When I first heard, years ago, of the concept of “jumping the shark,” I immediately thought of that stretch of several episodes of “The Beverly Hillbillies” in which the show’s writers, dissatisfied with the absurdity of the show’s original premise, took the Clampetts to England. As in Merrie Olde. As in Jethro dressing up as a knight, riding over to the next castle and threatening to bring back his rabble and pillage the neighboring lord.
A synopsis of one of those shows:
In the third episode of a five-part story arc, the Clampetts have returned to their castle in England. Hoping to gain an audience with Queen Elizabeth, the hillbillies are laboring under the misapprehension that Elizabeth I is still on the throne. To keep the Clampetts happy, banker Drysdale orders his secretary, Jane Hathaway, to pose as the 16th century monarch. Meanwhile, Jethro gears up for a jousting tournament with a neighboring landowner. Filmed on-location in England, “War of the Roses” first aired on October 9, 1968…
And here’s video.
Anyway, I’ve been thinking about those shows a good deal lately because it seems to me that everyone who has, unlike me, been to the U.K. has been offering me advice, trying to prepare me for what it will actually be like when I’m there next week.
They’re trying to manage my expectations as a lifelong Anglophile who’s never actually been there.
My daughter tells me it’s NOT like Patrick O’Brien or Jane Austen.
While we were ringing the bell for Salvation Army in front of Green’s last week, Kathryn Fenner explained, like a friend carefully breaking bad news, that certain parts of London were more “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” than Merchant Ivory. Or even Merchant and Gervais.
Basically, it’s like everybody’s looking at me and thinking, “Jethro.”
I think they think I’m going to be shocked to find Pakistanis walking the streets or something, instead of everyone looking like Andy Capp. Or they think I’ll go into a curry shop and get upset when they won’t serve me fish and chips. Or confuse some poor fellow (preferably, one who looks like Andy Capp) by offering him “a half a crown, my good man” to carry the luggage.
I wouldn’t be surprised if, were I to tune in a production of “A Christmas Carol” on the tube over the next week, it would be preceded by a disclaimer:
“ATTENTION, Brad Warthen!
When you go to England, it won’t really be anything like this!”
I mean, what do they take me for? For that matter, I liked “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.” (In fact, I prefer it rather markedly to Merchant Ivory.) But you know what? I’ll bet it won’t be anything like that, either! It will be… the way it is. A real place. With characteristics I couldn’t possibly anticipate, because real life is too complex and subtle. Except, of course, when I take the wife to tea at Fortnum’s or some such.
Give me some credit, people…