I can’t say Bloody Hell without hearing Ron Weasly squealing it in every Harry Potter movie. I try to say it with a British accent but my British accent sucks, pretty much like when American tv tries to duplicate a popular British show.
Something gets lost when a television show crosses the pond. I don’t know of many successful transplants, actually only a few come to mind, Sanford and Son (Steptoe and Son), Three’s Company (Man About the House) and of course The Office. I believe what made these shows popular is the idea was borrowed but our originality was added. I’ve seen all three of the British version of these shows and maybe because I watched the American versions first and fell in love with their characters it was difficult to see them any other way. I do, however, think the original Office with Ricky Gervais does have the slight edge on our American version and I think it’s because they wrapped the show up in two seasons. We have dragged our version on way pass it’s jumping the shark moment, which for me is when Pam and Jim get married.
A few years ago MTV borrowed a popular teen drama Skins from BBC. I watched the Brit version on BBCAmerica and really liked it. I found it quite original and shocking. When MTV said they were using the script, the very same script I figured what could go wrong. I guess everything, for me anyway. I found it completely flat and contrived but it was the same script. I can’t explain it. Earlier today I caught another MTV borrowed show, The Inbetweeners. I like the original show and obviously MTV did as well so they used the same script but again it was flat and contrived. I’m not getting down on MTV because they do have a very funny show Awkward which I think it is quite good and its original.
One show I did like that crossed over here was BBC’s Life on Mars. It was about a cop that is struck down by a car and lies in coma in one world but is transported back to the 70′s in another.Again, the script was basically the same but the characters remained fresh and kept the aesthetic of the original series. Maybe because I am a huge Michael Imperioli but this show, which only ran one season on ABC, kept the juice it needed from the BBC version. I was not so happy with Prime Suspect (NBC) with Maria Bello as the flawed detective Jane Temoney that originally starred Helen Mirren as Jane Tennison. The lead characters name was changed which made no sense to me. Both characters were trying to forge themselves as relevant in a male dominated police force and although both had their personal issues Bello just never mustered enough compassion from me that made me root for her like I did Mirren. Another fail.
Syfy picked up Being Human. A show based on a ghost, a vampire and a werewolf who are trying to make it in the world despite their ‘abnormalities’. Most people I know had no idea that there was another version and love the American version of the show. I couldn’t. The actors just didn’t bring the full round of emotion, especially the conflict of Mitchell the vampire. In the American version he is such a whiner. Who falls in love with a whiny vampire?
Showtime seems to have been able to keep a lot of the grit of Shameless, something I know would have definitely been lost on network television. I was not a huge fan of the Brit version of Shameless only because this was one show I had a really hard time understanding the language! I blame myself for that but the American version which uses the same script clarifies a lot of the jokes for me and William Macy just owns any character he plays.
Now there is talk of bringing the new version of Sherlock Holmes to the networks. If you haven’t seen the updated version of Sherlock Holmes with Benedict Cumberbatch which bring Holmes into the present day, you may catch it on Masterpiece Theater (PBS). I’m afraid for this show. Jonny Lee Miller, who is British, will play Holmes and they will move the action from the streets of London to the streets of New York city. Le sigh. It gets worse, Lucy Liu plays Watson. Its due out this fall so I’ll reserve my opinion until I see a few episodes because maybe by changing location and gender to a character they could be creating another great version. I doubt it but I’m trying to keep an open mind. Bloody Hell, just bring Brit shows across the pond and let us watch them unfiltered, and unchanged. Most Americans have no idea what its like anywhere but their own neighborhood. Bringing the shows intact gives American a clean view of how others leave and you know how badly some of us need to know other cultures and countries.
A list of some of my favorite Brit Shows now and where you can catch them:
White Chapel (BBCAmerica)
Luther (Netflix and BBCAmerica)
Doc Martin (PBS)
Ashes to Ashes (PBS)
Top Boy (Netflix)
Snuff Box (Netflix)