TV of the 2000s: 5 British Series That Didn’t Translate Nearly As Well As “The Office”

In “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,” Spock casually observed, “As a matter of cosmic history, it has always been easier to destroy than create.” As such, it should come as no surprise that, when the networks have the opportunity to avoid creating something new in favor of destroying something old, they damned well take it. As we continue our look back at the TV of the 2000s, we decided to revisit several of the networks’ attempts to adapt popular British series to match American sensibilities. As “The Office” has proven, they can sometimes make it work, but as these five shows remind us, they very often can’t.

5. Eleventh Hour (CBS): In 2006, ITV broadcast a four-part series entitled “Eleventh Hour,” starring Patrick Stewart as Professor Ian Hood, a special advisor of the British government’s Joint Science Committee who investigated threats related to various scientific developments and experiments. Each episode was 90 minutes in length, and it was received well enough in the UK that CBS immediately set forth on a quest to develop the concept into a weekly series in the States. Stewart was switched out for another talented Brit – Rufus Sewell – and even though he dropped his accent in favor of going “American” with his character (now renamed Jacob Hood), we were still optimistic about the series. Alas, despite an intriguing premise, the adaptation suffered from a couple of major problems.

First off, critics perceived the show as “troubled” before its premiere because of the delay in releasing the first episode for review, but, fair enough, many series have managed to survive that particular issue. The bigger problem came from CBS’s steadfast determination to make “Eleventh Hour” fit into the same procedural mold utilized by all of its other series. As such, the predominant thrust tended to be about the crime of the week, leaving not nearly enough focus on Dr. Hood, whose considerable knowledge on scientific matters makes him an enigma. Viewers should’ve been left wondering, “Who is this guy? What’s his story?” But just as we were starting to learn about Hood’s past and getting the impression that he might actually be able to find romance for the first time since the death of his wife, the series steered back into a let’s-stick-to-the-case mindset, making its cancellation after only 18 episodes less disappointing than it might otherwise have been.

4. Worst Week (CBS): The original series – which bore the slightly longer title of “The Worst Week of My Life” – had three incarnations. The first focused on the week leading up to the marriage of its two lead characters, the second shone the spotlight on the week before the birth of their first child, and the whole thing culminated in a three-part holiday special entitled “The Worst Christmas of My Life.” Anyone who enjoys a good bit of slapstick would see the merit in trying to adapt the series for an American audience, but after watching the pilot, I wrote, “Despite the first episode being thoroughly hilarious, it’s hard to imagine how they’re going to keep up that kind of momentum on a weekly basis.” What I didn’t write – but what I did indeed wonder – was why, given how much testing goes into television nowadays, they didn’t change the title. I mean, c’mon, if you watched the show, then don’t tell me you didn’t find yourself wondering from Episode #1 just how long they were planning to drag things out. In the end, “Worst Week” ran for 16 episodes, and given that its final episode* was entitled “The Epidural,” it’s clear that the series never had a chance to expand much beyond its source material. Not that they could’ve managed it much faster: getting from premiere to bringing the pregnancy to fruition within five months is certainly nothing to sneeze at. Still, with all British-adapted series, the rule of thumb is that you should create your own identity as quickly as possible…and they didn’t.

* As far as the show’s chronology is concerned, anyway. The actual final episode was entitled “The Party,” and it should’ve actually been the fifth episode. Instead, it was held back from the initial run and was later (and somewhat inexplicably) thrown into the network’s Saturday night schedule some four months after “The Epidiural” aired.

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Ausiello keeps track of the bubble shows

EW.com’s Michael Ausiello is tuned into the world of television, and his information can usually be trusted. He has an article devoted to the current status of all the shows (renewed, cancelled, on the bubble, etc.) and suggests that readers bookmark it. Here are his thoughts on a few of the shows currently on the bubble.

Scrubs: Prospects brightening.
The Unusuals: A long shot.
Eleventh Hour: Could go either way. Now a long shot. Hearing the crew is looking for other work.
The Unit: A long shot. Now hearing it’s a goner.
Dollhouse: Could go either way. Now hearing it’s a long shot.
Fringe: Sure thing.
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles: A long shot.
Chuck: Could go either way.
Life: A long shot. Now hearing it’s a goner.
Medium: Safe bet.
My Name is Earl: Could go either way. Fox may rescue it if NBC passes.
Southland: Sure thing.
Privileged: Prospects brightening.
Reaper: It’s a goner.

I’m bummed to hear that the news on “The Unit” isn’t getting better. CBS invited Shawn Ryan to pitch story ideas for another season, and the show has been pretty great the last two years. It’s good to see that “Fringe” is considered a sure thing — I hadn’t heard much about how well it was doing ratings-wise this season. “Southland” continues to get good reviews. I don’t know that the world needs another cop show. My tastes are pretty particular after watching great shows like “NYPD Blue,” “The Shield” and “The Wire,” so I haven’t watched it, but if I keep hearing good things, I may dive in this summer when there isn’t much else on.

