Recently it seems as if there has been a rash of American remakes of British shows, with three beginning within a little over a week of each other. This isn’t new; of course, there have been American versions of many British shows for as long as I can remember. Some are good and some are bad, but I’m not of the camp that the idea is all a bad thing. No, they’re generally not as good as the originals but that doesn’t make them horrible ideas. I also don’t agree that it’s just laziness. There are plenty of brilliant shows from other countries that people from the United States never get to see because they aren’t aired here. Perhaps it would be a good idea to just show them here instead of remaking them, but let’s face it; most people wouldn’t watch them. They like glossy American productions with glossy American actors. And maybe they’re like my mom, who can’t understand half of what people are saying in various accents. Whatever it is here are a few of the remakes and the shows that inspired them:
I really love this show. I may be too old to love this show but I don’t really give a crap because I do love it. When it first started five years ago I was slightly younger but still not young enough to warrant loving a show about teenagers finishing off their schooling at Roundview College in Bristol. It’s toted as the realistic view of kids that age, what they get up to, what they think, and how they behave. I suppose it is, to a degree. I know that I didn’t smoke boatloads of pot or sleep around at the end of high school but if it had been an option I might have. But whether or not it was how you behaved yourself you can’t deny that these kids are having a good time. What’s more the characters are charming. The first time I watched Skins I wasn’t all that impressed. I’m not sure if I was in the wrong mindset or what but a couple months later I decided to give it another go and loved it. By the end of the pilot episode I was completely engaged with the characters and couldn’t wait to learn more about them. Each of the characters has their own episode where they’re the central character so by the end of the series you know everyone pretty damned well. And the exploits of Tony, Sid, Michelle, Cassie, Jal, Chris, Anwar, and Maxxie were very dear to me. Sadly their journey ended after two series, when they took their A Levels and were prepared to go on to University. I was sad to see them go, and was tentative to embrace the second generation cast, even though it was lead by the enigmatic younger sister of lead series one and two character, Tony Stonem, who was a favorite character of mine. It was slow going for a few episodes but eventually I learned to love Effy, Pandora, Katie, Emily, Freddie, Cook, Thomas, Noami, and JJ just as well as their predecessors. But now their time has ended and we’re getting read for the third generation cast to take over in a few days. I’m excited to see who they are, but I still miss all who came before.
Now, of course, there is American Skins. I, unlike many devoted to the original, don’t mind. I don’t think that everything that comes out of America is slodge and I don’t think a cable channel at ten o’clock is going to need to censor as much as many have feared. In fact, even though it’s MTV they seem to have been very dedicated to preserve the feel of the original program, which is impressive. Disappointingly they decided to pretty much remake the first series of the show rather than come up with their own characters and storylines. And who is they? Considering MTV brought over Bryan Eisley and Jaime Brittan, the father son duo who thought up Skins in the first place, it just seems like laziness. Changing colloquialisms and small character traits is not really enough. The first episode was good enough, but it was almost exact to the original and I couldn’t help feeling like the actors were reciting someone else’s lines. I would have liked something new. It has been well reviewed, however, and I’ve heard tell that the first episode was nearly exact but it deviates from there, so I am still holding out hope that it will feel fresher later. And I enjoyed the first hour well enough. Do I think it will be as good as the original. No. Not a chance, they never are. But, come January 27th when Skins starts back up again I don’t think I’ll mind a double dose every week.
I love love love this show. There are a lot of vampire dramas out there. There are a lot of werewolf dramas out there. They are gripping and dramatic and often overly romantic. Being Human is none of that. Yes, it’s about a vampire, and yes it’s about a werewolf, but Being Human isn’t about human being entwined in supernatural stuff, it’s about supernatural beings trying to be, well… human. Mitchell and George became friends when a group of vampires, prejudice against werewolves, tried to kill George in a parking lot. George was freshly turned, understandably upset, and living on his own after leaving his family, friends, and girlfriend due to his affliction. Mitchell intervened, not sharing the prejudice, and the two became friends, both working in a Bristol hospital. In the pilot episode, after Mitchell has freshly turned one of the hospital nurses, Lauren, the vampire decides he needs to try and live a human life, and invites George to rent a flat with him and make a go of it as normal people. They rent a place and live happily for about a day before it becomes apparent that the former occupant wants them out. The former occupant is Annie, a ghost that becomes fast friends with the two when it’s discovered that they can see and interact with her. She died young, in an accident involving the stairs, and is sad, wishful, but very happy to finally have someone to talk to. She also enjoys making dozens of cups of tea that she can’t drink. Of course nothing is as simple as deciding to be human and the three are plagued by constant adversary; Annie’s former fiancé and their landlord, Owen, who’s not as innocent as he seems, Mitchell’s old partner in crime who’s unwilling to allow Mitchell to leave the fold, and their own demons. The third series is about to start soon on BBC Three and I can not wait, considering the place where series two ended off, but in the meantime there’s always American (or Canadian, it seems) Being Human to keep me entertained.
