Lie back and think of England…

This is all about awful attempts at English accents! But I wish to preface the rant by pointing out that I don’t mind most terrible tries at an English accent. Really.

Not everyone can manage it, and if you get to laugh at people desperately trying to impersonate someone else, what is there to complain about?

Besides, even there are a lot of Dick van Dyke-esque howlers, there’s also plenty of decent English imitations.

However, there seems to be a wealth of actors on American shows producing unnecessarily over-the-top English accents, considering that they’re either from England or have spent a lot of time there. They manage to sound like confused Yanks awfully aping the Angles. And it makes my ears bleed.

I’m not entirely sure how they make these sounds, but I’d like them to stop.

Lauren Cohan as Bela Talbot, Supernatural

When I first heard Lauren Cohan in Supernatural I simply assumed that she was an American mangling her attempt at an English accent. And technically, since she was born in the US, I suppose she is. But I was really surprised to discover that she grew up, as well as attended university, in England. Now I don’t think that people should be mocked for having fucked up mixed-up accents, but since she managed to sound far less weird in The Vampire Diaries I’m inclined to believe that someone on Supernatural instructed her to amp up the Englishness, resulting in it sounding as fake as Bianca Lawson’s accent from “de islands” as Kendra in Buffy.

Jaime Murray as Lila Tournay, Dexter

Jaime Murray is so pretty. I loved her in Hustle, even during the batshit insane Bollywood interlude. So I was quite excited when I found out that she’d been cast as Dexter’s new love interest in season two, but the reality was hugely disappointing. Partly because the show went rather downhill after its fabulous first season, not to mention that the character she played was incredibly annoying. And in part, that was because of the ridiculously clipped fake-sounding accent she provided. That’s not how she really sounds! It’s not how anyone English really sounds! You can catch her in Ringer [skip to the 8:06 mark] sounding very posh, but not so false, these days. I guess she got rid of the insane voice coach, thankfully.

Helen Baxendale as Emily Waltham, Friends

Helen Baxendale probably didn’t get a lot of love for her role on Friends, given that she was coming between Ross and Rachel, the show’s super-couple. Still, the situation wasn’t helped by the fact that her accent sounded utterly unreal. She didn’t sound that annoying in Cold Feet, or maybe James Nesbitt hanging about just alleviated the situation more than David Schwimmer’s capable of. (Schwimmer fatigue is a serious problem!) Discovering that I’m not the only one irked by her strange enunciation has made me incredibly happy. I knew that I loved tumblr secrets communities for a reason!

Roger Rees as Lord John Marbury, The West Wing

Roger Rees’ exaggerated accent in The West Wing (also used in Cheers) isn’t anywhere near as annoying as many of the others on this list. It probably helps that the character he plays, a befuddled alcoholic, is fabulous, and as an ambassador he can get away with sounding fusty without necessarily suggesting that all English people really do have a stiff upper lip. Nevertheless, it is surreally proper and a far cry from how this Welshman who’s worked plenty in England really sounds [skip to 1:18 to hear his actual accent].

Nazanin Boniadi as Nora, How I Met Your Mother

I assumed Nazanin Boniadi was an American faking an English accent in HIMYM because she sounds preposterously upper crust, but it turns out she grew up in London. In real life she’s very well spoken, but again I think that she was probably asked to overdo the Englishness, leading to some strange intonation. Now that Nora and Barney have broken up I guess I won’t have to deal with hearing it any more, so I’m going to stick to listening to her speaking Farsi instead. Until she pops up in something else I’m watching anyway.

Caroline Chikezie as Tamara, Supernatural

Caroline Chikezie played one of the leads in As If, an awesome/ly awful British TV series from the early noughties, so I have a lot of residual love for her. I was pleasantly surprised to see her in the third season premiere of Supernatural, but her accent sounded suspiciously overstated. To add insult to aural injury, she was throwing around anachronistic phrases like “you’d lose your head if it wasn’t for me”, “this past year” and “I’m going to put you down like a dog”, in addition to a lot of screeching and wailing. I’m surprised that my ears didn’t shrivel up in protest.

