Tuesday, January 19, 2010

An American "Torchwood?" Oh my.

So the news came out today that Fox is developing a U.S. version of "Torchwood." The downside is that, with the exception of "The Office," I'm loathe to see any UK show I enjoy -- or not enjoy that often, as is the case with "Torchwood" -- subjected to any ham-fisted makeovers by American TV networks. We just don't do subtlety that well.

On the plus side, the new script is being written by Russell T. Davies himself and overseen by "Torchwood"'s original production team so it could turn out to be great -- an updated version of "The X-Files" but with more gratuitous sex and jokes about Wales. (If they do a US version, what city takes the place of Cardiff when it comes to gentle jibes and verbal beatings? Cleveland?)

The article seems to indicate that some original cast members may take part including John Barrowman, which would be nifty. I hope Fox knows I'll watch the show no matter what if they bring over Russell Tovey and add him to the cast. Just FYI.

The most troubling aspect of the whole story, though, is the last paragraph that mentions something about a "Doctor Who" reboot for American audiences, which just about made me vomit up my TARDIS birthday cake.* No, no and no again! Some things like malt vinegar and an elegance in taunting the French are meant to be British and nothing else. What's more, if American networks keep bringing over UK shows, the effect of being an Anglophilic TV snob will be rendered moot and I, for one, will not stand for that!

What do you think about a possible Americanized "Torchwood?"

* P.S. Yes, I got an actual TARDIS post-birthday cake last night from my friend, who makes the world's best cakes. Check out the craftsmanship!


agent57 said...

My first reaction was "urgh", but on second thought they could possibly make it work, if they go about it the right way... that is, create new characters and plot lines, and distance it from the Whoniverse. (Is that what we're calling it these days?) Maybe Torchwood set up some bases in the US (I haven't been keeping up with the show *bad fan*) and this is one of them? In other words, emulate the US Office's success by keeping the formula but not all of the details, instead of going the US Life on Mars route by copying the whole thing but doing it OMG BETTER!!! (Yeah, right. *gag*)

But the Doctor himself? No, no, never. How could the Tardis ever be anything but a blue box, (except for when it was) and how could that blue box ever make any sense to non-UK viewers? (And the rest of us, who go out of our way to make sense of it?) I just can't wrap my head around any way it could work. Luckily I think there are enough US Who fans that would riot if they tried it. And the rest of the US isn't geeky enough to watch anyway?

Frisco Squid said...

Well, technically speaking, wasn't Captain Jack an American anyway? Maybe they should just make the American "Torchwood" American about things instead of a poorly executed Brit-Com on American soil? I mean there must be something that American television does well... somewhere... Personally, I find reality television an abomination. So what about... you know, the ways that American science fiction is different from British science fiction. Make it big and epic with the underdog winning in the end like "Battlestar Gallactica." Or, show the way properly implemented diplomacy can fix anything like "Star Trek: Next Gen."

Oh, and nice cake. How was the frosting?

Liz said...

I agree completely. If Torchwood US is simply another division of the UK Torchwood and they give it its own identity, I think it could be interesting -- again, kind of like The X-Files but with the knowledge that aliens do exist. Especially if they give Rusty a crack at it and he can recreate the intensity and general awesomeness of Children of Earth.

Oh, and I will absolutely join the riot if they try to US-ify Doctor Who. Grr!

Spencer said...

But, on the upside - it's FOX - The first 5 eps will be changed from whatever Davies writes to be more about the reason that the AmericanCaptJack is only seen in a duster and Speedos... then it'll be cancelled because it's too "sophisticated" for the audience.*

*see Whedonverse - any show on FOX.

Cara King said...

Fab cake!

I was going to say that an American Torchwood, if done right, might work....but then I read Spencer's comment. Dead right. If it's on Fox, it will be ruined, and then dumped.

Dr Who, though? Would never work. And I doubt they'd try! (I suspect that's a rumor as valid as "Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy's going to be totally naked.") ;-)


KT said...

An American Doctor Who would just be wrong.

But a U.S. Torchwood I think could be okay. The original was fun, but was always had issues with plot holes and inconsistent character development. I don't know if that would improve any, with the same producers (and Fox execs) at the wheel, but a girl can hope. It would be fun to see the concept really done justice.

Anonymous said...

Those of you with concerns about the British-to-American conversion are overlooking a very important, and graver, concern:


Exactly how badly do we think that FOX'S Standards and Practices offices are going to bowlderize a show whose main character is an OMNISEXUAL, immortal time traveler?

I could see another network getting away with it, but this is FOX.

Stephanie said...

After what NBC did to 'Coupling', I have no interest in seeing what Fox would do to 'Torchwood'.

Michele said...

Love the cake!

As for US TW, I don't see the point, given TW is apparently much more popular over there than over here anyway. I keep hearing that there are more fans of TW than of DW in the US.

