America, eh? They just can't stop stealing our telly ideas. Those colonials! Why can't they come up with some programmes of their own? Except, of course for The West Wing. And Battlestar Galactica. And Star Trek. And Mad Men. And… All right, so they've got a few.
But for some reason, there's an endless fascination with buying up UK properties, slapping on a few new names and tweaks like a house-flipper after a profit and shoving them out to a largely unsuspecting American TV audience. The misses, thus far, have outweighed the hits.
My focus, however, is not on the scorecard for US translations of UK shows. It's on one particular series: Torchwood. Yes, the Doctor Who spin-off. Which launched with the promise of being an X-Files for Cardiff, a locally-based, but universally-plotted peek into the world of a crack team battling alien problems conveniently centered in Wales.
Of course, what we actually got in that first season was a seriously off-kilter mishmash of occasional fun moments stymied by OTT camp, several characters you wanted to see killed before the credits finished rolling and very little that made it all work. Season Two showed some improvement, but we had to wait until last year's suitably epic miniseries Children Of Earth for Torchwood to mature into something close to its promise.
Cue renewed interest, not just from Auntie Beeb here at home. Nope, BBC Worldwide, the distribution/marketing arm, which is slowly spreading its tentacles across the States thanks to the likes of BBC America, has also been quietly making its plans.
And now, they've gone and sold the Torchwood format to Fox. Yes, Fox. You know, the ones who rarely let sci-fi TV shows breathe (Firefly, Dollhouse, The Sarah Connor Chronicles) before reaching for the cloth sack, stones and map to the nearest area of deep water. Fox, who, with McG, were trying to remake Spaced.
But take heart, faithful viewer, as the man himself might say: Doctor Who rejuvenator and Torchwood creator Russell T Davies has his hand in, along with executive producers Julie Gardner and Jane Tranter, who are all living out in LA right now, working on projects with BBC Worldwide. Davies will write the pilot script for the new version of Torchwood and, if we're all really good and eat all our sprouts, we might just see John Barrowman as Captain Jack Harkness. You may now cheer/vomit, depending on your feelings towards the man who can't die and who shags anything that moves.
Can Torchwood translate? The current word is that the US version will have a more global outlook than just one area and given the extraterrestrial slant, it could certainly benefit from the boosted budget of US network telly. And if it can gather an audience, X-Files-style, it might just live a little longer than any of the recent attempts.
I just hope the bigger scope and heftier VFX budget doesn't mean we get Davies' spectacle-loving instincts run rampant, with the universe imploding every time the season finale shows up.
It could work. It could be brilliant. But it could also be awful. And even if it's a success, it could lead to someone in the Bright Ideas Department thinking that maybe good ol' Doctor Who could also handle a US-based regeneration. To which I say, remember the 1996 TV movie. Then find a tape of it, and shove it where the Cloister Bell doesn't ring.
nclowe Posted on Wednesday January 20, 2010, 11:21
Oh God. If it had been the syfy channel I may have been more positive about this idea - after all Torchwood and UNIT etc are supposed to be global organisations - but FOX is going to kill this dead.
I'll give it a go, but have been fairly unimpressed with most of what they have produced of late - scifi shows in general dying a death before they even get off the ground. All I can hope is that if any crossovers occur it wont now take the Bones route and portray everyone in the UK as upperclass twits driving minis and/or saying gov'ner alot.
...that is I am HOPING its focused on a new Torchwood team and not just re-creating the Torchwood 3 lot....
jameswhaleofatime Posted on Wednesday January 20, 2010, 12:42
I've just read this article on the Guardian site..eerie..
Dr Quinzel Posted on Wednesday January 20, 2010, 12:47
So, BBC are happy to make an American version but they won't give us a UK series 4? Seems unfair...
This could work, if they show the US branch of Torchwood, or have it being the continuing adventures of Captain Jack (moving on now that the Cardiff branch is fairly well kaput), rather than a straight remake. And, it goes without saying, it needs to be more like the recent very good Children of Earth rather than the the-world-is-ending-let's-have-sex first two series'.
