Dressing for an evening out at the theatre – a movie AND a play!  I really wanted to dress up for this and make it special.  I’ve been wanting to write little musings on different things about England that I find especially different or strange, and I think now seems a perfect time to talk about the television and theatre here.

First off, it came as quite a shock to me that I would not be able to watch my Netflix or Hulu here!  Totally distressing.  I thought I was going to have to rely entirely on the venerable video library of YouTube for my movie fix.  Then I discovered the UK version of Amazon’s Prime, called LoveFilm.  It doesn’t have as wide a selection, but it’s only £5 a month.  And I recently signed up for a free trial of NOW TV, which streams recent movie releases even before Netflix and Amazon.  Ahhh… craving satisfied.

A week or so ago I went to visit my niece and nephew in Mildenhall, and discovered that they have – voila!  Netflix UK!  And also immediately discovered their intense hatred of it.  Seems the UK Netflix isn’t very well-stocked with American goodies.  And this disdain wasn’t exclusive to the Azar residence.  All of their military friends were having the same issue.  But these wily folk have discovered a way around it – by changing the DNS code in their television settings.  Seems the net looks for a U.S. code and if it doesn’t find one, it will not play the U.S. Netflix.  But scam the right code and you can beat the machine.  I had to laugh because twice I witnessed this DNS dance – my niece and nephew calling around to friends or going online to dig up the latest digits that would revive the REAL Netflix – like a black market in DNS.  And then to watch them punch in the code, reboot, wait with baited breath…  Is it going to work?  Yes!  U.S. Netflix!  Very amusing.

I sympathize with missing tv programs from home.  I have some of my own, and I still think The Newsroom is the best show on tv right now - anywhere.  The perfect blend of real, honest writing and tug at your heart storytelling.  But I have to say the programs here in the UK are of a finer quality than a lot of ours.  Their dramas are simpler, not sensationalized, and therefore more powerful.  Their comedies sharper, more witty.  Just look at the original UK version of The Office versus the American version.  The British version takes more chances.  The humor is darker, makes you flinch more, but I appreciate that because it takes real courage to write honestly.  The American Office is sweet and charmingly funny, but safe.  I love it too, but I much prefer the edge of the UK version.  I can relate more to that edge.  Real life is lived on that edge.

There are a couple of shows here that we don’t get in the States that have become big faves with me. 
Heir Hunters and Long Lost Family.  These are both dramatic shows that elevate reality tv to stark, honest elegance.  The hosts seem to genuinely care about the people they’re interviewing.  There’s no exploiting every tearful moment for dramatic effect.  They allow the people to tell their stories, rather than editing the people to tell a story.  Time and time again I was struck by the simple, beautiful photography.  They don’t give into the temptation to try to control the story - just let it unfold.  Something that I’m still struggling to do in my own writing.  We all have something we want to say – something of such vast importance that we clutch at it, try to pull it down and pin it to the paper.  But it’s the moments when I’m able to let go and follow my gut, just let the words flow, that the best writing comes out of me.  When I remove my ego from the work.  This one thought came to me many years ago – “We write in search of words that do not exist to express our longing to know God.”  And Paul Haggis said, “Writers should write about questions, not answers.”  I think we’re both saying the same thing in a way.

So learn to love your UK Netflix if you have it.  Because they’ve hit on something really special.  They’ve got it right.  Maybe because they’re a much older country than we are, they’ve learned the lesson of letting go.  You have only to look at the fact that their government subsidizes the theatre here, so it’s affordable for a lot more people to actually go.  Far more independent, less “marketable,” movies are shown here.  And as if that’s not enough, their popcorn is offered in salty or sweet - or mixed!

As Leonard Cohen said, "Forget your perfect offering.  Remember there's a crack in everything.  That's where the light gets in."

Soho - Theatre District

 A window in the Apollo Theatre, where I saw The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time



08/19/2013 7:14am

Vicki - I was amazed when I discovered the degree to which all the TV (and even YouTube videos) are controlled by international laws. Here in the States, I use Acorn (affiliated with the BBC) for British TV programming. But it's all very complex, and I understand little of it! I've posted Youtube videos on my website of various British singers, and *some* of them (but not all) will be down w/in a day, with a message saying, "Sorry, this video isn't allowed in your country." Glad you figured out a fix for your movie habit!!

08/19/2013 12:34pm

Me too! I canNOT go cold turkey on movies! :)


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