Strike Back: Origins now on the (U.S.) horizon

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RACentral just posted the advertising embedded above on YT. I think we’ve seen most of this before; I don’t remember if I heard Richard Armitage say he didn’t expect to be thrilled by having a gun in his hands, but I think I’d seen all of the rest of it. Experts, correct me if I am wrong. I do remember Armitage saying in a radio interview that the show was supposed to be about more than guns. But boy, do they foreground it here. Lots of guns! Don’t worry there’ll be too much quality here; there’ll still be plenty of guns!

I am not a Cinemax customer, so I won’t see this again on TV (I own a region-free DVD player and the UK DVD). I haven’t watched these episodes in quite a while (sometime in the spring), and the only pieces of the subsequent series of the show that I’ve seen are the first two episodes, in which Porter dies. In that space of time, the “new” version of the series didn’t sell itself on me, and so I haven’t seen any more of it, so I’m asking the question below in total ignorance.

I remember some discussion back in May, 2010, when the series premiered.

Wow, three years. Three years since it premiered. Digression. Sorry!

That is, I remember a sort of marginal discussion about how well this series would play on U.S. television, if it ever made it here, and for some reason I was thinking about this question again. Maybe there was a post somewhere? Does anyone remember?

The question I had was specifically about the show’s casual anti-Americanism. (Again, please don’t draw any conclusions about my politics based on this reflection. I don’t want to talk about the legitimacy of anti-Americanism, period, I want to talk about anti-Americanism as it’s portrayed in the show.) I think this theme was on my mind doubly in May, 2010, because of the way the trope of anti-Americanism played itself out in the Sarah Caulfield story, so that I got very involved in looking at how it showed up as a plot engine in Spooks.

Anyway, I assumed that since one of the heroes in the “new” Strike Back was supposed to come from the U.S., and since Cinemax gets a significant portion of its audience from the U.S., that this theme would have been dialed down. For those who watch the current Strike Back, is that true?

And how will American watchers take the casual anti-Americanism, and the “U.S. armed forces and intelligence services as villain” theme that’s especially pronounced in the Afghanistan episodes?

Strike Back: Origins is currently scheduled to premiere on Cinemax on October 25th. There’s supposed to be a new interview with Richard Armitage about Strike Back broadcast a week earlier.

What do you think?

[ETA: BEFORE LEAVING ANY COMMENT STOP TO THINK OF WHETHER YOU ARE DISCUSSING THE ACTUAL TOPIC — POTENTIAL RESPONSES IN VIEWERS TO ANTI-AMERICAN THEMES IN STRIKE BACK — OR SOMETHING ELSE. THE ORIGINAL POST ASKS SPECIFICALLY FOR RESPONSES TO STAY AWAY FROM COMMENTS ABOUT THE LEGITIMACY OF ANTI-AMERICANISM. IF I GET ONE MORE COMMENT ON THE LATTER TOPIC, WE’RE DONE HERE.]

~ by Servetus on October 15, 2013.

76 Responses to “Strike Back: Origins now on the (U.S.) horizon”

  1. Reblogged this on the armitage effect and commented:
    Serv shares link to promotion for Strike Back:Origins and ponders how it will play out with American audiences. What do you guys think? And will you plan to watch?

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  2. http://armitageagonistes.wordpress.com/2013/09/04/john-porter-to-live-again-in-the-usa/ This was the first and three more followed. This had the most comments,

    Re: the interview: it was hinted that it would take place Friday during the finale, but I also read there will be a Q & A with the stars of the current series -maybe one of those 60 second Max interviews – so I’m not sure now.

    As to your other question, re: Anti-Americanism, it’s in this series to some degree, though one of the stars is supposed to be American. The CIA is still a villain now and then, similar to how it was portrayed in MI5. But then MI5 didn’t do well in the US.

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    • oh, sorry — I obviously misunderstood. You meant in the post-“origins” series there is anti-Americanism. Good to know.

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      • I wasn’t as clear as I could have/should have been. Yes – the few episodes I’ve seen, and I’ve been watching since I got Cinemax two weeks ago, doesn’t paint the CIA in that great a light; there’s definitely mistrust.

