So while stitching on Saturday night, I finally broke down and watched Torchwood - Miracle Day. It's been in my Tivo cue forever and I've been putting off watching it. Not because I don't love Torchwood, because I do, but because of another reason. This series of Torchwood was not a full BBC production, but a joint production with Starz.
Now, anyone that knows me personally, knows I love British television. I can't get enough of it. I'm also very protective of it. I don't understand why American television producers feel the need to "Americanize" or even re-make for American audiences British television shows. It drives me crazy! Do they think that we are too stupid to "get" British shows? Yes, you can read DVD reviews on Amazon and see where Americans ask for subtitles to be put on British shows because they can't understand the speech (I particularly love it when someone comments back that the Brits do actually speak English and if they don't understand English, maybe they shouldn't be watching British shows in the first place). But why Americanize or even remake a show if there is a perfectly good version of it already out there?
Back to the original point. I knew this new production of Torchwood would be Americanized...they added a pretty much all American cast and moved most of the entire shoot to the States. For those not familiar with Torchwood, it's a spin-off of Doctor Who, a show which I'm completely obsessed with, or was when David Tennant was the Doctor...not so much now, even though I do still watch it (and Torchwood is an anagram for Doctor Who, BTW). I can even remember as a child watching Tom Baker and his wild mane of curly hair and his coat-hanger-laden Tardis flying through space and time on PBS after school!
Needless to say, it didn't disappoint on the Americanized front. Even though it was written by Russell T Davies, who wrote the other series as well as the first four of the new Doctor Who (and the British Queer As Folk), I think he's been living in L.A. too long. Torchwood is known for it's fast-paced, kill or be-killed story lines filled with aliens, monsters, or even the demon within, and there's always a visit by the Doctor himself and this was nothing like that at all (although there were a few thinly veiled mentions of the Doctor). There were episodes that were slow, there were too many American style car chases and explosions, and way too much internal feelings. Definitely not British at all! It didn't suck, but it wasn't the Torchwood that I know and love, that's for sure! And what was up with Bill Pullman's character? He didn't even need to be there at all! He was a totally useless addition. It was almost like "hey guys we got Bill Pullman, we got to add him a part and he wants to play a bad guy so get to it, you've got 10 minutes to add him to the script".
And it's not just Torchwood. Cinemax has a series called Strike Back. Surprise folks....this is technically the second of a British series which stared Richard Armitage (betcha didn't know that for those that are watching it...they give no clues and make it sound all original). I loved the first series. It dealt around Richard's character who ends up working for a covert British agency. I've only been able to watch the first episode of this new series, but from what I've seen of it, it deals with explosions and sex and lots and lots of shooting people left and right. Americanized 110%. I am still recording it and I will watch the entire series when it's finished, so my opinion is still skewed at the moment from viewing the first episode. Besides, Richard was in this new series, for the first 10 minutes. They unceremoniously put a bullet in his brain and that was it. Fine if you want to kill off a character, but considering he was the main storyline for the entire first series, give him a little more pomp and circumstance than 10 bloody minutes (yes, I love Richard so that pissed me off, what can I say?). I know that Richard is busy filming the Hobbit and couldn't work on this production much, but come on...couldn't they give his character more justice that what they did?
There is an actual Wikipedia page listing the American television shows based on British shows (and trust me, the list is nowhere near complete). Did you know that Three's Company was based on a British television show? One of the most popular shows of my childhood and it's not even ours!
Look at popular culture now...Dancing With The Stars, American Idol, and the upcoming X-Factor...all British shows! Makes you wonder if American TV producers can come up with any original ideas of their own. And also makes me wonder why they think we're so stupid that we have to have British shows remade for us instead of showing us the originals, or better yet, coming up with new ideas! Now there's a thought!
Queer As Folk is another example, one that went so far as the entire first season's script was virtually copied word for word! If they remake them because we don't get British culture, then why spend millions to remake them just to copy them and only change a few slang terms? Stupid! Sure, they changed character names, but the Brian/Stuart character drove the same vehicle and their flats looked very similar although one was in Manchester, England and the other was in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania! They only started to veer separately during the second series and only because the UK QAF didn't have a full series and ended the way the American should have IMO (couple-wise) and the American version had Five full series.
They remade Being Human and the SyFy channel aired both the American and the British versions! Why? Talk about confusing! A vampire, and werewolf, and a ghost share a flat. What needed to be Americanized about that? Do they think we too stupid to get that concept? I really tried to watch the American version, but the vampire was ugly (who ever heard of an ugly vampire?), the ghost was whiny (and there was no chemistry between her and the ugly vampire, a major storyline in the British version) and the werewolf wasn't geeky enough (an important chemistry to the casting). The storylines went in two different directions in this case, but I found that to be just as annoying as being word for word (I can't explain why, I think because I was gonna find fault in it no matter which way it went). Being Human (the British version, of course) is another one of my favorite shows (although I'm still EXTREMELY pissed about how the last series ended) and I was almost personally offended they felt the need to "clone" it (for lack of a better word).
They are remaking Prime Suspect, the show that put Helen Mirren on the map. Why? An overly ambitious police woman with an alcohol problem works her way up the ranks and encounters sexual discrimination along the way from her male contemporaries. As the series progresses, she gets older, becomes more of a senior officer, gets drunker, makes more mistakes, and is forced to retire because of it. That kind of behavior would never wash nowadays, but still strong television if you watch the Helen Mirren version. Can't imagine how it can be "re-imagined" or if it could even last as long as the original to get that far into Jane Tennison's career to see her mature and fail as spectacularly as she does.
They want to make an American version of Spooks (MI-5). What for? Besides, how in the heck can they Americanize the British security services? How many Americans know who the MOD is or what GCHQ is or where Thames House is (or what it is). Or for that matter even care! Plus, it's still a current show! You wanna learn about British spies, watch Spooks! All Nine series are available and Ten will be out in November as it's airing in the UK now! Besides, without Spooks, we wouldn't have Matthew MacFadyen (nor would he have his wife Keeley Hawes, since that is where they met), or Rupert Penry-Jones, or Richard Armitage!
Look at the popularity of Downton Abbey, Sherlock and even Doctor Who! They don't have to be remade (although I have heard chatter of an American remake of Doctor Who - but they can't figure out an American Tardis since we don't have phone boxes!).
Here's a thought...BCCAmerica, stop playing fifteen million episodes of Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares or Top Gear and make yourself available to everyone and not just people with satellite or advanced cable. Or better yet, BBC, ITV, and Sky and all the other British channels, make yourselves available to Americans (we'd be willing to pay) and show us your shows, let us see them in their full glory, or at least do a Nick At Nite kind of thing. Let the rest of America see what I already know, that you produce some of the best television in the world. So good in fact, that American television producers feel the need to constantly copy you incessantly for our viewing pleasure. Think of the money to be made if you cater to us directly! And that way, the rest of American can't be duped into watching shows that are nothing but rehashed television shows from another country because our producers are too lazy to come up with ideas of their own.
Soap box dismount and beddie-bye bound.