Comedy and British Identity

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A National Joke,

Peep Show

Goodness Gracious Me

Peep Show Goodness Gracious Me

 

 

 

Dream Team Fort Boyard Harry Enfield and Friends

Peep Show

Peep Show Peep Show

Goodness Gracious Me Goodness Gracious Me Goodness Gracious Me

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Introduction
One of the most daunting questions posed to graduate students (or any student for that matter) is the one inquiring about their focus. When asked about this project, I have told friends and family that I study the use of Americanness in British comedy as a means to reassert a sense of British identity. This is the easiest and most concise way I have found to answer the question. It is also a sentence constructed in such a way as to impress those unfamiliar with television studies. For some reason, when people hear “study television,” their body language and faces indicates that this field is a waste of time and just an excuse to watch television rather than do “real” work. Most do not understand that studying television changes the way in which I watch television. This dismissal changes, however, when I explain that I work with British television. There is a release in their body language, a type of acceptance, as if British television has been accepted as canonical, far superior to American television, deserving of study, more meaningful, and better quality. All of a sudden, I am given suggestions as to which program I should work with, which is their favorite and why I should watch it, and how much better they think British television is in comparison to American programs. Somehow, within this conversation, television studies becomes less useless and more insightful. It is the perceived differences and the way we talk about television, especially that of British and American television, that led me to this study of British television and specifically at the reflection of the dynamic of the British and American relationship within television. The purpose of this project is to explore how British television works with American television and popular culture in ways that do not interrupt the cultural education television provides. In conversations concerning American television abroad, there arises a conflict between cultures and questions as to whether or not the importation of American values and

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ideologies within countries without their own strong means of media production affect that domestic culture. While this debate continues to become more relevant as more nations develop their own programming, I thought it pertinent to look at the dynamic relationship between two media powerhouses like the United States and Great Britain. Each has a unique history with broadcasting and each have become great media exporters. Great Britain has proven to have great media influence within the United States, having had several programs imported or adapted for American television. The impact of British shows within American television schedules is more subtle than that of American television in the Britain. American shows often are shown in Great Britain, un-adapted for British audiences, whereas British shows are usually “translated,” using American writers and actors to adapt shows for the audiences. Besides, channels within the states aimed at niche audiences interested in British television and culture, like BBC America, audiences are not exposed to “British-ness,” unlike British audiences who have become very familiar with representations of “American-ness.” For those with access to BBC America, this is the channel meant to present the best of British television (BBC America website), which in turn gives viewers essentially a “what they need to know” about British television. For those in Great Britain, however, American television plays a larger role in television. American shows are commonly placed within main channels schedules. The question, then, is how does American television interact with British television and how...
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