It’s not easy to see any connection between the fairly conservative FOX network and the cheeky BBC, even in its watered-down BBC America incarnation. That is, until you look at what seems to be a disturbing new programming trend.
FOX Is a Copycat
First there was “Gracepoint,” a remake of BBC America’s “Broadchurch,” which is currently a handful of episodes into a lukewarm 12-episode run on FOX. And now, much to the dismay of Idris Elba fans everywhere, it looks like FOX will be adding BBC America’s critically acclaimed “Luther” to its list of BBC remakes.
There is more than one reason to be concerned at this news. First of all, FOX’s rendition of the gritty crime drama will retain Elba only as a producer. And even though show creator Neil Cross will be on board, what really makes you love the British “Luther” is Elba’s portrayal of the gifted, tormented anti-hero.
FOX = Conservative, BBC = Risqué
But casting news aside, it’s surprising to see a network like FOX chasing after successful BBC America shows that are decidedly racier than anything on American primetime. And that’s after programming has already been toned down to play to an American audience.
For those who find FOX synonymous with the likes of Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly it can be easy to forget that the non-news facet of the FOX family has walked a little more on the wild side. “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy” – which air daily on FOX networks – are far more often condemned by FOX News’ own aficionados than praised. Even I was forbidden to watch the antics of Homer and Bart Simpson in the ultra-conservative home of my youth.
But ever since I grew up and started paying my own cable bill I just haven’t been able to get enough of what BBC America has to offer. Except for “Top Gear.” I love it, but on marathon weekends (and there are a lot of them), I get plenty.
British programming is, by any stretch of the imagination, more risqué than what Middle America sits down to each night as they scarf down their hearty, red-blooded, American dinners. It’s one of the reasons I love it so much. They’ll say things on “Monty Python” that you can’t believe just came out of a public television show.
Public television seems to know something FOX doesn’t – that British shows don’t need to be Americanized to be appreciated. What made watching “Red Dwarf,” “Doctor Who,” and “Waiting for God” so amazing was how very different they were.
PBS was the one channel that gave us a window onto a different world, where people spoke more freely and everyone – although stereotypically uptight in that “English” way – was so much more expansive than what we were used to seeing on any major U.S. network’s must-see lineup.
Lost in Translation
Central to the problems that have plagued FOX’s treatment of “Broadchurch” is the reluctant realization that the Americans who loved the original don’t need a state-side version. And, even those of us who are die-hard David Tennant fans, may find a little too much lost in translation – no matter how much we love the chance to spend an hour with Tennant each week.
At least “Gracepoint” had Tennant to help bridge the gap. “Luther” will be flying blind: alienating fans of the first three (very short) seasons by eliminating Elba. In addition, the reboot is unlikely to capture a new audience with what seems like just another police procedural centered on a brilliantly eccentric detective who isn’t even played by the deliciously enigmatic Elba.
Perhaps FOX has lost its identity and is reaching desperately across the pond for a new one. But I, for one, am not willing to jump on board their hijacked BBC America train. For all we know, the watered-down American minds at FOX may already be training their sights on “Orphan Black.” Let’s just hope and pray that the powers that be will never let that happen.