So, I don’t know what it is that draws me to British TV, but, there it is. Whether we’re talking Masterpiece Theater period dramas or the latest Dr. Who, I’m on it. I’ve already milked Netflix for the best old period serials. I’ve made it through all 4 seasons of the original Forsyte Saga (and read all the original books – the t.v. series only covers the first of 4 volumes) and all the original Upstairs Downstairs. And then there’s been Gemma Jones in the Duchess of Duke Street – you haven’t seen real television acting if you haven’t seen her take on the truly original character of Louisa Trotter. But it’s not just the amazing acting and reverence for text – and humor. I just love the escapism – and I love the British Isles.
I’ve been to London at least four times. To Dublin three times. And I’ve been once to Edinburgh. And I can’t wait to get back to all of them. So, especially now, I’ve begun enjoying a particularly 21st Century indulgence. I’ve signed up for a VPN – or, virtual private network – service that, to British and Canadian TV companies makes my computer look like it’s based in either the UK or Canada (Canada has some GREAT sci-fi shows, another partiality for me). If you’re a 24 fan, you may have heard the character Chloe talking about the need to connect through a VPN to track down some particular ne’er do well or another. But, in this case, it allows me to stream British video like any other UK, BBC-subscription-paying, chippie-shop patron. For the last couple nights I’ve been watching City of Vice on Channel 4, which is a really seamy look at the founding of London’s first police force, and the latest BBC adaptation of Emma, which is bound for Masterpiece Theatre, Season 2010, I’m sure. I’ve also been catching up on missed Dr. Who episodes and periodically indulging in the Coronation Street habit I’ve picked up on my trips across the pond.
It’s amazing the power of streaming video has to take us miles away. I trudge up the stairs to my bedroom, haul the laptop in from my office and hook the VGA cable up to my little bedroom flat screen, and it’s like I’ve just gotten off a 6-hour Virgin Air flight and settled into my Russel Square B&B. While, sadly, Old Compton Street – and my favorite gay pub – is not just around the corner, I can still feel transported and free. Because that’s one of the great things for an American travelling in the UK – you’re in a completely different place, but you still (mostly) speak the same language. Yes, everything costs 50% more, but it’s really more like a pleasure tax if you’re on vacation.
So, even after a day when I’ve seen my father’s left big toe in technicolor several times, had to track down doctors’ orders and hash it out with their receptionists over referrals, and when I’ve had to politely ask clients about promised jobs and late paychecks or figure out what semi-healthy dinner I can put together after a day of the previous two events happening within an hour of each other – I can climb the stairs, hook up a cord, and be 3,000 miles away.
Private VPN service – $10/month. The illusion of being 3,000 miles away …. priceless.