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We Can Make Better TV America. We Just Need to Stop Being Lazy.

January 14, 2011

A long time ago in a city twelve miles and a tunnel away, William H. Macy asked me “is there anybody sitting here?” I was trying to finish my homework in a coffee shop.

I said “no.”

He sat down, and we worked and drank coffee in relative silence. I remember that he kept stifling laughs as he was reading whatever he was reading.

If I had at my disposal a time machine, I would travel back to that moment and slip my younger self a note. On this note would be a talking point for my brief exchange with Mr. Macy, and it would simply be this:

"Do not do the show re-make of the show Shameless. It is beneath you."

America has constantly ‘borrowed’ ideas for shows.

Three’s Company is a remake of the British sitcom, Man About the House. The spin-off The Ropers was based on the spin-off George and Mildred. Sanford and Son was based on the UK show Steptoe and Son. Dear John starring Judd Hirsch was based on the British sitcom aptly titled, Dear John.

Life on Mars, The Office, Coupling, , Queer as Folk, and literally hundreds of other shows were conceived in the UK .

We apparently can’t even come up with reality on our own. American Idol, Skating with the Stars, and the I’m a Celebrity Get me Outta here shows, all came from our UK cousins as well… We allow UK television to perfect a show, then we lure it over to California with promises of sunshine and A-List celebrities.

I have no problem with inspiration, AND, sometimes a writer, or director, or even producer think they can do better given a second chance. Alfred Hitchcock consistently re-made his own films, and sometimes didn’t even bother changing the title.

What I do have a problem with is blatant regurgitation, and not giving credit where credit is due. Three shows are premiering now in the states: Skins, Shameless, and Being Human. All three of these programs are being aired on different networks; Skins is on Mtv, Shameless on Showtime, and Being Human on SyFy. Each of these programs is being advertised in the same way, as a “Brand New Original Show!” with no mention of the actual previously produced original UK shows.

I watched both incarnations of Life on Mars. The premise was the same. A cop gets injured in the present and wakes up thirty years in the past. Both were brilliant shows. I actually enjoyed the American version more because it strove to improve on the original. It went beyond what we already saw in the original British show.

Shameless Lazy rip-off is more like it.

The new Showtime Original Series Shameless on the other hand seems to have watered down the original to make it more palatable to American audiences. The house that the American Gallagher family resides in seems to be upper middle class on the inside. This is a HUGE house! The production team thinks that simply having a recently built front porch makes the house appear run down… So, The trashiness of the Gallagher clan has been diluted to a despicable degree, but at the same time, the show is exactly the same. The opening monologue to the first episode was exactly the same. The camera movements of the opening sequence were exactly the same. The editing, you guessed it, exactly frame for frame, shot for shot, the same. I don’t know why they did this. Did we not learn from Gus Van Sant’s Psycho that a shot for shot remake is possibly the worst idea a creative person can have? You know why? Because it lacks creativity.

I’ve been watching the original British Skins lately. The humor, complexity, and daring of this show is so enviable. Mtv’s most successful new shows of late have been exploitative to say the least. These shows are The Jersey Shore and 16 and Pregnant. The first exploits my home state of NJ, which is a rather lovely place to live, the latter exploits young mothers. Both are as low as you can go. I really don’t think that the collective intelligence in the Mtv production offices can possibly fathom how to go about reinterpreting Skins for an American audience, so they’ll probably just re-shoot it, just like Shameless.

Lastly, the network that has brought us Anonymous Rex, Mongolian Death Worm, Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus and of course Mansquito, is bringing us the NEW ORIGINAL SHOW Being Human! I’ve only seen trailers so far for it, but actually recognize certain lines, frames, camera movements, etc. Sadly, we are in for a shot for shot re-make of this as well.

Depressing, isn’t it, that these three networks had the opportunity to expand upon three brilliant shows, and it seems they took the lazy approach, rather than that of a storyteller.

All in the Family made Archie Bunker a household name in America. Everyone in the US either hated or loved that character. Everyone wanted to impersonate, argue about, laugh, cry, and tune in to watch him and his family on a weekly basis, because he pushed the envelope of what you were allowed to talk about on TV by addressing Race, Religion, equality, etc.. He helped us escape our daily lives and problems, but addressed them at the same time. All in the Family was brilliant Television, and it was a remake of the British show Till Death Us Do Part.

We can make better TV America. We just need to stop being lazy.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. January 15, 2011 5:54 pm

    This is a very interesting read!
    There is a certain point where TV becomes less creative than before. I hope The X Files was not a rip-off.

    The reason why I never watch any Indonesian TV series is because there are a lot of copying from Japanese dorama or Korean drama.

    I think America is not just lazy on TV but also on movies (with all those remakes).

    • January 15, 2011 10:18 pm

      Thanks Novroz! To my knowledge X-files was 100% original. Although you could totally see it’s inspiration coming from classics like twilight zone, outer limits, and night gallery.

      • January 16, 2011 8:09 am

        yes, I can also see the inspiration

  2. January 18, 2011 12:25 pm

    You can’t be serious? A Shameless remake? That’s the strangest news I’ve heard this week! And Skins too?
    With the cast they have selected for Shameless, maybe it won’t be so bad…Maybe it’ll be like The Office – ie: Not necessarily worse, just a different, and relatively effective, delivery of the humour. The remake of The Office was a surprisingly decent attempt.

    Speaking of surprise, I’m surprised Skins is being revamped, as I would have thought that it translated quite well, without the need for a remake. I suppose maybe their target audience wouldn’t relate to the various British casts used in each series so far.

    A really interesting post, Cinema Fantastica! I hadn’t heard any whisper of this until I read the above – I must now go and tell everyone in Cork!

    I once heard that an American remake of Father Ted was on the way…
    With all this talk of series, I feel an urge to rewatch the entire The Fast Show 🙂 Those were the good aul days.
    I wonder if any Irish series will be rea

    • January 18, 2011 5:18 pm

      A shameless remake is shameless. I’ll give it a chance, but I loved the original. They played it on Sundance Channel here a few years ago.

      Skins translates perfectly here. They could have saved their money and just re-aired them. The targets are kids though….. some kids are just ridiculous sometimes. They won’t watch a B & W film, different accents are weird to them, etc. Darn kids…

      Thanks for calling this interesting. I try to talk about to people face to face about things like this, and they just sort of zone out. And, feel free to spread the word in Cork that we in America are re-making good TV into mediocre TV… I’ve never seen the Fast show…. And the weird thing I lived in Ireland when it was on. I’ll need to find it. Thanks for the read Roisin!

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