Television Remakes

I was having a discussion about television shows recently. The exact details escape me right now, since it was one of the rare occasions these days when I find myself drinking, but the conversation eventually came around to a familiar argument…

Did you see the American remake of [insert show here]? They ruined it! Why do they have to remake everything?

I am not going to run to the defence of the American television industry. They remake a lot of stuff and some of it really sucks, but it amuses me when British people get on their high horse about it. Why? Well let me give you two reasons why we can never complain about American remakes.

1) Married With Children

When I first saw Married With Children, I had very little expectations of it being any good. I remember it being on very late at night, in the early days of 24 hour television in the UK. There was a real mish-mash of programmes on at that time of night, ranging from repeats of Weir’s Way, to old concerts presented by Mike Mansfield, to very poor quality, cheap, imported American Sitcoms. It was the kind of television you would have on in the background while you got on with doing something more interesting.

But something about Married With Children caught my attention. It was kind of funny. Kind of stupid and crass, but a little bit different from other American TV shows of the same vintage – maybe kind of anarchic and dare I say it, quite good? Why on earth was it condemned to a time of night when only insomniacs and junkies would be watching TV? Were ITV stupid… didn’t they know what they had?

It turns out they knew exactly what they had, but they were not going to do anything as simple as showing it closer to prime time. They were going to remake it for the UK audience. And who to cast in the role of Al Bundy? Why Russ Abbot of course – who better than the man who loves a party with a happy atmosphere?

It was renamed as “Married For Life” and took what was (for me) a little jewell of the late night TV schedule and turned it into an unwatchable, unfunny turd of a show that was about as enjoyable as any other sitcom made by ITV.

2) That 70s Show

My introduction to That 70s Show was almost the opposite of Married With Children. ITV (again… do they never learn?) spent some time bigging up their newest sitcom before it debuted. I remember trailers with the characters talking about how many inches they had… in their flares. Stuff like that.

They also made a big deal about how this new ITV sitcom had been written by the same people who wrote Waynes World. This caught my attention, because I remember wondering why on earth successful Hollywood writers would want to write a sitcom about 70s Britain for ITV – it’s not like it would pay a huge amount. Of course, at this point I had no idea the original even existed.

The show seemed really weird, disjointed and out of context. This is hardly surprising since it is almost a word for word copy of the original with only the most minor changes made to make the names a bit more ‘Britishy.’ I could be wrong, but I think the 70s teenagers of the UK did not really live comparable lives to the 70s teenagers of the USA. Would a teenager in the UK have tried to convince his father to give him the old car? How many  UK households in the 70s even had two cars?

It all made perfect sense however, when I later found out it was never intended as a UK sitcom in the first place. What I had originally considered to be a poorly written mess of a nostalgia show, turned out to be quite funny and entertaining in it’s original form.

So there you go. This does not absolve the USA of crimes against television, but it shows that we can be just as bad. Let he who is without sin cast the first remote etc…

Posted by Robbie on September 5, 2012