Friday, January 21, 2011

Skins, Being Human and the British Invasion

Skins and Being Human both premiered last Monday on American networks. These shows, however, are old news to our friends on the other side of the pond. That's right, we are once again meddling with remakes from our BBC brethren. Even if these shows turn out to be as successful as their original British counterparts, the fact of the matter is that these shows don't need being remade. This is the age of satellite television with 600 channels and nothing to watch.

And let's not forget ondemand programs.

Being Human itself hasn't even begun it's third season yet it has already made the transition, faster than most shows. A supernatural slant on twenty-something issues, involving a ghost, a vampire, and a werewolf. In these post-Twilight times it's understandable that such a drama would gain an audience. Nowadays sticking fangs on anything makes it fried gold. Yes, the new incarnation of Being Human is technically Canadian, but the argument still stands.

A werewolf, a ghost and a vampire rent an apartment; sounds like a bad joke.

MTV's new attempt at softcore porn, after the failure of Undressed back in the early double-0's (it starred kid show stars trying to seem mature), MTV decided to adapt the show Skins to a new audience. Starring a bunch of troubled teens, Skins was a racy drama on English television, where you at least have a chance of seeing boobs. American audiences aren't quite as open to controversy as England. Already the virtuous fast food chain Taco Bell has pulled advertising for the show. The pinnacle of Italian gourmet, Dominoes Pizza, pulled a similar move when Jersey Shore first premiered. It's sufficient to say that, using Jersey Shore as an example, advertising pressure doesn't mean anything. Skins will probably be a success with its controversy and Jersey Shore lead in. It's guaranteed, even if it sucks.

They aren't scummy douchebags, they're tortured souls.

There's no reason why these shows should be being made in the first place though. First off, most televisions get BBC America anyway. Yes, some people can't get their heads around the accents, but if you interested in the story you get past that. If you wanted to watch Skins you would of watched the British version years ago, not wait for MTV to give you its version of upper-middle class drama. Also, the history of adaptations is a spotty one at best. Coupling was a successful British sitcom that lasted four years. The US version lasted only four episodes.

Another recent premiere, Shameless, was once a Channel 4 television show in the UK. This is especially interesting since another new Showtime show, Episodes, makes fun of this concept of American remakes. British television hasn't depended on us nearly as much as we depend on them. The only adaptation is recently memory by Britain is Law & Order, and that show isn't nearly as dependent on character and story as other programs.

All you really need to adapt is that sound effect.

It's the cultures that aren't the same. It's a cheap point but it's true. Eddie Izzard even says so. Just look at Doctor Who. It's one of the most successful English television shows around yet it probably wouldn't last a season here in the states. And on a personal note, Life on Mars was one of my favorite television shows. Life on Mars was a police show, only with a twist. The main character was a modern day policeman who somehow ends up in 1970's Manchester. Is it a gimmick? Yes but it was a very well crafted gimmick. I even bought the first series on DVD I loved it so much.

Loved this show.

Imagine my excitement when I found out ABC was making their own version, with Harvey Keitel even. Then I watched the first episode and any previous excitement was sapped from me. Even though the pilot was arguably a shot-for-shot remake of the original, it was just a hollow imitation. If I was a Being Human fan or a Skins fan I wouldn't want to see it butchered by American producers. Remakes such as The Office are exceptions to the rule. Also the American version of Skins is set in Baltimore. I don't know about you but when I think Baltimore I don't think about a bunch of morose teenagers. All I think about is drug dealers and stickup men.

I blame The Wire.

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