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25 February 2016


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Stephen J

I concur with Michael Brenner's perspectives on the characteristics and merits of European Detective series and their utility as 'blockers' for similar US programming as well as all the idiot political Kabuki stuff we're in for this year on TV. As a subscriber of MHZ Choice for some time now, (they used to air programming on various PBS stations across the country but PBS congressional funding cuts led to their eventual elimination there), the $7.99 per month rate is well worth it as they have so many shows, most of them good, and a fair number of new ones, included new seasons of some excellent existing series, beginning in March and April of this year. One can sign up for a 30 day free trial too

The Twisted Genius

MHZ Networks is a broadcast jewel. I refuse to spring for cable and FIOS is still not available, so I rely on free digital broadcast signal with an antenna in the attic. In addition to the fine European series noted by Michael Brenner, MHZ offers many foreign news casts including RT, France 24 and Deutche Welle. These are broadcast on channel 30 in the DC area. Here in Stafford, this is the best (strongest) signal available.


Grievances are expectations in need of revision. US TeeVee makes more sense if you think of it as a smorgasbord of goyische nachas.


... or nachas, as the case may be.


I, as German, do not want to spoil the party, however, my 19 and 21 years old kids do watch on DVD which series? The ugly truth is, all the US stuff like "Bones", "Castle", "NCIS", "CSI", "CSI:NY", "Closer", "Profiler", "Criminal Minds"....

We have very likely 2 m of DVDs in our shelf with US series.

In contrast, the domestic series are highly unpopular with German teenagers, my are no exceptions. Even good English series like Inspector Morse and its good spin-offs are shunned. :-(

The high tempo and the action of most US series kill the competitors. The bad aspect IMHO is that the "TV reality" is taken for real.

BTW: A really good French series is "Spiral".


Fantastic Michael Brenner. I was never even aware that there are good European detective shows. Hilarious observations. Very well done.



Well, they are kids. Unfortunately their brain development will be adversely affected by our TV bilge as is the brain development of our young who, IMO are less educated and capable of thought than their ancestors. "Spiral" is titled "Engrenage" in French. pl


This article also illustrates another difference between American and European attitudes. Americans often refer to films while Europeans would refer to books. It is also often the case that it is more enjoyable and memorable to read the book on which a film is based rather than see the film, because that engages one's own imagination.

In addition to Camilleri's 'Montalbano' books, I like Michael Dibdin's 'Aurelio Zen' series and Donna Leon's detective stories set in Venice are enjoyable.

I wonder what effect the mobility of Americans has on their regional cultures, accents and loyalties. Is it all rapidly becoming homogenized? If circumstances become difficult would many Americans feel a primary loyalty to their state or region or ethnicity or religion of birth, or just to their immediate material interests?


"Well, they are kids. Unfortunately their brain development will be adversely affected by our TV bilge as is the brain development of our young who, IMO are less educated and capable of thought than their ancestors."

No dispute here. Some of my daughter's friends took part in a highschool student exchange with families in a New England town. They were shocked by the discrepancy between reality and TV. The BMI aspect was one. :-)

It is hard for teenagers to get a feeling for the reality in other countries with the high impact of TV. That own TV series, which sometimes are actually much better, become collateral damage is an ugly, but minor, side effect. The illusion that you can "learn" by TV is the real issue.



older Europeans refer to books, teenagers are not that different. However, in central Europe you simply can not ignore other cultures, most countries are smaller than US states.

Donna Leon was for my wife and me a disappointment: The books are better in the German translation than in the English original, usually it is the other way round. :-(

The selling point of US series is that they are in English. Most European series are only markable in an English version that reduces their appeal a lot.

I watched my favourite Austrian crime series at the beginning with German subtitles to avoid loss of chracter but to understand the actors which sometimes spoke with a brutal Austrian dialect. :-)


It does seem like reading books is a dying practice.
Homogenization of culture has been a very noticeable phenomenon in the US for quite a while. Some is due to the tendency of Americans to job jump all over the country. Almost everyone I know is from 'somewhere else'. American corporations insist on their execs and skilled employees being able to move wherever they are most needed. Being in the military also encourages movement and resettling.

Many if not most people like being around the familiar. Couple this with the desire of companies to make as much as possible with the smallest investment and national advertising, and you end up with radio stations playing the same thing coast to coast, the same restaraunts and store chains, hotel rooms look the same everywhere, nation wide food brands, the same movies playing everywhere, local book and hardware stores being replaced by big box stores, etc.

There is however, a noticeable reaction against this phenomenon. The slow food movement, community radio stations, the incredible growth of community gardens and farmer's markets, etc. One of the most noticeable is beer - over the last 15 years the entire face of American beer consumption has changed, small breweries are popping up everywhere, here in Asheville alone there are almost 3 dozen breweries (beer city USA!).

But these are mostly reactions against the overall trend of corporate and national media driven homogenization.

As far as loyalties during times of difficulty, I think they would vary wildly. People would do what they have always done - stick with the people they know best and can count on. In rural areas that would be their neighbors and church groups, county govt.
In cities and suburbs many people barely know their neighbors because of all the mobility, I'm not sure what they would do. Confusion would reign.

