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Please look after this bear.

October 31, 2011 \pm\31 5:00 pm

I have memories of the BBC from before I moved to London. It seemed so foreign then, so British, not that I knew what being British really meant before I moved here. Not that I know what it really means five years later or that I’ll ever know. But I used to watch BBC America on cable when I was in my teens and twenties. The Young Ones is still one of my favorite shows, but I’d watch almost anything. I liked what in my mind seems like the first crop of reality-slash-makeover shows: Ground Force, Changing Rooms, What Not To Wear. I think my earliest memory of a BBC show is when as a kid I’d sit with my brother and sister eating cereal and watching Paddington Bear which they used to show on HBO back then. [I was just about to say that we watched Babar in the same block of time, but I just checked Wikipedia and that little elephant bro was Canadian.]

When I told my grandmother I was moving to London, she told me how with her family she’d listen to the BBC World Service and she sang me the little song or words or whatever which I guess was their jingle or intro music. Still now, five years later, when I skype her she picks up and exclaims, ‘Ay, la BBC de Londres!’ She gets very excited when I call because sometimes I go too long without calling. It’s one of my pitiable habits, pretending I’m alone in the world.

The BBC as a concept exemplifies values from a generation ago, when TV meant to not only entertain but educate via entertaining which has always felt to me to be the easiest way to learn. I mean, TV still does educate via entertaining, but it doesn’t necessarily mean to.

I don’t know much about the politics, but here goes basics: the BBC has a few channels, accessible to the whole country, without advertising. Everyone that lives here pays a yearly fee (the ‘TV licence fee’) which supports the BBC, making for some funny-scary comments online. I didn’t know any of that before I moved here. The concept of free TV with no ads seemed total socialist chic to me. I grew up on MTV, VH1 and Cinemax: cash money cable TV. I guess there were local channels and I guess they were free but they still had ads and no one watched them or they had rain in the signal. The BBC has this long history (cue the old British guy in my head fading to reverie, ‘during the war…’) and the UK is not as big, so it feels much more interconnected, I get a much stronger feeling of cohesion, more than I did in the US with all its states each doing its thing.

But now it seems like that’s going the way of everything, cut. Instead of essentially paying for TV outright with a yearly fee (which they’re chill enough to take in installments), it feels like whenever I want to watch something, I have to pay by spending time watching a ridiculous ad for a needless something that I don’t want.

I always watch TV online because I have many computer monitors but no proper TV set (long story, it’s not some elitist b.s. okay, it’s just this guy but never mind that). A lot of people think you don’t have to pay your licence fee if you watch online, but you must pay the fee to watch via any means, including watching commercial channels, though that’s not really why I pay it, I pay my licence fee because at the beginning it felt good, made a tiny feeling in me like being part of society or a community or something, which is important when you are far from home. Plus probably always I’d rather pay for things up front than feel conned, my time and intelligence disrespected, which is how I often feel when I download TV from the straight channels and they force me to watch like six (okay, four) usually heteronormative or misogynist ads for every 15 minutes (okay maybe 30) of sitcom. Which by the way I go out of my way to avoid buying those products. The BBC’s online catch-up service, iPlayer, also has no ads and all their ad-free channels are available live online anyway too.

I wrote this post like I avoid buying those advertised products, to remember that I care about some things and that I think it’s okay to care, even if caring and saying so doesn’t change it or make it better. It’s like avoiding those products with the ads that make you feel bad, it just gives you some short-lived, low-level satisfaction. Like giving your mom the finger as she’s leaving the room after yelling at you to effing clean it she’s not going to tell you again. A gesture pointless and heartfelt.

Cool BBC Shows Of Which You Could Like Maybe Buy The Box Sets, Or, You Know, Download Them Online Somewhere Perhaps If You Do That Kind Of Thing Which No One Does Really Mostly Ever

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