Tuesday, 12 August 2008


For those who came in late... In July Uber Infotainment journalist and Movie business blogger goddess Nikki Finke published a memorandum from one of the ABC network executive vice-president leaked to her by one of her sources. She described the document as a « Blatant Blueprint To Rip Off Foreign TV Series » (http://www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com/bombshell-abc-studios-memo-a-blueprint-to-rip-off-foreign-tv-series/).


Yesterday, Nikki offered us the sequel (http://www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com/uk-tv-producers-slam-abc-studios-memo/): according to the excellent Guardian newspaper, Pact - UK Producers'organisation (http://www.pact.co.uk/) - is aware of the memo and « looking into it » (http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2008/aug/11/television.usa?gusrc=rss&feed=media). The Guardian underlines that leading british producers, such as BBC Worldwide Limited (the Beeb's commercial arm) and RDF Media Group, do a lot of business with ABC on shows such as Supernanny, Wife Swap and Dancing with the Stars, all aired on the US network.

UK Television is a huge exporter of Real TV formats, but, as Nikki Finke remarked with sagacity : « Obviously, ABC Studios doesn't want to repeat what happened with a show like Ugly Betty, which is the American version of the Latin telenovela ». And every TV series aficionado knows that an american remake of the BBC/Kudos cult-classic Life on Mars is due to arrive on ABC's fall schedule for the 2008-2009 season (http://abc.go.com/primetime/lifeonmars/index?pn=index) - not without some difficulties in its production.

Readers of the french version of this blog know our advocacy of the quality of contemporary british television shows: Doctor Who, Jekyll, Primeval, The Fixer, Spooks, Lewis, etc all these products that don’t go beyond BBC America or PBS in the US (sometimes Sci-Fi, with luck...), which - as we pointed in a comment on Nikki's blog, probably leaves some field to more network adaptations in the future.


The Beeb gains a substantial amount of its revenues from its Worldwide subsidiary. So we can easily imagine their reaction after the leak of the ABC memo. Past year, the Doctor Who franchise and the Top Gear motor show helped BBC Worldwide to reach record profits (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/celebritynews/2273329/Doctor-Who-and-Jeremy-Clarkson-help-BBC-Worldwide-to-andpound118million-profit.html) in a rather uneasy context. Ofcom, the british communications regulator recently rejected BBC license fee claims and went even further by suggesting a reduction afer the switchover to digital (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1036077/TV-licence-GO-DOWN-2013-digital-switchover-says-Ofcom-chairman.html).

In this perspective, the decision of BBC Worldwide to take a stake in the company of Jeremy Clarkson, the Top Gear presenter and executive producer (http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2008/aug/08/jeremyclarkson.bbc), to keep the man in the venerable house, has raised some eyebrows... « Would Top Gear lose its drive without Jeremy Clarkson? » asks Tara Conlan in The Guardian [Personal note: er, yes...]

Worse, after the decision of the BBC to postpone the fifth season of Doctor Who until 2010 and to reduce the season 3 of Torchwood to 5 episodes, the reception of the corporation summer lineup of fictions is rather mitigated if not negative. Bonekickers, the archeology-adventure drama didn't fare up to the legitimate expectations provoked by such a project, particularly with the names of Matthew Graham & Ashley Pharoah (creators of Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes - its sequel) and Adrian Lester (Hustle) involved in it.


Spooks: Code 9, the awaited and heavily promoted spin-off of Kudos' hit Spooks (MI-5 in the US) is slaughtered by critics: « With a cast of fresh-faces and a budget of several pounds, it fancies itself as gritty and hip, combining state torture with a boozy, flirty This Life house-share for the torturers, yet it lacks the balls to link the “code-9” attack with either the Olympics or al-Qaeda » (The Times, August 11, 2008).

But the justified prestige of British television series remains intact enough to inspire eminent protagonists of the US television industry bridges between both sides of the ocean, rather than filling the shelves with ill-fated remakes (remember Viva Blackpool). Dick Wolf is preparing a London version of his Law and Order franchise with Kudos for the ITV network(http://www.itv.com/Drama/copsandcrime/LawandOrder/default.html), and Fox made a deal with ITV to share formats and develop new series together, with local versions for the United States and United Kingdom.

Interestingly, one of the most dynamic UK production companies, Shine (Hex, Sugar Rush...), was founded by the daughter of Rupert Murdoch and owns Kudos, a company that can be considered definitely as the ITC Entertainment of the 21st century.

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