American remakes of hit UK television shows, especially comedies, generally fail quicker than one’s New Year’s Eve pledges. For every rare success such as “The Office”, there’s ten others that often fail to get off the ground. The few that do often don’t last (remember “Viva Laughlin,” “Coupling,” Roseanne Barr’s attempt at AbFab?).
No-one is sure why. Essays on the very topic have been penned over the years and often cite some amusing examples, but none can really come up with a definitive answer. Some say it’s because British TV seasons are much shorter, the budget and scripting much tighter, and the humor is far drier and more cynical. Others say its merely quality control as British seasons generally last for only six episodes a year – thus giving everyone involved a lot more time to get things right. All conceed that Brit-coms generally avoid the cloying sentimentality or trite moral platitudes that often pop-up in the final few minutes of your average episode of “Friends” or “Two and a Half Men”.
Even with only little more than a dozen episodes under their belt, Brit-comedy classics like Monty Python and “Fawlty Towers” in the 70’s, “Black Adder” and “Yes Minister” in the 80’s, “Absolutely Fabulous” and “Red Dwarf” in the 90’s, and the likes of “Extras” or Stephen Fry’s scathing “Absolute Power” in recent years easily trounce over almost all the sitcoms the four main US networks have churned out.
Yet humor is changing as the broad-appeal and often tired formula has given way in recent years to far more intelligent and subversive US comedy with the likes of The Simpsons, Family Guy, Arrested Development, Boston Legal and most recently 30 Rock showing that Americans can be just as ironic and self-depricating as their cross-Atlantic cousins.
Still, some ideas just sound terrible. As much as I adore the aforementioned “Boston Legal”, the idea of a David E. Kelly-led remake of the brilliant “Life on Mars” gives me the shudders. As much as there’s a great cast and crew involved like Russell Crowe and Helen Mirren, the idea of remaking the BBC’s superb “State of Play” mini-series as an American feature film has me very concerned.
Now, comes word that a pilot for the American remake of “Spaced” has been given the formal go ahead. Whilst the program was originally commissioned last year, many thought the writer’s strike had thankfully shoved a stake through its heart. Not so according to Zap2It who says Fox and “Charlie’s Angels” helmer McG are behind the sitcom being penned by former “Will & Grace” writer Adam Barr, and production has been given the official go ahead.
The original series aired in 1999 & 2001 and was notable for its use of pop-culture references and surrealistic moments – something a lot more common to comedy these days but back then was rarely utilised outside of animation. The series launched the careers of stars Jessica Stevenson, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and director Edgar Wright. Pegg, Frost and Wright of course have gone on to great international acclaim with their film comedies “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz”, and I’ve had the great pleasure of sharing fun conversations over drinks with Edgar and Simon in the last few years.
Unfortunately Fox has basically refused to credit them and yet is cashing in on both the show and their reputations by mentioning them front and center in the press release announcing the green lighting. Pegg had this to say a few hours ago on Facebook: “It is this flagrant snub and effective vote of no confidence in the very people that created the show, that has caused such affront at our end. If they don’t care about the integrity of the original, why call it Spaced? Why attempt to find some validation by including mine and Edgar’s names in the press release as if we were involved? Why not just lift the premise?”
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