Home > Current Events, Television > Starz! picks up BBC’s Torchwood for an international 4th season

Starz! picks up BBC’s Torchwood for an international 4th season

Okay, so this is admittedly not breaking news.  Rumors of the American premium television channel snatching up the opportunity to capitalize on a BBC success were confirmed a while ago. I’d like to be 100% enthusiastic about this, being an avid fan of most things BBC-related (such as Doctor Who, Life on Mars/Ashes to Ashes, Merlin, The IT Crowd, Coupling, etc.) because of my husband, but I’m having trouble wrapping my mind around the idea of a successful transition of the show from U.K. television to the U.S. market.  There’s a reason the U.S. remake of Life on Mars didn’t make it in the U.S. ratings department… well, at least two reasons.  A.) British and American humor are two completely different concepts most of the time, and B.) Whenever American networks try to recreate British successes on U.S. terms, they invariably fuck it up.  If you don’t believe me, watch the clip below.

See what I mean?

Now, I tried to be fair to Life on Mars’ American cousin and watched the entire abbreviated season faithfully.  It was truly painful for at least 90% of the experience.  The few times that there were genuinely funny moments were completely overshadowed, in retrospect, by the forced dialogue (British humor doesn’t translate well, see above) and occasionally outright rewrites of plot to suit American themes.  I can see small tweaks, but taking a British television series that’s designed to be ended by the end of season two with an open plot, leaving the viewers with an enigma until the end of the spin-off series (Ashes to Ashes), and completely rewriting it so that they’re all neat and tidy in cryogenic sleep pods in a spaceship on a mission to Mars, and the whole show was nothing but a computer-related glitch in their “dream programs”… I’m sorry, I almost flew out to Hollywood to shove a box of nails up the head writer’s ass.

Sorry. I get testy when my favorite international shows are threatened.

Which brings me back to my original concern: Starz! picking up Torchwood.

For those of you who don’t know what Torchwood is… what kind of geek are you?!  That’s okay, keep reading this blog and you’ll catch on quickly.

Torchwood is a spin-off show of Doctor Who, a huge phenomenon in both the U.K. and the U.S. — since SyFy (Please don’t get me started on the ridiculous name-change…) picked up the syndication rights within the last couple of years.  It follows the exploits of a time-traveling, age-defying extra-terrestrial, Captain Jack Harkness, who fights fellow aliens on behalf of the planet Earth.  More specifically, Cardiff.  We’re not sure why Cardiff… but the location is a running gag in both shows.  From what I understand, through conversations with my British husband, setting Torchwood in Cardiff is akin to having a Law & Order: Tulsa.  Sure, it can be done… but… why?

Anyway, Captain Jack (“Captain” is an affectation/holdover from an assumed identity he’s had for over 100 years or so, since World War II… Yeah. It’s a time-travel thing.), and his merry band of sexual deviants forensic xeno-specialists, track down threats that are alien in nature and destroy/send them packing back to the dark, horrible, rawrkillsmash cesspool from whence they slithered.  Along the way, they shag the hell out of everything that moves… and some things that don’t.  It’s very LGBT-friendly, and very steamy.  The British idea of “too hot for television” is a bit beyond what we Americans, as a whole, consider to be “taboo”.  This often presents a problem for networks that try to import from the other side of the pond, as they usually end up hacking the show into so many bits that barely any of it is left to be recognizable.

I suppose that Torchwood being passed up by Fox Networks and getting nabbed by Starz! is a very good thing, in this regard, as being a premium channel has its advantages.  There’s a lot more graphic sexuality, involved genders notwithstanding, allowed on those kinds of stations.  (Tudors, anyone?)  So, Captain Jack’s omnisexual nature should remain unchanged; good news for die-hard fans, bad news for poodles everywhere.  My misgivings primarily center on the poor writing and acting that has been the norm for shows brought from the BBC to the United States.  I’m not looking forward to watered-down content because focus groups in America think an ordinary theme or joke, that would have been appropriate on the show in its solely-BBC heyday, is too racy or controversial for this country’s inconsistent sense of values.

Torchwood is meant to be racy.  It’s meant to be hot, violent, foul-mouthed, controversial, accepting of all cultures/creeds/sexualities, and it’s definitely meant to have cutting-edge writing and acting that leaves the viewer on the edge of their couch, wondering what envelope the show is going to push next.

All I can hope for is that, come 2011, Russell T. Davies and his crew have ensured that the show’s quality of life remains exactly as such… or that they pull the plug before it deteriorates past the point of fans’ fond remembrance.

Categories: Current Events, Television
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