Setback for the US Britcom invasion

Remakes fail to find homes

The British comedy invasion of Hollywood has stalled – with several planned remakes hitting the buffers.

American versions of The IT Crowd, The Thick Of It and Nighty Night have all failed to get the green light for full series.

Hollywood producers raided the cream of British comedy following the success of The Office and Borat in the hope of finding the next big hit – but so far little has materialised.

However, some commentators say there is still a good chance for British talent to cross the Atlantic with the right project.

Trade magazine Variety said this week: ‘The latest British comedy invasion hasn't necessarily stopped, but it has experienced some key setbacks’.

Citing Little Britain USA, the influential journal added: ‘Reviews and ratings have thus far suggested that the creators' unique brand of regional skewering doesn't work as well on this side of the pond.

‘Brit talent also has found itself lost in comedic translation of late. Notable was the selection of provocative comedian Russell Brand to host MTV's Video Music Awards - a controversial appearance that generated death threats.’

However agent Michael Rizzo – who represents Marc Wooton in America – believes there is still hope for British programmes and comics wanting to make it across the Atlantic.

‘There is a little bit of a canary in a coal mine dynamic where if something fails, everyone gets anxious about it, but I still think the format market is strong,’ he said.

‘It just takes time. There's a lot of leg work involved with crossing people over. Rarely is it a matter of, “I'm going to bring you over and you're going to have a huge hit.”.’

‘You need to come here, get involved in the market, and start talking to the right camps. The people who are most successful are those who manage to integrate in that way.’

A pilot of the IT Crowd was broadcast on NBC last year, featuring British star Richard Ayoade alongside a new American cast, but a series has never materialised.

In June 2006 it was announced that Darren Star, who brought Sex And The City to the screen, was producing a US version of Julia Davis’s Nighty Night, but again nothing has come of it.

A US version of The Thick Of It was mooted, but never came out of development limbo last year. However, creator Armando Iannucci is working on a film spin-off featuring officials in both Washington and Whitehall, called In the Loop.

One recent British export that has made it to US screens is Worst Week, a remake of BBC sitcom The Worst Week Of My Life for the CBS network, which has been attracting middling ratings.

And the networks are still keen on remakes, with NBC this month ordering a full series of Kath & Kim, based on the Australian hit, despite disappointing audience figures.

Published: 8 Nov 2008

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