Comedy and errors

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The news that Paul Abbott's
Shameless is to be remade for American television has, naturally, prompted a chorus of headshaking and sharp intakes of breath: how will Americans cope with Abbott's gritty, unsentimental portrayal of working-class family life and the frank sexuality of his characters? They'll cock up all the subtle English irony, won't they?

The news that Paul Abbott's Shameless is to be remade for American television has, naturally, prompted a chorus of headshaking and sharp intakes of breath: how will Americans cope with Abbott's gritty, unsentimental portrayal of working-class family life and the frank sexuality of his characters? They'll cock up all the subtle English irony, won't they?

It is time that we stopped fooling ourselves that we can give any lessons in irony to the nation that spawned Seinfeld. While it is true that some superb British television programmes have drowned mid-Atlantic, others have prospered. (Archie Bunker was a pretty good take on Alf Garnett.) And when it comes to remakes, British television can't hold its head up; remember Brighton Belles, our (very feeble) answer to Golden Girls?

Still, a slight wince is permissible. The truth is, when television executives buy a format it is a sign of fear - they want the double reassurance of having a proven hit, and purging it of any intrusive local flavours. On both sides of the Atlantic, when it comes to getting ratings, Shameless is the word.

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