September 18th, 2006



If you're looking for some good TV to download, I highly recommend "Shameless" -- the Channel 4 UK series. It's the story of a drunken layabout with six children who live in a Manchester council estate -- the equivalent of welfare housing in the US. There are few things I've ever seen on television that are as funny, affecting and true to life. It's very refreshing to see a program reflect how people actually live, rather than the creeping political correctness and schoolmarmish moralizing of American televison. The characters are foulmouthed, sometimes uncouth, often intoxicated, but always sympathetic and vivid.

It's a great show to watch just to hear the characters speak in Manchester accents, some of which are so thick that Americans could use subtitles. I often pause and replay bits to try and work out what they're saying, and sometimes I'm stumped. But like any unfamilar English speech, there's plenty to amuse the amateur linguist -- expressions like "gobshite" and insults like "you gormless twat!" The Manchester accent is, according to surveys, the least popular regional accent in the UK, but I love the oddity of it -- the way the ending 'ee' sound in words like 'security' comes out in between 'securiteh' and 'securitay,' a bit like how Cartman pronounces 'authority.' One of the characters, expressing lesbian lust says "she makes me funny go all wavy" and I think she's actually saying 'fanny.'

Anyway "Shameless" is wickedly addictive, and there's a lot of it -- 3 seasons of 45 minute shows, plus a 90 minute christmas special, and there's a 4th season in production for 2007. It has been on BBC America but I don't think it's showing just now.