While the major television networks fill their summers with the latest ridiculous reality shows, my wife and I have been more than happy to indulge in other pursuits, including watching televised A's games, making the most of our Netflix subscription, and battling each other on the Nintendo Wii. This has left our TiVo largely neglected, dutifully taking down each Jon Stewart or Conan O'Brien airing, but not doing much else - until recently, when we asked our TiVo to step up its game by dabbling in the British arts, recording the series "Hotel Babylon" and "Coupling" on BBC America.
As usual, we are quite amused by what the proper English have put together. In the same spirit as the original "The Office" series and "Absolutely Fabulous", both Coupling and Hotel Babylon seem to be ahead of their time, sure to be poorly mimicked by wannabe TV producers here in the states in no time.
Of the two, Hotel Babylon is both newer and most promising, in my opinion. Taking what would otherwise be pure drudgery - managing a hotel, keeping guests pleased, and rooms cleaned, instead presents a foundation for all sorts of mischief, internal politics, and odd characters, with an acceptable level of sex, drugs and alcohol thrown in for good measure.
But Coupling is in itself quite funny - almost like the series Friends could have been if it were to have some semblance of intelligence, and a darker side. The most recent episode we saw showed two sides of a couple's breakup and eventual reconciliation, cutting a clear demarcation between the two genders' interpretations and reactions to the same event. For starters, the girl treated herself to a beauty parlor, while the man headed to a strip club. You get the idea.
Given that much of network television is getting progressively worse, and the summers are the most vapid of them all, I'm glad we've found an escape route, even if it means listening to strong accents from across the Atlantic. If you've got spare space on your TiVo or DVR, pick up a few episodes and give the shows a whirl.