Making the world a better place, one show at a time.

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Washington, DC, United States
I guess you would like to know a little bit about the person making all these proclamations upon good taste and horrid characters. I'm Andrea and when I was 15 I fell in love. An hour after meeting "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" I was forever altered in the way only love can, and I never questioned for one minute afterwards that television offered me an amazing chance to experience lives and moments that I could never imagine. So now, when I'm not getting distracted by my real life, I write about TV. I also read, am finishing a Master's degree in English Literature, travel, am attempting to learn vegan cooking, am the 5th of 6 children, and drive my roommate nuts by constantly cleaning our already clean apartment. Now that we're old friends, time for you to take my opinions as the be all and end all.

Monday, January 17, 2011

My Internal Debates: US Remakes of UK Shows

I think about TV much more than I write about it.  Lately I've been thinking about US remakes of UK shows, and for good reason.  There are a rash of remakes: Being Human is premiering tonight on SyFy; Shameless debuted last weekend on Showtime; Skins is coming soon on MTV.  So, do we accept this re-colonization of America?

In general I'm going to say: no.  The US needs to get its shit together, make better shows and not just wait around to strip shows from across the pond of the funny accents and socialized medicine.

I'm not trying to be a snob.  This isn't a Brit-just-do-it-better thing.  There are some British TV shows that are just as awful as some American TV shows (please see Hex if you think I'm wrong, that show is terrible).  And The Office stands as a remake more than equal to the original (even if it is a bit long in the tooth).  That's always kind of the sticking point: there is a show that transfered continents well, so doesn't that mean it's a good thing to keep trying?

No, because for some reason whoever is in charge of these projects keeps forgetting that Britain is a different country.  Britain is a distinct and particular culture with its own political system, class distinctions, social order, ethics and values.  In the case of Shameless, America does not (as of yet) have an accepted social class of professionally unemployed people living on the government assistance that mainstream viewers are willing to accept as glorified/normalized in a show.  The entire premise of the show literally doesn't translate: we have no frame of reference to understand such a show when it is set in America.  As far as Skins is concerned, I can't help but think that a network that produces such gems as 16 & Pregnant and Jersey Shore won't actually understand that Skins wasn't about the fact that Tony & Co did drugs and had sex but that it was about how people construct family in the face of shocking neglect and the difficulties of loving another person when you have no example of sacrifice.  MTV is a lowest common denominator network, pandering to voyeurism and narcissism, so the likelihood of a Skins remake as funny, affecting, honest, and textured as the original is slim to none.  Need anyone be reminded of the unmitigated disaster that was the American version of Coupling?  And what exactly is the point of American Top Gear?

This sword cuts both ways.  There would be some epic failures if British TV producers started to remake American shows willy-nilly.  There is no way that you could take the premise of a show like Friday Night Lights, transfer it to Bristol and expect to have an equal show.  How I Met Your Mother is just as much about living in New York City as it is about finding the love of your life, and when the setting is that intrinsic to the story you can't just pick it up, move it across an ocean and thing you will have the same entertainment result.  There is a reason the foreign chapter of Sons of Anarchy is in Ireland not England; let's face it, historically the Brits were the conquerors, they aren't as virulent about their freedom as we (and the Irish) are and Jax's hunt for that is in some ways distinctly American.  How awful would Sam and Dean traversing the lake district and the moors be?

So why not just watch the originals?  Watching the originals gives you a chance to experience the perspective of a nation that is deceptively similar to America but essentially distinct.  Thanks to the internet and Netflix it isn't like it is impossible to get foreign TV.  When I watched Skins S1&2 over 2 years ago I pieced together each episode one YouTube video at a time (most of which had Spanish subtitles, so I learned some new words, yay!) and it was absolutely completely worth it.

Okay, I might watch Being Human anyway, just because.  Maybe The Office lightening can strike again.  Plus I haven't gotten to the second episode of The Cape.

The TV Girl


Jennifer said...

Well said :)

The TV Girl said...


KayPea said...

Tangent: I don't understand the recent hate that The Cape has been getting. Despite some of the pedantic, predictable dialogue, the show has it's purpose and does it well. It's not something incredibly witty nor will it have blow your mind plot lines, but it's a story about your typical superhero (without the campiness too often found in No Ordinary Family) who is fighting to prove to his son that one good man can make a difference. And this is a familiar premise I can embrace and I'm surprised that more people can't or don't.
And on a side note, casting is strong. While I'm on the fence about David Lyons, I love James Frain as the villian, Jennifer Ferrin as the suffering wife and of course, Summer Glau as the mysterious Orwell.