American Remakes of British Television: Transformations and Mistranslations

American Remakes of British Television: Transformations and Mistranslations

Heather Marcovitch

Language: English

Pages: 258

ISBN: 0739146726

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Ever since Norman Lear remade the BBC series Till Death Us Do Part into All in the Family, American remakes of British television shows have become part of the American cultural fabric. Indeed, some of the programs currently said to exemplify American tastes and attitudes, from reality programs like American Idol and What Not to Wear to the mock-documentary approach of The Office, are adaptations of successful British shows. Carlen Lavigne and Heather Marcovitch's American Remakes of British Television: Transformations and Mistranslations is a multidisciplinary collection of essays that focuses on questions raised when a foreign show is adapted for the American market. What does it mean to remake a television program? What does the process of "Americanization" entail? What might the success or failure of a remade series tell us about the differences between American and British producers and audiences?

This volume examines British-to-American television remakes from 1971 to the present. The American remakes in this volume do not share a common genre, format, or even level of critical or popular acclaim. What these programs do have in common, however, is the sense that something in the original has been significantly changed in order to make the program appealing or accessible to American audiences.

The contributors display a multitude of perspectives in their essays. British-to-American television remakes as a whole are explained in terms of the market forces and international trade that make these productions financially desirable. Sanford and Son is examined in terms of race and class issues. Essays on Life on Mars and Doctor Who stress television's role in shaping collective cultural memories. An essay on Queer as Folk explores the romance genre and also talks about differences in national sexual politics. An examination of The Office discusses how the American remake actually endorses the bureaucracy that the British original satiri

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 Fabbrini, Sergio. “Layers of Anti-Americanism: Americanization, American Unilateralism and Anti-Americanism in a European Perspective.” European Journal of American Culture 23, no. 2 (2004): 79–94. Kellner, Douglas. “Network Television and American Society: Introduction to a Critical Theory of Television.” Theory and Society 10 (1981): 31–62. Marling, William H. How American Is Globalization? Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006. Miller, Jeffrey.

British creative concepts have been Americanized, with varying levels of success, masking their British origins through local production. Within the broader context of globalization and the transformation of television markets, this chapter sets out to address the British presence in the U.S. television market (Britain’s largest export market by far), focusing on the industrial and broader policy motivations behind export initiatives. Increasingly Britain’s export successes are dominated by

U.K. Queer as Folk U.S. Channel 4 logo Showtime logo Disclaimer “Queer as Folk is a celebration of the lives and passions of a group of gay friends. It is not meant to reflect all of gay society” and “This program contains nudity, sexuality and coarse language—viewer discretion is advised” Opening title sequence Title card on fixed background Dance sequence followed by title card with rainbow-colored line Voiceover narration Vincent’s monologue: close up on colored background: intimate

downsizing and layoffs, and the constant satire of team-building exercises keep the two versions in very familiar cultural territories. Despite gross similarities in storyline and character development, the Americanization of the series has led to some revealing distinctions. Although inconsistent with the demographic makeup of Scranton, PA (according to the 2000 Census), the Dunder Mifflin staff is racially diverse, standing in stark contrast to the predominantly white staff at Wernham Hogg. 13

We assume this reflects the sensitivity of casting directors to the need for racial and ethnic identification by the American audience; we want to see people who look like us. Moreover, this diversity provides the endless potential of inappropriate comments that can be offered by Michael Scott. The hopelessness associated with a mid-level managerial job as displayed in the British series is certainly present in the American series, but toned down appreciably. 14 This is consistent with a slightly

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