11/13/2007

British writers won't cross US picket lines

Well, so much for my fantasy, in which Britain's best comedy and television writers would get a golden chance to remake the American airwaves.

The Writer's Guild of Britain has asked its members to honor the strike by members of the Writer's Guild For America. This isn't unexpected, and of course, my fantasy is pretty far-fetched. But, the scenario outlined below is something I frankly would love to see:

“We are contacting the major UK broadcasters and producers, and the UK Film Council, asking them not to dump UK material into the US market, and not to dress up American projects to look as though they are British. Any such manoeuvres would bring at best a short-term advantage, whereas the adverse consequences could last for years."
That's Brian Corbett, chair of the Writer's Guild. While the solidarity is impressive, this would be a good chance for American audiences to see first-run British stuff, rather than recycled remakes. Much has been written about how the NBC version of The Office has escaped the curse of the American-made British show. But Coupling? The US version of Red Dwarf? The two attempts to convert Fawlty Towers into star vehicles for Maude and the guy from the Night Court?

I don't have a well-formed opinion of the strike, but I've blogged elsewhere about how I just don't see the writers winning this one. The suits have way too many options in terms of program recycling, and there are many well-produced shows owned by the networks that have already run on cable. There's also a ton of alternatives available online. Network ratings are plummeting, and this is just going to make it much worse. And frankly, I don't think most people care.

But, I would suggest that individuals seek out some British shows, and I'd be happy to recommend a few. If you've not seen Spaced, you could be missing out on something that could fundamentally change your life. There's even talk it's going to be remade as an American show, which would be rather unfortunate given that it's so lovingly produced. You may recognize one of the main characters from Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.

Next up, Peep Show. This one has already been made into an American pilot, and it did not get picked up. That might be because the British version is close to absolute perfection. The laughs are usually painful, and rooted in self-loathing, self-aggrandizement, and self-abuse. I'm not doing the show justice, but seek this one out before it gets remade by Spike. The premise is simple - two former college housemates continue to share flat well into their 20's. But, you constantly hear their interior monologues, undercutting what they say in real life. The result is something incredibly honest.

Finally, I've recommended this before, but Life on Mars is a pretty fantastic show as well, if only for how wonderfully decadent 1973 Manchester is depicted. This is another one that's currently being remade, and is simply not going to work. I'm somewhat encouraged by the presence of two folks from the British Isles who are on board (Colm Meany and Lenny Clarke) but without a huge soundtrack, this just isn't going to work. Americans are also going to want an answer, and there are no answers in Life on Mars. Watch Journeyman instead - my favorite show of the new season.

Now, a treat - the full first episode of Spaced, which sets it all up nicely. I'm still saving the last two episodes, but I'm pretty sure the opening sequence here relates to the last few minutes of the entire series. Amy is perturbed I don't want to race through, but this has very quickly become one of my favorite shows of all time. I've watched the rave episode at least 20 times already. It's not that that episode is particularly funny. It's that there's geniune character development and it's made so lovingly that you feel like you're there.






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