.  Within about a day, I was in love. I think I had probably heard his stuff in other contexts, in movies and commercials, but never in its original form.  To this day, Suffragette City is one of my favorite songs ever. The best thing about Bowie is that his songs have variety–Suffragette City doesn’t sound anything like Changes or China Girl.  My biggest annoyance with today’s music is that you can put on any song on someone’s album and it will sound identical to every other song.  The only distinctions are slow or fast.  But back in the day, musicians felt like they could experiment with something new if they wanted to.  I think it was even expected.  This means that you can find something to listen to by the same artist, even if you’re in a vastly different mood.  Which means there is a Bowie song for every occasion.  He even wrote a special song for Extras!

3. The Rolling Stones

When I was young and first formulating my opinions on music, as we all do in our early teens, this is what the Stones looked like:

Not something any teenager associates with being cool, or being alive for that matter.  They all look like the Cryptkeeper.  But, take a look at how awesome they were in their heyday.

It’s a bit like looking at pictures of your dad when he was young, and realizing he was not always interested in mortgages or the price of a good recliner.  Anyway, I still dislike most of the Stones later catalog, particularly ‘Love is Strong’.  But their early stuff is just amazing!  Enough to make up for most of the stuff they put out in the ’90s, and almost good enough to overcome Keith Richards’ appearance in that Pirates of the Caribbean movie!  My particular favorites are Paint it Black, Sympathy for the Devil, and Beast of Burden.

4. Queen

Like many of my generation, my first introduction to the music of Queen was during Wayne’s World.  Thank God for Wayne and Garth. Queen was an amazing band, and Freddie Mercury was a seriously stunning frontman. Google frontman, and the first result is a Wiki article on lead singers with a picture of Freddie Mercury. That says it all.

Like David Bowie, Queen have the capacity to sound radically different depending on the song you’re listening to.  Another One Bites the Dust sounds nothing like Crazy Little Thing Called Love, and nothing sounds anything like Bohemian Rhapsody. Seriously, has there ever been a song that is as fun to sing as Bohemian Rhapsody?  If you think you can argue with me, watch this:

5. the Clash

What can you say about such an important band?  They were one of the first punk bands ever? They were one of the best punk bands ever? A lot of people have heard of the Clash but might not be familiar with their songs.  Only, I’m sure you’ve heard them, even if you didn’t know it at the time.  I’m sure everyone has heard Should I Stay Or Should I Go, but it doesn’t sound like a punk song when you hear it, and I don’t think I knew it was the Clash until later in life. The Clash isn’t a mainstream band, by any means, but it is not something so esoteric that you can’t appreciate the songs without a music degree.  And in terms of influence on later musicians and on the direction of music at the time, they were hugely important.

I am aware that this list has been full of men.  I am not someone who thinks women cannot be great musicians, but I am someone who listens to older music, and there were a lot less of them back then.

Honorable Mention–Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Amy Winehouse, the Streets, the Who

What kind of ridiculous list has Led Zeppelin as an honorable mention?!  Good God. I’m too exhausted to continue! I was going to torture you all with my favorite bits of British history, and other factoids of a comparatively useless nature, but I will desist. Maybe next time.