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Archive for Saturday, February 19, 2011

America, let’s quit the Brit remake habit

February 19, 2011

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Annie the ghost finds herself stuck in a purgatory of sorts as “Being Human” (8 p.m., BBC America) enters its third season. The casual viewer may find this somewhat confusing, as the Americanized version of “Human” just started its first season on Syfy. It may be fun for fans of the series to compare and contrast the two incarnations. I can only wonder why the funny, creepy, compelling U.K. version had to be remade in the first place.

The Americanized version is hardly terrible, but it’s not an improvement. Moreover, both are cable series, and both are in English. It’s not like they’ve remade a Hong Kong action movie or a Japanese or Korean horror film. By the logic of this remake, the music of the Beatles or Rolling Stones would have to have been covered by American bands in order to be enjoyed by American listeners. That was hardly true then and it isn’t true now.

Young American readers had no trouble falling in love with the Harry Potter books and their U.K.-produced screen adaptations. When Renee Zellweger was cast in “Bridget Jones Diaries,” they didn’t transplant the book to Zellweger’s native Texas. She trained to perform with a British accent. “The Kings Speech” has been popular and stands to sweep next week’s Oscars.

Americans have no problem with British product. And American programmers may love it just a little too much. True, both “All in the Family” and “The Office” were remakes. But for every hit, there have been far too many stinkers. No fewer than four Americanized versions of “Fawlty Towers” have failed. And John Cleese has the checks to prove it! Remember “Coupling”? “Kath and Kim”? OK, that was an Australian original, but the argument holds. ABC’s version of “Life on Mars” died, but not as quickly as “Viva Laughlin,” CBS’s amazingly bad Americanization of “Viva Blackpool.” It’s enough to make you jump out of your MTV-remade “Skins”! In fact, it’s “Shameless”! Oh, that Showtime drama is a remake, too.

I am not arguing that British series are better. Quite the contrary. And nobody knows that better than the British. Over the years they have embraced “Frasier,” “Ally McBeal,” “Friends,” “The Sopranos,” “Lost” and “Mad Men.” And for quite some time it seemed like every serious person in Great Britain couldn’t wait to talk or write about “The Wire.”

So let’s stand up for American shows, wave the flag and give some American script writers a break! Before the new Americanized version of “The X Factor” gets crammed down our throats.

Tonight’s other highlights

• The voice of Bruce Willis animates the 2006 comedy “Over the Hedge” (8 p.m., ABC), adapted from a popular syndicated comic strip.

• A film crew finds itself in a bind in the 2004 horror-spoof sequel “Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid” (8 p.m., Syfy).

• Scheduled on “48 Hours Mystery” (9 p.m., CBS): Wall Street, the Playboy mansion and murder.

• Standup on “Patrice O’Neal: Elephant in the Room” (9 p.m., Comedy Central).

• Sigourney Weaver appears on “The Graham Norton Show” (9 p.m., BBC America).

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