Breaking news from the Land of No New Ideas: NBC and the affable British production company Working Title are joining forces to remake popular British films for an American TV audience. Oh yes, you read that correctly — the folks behind Bridget Jones’s Diary, Notting Hill, Billy Elliot, Four Weddings and a Funeral and Nanny McPhee want to make those movies into American television series’.
“So, if I turn into an American, does that make me a Carrie or a Charlotte?”
The Guardian broke the news on Friday, noting that the idea is cost-effective “because they are basically reusing the same scripts.” And as an added bonus, “TV audiences are also already familiar with the properties from their film versions.”
Bridget Jones for American TV is the third really horrible cross-pond idea I’ve heard this year, behind MTV’s Americanized Skins and a Torchwood set in Detroit. Sure, it seems lazy to keep recycling creativity, but more than that, the things that make all these shows and movies great is their distinct British sensibility.
“I suppose I can take comfort in the fact that America can’t make a nanny disaster worse that Dick Van Dyke’s Cockney accent in Marry Poppins”
The old adage that America and Britain are just two countries separated by a common language is kind of funny, but it’s not really true. For one thing, Standards and Practices are way different. On network TV in Britain, characters can drop F-bombs like magical manna from heaven. Characters can barely get in a good “jack-ass” on American TV. And even on cable, where language laws are a little looser, there’s less tolerance for sex or alcohol or the other fun shenanigans that make life worth living TV worth watching.
And for another thing, British and American cultures are so different. It’s not just that whole driving on opposite sides of the street thing. Brits are less forward, less noisy, more subtle and ironic. Americans brag; Brits apologize. Americans tell you their life story at the word go; Brits obfuscate, with an(other) ironic twinkle in their eye. Americans say “douchebag” as the unintelligent catch-all for every insult; Brits say “blowhard,” “f–kwit,” “guttersnipe,” “chav,” “codger,” “manky,” “pillock,” “prat,” “wazzak” (“wazzock”/”wuzzock”). And those are the nice ones.
“If we get Americanized, this joint will be a Pixie Stick and that vodka will be Vitamin Water.”
“Yes, and this fantastic shag scene will be fully-clothed hair-brushing.”
The point I am trying to make is that American versions of British movies and TV won’t work because it is their innate British-ness that makes them so great.
Should I quote Mark Darcy from Bridget Jones’s Diary here? I think I should.
I realize there are elements of the ridiculous about me. And you’re right, my mother is pretty interesting. But the thing is, what I’m trying to say — very inarticulately — is that, in fact, perhaps despite appearances, Americans like British TV and movies very much. Just as they are.
What do you think of NBC wanting to remake British films for an American TV audience?