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Leave Remakes Alone! Part 1: Across The Pond

Paul Meekin Paul Meekin
January 3rd, 2011 8:36pm EST

The remake. Shudder. Ick. Gross. Barf. There were something like 55 movie remakes in the works as of 2008, surely more now. Talk about hitting the bottom of the creative barrel. I mean, movie goers hate remakes *so* much they've stopped hating on sequels. And what's worse, most sequels stopped being bad.

As an aside, If you told someone ten years ago that Rocky VI would be one of the best in the series, they'd laugh all the way "Cop Land". Hit movies are now part of a vision for a continuing franchise, movies are made with a trilogy in mind and they're all pretty good. “Pirates Of the Caribbean” 1, 2, and 3 had a definite pecking order of quality, but there really hasn't been a series in the last 10 years to have a drop off in quality on the level of the sequels of old. “CaddyShack” to “Caddyshack II”, “Porky's” to “Porky's II”, “Star Trek IV” to “Star Trek V”. All abysmal.  Star Trek

Thus, the remake is the new sequel. In this series of articles, I'm going to detail film remakes, television remakes, and finally, remakes of popular franchises across mediums (“Like the Brady Bunch Movie”, or "Terminator: Sarah Conner Chronicles").

First up is the culture puddle jumping TV remake. We've seen them. “The Office”, “All in The Family”, “Three's Company”, “American Idol”, even renowned national treasure “Celebrity Fit Club” all had origins across the pond.

The majority of remake haterade seems to come from folks who hold the BBC very dear. The BCC shows, sorry, programmes, are delightful and whimsical, and far more British than our profit-and-demographic driven American broadcast television could ever hope to be.

Example: The American “Skins”, remade by MTV. The British version was one of the only shows about high school kids engaging in some of the things high school kids *really* engage in. Wild parties, elicit sex, drug dealing, and eating disorders. MTV
“Skin’s” is held in high regard among people with Netflix Instant or BBC America for having engaging characters, snappy jokes, and a general sexiness about it. Actually, my old friends at the delightfully batty Parents Television Council sum it up pretty nicely. There’s a backlash from fans, of course, since the trailer is essentially a shot for shot remake of the BBC Pilot.

The American “Skins” is getting a terrible thumping in the digital press. A totally unscientific “google newsing” of the American “Skins” reveals stories with phrases like "I don't have high hopes that MTV can replicate that joy in the American edition", so the question is, why bother?

Why bother remaking a show that already exists? Why remake “The Office” when the British version is out there and easily obtainable via the Internet? Why bother remaking “Skins” when the British version will be edgier than anything the suits at MTV hope to accomplish. Why bother remaking “Pop Idol” for Americans when everyone knows the best singer in the world was discovered twenty years ago and goes by the name George Michael.

Here’s why: 58 percent of this country, 186 million Americans have cable and will get to see The American “Skins”. A far smaller amount have things like Netflix, BBC America, or know how torrenting work (What? You think kids today are going to buy another DVD as long as they live? Ha.) An even smaller amount have even heard of the  British counterpart before air.
BBC
Prior to “Skins”, the most recent big budget American remake was the British to American "The Office" which suffered from "Why Botheritis" Why remake the show if it's going to be exactly the same? The pilot and first season closely mirrored the tone and style of the The British one. The humor came from painfully awkward situations and embarrassments which was the style of the British version. And no one watched.

But “The Office” returned for a tweaked second season. It made the romance between Jim and Pam their own. It added a subtly to Michael Scott that made him just a bit more sympathetic than Ricky Gervais’s David Brent. And Dwight turned into a cartoon character. Thus adopting the Mick Foley 3-ring circus rule of professional wrestling adapted for television.

Good TV needs a little bit of everything, like a circus. So if you don’t like the jokes, you like the story, if you don’t like the story, you’ll like the clown, and so on. The second season of “The Office” was popular because it had some of the awkward stuff with Michael Scott, some physical comedy with Dwight, and Jim and Pam brought the hopelessly romantic back every week. Seasons 2 and 3 of “The Office” were delightful, mixing the plot elements, playing will they / won’t they, and The Season 2 finale plain just kicked ass.

Now there’s no comparison, you watch all 14 episodes of the British Office, and I’ll watch all 100 something of the US version, then we’ll switch, and I bet you’re gonna have more fun with the US version. The show became its own.

“Skins”, or rather, any show based on already existing source material deserves the chance to exceed our low expectations like "The Office" did. Sure, right now it looks like the same show with an extra set of boobs and no funny accents, but lets see what 1.02 looks like before we start writing off Skins America. This was, afterall, the network that brought us Daria, Beavis and Butthead, Clone High, and Undressed. When you think about it, Skins has more than a few things in common with those shows.

Television is the most wonderful medium for storytelling, creativity, and taking chances. Every now and then something truly unique such as “Pushing Daises” get placed on broadcast television and things feel right with the world. Seldom are these magical shows highly rated. Quality does not a popular show make, as Yoda once said.

While critical acclaim has given several shows such as Arrested Development extended runs, but there is a profit to be had. The tricky part is that TV is a democracy. If Americans are watching a show, it's kept on the air. If we're not, it's not. And we’re fickle, remember the American Gladiators reboot that was popular for about six minutes? And every one of these shows costs hundred of thousands of dollars to make.

So this is why we’re re-making British TV: like 90 percent of all television and movies are based on other sources, be it comics, novels, or plays. With such high budgets (due to our high expectations), trusted and already profitable ideas can be pillaged and propped up anew with a cultural spin. Sure, remaking “Skins” may not seem particularly smart or cultured, but think of all the things our culture is going to make different about this show.

So never let the thought be, “Why bother?”. How negative. How dismissive of all the hard work and passion it took for someone to translate a show they obviously love for an American Audience. If “Skins” is just a little different, I’ll be happy. Different doesn't mean better or worse, but the idea of different, even it's just a *little* different, needs to be respected if not treasured.


The USA Skins Premieres Monday, January 17th at 10pm on MTV and will probably suck.

Skins *UK* can be found on netflix instant and DVD, and is really quite wonderful.

The Office seasons 1-6 can be also be found on Netflix Instant,  stop after the third season..

The Jim/Pam top ten moments was the third video I got after searching for Jim Pam. The rest were fan re-enactments. What?

 

Photo Credits: BBC, MTV.com, Youtube,