Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Why? Why? Why?

In the early 1990s, Granada TV in the UK came up with "Cracker." Written by Jimmy McGovern and starring Robbie Coltrane ("Harry Potter") as Fitz, a brilliant police psychologist whose own personal life is a mess, it was one of the most ingenious TV series ever devised.

ABC ran a very poor copy of it in the late '90s, starring the late Robert Pastorelli ("Murphy Brown") as Fitz. Comparing the US version to the UK version is a bit like comparing dinner theatre to Broadway. Needless to say, fans of the original series tuned out, and no one else ever tuned in.

Not taking the hint that once you've achieved perfection, you can't really copy it, Granada has sold the "Cracker" rights to TNT, which is developing a new version of the show, probably to make it a companion series to "The Closer," which in itself is a pale imitation of the UK's much-superior "Prime Suspect."

What the network executives don't get is that Fitz was as much Coltrane's creation as it was McGovern's, and you can't just recast such an indelible role. It'd be like trying to do a version of "The Sopranos" in the UK with someone other than James Gandolfini calling himself "Tony Soprano." Fans of the original just wouldn't buy it, no matter who was cast.

It's not the first sign that Hollywood is running out of good TV ideas. ABC has a new version of "Cupid" in the works, even though the original ran on the same network for one season in the '90s. The original "Cupid" was one of the cleverest concepts ever done on TV, starring a young Jeremy Piven and Paula Marshall in the lead roles. Even though creator Rob Thomas ("Veronica Mars") is helming the remake, he'll be hard-pressed to recreate the chemistry of the original.

For every show like "The Office" that makes a successful transition across the pond, you get a lot more like "Coupling" that don't. And of you are doing a remake of an older TV series, then why not be like "Battlestar Galactica," where at least the producers put an entirely new spin on the original story, surpassing the original.

And if American TV producers love British TV so much, then why not just buy the originals? Shows like "Hustle," "MI-5" and "Doctor Who" have proven to be very successful imports when shown on American cable, both critically and commercially.

While I'm glad Hollywood recognizes how great the original "Cracker" was (one of my Top 10 best ever series), they should realize you can't make lightning strike twice in the same place.

CASTING NEWS: OK, the rant is over. Speaking of "The Office," Academy Award nominee Amy Ryan is reprising her role as Dunder Mifflin's new HR manager after a terrific guest star appearance in last season's finale. Ryan is signed on for at least five episodes (and hopefully more). She had great chemistry with Steve Carell as a possible love interest, and her character's scenes with Kevin (the result of a practical joke by the staff) was perhaps the single-most clever bit by any sitcom this past season.

'MAD' CONTEST: With the release of Season 1 of "Mad Men" on DVD this week, AMC is holding a contest that allows people to film themselves performing a scene from the series, then uploading it to the channel's Web site. The winner will get a free trip to L.A. to appear in a walk-on role in the series. For details, visit: http://blogs.amctv.com/mad-men/2008/06/mad-men-contest-early-submissions.php.

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: You know, I checked out ABC's summer entries "Wipeout" and "I Survived a Japanese Game Show" during the points where Georgia was choking away the College World Series last week, and they weren't half-bad. Are either great TV? No. But are they amusing enough to whittle away the summer? Very much so. They kick off at 8 p.m.

Less amusing is Fox's reality entries "The Moment of Truth" and "Hell's Kitchen," also beginning at 8 p.m.

A new family-oriented series called "Secret Life of an American Teenager" (ABC Family, 8 p.m.) debuts tonight, starring Molly Ringwald and Ernie Hudson. It centers around a teen pregnancy. The reviews have been uneven, so I don't think we're going to be seeing another "Juno" here.


zodin2008 said...

Phillip, isn't the MINI "Rescue Me" on tomorrow night? It was Wednesday last week - no?

I didn't watch the original "Cracker" w/ Robbie Coltrane, I will take your word it was a brilliant series - but considering there is already one failed remake, why do it again? I don't watch "The Closer" mainly because of Kyra Sedgewick's awful, phony and over the top "ham" performance supposedly playing a southerner. As someone who grew up in Georgia, I have yet to meet a southerner who in fact acts remotely as stereotypical as Kyra Sedgewick's awful performance - though she gets nominated for Emmy's every year.

Here's a clue you morons in Hollywood...why not get on a plane and go and meet REAL Georgians and see how they act before making a caricature of us. Idiots.

I am down to the last 2 "Burn Notice" episodes on DVD, so I will finish the show in time for season 2.

I like the show and the leads of Jeffrey Donovan, Gabrielle Anwar and Bruce Campbell have awesome chemistry. The show is really a perfect summer series (even set in Miami adds to that) and it almost feels like a cool "throwback" series to the 80's. That being said, I can't say it's a great show, but very solid entertainment.

GREAT news about Amy Ryan. Just thinking about her scenes with Kevin still make me laugh, 2 months later. I am really pleased they convinced her to stick around - why stop @ 5 episodes. Make her a regular castmember. Hopefully, Jan won't continue to ruin Michael's pathetic life so he can have real hapiness with someone like Ryan's character.

Phillip Ramati said...

You're correct, Rescue Me is Wednesday. I fixed the posting.

Glad you are liking Burn Notice, one of the best shows of last summer, second only to Mad Men. I can't wait for both to get started.

Phillip Ramati said...

Actually, double-checked, and Rescue Me is on tonight.