Fox is teaming up with Russell T. Davies to work on developing an Americanized version of the popular British show Torchwood. For those unfamiliar with it, it's a sci-fi series that involves a small team of crime fighters who deal primarily with the otherworldly. As a fan of the show, my initial reaction to the Fox news was of horror, and while I'm still highly skeptical that this remake should ever make it to the screen, there are some potentially good things about the idea. Here are the pros and cons of bringing Captain Jack across the Atlantic:
Pro: Russell T. Davies and Julie Gardner
Davies brought Doctor Who back to life before he created Torchwood and has worked with Gardner before as a producer to help get this show off the ground in the UK. If you are going to make a new version of a landmark show, having the creator on hand is at least a promising start. And Davies certainly does know how to make addictively geeky television.
Con: Less UK Torchwood?
If Davies is working on this remake, and if star John Barrowman may join him (see below), what does that mean for fans of the UK version who were left desperate for more after the devastating finale of Torchwood: Children of Earth? Does it mean that we won't get the anticipated Season 4? Will they do both and run the risk of spreading themselves too thin? Hard to say. But I'd hate for anything to jeopardize our chances to see more of the UK show.
Pro: John Barrowman
There are rumors that John Barrowman might be tapped to reprise his role as Captain Jack Harkness, which in some respects would be amazing. He's a great actor that a lot of Americans probably knew nothing about until Neil Patrick Harris started battling with him a few weeks ago to be the most famous gay in the universe (or whatever the hell that was all about). Being on a show here would expand his international appeal, and honestly, I personally have a hard time imagining anyone (aside from possibly Nathan Fillion, who already has a decent job these days) being able to do that part justice.
Con: John Barrowman
Fox has an iffy track record with sci-fi, so launching a new series with someone who isn't really famous here could be a recipe for disaster and certain cancellation. But then again, House worked....
Pro: Making It More Global
One of the things that always kind of bugged me about both Doctor Who and Torchwood was that all of the alien encounters seemed to center around the UK and, in the case of the latter, Cardiff (likely for budgetary reasons). Kinda like how Buffy's Sunnydale was the center for all evil. It makes sense in the context of the show's mythology, but there have got to be weird creatures all over the planet for Captain Jack and Co. to deal with, and maybe now we'll see them.
Con: No Doctor Who References
Torchwood was a spin-off of Doctor Who and there have been plenty of character crossovers and references to things happening in the Who-verse. However, an American version would have to trim all that in order to be relevant for a mass audience that hasn't watched Who and is unaware of Jack's wonderfully twisted relationship with The Doctor. Hence, no random hand in the jar and definitely less thrills for the obsessive fans of both.
Pro: We Could Use a Sexy American Sci-fi Show
While Torchwood has a lot in common with Fringe, one of the things that makes it stand out is its very adult nature. It's not Showtime After Dark, but there's definitely a lot of sex between the co-workers (in various permutations), which makes all the alien-corralling that much more fun.
Con: Probably Less Gay
Captain Jack isn't just gay or bisexual, he's omnisexual (meaning that he'll have sex with men, women and aliens), which is another one of the great things about Torchwood. He's an equal opportunity flirter. But I have a hard time believing that network TV will air all the steamy scenes, especially if they involve two men, one of whom one is the show's leading man. (Though if American broadcasters are finally ready to deal with the realities of human relationships, how great would it be if it was Torchwood that busted down that door?)
Pro: More Episodes
Although I love the UK series, every time a season ends I'm left wanting so much more. The one thing that American TV has is the luxury of airing 22-plus episodes per season instead of 13 (or five, like the latest Torchwood miniseries). So if the U.S. version does turn out to be decent, we'll get plenty of it.
Con: More Conventional Co-Star
I'm going to be upfront about this: I think Eve Myles is totally cute and smart and makes a badass Gwen Cooper, but I have a hunch that the casting folks stateside are going to be pressured to try to find someone who is more conventionally gorgeous to fill Gwen's sassy shoes. Knowing Fox, they'll likely find a way to make Olivia Wilde part of this. Don't say we didn't warn you.
Con: Less Impactful
Unless they totally just take the basic premise and start fresh, this show is just going to be like every other watered-down procedural version of The X-Files out there. What really hooked me on Torchwood wasn't just the sexiness or the alien of the week, but the heavy-hitting emotional scenes between the characters. And this show has not been afraid to kill off beloved lead characters -- I can't even count the boxes of tissues I've used watching three brief seasons. If Fox does a straight remake of it, fans of the original will already know what's going to happen and the shocking twists and turns will lose their power.
Pro/Con: Previous American Adaptations
Some overseas shows do this transition well. Just look at Life on Mars, which was fairly well-executed, but short-lived, or The Office, which really found its footing after it broke out of the UK mold a bit, or Queer as Folk, which went to even racier places for many seasons. But for every success story, there are ten Kath and Kims or Couplings or Worst Weeks to contend with. And there's not much worse than a bad version of something you loved.
Let's face it: if this remake happens, I'll watch it - partly because it's my job, but mainly because I'm a big old geek. But I just think it sounds like a dicey and unnecessary proposition, and I wouldn't be unhappy if it never came to fruition. But if it does make it to air, there had better be some Captain Jack/James Marsters action for my troubles.
Feel free to sound off below.
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