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  3. Thanks for the other ads, I’d missed them.

    re: anti-Americanism, I think it’s pretty pervasive. From the first part of episode 1, with the obvious disgust over the US war in Iraq, actually, in which the British are portrayed as unwilling partners, having to rush in to rescue the businessman before all hell breaks loose because of the US invasion. Why is Katie Dartmouth even kidnapped? Because the British were involved with a US invasion that went terrible wrong — something she says in her news report before she’s kidnapped. It’s dialed down in the Zimbabwe episodes, which are my favorites, but the U.S. is portrayed as run by outright *ssholes in episodes 5 and 6, with Toby Stephens in the role of the arrogant Arlington the personification of that, seeking the destruction of Porter, and then doing all the work to hide Gerry Baxter and then destroy him. The last two episodes were practically a parable about the political sins of the U.S. in Afghanistan. If I say that, given my own unstated politics, I think it’s quite likely people with the other politics will see this series as more anti-American than I do.

    The question is — will they think there’s enough violence to cover up that message? I think it depends a lot on how the current viewers of the show respond to this — which is why I was wondering about them specifically. I know there are a few Armitage fans who “went along” with the new series — bccmee was one of them.

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  4. Haven’t seen any of the series so far so can’t really comment much here but I will say this about the CIA in general, there isn’t a lot of trust there and I would say that especially today given the Snowden affair and other events that Americans may be far less trusting of such agencies than they might have been say a year ago. I can’t say how they will react but perhaps they will remember that this is TV now necessarily real life. We might question whether Britain is an unwilling partner at all here but if it plays well in the storyline then it plays well. You don’t have to be unwilling either to see mistakes and screwups so we’ll just have to watch and see what the reaction is but remember it is just 6 episodes and it isn’t going to change the world. I do think that Richard is right however. Put a gun in many people’s hands and I would say men mostly and it does feel different and it does probably make them feel a certain power. It is a lethal weapon. Despite that statement he does point out that it isn’t all about guns and violence and I don’t see that as a contradictory thing to say either. Brits may not be as used to handling guns as some American males are so he felt some surprise when he actually got to hold a weapon but he still knows or feels that the story is the thing not the violence. Maybe someone should ask that question one of the Americans on the current show.

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    • I don’t believe anyone in this stream said the six episodes would change the world 🙂 or were intended to. Nor did I say that Armitage’s statements were contradictory — I said only that I remembered something different from a radio interview than the message this ad is pushing, which includes two positive statements about guns in the first forty seconds. My general point in the post was that this piece was intended with a UK and non-US audiences as its primary audience, and that the theme of anti-Americanism would naturally play differently to a US audience. But you make a good point that this was three years before Snowden / NSA stuff.

      I think people react very very differently to using guns — I would try to avoid generalizing about anyone’s experience as broadly applicable. I found having a gun in my hands and shooting it sort of interesting intellectually — until I was forced to kill animal with it. That changed my experience of it drastically. But my brother had the same experience and had an entirely different reaction. Neither of us has ever shot an automatic weapon, which in turn could be yet again different.

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      • I think this ad is directed at the current Strike back US fans and possible new fans. Strike Back fans are going to watch it – I think that’s a given. There may be some more discerning Strike Back fans who care about the politics, but from what I can see on the message board, the fans who write are more interested in as much crazy action as possible with sex on the side. These fans may not like SB :O because it doesn’t have the action they want and it is more thoughtful. Also, they’ve bonded with the actors.

        What will be interesting to see is whether non-SB fans will appreciate the Armitage series, and if not, will it be because it’s “too slow,” not enough action and sex, or how Americans are portrayed – or all of the above.

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        • OK, now we’re getting somewhere — to me, this ad really said, guns! action! okay, yeah, strong female characters and some sex but guns! Cliffhangers! Which would imply that the SB audience for the later series doesn’t care about politics at all.

          It’s an intriguing question — would Armitage or SB get new fans because of watching the original series on Cinemax — that you ask. My guess from what you said is possibly — but that people who come to SB through “Origins” won’t necessarily like the later series?

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          • Yes . The problem I see is that fans who wrote off the current SB won’t be tempted to watch Origins unless they’re also interested in Armitage and Lincoln. On top of that, you have to be a Cinemax subscriber and the TV ads are only running on HBO and Cinemax. On the other hand, with “encore performances” ( basically 20 times a week) and “In Demand” – if good press comes out after the first showing, more people will be interested in tuning in – assuming they can get Max. The first viewership numbers on October 25 won’t tell the true story.

