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From BBC to the USA -- without the accent

Transferring British comedies to American TV may require a bit of adjusting.

November 21, 2002|Elizabeth Jensen | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — Two popular BBC comedies, "The Office," and "Manchild," may soon be crossing the Atlantic, part of a trend-of-the-moment that started with imported British reality shows and is now extending to scripted series.

"The Office," BBC2's hit dead-pan comedy about daily life at a stationery company, is being looked at for an American remake by Universal Television's USA Networks. In an interview with Britain's the Guardian on Monday, Universal Television Chairman Michael Jackson, a former controller at BBC2, said he wants to transfer the show to the U.S. The show, shot in the style of a documentary, revolves around the politics, romances and mundane goings-on at the office and airs without a laugh track.

Some U.S. TV executives have already expressed reservations about whether Americans would go for its offbeat style. A Universal spokesman said there is no deal yet for a U.S. outlet to pick up the show.

Meanwhile, ABC said it is looking at an American version of "Manchild," a male "Sex and the City" about four men in midlife crisis. The network has asked for a script but no pilot, as yet. The British version has aired on BBC America.

USA Networks recently shot a pilot for an American version of the racy British sitcom "Coupling" for NBC. Jackson told the Guardian: "It's the classic problem. The network buys it because they love it but then gradually the pressure comes to make it more of a gag-fest and less of a farce. And the challenge is to stop that happening."

NBC has also ordered a pilot of an American remake of the BBC's "The Kumars at No. 42." The show will be retitled "The Ortegas."

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