Page last updated at 11:47 GMT, Thursday, 1 May 2008 12:47 UK

Los Angeles salutes British success

By Peter Bowes
BBC News, Los Angeles

Nigel Lythgoe
Brit Week is the brainchild of TV producer "Nasty" Nigel Lythgoe

A fish and chip buffet heralded the start of a special week in Los Angeles to honour British involvement in the city's cultural and business life.

Brit Week in LA includes a Duran Duran concert, a tribute to the late British filmmaker David Lean, a British celebrity "soccer match" and the odd pub-crawl.

The celebration also marks the golden anniversary of the British Consul General's official residence in a stylish Los Angeles mansion.

"We're not only celebrating 50 years of being here in Hancock Park, we're celebrating the tremendous ties we have with Great Britain since the founding of our nation and the tremendous friendship that we enjoy," says Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Nigel Lythgoe, the "nasty" talent judge from Popstars, came up with the idea for Brit Week.

Lythgoe, a former dancer himself, is currently in charge of American Idol, which features Simon Cowell on the judges' panel.

"We are so inspirational in this town that I thought we should really do a Brit week," he explains.

Cat Deeley
I like the fact that they embrace success here
Cat Deeley
"In terms of television, Britain has created the top television programmes in America for the past six years, which is phenomenal.

"When you think American Idol, Survivor, Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Dancing with the Stars, they're all British programmes.

"After that, the movies, the music, the fashion and now with David Beckham, sport. Britain's brought a great deal to Los Angeles and is in truth the biggest investor in Southern California."

Hot potato

It is debatable whether Beckham has made a significant impact on the world of US sport, but there is no doubt that British-inspired television is a dominant force in Hollywood.

"It's just to kind of show how well certain Brits have done that have come over here and also how the two cultures can really knit together," says Cat Deeley, who Lythgoe brought over to the US as the host of Fox network series So You Think You Can Dance.

American Idol
One of the biggest TV shows in the US, American Idol, is a British format

"If you're a success here they'll run and run and run with you and grab you with both hands," she says.

"If you're not a success they'll drop you quicker than a hot potato, but I like the fact that they embrace success here.

"You really do feel like you can be anything that you want to be. There are opportunities available to you at all times, no matter where you come from or what your background is."

"We all sit together at night at Simon Cowell's house and plot how we're going to take over the universe," she jokes.

When people first come out here, I think it's a dreadful shock
Eric Idle
Not every Brit in Hollywood wants to take over the world. Imelda Staunton, who was Oscar-nominated for her leading role in Vera Drake, is keen to preserve her British identity.

She says: "We have a different culture, we have a different set of rules and I think different is good. Why have everything the same? How dull is that?"

"I think the English young actresses are so beautiful," says Jackie Collins, a long-time LA resident and author of the book Hollywood Wives.

"Actresses like Keira Knightley and Kate Beckinsale - they have a natural beauty.

"And you have the guys who have a kind of sexiness that is not your kind of abs and your face sexiness, it's more of a laid back casual kind of thing and then there's the sense of humour," adds Collins.

Dreadful shock

Other veteran expats express mixed emotions about life in LA.

"If you avoid showbusiness it's a beautiful place to live," says Monty Python star Eric Idle.

"Otherwise it's a nightmare of wanting things and trying to meet people who don't want to give it to you. Or may want to give other people things that you want - it's very debilitating.

Dame Judi Dench and Eric Idle
Dame Judi Dench and Eric Idle were in LA to celebrate Brit Week

"When people first come out here, I think it's a dreadful shock and they go through awful suffering and those of us who first came here in 1973 have got used to it."

A British comedy festival, honouring the best of Britain's film and television comedies from 2007, has been running throughout Brit week.

Run Fatboy Run, Hot Fuzz, Extras and Little Britain are among the nominees for the inaugural British Comedy Awards, which are due to be handed out on Thursday evening.

"There's still good ideas going around in England," says John Cleese, another long-time California resident.

'What kills originality is anxiety and there's so much money involved in the making of programmes and films now there's a higher level of anxiety than ever.

"There's further to fall, it's more disastrous if you fail," he says.

"There's a lot of uninspired work but I think there's still a few nooks and crannies in England where the real originality resides. But I have to say I think it is enormously less good than it was 20 years ago."

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