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            • I assumed the whole reason for running this on US cable was Lincoln’s popularity in Walking Dead, and that Armitage was an additional plus. So I suppose the real place where the ads would have to run would be on the network that shows Walking Dead? which is?

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              • AMC. I don’t know if they’re running ads – I only watch one show on AMC- actually, I gave it up.
                Does nayone know? I’d be interested.

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              • AMC would never run an ad to promote CINEMAX. They’ve got Andrew Lincoln already as it is and don’t care what he’s done previously. The Walking Dead is one of my favorite shows, as was AMC’s Breaking Bad that just ended.

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                • it’s not possible for Cinemax to buy ad time on AMC? [don’t know]

                  In any case, I asked my students about it tonight, about 2/3 of whom are hooked on Walking Dead and to a person they affirmed they knew nothing about Strike Back. However, three of them now said they were going to check it out, lol 🙂 They had a really interesting discussion about their perception of Lincoln’s southern accent.

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                  • Nope they could never do that, just as broadcast networks CBS won’t buy ad time from NBC to showcase their programming. Here’s an excellent article about what cable networks and how Cinemax has to find a way to get away from the label “skinemax”

                    http://socialstorytellers.aboutfacemedia.com/12406/cinemax-to-join-the-original-programming-and-rebranding-party

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                    • Well, I’m going to disagree slightly. I don’t watch much TV, and I’m willing to accept that you may no better, but this summer I lived in a hotel for about five weeks and I saw a lot of cable TV after mom went to bed, and I’m relatively sure I saw cable networks buying ads for shows on other cable networks. It may be that AMC wouldn’t sell that ad, but I’m pretty sure it’s not prohibited for AMC to buy an ad on another cable network. In other words, they potentially could have, I think.

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                    • I think it seems that way because those particular shows you saw being cross-promoted, so to speak, were probably owned by the same company, much like HBO owns Cinemax, AMC owns Sundance channel, and A&E owns A&E, History and Lifetime.

                      But that would be my guess, unless we’re talking about a specific AMC show promoted in a non-AMC networks owned channel, then I’d have to know which show it was 🙂

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                  • Lincoln’s southern accent is very controlled, and you know that he’s not a native speaker. But I love that show! Come it think of it, there’s even an app that will zombies anyone! RA zombie anyone? 😉

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                    • It was fascinating to hear what my students had to say about that accent, as many of them have that accent or have family members who have it.

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                    • LOL What I meant was, “we” know he is not a native speaker, having already seen him on SB. But to everyone else, he’s a natural – until they see him on Letterman and their jaws drop when they hear him speak. It’s become my hubby’s favorite assumption now that no awesome actor he thinks is American really is. He loves David Morrisey, who plays the Governor. And when he heard him speak in a BTS scene, he was like, “another British Guy? Where are the Americans??”

                      I could have told him they’re waiting tables at The Ivy, but that would be rubbing it in 🙂

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                  • I guess that answers the question whether AMCis running ads – but in general, I see no reason why AMC would turn down revenue in advertising dollars for running ads for another channel. It’s done all the time and it’s no skin off AMC’s nose. They won’t be losing viewers and they’re not a premium channel.

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                • I find it amusing that they’re promoting Andrew Lincoln as the “star” of
                  “Strike Back”–I understand why since he’s now such a big star here due to “Walking Dead”, but his screen time in SB really isn’t all that much.

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                  • It’s part of the ad campaign. If it gets one or two new viewers from The Walking Dead audience to mosey on over and watch it, they’ll find out exactly how little screen time Lincoln really has. But as part of the ad campaign promoting him over RA, they’ve done their job.

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          • Right- people who like Origins won’t necessary like- probably won’t like SB- Or they would have been watching it already.

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  5. Considering the bad press the RL CIA has been getting in the past few years it’s hard not to depict them as villians or even buffoonish. Remember even in our own country we’ve depicted them as such. I plan on watching Strike Back with Richard.

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    • Yes, I think American have been willing to tolerate a certain amount of explicit criticism of the CIA even in their own media at least since the immediate post-Vietnam era. Maybe it’s just where I’ve been living since 2001, though, but my impression is that in the popular mind of my non-university fellow Americans, we are absolutely not supposed to ask questions about what the US government is doing (either via the military, or the secret services) in Afghanistan. No matter how people felt about Iraq, that war and the US participation in it is absolutely justified in the minds of a lot of people.

