Yo! Wassappening? It could catch on but it’s hardly “Oh, what’s occurring?”, is it? When the American version of Gavin & Stacey hits screens, though, a rehashing of Nessa’s laconic catchphrase is the very least we can expect. This week, it was announced that Fox was remaking the much-loved BBC sitcom for US television. Already, the names of the protagonists are facing the axe (“I haven’t met any Gavins here,” said the head of BBC Worldwide, ominously.) Of course, the geography will need to change, with New Jersey and South Carolina mooted as alternatives to Billericay and Barry Island. And as for trips to the pub, curry nights and football banter, they will probably have to go, too.
It shouldn’t be too painful for James Corden and Ruth Jones, though, because they won’t be writing the scripts. That job will go to David Rosen, writer of the MTV sitcom I Just Want My Pants Back (no, me neither).
So in the end, “Kevin and Stacee” (Maybe? You can have that one for free, Fox) probably won’t resemble the Gavin & Stacey we know and love very much at all. It might very well be a hit. I hope so. But it might be a terrific miss. It can be hard to tell with American remakes.
Competitive formats such as The Weakest Link and The X Factor cross the Atlantic with ease. Comedies and dramas have a harder time, probably because no other nation is quite as obsessed with class and manners as the UK is and those cultural fixations rarely translate.
Men Behaving Badly, Only Fools and Horses and The Inbetweeners are just a few of the comedy corpses that have washed up limply on American shores. There are exceptions – The American Office is now in its ninth season; Shameless, set in South Side Chicago, is drawing critical acclaim – but they are rare.
And yet over here, we swallow American sitcoms, dramas and reality shows whole, without the need for remakes or even a simultaneous translator. While the odd reference to Twinkies and faucets may fly over our Limey heads, we generally get the joke, and the appetite for the latest US shows remains enormous.
Why, then, do American studios bother to remake shows that are already proven hits back home? It assumes a lack of open-mindedness, stupidity even, on the part of audiences and inevitably draws sniffy comparisons with the original. Take The Killing, recently translated to the US and widely held to be inferior to the Danish version. As Sofie Grabol, its star, says in Radar today. “I wish they’d try to read subtitles, but if they won’t then it’s fine to do their own thing. But I really didn’t relate to it.”
The fact is, US remakes are rarely relatable to. By the time the homegrown references have been smoothed out, they’re pale imitations on a theme. Gavin & Stacey is a simple love story of two young romantics from rather different families. I’m sure I saw a Shakespeare play about that. And I’m sure I’ll see another sitcom about it soon – BBC2’s new family heartwarmer Hebburn, for example. Television is constantly remaking itself, with or without lucrative contracts. Still, the BBC does very well out of these transatlantic deals and Corden and Jones are set to earn £5m if this latest instance is a success. We should probably be thankful that America keeps buying up the best of British. It gives British television plenty of cash to buy every last one of their hit shows in return.
Don’t be too quick to spill the beans
It can’t be often that Costa thanks its lucky stars for Starbucks but it must have done so this week. While its American rival stole the headlines with its UK tax-dodging, Costa was quietly having a Ratner moment as Bruno Costa declared that he prefers Nespresso.
In an interview with the Croydon Advertiser, the co-founder of the company also bemoaned coffee chains’ colonisation of the high street. Costa is preparing to open its sixth outlet in his home town of Purley (population: 72,000), which will bring the total nationwide to 1,390.
I find Costa coffee appalling and there is far too much of it sloshing about – but Bruno Costa should be wary what he says about the product. When Gerald Ratner declared his sherry decanters to be “crap”, the value of the company plummeted by £500m and almost went under. Ratner resigned and the company relaunched itself as the Signet Group. Already outside the company he created, Mr Costa is only a frothy rebrand away from being written out of coffee history altogether.
Estate-agent lingo: let’s put it in a box
Estate-agent code has been stupidly easy to crack for years. “Colourful area” means muggers’ paradise; “period features” turn out to be maroon Artex ceilings and a roof with more holes than a sieve, while “bijou” is short for blinking tiny. It’s fine as long as you know how to interpret it but there’s something particularly irritating about the latest coinage.
In an interview designed to encourage Londoners to embrace “confined space living” and stop being so “squeamish” about petty things like having space to swing a kitten, a spokeswoman for Savills estate agents introduces the idea of “designer shoebox” homes.
“The shoebox is a solution that should not be ignored,” she said. “A shoebox can accommodate bespoke designer shoes.”
The feet or bodies of their owners are another matter, perhaps. A little sales patter is to be expected but describing tiny shoebox studios as “Jimmy Choo flats”? That’s an embellishment too far.Reuse content