Thursday, 9 October 2008

Why I Went Right Off America

I’m not sure if the news has hit you yet, but I have renounced my Atlanticism. Before today, I was a lover of America, its people, and in particular American popular culture. For years now, I have consumed their films, television and music at a rate befitting of the silly little whore that I am.

But now, as the yellowed autumn leaves fall, so must my unfettered, unencumbered love affair with America. I am now an opponent of all things American, a rabid Gaullist, an opponent of America as fierce and outspoken as Hugo Chávez. For they, as a nation have gone too far – they’ve only bloody gone and started remaking loads of British television shows again.

Top Gear – this one may actually work, given that the show’s driving ethos is a thoroughly American one of rampant, blind individualism. They also like pretending that global warming is a myth, in order to keep driving big cars - which I'm sure will resonate with a large enough element of the American public to maintain a regular audience. Don’t be surprised if the hosts are even more afflicted with abject cretinism than Jeremy Clarkson, but without half his talent for sarcasm.

Spaced – thankfully this proposed remake of one our finest sitcoms has recently been shelved, following a largely negative response from fans, who perjoratively dubbed the proposal “McSpaced.”
If it had gone ahead, and have no doubt reader, it would have utterly shite, it would have served as a rather strange side show to the rising careers of Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, two of the supremely talented triumvirate behind the original series. As mentioned by Pegg when he appeared on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross to shill How to Lose Friends and Alienate People there are videos of the remake pilot floating about. And apparently it is appalling.

Life on Mars – if you bought into the critical hype this was the nearest thing we have produced that rivals the elite of US television (The Wire, The Sopranos etc) in recent years.
I imagine the US remake will be about as subtle as a brick to the face, and probably half as funny.

Worst Week - I can only echo what my colleague Stuart has previously noted. To see the massive posters for this one up in Times Square as I did was just plain strange. The original British version (The Worst Week of My Life) was high concept (man has a really bad week,) but low in humour (tired slapstick). Aside from being quite dull, it often erred on the wrong side of wacky.
If Americans insist on remaking British sitcoms why not remake a good one? Peep Show undoubtedly wouldn't work, they made a pilot for The Thick of It but it was subsequently abandoned, the same happened to Spaced (as mentioned above), Coupling didn't work, nor did Red Dwarf. So actually, don't bother.

I just spent a month travelling around America, and to be fair to them none of them could understand a word I said in my accent, inflected as it is with a delightful south-east London twang. It’s easy to forget that we Brits are infinitely more exposed to the various American regional accents, than they are to ours. So their common complaint that they simply cannot understand the accents in British shows may hold some truth. But other than that, is there really any legitimate reason to remake all these shows?

So forget universal healthcare, the threat of Islamic fundamentalism and the financial crisis, the real issue in November’s presidential election should be which one of the candidates will put a stop to this remake business.

JAMES MORGAN

(Published in an edited form in the Epigram 15th Oct, issue 205.)

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