The influence of British media has the same branching effect as its colonial predecessor. Where that small European island was once the epicenter of trade and global rule, it is now the foundation from which other nations take and spin TV shows. Programs such as Top Gear, Hell’s Kitchen, and Britain’s Got Talent have expanded from one side of the globe to the other. The recent explosion of reality TV, too, has made this possible for both networks, who love the inexpensive quality of it, and viewers, who latch on to the so-called “reality” it offers.
This false sense of realism is not the only thing that has spread out from England’s shores. It would be remiss to discuss the adaptation of British to American programming without identifying the most notable success, The Office. Ricky Gervais brought to life the odd and offensive David Brent for about a dozen episodes spread over several seasons, but Steve Carell’s Michael Scott has been offending and befriending American viewers for the last seven seasons.
This borrowing of ideas and adapting them for specific national audience appeal is not something Canada is immune to. With a shared Queen, the Great White North is more than ready to huddle under the umbrella of the UK and their brilliant programming. Canada’s W Network has not only aired the originals of How to Look Good Naked and Come Dine With Me, but they have also taken it upon themselves to create and Come Dine With Me Canada.
One of the most interesting programs, though, to recently hit American airwaves with rave reviews is Who Do You Think You Are? The show is originally a BBC production that, since 2004, has followed UK celebrities as they look into their family trees and uncover the stories and ancestors that have made them who they are today. The CBC, actually, did a small 13 episode series under this same titular brand that followed famous distinguished Canadians, namely BNL frontman Steven Page and the face of hockey and bad ties Don Cherry. It apparently aired back in 2007, but the real success is NBC’s version. Lisa Kudrow, former Friends star, executive produced the show after she saw UK’s version back in England. She felt it was the kind of weekly documentary that could become meaningful for Americans, especially during a time when financial uncertainty has pushed familial connections to a stronger position. It is already in its second season and airs Friday nights at 8pm. Among some of the celebrity histories are Lisa Kudrow, who found an unexpected surprise when looking back at her family’s history during the Holocaust, and football Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith, who discovered the tenacity of one of his ancestors in the midst of the slave trade.
However hard Americans try to dismiss the invasive power of their former motherland, she always seems to stick around in the most interesting of ways. Britain’s established media offers a grab bag of ideas for other nations to build off of and make their own.