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I know what you’re thinking, it IS an oddly specific list, this one, isn’t it? Speaks to a very specific core demographic of the Anglophenia audience, namely anyone who was around the in the ’90s, all paying attention to stuff, and stuff, but not being entirely obsessed with the UK in the way you/they are nowadays. OR being generally into British things, but not very observant.
And let’s face it, it’s a lot easier these days to be obsessed with Britain, given the internet and whatnot. If I’d been trying to write this very feature in 1990, it would’ve been done the old fashioned way, by dragging a stick across a car park, and writing “laugh out loud” in longhand. Truly, the past is an undiscovered country. And, if you’ve been distracted by Creed and Britney Spears, so is the UK.
So here are five things (and another thing) that definitely happened in the ’90s, the American response to which is not logged over here. By all means use the comments box underneath to point out everything mentioned was massive at the time, all across the States (even Alaska), I’m well aware of the thinness of the ice upon which I stand.
1: Vic Reeves Big Night Out
Ah the Brits and their comedy surrealism! How hilarious it is (to the people who like it) and how tiresome it is (to the people that do not). Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer took as their launchpad the frayed bits of Monty Python that were neither the Dead Parrot sketch or the Spanish Inquisition, added a catchphrase or two, and created a baffling form of family entertainment that essentially excluded almost everyone in the family. The truly strange thing is that it worked.
2: Mr Blobby
Oh the British are so refined, aren’t they? So charming and erudite! Well, this is the dark secret we try to hide from the world. During the 1990s, Saturday night (the biggest TV night in the week) was dominated by a TV show called Noel’s House Party, presented by Noel Edmonds (the man with the Kenny Rogers beard). It was set in a fictional stately home called Crinkley Bottom, and featured celebrity guests doing zany things. And then there was Mr Blobby. As you can see, he’s a kind of walking pudding with anarchy issues, and his main job was to run in, shout “BLOBBYBLOBBYBLOBBY!” a lot, and then fall over. Even more disturbingly, he released a spin-off single from the show, and it got to No.1. Think about that the next time some Brit gives you grief about stupid Hollywood movies.
3: The Royle Family
This, believe it or not, represents quite a lively moment in what is not a lively sitcom. The Royle Family was quite a baffling watch at first, in that it was largely a TV-eye view of a family sitting watching the TV and bickering. But given a little space to breathe, it quickly became a national obsession, possibly because of the similarities between the people watching the TV, on the TV and the people watching the TV show about the people watching the TV, on the TV.
4: England Gives Its Colonies Back
Well, sort of. After the Labour government took power in 1997, one of its stated aims was to devolve power in Scotland and Wales to their own parliaments, after years in which the Scots and the Welsh routinely voted in left-leaning representitives, only to be ruled by a right-leaning government, lead by the Conservative party. At the same time, Hong Kong, which was under the sovereign rule of the British, was being handed to the Chinese, and steps were taken to remedy the situation in Northern Ireland, part of which was the establishment of the Northern Irish Assembly, another devolved seat of power.
So basically, if you had only waited a couple of hundred years, you could have avoided a whole lot of unnecessary aggravation (and worse, wasting all that tea).
5: Men Behaving Badly
It’s funny how some things just disappear from the mind the minute they’ve stopped, isn’t it? This was one of the biggest hit TV shows of its era, made stars of Martin Clunes and Neil Morrissey, and was even considered to have something to say about the male psyche in what was then modern Britain. Now it all seems laughably quaint, even the good bits.
6: Mad Cow Disease
OK, you were probably wise to give this one the swerve.
Fraser McAlpine is British. This explains a lot.
See more posts by Fraser McAlpine
Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 15 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME, Guardian and MSN. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Radio 2.
He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.
Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic