Tag Archives: Everybody Loves Raymond

Remaking the grade: Getting remakes right

As remakes’ popularity among content commissioners continues to belie their very mixed success rate, what are the do’s and don’ts when it comes to remaking a hit drama from abroad – and has new NBC show Game of Silence got it right? Matt Graham, international content specialist at Attentional, reports.

A few years ago, US TV producer Phil Rosenthal’s efforts to remake his hit sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond in Russia proved so arduous that he turned the experience into a comedic documentary called Exporting Raymond.

The doc tracks the many challenges Rosenthal faced in reworking the show for a different culture, from costume disagreements to casting rows.

While the Russian version of Everybody Loves Raymond – The Voronins – did eventually become a success, Rosenthal’s is a cautionary tale for the TV industry, as the exec discovered in the wintry streets of Moscow that not everyone shared even the most basic comedic and dramatic principles he’d spent a lifetime following as a producer in the US. Getting a show ‘right’ is so difficult that not even seasoned industry pros can always achieve it.

What is not disputed, however, is that in today’s highly globalised TV drama world, remakes are big business and account for large amounts of global scripted drama. One of the newest is hard-hitting drama Game of Silence (pictured above), which has been given a series order at US broadcast network NBC.

The show is a remake of popular Turkish series Suskunlar, which aired in its homeland in 2012, and provides an example of just how big the remakes business is becoming.

Game of Silence is a remake of Turkish series Suskunlar, pictured
Game of Silence is a remake of Turkish series Suskunlar, pictured

One of the attractions of remakes is that international buyers feel safer adapting existing IP. This has become increasingly clear in the past few years: in US cable drama in 2009, only two of the top 15 shows were taken from existing IP; by 2014, this number had risen to 11.

Remaking means taking a show that’s successful in one market and reimagining it for a different local audience in another. The exact factors that make a show suitable for a remake are still being defined, but a basic premise that can appeal across cultures is an essential ingredient. Game of Silence, for example, explores a universal philosophical question: is revenge ever justified?

The show’s exploration of this universal issue could prove key to its success. Specifically, Game of Silence looks at the difference between social and legal justice. Civilised society is ideally meant to be fair – a value enshrined in a functioning legal system that guarantees justice for all. The problem is that things don’t always work out this way, and some people can afford more favourable ‘justice’ than others (and if you don’t believe that, just watch HBO’s The Jinx).

Game of Silence tackles this paradox head-on. It tells the story of rising lawyer Jackson Brooks, who lives in a prosperous part of Atlanta. After a surprise encounter with old friends, he is forced to re-examine a terrible childhood trauma he thought he’d long buried. During a stint in a juvenile detention centre as children, he and his friends were sexually assaulted by the warden and his guards. While Jackson has tried to move on with his life by throwing himself into a legal career, his friends have not been so lucky. They want revenge.

Revenge is a crude form of social justice without recourse to legal process. It is also subjective and often the cause of as much trouble as it tries to resolve. Revenge saw hundreds of thousands killed in the Rwandan Genocide, for example, where one group attempted to right perceived historical injustices, a ‘revenge’ of sorts. In other words, it is a problem almost any audience can understand.

AMC murder mystery The Killing...
AMC murder mystery The Killing…

In Game of Silence, for a lawyer like Jackson, revenge is the enemy, as it invalidates everything he holds sacred. However, revenge does have one advantage over legal justice: even the rich cannot escape it. One of the biggest problems for Jackson and his vengeful friends is the status of their abuser – the former warden has become a local politician, and exacting vengeance could draw unwanted, powerful focus on a life Jackson has worked hard to build, threatening everything he has.

There’s something else about Game of Silence that makes it really interesting as a remake. The Turkish show on which it is based is itself a remake of sorts – it was inspired by a 1996 US indie movie named Sleepers. The concept has travelled back and forth across the Atlantic, showing just how universally strong the story’s premise is.

Game of Silence is a product of today’s deeply interconnected television industry. While 20 years ago international programming was dominated mainly by US television, today’s TV drama world is intensely global, with regional markets being just as important. Everyone knows about the high quality of Nordic Noir, just as people now acknowledge Turkey’s rising power. Smaller markets like the Philippines are vitally important, as is the Ukrainian capital Kiev – a hotbed of new drama formats where creativity is the order of the day.

What this means is there are dozens of high-quality new TV dramas being created all around the world at any given time. While one used to look to the US as the home of quality drama, this is changing – and fast, because, as Game of Silence shows, even the Americans are now aggressively remaking shows from outside their borders. The US version of Ricky Gervais’s UK sitcom The Office was enormously successful, while cable network AMC’s The Killing, which was based on Nordic Noir hit Forbrydelsen, lasted three seasons on the channel, moving to Netflix for its fourth.

