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.