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American TV’s British invasion

THE BRITISH ARE COMING. They are bringing with them a time-traveling alien who fights monsters with a screwdriver and a bow tie. On March 30, Doctor Who returns to American television with a new batch of episodes, its popularity continuing a recent trend of British shows becoming available and successful in the United States.

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The Pulitzer-prize winning historian David Hackett Fischer wrote that “in a cultural sense most Americans are Albion’s seed, no matter who their own forebears may have been.” He was referring to our political, social, and linguistic patterns, but it may be the arts and entertainment where the patrimony and connections are strongest. School curricula invariably include Dickens, Austen, and Shakespeare. The first American movie star was London-born Charlie Chaplin. Harry Potter is the fastest selling book series in US history, even though the boarding school culture on which Hogwarts is based is practically nonexistent here and some of the jokes (“spellotape” is a play on “sellotape,” the British name for Scotch tape) don’t translate. In 1965, half of Billboard’s number-one songs were by British bands. An Englishman won an Oscar for the role of Abraham Lincoln.

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