...which is a remake of Nordic Noir hit Forbrydelsen
…which is a remake of Nordic Noir hit Forbrydelsen

The best shows to remake are often little-known, simple ideas with universal themes that, as Game of Silence demonstrates, can be carefully packed up and re-assembled with minimal cultural reprogramming. But even here there’s no guarantee of success. The US version of Life on Mars, adapted from the wonderfully creative British show of the same name, failed to achieve the same success across the Atlantic, arguably because it failed to capture the original’s intriguing nihilist outlook. It ran for just one season.

In much the same way, the writers of Game of Silence will face challenges in translating what worked with Suskunlar for a US audience. There will also be practical hurdles for the writers to overcome. For example, while the Turkish show had a limited run, concluding after two seasons, the conflict at the centre of Game of Silence will need to continue almost indefinitely to satisfy the unique US demand for lengthy show lifecycles. If they can achieve this, and embrace the ‘remakability’ factor, the show stands a good chance of being on screen for years to come.

At Attentional, our expertise is global drama, and we’ve been researching for years the best way to first find and then remake shows from one part of the world and reassemble them in another. We compile what we know in a quarterly report called REMAKABLES. We’ve gone through hundreds of shows from all corners of the globe, and narrowed our list down to a small list of those we believe would make the strongest remakes. We’ve found them so you don’t have to.

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USA Networks reboots Mr Robot

Mr Robot: Already renewed for a second run
Mr Robot: USA Network has already renewed the show for a second run

NBC Universal cable channel USA Networks did a strange thing this week. It commissioned a second season of cyber-hacker drama Mr Robot before the first season has even begun.

It’s not unusual for channels to renew dramas after a few episodes of the first season have aired, when they have had a chance to crunch the audience data, but why did USA Networks act so precipitously?

The answer is that it had already released a sneak preview of the pilot online. Since May 27, it has been available via Xfinity On Demand, USANetwork.com, Hulu, YouTube, iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Google Play, Vudu, Xbox Video, PlayStation Video, IMDb and Telemundo.com, to name just a few.

The result was a very impressive 2.7 million views and a positive critical response. It was on this basis that USA decided to greenlight an additional 10 episodes for 2016.

“We knew from the moment we read Sam Esmail’s provocative script, and witnessed the brilliant performances of Rami Malek and Christian Slater, that Mr Robot is a stand-out series that is unlike anything currently on television,” said USA Network president Chris McCumber, announcing the renewal.

“The overwhelmingly positive fan reaction to the pilot and the broad sampling of it reaffirms our confidence in the series, and we’re excited to see where this drama will take us for season two.”

The show, for those yet to view it, sees Malek play a computer programmer who is a cyber-security engineer by day and a vigilante hacker by night. He finds himself at a crossroads when the leader of an underground hacker group recruits him to destroy the firm he is paid to protect.

“Sam Esmail has captured and distilled our ongoing cultural conversation about identity, privacy, value and self-worth,” said Jeff Wachtel, president and chief content officer at NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment. “We are all talking about the central themes of Mr Robot – Sam has just done it in a completely original and uniquely compelling way.”

Elsewhere in the NBC Universal family, flagship free-to-air network NBC announced this week that it had cancelled Hannibal, the Silence of the Lambs spin-off that is currently in its third, and now final, season.

Hannibal has been cancelled, but is it really the end for the popular drama?
Hannibal has been cancelled, but is this really the end for the popular drama?

In a statement, NBC said: “We have been tremendously proud of Hannibal over its three seasons. (Showrunner) Bryan Fuller and his team of writers and producers, as well as our incredible actors, have brought a visual palette of storytelling that has been second to none in all of TV – broadcast or cable. We thank (producer) Gaumont and everyone involved in the show for their tireless efforts that have made Hannibal an incredible experience for audiences around the world.”

By and large, the show has been well received by critics, but its cancellation is the result of low ratings. For an ad-funded channel like NBC, no amount of glowing reviews can justify persisting with a show if it isn’t delivering enough 18-49 adult impacts.

However, the fact NBC is pulling out does not necessarily mean this is the end for Hannibal. The show was initially picked up by Sony Pictures Television (SPT) for its international cable channel AXN, with NBC coming in as a US acquisition. So if SPT and AXN decide Hannibal is worth preserving, they and producer Gaumont could go in search of a new US partner for season four.

While the show is unlikely to attract the other major networks (ABC, NBC and CBS), it might appeal to a US cable net or streaming service. Not only does it have a high quotient of murder and mayhem, it also has the kind of in-built brand equity that would help it stand out from the crowd.

Fans of the series are already campaigning for Hannibal to find a new home, with the hashtag #SaveHannibal trending on Twitter.

