Primetime in the 2008-09 season is gonna be all over the map -- Australia, Israel, Canada and the U.K. for starters.
In this strike-interrupted pilot season, networks are embracing concepts and formats from overseas like never before. After writing "based on a ----- series" about 50 times while tracking the pilot buzz this weekend, I got to wondering about the origins of these projects.
I doubt that I'm the only one who assumes that if a property is being exported to the U.S., it must've been a hit at home, right? Wrong. At least that wasn't the case with "Sit Down, Shut Up" (pictured left), the live-action Australian sitcom that has inspired the Fox animated series "Class Dismissed," from Mitch Hurwitz and a bunch of his old "Arrested Development" cohorts. Fox gave it the greenlight on Saturday on the strength of a short presentation reel.
Original "Sit Down" ran for 13 segs on Australia's Channel Ten in 2001 but wasn't well received by critics or viewers, according to a post on "TV Tonight," a blog that bills itself authoritatively as "Australia's leading TV blog." In fact, this voice of Oz TV greeted the news that "Sit Down" had been fingered as a U.S. animated series with a pithy: "Now I've heard everything."
believed to be thisclose to picking up has picked up an unusual drama project, "Mythological Ex," that is based on an Israeli series of the same name (and retitled "The Ex List" for the U.S.).
Tracking down any details of this show -- revolving a woman sent on a soul-searching journey after a tarot card reader tells her to get hitched pronto to Mr. Right, who is someone who has already been in her life -- on the web in English was kinda tough.
From what I could gather, the series airs on Israel's Channel 2, an outlet that bowed in 2005, and is produced by a company called Reshet TV. Here's the link to the company's home page. If anyone who reads Hebrew can provide further guidance on whether "Mythological Ex" has its own page within, I'd be grateful. (Thanks to reader Phil, here's the link to the page, with clips of the show.) The image at right was all I could turn up through the Google Image search.
Word is that CBS execs are over the moon about the potential of the U.S. adaptation penned by Diane Ruggiero.
Also considered a lock for a pickup at CBS is Jerry Bruckheimer's latest, an U.S. spin on the 2006 ITV four-parter "Eleventh Hour," starring Patrick Stewart as a government investigator looking into strange and wondrous events involving science and natural phenomena. Rufus Sewell has been cast in the lead for the U.S. of A adaptation for Warner Bros. TV.
The original seems to have had a difficult path to the screen in Britain.
A review from a website dubbed "Off the Telly" opened thusly: "Every so often, a show comes along that is so derivative, so unoriginal, it becomes almost impossible to decide exactly what it's ripping off." Ouch. Variety was kinder in its review, with Brian Lowry dubbing it "nifty if not particularly inspired."
"Eleventh Hour" scribe Stephen Gallagher details some of his angst in the creation and production of the mini in this article written for U.K. website The Scientist. Gallagher sings a familiar refrain that knows no borders: The producers took two of my four scripts, socked me in the gut and gave them to someone else to "polish," he writes.
Also from England comes two BBC series that have solid buzz for 'Merican translations next season. Acclaimed BBC drama "Life on Mars" has been on a long journey to a time slot on this side of the pond on ABC, via David E. Kelley and 20th Century Fox TV (though all that is changing, per this report from Variety's Michael Schneider).
The original "Mars" ran for two eight-episode seasons, and grand finale in April of last year packed 'em in to the tune of 7 million or so. In a nutshell, "Mars" is a time-travel fantasy about a police detective who gets hit by a car and goes unconscious just after his girlfriend and partner get kidnapped. Wham-bam, be-bop-a-lula -- when he wakes up he's in 1973 and, needless to say, very confused.
Just perusing the BBC website for the show, it looks very cool and moody and intriguing. The hallmark of its success is that it has spawned a spinoff, "Ashes to Ashes," involving one of the other detective characters, and this one's set in 1981. Brit production shingle behind "Mars" is Kudos, owned by Elisabeth Murdoch's Shine Group.
BBC comedy "Worst Week of My Life"
seems to have some heat as a possibly comedy pickup has gotten the nod from CBS as a series pickup. Original series from Hat Trick Prods. (we know 'em over here from "Whose Line is it Anyway?" among other shows) is kinda like a British spin on "Meet the Parents."
In fact some cheeky bloggers have noted that "Worst Week's" Brit star Ben Miller sounds a lot like Ben Stiller. This show airs on BBC America too, for the curious. Matt Tarses is handling the U.S. rendition for Universal Media Studios and Hat Trick.
And then there's "Kath and Kim," which has been picked up at NBC. This one's based on an Oz favorite about a daughter who upends her mother's life and she breaks off her planned nuptials and moves back in with mom. Based on the volume of web material available on this show, it's fair to call it a big hit in hits native land since 2002. Stars Jane "Kath" Turner and Gina "Kim" Riley (pictured at left picking up yet another honor for the show), are also the creators, which says a lot about its longevity. Over here, the baton has been passed to Molly Shannon and Selma Blair. Good luck, girls!