British pop culture has a history of traveling across the pond. The first "British Invasion" occurred in the 1960s, and another during the '80s, as British musicians gained fame in the United States.
However, as the Internet has grown and worldwide communication has become easier, more and more aspects of other cultures are trickling into the States.
Recently, British TV shows have been enjoying particular success in America, with services such as Netflix making them easy to find and watch. However, for those who have missed out on all the buzz about these shows, they can seem quite foreign and strange. A doctor who has a time machine that's a telephone box? And Bilbo Baggins as John Watson of "Elementary, my dear Watson" fame? What?
So, for all of the newbies to British pop culture, here's a guide to some of the most popular and beloved British shows.
"Doctor Who" is a BBC science fiction series that originally ran from 1963 to 1989. Many of the early seasons feature special effects that can be called adorable at best, and frankly, there's no nice word for the video quality. However, the show became a British tradition of sorts and developed quite a following in the UK.
The series was rebooted in 2005, and this new "Doctor Who" quickly caught the attention of viewers in both Great Britain and the United States.
"Doctor Who" chronicles the adventures of a man known simply as the Doctor, an alien who travels through time and space. When faced with death, the Doctor regenerates, changing every cell of his body to survive. This means that every few seasons, a new actor steps in to play the Doctor. So far, the rebooted series has featured Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant and Matt Smith in the main role.
The Doctor has a knack for saving Earth -- or the entire universe, depending on the occasion. He and his friends (known as companions) travel through the stars in the Doctor's spaceship, the TARDIS. The TARDIS is permanently disguised as a British police box from the 1960s, a blue phone box used to call the police in emergencies.
"Doctor Who" is quirky, witty and original. It will make you laugh hysterically and then drown in an ocean you've cried yourself, all within the span of one episode. More than that, it explores deep issues of human nature, morality and the meaning of life.
Once you step into the TARDIS and travel with the Doctor, you'll never want to return to an everyday life on Planet Earth.
"Sherlock" has gained a substantial American following since its debut in 2010. The series is an adaptation of the famed Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, set in modern-day London. Although there are currently only six episodes, each is roughly 90 minutes long - the equivalent of an average movie.
Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a "consulting detective" who uses his genius to help solve crimes. Along the way, he is helped by his assistant and roommate John Watson, played by Martin Freeman, best-known for playing Bilbo in "The Hobbit."
While the mysteries are interesting, it is perhaps Sherlock's character, as well as the friendship of sorts that grows between him and Watson, that's appealing. Sherlock is a genius and a master of deduction, always one step ahead of everyone else. However, he is also distant, and his only real passion is investigating crimes.
Watson is a doctor who has recently returned from the War in Afghanistan. Although Watson is initially looking for nothing more than a roommate, he soon gets caught up in the excitement of solving mysteries with Sherlock, and the two eventually become unexpected friends.
"Sherlock" is fast-paced and exciting, full of twists and turns that will keep you guessing until the very end.
Though less popular than "Doctor Who" and "Sherlock," "Merlin" is another BBC show that has made its way to the U.S. "Merlin" is inspired by the Arthurian legends of the wizard Merlin and King Arthur, although the show takes a number of liberties with the original tale.
Merlin (Colin Morgan) is a young man who travels to Camelot in order to work for the court physician, Gaius. Merlin has a unique, innate ability to use magic, but he is forced to develop his abilities in secret, as magic has been outlawed by the king.
When he first arrives in Camelot, Merlin picks a fight with a young bully, only to discover that it is, in fact, Prince Arthur (Bradley James). Arthur uses his status to seek retribution, and Merlin learns to keep his head down. However, he goes on to save the prince's life from a would-be assassin and is awarded the job of being Arthur's personal servant. Merlin and Arthur gradually, and grudgingly, become friends, and together they must save the kingdom from forces that seek to destroy it.
"Merlin" is an interesting adaptation of a classic tale and is unlike any other show on TV. Plus, there's a great enough abundance of swords, dragons and magic to keep any fantasy-lover satisfied.
Other British shows are also gaining popularity but these three are by far the most popular. The UK has succeeded in creating programs that are original and captivating, drawing in audiences worldwide. Camelot, London and the entire universe are only a few clicks away, with adventures that are bound to make you laugh and cry, before realizing that you've somehow watched an entire season in a single day.
Frankly, any of these shows is enjoyable regardless of the premise, simply because of all the lovely British accents!
Kalli Damschen is a recent graduate of Clearfield High School who is passionate about reading and writing. Email her at email@example.com.