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    • That’s kind of what I was thinking. I watched the RA eps of Strike Back a while ago, and to be honest I never even considered that the portrayal of the CIA might be anti-American. Between the ivory-tower liberals in my job and the good ol’ boys in my family (I love both of these groups of people dearly), distrusting the CIA seems like almost a patriotic duty 😛

      I did wonder, watching Spooks, how well it would play in Peoria. It is much more pronounced there – especially with the intro of Sarah Caulfield and how negatively characters associated with the Bush 43 administration are portrayed. I may not recall correctly, but it seems like Sarah is the only one linked to the Obama administration that turned out to be a villain. Although I suspect that just being a series with a non-US-centric political focus would prove difficult for lots of US viewers.

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      • I live in a market where MI-5 has been running for several years on public tv, so apparently it’s salable in some settings, but trying to watch it through the eyes of my midwestern relatives is an excruciating thing to contemplate, lol 🙂

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        • One of the reasons that I enjoy it is because it’s a chance to see issues through someone else’s eyes. The way I was raised, it wasn’t just not encouraged to see another country’s POV, it’s like there *was* no other POV. It didn’t seem to occur to really anyone that I knew, at least not in any way that they passed on. Which seems very odd to me now, as almost all of the men in my family were former or active military (and all of those stationed overseas at some point) and certainly must have run into alternate views.

          Well, now I’ve stumbled onto another discussion topic for Thanksgiving! “Let’s make the football really uncomfortable,” that’s my motto 🙂

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          • Yeah, I am one of those uncomfortable relations, too. We’ve got the former military (although enlisted, no officers) thing going on as well. And yeah, it is like there is no other POV. Curious.

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            • Strange, I never thought about the viewpoint being anti-American or anti-CIA or anything like that–of course, I was probably far too busy staring at Porter at the time.

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  6. I’m with Antigone- the “anti-Americanism” in SB Origins rolled off my back. MI5 was running here on PBS this summer- but at 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. I can’t explain why – except people can DVR it if they know about it. But only a few seasons made it on regular cable A & E, and I was one of the viewers who tuned in once and never again!

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  7. I’ve watched both Strikeback and Spooks (I have a region free DVD player, too) and had definitely noticed that America is pretty much portrayed as a big bully that likes to push others around. And I’m not really sure that this isn’t true. Right now we seem to be okay with playing chicken with the world’s economy. This must ring true to the intended original audiences, and maybe we should sit up and take notice. Quite a while ago, a book came out called THE UGLY AMERICAN. I never read it, but think the premise was that we thought we were better than everyone else. Perhaps the idea of American exceptionalism should be trashed and we might want to begin considering ourselves equal citizens of planet earth.

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  8. I own a copy of the first season of “Strike Back” because I’ve owned a regionless dvd player for a number of years now (what did I ever do before I got one?). I have not watched the later seasons, based both on what I’ve heard from trusted sources (my own) and the fact that Richard did not participate, nor do I intend to. If showing the first season on Cinemax ups Richard’s fanbase, I’m all for it.

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  9. Reblogged this on crystalchandlyre and commented:
    Seen it and loved it and almost can’t wait for it to get here to see again. Cinemax has had my money for half a month now in anticipation. John Porter, I’m looking forward to you knocking on my door, baby.

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    • Given that it isn’t the sort of thing I would normally watch, I have to say I was completely mesmerized by Richard’s portrayal of Porter–in the hands of a lesser actor, it could have turned into such a caricature, and it never did for a moment. Some of it was tough to watch, but he did such an amazing job.

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  10. […] Reblogged from Me + Richard Armitage: […]

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  11. Am totally sorry for overstepping. Please feel free to remove the comment if you want. I am enjoying the discussion and did not mean to offend. One of the things I like about both Spooks and Strikeback is that it makes me think about the world we live in. Am not sure at all how US audiences will feel about how Americans are portrayed in either series. Will be interesting to see.

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    • Thanks for coming back and no worries. I am going to leave it there as a cautionary example to anyone who’s tempted, lol. I agree, it’s fascinating to watch British attitudes toward the US (inter alia).

