2MTL 179: Top Gear's Lessons for "Doctor Who USA"

Top Gear America's taking it on the chin, dare I say unfairly, from the purist fans of the original. And that helps me predict whether Doctor Who will follow in The Office's footsteps as another BBC property being remade for U.S. audiences.

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  1. I haven't seen the US Top Gear, so I won't comment on it. Honestly, I keep forgetting it's on.

    There are shows that come over from the UK that succeed, such as "The Office", "Sanford & Son", and "All In The Family." But for every one of their successes, you have many "Coupling", "Men Behaving Badly", and "Fawlty Towers" remakes. Success has come when the material is adapted more to American culture while still maintaining the spirit of the original. "Man Around The House" perfectly translates into "Three's Company" because it focuses on the swinging 70's aspect. The US version of "Men Behaving Badly" fizzles because it rejects the politically incorrect nature of the original. Like Doctor Who, "Fawlty Towers" is an essentially British show. A true adaptation never got off the ground, I think, because a character as nasty as Basil is unappealing to US audiences and we are incapable en masse of appreciating farce. The only success over did have was in completely chucking all of the characters and the hotel, putting it in a bar, and calling it "Cheers."

    I can't see the day when an American Doctor Who is made, rather, I can't see what changes would need to be made to make it a success and still be recognizable to us as Doctor Who. Take the lead character. The US is not known for having eccentrics, at least, those without a distinct narcissistic streak. He'd also require brooding and Hollywood good looks. Police Box? What's that? And then there are the other facets of the program that are absolutely essential to the program that would baffle US audiences who aren't familiar with the back story.

    Ah, you say, but didn't Russell T. Davies do just that? Yes, he did, but he was also producing a show in its native land for an audience that, if they hadn't watched the original series, at least, had a working knowledge of the program. For American Who to become a hit, you have to almost go back to square one.

  2. Chip,
    Great commentary. I've seen Top Gear UK and US. The US version is virtually the same show with different hosts. I like TG:UK and am willing to give TG:US a try. But, Doctor Who is a unique show that probably couldn't and shouldn't be adapted to the US. Americans are a fickle bunch and it would take too long for them to "Get It". Only on rare occasions do the networks let a show develope naturally. After all, they almost canceled "Cheers" after one season. Look how badly that show did. American men are car guys so Top Gear works. But I prefer my Doctor Who, with all its charm and Britishness, direct from the BBC, or BBC America in my case. Anything else would be a watered down short lived show.

  3. I think the most we will (or at least should) see is more Co-production between BBC and BBC America like what we'll be seeing this season. An episode or two every few years that take place and are filmed in America seems to be the way to go.

  4. There has been a highly successful translation of Dr Who, time-travelling in a telephone box, for the American market. Bill & Ted.

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