Peter Fenzel and Matthew Wrather look forward with great anticipation to the coming of Independence Day: Resurgence, and move on to consider what cosmopolitan Britishness has meant in the popular culture, focusing mostly on James Bond and Action Man, and the disjunction between outsiders’ and insiders’ view of a national identity.
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- Books on Acting: True and False: Heresy and Common Sense for the Actor (David Mamet) and A Practical Handbook for the Actor (Bruder, Cohn, Olnek, Pollack, Previtio, and Zigler)
- Bill Pullman
- Action Man
- Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle
- “Let The River Run”
The British Show Mi-5, also known as Spooks, ran from 2002-2011 and was essentially the British answer to 24. There was a nicely diverse cast that were still very properly British. This cast included but was not limited to the Handsome Black Agent, the Handsome White Blond Agent, and the Very Handsome Arabic Agent. They’re all dead.
A few thoughts…
1. Thank you. That was more complementary to the UK brand than it currently deserves.
2. There is a good example of us narrativising America in the Bond franchise. Felix Leiter turns up in a number of different incarnations, usually as a contrast to however Bond is being portrayed this time around.
3. It’s interesting that you went to Bond but, despite mentioning Torchwood and Martha Jones, didn’t touch on the Doctor. This might be personal bias, but Bond is just a public-school type in a dinner jacket, while the Doctor’s eccentricity somehow seems more what we’d have liked to think of as a universal British thing (ignoring the fact that our actual current defining feature might not be so positive, obviously).
4. The point about kitschness at odds with slick professionalism – there’s a lot of camp needed for the brand. A man jumping out of a helicopter could be any nationality. A man jumping out of a helicopter with an elderly lady seems somehow more British.
When reviewing British contributions to pop culture, I like to remember the contributions of Gerry and Silvia Anderson. I spent my formative years in Canada, and we got to see probably more British imports than what was available in the U.S. at the time. In addition, I lived in Quebec, so there were dubbed versions of shows that may or may not have run at the same time as the English version, which caused me some confusion as I wondered if these actors were bilingual. Anyway, the Andersons produced several sci fi action series using puppets and model sets, which was an innovative way to produce this type of story. A few years ago there was a revival of Thunderbirds Are Go! with a forgettable live-action movie, but the latest series on Amazon Prime captures the spirit of the original with much better animation. It makes 10-year-old me smile as I watch. You have to love the Rube Goldberg contraptions they use to get into their suits and launch their vehicles, which puts 1960s Batman to shame. This was just one of several series featuring “Supermarionation” (puppets as actors).
The Andersons also produced more serious live-action sci fi series including Space:1999 (filmed in 1975-1977) and UFO, which only ran one season 1970-1971, but I still remember watching it. It would be interesting to trace their influence on the shows and movies we see today.
Wow Action Man, now that’s a deep cut! I remember watching it when I was pretty young, but I don’t actually remember the show, I remember liking it tho. I’ll always remember it in opposition Max Steel very similar in tone but with a younger protag.
I remember mostly because my Uncle loved the heck out of that show and later it became relevant only in Mexico and South America while Action Man did well but faded into obscurity until this year with a new comic book.
I don’t remember it being particularly British… hmm I just rewatched it and none of the characters speak with an English accent, there’s no dredlocked guy… were you thinking of another show? Action Man was a Canadian-US collab not Canadian-UK. Hmm Was there another CGI action show like this at the time?
Were you thinking of the 1995 Action man that had live action and traditional animation? It’s unrelated story-wise but the main character sounds British… but nothing else looks like what you were describing.
Now I’m curious what show were you watching Fenzel!
Watching a bit more only one of the characters was actually British and it was the guy with dreds Fenzel was talking about. I wonder why he thought everyone was British on that show? So now I see it was Action Man but it really wasn’t as British as Fenzel was describing