Leading article: Lost in translation

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The Independent Online

Not since the War of Independence have Americans been subjected to such unrelenting British punishment. American television is being invaded by plain-speaking, no-nonsense - often downright rude - Britons. First there was Anne Robinson on The Weakest Link. Then came Simon Cowell with his searingly honest put-downs for tone-deaf contestants on American Idol. Piers Morgan is at present performing a similar role on America's Got Talent. As if this wasn't painful enough, the short-fused chef Gordon Ramsey was recently unleashed on them too. The strange thing is that US audiences can't seem to get enough of these abrasive limeys.

Why are they so popular? One theory is that by turning the US stereotype of the reticent, tea-sipping English on its head, Americans are fascinated. Others point out that the US has always had a sneaking admiration for English "baddies". The casting agents of Hollywood have long recognised that the only way to create a truly menacing screen villain is to cast someone who trained at Rada.

Yet how do we fit our own Prime Minister, who also enjoys considerable popularity in the US, into all this? Mr Blair is neither fabulously rude, nor a villain in American eyes. Nor is he straight talking. Indeed, he specialises in telling America, especially its President, what it wants to hear. Perhaps it is because he fits another English stereotype: the charming, well-spoken character that appears in most Richard Curtis films. Americans may love him for it, but those of us back home would much prefer it if the Prime Minister became more Simon Cowell than Hugh Grant in his dealings with America.