Transatlantic radio and telly debate

Kieran Healy has a post up at Crooked Timber on the superiority of U.K. radio trivia to the United States, and then closes with this paragraph: Incidentally, Radio 4?s The News Quiz, when set against NPR?s execrable Wait Wait, Don?t Tell Me, joins the long list of cultural objects that serve to illustrate the difference ...

By , a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast.

Kieran Healy has a post up at Crooked Timber on the superiority of U.K. radio trivia to the United States, and then closes with this paragraph: Incidentally, Radio 4?s The News Quiz, when set against NPR?s execrable Wait Wait, Don?t Tell Me, joins the long list of cultural objects that serve to illustrate the difference between Britain and the United States. Others include The Office (UK) vs The Office (US), Yes Prime Minister vs The West Wing, and so on. This has prompted quite a lively debate in the comments section (including an intervention from yours truly), about a) whether Kieran was correct; and b) What kinds of programming do not appear to be replicable across the Atlantic? For example, Kieran is correct to point out the complete lack of a U.S. competitor to Yes, Minister/Yes, Prime Minister. At the same time, however, I'm not sure that there's anything in the U.K. that can compete with The Daily Show or The Simpsons. The U.K. version of Friends was pretty appalling (curiously, though, that didn't stop NBC from trying to copy it). Both Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm are commedies of manners, yet I can't think of their British equivalents. When it comes to genre shows, well, I can't think of any program that could compete with Buffy the Vampire Slayer or the new Battlestar Galactica. I'm not sure there's any great lesson to be drawn from this, but I invite readers to do two things: 1) Isolate creative excellence in TV that appears to be non-replicable once you cross the border; and 2) Reasons for why this is so. For example, I'd wager that the U.S. does better at certain kinds of comedies and teen shows because television producers have a much greater comfort level with America's affluent class than British producers have with their yuppie audience (there's that whole need to sell advertising as well).

Kieran Healy has a post up at Crooked Timber on the superiority of U.K. radio trivia to the United States, and then closes with this paragraph:

Incidentally, Radio 4?s The News Quiz, when set against NPR?s execrable Wait Wait, Don?t Tell Me, joins the long list of cultural objects that serve to illustrate the difference between Britain and the United States. Others include The Office (UK) vs The Office (US), Yes Prime Minister vs The West Wing, and so on.

This has prompted quite a lively debate in the comments section (including an intervention from yours truly), about a) whether Kieran was correct; and b) What kinds of programming do not appear to be replicable across the Atlantic? For example, Kieran is correct to point out the complete lack of a U.S. competitor to Yes, Minister/Yes, Prime Minister. At the same time, however, I’m not sure that there’s anything in the U.K. that can compete with The Daily Show or The Simpsons. The U.K. version of Friends was pretty appalling (curiously, though, that didn’t stop NBC from trying to copy it). Both Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm are commedies of manners, yet I can’t think of their British equivalents. When it comes to genre shows, well, I can’t think of any program that could compete with Buffy the Vampire Slayer or the new Battlestar Galactica. I’m not sure there’s any great lesson to be drawn from this, but I invite readers to do two things: 1) Isolate creative excellence in TV that appears to be non-replicable once you cross the border; and 2) Reasons for why this is so. For example, I’d wager that the U.S. does better at certain kinds of comedies and teen shows because television producers have a much greater comfort level with America’s affluent class than British producers have with their yuppie audience (there’s that whole need to sell advertising as well).

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast. Twitter: @dandrezner

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