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  12. I just interviewed my husband on the “Strike Back” topic of anti-Americanism. I wanted his point of view as an apolitical consumer of the show, who has never seen this blog or what other people have to say. We pay attention to politics, but not when watching an action series. We have both watched all seasons of the Cinemax show. (Probably should be embarrassed to admit it). For background,the two main characters Stonebridge and Scott (soldiers) are British and American, working for a British military entity. In the first season, they are trying to track down the terrorists who killed Porter (Armitage). His execution is shown in flashback. They are a reluctant team who gradually come to respect and rely on each other. I don’t know how much to reveal about the show plots, suffice it to say that eventually the person responsible for Porter’s death was revealed to be British. The key clue to solving the mystery was discovered by the American. So perhaps, the the show might be seen as slightly pro-American. But I don’t think the SB audience keeps score about these things. In subsequent seasons, the CIA and the Brits seem to have the same goals, but are very territorial and in competition with each other and deaths ensue on both sides. Even a Mosad agent has a major role. To sum up, in my husband’s opinion, SB is not pro or anti American and the blame game is played by both sides. It is just a shoot’em up with gratuitous sex mixed in. I do think politics were taken out to make the show more palatable to American viewers, but I also think we all bring our own baggage to the mix and we see what we want or don’t want to see. Sorry for the length of this, hope it was helpful
    .

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  13. I just feel that when all is said and done, it’s just a TV show, aimed at a specific target audience, who only wants to be entertained. It never bothers me at all when a show or movie seems to have an anti- American agenda, or an anti anybody else agenda, those shows have to have SOMEBODY be the bad guy after all, but it’s just entertainment. Having said that, if Richard Armitage wasn’t in it, I wouldn’t have watched it. I did watch the first episode of the 2nd series, but again only because of RA. I didn’t watch any after that, it just doesn’t entertain me.

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    • sure — but part of the process of entertainment is stocking a TV show with prejudices that are untroubling to the target audience. If a British TV show, like Spooks, airs all the typical British middle class prejudices about American (and Spooks does, if you don’t believe me, look at the link above about how anti-Americanism moves the Spooks plot engine along), that is probably going to make it “better” entertainment for a British audience suffering from, as a friend of mine put it, British post-imperial angst. Oh, wel poor Brits, wedged between the US and Russia and having to deal with these frightening Muslims and, OMG, China is on the horizon too! Whereas a US audience is going to be potentially less sympathetic to that. For me, Spooks varied a lot, some American characters were drawn less sympathetically than others, but they all mobilized stereotypes (as did their actors), which in some cases really reduced the effectiveness of the series with me. I think the fact that Sarah Caulfield was not convincingly American, either in terms of script or performance, was a first step toward the generalized hate that many of my fellow fans developed about the character.

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      • Servetus, I will have to agree with you regarding the American stereotypes on MI-5, the CIA portrayal was especially bad and the Sarah Caulfied character, man, I also couldn’t stand her, that accent! Yikes! That poor actress was unbelievably mis-cast. She had zero chemistry with Armitage. I guess though I’m with Perry as far as letting things roll off my back. I understand that the writers are trying to make their shows, I don’t know, edgy? Timely? I do know there is always quite a bit of eye rolling going on in my household when we watch shows like that.

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        • at least it’s not as bad for us as it is for Muslim viewers, I mean, think how it must be to turn on the TV and constantly see Muslims appearing almost exclusively as radical extremists / terrorists.

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          • You’re right about that, it must be almost impossible for them to see it as ‘just entertainment’ like I mostly do.

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            • it’s interesting that it keeps coming up in UK tv although there are proportionally so many Muslims living there. Some readers here who have left comments have said they notice it but blow it off, while others have said it’s truly bothersome to them.

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  14. I’ve watched all the Armitage episodes of SB and a few of the newer ones. I must say that I didn’t get an anti-American vibe at all, but I see now that it is there. I’m so mesmerized by John Porter I hardly register anything else. I love the depth that Armitage brings to that character who could have been a cartoon soldier if played by a lesser actor. I’m really hoping that this gives RA’s career in the US a boost. People might come for Andrew Lincoln but I think they’ll stay for Richard Armitage. Fingers crossed!

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    • I hope that’s true. But just saying that I watched the series for Armitage points out all the other potential problems in it for me as possible viewer of the series.

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  15. John Porter is one of my favorite RA roles and I liked the orginal SB series a lot because it wasn’t just a shoot em up show. To me that series was about relationship conflicts within the context of a war. Wasn’t turned off by the anti-americanism either.. Tried watching the new series and totally turned off by the gratuitous sex and violence which I assumed was added to entice an american audience. IMO a lot of americans don’t trust government anyway — so how CIA is portrayed shouldn’t keep folks from watching the original series.

