BBC’s “Spooks” Gets A U.S. Remake

ABC has acquired the American adaptation rights to one of my favourite shows, the long-running BAFTA-winning BBC spy drama series “Spooks” reports Deadline.

Michael Seitzmann (“Empire State,” “North Country”) will pen and executive produce a pilot for the series, though there’s no word on what form it will take – whether it will remain set in the U.K. or shift its location and agency setting to the United States.

U.S. networks have had little success adapting UK shows for their own market aside from NBC’s “The Office”. Pilots for cross-Atlantic versions of “Footballers Wives,” “Prime Suspect,” “Absolutely Fabulous,” “The Vicar of Dibley” and “Spaced” never made it to air while inferior remakes of “Life on Mars,” “Eleventh Hour” and “Coupling” didn’t it make much beyond a few episodes. U.S. versions of “Top Gear” and “Being Human” are also in the works to air sometime in the next year.

Originally launched in 2002 in the UK, “Spooks” follows the officers of the British Security Service, MI5, who race to stop threats to national security be they religious extremists, suicide bombers, arms dealers, foreign governments and corruption within their own ranks.

The show’s handling of terrorism has sometimes come under fire, mostly for its either relatively plausible or potentially incendiary takes on certain topical scenarios (a “thinking man’s ’24′” is the description sometimes used). A torture scene involving a woman’s face being held down into a deep fryer in the second episode famously drew a lot of complaints.

The series also became famous for killing off its characters, including it leads, at random times which added genuine suspense to the life & death action, and kept the cast fresh. The three original stars – Matthew Macfadyen, Keeley Hawes and David Oyelowo – were all gone by the end of the third season.

Different cast members have shuffled in and out over the years including Rupert Penry-Jones, Hermione Norris and Richard Armitage, with the dryly humoured section director Harry Pearce (Peter Firth) the sole character from the first season still ‘active’ on the show. Its ninth season is scheduled to air in the UK around October/November and includes several new cast members like Sophia Myles, Iain Glen and Max Brown to replace several characters who died and/or retired last season.

Released under the title “MI-5” in the U.S., the show was first broadcast by A&E and later BBC America but suffered from poor ratings and severe editing to fit commercial breaks. PBS picked up and began running the show uninterrupted starting January 2009.