A (Drunken) Saturday Evening with British Television

By Matthew Burroughs

 

Ah, Saturday night.

First thoughts about the weekend’s flagship evening for you might paint a picture of partying, night life, alcohol, one-night stands, burning sensations, and so on. For this worldly renaissance man however, the first thing I think of is television. Public television to be precise. PBS: free, educational, artistic, and absolutely fucking weird if you’re watching the same programs as a young adult that I did. If my social calendar was clear, and 98% of the time it was, my Saturday night plan involved taking in some unique British import shows (with my mom) on the couch.

At the time, Netflix was still over a decade away, and most network and cable channels assumed the average tv watcher would be doing something fun. The PBS station in my home state of Maryland however, knows its audience, NERDS, and knows damn well what we want to see. Each Saturday night programming block provided a steady rotation of comedies and light hearted sci-fi, always culminating in pre-reboot Dr. Who at midnight. They still practice this ritual to this day, taking only the briefest of pauses every fiscal quarter or so for another viewer supported, testicular twisting pledge drive.

British television has always been held in high regard in my household, and it’s difficult to pinpoint why. Chuckling like an idiot to 1980s and 90s sitcoms has to be just as stupid in any country, right? There’s nothing special about watching the United Kingdom’s versions of Home Improvement and Big Bang Theory is there? Well to put it simply, shows from Britain don’t overstay their welcome. While we in America feel the need to grind shows into the ground until they’re a pathetic paste of homogenized Urkles and Sheldons, a good BBC comedy is over and done with 19 episodes and 2 Christmas Specials, but leaving us with a lifetime of zingers and artisanal hipster approved image macros.

As the countless Saturdays since my childhood have come and gone, certain programs have stuck with me to this day. Some made me laugh, some confused me, and some I may have developed only in my mind in a fever dream. I’d like to explore some of these again. Looks like this particular Saturday isn’t a sack-kicking beg-a-thon, so let’s gather around the free broadcast television’s warming glow for a nostalgic jaunt into the UK’s greatest export. I will do my best to document my voyage in a sort of mini-diary, describing the shows as best I can, and maybe this time a few adult beverages will make things more interesting. At least this way I can say I’m partaking in some part of a normal person’s Saturday evening.

oakheart-of-bacardi-coke-10-vol-12-x-0-33l-online-mercado-bacardi-and-coke.jpg

My vehicle for this memory lane road trip: Bacardi Oakheart and Coca-Cola.

 

mr-bean-rowan-atkinson.jpg

8:00pm: I down my first cocktail and take a seat on the couch.

Cocktail count: One

Show: Mr. Bean

Oh man, this one takes me back. My grandfather and father loved this show, it was right up there with the classic Benny Hill shows. Rowan Atkinson milked this weird mute (who I guess was supposed to be from a different planet?) into a long series run by British standards, and even that shitty movie with Billy Crystal. If nothing else, Mr. Bean is responsible for more memes per square mile than any other show of the early 90s. Anyway, this is one of my favorite episodes, and it might be the first episode they ever made. I never knew the titles of these little shorts, if they had them, so I gave them all shitty “Friends” rip-off names. “The One in church,” “The One Where He Eats a Raw Steak,” “The laundromat one” you get the idea. This fun-sized adventure however, I call “Mr. Bean Takes a Test.”

A great part of any Mr. Bean episode is its introduction: Mr. Bean in his sexy-ass Mini Cooper doing something to ruin the day of an unknown victim driving his Reliant Robin 3-wheeled piece of shit. After running them off the road, Mr. Bean sloppily parks the car at the adult learning annex and sits down next to the scene-required vaudevillian straight-man. This probably is the first episode after all, because Bean is actually exchanging dialogue with the straight-man. The next few minutes shows Bean comically setting up with work area, complete with a Pink Panther desk doll that at first looks like it’s sporting a big hard cock (classic high-brow British humor).

As expected, Mr. Bean knows fuck-all about whatever weird UK “MATHS” subject the exam is about, so he spends the next few minutes trying to copy off of his neighbor and pissing off everyone in his area. Hijinks ensue, but Mr. Bean was in reality taking the wrong test or something…I don’t know. The best part of Mr. Bean is that they’ve already moved on to the next little vignette before you can get bored.

Summarizing a show like this feels weird, and besides, my glass is empty.

 

Are you being served.jpg

8:30pm

Cocktail Count: Two….and a half.

Show: Are You Being Served?

Ooof this is one of those older ones. The 1970s was the golden age of the double entendre. If this poorly researched bullshit theory is true, then “Are You Being Served?” is the lynchpin of that argument.  I don’t think I’ve seen this episode, but I bet I can tell you what’s about to happen:

The old blue-hair Mrs. Slocombe is gonna talk about her “pussy,” that delightfully flamboyant Mr. Humphries is gonna butch up his voice to answer the phone, and that British Mr. Burns known as “Young” Mr. Grace is gonna grab his sexy nurse’s ass.

<waits 10 minutes>

BOOM! Look at that shit! I’m like the PBS Miss Cleo.

Anyway, that one was funny too, this is so much fun…

 

Chef.jpg

9:00pm

Cocktail Count: Three

Show: Chef!

Fun Fact: the first time I ever heard the word “shit” on tv was thanks to this show. And that theme song is just as catchy as it was two decades ago.

