It’s no secret that I love British TV. Between my Whovian tendencies and my research paper on Downton Abbey, it’s not a surprise in the least that I think TV shows from across the pond are fascinating.
The culture and norms there are so different from what I’m used to in the U.S. and I love learning about people and situations that are different from me. The best way for me to discuss this is in a sort of case study example. Lately I’ve been watching and studying Luther, a show staring Idris Elba (The Wire).
In a word, Luther is intense. It follows John Luther, the head of the Serious Crime Unit (and later the Serious and Serial Crime Unit) as they work bizarre and inhuman cases. The show is more graphic and fast-paced than anything I’ve ever seen on American television. It’s a high-risk high-reward situation as it certainly makes for a thrilling story.
It also focuses a lot on the friendship between Luther and Alice, a sociopath murder. This relationship is borderline the most bizarre thing in the entire series, even over some of the crimes they solve.
Luther, and British television in general, doesn’t skirt around issues of violence or sexuality. Graphic crime scenes are just background noise to the crimes being shown. Scenes will often leave me with a “that escalated quickly” feeling when suddenly two characters go from greeting each other at the door to laying in bed a few hours later.
Besides the way that it approaches social issues, there’s also a really different form of storytelling that’s going on here. Each season so far (and the upcoming season 3 from what I’ve gathered) has had an ongoing personal plot line going on the side. Now, this isn’t completely unheard of in any television regardless of country of origin, but Luther does it differently than any show I can think of.
Confession time: For my class right now I am writing a sample script for Luther. This is kind of terrifying to admit because this show has such a specific style that I’m worried I wont be able to properly emulate it. And that’s without even the fear that I’m going to screw up some British thing and accidentally turn it more American.
Admitting this is also scary on the level of this-is-the-internet. While I love the internet, it’s also a very permanent and very public place. I don’t have any fantasies of someone from the show seeing this and then wanting to see my sample. But more the opposite. The worry that if someone sees this I could get in trouble for trying.
A little silly? Yes. Because I’m not trying to sell it. I’m not planning to even shop it. I’m writing this script as a sample. A way of practicing something that I hope I can turn into a living down the line. Practicing the method and the madness that I will apply to another show that probably doesn’t exist yet at some undetermined point in the future.
Maybe someday, far off into the future, I will get to work on a British show. With people who will help me correct the mistakes I make as an outsider. Maybe.
Have you seen Luther? What are your favorite foreign shows?