Explicit Scenes and Bad Language: The Difference Between British and American TV
TV has become a fixture in most people’s daily lives. Wether you watch it for keeping an eye on the news, entertainment, or simply to keep the kids quiet, it’s usually on, if only in the back ground. You become used to watching certain shows or channels and accustomed to the culture of tv. As a British national who is now backwards and forwards between home and America, the differences in TV is one of the main changes I have noticed in our two cultures. Bizarrely, British TV breaks more boundaries and is more structured than its American counter part, not something you would expect from a quaint reserved nation!
One reason I have stopped watching TV in America, particularly during the day, is the incessant amount of adverts. They invade the screen in what feels to be 5-10 minute intervals and last a good 3-5 minutes each. In fact, when watching a show, you are watching as many adverts as you are show time. Or at least it feels that way. In the UK, adverts on the main universal channels are much less invasive. For example, when watching a one hour show on any channel with ads, you know how it will be structured and when the adverts will come and when they will end. You have 3 advert breaks set at 3 minutes each in that one hour. This means you can watch 15 to 20 minutes of show time without interruption. In America I noticed 4 advert breaks in a single episode of The Simpsons. It was ridiculous and made me lose interest and patience. I longed to be watching the BBC, a channel in the UK that has absolutely no adverts at all and is rather funded by a TV license which costs £145.50 per house hold a year. And you get what you pay for, quality TV with zero interruptions!
This one always amuses me. Most American shows I have seen, barely contains any foul language. Not even a hint that any character is even capable of cursing. Everyone is very polite, even in a rage they wont slip the F word. In Britain, come the 9PM watershed, it’s a free for all on swearing. You name it, you are likely to hear it after 9 O’Clock. There’s no beating around the bush when it comes to swearing, no hints of a word, they just come right out and say it. A perfect example of this is one of my favourite shows back home, a product of the BBC called “The Thick of It”. Set up as a fly on the wall documentary, this show is based in the workings of UK government and the stresses faced by Ministers each and every day. Every other word is a swear and there are no words left unsaid, no matter how rude or insulting. However, when aired in BBC America this year, they bleeped the entire show, rendering it impossible and pointless to watch. This was not looked upon kindly by its writers and producer, one of which even tweeted, “Apparently BBC America bleeped The Thick of It. Must have sounded like a lorry reversing into a heart monitor”. If America doesn’t want a show that has swear words coming out of its ears, then simply don’t ask to air it! It ruined what was a great show and the colourful, creative and hilarious swearing was just one of its many many merits. Swearing is a daily occurrence in real life, whether you swear personally or not, it’s simply not realistic to think no one ever swears on tv.
Scenes of a Sensitive Nature
This is a monumental difference in British and American TV. I’ve noticed that in drama shows here, a scene in which hard core violence is required is done in a way where the viewer decides what happens and you piece together the scenes. You hardly ever witness it. Back home, you are likely to see the violence whether it be murder, sexual assault, dead bodies, horrendous accidents and so on. Not all the time, but it’s so common, we don’t even bat an eyelid when it happens. For example, in one of the UK’s biggest murder mystery shows called “Silent Witness”, scenes of decapitated bodies, corpses, being burnt alive, close-ups of post-mortem, torture victims and naked bodies is all very normal. In fact, it’s expected. In one graphic scene, you even saw a police man buggering a criminal with a truncheon and killing him as a result. Yes it received complaints to Watchdog and Ofcom but was told that despite being graphic, it was ok to air it. You very very rarely see scenes of graphic or disturbing nature in American shows. I am a huge fan of Criminal Minds but I know I wont be seeing blood, guts and gore in it whereas in the UK, probably not time for it amongst the advert breaks, but I probably would and on a whole, British people are fine with that.
It’s a Culture Thing
The differences in the content of tv, the quality of it and the structure are really very different. I always thought that as America was the land of the free, freedom of speech and opinion, it’s tv shows would be dirty and full of swearing or horrible scenes of blood as directors and writers test their right to make what they want. But it’s not, and the same goes for films too. I find it peculiar that Britain is sometimes seen as this reserved, prim and proper nation yet we are the ones who break the boundaries for tv content and it’s us as a public who usually accept it for what it is. Just a tv show that embraces bad language, blood and gore as entertainment to help fuel our interest. One thing is for sure, I prefer British drama shows over American on the whole.
Image via tvgee.wordpress.com