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The Fannish Life: Why Can't We All Get Along

Ann Morris ponders about the British television vs. American television debate

You probably know by now that I am avowed Anglophile. I have been since I was a young girl falling in love with the young men who made British music in the 1960s.

Ah, Peter Noone, Jeremy Clyde, Ringo Starr, and yes, even Freddie (looked like the quintessential nerd) Garrity! If you know all of those names, good on you. If not, run to Google.

I wrote my senior theme in high school on "England as it is Today." Because we didn’t have access to British television shows when I was growing up, it wasn’t till the PBS stations started showing "Monty Python" and "Doctor Who" in the early 1970s that I knew of the wonders of programmes from across the pond.

Notice my British spelling of “programs”? I bet you did.

By the 1980s, I’d found "Rising Damp," "The Fall and Rise of Reggie Perrin" and "The Goodies." Now, that’s a trio of delights, I’ll tell you.

"Shapphire and Steel," "Blake’s Seven," "The Tomorrow People," "UFO," and, of course, "Doctor Who," were the science fiction programmes that had shown up on my radar. I loved watching these shows. It made me feel that the distance between me and this United Kingdom that I loved was not so terribly broad.

These days, we have access to pretty much anything we want to see that comes from ITV, Sky TV and the BBC, albeit not always in a strictly legal manner.

This greater access has led to what I think is a peculiar fannish argument. At several conventions where I have participated on British television panels, the names of the panels have included reference to a battle between British and American television. The one I was on at Chicon 7 asked the question, "Why is British television so much better than American television?"

As much as I love getting to watch British television, I am not going to argue with others about the merits of it or why it’s better than American television. This, to me, is a pointless and somewhat harmful way of looking at things.

To say categorically that one brand of television or the other is better is a bit too inclusive.

Does anyone really believe that everything on television in the United Kingdom is fabulous and enlightening and just wonderful? Does anyone believe that about American television? That’s highly unlikely. Here in the States, we have some awful shows and they have some oinkers in the United Kingdom as well.

Some of the things I think are a waste of air time actually had precursors in England. The Brits gave us the idea for all the talent competitions with annoying made up dramas among the judges .. and for "Big Brother."

I'm guessing some of our stuff that has made it over there makes some people shake their heads too.

Television in Britain and the Colonies, is a mixed bag at best. I see no point in debates about who does it better. What makes sense to me is to pick and choose from the wonderful variety available to us.

I'm going to go off on a little tangent here to focus on the argument within an argument: "Sherlock" vs. "Elementary."

There are some Holmes fans who seem to think that CBS airing a show about Sherlock Holmes at basically the same time the BBC has done is a travesty. Some go so far as to hate the show having not even seen it. It’s enough that it’s not from the United Kingdom and that CBS shows it knowing of the great following for the BBC programme and capitalizes on it.

Well, folks, I have loved the world’s greatest detective since seeing the Basil Rathbone films as a youngster and I have read many, many pastiches of Arthur Conan Doyle’s work as well as all of the original stories and novels. I have read the latter more than once. At one time, I thought the only person who could play Sherlock was Basil Rathbone. Oh, foolish me! I have learned that quite a few others can make me love them as Mr. Holmes. Most recently they have been Robert Downey Jr., Benedict Cumberbatch and Johnny Lee Miller.

The beauty of having many versions of a character is that you just get more of what you love. It simply comes in slightly different packages. That’s not a bad thing. It’s rather like ice cream. You don’t have to have only vanilla. You can have chocolate and bubble gum ice cream too.

Getting back to my original premise, I think there is no real basis for a dispute over the quality of one nation’s television as opposed to another's. More fun is to be had sampling all there is to offer with an open mind.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!

About the Author

Ann Morris imagined visiting other worlds and dimensions in her childhood play but didn't 'officially' begin living a fannish life till the early 1970s when she was a founding member of the Stone Hill Science Fiction Association in 1979 and remains active to this day. She lives in Plant City, Fla., where she writes from her geekosphere.
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