The obvious partner would be SVoD platform Amazon, which already holds the rights to air the first two seasons of Hannibal and has a track record in reviving axed shows – such as Ripper Street, for example.

Fuller (who is also commencing work on American Gods for Starz) would welcome a reprieve and has suggested there is a chance it might happen. He told Deadline: “I would say 50/50. Because I’ve been down this road before and there’s that brief wave of ‘Oh it could be possible’ and then it just doesn’t happen. But it feels like the way this particular show is set up there is potential for a deal to be done. I know conversations are being had. It’s just a matter if they can come to an agreement that is mutually beneficial to the studio and the distributor.”

This week also saw the long-awaited launch of True Detective season two on premium cable network HBO in the US. In ratings terms, it started well – with its audience of 3.17 million making it the top cable show on Sunday night.

The show also had a good launch on Sky Atlantic in the UK. To capitalise on pre-launch buzz, the channel elected to air the show at the same time it was on in the US – which in the UK meant a 02.00 transmission time. This gave it an audience of 131,000. It then replayed the episode at 2100 on Monday, securing a further 251,000 viewers. While the latter figure is only marginally ahead of the channel’s 2100 slot average, the combination of the above two figures is a decent 382,000.

No Offence has done enough to earn a second season
No Offence has done enough to earn a second season

A couple of weeks ago, we discussed the prospects of Paul Abbott’s offbeat police procedural series No Offence, which airs on the UK’s Channel 4. While the ratings declined quite quickly after a strong opening, our view was that there was enough of a spark in the set-up for it to justify a second series.

This week, C4 confirmed that the show will return for another eight-episode run in 2016 – with a story involving warring crime families. Despite the audience dropping from around 2.5 million to just over one million, C4 head of drama Piers Wenger said: “No Offence is not just unlike any other cop show on TV, it’s unlike any other show on TV. Paul and the cast have set the bar high in terms of thrills, spills and belly laughs this year.”

The renewal is good news for FremantleMedia International, which holds the distribution rights and has already sold the first season to the likes of the ABC in Australia and Denmark’s DR. However, Abbott is going to have to find a way to breathe life back into the ratings if No Offence is to last as long as Shameless.

Sticking with C4, the strong performance of the show’s new futuristic drama Humans was confirmed this week with the release of consolidated ratings data. After the initial wave of results showed the Kudos-produced robot thriller achieved a record-breaking four million viewers for its debut episode, that figure has now been recalculated to take account of time-shifted viewing. The result is an aggregate audience of approximately 6.1 million, making Humans the biggest original drama on C4 for 20 years.

The Saboteurs garnered impressive viewing figures on More4
The Saboteurs garnered impressive viewing figures on More4

As we have mentioned in previous columns, the UK’s niche channels have become a useful testing ground for non-English language drama seeking to get a foothold in the international market. C4’s sister channel More4, for example, has started airing The Saboteurs (aka The Heavy Water War), a six-part World War Two drama about Allied attempts to foil the Nazis’ plans to build an atomic bomb.

The series attracted an impressive 1.7 million viewers when it debuted on NRK in Norway. On More4, the debut episode attracted 336,000. This was well ahead of the slot average, though the fact that a third of the audience was aged over 65 probably dampened More4’s enthusiasm.

While there is an understandable temptation to focus on the ratings performance of new shows, it’s always worth keeping an eye on how schedule stalwarts are holding up. It’s interesting, for example, that the top-rated US cable show of the last week was Rizzoli & Isles, a TNT detective series based on the novels by Tess Gerritsen.

Starring Angie Harmon as police detective Jane Rizzoli and Sasha Alexander as medical examiner Dr Maura Isles, the show started its sixth season on June 16 with an audience of 4.4 million. Judging by its past performance, the show’s ratings are likely to tail off slightly after a few episodes but, with 18 episodes in the upcoming series, it’s a very reliable part of the TNT schedule.

Rizzoli & Isles has been a top-five basic cable show for the last five years
Rizzoli & Isles has been a top-five basic cable show for the last five years

Looking back over historical ratings, Rizzoli & Isles has been a top-five basic cable show for the last five years. In 2014, it was actually the top-rating basic cable series, with an average of 7.6 million viewers in Live+7. With its strong ratings record and an episode count just shy of 100, it’s no surprise the show also does well in international distribution. Networks that have aired it include Net 5 in Netherlands, Vox in Germany, UK network Alibi and Rete 4 in Italy.

Away from the drama scene, another noteworthy international story is the news that US sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond is being remade in Hindi for Indian entertainment channel Star Plus. Raymond is a global phenomenon, spawning local versions in Russia, Egypt, Israel and the Netherlands, and selling to numerous other territories in its original form. Steve Skrovan, a writer on the US series, is working with the show’s Indian scribes to help get the adaptation right.

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