August 10, 2011

Yes - I blame it on the Casanova of Carshalton. OK. My confession.....I'm addicted to reality TV.

When I was living in merry olde England, there were major adjustments I had to make, due to the many cultural differences between the UK and USA. Sir Winston Churchill famously remarked the only thing separating the British and American people is a common language.” I couldn’t have said it better. Accents in the UK vary based on class, and the city or town you grew up in. There are South London accents, and Northern accents, and Welsh accents, and East London accents (cockney), as well as Brummie, Cornish, Geordie, and Glaswegian - to name a few

New York accents, Southern, New England, Chicago/Minnesota/Fargo, and Valley Girl pretty much comprise the accents we hear, and thousands of miles separate these regions. In the UK you only have to travel 25 feet and you’ll hear so many different English accents, that your head will spin. Aside from training your ear to listen very carefully, you also learn that you go to a bank to cash a “cheque,” snow peas are called mange-tout, an eggplant is an aubergine, and the Brits love to put “sweet corn” on, or in,  everything but their breakfast cereal. From pizza to jacket potatoes (their spuds wear jackets), and tuna mayonnaise (tuna fish salad), if you aren’t fond of sweet corn watch out!


I had spent years visiting the UK. I watched Eastenders on PBS, along with every episode of “Are You Being Served,” and owned AB Fab on DVD. Just watching a few television shows does not prepare you for living there. Imagine my shock when I ran out to buy a Sony television (because US television broadcasting standards are different), and was told that I had to buy a TV license that cost over one hundred pound sterling "£", aka one hundred pounds, aka one hundred quid! If you are blind, they rather kindly give you a 50% discount on your license! After paying for the bloody license, you take your TV home and you are presented with 5 channels! BBC1, BBC2, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5. That’s it. The Sky satellite TV installer couldn't get to my house fast enough.


Truth be told, the TV was invariably tuned to BBC1. The best comedies, dramas, news, and Eastenders were all on BBC1. From bitchy Anne Robinson and her watch-dogging show to Absolutely Fabulous and Royle Family, when I was home to watch television, the “beeb” was the best station. Except when they had interminable snooker or darts, or the most ridiculous show known to man about painting in the countryside.
 

I blame it all on the "Casanova of Carshalton." The Casanova of Carshalton was my house mate. The dashing James Austin Harvey (or Austin J. or whatever he goes by these days) could make a mean cup of tea, and loved to prepare and eat the stinkiest fish I’ve ever encountered in my life. When he prepared this ode to rotten fish, my eyes would water and my eyebrows would melt. How he could ingest such a thing I will never know.


Here in the United States we are very patriotic, and have a strong love for our country. In the UK overt displays of patriotism were few and far between. The lone exception was my pal James. He had the Union Jack on his tea mug, emblazoned on his underwear, hanging on the wall in his bedroom, and memorialized on his beach towels. He cried every time the Queen lost another country or territory in her empire, to independence, so he cried a lot. He also liked television, and it was while living in England that I saw my first reality television.

That’s why I blame it all on the Casanova of Carshalton. Admittedly he forced me to watch a little too much Rolf Harris, which I still hold against him, but he also introduced me to the joys of Carol Smillie and handy Andy, the camp Lawrence Llewelyn-Bowen, the buxom Charlie Dimmock, and the affable Alan Titchmarch. The shows were Animal Hospital, Changing Rooms and Ground Force, and they changed my life. How did they change my life you might ask? I WATCH TOO MUCH REALITY TV!


If there is a housewife in it - I watch it. Bravo? I think I’ve watched every show on Bravo since Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Anything related to New Jersey - I’m there. The Real Housewives of New Jersey, Jersey Shore, Jerseylicious and Jersey Couture. Mob Wives is filmed on Staten Island, but those women could have easily stepped out of the Tick Tock Diner in Lyndhurst, on Route 3. RuPaul’s Drag Race is a fun and slightly guilty pleasure, and The A-List New York isn’t a guilty pleasure. I would equate watching The A-List New York to watching open heart surgery. It’s painful - very painful to watch.


If this is the best of what our community has to offer, we are a sorry lot. I know, and anyone reading this knows, that the cast of this show isn’t a good reflection of the LGBT community. Mike Ruiz and Ryan Nickulas seem to be incredibly sweet, normal, hard working and successful guys. They need more screen time. The others? Well I don't feel like writing about the "Miss Mess" of the week, so I'll save that for another day.


Whoever cast this show didn’t throw a very wide net. I have had episode 3 on my DVR for a couple days, and I'm not rushing to watch. During episode 2, there was a brief conversation between Mike and Ryan. Watching it made me a little verklempt. Ryan said he’s been told by media executives that he’s “too gay.” They suggest that he change his clothing, his jewelry, and basically tell him that he needs to NOT be who he is. I’m glad that he discussed this with Mike, because Mike gave him the correct response. He needs to be himself and one can never be gay enough. I have to applaud Mike, and I hope that Ryan heeds his advice.


Houston - we have a problem! A television executive who feels that anyone is too gay to be on TV should be fired. At a time when bullying is an epidemic in our schools, we need to see people on TV who represent every spectrum of the rainbow. We need our kids, and these homophobic parents who teach their kids to pick on people who are different, to see that our nation is comprised of a diverse, multi-cultural melting pot of individuals, and everyone deserves a seat at the table.


While the Governor of Texas gathers his gaggle of zealots and homophobes in Reliant Stadium, and the Christian Values Network financially supports Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council - who spew lies and invectives about and to the LGBT community, we must stand up and say that’s enough. That’s why a media executive feels it’s within his or her purview to say someone is too gay.


In my adopted country, the UK, home of the Casanova of Carshalton, and a place where Dame Edna has long been celebrated, the late Kenneth Williams, the late Kenny Everett, and Lily Savage - Paul O’Grady, Graham Norton, Alan Carr, and Julian Clary, have all been regulars on television, and are more "gay" than anyone we watch on television here. Hell - I'd even argue that Jonathan Ross is a big queen, and he's straight (with a lovely lesbian daughter). They honor and celebrate their “camp” comedians, because they are talented and funny. Those TV executives that spoke with Ryan would probably never give these Brits a chance, and we are missing out on some hysterically funny comedians.
 
We all need to embrace our inner gay. Next time you have a moment, if you want a good laugh go to youtube and check out some of the gay UK comedians. Throw some sweet corn on your pizza, or jacket potato, and I guarantee that you’ll laugh until you cry, if we could only understand the bloody accent.

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