Yesterday we saw this story in The Age, largely based on this story from UK newspaper The Independent, indicating that At Home with Julia is being re-made by a British broadcaster. Or it did if you didn’t delve too deeply into either article, because both of them word things very carefully whilst hyping what there is of a story to high heaven.
The Independent piece says “The domestic dust-ups and amorous exploits of David and Samantha Cameron are set to be the subject of a sitcom…” and that “producers Quail Television are holding talks with UK producers and broadcasters”. That’s “holding talks with” not “have sold the format to”.
Yeah, yeah, we know, we’re pointing out the bleeding obvious here. And that’s not because we’ve got a problem with Julia being sold overseas – we don’t – it’s more that it reminds us of what happened when John Clarke and Ross Stevenson tried to sell The Games to the BBC, and the BBC turned around and made Twenty Twelve.
We argued when that story broke that despite the years of correspondence between Clarke, Stevenson and the BBC, it would be difficult for Clarke and Stevenson to establish that plagiarism had taken place – the idea of setting a sitcom in the office of the Olympics organisers isn’t one you can actually copyright. Nor, we’d have thought, is the idea of a sitcom set in the home of a serving political leader (and if you can copyright that concept then why haven’t the makers of That’s My Bush sued over At Home with Julia?).
What Quail Television need here is a copyrightable concept to sell, one no one can rip off without paying up. Here’s their creative director Rick Kalowski describing what they’ve got to offer:
The format is about the balancing of professional and personal life and that applies to different leaders and circumstances.
In the English version you have Cameron’s wife, Samantha, who comes from a very affluent background but has to live in this pokey accommodation. The comedy also comes from the tensions between Cameron and Clegg power-sharing in No 10.
Hmmm…maybe not. Seriously, they are just about the most obvious points of conflict you could come up with for David Cameron. Throw in some troublesome backbencher from the fringe of the Conservative Party, who really hates the European Union, or immigrants, or both, and you’re done. It’s not like Jason Gann taking Wilfred to the US, where there’s actually a pretty unique idea for sale – just about anyone who knows a bit about current UK politics could come up with this.
That said, we do wish Quail Television the best of luck. At Home with Julia was a good, if patchy, sitcom, and it deserves some sympathy for being yet another victim of pointless OUTRAGE. We just question the uniqueness of the idea Quail are trying to sell overseas, and suggest they hire some good lawyers to ensure they get any money they’re due.