What to Watch Instead of Late-Night TV During the Writers Strike: Look to the U.K., India, Japan & Korea!

With the return of much of late-night television, including the Daily Show and the Colbert Report, the writers’ strike will be ending soon, right? Not likely with the recent cancellation of the Golden Globes. Networks will be running out of new scripted shows (it seems like with the exception of original-flavor Law and Order), so what to watch?

I am surprised that the networks are not looking globally to:

  • the U.K. for programs in English? Why not show the original Office as a replacement for the U.S. version? Or Mile High as a replacement for dramatic comedies? MI-5 (Spooks) as a replacement for 24? Coupling (U.K.) for sex comedies? Life on Mars for all of those new slightly wacky crime-fighting shows (sans vampire)? Shows about how “everyone in this small town is crazy but me” like Hamish Macbeth or The Vicar of Dibley? Or what about all of those Masterpiece Theatre – like costume dramas? Shows that would fall into the “Murder in the Morning” genre? Shows that are detail-oriented, like Foyle’s War? BBC America can’t possibly show all of these! (clip from Mile High)

  • to India and the productions of Bollywood? There are tons and tons of new material being produced. Unlike the U.K., the films are not in English, and are crafted to suit a different sensibility (greatly simplified: lots of song and dance, great costumes, no kissing). However, considering the large desi audience in the United States, you may be able to find TV programming from Namaste America (or others). After all, it’s new to you! (clip of “Dhoom Again” from Dhoom 2)

  • to Japan, the worldwide producer of anime and kawaii? There is so much Japanese pop culture, including TV and movies, that are not presently being shown on U.S. television, especially shojo / shoujo anime, which is directed towards girls and women. Consider checking out the teen psychological “evil fairy tale” drama Utena (clip above) or CardCaptor Sakura.

  • or to Korea, which in addition to having some of the best new r&b out there, also has the best soaps, exported as part of the “Korean Wave“. Korean Soaps (Korean Dramas or k-dramas) are usually like a cross between U.S. soaps and Jane Austen, where couples can’t be together because someone’s grandma doesn’t like the other person, or someone’s drunk relative killed the other person’s parent, such as the presently airing Likeable or Not. (The parodies on MadTV are strikingly accurate!) Others are more fanciful, like The Palace (Goong), which imagines a modern-day Korean royal family, complete with an arranged marriage (clip above). Korean dramas with subtitles are shown in many places in the U.S. , including in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Hawaii, and New York.

I’m not sure why networks didn’t try these options instead of rushing to get out more bad reality TV. Perhaps execs thought the strike would be over soon — or incorrectly thought that U.S. audiences aren’t ready for something new and different. But I think you can tell what I’ll be watching, instead of guiltily watching Colbert without his writers. And who knows how quickly I will be going back to U.S. network TV, considering all of the options out there (even excluding video-sharing sites).

You will notice that clips of shows are included in this post, but if the writers’ strike shows us anything, it is that people want to be fairly compensated for their work. All of the shows linked you’ve never heard about can either be purchased on DVD or rented from Netflix, or can be watched on broadcast or cable TV.

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