As you have probably guessed, I adore television. It’s my favourite thing in the world, my primary passion, my main pastime. I watch a variety of shows from different genres, different time periods, different countries. I also believe strongly in supporting the industry, so I’m big on watching said shows legally. I subscribe to three different streaming platforms, pay for extra channels, have an enormous DVD collection, and vocally support the TV license. And yet, there are still many, many shows that I’m unable to access and support, because they aren’t available in the UK, where I live.
And yes, I know all about copyright and licensing. I know it isn’t feasible for every show to be made available here, but here are just a few US shows which I wish I could get my friends and family to watch. Here they are in case you ever get the chance to check them out.
Speechless was my favourite new show of 2016 (just ahead of The Good Place) and has quickly become one of my favourite shows of all time.
The title comes from the fact that one of the main characters, a teenage boy named JJ DiMeo, has cerebral palsy, which means he uses a wheelchair and communicates via a laser board. It’s a sitcom which follows the DiMeo family and JJ’s aide Kenneth. It takes an honest but loving look at the lives of a special needs family, and the representation is solidified by the fact that JJ is played by Micah Fowler, another wheelchair user with cerebral palsy.
But it isn’t the only thing the show is about. This is a fully-fledged ensemble family sitcom, and each character is funny and interesting in their own right. The cerebral palsy is just another part of the context, one which is eye-opening and informative without ever being preachy or intrusive. It’s a wonderful, warm show which makes me happy every episode, and with three seasons I’m surprised it still hasn’t made its way across the pond (particularly as the third season premiere, L-O-N-LONDON, did just that, featuring John Cleese as the children’s grandfather).
Alright, so I can see why Wrecked has never made it out of the US. TBS is a relatively minor channel, it was created by complete newcomers in the Shipley brothers, and it has only ever received mixed reviews. But it is also one of the funniest shows I’ve ever seen.
Wrecked is Lost if Lost was an irreverent comedy. And if all the characters only had as much competency as, say, the average human being. The stereotypical ‘hero’ type of character which carries Lost is present, but he dies in the first episode. In fact, characters die surprisingly frequently, keeping the stakes high despite the comedic tone.
I don’t know what it is about the writing style of Wrecked, but I can think of very few shows that make me laugh out loud as often as it does. The characters are all excellent and recognisable, and despite how ridiculous and exaggerated everything is, many parts of it do feel true-to-life in a way not usually addressed by the genre. The genre, of course, being ‘stranded on an island’, which I already feel we don’t see enough of.
There is a British alternative in the same vein. To scratch your itch for comedies set on desert islands after a plane crash, try Marc Wootton’s High & Dry on Channel 4. I definitely prefer Wrecked – something about the British realism that seeps into High & Dry gives it a slight edge which is simultaneously depressing and dull – but it’s perfectly serviceable.
I’m going to be honest with you guys. The reasons for the other two shows being on this list boil down to ‘I’m British and I want to be able to watch them’, but this show is an exception. I’m still British, and I still want to be able to watch this show, but I really truly think it would be embraced by a British audience.
Galavant is a fantastical musical comedy about a depressed ex-hero rescuing his girlfriend from the king, who has forced her to marry him. There’s a lot of trope subversion going on on top of that, but that’s the basic premise of the pilot. In many ways, it is a British show. It was filmed in Britain in partnership with a British production company. Many of the guest stars are British, and while Hugh Bonneville and Nick Frost have some international fame, you have to wonder how many Americans are getting excited by cameos from Eddie Marsan, Reece Shearsmith, and Sally Phillips. The show is also quintessentially British in tone, the tongue-in-cheek campiness feeling exactly like a televised pantomime or a less offensive Carry On film. It’s a shame that it only lasted two seasons in the US (and barely scraping by at that), because it really was a fantastic programme that I feel the British public would have embraced.
I also just want to mention that Vinnie Jones is in it and, yes, he sings.
There are plenty of other US shows I’ve enjoyed that never made it to the UK. Many of which, like Powerless, Second Chance, and Kevin Probably Saves the World, were cancelled after just one season, and so I have little hope of ever being able to share them with my friends now. There is still a chance of them being picked up by a streaming service cheaply in a few years, though, like with Common Law, so keep your eyes peeled. There’s some real obscure gems out there.