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Viral videos have infected every area of our lives. You see them in your Facebook news feed, in frantic midday AIM messages, and on any of those cable news shows that so desperately want to be hip to the whole digital universe. You’ve heard your colleague in the next cubicle cackling at them. It’s quite likely that more people have watched the “Hide Your Kids, Hide Your Wife” video than have ever seen an episode of Mad Men.
Some of the most entertaining, innovative viral vids have emerged from the UK in recent years. (After all, Britain produced the unlikely Queen of Viral Media, Susan Boyle.) Here are the top 10 British clips that resonated on this side of the pond in 2010:
10. Lego Hello World
Top Gear’s James May isn’t the only person who can do cool stuff with Legos. YouTube user horseattack built a working printer made of Legos, a felt tip marker, and a few other doodads. Quite amazing stuff.
9. cows & cows & cows
What initially looks like a cute fun video of dancing cows becomes deeply surreal and rather disturbing (but certainly inventive). Arachnophobes, beware. From cyriak, a digital animator based near Brighton, England.
8. Charlie McDonnell – Justin Bieber Fever
It’s the ultimate transatlantic heartthrob faceoff: 20-year-old British YouTube cutie Charlie McDonnell dares to take on the power of the Bieb. Why does it feel like, behind the mockery, Charlie really loves our little Justin?
7. The English Language In 24 Accents
If you want to know the difference between a Scouser accent and a Manchester one, check out this blond London lad who demonstrates a powerful command of several ethnic and regional accents. (Some of the accents are more skillful than others, and a few do cross the line into caricature.) This clip has had over 3 million views since it launched in September. Audio is NSFW and may offend some delicate sensibilities.
6. Herding Cats
What happens when you take 100 cats, release them in IKEA at night when the store is closed, and turn on cameras? Mass adorableness is what happens.
5. Cute Girl Has A Catchy Dance
For sheer exuberance, nothing beats a choreographed group dance in a public space. Last year’s T-Mobile Dance in Liverpool Street Station was fantastic, but this clip is great too, featuring a boisterous little girl in daycare. Her dancing becomes so infectious that it damn near starts a town riot. (It’s a Samsung ad, yes, but that doesn’t dampen its entertainment value.)
4. BBC Weatherman Finger Fail
BBC weatherman Tomasz Schafernaker became Britain’s biggest viral star of 2010 when he flashed a very rude gesture at his newsroom colleagues during a live broadcast in August. (He played it off, unconvincingly, by pretending to scratch his chin.) The stuff Internet sensations are made of.
3. Damien Walters 2010
Most of us put our pants on one leg at a time. British gymnast and parkour enthusiast Damien Walters does it while executing a flawless tumbling pass. And that’s not even the sickest feat of gravity-defying, life-threatening skill in this montage, which has logged over 8 million YouTube views.
2. Charlie Chaplin’s Time Traveler
Britain’s all-time biggest film icon manages to stun and amaze us to this day. Back in October, a viewer with a sharp eye spotted what appears to be a woman chatting on a cellphone in a behind-the-scenes clip from Chaplin’s 1928 film The Circus. This video became a massive news story, inspiring myriad responses, explanations, and conspiracy theories.
1. Embrace Life – Always Wear Your Seat Belt
This public service ad from Sussex Safer Roads is an example of advertising reaching the level of art, and its simple, powerfully moving concept will stay with you long after its 89-second runtime. Beautiful, really.
Kevin Wicks founded BBCAmerica.com's Anglophenia blog back in 2005 and has been translating British culture for an American audience ever since. While not British himself - he was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri - he once received inordinate hospitality in London for sharing the name of a dead but beloved EastEnders character. His Anglophilia stems from a high school love of Morrissey, whom he calls his "gateway drug" into British culture.