Monday, 13 April 2009

TV crime series - Comparison USA and Great Britain

Like many of my contemporaries, I watch the crime series of the moment. Here in France, you can choose between several different ones, each day of the year.

There are those made in France. But considering the number of channels available, there are series made in USA, made in Great Britain, made in Germany plus a tiny little sprinkling of the others from Sweden, Italy, Belgium.

Considering that this is a blog in English language (at least I try to do my best), let's talk about those made in the United States and those coming from our northern neighbors, the Brits.

What do they have in common, these series made in USA and Great Britain? Absolutely nothing because here all those actors talk in French exclusively!

The idea is generally accepted that the Americans and the Brits have a lot of common outlooks, kind of shared values (though the notion of "values" has fallen in disrespect, lately). Thus it occurred to me to compare these series with regard to the differences.

Because there are differences, big ones.

Here are the two series from England:

1. Inspector Barnaby

2. Inspector Lewis

And here are just three from the United States:

1. Bones

2. CSI Miami

3. Navy NCIS

In a nutshell, I would say the English ones are homely and the Americans are gorgeous.

In NCIS each photo made of a corpse produces a sound, something like slapping a wet towel on a drum. Slap, slap, slap. And invariably, they are gripping those huge McDo plastic cups filled with coffee or CocaCola. Could be those paper plastic cups are not from McDo but from Starbucks, I don't know but they are huge, king size big. And they continue to bring one to each other as a sign of sympathy or friendship.

Our two English cops drink, too. But they are inside or outside a pub, having a beer and when they meet a suspect, they are frequently offered a cup of tea and some biscuits.

Chief Inspector Barnaby and Lewis never carry any weapon and their criminal investigation is carried out without any violence. However, in the Barnaby series, dead bodies are aplenty. It's never one stiff but mostly three, four or occasionally even five. And these English village people hate each others guts red hot. But violence, no sir.

Nothing to do with the Americans. They live with their pistol. In NCIS, that Mossad girl seems even to sleep with her gun under the pillow and they keep it under the bed or at the night table when making love.

But the biggest difference is their looks. Dr. Brennan (Bones) is a real beauty. And that goes for all the others, too. With the exception of Bruce, the athletic FBI cop and the sexy artist Angela, all others are high-end scientists but their looks somehow do not correspond to their activity. Too much beauty, splendid make up, even when they are a bit smeared or dirty, they are beautifully dirty.

In CSI Miami it's even worse. The boss, Horatio, very impressive character, is strangely ugly, he could be an albino. But all the others have those aggressive good looks. There is this doctor whose job is to cut up dead bodies. But she looks like a bar hostess, trying to make you drink costly Champagne and there is a male scientist who could be a South-American pimp or a Bolivian drug dealer.

I would not like to meet this good looking chap at dusk in an empty street!

Those two inspectors from Britannia are middle aged, wear rumpled clothes. They are neither good looking nor ugly. And their associates, Sargent Troy, Sargent Hopkins or Hathaway are cast in the same mould. Mr. Barnaby's wife looks a bit worn out, though cheerful and their daughter seemed ugly to me in the beginning. Now, after three years, I am accustomed to her. She looks good in her own way. Sargent Hathaway is a former student of theology and quotes Shelley, Shakespeare and Latin authors at unsuspected moments. I like that.

There is a meaning behind those differences.


  1. I wanted you to know i read this, and since i haven't had TV in more than 15 years, I have no honest opinion. but I thought it was funny.
    ( your comparisons, that is)

  2. Hallo Sorrow,

    That's really very friendly (don't like the word nice) to say this. And let me tell you that you are somehow a hero of our time to be able to live without the goggle box. An English fellow blogger called it the "electric living room lie box".

    May be one of these days we'll be able to introduce one day pere week without the telly.


  3. i give you credit georg- i can't watch those shows. they are poorly written and acted- and in the case of ncis- overtly nationalistic. if those are the 'gorgeous' shows- i hate to think what crap the brits watch :) just mho :)

  4. To Betmo

    You are quite right, NCIS is nationalistic. But being a foreigner living in a far away country........ I remember when Gibbs and his crew chased this very dangerous Iranian spy-girl (under 30 as always). We just smile and say "there they mount again their crazy pet hobby horse". Finally, the Iranian terrorist was killed by Mossad-beauty: happy end.

    As to the two English series, I would say give it a try if available in your town.

    What means mho????


  5. Une bien belle analyse de ces séries!
    Je ne suis pas vraiment fan de ces petits films.
    J'en regarde un de temps en temps pour ne pas avoir l'air idiote dans une conversation, si bien que par moments je ne sais plus trop bien à quoi "relier" certaines remarques qui sont faites par certaines personnes.
    En plus... tu vas te moquer de moi, parce que j'ai la nette impression que la trame de l'histoire est souvent la même ! un crime, on cherche le coupable, on en trouve "un" et manque de bol ce n'est pas le "bon" c'est l'autre, celui auquel on ne pensait pas....
    Bonne soirée

  6. Je suis tombée sur ce petit génie en lisant Courrier International du 31 mars, l'article s'intitulait "Déjà vieux"
    Bonne soirée

  7. Hallo Georg,
    Apt observations! :o) I think I prefer the English series (I only get to see Inspector Barnaby occasionally, though. It's only carried here on the PBS channel on Saturday or Sunday). The US ones are just so stylized that I get exasperated watching them.

