Wednesday, June 11, 2014


For decades American Television and Film have felt the need to crib off of other nations' work.  Instead of offering those works in the states, the media companies option their own version even with offerings from other English speaking counties.  That seems to be except for Canadian shows.  That is probably due to the closeness of our cultures and accents.  Some shows that were brought over were successful like All in the Family, Three’s Company, Sanford and Son, The Office, and the North American version of Being Human.  Others have failed miserably like Life on Mars, Fawlty Towers, Absolutely Fabulous, Cracker, The IT Crowd, and Skins. 

In many cases the ideas are good, the translation is not.  The best try not to be a direct adaptation, worst tend to try to do that.  The direct translation does not work.  There are subtleties to each culture that do not translate either way.  One example is Life on Mars; Harvey Keitel was cast as Gene Hunt.  In the original he is both a physically and psychologically imposing figure.  Keitel is only one of those two.  When talks of this adaptation were in the works Colm Meaney was originally cast for the part.  I thought that was a great choice, but it was changed after the initial pilot.  The original was set in a city but not one of the biggest in that nation.  The American version was set in New York.  I do not think New York and Manchester translate.  They also changed the reasons behind the concept of a modern cop who finds himself in the 1970’s.  I am going to be nice and not spoil either reveal.  Let’s just say they do not compliment each other.

Let’s go to the other end of things, Being Human.  Both keep with the idea that a Vampire, Werewolf and a Ghost are Roommates.  There are multiple parallels.  A few of the Characters work in a hospital.  In the North American version all are nurses, but in the British production the male characters are orderlies and the female is the only nurse.  The two shows' ideas about each breed of monster and how they work are different too.  It works for this show.  The North American Show has realized what worked for the U.K. show and is translating it well.  It is about the relationships.  With Life on Mars they played too much on the fish out of water idea in the U.S. adaptation.  That was not what drove the original. 

Sometime American productions take the teeth out of their adaptations of media.  The American version of the Film Get Carter had Carter basically a good guy who did bad things.  The British Movie was about a Bad Guys who did bad things for the right reasons.  Michael Caine’s Carter was a murderer, whereas Stallone’s Carter was a thug with a heart of gold.  The U.S. Film ended with everybody good lived.  The original was more nihilistic. 

Overall I prefer the originals.  Sometimes American productions discover what works and replicate it just right.  That is great to see.  More often that not it just does not happen.  That Is My Not So Humble Opinion.

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