Comparing the U.S. TV remakes: Why Life on Mars is better than life with Kath and Kim
One of the biggest trends this TV season is the remake: new U.S. shows fashioned from the bones of successful programs in Britain, Australia and elsewhere. The networks finally gave critics an advance look at some of their most-anticipated redos; let’s compare to see how these overseas sensations got translated for Yankee tastes.
Kath and Kim, debuts at 8:30 p.m. Thursday on WFLA-Ch. 8.
The original: Set in the fictional Australian suburb of Fountain Lakes, the show centers on remarried fiftysomething Kath Day-Knight, her pathologically self-centered daughter Kim Craig, their spouses and Kath’s chunky best friend. Shot with the same jerky, handheld-camera style as The Office, it’s a quirky look at a family of serious goobers, from Kath’s greasy husband, Kel Knight, to Kim’s failed salesman husband Brett Craig. Click here to see.
U.S. style: Everybody’s prettier in the U.S. version, which features Saturday Night Live alum Molly Shannon as Kath and a hot-pants-clad Selma Blair as Kim. The production values are higher –- the Aussie version sometimes looks like it was filmed in someone’s rumpus room -– and the U.S. storylines are also a lot less dark, with the best friend character turned into an attractive Latina buddy for Kim. Click here to see.
The verdict: Built to closely mimic the original’s style, it traps some talented actors in comedy quirkier than The Office or My Name Is Earl. Which means low ratings ahead.
Life on Mars, debuts at 9 p.m. Thursday on WFTS-Ch. 28
The original: Wispy-looking Brit John Simm plays Sam Tyler, a sensitive Manchester copper who is hit by a car and transported back to 1973. With strains of David Bowie’s Life on Mars playing in the background, Tyler negotiates a gritty ’70s-era police department while trying to figure out if he’s crazy, in a coma or physically back in time. Click here to see.
U.S. style: Irish actor Jason O’Mara cuts a hunkier figure as Tyler than Clay Aiken lookalike Simm. And after kicking superstar producer David E. Kelley off the show, the new producers moved the show to New York City, invoking a Mean Streets vibe with Sopranos alum Michael Imperioli as a tough Brooklyn detective and Harvey Keitel as their brutal squad leader. Click here to see.
The verdict: American locale aside, this is a close remake, right down to the sepia-toned look of the ’70s world, the Bowie music and the scene where Tyler is run over. Unfortunately, the confused premise is also just as bewildering.
Eleventh Hour, 10 p.m. Thursday, WTSP-Ch. 10
The original: Patrick Stewart shed his macho Star Trek image to play scientist Ian Hood, a government investigator of scientific threats, paired with a sexy bodyguard. Click here to see.
U.S. style: English actor Rufus Sewell is a more eccentric Hood, tracking down a heart ailment mysteriously killing kids and the appearance of bizarre fetuses. Click here to see.
The verdict: Both shows feel like off-kilter ripoffs of the X-Files; the U.S. version offers prettier actors stuck in more outlandish storylines.