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July 10, 2007

Remakes: any good ones?

Posted on July 10, 2007 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Touching Evil

It can't have escaped anyone's notice that remakes - aka “format purchasing” - have become all the rage in the US of late (and other countries, too). The forthcoming Fall season has shows like Viva Laughlin (remake of the UK's Viva Blackpool) and Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares (remake of the UK's Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares) as well as existing remakes, such as Ugly Betty, The Office and many other minor shows on cable networks (eg Spouse Swap, Faking It, etc).

It's a good plan. Why bother having to come up with new series when you can buy in existing successful series from other countries? And why risk having the audience being unable to relate to a different country filled with people who have funny accents and maybe even speak a different language when you can buy the format behind a show more cheaply and then make it yourself with your own cast and your own scripts?

However, there's a realm of possible pain here. As you'll have noticed from the demise of US versions of Coupling, Absolutely Fabulous and other shows, it's possible to lose all the things made a show good in its native country when you remake it.

I'm assuming something like this happened when the networks failed to pick up a remake of BBC4's The Thick of It. As we all know, The Thick of It is rather excellent, so quite why the US networks weren't interested is unfathomable unless there were some bad cock-ups along the way.

Is it always the case that a remake has to be worse than the original?

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July 2, 2007

Review: Burn Notice 1x1

Posted on July 2, 2007 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Burn Notice

In the US: Thursdays, 10/9c, USA Network
In the UK: Not yet acquired but Hallmark or Five will probably get their greedy mitts on it

I'm rather partial to a good spy show. A good spy show is better than almost any other kind of genre show you can think of.

But note the use of the word 'good' there, because there haven't been many good spy shows. Not proper spy shows. Callan, The Sandbaggers, a couple of episodes of Man in a Suitcase but that's about it.

Don't you even think about mentioning Spooks. Just don't.

The other spy shows all suffer from a serious lack of realism. They aren't so much spy shows as action shows (or comedies in most other cases). And as Jeffrey Donovan points out during the voice over at the beginning of Burn Notice, most spy work is about as interesting as sitting in a dentist's waiting room all day. It isn't action work.

Burn Notice tries to have its cake and eat it. It tries to be a proper, grown-up spy show - the first the US has probably ever produced (don't even think of saying 24. Or Threat Matrix. Or whatever you were just about to say. Just don't). But it also tries to mix in a bit of action, a bit of humour - mostly through Donovan but also through MAN GOD Bruce Campbell - and a bit of that relentless “character” that USA Network is now (in)famous for.

And you know what? It actually works. I think.

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July 1, 2007

Doctor Who - 3x1-3x13 - Full series review

Posted on July 1, 2007 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Full Season Carusometer

Well, here it is, the moment you've all been waiting for: it's the unveiling of the first ever full-season Carusometer.

It's a bit small, isn't it? Sorry, my blog is only so wide and people's screens are only so much wider. Click on it to get a bigger version that won't mess with your eyes so much.

Anyway, as you can see, we started off all rightish with Smith and Jones, The Shakespeare Code and Gridlock. We then plummeted into some extraordinary depths with the Dalek two-parter, before beginning a slow crawl back up to the light via The Lazarus Experiment and 42 (which was really only as good as it was thanks to Graeme Harper's direction).

The Human Nature/Family of Blood two-parter was the first undisputed piece of excellence by the series, with Blink almost at the same heights (it would probably get a half-mark if The Carusometer believed in shades of grey and anything other than absolutes. It doesn't, so Blink gets a slight promotion) before a relatively even not-quite brilliant Master trilogy to finish off the series.

Compared with series one and series two then, series three is undoubtedly better, albeit slightly cheaper looking. Once again, we've had to sit through a relatively rubbish first third or so to get to the good stuff, but wasn't it good by the end? David Tennant's been allowed to find his feet properly and given a wide variety of material to work with; Sweet FA has generally had better material to work with than Pipes, even when the attention wasn't on her, but probably hasn't done quite as good a job with it. We've started to veer dangerously close to fanboy territory at times, but I don't think we yet crossed that particularly dangerous event horizon, from which no amount of effort will be able to extract it. And a whole new generation have been scared witless by the Master and got to realise the Daleks really aren't that frightening compared to some of the stuff that's out there.

We've also learned a few lessons this series:

  1. don't waste Graeme Harper on episodes like 42; save him up for stuff like Utopia. Imagine how much better those last three episodes would have been with Graeme Harper helming all of them. Still, he's only human and doing three episodes last year nearly wiped him out, so use him more wisely next year Rusty
  2. don't let Chris Chibnall write anything ever again. Even on his best days, nearly everyone else is better
  3. Rusty really can write. It's just sometimes he chooses not to

Here's to next year, hey?

But before I sign off, I'd just like to say that The Medium is Not Enough has declared the third series of Doctor Who to be a two or “Partial Caruso” on The Carusometer quality scale. A Partial Caruso corresponds to “a show in which David Caruso might volunteer to cameo as an evil alien genius. However, he will then ruin every take by being unable to understand any actor with an English accent and asking them to repeat the line. Fortunately, some quick thinking by script writers ensures that he is zapped by something sonic and converted into 17 CGI, airbrushed versions of himself that only have one line each, each dubbed by Sam Jones as revenge for Flash Gordon.”

For all my shiny reviews of this series' episodes, you only have to visit the Doctor Who 2007 category. Isn't that handy?

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