I’ve never been a TV person, in the sense that I find greater pleasure watching films than I do from TV programmes. However in last year and a half, I have become an addict, an addict to TV in particular to the holy grail of American TV.
I feel like a traitor for saying such a thing; “holy grail of American TV.” Is American series actually the holy grail of TV? As a British actress, admittedly I have ranted and raved about UK dramas such as Utopia, Misfits and Peaky Binders to anyone who would listen to me.
But in this moment of time I cannot help but enjoy the American dramas….just a little bit more. New Girl, Nashville, Scandal, Orange Is the New Black and the one and only Breaking Bad – YEAH BIATCH! That’s right! They are just too good!
Since the end of Breaking Bad on September 29th 2013, I have been suffering severe withdrawal symptoms from the end of my relationship with Walter White. I have been trying to seek some kind of euphoria in British dramas and I was almost there. But unfortunately I have been unable to evoke the same feeling that Walter gave me by the likes of Downtown Abbey.
The first moment I clapped eyes on Walter, I thought he was a boring old chemistry teacher but our secret late night rendezvous and marathons of intense action back to back, distracted me from my 12-14 hour work days. Now I’m left with nothing but a Netflix account!
Wanting to utilise the only thing that Walter gave me, I decided to explore the possibilities of other dramas…..and came across my very own chocolate and vanilla swirl of goodness; ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK. With a 95% female cast, intense storylines, comedy, a healthy dose of African -Americans, Latinas, Caucasians and an Asian. how could I resist this fire-cracker of a drama! For all of you who haven’t watched this drama yet – you are seriously missing out on some of the best one -liners and pure rahchidness! The words: CRAZY EYES, POUSSEY, PENNSATUCKY and RED will have great significance to you once you watch this hard-core comedy-drama!
Ashamedly I confessed my addiction to American TV to various friends from the UK and the states. Recently I broke down to my friend and brilliant actress Jennifer Aries about my problem – “I know British dramas are great, but I just can’t help myself.” We began to dissect my addiction and understand what makes American dramas just so damn juicy! Our findings are below:
1. Diverse Casting
Eg. Scandal features Kerry Washington and renowned spin doctor engaging in a relationship with the president of the United States, a white male president in this drama. Now throughout the drama the controversy is the fact that the president is engaging with a relationship with a spin doctor, even though he is married to the first lady and has kids. The focus is on the indecency of the relationship and not on the fact that this is an interracial relationship. I don’t know if this would be the same focus if there was a drama in the UK about the Prime minister and his relation to his female spin doctor, who happens to be a black female. Also it’s good to see a role that goes beyond the ‘strong black woman’ stereotype. There are many moments when you see the vulnerability of Olivia Pope ( Kerry Washington) throughout the drama.
Americans writers are not afraid to get their hands dirty by using comedy as a tool to battle racial tension. For example in Orange Is the New Black there is a hilarious scene, when African-American prisoners; Poussey and Taystee mimic the conversation and behaviour of white Americans. On the flipside there is also a point in the same episode where two Latina’s ignorantly describe African –Americans and the White Americans just take a pop at everyone who is non-white. Now again on paper this is awful, but the way in which each racial group describes the other is ridiculous, it’s hilarious that these women are in a situation where they have to in some way put their racist, stereotypical views aside and get along with each other. The drama and comedy derives from how each woman overcomes this within the prison walls!
You never know which way the drama will turn with American series. In the dramas I mentioned above there are so many avenues to introduce new diverse characters which keeps the drama healthy and alive, each episode seems random, a mini-film within its own right, only to discover that it is part of a bigger jigsaw puzzle. The writing takes you to the underworld and back. Roller-coaster of emotions; one minute you are watching a scene so graphic that it makes you feel uncomfortable the next minute you are laughing your head off. The twist and turns is what makes you want to watch more episodes, because curiosity gets the better of you and you want to know what happens to the characters that you have grown to love and hate.
Anything is possible, but a great script meets huge budgets – it’s all over. Netflix bought each episode of:
Orange Is the New Black at $4 million per episode
Breaking Bad at $3.2 million per episode
Imagine if you had about a million to produce one episode, you can afford to really push the boat out, get the best cinematographers, camera guys etc. As a result each episode looks impeccable. Imagine if you were also acting in a $4 million production ……the benefits…..mmmmm. Let’s just say I would be grinning like a Cheshire cat!
I continued to talk through my addiction with Jen and came to a congenial conclusion:
HONESTY is the one thing which makes me believe British dramas are just as good as American drama. Ok, we don’t have million pounds pumped into series, and we still have a long way to go regarding diversity BUT we are not afraid to point a finger at the UK and admit the mistakes that we have made politically and socially in the past and present without plugging patriotic happy endings. We have an understanding of how the world views the UK from all perspectives. A vital and admirable attribute!
I am not a writer, just a blabber, a girl that asks many questions but never knows how to collate the answers. Just a normal girl with nothing more to say, than words that mean nothing but say something.