What you can learn from television

No. not the American kind–I grew up with that. But I’m in Ireland, and I have a satellite dish that gets mainly UK television shows. Some are familiar from what’s broadcast in the U.S. (like Midsomer Murders, several times a day), but what has attracted my attention is both English shows (like BBC news) and, yes, the commercials. Since the weather has been a bit damp, I’ve had the chance to watch a lot of them.

Content: Let me start by saying that I suspect satellite broadcasts are aimed at older citizens (like us fogies who keep watching during the day). There is a preponderance of “save the animals” pitches–for the usual cats and dogs, but with quite a few appeals to contribute to bears and donkeys and abused zoo animals. The requests are usually small and reasonable–a few pounds a month (forever).

Then there is the “senior” furniture–lots of scooters of different sorts, and chairs that will gently nudge you out of your armchair or bathtub or bed. They are most often used by lovely blonde women carefully dressed in skirts and high heels (to sit in a chair to read a book?) and smiling all the time. Seriously, most of these ladies don’t look like they need help getting out of the furniture, but usually there’s a spouse handy to encourage her.

Funeral packages: there are many many appeals (to the presumably not-young audience) to invest in a burial program for the future, at only a few pounds a month. Be sure to read the fine print, because you can’t always get a refund if you don’t make use of your policy.

Appearance: Since Brexit is looming (whatever shape it takes), I’ve seen a lot of news shows and MPs (mostly members of the UK House of Commons) on broadcasts throughout the day. It is a different universe from our staid and usually well-groomed politicians and newscasters. They look like normal people–the hair styles look as good (or bad) as mine and vary widely; there is little makeup on the women; teeth have rarely encountered orthodontia and they are often yellow. No spandex outfits in sight. I find it kind of refreshing: these are people you can identify with.

One last comment: watching the full House of Commons in action during a heated debate is a lot more interesting than watching the American Congress. People yell and make odd noises. They stand up and sit down a lot. They compete for attention, often loudly. (And, as of this moment, there are slightly more female members than in Congress, although that may be changing since Brexit negotiations have been such an ongoing mess. (Should I mention that Scotland is talking about becoming an independent country?)

I will also say that in general most MPs are far more polite (even on Facebook), both in general and to one another, than their American counterparts. They are civil and they don’t call each other names. They sound intelligent and well-informed, and they clearly represent their constituents.

Readers, do you think the U.S. could move a bit closer to this model? If you ever get a chance, take a look at how they do things.

12 Thoughts

  1. You description of the commercials sound a lot like our commercials here during the day, especially if you are watching some of the cable channels like The Game Show Network. (Not that I will turn that on if I am home sick for a day or anything.)

    It sounds like the members of Parliament get their hostilities out in chambers so they can treat each other like real people outside the chambers. It would be nice if we could remember the humanity of those we disagree with here in the States for sure.

  2. I’ve seen (and heard on the radio) the British Parliament – so lively! And even British actresses usually have “regular” teeth, which is very refreshing.

  3. I notice those kinds of commercials are more frequent when I visit my mom in Florida than here in Northern Virginia. My husband often watches the news on BBC because he thinks it’s more measured in their coverage of American politics than any of the US channels.

  4. Th PBS stations here in the States does that same “for a few bucks a month” you can be a sponsor thing. But at least you are getting a a set of cd’s or dvd’s (whose price is deducted from your tax reducing donation). Then there is the funeral thing you mentioned. When my FIL passed on, the first thing we did was pre-pay our funerals.. Doing that earn you interest so that by the time you kick off the limo you refused to pay for can now be gotten with the accumulated interest. LOL

    On our “gumment” acting like the Brits? Only if we rejoined the British Empire. I also tune into the BBC news in the evening. Anything is better then Fox News.

    I hope to hit the lottery while I’m still healthy enough to enjoy the cash. The first thing I’d do is book a flight to Ireland and pop in for a cup of tea and a scone.. That and pizza at your local pub.

  5. I think they put gray wigs on younger models to make it appear that older people are using the walk-in tubs/mobility carts/etc. I don’t mind those commercials as much as I do the injury lawyers who try to scare you into thinking you are losing zillions of dollars by not suing for every little thing. What it really boils down to for me: I don’t watch TV, at all. Don’t even have TV service coming into the house. Much more peaceful existence with a lot more time to do productive or relaxing things.

  6. I wish politics would go back to mostly civil discourse and then working together over drinks to find compromise sering the peoe. I am very afraid of the next election and wish we could join you in Ireland.Can we seek asylum from our government?

  7. Great article, Sheila! I’ve watched the Prime Minister’s notes on US TV and find it an interesting way to keep track of parliamentary actions. While the discussions are sometimes heated, I’ve never seen name calling.

    It is indeed refreshing to see that the actors in British TV shows look like real people instead of the fluffed and buffed versions of same that we have on most of American TV. We in the USA might benefit from a bit more TV realism in our depictions of actual P.I.s’ and criminals’ appearance.

    Scotland has been pushing for independence for a while and if Brexit happens, they just might have the votes to do so.

  8. I remember my high school English teacher telling us how U.K. politicians have a small window before an election where they’re allowed to campaign. Here, it seems like the elections are barely over and they’re already campaigning for the next in 2-4 years. It’s turned into a constant thing. Plus the non-stop political phone calls. I wish the US would enforce some restrictions.

  9. I think society in general would have to change in order for people to be more civil to each other. There are so many people that love to bully, harass and degrade each other. Politics have definitely created a special kind of crazy in the U.S. Now people are physically attacking each other because they do not think or believe the same things that others do. It is really sad. I would never be allowed to behave the way many of the younger generation is behaving and get away with it because my parents would discipline me if I did. I hate all the money that is being used for ads and campaigning when the money could be better utilized somewhere else. An average person couldn’t run for office unless they have a lot of money or raised a lot of money which shouldn’t matter.

    1. Which is why we get a lot of the dodos we do. Most really good people can’t afford to run or are not willing to put up with all the BS. Yes, it is sad.

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