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Should American TV tamper with a British classic like Four Weddings?

PUBLISHED: 09:36 11 November 2017

Kristin Scott Thomas and Hugh Grant in Four Weddings and a Funeral which is being remade as an American TV series. Photo: Pathe

Kristin Scott Thomas and Hugh Grant in Four Weddings and a Funeral which is being remade as an American TV series. Photo: Pathe

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British comedy classic Four Weddings and a Funeral is being made into an American TV series. Arts editor Andrew Clarke suggests that the film and TV world is starting to take the idea of recycling a little too far. New classics can only come from original ideas.

Baywatch. Pictured: Jon Bass as Ronnie, Alex Daddario as Summer, Zac Efron as Matt Brody, Dwayne Johnson as Mitch Buchannon, Kelly Rohrbach as CJ Parker and Ilfenesh Hadera as Stephanie Holden.Baywatch. Pictured: Jon Bass as Ronnie, Alex Daddario as Summer, Zac Efron as Matt Brody, Dwayne Johnson as Mitch Buchannon, Kelly Rohrbach as CJ Parker and Ilfenesh Hadera as Stephanie Holden.

In the long history of bad ideas this has to be one of the worst. This week it was announced that American subscription TV channel Hulu is going to remake that uniquely British film Four Weddings and a Funeral as an American-centred TV series.

Apparently, the new series, which will have Richard Curtis as an executive producer, will not be called Four Weddings, but will follow a group of friends as they navigate through five key events in their lives, and will reportedly follow a different story each season.

It’s been touted as an on-going anthology series which will take place in a different state and different city with the as-yet uncast lead character remaining the same.

Unsurprisingsly, given the passage of time, Hugh Grant, Kristin Scott Thomas, Simon Callow, John Hannah and the other stars of the 1994 film have all got something better to do. Besides I’m not sure that the US TV network would want them as it’s the idea behind the film they appear to be interested in rather than the relationships between the characters that Richard Curtis created.

Total Recall. Pictured: Quaid (Colin Farrell) and Lori (Kate Beckinsale).Total Recall. Pictured: Quaid (Colin Farrell) and Lori (Kate Beckinsale).

It’s difficult to see how this venture could possibly be a success but we live in a world where it is easier to commission a follow-up to something that has all ready been successful rather than take a risk on a series which is original and untried.

In entertainment as in life we are living in an age that values recycling but I can’t help but wonder that, perhaps, in the world of film and television we are taking recycling too far.

Part of the problem is that today’s TV and film executives, on both sides of the Atlantic, are in a position to remake the cultural touchstones of their own youth.

If you look at British and American TV as well as new Hollywood movies they are full of derivative titles or re-imaginings of past hits. Earlier this month we had an updating of Ridley Scott’s dystopian masterpiece Blade Runner which was imaginatively titled Blade Runner 2049. The fact that it was a good film is a comfort but it doesn’t make up for the fact that it is a rather pointless addition to the story as it doesn’t really take the story any further and just revisits the same locale for some glorious visuals and we get to revisit part of our collective past.

Porridge. Pictured: (L-R) Kevin Bishop as Fletch and Mark Bonnar as Officer Meekie.Porridge. Pictured: (L-R) Kevin Bishop as Fletch and Mark Bonnar as Officer Meekie.

It really exists to add to an ever-growing need for nostalgia. As modern life becomes increasingly uncertain film and TV execs are urging us to seek comfort in the cosy nooks and crannies of our collective past.

Mainstream British TV comedy, in particular, seems stuck in the 1970s with remakes of Porridge and Still Open All Hours failing to enliven the evening schedules in the way that their predecessors did.

But, British TV has little to feel ashamed of, particularly when compared to the avalanche of recycled material that US TV and Hollywood have been pumping out in recent years.

To illustrate this feature I went for a little stroll down memory lane and was amazed at how many re-makes have popped up over the last couple of years. On the big screen we have had re-imaginings of Total Recall, Ghostbusters, Baywatch, Ben Hur, Pink Panther, Footloose, Straw Dogs, Get Carter, Arthur, Psycho, The Ladykillers, The Mummy, The Wicker Man, Miami Vice and Flatliners while on television recent schedules have given us re-makes of Hawaii Five O, Fargo, Westworld, X-Files, Will & Grace, Dallas, Dynasty, Dirty Dancing and Get Shorty.

Even series like X-Files and Will and Grace, which had the good sense brought the original cast back together, they couldn’t properly recapture the magic that made the original series so special.

It seems to me that the films and TV shows that become really successful, do so because they are bold and original. They offer the viewer something different.

In today’s marketing-led world it is easier to sell something that is a known quantity rather than something which is unknown and the executives fear may fail. But, the lesson they seem reluctant to learn is that they are far more likely to have a big hit with something original than something which can only be a pale copy of a show whose time has past.

Occasionally you have a show that matches the original (Fargo) or even improves on its source material (Westworld) but these are rare exceptions. The majority of remakes are dreadful abominations like the reworkings of The Ladykillers, Baywatch or The Wicker Man.

None of these films made any money, Hollywood, so let’s have something original – you’ve got nothing to lose.

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