WHAT’S NEW PUSSYCAT? Three weeks ago, I was in a country manor north of London, watching the BBC’s hit auto show Top Gear on my hotel room TV. While host Jeremy Clarkson tore around a test track in a Lotus, an Apache attack helicopter roared overhead, trying to keep him in its missile-targeting sights. I don’t even know how to drive, and I was pretty impressed.
The show is popular all over the world, thanks mostly to BBC America and highlights posted on YouTube over here, and it’s no surprise that some U.S. network would have picked it up sooner or later. NBC is bringing their stateside version to small screens this fall, and it’s no surprise that among the first people they called about hosting it was infamous gearhead Jay Leno.
Writing about the job offer in London’s Sunday Times, Leno recalled how a nameless network type tried to describe their vision for the show: “I ask: what’s the plan for the show? ‘Well, like, one week you build a car that flies and the next week you make a car that goes under water.’ So I said: you know you can’t build these things in a week.”
Needless to say, Leno is not impressed. “I think: I’ve got to run away from this as quickly as I can. So I tell him that, as much as I like the show, I try not to make my hobby my job.”
Repurposing British shows for American audiences has a long history – All In The Family, Three’s Company and Sanford & Son all had their origins on U.K. primetime – but the transatlantic poaching has been feverish in the last few years, with both CBS and Fox working on U.S. adaptations of recent U.K. shows for this fall, and ABC working with David E. Kelly on their own version of recent UK hit Life On Mars. With pilots being ordered feverishly after the months-long delay of the Hollywood writers’ strike, the details of a few more of these conversions are leaking out.
Will Arnett and Amy Poehler are rumoured to be up for the leads in an ABC version of Fawlty Towers, to be produced by Judd Apatow and set in a motel in Taos, New Mexico. The network also has plans for a remake of Father Ted transposed to rural Vermont, with Lewis Black as the lazy Catholic priest administering a rectory fill of dim or demented clergy, according to a Hollywood Reporter story.
CBS plans to strengthen its commitment to police procedurals with a series based on The Sweeney, complete with a retro setting in 1970s Boston featuring a precinct full of belligerent detectives rumoured to feature Stephen Baldwin, cruising on the unexpected career boost provided by Celebrity Apprentice. NBC made a deal for their own version of I’m Alan Partridge years ago, which was supposed to bring Kelsey Grammer back to primetime post-Frasier, but is now being discussed as a vehicle for David Spade. Finally, Showtime has been quietly adapting Coronation Street to a U.S. setting, imagined as a pseudo-reality series modeled after MTV’s The Hills. David Mamet is rumoured to be producing.
FOOL ME ONCE, FOOL ME TWICE: You might want to check the date on this paper.