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    • I think there’s potentially a theme in this strand emerging which is, if the current audience doesn’t like it, it will be because “Origins” is too focused on plot / drama / relationships and doesn’t have enough sex and violence.

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  16. BTW: Never watched Walking Dead — not a zombie fan. But always hoping RA might want to guest star on the show just because it’s filmed nearby. 🙂

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  17. Re; the perceived anti-Americanism in ‘Strike Back’ by viewing Americans – is it because it’s a UK (.i.e non-US) production that Americans perceive it that way? If Americans were watching, say, an American film which portrayed, e.g. the CIA, etc, in a similarly bad light – would Americans feel that production to be anti-American?

    In the end it’s a TV series; there have to be goodies and baddies, to make up the story;sometimes the baddies are home grown, sometimes they’re from elsewhere. Spooks during its various series had other Brits, Russians, Islamists and Americans as baddies, and Lucas the Brit, himself turned out to be a bad ‘un.

    To reverse the roles – we’ve seen enough American films, etc, in the UK where the Brits have been portrayed as useless/ineffective, etc, with the Americans as heroic,etc, for the British to have the potential to say that Americans portray us in an anti-British way – but we don’t bother- the real World is far more complicated than that; Strikeback is just entertainment. We know who we are and where we are in relation to the rest of the World, whether that’s the US, Russia, China or the Islamic countries of the Middle East and unlike your (American?) friend’s comment there is no post-Imperial angst here.

    So, carry on enjoying Strikeback for what it is, ‘a British action and military television series, based on a novel of the same name by novelist and former Special Air Service (SAS) soldier Chris Ryan.’ The clue’s in the description of Chris Ryan, the novelist – he is a British ex-soldier.

    P.S. It’s always a puzzle to the British why Americans are happy to talk guns and violence but not sex, when the British are the other way round…

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    • yes, a lot of Americans think media made by Americans that are critical of the government / state are anti-American. It would take longer than I have to write even a brief history of debates over anti-Americanism in the US, but one thing that explains what’s going on both in the US public sphere and entertainment media right now is the appearance of so-called “Vietnam syndrome” of the late 70s / early 80s and then the flashback against it toward the end of the 80s.

      Obviously, how these things look from inside vs outside is going to be different — I have a different perspective on German tv, for instance, than do my German friends. But for a lot of people who watch UK media from the US, there is a discernible theme of post-imperial angst. Academic articles have been written about it. I’m glad you don’t feel it yourself, though.

      Perhaps we will have to disagree about the “meaning” of Strike Back. Most historians I know who work on the twentieth and twenty-first centuries believe that entertainment product and media are more than simply stories or entertainment. In order to appeal to audiences, they reflect deeper political and cultural moods (just as earlier cultural and social myths reflected the societies that created them, going back to the very first human stories that survive). There’s a fantastic book on this topic, Time Passages, by George Lipsitz, that takes apart the “fluff” elements of US TV in the 1950s and 1960s in relationship to political and cultural moods of their moments. If Chris Ryan’s work, loosely based on his own experiences, didn’t speak deeply to the interests, needs, and desires of a British audience, we wouldn’t even be watching Strike Back, because SB wasn’t his first book — he was only able to publish this one because his earlier works had become bestsellers. They were bestsellers because something in them appealed to people.

      So you’ll forgive me if I continue to write about what I see as the meaning(s) of this series, and if I continue to believe that entertainment is not just escapism. The entertainments we choose, and that become popular, signal deeply important things about the world we live in. More germane to my own position, if I didn’t believe that enjoyment of a particular entertainment product or products had a much deeper meaning to me culturally and personally, there’d be no reason to write this blog.

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  18. You’ve sort of answered your own question- we watch what we like/enjoy/relate to/are interested in. Chris Ryan’s books and Strikeback are successful because they appealed to some people, i.e. but not everyone. So, yes, obviously an enjoyment of a particular entertainment product(s) may resonance with some individuals but not necessarily to everyone in the same way.

    Re; ‘But for a lot of people who watch UK media from the US, there is a discernible theme of post-imperial angst. Academic articles have been written about it. I’m glad you don’t feel it yourself, though.’