<initiate doo wop voice://Serious…Serious Profession!! <end/doo wop voice>

Damn, Chef’s wife is sexier than I remember. I guess she runs the business end of the restaurant, and quite a sassy authoritarian figure. You know, that’s a weird little tv trope: if one spouse has a crazy dream, like buying a restaurant, the other spouse has to be an asshole who makes sure the dreamer doesn’t fuck up too bad. Ugh, finally, Chef makes an appearance. Oh my god, this fuckin’ guy. YES. I love the way Chef bosses around his cooking staff. That silver-tongued son-uva-bitch put Everton right in his damn place with a clever put down. Bossy, arrogant, degrading, love it. He’s such a bastar-WAIT……firebrand foul mouthed chef, incompetent cooks getting abused, effective british accents…GORDON RAMSEY YOU FUCKING THIEF!!!

Damnit, you made me spill the ice out of my glass…time for another one.

 

Keeping up Appearances.jpg

9:30pm

Cocktail Count: A proud four and a half.

Show: Keeping Up Appearances

You know…let me tell you something about this one. That fuckin…Mrs. BUCKET, or “Bouque” as she’s always sayin, she’s a real…uhh, not nice lady. Her husband’s prolly gonna run off with that little fuckin’ tart sister of hers. I really hate that shit by the way. Why’s Hyacinth always gotta try to be BETTER than what she came from, man. It’s like she’s tryin to make everything all fake so she’ll be in high society and shit. Fuck man…it’s not like British white trash is all that bad anyway. You still get to sound all stately and shit, and instead of pickup trucks in the yard it’s all Austin Healeys and…Jaguars and shit. You ask me, British white trash have it pretty sweet. Uhhh, what was I saying? Oh yeah, Hyacinth. Doable, very doable.

Need another drink before it gets all Sci-Fi up in here…

 

My Hero.jpg

10:00pm

Cocktail Count: Five…mayyyyybe

Show: My Hero

Ohhhhhhhh boy I should slow down a little. I don’t think I’m quite seein things the way I’m supposed to. This one looks pretty weird. Hey I know that guy, Shameus O’Hamraham or something real Irish like that, I’ve seen his standup act, funny fuckin’ guy. Why’s he look like a Korean cosplay of Mr. Incredible? Holy shit he’s flying, what the fuck? It’s like Mr. Bean, if he had super powers and got pussy on a regular basis.

So ok, he’s like a super hero from another planet, but his wife is a normal, and they have like a hybrid baby. Shit the r34 for this show must be fucked UP! Speaking of fucked up, I gotta check the next show, I’m about to be down for the count.

The next ones gotta be worth getting up for another drink <checks the channel guide>

 

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10:30pm

Cocktail Count: Six? Seven? Twenty?

Show: Red Dwarf

AWWWWWW FUCKIN YEAAAAAAAAAA Red Dwarf mOTHER fUCKER!!!!!11 Ok, ok, deep breath I wanna say this one right. Let me just do some of that weird blinking shit that I think sobers me up. That’ll get me good and ready to explain this magic. Red Dwarf was like, my all time favorite show as a kid. Yeah, yeah, I liked The Simpsons and a lotta shows with big time appeal. But Red Dwarf was like, MY SHOW.  I did the “Rimmer Salute” in school once as a kid and a teacher thought I was doin like a fucked up Nazi Salute, no bullshit.

Anyway, this show’s kinda hard to explain ok here goes.

<BIG INHALE>

Lister is the last human alive, he was on a ship but everyone died but it’s cool cause he was in like a time freeze machine and he got unfrozen by the ship’s computer who’s like smart but not people smart…anyway, his asshole of a roommate was dead but he’s a computer hologram now and it’s literally 3 million years later. So, his cat that he had was locked away in the ship but didn’t die for some reason so the cats like breed and evolve so the cat is like a person now…but like a cat too with cool suits and a vain personality.

You keepin up with me here? Good.

So yeah, they’re all deep in space because so some reason the ship computer never bothered to turn the ship around in the last 3 million years so it’s kinda fucked up. But man, it’s the funniest damn show I’ve ever seen, even with that fucking laugh track…but god this show fucked things up sometimes. Why’d they get two fucking Kochanskis?? Why did the second one suck so fucking hard?? Why do they half-ass the canon so much?

And why did it take them 30 fucking years to make 12 seasons???!? FUCKKKKK!

<slams empty glass on the chair>

<stumbles over and lovingly strokes the tv set>

No, No, I’m sorry baby, I can’t stay mad at you, there-there…you’re the best thing that ever happened to me, Red Dwarf. I can handle you at your worst…so I can enjoy you at your best!

<Kisses the “H” on Rimmer’s head on the tv screen before slumping back over on the couch>

Phew, that was…sorry about that. Ok, maybe I can make it Dr. Who tonight. Let’s see what episode they’re on…not that it matters, all the classics are so relaxing to watch. Dr. Who was so much fun to watch as a kid, this’ll be a great last bit of nostalgia for the night, really any season is just fine with me

<Checks guide>…………… Peter Davison stars as Doctor Wh-

<smashes remote control through television and goes to bed>

 

 

Matthew’s all alone, shipwrecked and comatose, and sipping fresh mango juice on Twitter.

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2 Comments

  1. That is in fact the very first Mr. Bean episode, and according to imdb it is titled “Mr. Bean”.

    “Chef!”, particularly season 1, is one of my all-time favs and at the top of our list of shows we watched when we lived in the UK.

    Liked by 1 person

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