The Brits gave us Brideshead Revisited; I, Claudius; and Upstairs, Downstairs. Now we Yanks are returning the favor by sending them…The Robin Byrd Show?
Byrd, a New York exotic dancer/talk-show hostess who plucks her feathers on Manhattan Cable TV’s late-night public-access airwaves, is just one attraction of a new after-hours British television series called Manhattan Cable, a weekly pastiche of clips culled from the weirdest amateur programs on New York City’s uncensored cable channels. ”English TV is pretty boring,” says Fenton Bailey, 31, a New York-based Brit who cocreated Manhattan Cable with Randy Barbato; the two met while students at New York University’s film school. ”There’s a lot of darts and snooker and documentaries on fish. We felt that a dose of Manhattan public access would do Britain a world of good.”
Lots of Bailey’s countrymen agree: About 2.5 million viewers tuned in to each of Manhattan’s first eight episodes on Channel Four-a huge audience for a late-night program in Britain. ”The show developed a giant cult following almost immediately,” says Martin Stott, a Channel Four spokesman. ”It was the sort of thing where everybody’s hairdresser was talking about it in the morning.” More shows are on the way this spring.
Other New York talent that the series has brought to the U.K.: Taxi Talk (a talk show for cab drivers), Jim O’Brien Speaks His Mind From His Bath, and Voyeur Vision (the world’s first televised phone-sex program). ”I think one reason the show is so popular is that it confirms British stereotypes of Americans,” says Barbato, also 31. ”It’s one of those ‘only in America’ kinds of things.”