LM’s Guide to British…Television

If going out on a pub crawl isn’t your thing, then maybe you’ll want your characters to curl up on a sofa and watch some TV?

Now, you can play it safe with a DVD of a classic film, but if you want your characters to actually watch television it’s handy to know what there is over here.

The Channels

Long gone are the days when there were only four television channels for most of the country. Now we have hundreds, though I suspect still not as many as viewers in the US.

The four main channels that have been around for years are BBC1, BBC2, ITV and Channel 4. They are all still around and broadcasting.

BBC1 and BBC2 are advert free.  Well, I say advert free, but there are always ads for upcoming shows on the BBC.  What you won’t get on those are fifteen to twenty minutes of commercials for anything and everything for every hour of programming.

There are several companies who offer a whole range of channels including some US channels, mainly the news ones.  Goodness knows if any of them offered Starz I would sign up today to get Outlander!  The two main channel providers are Sky and Virgin.  You can also get a lot more channels on Freeview, though not as many as with one of the paid providers.

So we have hundreds of channels to choose from and chances are there won’t be a thing to watch on any of them most of the time.


UK soap operas aren’t the same as the US ones.  BBC1 offers Eastenders which is set in the fictional borough of Walford in the London East End.  The main rival to Eastenders in the ratings battle is ITV’s Coronation Street, which is set in the fictional town of Weatherfield.  Another popular soap is ITV’s Emmerdale (formerly known as Emmerdale Farm) and as the former name would suggest, it is set in a much more rural community.

Other soaps have come and gone over the years.  Channel 4 had Brookside (famous for its first lesbian kiss by the way) and there was also Crossroads and Eldorado.

The Aussie imports Neighbours and Home & Away are also very popular over here.

Reality TV

Reality TV is something I just don’t see the appeal of.  It seems that most of the TV schedule these days is filled up with some form of reality TV.  A few of the most popular are The X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent, and Strictly Come Dancing. Chances are we have a UK version of most of the talent shows that the US has.  We also get quite a few of the versions from other countries aired over here as well on some of the lesser known channels, though they are usually the older series of such shows.

We get the US Jerry Springer over here, but we also have the UK equivalent being Jeremy Kyle.


Yes, we have channels dedicated just to sports as part of the paid packages.  If you can’t afford to have the sports channels and a big football match is on (that is English football, not American) then you’ll find plenty of pubs will be showing the match for those who don’t want to miss out.


Likewise with the movie channels, though once again, you won’t get those for free.


Wales and Scotland also have their own regional channels.  There are also more local channels popping up around the country all the time.

For regional news, you’ll find that if you watch BBC1 or ITV then when the regional news starts you’ll automatically get your own news rather than the news elsewhere in the country.  What this means is that I could be watching BBC1 at the same time as someone else in another part of the country and be watching something entirely different on the same channel.

Before we went digital I used to find I could tweak the tuning to get two different regional news channels on the same TV as well.  So I could watch one lot of news in the lunch time showing and a different lot in the evening.  Handy, but not easy to do now we have satellite TV instead.

And if you can’t find anything to watch on TV, you can always pick up a book instead.  🙂

Oh yes, and finally, what the US calls seasons, we call series. Just to make things nice and confusing.


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