According to an article in the Guardian, the most fun part of meeting people abroad is bonding over British TV shows. We bring you a report of the Balkan love for British sitcoms through the eyes of an English journalist.
A generation of young people in the Balkans have grown up on Only Fools and Horses, ‘Allo ‘Allo and Blackadder, the sense of humour chiming with their own…
The most fun part of meeting people abroad? Bonding over British TV shows. I’m not talking about in the US, or anglophile Sweden and Denmark, the top three countries for BBC export sales in 2012. I was in Serbia when someone told me with authority about the time Father Ted got lost in the lingerie aisle.
When friends from the Balkans visited London recently, they preferred a photo opportunity with the sign for Peckham – which they saw fleetingly from a bus – over a visit to Abbey Road. “Del Boy! Dad’s gonna love this one!”
“Only Fools and Horses was on all the time. Bosnians could identify, I guess,” says Aldin Kameric, 25. “Peckham looks like a random commie hood in Bosnia, with working-class people struggling to survive by petty tricks and smuggling and stuff.”
In the 80s, Bollywood permeated Yugoslavia, but the 1990s war brought with it power cuts and a television drought. By 1996, it was all over, and in came telenovelas on the US-backed channel OBN: the first soap Latifa Imamovic, 28, saw was Mexico’s Marisol. “I was 12 when I learned how to say ‘I’m pregnant!’ in Spanish. The telenovelas shaped our prepubescent world.”
Yet her favourite show remains Keeping Up Appearances, the gentle BBC sitcom about snobby Hyacinth Bucket. The Balkans, Kameric agrees, seems to have a particular affinity for British humour: Bottom, You Rang My Lord, Red Dwarf, ‘Allo ‘Allo and Mr Bean were all popular in the region.
In Croatia, lines from British political satires such as The Thick of It are applied in politics and everyday life: you will hear “Yes Minister!” in a meeting, or “Listen very carefully, I shall say this only once” (‘Allo ‘Allo). Croatian journalist Sergej Zupanic says that Rik Mayall vehicle The New Statesman is often referred to when speaking about corrupt politicians. Meanwhile, Zlatko Canjuga, president Franjo Tudjman’s then-adviser for social issues, was nicknamed Blackadder by journalists.
But times seem to be changing. Kameric thinks younger people today prefer US shows, while Turkish romantic dramas are big again in the Balkans, despite animosity to its Ottoman heritage. As for Doctor Who, sonic screwdrivers don’t seem to have caught on. “People are aware of his adventures, even the theme tune, but it is not particularly popular,” says Zupanic.