TV shows and films about politics and the monarchy

The following TV shows and films deal with aspects of British and American politics, as well as general views on political systems. They can help you gain insight into the history and traditions of those countries, as well as increase your vocabulary on the subject.

UK politics: 

Yes, Minister (1980-1984)/Yes, Prime Minister (1986-1988)- (C2)

The Thick of It (2005-2012) [includes lots of profanity and swearwords]

Love Actually (2003)

One of the many subplots the film deals with involves the British Prime Minister:

The Iron Lady (2011):

Would you like to watch the sessions of the British Parliament live? Click here for BBC Parliament.

British Monarchy: 

The Queen (2006) [B2 and upwards, fairly clear British accents]

The King’s Speech (2010) [B2 and upwards, fairly clear British accents]

The Crown (2016-) [B2 and upwards, fairly clear British accents]

A Very English Scandal (2018) [B2 and upwards, fairly clear British accents]

Years and Years (2019) [show set in Manchester, some Northern accents are noticeable]

US politics: 

All the President’s Men (1976)

The West Wing (1999-2006)

(from 1’30”)

House of Cards (2013-2018)

Veep (2012-2019)

General views on politics: 

The Great Dictator (1940):

V for Vendetta (2005) [B2 and upwards- international cast, but most of them use British English RP pronunciations, regardless of their original accents]

The Handmaid’s Tale (2017-)

Words in the news: I’d rather be dead in a ditch

Boris Johnson is known for his shocking, non PC use of language, usually making sensational claims. And yet, it might prove interesting for English learners. For example, as the London mayor back in 2015 he said he would lie in front of the bulldozers to stop a third runway from being built at Heathrow airport.

This is what Boris Johnson said about  the prospect of yet another delay to Brexit in early September 2019, as the Prime Minister (start at 00.45′):

I’d rather be dead in a ditch (than ask for a Brexit extension).

Later in the year, in October, after a defeat in the House of Commons, whereby Johnson was forced to write to the EU asking for an extension, this is what Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader and Johnson’s political opponent, said:

‘The Prime Minister has not deigned to grace us with his presence today, but I’m reassured, Mr. Speaker, that despite his pledge, he is not to be found anywhere in a ditch.’

Source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m0009kz3

Brexit and linguistic politeness- listening comprehension

Listen to this report related to British linguistic politeness and the effects it is having on international politics at the moment. Read through questions 1 to 7. Listen carefully and fill in the gaps with up to three words. You can listen to the whole recording twice.

Passive voice in headlines and real-life examples

If you want to revise how and why to use passive voice in English, you may watch this video:

(annotated pdf file of the presentation used in the video here)

Headlines (both newspaper headlines and TV / radio headlines) tend to use passive voice structures. Why? Because that way:

a. you can make the relevant information the focus of information, by placing it at the beginning of the sentence:
A Lidl employee is believed to have been fired for working too much. 
Paul McCartney is considered the “most successful songwriter in history”. 
b. you can be more impersonal in your statements:
It is estimated that cyber crime costs global economy $445 billion a year. (*)
Cybercrime is estimated to cost global economy $445 billion a year. 
It is now believed that dinosaurs were killed by the fallout from the impact between a comet and an asteroid. (*)
Dinosaurs are now believed to have been killed by the fallout from the impact between a comet and an asteroid. 
(*) The “It is believed…” option tends to be used only in writing, and only in certain kinds of writing: academic writing, for example, when you want to sound “scientific”, or “impersonal / detached” from the information you’re giving. On the contrary, for headlines, the alternative option (He is believed to …) is much more common.

 

Some examples in the news:

  • Nissan is understood to have decided to cancel plans to expand its operations in Sunderland. (…)
  • The Japanese car maker Nissan is expected to announce next week that it’s cancelling planned investment in its plant in Sunderland. (…)
  • It’s now thought the announcement will lead to immediate job losses.

Go to this form (opens in new tab), where you can find many examples of active sentences (which in English may sound a bit too artificial, to be honest), and turn them into passive sentences, so that they can be more appropriate to the context (headlines):

As you will see, some of the feedback for your answers contains clips from real news where these sentences are used.

You can also find many headlines featuring passive voice on the handout below. Most of them, as headlines typically do, omit many grammatical elements, such as articles, auxiliaries…The links and the QR codes take you to the source of the article / headline:

(Open in new tab)

Debate- ¿Deberían votar los jóvenes 16-18 años?

Con motivo del referéndum de independencia de Escocia, estos días se está llevando a cabo otro debate paralelo: ¿Deberían tener derecho al voto los jóvenes a partir de 16 años? Oyendo un phone-in esta mañana en BBC radio London, se me ha ocurrido que este podría ser un buen debate para el aula: animarles a argumentar por equipos por qué o por qué no se les debería conceder ese derecho; ventajas y desventajas; consecuencias; hasta qué punto se sienten los jóvenes parte de la vida política…He aquí algunas ideas que os podrían servir como punto de partida:

Otros debates recientes en el programa incluyen, por ejemplo, ¿se deberían prohibir el uso de teléfonos móviles a los peatones?

British politics

A new coalition government has been formed in Britain after the election, because none of the parties got enough votes to form a majority government. Read the newspaper articles below, watch the videos and then answer the questions. E-mail me the answers.

Article: the Guardian

Article: the Times

Official site of 10 Downing Street

Google Maps for Downing Street

(subtitled version: here )

e-mail me to answer the following questions:

  1. What position is David Cameron going to hold? What is its abbreviation?
  2. What position is Nick Clegg going to have?
  3. What political party does Cameron belong to? What is the abbreviation used? Is it right-wing or left-wing?
  4. What political party does Clegg belong to? What is the abbreviation used? Is it right-wing or left-wing?
  5. What was the relation between the two politicians before the election? What is it now? Why has it changed?
  6. What do you think about this coalition? Do you think it is a good idea? Do you think it will last?

POLITICS-key

Michelle Obama on Sesame Street

Michelle Obama has visited Sesame Street on their 40th birthday, to talk about healthy habits and the importance of exercise.