Hochopepa Posted on Wednesday January 20, 2010, 13:07
I thought the rumour doing the rounds was that the US version would actually be season 4 (although probably not called that). Jack was going to relocate to America now that Torchwood 3 was blown up and most of his team killed. He would then build a new US team.
hillbillyjim Posted on Wednesday January 20, 2010, 18:16
If they won't watch the rather excellent Fringe, then Torchwood has no chance.
pawsey Posted on Thursday January 21, 2010, 15:08
From what I understand Torchwood has a bit of a cult following in the US. What is this understanding based on? Erm, in an episode of the dreadful Knight Rider remake one of the characters dresses up as Captain Jack for a Halloween party (held in the Knight Rider office, as you do.)
While I have been a somewhat disinterested fan of Torchwood I have to say that I thought the Children of Men episodes were amazing and left me wanting more. Not sure if a US based version will take off but it's so crazy it might just work.
Mopictures Posted on Thursday January 21, 2010, 15:57
Imagine an HBO Torchwood. It would be mental.
waltham1979 Posted on Thursday January 21, 2010, 21:46
Gotta disagree with Empire, I thought all three seasons of Torchwood were brilliant, spanking TV...don't understand the lack of love?!?!
Rhos Posted on Friday January 22, 2010, 12:01
the two series of torchwood has been amazing, cant think why Empire doesn't really like them much, though Children of Earth was definately a class mini series that stood above the series. I'm hoping that Torchwood would return to Cardiff, is that because i'm welsh? yeah, i can see how torchwood would work in america if Jack returned and it followed children of earth but a remake would be pointless, just american versions of gwen and Ianto, obv, they would change the names ofc, would just feel like de ja vu to me. plus, ive seen abit of the american excuse-i mean, version of Life on Mars and pretty much made the Gene character like a panto villian.
timkenyon Posted on Friday January 22, 2010, 12:33
An HBO Torchwood would only be slightly more graphic than we've seen so far. Certainly lost my interest when on came the sex and out went the story. nclowe has it right, FOX will likely kill this one if it doesn't make the cash. HBO would be a better home for it, but mental it would be.
jontysidgwick Posted on Friday January 22, 2010, 13:15
I really liked the 1996 TV movie -McGann was a really good doctor, and let's not forget, it's only that it didn't get high audience figures in the US that it didn't get continued into a series.
it was better written and more grown up than the new Doctor Who series, and i reckon, if they can get rid of Russel T Davis, this US Torchwood thing will be really good.
timkins Posted on Friday January 22, 2010, 16:39
This could be... hmmm. Awful? Great? Who can say.
"Why is it that those who reproduce seem to be immune to death?"
freekedoutfish Posted on Friday January 22, 2010, 19:17
How does this make any sense? How can this possible work? It makes no sense in continuity and Russel T Davis is incouraging this?!!!!
This would only make sense if they did an American Dr who and re-created all the episodes involving Harkness; from him meeting the Dr to dieing on the space station and being resurrected.
They cant just remake the entire Torchwood show in America. It'l just make no sense. They would have to even get David Tennant involved to make continuity work.
I really hope this is wild speculation and doesnt happen! Look what the americans did to the Dr Who film all those years ago, and they had to force that into Dr Continuity in the David Tennant christmas special.
Even if this was some kind of season 4, set in America, it wouldnt make sense because the guy left earth. If we get a season 4, it has to be based OFF earth and have just Harkness involved.
Why cant they jjust be happy with buying the UK shows and watching them.
benthemitchell Posted on Sunday January 24, 2010, 16:07
I'm a big fan of Torchwood, but this really oesn't sit right with me. The Doctor Who episode "Tooth and Claw" reveals that Torchwood was set up to defend Great Britain from alien threat, so I don't think that an American organisation called Torchwood would work. However, I don't see why the USA can't have its own paranormal and alien investigation team, under a different name. I just hope they don't try to rewrite the superb existing Doctor Who and Torchwood timelines. But, just as I'm struggling to accept Matt Smith as the doctor, so I think I will have trouble accepting this for the time being. I'll give them both a chance though.
les342 Posted on Wednesday January 27, 2010, 00:43
The only thing that gives me any hope at all, and it's still not much hope, that this won't turn out to be total crap is the fact that they say John Barrowman may be involved. I really like him. He's the main reason I watch Torchwood in the first place.