Of course, the mayor owns this superb English TV series’ set of DVDs at about $50 a season (each DVD is at least three hours), and I rent them for $4.49 each (delivery and pickup from Video Room, the last classy film library left in the city, 212-879-5333). British TV miniseries are the world’s best comedies, action-adventures and romances—but hey, don’t take my word—call Video Room’s manager-buyer and urban treasure Howard Salen and ask for yourself.
Arriving in Manhattan, I hung with rich college classmates who sailed racing yachts on which I was either bored or in mortal danger from sadistic weather. Alas, classmates routinely dived under the hull to unstuff toilets.
Relieved, I soon realized I didn’t need to strive to be rich. What pleased me was reporting and writing fiction—using my brain.
So I don’t envy Mayor Bloomberg for his townhouse and vacation getaways. But the love we share for Foyle’s War gives me pause—and I wonder if he loves my other favorite British TV miniseries.
For example, Howard Salen, my Video Room counselor, agrees that any British TV series starring coal miner’s son Robson Green is a knockout, or as Green might say, “a bobby dazzler.”
Trust me, Green’s the best and sexiest movie star you’ve never heard of. Says Salen, “Robson Green’s the king of the British miniseries. Both men and women love him and amazingly, he’s never cared to cross over to feature films in England or Hollywood.”
Why should he? His scripts are among the best in the English language—replete with you-never-see-it-coming, poignant character-driven twists.
It’s not about how Green looks—his vulnerability is always visible on his face. After 10 seconds of feeling what he feels onscreen, I’m riveted. Utterly seductive, he transmits quicksilver emotions in his mumbled North Country accent, ranging from playful, ironic falsetto to cold fury.
I love him best as the nuanced star of the comic drama series Grafters, set in Brighton by the sea, where he’s an utterly beguiling construction worker who slowly changes his slutty ways as he falls for a brainy lady architect and her small son.
I love other British TV miniseries. There’s Chancer, starring Clive Owen at his enigmatic and soulful best. American filmmakers mostly take this great actor and pummel him with murder and mayhem, whereas Brits use his tough face to show interior sadness and contagious joy. Chancer (meaning a sort-of con artist) is a masterpiece. Owen starts as a glitzy London wheeler-dealer and without losing realism, his story becomes a metaphor for recent English history. I bet Chancer’s the model for Mad Men—but Chancer’s even better.
Then there’s the series Doc Martin, starring a homely, crusty actor named Martin Clunes, with whom I’m in movie-love. The superb actor never quite bends even in three-handkerchief moments. He plays a formerly fancy London teaching surgeon who quit when he realized he was cutting someone’s mother, and now he’s trying to make it as a lowly G.P. in another gorgeous old seaside town, this one with hostile inhabitants and ancient, humble stone houses by the sea.
So, gentle reader, if you crave more pleasure than I’ve experienced in yachts, four-star restaurants and stately homes, call Video Room and beg Howard to send Robson Green, Clive Owen and Martin Clunes your way ASAP.
Susan Braudy is the author and journalist whose last book, Family Circle: The Boudins and the Aristocracy of the Left, was nominated for a Pulitzer by publisher Alfred Knopf.
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