Imports Still Entertain

Imports of British TV series and concepts have long been a staple of American TV ever since The Avengers came to US TV in the mid 1960s and All In The Family was inspired by the BBC show Till Death Do Us Part a few years later. And the exchange across the pond has never been greater than today.

TV: Episodes — This new and wickedly funny Showtime series looks behind the process of English shows getting adapted for American audiences and the TV delivery system with smarts and a brilliant feel for how Anglo-American cultural differences rub against each other. A couple who have created an award-winning British series get reluctantly seduced into coming to Hollywood and making a U.S. version of their show.

Among its many delights is its razor sharp parody of Hollywood and the entertainment business that rings all too true even in its exaggerated portrayal. Superb casting includes former Friends star Matt LeBlanc who in each of the first few episodes has been building a nuanced character as the star of the American series. And for all its zingers, this show has a warm and fuzzy heart at its core, and has generated more out loud laugh out loud moments for me than most any TV comedy I’ve been a fan of in years.

TV/DVD: MI-5 Season Seven — Yeah, I have gone and on and on in these pages about my love and admiration for this BBC series, titled Spooks over in Blighty, about the English domestic intelligence agency and its ever-changing cast of classified operatives. It has had the damnedest time finding a network home.

It started on A&E for four seasons, then went to BBC America where season four was rebroadcast only in part before the show was canceled due to poor ratings. PBS picked it up two years ago, and now it has reached the seventh season, happily for me as I last saw season six on DVD.

No other show on TV confronts international and national issues of pressing if not urgent importance and moral and ethical conflict and ambiguity with such keen intelligence — pardon the pun — and dramatic skill. And it keeps getting better, deeper and sharper. And the good news is that two more seasons are already in the can, with number eight already available here on DVD, and a tenth one yet to be filmed sure to follow. Simply put, MI-5 is a TV masterpiece.

TV: Law & Order UK — Reversing the equation, the franchise that has been a staple of US TV for many satisfying years jumped eastward over the Atlantic for a British version that shows here on BBC America. And it survived intact right down to the “boink/boink” audio bumper between segments in each episode. The accents are different as are the settings, and in the “Order” portions the solicitors (lawyers) and judges wear the powdered wigs that are a tradition of British jurisprudence. But otherwise the show remains just as reliable and rewarding as the original American series was.

From The Progressive Populist, March 1, 2011


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