Julian Morris as Wren Kingston, Pretty Little Liars

The men of Pretty Little Liars tend to come across as pretty creepy, what with all their hitting on underage girls, and Julian Morris’ weird accent only serves to make his character seem even stranger. I’ve been secretly hoping that he’s the mysterious A who terrorises the main characters by text, and that the accent is supposed to be fake. Apparently though, he was raised in South Africa which goes some way to explaining the bizarre pronunciation (I’m related to a lot of South Africans, and they all seem to have a hard time distinguishing different vowel sounds) and why he was mistaken for an Australian while trying to do the weather on a morning news show.

Saffron Burrows as Ike Latulippe, Bones

The way that the cast of The Finder was shoved into an episode of Bones as a backdoor pilot was lazy and irritating. The premise of the show sounds ridiculous (there’s a guy who’s really good at finding stuff….because he’s really good at finding stuff) and I have no interest in seeing any more of it. Still, I’m not surprised (or saddened) that Saffron Burrows has been ousted from the show, given the unbelievable utterances she was making. Why couldn’t she play the part in her perfectly pleasant pronunciation?!

Camilla Luddington as Lizzie, Californication

Camilla Luddington’s English accent in Californication sounds Australian, so I have no idea why someone thought it was a good idea for her to play Kate Middleton. I was completely befuddled when I discovered that she was English, at least until I found out that she actually speaks with an American accent. Apparently watching a lot of Ricki Lake and Dawson’s Creek had a profound effect on her vocalisation. It should also influence casting choices, but that doesn’t seem to have happened.

Patrick Stewart, anything

Patrick Stewart’s voice is off the charts insane. I’m very willing to believe that it’s a product of him desperately trying to lose his Yorkshire accent, because I don’t think I want to live in a world where anyone naturally sounds like that. That’d be a place where anything could happen. At least such notable noise leads to entertaining impressions, check out both Brent Spiner and James McAvoy taking a crack.

So have you noticed this too? Are there other offenders? And how can we make them cease and desist?!

6 thoughts on “Lie back and think of England…

  1. HAHA! Great post! So many amazing examples of this in TV land…anyone remember USA High?! The character Ashley and her father the Head Master, with the most awful attempts at a well-to-do English accent.

    My other TV favourite, is Mr Canon the rapey teacher on new 90210 – who was also Todd the eccentric British film director in Dawson’s Creek – he might actually be English? But he sounds terrible!

    Gwyneth Paltrow always does a good English accent though doesn’t she? Just proving that it is possible.

    I think there should be a special mention for PCP’s own Miss Penn though 😀 I still smile when I think of her doing an impersonation a chav years ago!!!

    • I remember USA High!! It was as amazing as all of Peter Engel’s shows! I think the Dawson’s Creek/90210 guy (he’s also been in Californication and Supernatural) IS English, but he definitely sounds like he’s faking that accent, good catch!

      Miss Penn definitely deserves a special mention, when she says “tomato” she sounds like the most English yokel in the whole world ♥

  2. Haha like this post. just watching the Buffy episode episode where Angle was made and he has the WORST (i think but i could be wrong because its that bad) Irish accent ever. also spike is supposed to be from yorkshire but has a (very bad) cockny accent. Can someone please explain the vampire accent thing of buffy? thank you kindly.

    • You make a good point! Angel’s “Irish” accent is dreadful, but to be fair David Boreanaz can’t really act, the poor dear. Spike’s Cockney accent is at least vaguely explained in flashbacks (he cultivated it as part of his bad boy image), and he had a different accent when he was alive (although not a Yorkshire one!). I don’t actually think his Cockney accent is too bad, and I think it improved over time. Drusilla’s accent on the other hand was ridiculous!

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