Matt LeBlanc comedy Episodes shows what can go wrong in remaking telly...
8 January 2011
… but what would the US networks make of Last Of The Summer Wine?
The history of bad UK to US TV adaptations is long and illustrious. From Coupling to Cracker via Life On Mars, the list of wrecks is so long, there's even a sitcom about it – Episodes – which starts on BBC2 this week. But in a red-hot Guardian exclusive, Stuart Heritage has gained access to plans to give a slew of British classics a Stateside spin. Compo, watch out!
UK summary: The definitive British gardening magazine show. If you ever wanted to know how to check cyclamen for fungal growth, or what makes your parsnips fork so unattractively, then this gently pastoral series is just what you've been looking for.
UK pitch: Drama series. Chad Gardener (Christian Slater) is a ruthless media tycoon with just one goal: total world domination. Over the course of 22 high-octane episodes, Gardener's World invites viewers to follow Chad's relentless march to power as he crushes his competitors, callously sleeps with their wives and surrounds himself with more staggering opulence than viewers will have ever seen before. His sole confidant is Titchmarsh (newcomer Alan Titchmarsh), the loyal British butler who loves nothing more than helping the public with their most common horticultural conundrums in an approachable yet authoritative manner.
Budget $3m per episode, to cover Slater's fee and the unusually high production values. Also includes Titchmarsh's contractually stipulated "Love Hut" – essentially an Argos shed with a mattress in it.
One Man And His Dog
UK summary: A televised set of sheepdog trials, where shepherds from around the country demonstrate their talent for this ancient country pursuit.
US pitch: Because Americans only know about sheepdog trials from the movie Babe, the One Man And His Dog remake will benefit from the addition of more talking pigs. That's why we propose One Man And His Talking Pig, where a farmer will attempt to herd sheep with an untrained pig that he's only just met. Then, to make the show even more Babe-like, each pig will be provided with a wisecracking voiceover in post-production, from celebrities as diverse as Joe Pesci, Mr T and – thanks to pioneering advances in voice-editing technology – the late Agnes Moorehead from Bewitched.
Budget $750,000 per episode, the majority of which will be used to stitch together Moorehead's voice in order for her to call the sheep "Derwood" in an amusing way.
UK summary: Beloved, long-running soap opera about the downtrodden working-class residents of east London's Albert Square.
US pitch: EastEnders cannot translate to American audiences in its current form, so an upscaling of location, character and plot is necessary. Therefore, episode one will revolve around lantern-jawed millionaire Billy Mitchell, and his affair with sensual bikini model Pat Butcher. Meanwhile, after glimpsing musclebound neurosurgeon Ian Beale in the shower, professional tennis star Dot Cotton will start to question whether or not he's secretly a government spy. Then again, this could just be another flare-up of the amnesia she sustained during her short-lived drag racing career …
Budget $75,000 per episode, to be spent mostly on a number of spectacular stunts, like the UFO that crashes into Minty's diamond mine and the army of ghost nuns that rise up to terrorise Zainab Masood.
On The Buses
UK summary: Riotous golden-age workplace sitcom about the exploits of saucy 70s bus driver Stan Butler and his put-upon nemesis Inspector Blake.
US pitch: Due to focus group information suggesting that buses are no longer a suitably aspirational mode of transport, On The Buses has now been retooled to become On The Spaceships, an upmarket and futuristic reboot of the classic British sitcom. Commander Stanley Butler (Kiefer Sutherland) is the ruggedly handsome first officer of the intergalactic USS Luxton and Blakey (WWE star The Undertaker) is a furious, war-obsessed alien with the stench of blood in his nostrils. Can Butler destroy Blakey before his minions destroy Earth? What's more, will Butler ever get his leg over with Suzy, the new canteen girl with the great big jubblies?
Budget At over $75m per episode, On The Spaceships will easily be the most expensive television show ever made.
The Sky At Night
UK summary: Iconic, record-breaking stargazing show that mixes sober discussion from leading astronomers with dry analysis of precisely what is happening in the night sky at any given time.
US pitch: To communicate the intricacies of the universe to a modern audience, the fundamental presentation device of The Sky At Night must be radically altered. Instead of one old guy sitting at a desk, the show will now take a more sports-orientated approach. A team of excitable pundits and celebrity guests will monitor the sky for every single breathtaking moment the universe has to offer. Super slow-motion HD replays will ensure that viewers will never again blink and miss another sudden disappearance of Jupiter's southern equatorial belt.
Budget $40,000 per episode. But can you really put a price on high-definition replays of gradual shadow transits of Neptune's moons?
Last Of The Summer Wine
UK summary: A group of pensioners wander around the dales, causing gentle trouble wherever they go. A heartwarming meditation on the value of camaraderie later in life.
US pitch: A group of pensioners – who, thanks to a lifetime of healthy eating, world-class dentistry and almost constant cosmetic surgery, now look like teenage androids – cruise around the glamorous meeting places of Los Angeles and have promiscuous and pharmaceutically aided sex with women young enough to be their grandchildren. Due to a pre-existing contractual arrangement with Don Johnson (Compo), the remake is obliged to replace any scene involving his character sliding down a hill in a runaway bathtub with sequences that either show him playing squash with the vigour of a man half his age or having energetic and mutually satisfactory intercourse with two college students at once.
Budget $500,000 per episode, including the cost of Don Johnson's facelift tape and memory-wiping medication for the actresses asked to appear in any love scenes.
Rosemary And Thyme
UK summary: Middle-aged Rosemary Boxer and Laura Thyme bond and turn to gardening as a way to escape their grief over their lost husbands. But no matter which beautiful garden they happen to visit, they'll invariably be called upon to solve a grisly – yet somehow cosy and lighthearted – murder.
US pitch: While the three main aspects of Rosemary And Thyme – the widows, the murders and the horticulture – will remain intact, it's been necessary to substitute Britain's well-kept gardens for the wilds of Borneo. This is where Rosemary (Lindsay Lohan) and Thyme (Paris Hilton) now live, on the run from the law after being wrongly convicted of murdering their husbands. Blinded by fury, their lives are now dictated by bloodthirsty vengeance as they slash, maim and kill their way up the shadowy network of warlords responsible for setting them up. They will not stop until justice has been done and everyone is soaked from head to toe in frothing arterial blood. Remake to retain the original's lilting, lightly orchestral theme tune.
Budget Theoretically quite cheap at $250,000 per episode. However, figure does not include separate $9m emergency bail and/or rehab fund for the two lead actresses.
The Tonight Show With Jay Leno - the highlights
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