Updated: August 24, 2001.
Attention American TV executives: forget importing cheap game shows from England like Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? Here are the British shows we need to see in the United States! Everyone else: keep your eyes peeled and maybe one of these series will turn up soon. Meanwhile, be sure to check out Does Your PBS Station Show...?
Note that many of these ran on Channel 4 which has a terrible track record (unlike the BBC) of getting programs shown in the US. C'mon, Channel 4, let's see these shows!
As more shows on this list turn up on the US, I will take them off and add some new ones. Recent shows that used to be here include So Graham Norton which began running on BBC America in July 2001.
1. Spaced. Winner of our reader's poll, this often surreal comedy on Channel 4 focuses on the lives and adventures of two mismatched flatmates, written and starring Simon Pegg and Jessica Stevenson. A lightning-fast pace and a number of in-jokes for science fiction fans skew this toward younger viewers but it definitely hits the mark. The Canadian Bravo channel is currently running it.
2. G.B.H. Alan Bleasdale wrote this sophisticated 1989 dramatic mini-series on Channel 4 starring Michael Palin and Robert Lindsay that revealed a lot of what was going on behind the scenes of an unnamed midlands city.
3. Nightingales. A comedy that did for night watchmen what Red Dwarf does for science fiction. Three night watchmen (including David Threlfeld and Robert Lindsay) have bizarre adventures while on duty on this Channel 4 sitcom that ran for 12 episodes early in the 1990s.
4. Have I Got News For You. BBC-1 current events quiz show hosted by Angus Deayton with regular panelists Paul Merton and Ian Hislop skewers public figures and news events with great wit. ABC is supposedly interested in doing an American remake with Norm MacDonald hosting.
5. Victoria Wood. This talented comedienne, actress, and musician has headlined a number of specials on television, had her own sketch comedy shows, and now is writing and starring in dinnerladies for the BBC which BBC America picked up for broadcast in December.
6. Coronation Street. The most popular and longest-running series in Britain can't be seen in the US! (though Canadian viewers get a weekly fix via the CBC).
7. Sapphire and Steel. This very odd and stylized fantasy series starred Joanna Lumley (Absolutely Fabulous) and the always-in-fashion David McCallum as two otherworldly investigators battling their enemy Time. ITV showed a number of serialized adventures during the 1980s, and a very few PBS stations have run it, but wide distribution still eludes this haunting, memorable show.
8. Game On. This brilliant twentysomething comedy series seems ripe for remaking on NBC (though let's hope not!) about three sad flatmates (Ben Chaplin - replaced by Neil Studke in the second year, Matthew Cottle, and Samantha Janus) living together in this Andrew Davies (A Very Peculiar Practice) written BBC-2 sitcom.
9. My Wonderful Life. This ironically titled comedy on ITV was created by Simon Nye (Men Behaving Badly) about the life and times of Donna (Emma Wray), a harried nurse with two girls. Tony Robinson plays her politically correct (and irritating) neighbor, in this cynical but realistic series.
10. Time Team. For three days a group of archeologists descend on a site with a mission, all recorded by the cameras and enthusiastically hosted by Tony Robinson (Blackadder's Baldrick). An educational program was never this interesting or popular (the live digs each August generate millions of hits to Channel 4's website). Updated: The new History Channel International has begun running this recently but cable systems may be slow to pick it up.
Other programs we need to see the US:
Chelmsford 123: Channel 4 comedy about the Roman occupation of Britain. A bit lowbrow but some funny scenes.
Dressing For Breakfast: Channel 4 comedy about an insecure single girl and her married best friend.
Further Abroad: Presenter Jonathan Meades looks at aspects of the world in a whole new light, and isn't afraid to make a fool of himself in the process.
Fist Of Fun: BBC sketch comedy show (originally on radio, then BBC-2) by Stewart Lee and Richard Herring (now on This Morning With Richard Not Judy).
If I Ruled The World. A political game show hosted by Clive Anderson with Graeme Garden (The Goodies) and Jeremy Hardy as leaders of two fictitious parties who attempt to curry audience favor by making the most outrageous policy statements. It's obviously intended to demonstrate that politicians can say anything at anytime without really saying anything.