The reason why television executives are generally held in such low regard is because their main job related skill involves treating their job as one big test then spending all their time looking over other peoples’ shoulders to try and find out the answers – or as they used to call it back at school, “cheating”.
Sometimes this involves stealing successful overseas formats outright while claiming that the format itself was so generic no actual theft took place. Other times – and don’t bother trying to figure out why some shows are bought while others are stolen, it usually just boils down to how lazy the offending producers are – they simply buy the rights to the original and away they go.
There are two main factors in what shows get picked up and if you thought one of them is quality you get an F and your homework is to watch every single episode of the original Australian version of Sit Down Shut Up. No, the two main factors are how well they did in their home setting, and how well similar shows are doing in their new setting.
If you’re a smash hit in your home country – like Kath & Kim was– the chances are reasonably good that eventually America will come a-calling. If a show much like yours* has become a hit in America – like Wilfred has – the chances become good that American television will come sniffing around looking for similar shows they can poach.
(yes, we know Wilfred wasn’t a hit here – thank Jason Gann’s US sales push for its success there. As for the US version of Sit Down Shut Up, it could almost be argued it was targeted for remakehood after the success of Summer Heights High. But not by us)
All of which is an extremely round-about way of preventing our heads from exploding at this bit of news:
Additionally, NBC is developing a U.S. version of the Australian black comedy series Laid, from BermanBraun. Ali Rushfield (Help Me Help You) will write the script for the project, which was brought to NBC and BermanBraun by Jeremy Fox and Kary Mchoul of Digital Rights Group. It centers on a woman whose ex-boyfriends/one-night stands start dying under suspicious circumstances, prompting her to launch an investigation with her roommate and try to stop the murder spree. UTA-repped Rushfield, Lloyd Braun, Gail Berman and Gene Stein are executive producing. The original series, created by Marieke Hardy and Kirsty Fisher, premiered on ABC1 in February. The format was repped by ICM.
“Murder spree”? This already sounds more interesting than the original. Then again, pretty much anything else you’d care to mention – up to and including “broccoli”, “staples” and “dust” – is more interesting than series one of Laid. Much like Wilfred, we look forward to seeing the US version turn out to be roughly a hundred times better than the original simply by focusing on the main concept rather than a whole bunch of pointless quirks and annoying stylistic tics.
Put another way, does anyone really think the US version will be built around a character remotely resembling Roo from the original? Thought not. Though what do we know? We thought the basic idea of Laid – a current problem forces someone to dredge up the past by revisiting their old lovers – was so generic they could’ve just as easily turned current rom-com What’s Your Number into a TV show. Or Neil LaBute’s play Some Girls into a TV show. Or pretty much everyone’s last high school reunion into a TV show.
You can see where we’re coming from, and it’s not fresh from a launch party for Laid creator Marieke Hardy’s inaccurately titled new book You’ll Be Sorry When I’m Dead. It’s interesting that the big sales factor for Laid in Australia was Hardy’s involvement (good luck finding a review that didn’t mention her name), while the big factor overseas seems to have been the idea itself – Hardy isn’t involved in the US version. Of course, it’s a two-edged sword: no-one Australian was involved in the US version of Kath & Kim either and look how well that turned out…
*edit: It’s been since pointed out that the current trend in US sitcoms is towards female-led shows. Which Laid is. This probably didn’t hurt any when it came to being picked up, though it may mean that if the current crop of female fronted shows tank Laid‘s US career will come to a rapid halt.
Hmm, I reckon America might go for it though, if you swap trendy-hipster roo for Courtney Cox as a MILF embarking on a deadly sexy spree before uncovering the real truth – her Octopussoir is devouring men alive!