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American vs British TV: who does it better?

Written by Culture, TV

In the last decade or so, television has arguably peaked – it has become increasingly important to, and has proved itself a quintessential medium of, modern society.
More and more Hollywood actors have even abandoned film for TV, which is something that would have seemed like madness twenty years ago. Both American and British production companies have taken TV by storm, but the million dollar question is: who does television better? And how do we compare to our rivals across the pond? I objectively evaluated the offerings of both countries by genre to find out.

Comedy

Credit: NBCUniversal, Inc, IMDb

Kicking it off with comedy, the two countries are arguably on par with each other in this genre. American offerings are plentiful and include (but are not limited to) Friends, Family Guy and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. America’s obsession with slapstick and the obscene makes their comedy a force to be reckoned with. However, Britain provides the ultimate relatable content, with our comedy being riddled with dry humour, innuendos and satire as seen in shows like Little Britain and The Imbetweeners. The latter of which inspired a pitiful U.S. remake, which was so dreadful it made me wish there was an ‘unwatch’ button on my remote.

Reality TV

American shows like Keeping up with the Kardashians and Jersey Shore seemingly dominate this genre with their extravagant content and brash characters. However, most British reality TV is about competition. This competition often ends up causing fights, fall-outs and backstabbing, such as in Love Island and Great British Bake Off, which can be amusing to watch for their millions of viewers. This is reflected by their huge fan bases and various spin-offs, and is why the Brits win this round.

Credit: IMDb

Kids

When it comes to kid’s TV, I personally prefer the British kid’s shows I have grown up watching, such as the iconic Tracy Beaker, Deadly 60, and my favourite of them all – Horrible Histories. That been said, I’ve got to give this round to the U.S. as there is a much wider variety of children’s shows on American TV channels such as the Disney Channel and Cartoon Network. Furthermore, American TV shows are genuinely wholesome at the core, meaning they are actually more beneficial to children.

Documentary

The humble documentary is a somewhat underrated, yet important television genre. Leading the way for Britain, Louis Theroux’s series of documentaries are beautifully made and as binge worthy as any drama. Furthermore, Sir David Attenborough is undoubtedly the king of nature documentaries, with his deeply informative content and stunning cinematography. Therefore, Britain wins by a landslide when it comes to their documentaries as American offerings tend to be either painfully low budget or pretentiously high budget, whereas Britain has found a satisfying middle ground.

Credit: BBC Earth, YouTube
Credit: Netflix, IMDb

Drama

Last but certainly not least, drama. The USA has produced countless drama serials – all of a very high quality. From the critically acclaimed Game of Thrones to Breaking Bad and Netflix’s own Stranger Things, America really gives Britain a run for their money regarding TV dramas. On that topic, Britain has produced many popular and award winning TV dramas including Downton Abbey, Dr Who and Sherlock, but in terms of overall writing and production, American drama is so far ahead of its British counterpart.

All in all, Britain wins by a hair. American TV is exceptional, with its often complex storylines and beautiful cinematography, but there is something about the gritty realism and self-deprecation present in British TV that the Americans just can’t recreate, no matter how hard they try in painful remake after painful remake. America, you had your fun with remaking The Office, now please just call it a day and stop vandalising our TV shows!

Last modified: 2nd May 2020

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