    That may be the US interpretation of what the UK feels, but equally in the UK , most people would wonder what on Earth that’s about, as it doesn’t ring any bells, certainly on a day-to-day basis, here anymore. In reverse it could be said that the UK looks on the US as a nation which can be quite insular, partly because many of it’s people appear to have never travelled outside of the US (World News in US newspapers? = Canada). The US to British/European eyes can seem to somehow still have the ‘get the wagons in a circle, eat the apple pie, fire the guns-it’s your right to bear arms but no sex or alcohol’ attitude, and that’s not anti-American, that’s as stereo-typed as any view of any nation- disagreeable French, efficient Germans, laid-back and friendly Aussies, hot-headed Italians and Spaniards, wonderful Scandinavians, mathematician Indians, and so on. There may be some small truth in these descriptions of nationalities but equally much is just generalisation.

    Because some Americans feel some programmes are anti-American, their view (as that’s what it is) could be well-founded, but equally just someone else’s opinion they happen to disagree with.

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    • Yes, and it’s a legitimate thing to do to analyze our interests for what they say about our position in society. I’d say rather that *you* undermine *your* question here — just because it’s not there for you doesn’t mean it’s not there for anybody. It’s not just US scholars — UK academics also write about British postwar imperial angst — in politics, culture, and entertainment. Let me know if you’d like bibliography, I’d be delighted to pass it on.

      I don’t see where I went in the direction of generalization at all. My initial question was:

      “And how will American watchers [defined in the previous paragraph as the audience that watches SB now] take the casual anti-Americanism, and the “U.S. armed forces and intelligence services as villain” theme that’s especially pronounced in the Afghanistan episodes?”

      That was actually a pretty specific question. I could have simplified it further — are the people watching SB now likely to be bothered by “Origins” anti-Americanism?

      Or I could have complicated it. I could have said, given that “Origins” incorporates prejudices that are basically non-problematic for the British and commonwealth audiences for which it was originally planned, to what extent do those prejudices enhance, interfere with, or not matter at all to other audiences that see it?

      So, actually, I was originally asking a question about the impact of the show on *different* audiences. I never said “all viewers will see it the same way.”

      I asked it because, when the show came out, it was something that we discussed a little. So the question is legitimate because it comes from my interest, and because it doesn’t generalize. It asks about a specific audience segment and its likely response to political attitudes in the show.

      The answer of the people who tried to answer that question seems to be tending toward the conclusion that the American audience who will come to “Origins” from the current SB series is like to be more bothered by the lack of sex and violence in the show than by its anti-Americanism, with some possible caveat for the middle of the US which has a tendency not to think about other POVs in drama.

      I also said specifically *in the post* — feel free to reread — that I didn’t want to talk about the legitimacy of anti-Americanism as a prejudice. Of course prejudices are illegitimate. Of course generalizations are approximate and the more approximate the greater they are likely to be inaccurate or useless. Nonetheless, they exist and are depicted in popular entertainment, and people respond to them. That’s one thing that makes a show sympathetic or unsympathetic to the viewer. It’s something you see over and over and over again in Spooks — ooh, look at us, the smart British outwitting those overbearing Americans. Honestly, Americans couldn’t care less about British politics or what the British secret services are doing 99.5% of the time. So it’s really kind of astounding that that theme shows up in Spooks so much — for a nation that’s ostensibly lacking in post-imperial angst. The point is, prejudices exist and they are perpetuated through media. I wanted to talk about this prejudice not as legitimate or illegitimate — as the post says — but as a trope in the show to which people respond in one way or another and which potentially means something different to the new audience than it did to the previous ones.

      I think it’s silly to argue that popular cultural attitudes don’t show up in entertainment. Moreover, if you’re not interested in my analyses of things — if you don’t think analyses of entertainment are interesting, or you don’t like mine — i don’t get why you’re reading this blog.

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  19. And that was THREE. Comments now closed.

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  20. For readers interested in learning from UK academics something about how the content of the British media and pop cultural industries in the postwar was affected or characterized by reaction to post-empire, here are some beginning readings:

    Stuart Ward (Kings College London), British Culture and the End of Empire
    Wendy Webster (Univ of Huddersfield), Englishness and Empire
    Bill Schwarz, (Univ of Birmingham), White Man’s World

    Jodi Burkett of the U of Portsmouth also looks at these questions, although she’s not studying TV specifically.

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  21. […] (This episode, in which the CIA is made responsible for the death of Marines, is one chief reason I called the series anti-American in theme.) Porter and Baxter resumed their journey to the weapons buyer, Zahir Sharq (Alexander Siddig), […]

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