Plus, why would anyone imagine RTD wouldn't just screw over the show all over again?

jenny said...

As for Torchwood Four being "lost" in America... as long as RTD and Julie Gardner are heading it up and Fox lets them actually run the show without its infernal interference, I'm on board.

buy r4

cl said...

What an awesome cake!

I think an American Torchwood could work. I'm not sure that having many of the original Torchwood people helps its case. Except John Barrowman, of course, He makes everything better. I just feel like Davies has never edited his work. Ever. I'm glad he resurrected the Doctor, and I watch both spinoffs (in terms of quality I would say Sarah Jane is more consistent, but when Doctor Who is good it is the best).

Speaking of Russell Tovey, I'm far more concerned about how an American Being Human would turn out. That is pointless.

Michele said...

cl: not only does RTD not edit his own work, he doesn't let the Script Editor do HIS job either!

And yes, SJA's been far more consistent. At least they never made Rani feel bad because Maria's dad took her overseas. (Interestingly enough, I prefer Rani to Maria, just as I prefer Martha to Rose.)

Anonymous said...

I can see an American TW working, maybe, but on Fox? Ew, probably not so much. And count me as very skeptical of RTD's ability to helm anything consistently. He has some amazing ideas and he can write a character scene like nobody's business, but he also has a very bad tendency to go waaay over the top and pull things out of his butt, plot-wise. Look at the last two eps of DW: amazing, amazing character work married to an utter trainwreck of a plot. It was like he had six or eight huge emotional character moments in his mind, but then couldn't come up with a story that would connect them in any logical sense at all.

And for the love of all that's holy, Americans SHOULD NOT do Doctor Who, any more than they should be trying to do Robin Hood. DW is English in a way that I think is very culture-specific, and its charm would be almost impossible to translate. It's not just the humor or the cultural references or the accents, it's the whole vibe, the whole underlying philosophy. For a show that's ostensibly aimed at kids/ families, there's a LOT of very sophisticated material in Who, and a lot of it is presented so subtly that you almost don't realize it's there until two or three days later, when a revelation of some sort will stop you dead in your tracks or leave you feeling gobsmacked or kicked in the gut. My general sense is that US TV audiences in general would find this sort of thing entirely too dull or confusing.

Maybe, maybe in their respective heydays, Joss Whedon or Chris Carter might've been able to do a credible time-travel adventure series, but I doubt if either one could have made it work over the long haul without descending into pure schtick or adolescent self-indulgence.

Also, DW is politically very subversive in a way that almost certainly would be either toned down or dumbed down or removed completely (especially if it ended up on Fox). Certainly you'd never get wonderful moments such as the one in "Fires of Pompeii," where the father chides his son for hanging out at the local tavern with all those "Etruscans and Christians," a subtle dig/ reminder to the audience that even major religions once had their start in small cults that were regarded as downright kooky at the time. Also, you get the constant emphasis on creativity, on free will, on freedom from tyrannical governments and soul-draining corporations, and right now, I think this country is just too right-leaning socially to really dig that. DW is also gay-friendly and casts a wide variety of actors--you see a lot of different ages and races and body shapes/ sizes, and my fear would be that an American cast would be nauseatingly homogenized. One of the things I love about DW is that the women are not all stick figures, the guys are not all buff/ripped athletes, people have bad skin and less-than-perfect teeth, etc. At the time the show first aired, I remarked to a friend that if this were a US show, the catty media would have been all over Billie Piper to a) lose weight, and b) get her overbite fixed. I also love how this is one show where middle-aged women and old men are shown as funny, sexy, attractive, and interesting.

None of which is to say that the US absolutely shouldn't attempt a time-traveling series, but it should be its own product, not a strained attempt to "translate" DW into a form that US audiences would "get." There are many similarities, for example between the US show West Wing and the UK series Party Animals, but the latter doesn't try to be a clone of the former, though I think Sorkin was definitely was an influence on Party Animals.

Okay, very long-winded post. Love the TARDIS cake, btw. That's brilliant! : )

Amber said...

I've never really understood why people get so upset about the Americanization of British shows. If American TV execs want to spend millions of dollars on something that will probably fail then that's their problem. And if the new version is horrible--which it often is--that doesn't really detract from how awesome the original was. If anything, it'll probably introduce Torchwood as we know it to a whole new audience.

The real issue, I think, is what if the American Torchwood is really good? If it's going to be on FOX--a network notorious for canceling great shows like Firefly and Arrested Development--we probably won't even see more than a handful of episodes.

Red said...

I like Torchwood, but mostly because of the characters and their omnisexuality. The least convincing hook-ups, to me, were Tosh and Owen, a straight couple. What makes Capt Jack so fun was his omnisexuality and comparing his relationship with Ianto vs his with Capt John Hart. I wasn't a big fan of his flirtation with Gwen, but I figure he just flirts with everyone.