William R. Cumming

And auto chases minimized in favor of dialogue!

Babak Makkinejad

I think you are reading too much into this.

US film & movie production is aiming at a global audience. Dialogue requires too much of an understanding of the nuances of the native idiom of North America by the rest of the world.

Physical action, then, has to substitute for dialogue - intelligent or not so intelligent - to sell movies etc.

Almost a hundred years ago, silent films relied on action to sell their product - and not dialogue. The supreme expression of that may be found in the movies of one Charlie Chaplin, trailed by those of Harold Lloyd's.

Chaplin used action to communicate comedy - to a vast global audience - including reigning monarchs and government leaders etc.

A witty dialogue - say like the US TV series "House" - will be lost to anyone not having lived in US for decades.


I feel Montalbano is in a class by itself. The detective work (or is it some form of coreography?) seems a pretext for offering a complex society structure and interactions that makes Sicily both a mythical and yet a credible every day solid alternative.

Thanks for your great post.


"The acting that one sees upon the stage does not show how human beings comport themselves in crises, but how actors think they ought to.

It is thus, like poetry and religion, a device for gladdening the heart with what is palpably not true."

— H L Mencken

Ya, der Amerikaner ist Teenager Eternal.

Prince Otto from Bismarck was right: they are children.

(Apart from other less pleasant associations...)

The high tempo adrenalin rush [on average every 5 - 10 min.] suits the needs of those who are addicts of violent sport & sugar-saturated soda pop (e.g. kool aid).

Americans are ∴ de facto inheritors of Futurist dogma: worshippers of speed, technology, youth, & violence.

Physically manifestations: the motorcar, the aeroplane, & the industrial city - I dub the "unholy trinity."

∓ deemed "cool" & "hip" by the rest of the world due to the box office as well as DVD.

While old people: ± depositories of Knowledge & Wisdom are (sadly) not...



I wonder if English will remain so popular as American influence gradually wanes. Will it still be desirable in itself, or useful as an intermediary lingua franca? Will better computer translations reduce the utility of an intermediary language?

Is the mass media standardizing speech, or debasing it? In Britain the BBC radio and television initially promoted a 'Received Pronunciation' of 'The Queen's English' or 'BBC English', and this is very evident in repeats of old broadcasts. However, from about the 1960's regional accents became the fashionable replacement.Lefty education denigrated the idea that one way of doing something might be better than another. I think they even stopped teaching grammar. I met someone who taught German and French, and he said that he was not allowed to teach grammar!


When the populace has been mentally, morally, culturally and racially as well as materially homogenized, I expect there would not be many Robert E. Lee's who would follow their States rather than their personal inclinations.

Scenarios for a possible break up of the United States usually assume a division of interests into neat territorial blocs,rather than a patchwork of local preferences and predominances. In view of the homogenization of the population, I wonder whether old regional associations would be strong enough to prevail. On the other hand, does the continued existence of local States provide nucleii around which re-consolidation would occur? Why would each state not be at loggerheads with all its neighbours?

Stephen J

TTG, Reading your remarks made me realize I was wrong about MHZ programming having been carried on PBS stations. Their 'International Mysteries' program was carried by another station and up until early last year was still available here where I live about 100 miles south of the San Francisco Bay Area. I don't think it's even available via TV service in SF now. In any case the MHZ Choice subscription is the only option available hereabouts and it is a good one. Glad you still have it in Virginia.


Confirming "Spiral" which I just came across. Not super sophisticated but very well done. Question: some of the actors in these series are extraordinarily good - especially cameo roles (e.g. the "juge" in Spiral). Look them up and you discover that they usually have had marginal careers - there or over here (many speak English). Far better than even most of theHollywood 'stars." I guess that the select/career process must resemble that for national security advisers in Washington.


Some have a Spanish sub-titled version, I think. E.G. The Wire (American). Not on MHZ I suspect



Capitaine Laure Berthaud and her crew become very engaging after a while. pl



I would challenge all this business about the homogenization of the US population. I get out and around a bit and I think that homogenization is not occurring in flyover America. The people who support Trump are not being homogenized. Remember on this blog and on other American social media you are dealing with that group of people who have been somewhat homogenized. BTW, the states generally ARE at loggerheads. pl

The Twisted Genius

Stephen J,

Looks like it's available on cable in SF and that's about it. Don't know if that helps.


The Twisted Genius


I agree about the non-homogenization of the US population, but I do see a homogenization of two sides of the US population largely due to cable news shows and talk radio. It's either left/democrat/urban or right/republican/rural in orientation. Even Trump and Sanders fit into this dichotomy. Luckily, neither one of them are fully aligned with the Borg foreign policy agenda that is endorsed by both sides.

Babak Makkinejad

Please see my comments below in reply to WRC.

I do not find anything wrong with Kung-Fu movies or Samurai movies; Action-Adventure stories have been a popular genre of story-telling from very old times; remember the "Monkey King"? "All Men Are Brothers"?

In Arabic & Persian you also have such things as the stories of "Antar", "Samak Ayyar", "Amir Hamza..." etc.

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