    I guess it doesn't help that I work in a medical lab and so I keep getting aggravated when those tv CSI people show up for work in designer clothing (with no pocket, mind you... I wonder where they manage to put their stuff), flowing hair (that would just get into everything and cause you to feel like brushing them off your face with a gloved hand and end up contaminating stuff), and how they like to pose when make or look at a slide and test tube and stuff. :oP It is just so unrealistic (and I've never heard anyone who talk the way those NCIS folks do in real life either)!

    I think the CSI Miami is the worse of the 3 CSI series (the most Hollywood-ish, anyhow)... but it appears to be a very popular show, so I guess I'm a weirdo. :oP We don't get any French show here, though (at least on the regular cable tv, maybe there are some to be had on the more expensive cable programs).

    Anyhow. Thanks for another good read! It is very interesting to see what you notice about these shows. :o)


  8. To Smorg

    Thanks Smorgy. You are improving my English. So what I called "series" is in reality a "show".

    I think I know what you mean. All those scientists should wear a plastic cover over their hair. But sure it takes away every bit of Hollywood beauty. If I would not be so lazy, I would waste some time and cover all the cast of a show with those plastic caps. Should be easy with Photo Pro or Photo Filter.


  9. Eh non! je ne t'ai pas oublié!
    juste quelques occupations imprévues.
    bien vu georg!
    ce qui me hérisse dans ces "experts" c'est que ce sont des scientifiques qui procèdent eux même à des interrogatoires et à des arrestations.
    Je m'explique:
    je pense que chez les anglo-saxons s'est un peu comme chez nous.
    D'un côté y a les services de police judiciaire qui recueillent les éléments de preuves de l'infraction, interrogent les personnes et réunissent les éléments servant à découvrir le ou les auteurs.
    Et de l'autre y a des gens qui ont des missions d'expertises qui sont demandées par les autorités judiciaires ou la police elle même.
    les experts ne sont pas sur le terrain et surtout ne sont pas armés. Ils restent dans leur labo qui se trouve à des kilomètres de là et n'agissent qu'à la demande. Ils n'ont aucune compétence territoriale pour procéder à des arrestations et encore moins pour entendre les mis en examens.
    On voit ces gens procéder à des arrestations mouvementées et interroger oralement les méchants. Là ou le bat blesse c'est que tout pays civilisé à une procédure judiciaire écrite.
    Or, on ne voit nul flic à un clavier d'ordinateur ou de machine à écrire. Que se passe-t-il donc devant le tribunal si aucun dossier ne lui est transmis? En effet les auditions de témoins, auteurs et complices sont des preuves irréfutables (en principe) devant une juridiction.
    Allons!!!! Ca n'est pas sérieux du tout.
    Et nos pauvres séries qui veulent imiter les saxonnes se prennent lamentablement les pieds dans le tapis. Les personnages ressemblent à ceux des séries précitées et empruntent même leurs mimiques.
    merci pour ce bel article George.
    Bises à Elisabeth.

  10. Pour Vincent

    Là, tu as soulevé un point auquel je n'ai jamais pensé. Et je crois tu as tout à fait raison.

    Pour "Bones" c'est flagrant. Au début , sa participation à elle était un peu hésitant puis cela devenait la règle. Marrant.


  11. hallo herr Georg

    i finally made it here, your descriptions of the American series and comparisons with the British ones are hilarious! I think comedy is the genre you should write heh heh

    and even though i don't watch these shows, i do have my dose of TV junkie, I watch House (another medical series, based on the life of a neurotic genius doctor) now and then, and The Office (American version) but mostly I watch on TV cartoons for adults, like The Simpsons, Family Guy, and South Park (i have a rather juvenile sense of humor)

    but what strikes me of your descriptions is that ALL American series DO agree in that actors must be 'good looking' and at-all-times chick and fashionably...

    I remember a couple of months ago watching a British film with a friend, and she mentioned: "All the British actors look more... mmm? real-looking..." to what I replied..."You mean they are "uglier"... and yes we both laugh but it's true... it takes beauty, looks, and fame to make it here in the American Dream... of course mine is most like a nightmare

    take care herr Georg, and glad you enjoy the Tube without your soul being sucked by it (oh yes that too, American TV can and will suck the life out is permitted)

  12. To Berenice

    I know the show "Dr. House", it is here, too. If I had known you follow this one, I would have based my story on him and his gang.

    Anyway, as you say, it's about the same picture. Some of them are far too young to be successful experienced doctors and all are too good looking. Exception for Dr. H who never shaves and looks like a bum.

    Because of the translation lag we are probably far behind here in France. We stopped looking two weeks ago because it became too weird. You really can follow seeing how the script writers gradually run out of inspiration and thus the show becomes each week a little more stupid.

    It happens again and again.


  13. Hi Georg--
    First, to answer your question of betmo:
    mho= My Humble Opinion
    sometimes it's written as
    IMHO =In My Humble Opinion
    It's a common phrase in the US.

    I liked your comparisons. I've only watched CSI a couple of times.
    I actually find "House" pretty dark, and kinda weird/funny. I agree, Dr. House looks like a bum, and yeah--the plots are pretty implausible--I mean, he's simply TOO MEAN AND UNSTABLE to actually retain the position he has as chief doctor!
    My husband loves the series, "Bones"; I've only watched it once.
    I guess I like news-shows more.
    Do you get MSNBC over there? It's a left-leaning channel, with "The Rachel Maddow Show" being my favorite, and "Countdown With Keith Olbermann" a close second-favorite! Both are highly educated, articulate on-air personalities, but with a biting sense of the news!Perhaps you can see some of their reports, on YouTube!