Mount Rushmore

Letter from America, part one: Cheese, TV and modern media in the UK

New York, 1/15/2019 (Note the proper way to write the date!)

My first and, frankly, only memories of British media stem from a visit ‘across the pond’ to my childhood friend (and editor of this irreverent, offensive, and truly fine website), Sean Gollogly, living just south of London.  

This was the late 1980s. TV media was exploding in the US.  Aside from the regular nine free channels you could pick up here in NY (2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, and UHF, which should have been labeled WTF?), we had cable, which came with an additional 29 channels.  MTV had burst into every American home just a few years prior and was still enjoying its high viewership and singular demographic. (This was when MTV still played actual music!)

My parents also had HBO. We could watch actual movies at home without renting them from Blockbuster. What a concept!  I remember watching a film called The Beastmaster 16 times in one month.  Terrible, fantastic film.  Every now and then, an ‘R’-rated movie would come on during the latchkey hours (the hours after school, but before my parents came home) and if you were really lucky, you could catch a glimpse of an actual naked woman!  Or perhaps a shot of woman’s behind as seen in a mirror.

For the uninformed, the rating system in Puritan America has gotten much laxer over time.  Back in the 80s, this was considered hardcore.

Compare this, which I enjoyed at home, with what I found at Sean’s house in south London.  There were four channels: BBC1, BBC2, ITV and Channel 4. (You British are very creative with your naming schemas.)  Sean was very proud of the seemingly vast selection. Apparently, this was double what the UK had had only a year prior. Okay, Sean, let’s see what British TV  has to offer on a Saturday evening at 6pm.

BBC1: Documentary on the making of cheese

BBC2: Cheese documentary

ITV: Cheese documentary

Channel 4: Cheese documentary

For real!  Not joking!  And his folks were seriously into it.  Over the course of a week, I was subjected to documentaries on Stilton, Stinking Bishop, Lancashire, Shropshire, Cornish Yarg, Wensleydale, Berkswell, Suffolk Gold, Caerphilly, Gloucester and Red Leicester.

That last one might have been a documentary on a football team.  I can’t be sure, but it would have been a welcome relief.

Flash forward 30 years. Sean and his John-Lennon-soundalike friend Robin Gibson (Huh? – Ed) have a Modern Media Review website?  Cue Keith Moon’s remark to Jimmy Page about lead balloons.

And indeed, a brief perusal of the site shows a review of some sort of celebrity chef competition – who can make the best boiled potato? – and an article about a chocolate bar called ‘Dairy Milk’.  

Oh, you sad, sad Brits, I pity you. Your obsession with all the bland and boring things of the Earth (warm beer, queueing, soccer) is topped only by your infatuation for the many unremarkable byproducts of that sour, soapy froth excreted from a cow’s udder.

Photograph: Mount Rushmore by Pixabay/Pexels

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