And I echo everyone's concern about it being on Fox. Insert rant about Firefly, Dollhouse, and Arrested Development.

arghc said...

I can't remember if it was Who or Torchwood, but they've already said that Cardiff is built on a rift in space and time like San Francisco, so the US location has already been selected if they pay attention to their own established continuity (like the hellmouth in Cleveland 8-).

Like many have said, there should be no problem with an American branch of Torchwood, the problem is if they do more than occasionally borrow Capt. Jack (or Gwen but they might be able to take Martha and Mickey) gutting the UK Torchwood.

Michele said...

They'll never get Mickey - Noel Clarke doesn't want to play the role again - and anyway he's too busy with his film career.

I think Freema's more interested in doing a US/UK crossover of Law & Order: UK than she'd be in a US version of Torchwood (judging by her comment that she'd 'bite' Dick Wolf's arm off if he gave her chance to do one!).

Sareberry said...

Blarg... Sounds to me like Davies will be Fox's next Whedon. Note I am not comparing their styles, just observing that Fox has a slight problem with originality. I would guess if they brought in an American Torchwood, Fox would be canceling either it or Fringe within a couple of months, and frankly, I love Fringe, leave me with my Fringe, please.

cjp said...

Fox? Really? Oh, I can't wait for the watered down Quaker version of Captain Jack. He'll probably be straight and monogomous. Even with RTD involved there is exactly a 4.3% chance of this working. I did the math. Trust me.

sean said...

Eh, I'm not really interested in seeing this happen (and they should def leave DW alone - you don't see Britain remaking Star Trek, do you?) but I think everyone saying 'OH NOES! CAPT JACK WILL BE STRAIGHT BECAUSE FOX IS AFRAID OF THE HOMOSEXUALS!' is kind of going overboard. Glee anyone? American Idol? Family Guy? House? Come on. Fox News and Fox Network are two totally different entities, there's no need to confuse the two. Rubert Murdoch loves to play both sides.

agent57 said...

Sean, I was going to bring up the DW is Britain's Star Trek (or maybe it's the other way around) thing as well. I think that's kind of a good analogy for the differences in US and British storytelling. Big-group-diplomacy versus small-team-with-lots-of-grey-area. (Oversimplification versus other oversimplification) And I agree that I'm not sure that Fox would be afraid of the show for the sexual content. (Though the examples you give seem to fall into the categories of funny!gay, subtext, and girl-on-girl-is-okay, which is kind of annoying, but true of most other networks over here.) They seem more afraid of shows that have strange methods of storytelling or mixed genres. Since we don't really know yet what the exact premise of the US Torchwood would be (true copy or permutation) it might still fit into what they consider safe.

Forget Firefly*, I'm still mad at them for canceling The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.

I've got to say I think that bringing Rusty over with it seems like a bad idea, and that's aside from my weariness at his sloppier story telling. Then again, maybe he would want to keep the UK Torchwood separate, and decide to take the remake in a new direction, which would be good.

*I don't suggest that you actually forget Firefly

SFG said...

Don't be ridiculous. An American Dr. Who wouldn't be the same, but it would be hilarious. The Doctor carries a blaster and uses it, lots, while shacking up with random women in every time period. And lots of really big explosions.

How about an Irish Doctor in a green TARDIS? A German Doctor in a metal TARDIS who gives the companions orders that must be obeyed absolutely (and who the Daleks think is a really good guy)? A French Doctor in a small black TARDIS who spends all his time on romance? The possibilities are endless.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say thanks for introducing me to Doctor Who. I can't believe I didn't start watching this a long time ago. I love it, and I adore David Tennant!!

米色大衣 said...

We could learn a lot from crayons. Some are sharp, some are pretty and some are dull, Some have weird names , and all are different colors, but they all have to live in the same box.............................................

Rena said...

I was scared by this news of a US Torchwood, but from your link got the full story that RTD etc would be writing I went "Oh it might not suck!"

....Then I went back to being scared because I'm not sure I could survive more of RTD's stunts when it comes to characters. I love him for rebooting the Whoverse for TV, but REALLY I'm looking forward to 11 since I was just emotionally exhausted from some of the stuff RTD did. I'm also hoping this won't kill another Torchwood series in the BBC, because I was looking forward to someone else getting their hands on that baby.

RTD has had some great series, but they also do have low points and just plain....... Well, Children of Earth I first quit all things Who for a little over Six months, then marathoned everything before I saw CoE again. But now I own it and do like it more despite it not being perfect. Trying to be vague so not to spoil, but CoE just kinda put me through the wringer and I had to recover/think/digest a LOT from that.

But Torchwood 4? I'm slowly getting less scared again. Guess I'll have to see the first few eps and see.

Frisco Squid said...

They aren't letting me see any newer posts. Damn them. I get to say that. I do not use it sparingly.

Chameleon Girl said...

I'm just glad you're back. :D