If you don’t see your favorite show on this list, be sure to check this link for the latest info. I’d like to see Ausiello tackle some of the basic and pay cable shows on FX, TNT, TBS, USA, HBO and Showtime, but this page only covers the major networks.

  

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Currently on the Bubble: Half the Reasons I Watch Network TV.

Have you noticed an intoxicating scent of fear and desperation in the air recently? When you catch that scent wafting in from the general direction Hollywood, you know we’ve reached the time when the networks have begun to look very, very seriously at their schedules in order to determine which of the shows that haven’t yet earned pick-up notices for their next season actually deserve those notices. This year, the stench is particularly strong, what with the combination of Jay Leno’s new M-F 10 PM show killing five perfectly good spots for hourlong drama on NBC, the general economic situation, and the American public still not really having much of an interest in watching anything original. Keeping in mind, of course, that when I say “the American public,” I’m not talking about you

“No, Mum, they haven’t officially canceled ‘Eleventh Hour’ yet. I’ll keep you posted, though, shall I?”

Nellie Andreeva at the Hollywood Reporter has put together a piece where she gives a rundown of what shows are still waiting to find out if they’re going to get a pink slip or a terse note saying, “Yeah, yeah, you’ve got another season, now get your ass back to work,” while Hercules over at Ain’t It Cool News has taken the work out of it for you and simply offered up three succinct lists: Likely To Return, Unlikely to Return, and 50/50.

Taking the “Likely to Return” list – “Ghost Whisperer,” “How I Met Your Mother,” “Law & Order,” “Numb3rs,” “Southland,” and “Ugly Betty” – out of discussion for the moment, I don’t mind telling you that, between the other two lists, it’s highly depressing to see about half of my TiVo Season Passes get cited. (Not mentioned in the Hollywood Reporter piece is “Kings,” but I agree with Herc that it’s probably been left out because its permanent vacation at the end of its Saturday night death slot run is considered a given.) Regular Premium Hollywood readers will already know that our man John Paulsen has been covering the death knell of several of these shows and established his feelings on what he’d be bummed to see depart, but here are the five shows – one per network, so as not to be greedy – that I’d most like to see earn a reprieve from cancellation:

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My Most Memorable Interviews of 2008

I recently went back and counted up how many interviews I’ve done for Bullz-Eye since I first came aboard the site, and I was astounded to find that – counting both one-on-one conversations as well as teleconferences – the number tops 200. Wow. Anyone who thinks that I don’t work hard for my money, I say to you that the figures speak for themselves. Looking back at the list of folks with whom I’ve chatted during the course of the past year, I find myself thinking the same thing I think every day of every year: it might’ve sucked to do all of that unpaid freelance writing for all those years, but it was totally fucking worth it. And with that bold statement, allow me to present a list of the interviews from 2008 that still remain fresh in my mind…for a variety of reasons.

* Best-received interview of the year:

Tom Smothers. I’m used to hearing from my friends when I do an interview that they enjoy, but I heard from several complete strangers that really loved the conversation Tom and I had about everything from the censorship of “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” to the night John Lennon and Harry Nilsson were thrown out of the Brothers’ show at the Troubadour.

“Harry comes in with John Lennon. Well, he told John Lennon, ‘Tom likes hecklers. It helps him. It gets him through his show.’ And every time there was a silence, they were hollering out things like, ‘God fucks pigs!’ I mean, it was really filthy! Blows were thrown, and it just got wild. The next day, I got flowers and all kinds of apologies from Lennon and from Harry Nilsson.”

* Most politically-incorrect interview of the year:

Tony Clifton, the former alter ego of Andy Kaufman that’s now being performed by Bob Zmuda. To say that Clifton works a little blue is the understatement of the century, but it’s more than just dirty jokes; his whole act is one where he unabashedly says things that he knows will piss people off…and if you don’t know it’s an act, then it’s really gonna piss you off.

“Some people say that, with the repertoire I’ve got and with the rapport between the band and me, a few people have quoted it as being like Buddy Rich. I call ‘em like I see ‘em, just like Buddy. But Buddy was coked up most of the time, and I don’t do that. I prefer the Jack Daniel’s. I’m fucked up most of the time during the show. I have fun with the band. I call ‘em niggers. And I got a few Japs in there, I call ‘em Nips. I got everything mixed up in that band, like I say. I call ‘em the way I see ‘em. Listen, lemme tell ya this: you know why I get away with it? ‘Cause I got black people in my family. Yeah. And I’ve got the rope to prove it. Look, the blackies are good. They’re good for the sports and for the music. See, the Jews are good at making the money…or at taking the money from you.”

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