Of Hollywood-style patriotism and Brit wits

ON NOV. 11, SHOWBIZ HONCHOS met with White House senior adviser Karl Rove and pledged to increase their role in fighting the war on terrorism. While everyone is eager to help, many in Hollywood express confusion on how this should be done.

But, oh, it’s so easy!

Shortly after Pearl Harbor was bombed, Hollywood jumped in to help, greenlighting war movies and adding military-themed songs to movies like “White Christmas.” So how hard would it be at this point to insert a patriotic song into “Ali” or “Lord of the Rings,” just to lighten the mood?

On NBC’s “Will & Grace,” Jack and Will could enlist, with the war cry, “You don’t have to be straight to shoot straight.” Hilarity would ensue when the two discover that, even in times of national crisis, the military is still not sure if it wants gays to help.

And, finally, cable mavens Chris Matthews and Bill O’Reilly could stop shouting and interrupting people. All right, actually this might not help the national mood, but it would certainly alleviate my headache.

AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT: For decades, America and Britain have formed a mutual admiration society, freely exchanging pop culture. We gave them Madonna and McDonald’s; they gave us the Beatles and “Harry Potter.” (All right, I didn’t say it was an even exchange.)

So we have lots in common, right?

Not really. On a recent trip to London, I was reminded that, well, to put it bluntly, there’s something different about them. I mean, Britain has only five TV channels and in primetime on a Sunday night, the BBC aired a documentary on lightbulbs.

And the Brits seem to worship different celebs. Scanning through the newspapers, it seemed the most coverage was given to Anne Robinson (“Weakest Link”), Jamie Oliver (“The Naked Chef”) and David & Victoria (Posh Spice) Beckham.

Not a word about Tom Cruise & Penelope Cruz. What is wrong with those Brits?

However, the papers did carry the news that REM guitarist Peter Buck is on trial in London for air rage. Buck denied two counts of assault involving two cabin-crew members, “and one charge of damaging British Airways crockery.” By jove, fancy that. Bad show, Buck.

And then there were the first-person newspaper accounts, with such headlines as “My humiliation at the hands of the osteopath” and “I married the son of a Zulu chieftain.”

I’m not saying American wackiness is better or worse. Just different. But while Americans seem eager to give out awards for everything imaginable, the U.K. recently surpassed us by hosting the first annual Best of British Eccentrics.

Ann Atkin, for example, owns “the world’s only garden gnome sanctuary,” according to the London Times. “Visitors must wear pointy hats so that her gnomes do not feel out of place.”

It’s a testament to widespread Brit wackiness that she wasn’t even the winner of the contest.

That honor went to Lyndon Yorke, from the town of Marlow Bottom, who sails on the Thames in his Edwardian tricycle-cum-catamaran, the Tritanic (sic).

The event was sponsored by Kellogg’s Fruit ‘n’ Fibre. Supply your own punchline here.

One hopes that America inaugurates a similar contest, and that a TV deal is in the works to broadcast future Brit events.

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