I wasn’t sure what to think about a version of Being Human for this side of the pond. The idea is a good enough, and translatable. It’s not a well known show in the United States. All the pieces were together for a pretty decent remake. The problem was, of course, that I was so attached to Aiden Turner, Russell Tovey, and Lenora Crichlow that I really couldn’t imagine anyone else in the roles. Not to mention that the pilot episode featured different actors, apart from Tovey, and rewatching that felt rather weird. However, once I finally mustered up the nerve to watch the remake I was pleasantly impressed. It did a good job of staying true to the plotlines of the original series while still feeling fresh. The vampire, now gaggingly called Aiden, is a bit too chiseled and stereotypical for my liking, but likely only because Mitchell so wasn’t. The ghost, Sally, is a bit tougher than her American counterpart, taking immediately to getting in the faces of her two new roommates, while Annie felt a bit more reserved. They are, however, equally tragic in their separate ways. The werewolf, now called Josh, is as sarcastic and awkward as George was, but in different in the way things always are with different actors. The main hurdle was cleared, though. I liked all the new characters separate of their original counterparts and when they spoke their words felt like there own. The major victory, however, I believe came at the ending of the episode. It ended on a cliffhanger similar to a plotline in the original pilot, but I found myself still biting my nails. If that’s not a sign of success I don’t know what is.
I intended to get into Shameless far before I did. It was one of those shows that continually get brought up when talking about British television. Probably for two reasons; it’s good, and it’s been on for eight years, which is substantially longer than most British television shows. It’s also the one of the three that I’ve watched the least of, and this is also for two reasons. One, starting a show eight series in is difficult, and two, it’s largely unavailable in the United States. Series one has been released on DVD but it’s the only series that has, and I’ve yet to see it on BBC America. That’s not to say, of course, that I don’t like it, because I do, I’m just… glad the US got its hooks in so that I can see more of it. The story centers on the Gallagher family. The mother is absent and patriarch, Frank, is too busy drinking himself silly to do too much taking care of the six children; Lip, Ian, Carl, Debbie, Liam, and the eldest Fiona who does most of the child rearing. They live on a council estate in Manchester where the kids pay most of the bills and Frank spends his time either passed out on the floor or at the local bar. Later series revolve more heavily around other families living in the same area that are both friends and foes of the Gallaghers. It’s a little bit comical and a little bit depressing, but from what I’ve seen and from its continuing success I’d waver to say its always entertaining.
American Shameless is transplanted to one of the less nice areas of Chicago and stars some big names; William H. Macy, Emmy Rossum, and Joan Cusack to name a few. It’s also on Showtime, which gives it substantially more room to be what it should be; gritty and real. It had been awhile between my watching of the original first episode and the first airing on Showtime so the contrast between the two shows was not so fresh in my mind, but upon re-viewing the UK series I was struck by how very similar they are. Like both shows that I’ve already mentions most of the same storylines were adhered to causing a rather stark comparison. However, the gravity that I got from this new version of Shameless was much more profound than in the original. Walking away from the exploits of the UK Gallaghers feels lighter, much less real and almost cartoony. Whereas it feels as if the feeling the US version is going for is much grittier and almost tragic. And let’s be real, the story is sort of depressing. There are always two ways of going about a story such as Shameless and it sort of feels to me like the two versions are taking dissimilar paths. One’s going the kooky route, while the other tries to be weightier. Whether or not this will continue for the rest of the series is anyone’s guess, but this was another remade series that I was pretty impressed with, but maybe that’s because I wasn’t as attached to the former cast members.