Remakes: any good ones?

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?

I don’t think so. Many will argue that the US version of The Office is better than the UK version – I don’t like either so I can’t comment on which one’s less bad. And if we’re not talking purely cross-country transfers, then Battlestar Galactica is indisputably better than the 70s original; I’d even suggest that the Fantasy Island was similarly better when revived for the new millennium.

Going back to the 70s, Sanford and Son wasn’t awful – as good as Steptoe and Son? I’m not sure. But Three’s Company had as many moments as Man About The House.

Certainly, the US version of Touching Evil was fabulous in comparison to the entirely derivative, characterless Robson Green vehicle that the UK show was. I’d even say that Fitz, when it was remaking the UK scripts rather than originating its own, was better than Cracker.

How about you guys? Can you think of any remakes that were better than the originals? Could this be the beginnings of a meme? Probably not. But let me know your thoughts.