Saturday 12 February 2011

TV Show Remakes

I am working on reviews of a couple of classic TV shows, but thought that with all the American remakes of British shows that have started I should give my opinion on this subject.
For many years I have been against American remakes of British shows and also British remakes of American shows for the simple reason they are usually terrible and don't work.

I grew up in the 80's with two versions of shows such as Who's the Boss and The Upper Hand, Three's Company and Man about the House, George & Mildred and The Ropers, which demonstrated that sometimes both the Americans and British TV stations can make good shows based on others, however, more often then not we both fail, but we just keep trying.

Generally the shows that UK TV stations remade are American Game shows, but the scripted shows they remade apart from The Upper Hand were so awful that no one remembers them. The British TV Network ITV has been competing with the BBC for years and in the 70's and 80's they had some success with a few sitcoms, but in the early 90's their comedies were falling flat so they started looking at US shows, and we got the following remakes Married...With Children became Married For Life staring Russ Abbott, That 70's Show became Days Like These; both these shows came and went very quickly and didn't change to much from the original source material except on cultural references. After this ITV dropped it's comedy development section and have focused more on drama's.

Since living in Canada many of my Canadian friends have told me how much they love British TV shows, but they hate how short they are; I tend to think it is quality over quantity, and I have to admit Fawlty Towers is proof of that, people still love this show over 30 years later and it's only 12 episodes.

America has tried to remake Fawlty Towers three times with no success, the names of the remakes and the casting make me laugh, first in 1978 you have a pilot called Chateau Snavely staring Harvey Korman and Betty White; makes me think 78 was a bad year for Harvey Korman what with his three roles in the Star Wars Holiday Special which made me want to bash my head against a wall. Next we have in 1983 Amanda's staring Bea Arthur as the Basil Fawlty character then finally in 1999 Payne staring John Larroquette, the second 2 attempts got past pilot stage but didn't last longer then 10 episodes.

American networks have tried to remake many of the successful British show, probably so they don't have to pay third parties for the broadcast rights and now only have to pay them for the idea usually. The most successful remake in recent years is of course The Office based on a show that again only ran 14 episodes.

This year we have 3 remakes of current British shows, which are Being Human, Shameless and Skins. The first 2 shows have been received quite well, I think the casting in the current remakes is quite good, if a bit unexpected with William H Macy as Frank Gallagher and Joan Cusack as Sheila Jackson in Shameless.

Out of the current remakes Skins on MTV has had a lot of complaints, because some parents feel the show is child pornography. The fact parents are up in arms about the sex and drug taking in the show is nothing new even the British show got complaints when it first aired and still do, however what is funny about the Skins controversy is the reviews of the show by critics and fans of the British show that claim this American remake is tame in comparison.

I was against Being Human, since viewing it they haven't done much to make it new other then actually explain the characters back stories at the start rather as the British show did just jump in to the story and let you find out about the characters as the series progressed, it's not a bad thing just a different way of telling the same story; I do think the Warewolf transformation is better in the UK show.

When I heard over a year ago about all the remakes Channel 4 shows which include Shameless, Skins, The IT Crowd, Spaced and now The Inbetweeners and possibly The Misfits I was dead set against them, hell I’m still not entirely behind them. I will check them all out but so far my opinion has not been changed, TV Show remakes just don't work for me generally, of course their are exceptions; but after watching both pilot versions of an American Red Dwarf and episodes of the US Men Behaving Badly and UK Married...With Children I believe we should leave TV shows as they are. Networks need to realise the reason we like these shows is because they are already good and we don't need another version with jokes they think work better culturally.

I try to watch every new show that American and British networks bring out and give them a chance and this means I have seen a lot of bad shows and some great shows that didn't find their audience before they were cancelled, some of my favourite shows from my childhood are only 13 episodes long because they were cancelled, such as Misfits of Science, Automan, Blue Thunder, Street Hawk and The Invisible Man staring David McCallum; I hope to review them over the coming months.

However, next week it's back to the movies for a review of a guilty pleasure of mine, a film called My Demon Lover.

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