What should a television network do when the ratings go down? Some come up with creative reality shows, or launch new animated series. Those usually hit the spot, but when now it seems as if the newest craze is to remake shows from different countries using American actors, but the same plots, and in some cases the same dialogue.
The biggest market for remakes is British television shows-the familiar dialect makes it easier to pick up in America, and after removing the unfamiliar British slang that sounds strange on an American tongue, networks assume they have a hit on their hands.
The most noteable example of this is the hit show “The Office”, which first aired in England in 2001 and starred Ricky Gervais as David Brent. In 2005, NBC picked it up, with actor Steve Carell as Michael Scott, the David Brent-esque boss of Dunder-Mifflin Paper Co. The office is in a category known as “mockumentary”, where the camera man is, instead of invisible, noticed by everyone and the show is filmed documentary style, with interviews and sometimes awkward camera angles. That plays into the comedy as the characters give off the wall answers to questions, they interact with each other in quirky ways, and get involved in shenanigans. Both shows started with low ratings, but soon the UK Office soared in ratings and became one of the best British comedies. After two seasons, the US version picked up great ratings, but rode low with the last two seasons, the last episode airing in 2013.
However, not all shows that get picked up for an American audience are as welcome. A lesser known remake that flopped in translation was “Skins”. The UK series of the same name was a critical hit, and the ratings continued through all of it’s seven seasons. Characterized by it’s changing cast, sex, drugs, violence, and issues with mental illness and dysfunctional families, “Skins” was a dark look into the lives of a group of teens in Bristol. When the US picked it up in 2011, the writers remade the first episode exactly, with American cast members. As the season continued, however, critics tore it apart, and the show was lost. Its backers pulled out, and there were even accusations of child pornography, as most of the cast-as they were written-were under the age of 18. “Skins” is an example of being careful what you remake, as the decency laws in the UK are much less strict than the are in the US, so what would be entertainment there is controversial and inappropriate here.
Now, FOX is jumping into the ring again, this time with a remake of “Luther”, the popular UK detective drama whose three seasons in Great Britain have soared so far. The outlook isn’t good, however, since FOX isn’t airing the original, but remaking the series with American actors. In the wake of shows like Doctor Who, Sherlock and Downton Abbey, why won’t FOX just air the original? Regardless, “Luther” isn’t predicted to be a hit, but only time can tell if the show will win or lose to American audiences.

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