Jan 24, 2012

Remade in America

It's apparent to the majority of people I meet that I love British television. Sometimes, I feel the need to stick up for it. Like now.

With CBS having announced its intention to air Elementary, a modern day telling of Sherlock Holmes, I can't help but wonder why. The BBC has already beat them to the punch with Sherlock, which brings the characters and stories to present day London. With great performances by Benedict Cumberbatch (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) and Martin Freeman (currently filming The Hobbit), it's hard to picture a world in which CBS will have the better version. Especially since Elementary would take place in NYC. What? 221B Baker Street in America? I can't see that working out well. Plus, I love that Freeman's Watson blogs about his adventures with Holmes. :)

So all this has got me thinking about American remakes of British television shows. Do they really work?

If the program is a reality show or aired in the 1970s, yes.
Hell's Kitchen, American Idol and the game shows Whose Line Is It Anyway? and Who Wants to be a Millionaire? were all hits brought to the US from across the pond. And have you heard of Till Death Us Do Part, Steptoe and Son or Man About The House? Probably not. But I bet you know All in the Family, Sanford and Son and Three's Company. Again, all three were major hits in the United States.

But what about recent remakes?In past years, many of the shows brought over and redesigned have flopped.

Viva Laughlin (Blackpool) was cancelled after two episodes.

The American version of Life on Mars suffered declining viewership and never made it to a second season.

Let's not forget Skins. MTV pulled the plug on its version after The Parents Television Council attacked the program leading to loss of sponsors and viewership.

Being Human has its counterpart on Syfy and while averaging 1.9 million viewers makes it the network's top winter series, the numbers would not hold up on networks like USA and TBS.

In all fairness, there is one fairly recent show that became a major hit when converted for American audiences. The Office. The first season struggled, but the show hit its stride during the second season and gained a vast audience. It's currently in its 8th season. The best part is that a lot of fans love both versions.

So what's my point in all this? I think that Americans should give the original British shows a shot over here. Just look at the recent success of Doctor Who and Downton Abbey. Hey! Wouldn't that make a great crossover.

And by the way, if you can't understand the accent, there's always closed-captioning.

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