From 'Appearances' to 'Foyle'

Sallie Satterthwaite's picture

I’m finally of an age that I should be allowed to watch whatever television program(s) I wish without apology or explanation.

Yet here I am trying to figure out why I am delving into what feels like a visit to the confessional. “And the envelope, please?”

It takes a little time to build up a “must-watch” list strong enough to make me say with a straight face, “I’m sorry, we have plans for that evening.”

Smile.

Sorry.

In my younger days, I would take after the handgun industry with the same vigor as I did racial bigotry, so what I opinionate about this week may be the exact opposite of what I said 20 or 30 years ago.

When my girls were very young, they were allowed to watch television or go to movies only after we had vetted the material and deemed it acceptable for our little dears’ developing taste and understanding. They were good about it. “Because I say so” was a reason none of them ever argued with.

So the shoot-‘em-up westerns or cop shows were usually on the unacceptable list. If the girls asked me why I like “NCIS,” where there is enough gun smoke to choke a train, I guess I’ll have to say “Just because.”

Just because is good slang for Mark Harmon, an actor who rarely says anything suggestive. Well, he rarely says anything, period. He has an extensive silent vocabulary, made up of the slightest tip of the head or a firmer jaw-set, usually discernable only to the colleague or bad guy trying to stare him down.

But it’s Channels 8 and 30 that are nearly worn out on our remote controller. We both love most things British, and their sharing of comedic sit-coms is deeply appreciated in our house.

There’s a certain learning curve to watching Britcoms. Obviously the fact that the limeys talk funny requires a good dollop of patience. It takes a while to chase down some of their accent, which sounds to us like putting on airs, but they think is plain good English.

It was a long time before I really got caught up in the “Downton Abbey” series. Not having watched them at the same time they were going through the birthing process themselves, we had to watch very closely to keep up with the introduction of new characters, whether they were going to be involved permanently or briefly. (Did Shirley MacClain ever show up?)

I still believe that that series’ greatest strengths were the wardrobe and architectural details that enriched the screen with or without characters or dialogue. Those slim sheer dresses and the hats – oh, the hats! – look the way most of us would like to appear.

So I drifted through what I thought was going to be a normal summer of reruns, and then the new series would carry us into autumn and season premieres. Except it didn’t.

That’s OK, says I. The Masterpiece dramas are just as soul-lifting, most of them at least. We’ve loved the police dramas, with heroes like Inspector Morse, Sergeant Lewis, and our favorite, Michael Kitchen as Inspector Christopher Foyle in “Foyle’s War.” Talk about your non-verbal communication skills! Michael Kitchen as Inspector Christopher Foyle at the end of World War II is equaled only by contrast with his driver, a vociferous actress whose actual name is Honeysuckle Weeks.

Enough, already. It seems such a long reach from Britcoms like “Taking on Appearances” and “As Time Goes By,” which we still watch faithfully.

Let yourself absorb the Englishness of it all, the scenery, the quaint English villages and waterside sound stages, which culminate in drama/comedies like “Doc Martin,” in the Cornish fishing village of Port Wenn. You don’t have to read the credits when you have such beauty to absorb.

Let me know what your favorites are.

[Sallie Satterthwaite of Peachtree City has been writing for The Citizen since our first issue Feb. 10, 1993. Before that she had served as a city councilwoman and as a volunteer emergency medical technician. She is the only columnist we know who has a fire station named for her. Her email is SallieS@Juno.com.]

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