Monday, June 11, 2007

PBS Obsessions

I love television. As a kid I ate nearly every meal that I could get away with in front of the tube. I dressed for school while watching 'Heathcliff'. I watched Love Boat and ate cheese sandwiches. Charlie's Angels and Dukes of Hazzard? Accompanied with Doritoes. The Muppets were after Saturday night bathtime with a bowl of popcorn and juice. I've been told that I watched almost an entire day of the Carter Inauguration. I was a year and a half. I was apparently so fascinated my mother couldn't break me away. As an infant I fell asleep on my father's chest to the evening news. I clearly remember watching 'War and Rememberance' and each segment of 'North and South', a series I annually annoy H with.

There's a theme here. I love TV and I especially love historical TV dramas. So is it any surprise that through the glory of Netflix I cannot stop pillaging the PBS dramas set in historical times? It started off innocently enough with 'Manor House'. I was feeling nostalgic and got H hooked on the adventures of a modern day English family being sent back in time to live the life of Edwardians. The show followed the family and the staff for three months. It was like crack. I couldn't stop myself from watching it. From there I progressed with great excitment to '1900 House'. My specialty when I studied History. Another British family experiments with life at the turn of the century. Fascinating! Can they survive a diet of almost no fruit and only starch? Will the fires go out on stove their only heat source? While it's not all dire situations and tropical settings like Survivor or full of the bickering spats that many reality shows are known for, these shows hook me from the very beginning. I get so sucked in I watch them while I cook, load the dishwasher, or write. 'Regency House Party' is on right now!

From '1900 House' I immediately jumped to '1940s House' the story of a family forced to live in war time England complete with food rations, air raids, and a bomb shelter. I cannot break away. 'Regency House Party' the story of British singles sent to live in a country house and "party" for nine weeks is rife with love triangles and spats like any other reality show except for the roast pigs, jaunts in the fields, and chaperones making love matches for thier young charges. Hunting, drinking port, and using chamber pots is all the rage. Once this show is over I'm at a lost. I'll be forced to watch 'Sweeney Todd, the Demon of Fleet Street' or something.

Where's my 1920's house? I need my stories from WWI or how about forcing some Americans to live the fifties again with sock hops and percolating coffee. How about opening up one of those Newport, RI mansions and pushing the limits of the digestive systems by living in the Gilded Age.

These shows aren't non-stop action. They exude a quiet elegance that is often lacking in today's television. They are educational in the socio-economic sense. Plus who can resist such odd bits of information like this- Regency Men were often bulimics. A Regency cleansing complete with up chuck coach and all is on schedule after too many weeks of country house eating and living. Smashingly good stuff watching those men puke up their pork and port.

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