Almost any New Zealander will recognize this image: a cast photograph from the long-running TV series Outrageous Fortune.
When I ﬁrst heard of this show from Antonia Prebble, before she started ﬁlming, I have to admit I didn’t think the premise would see it last ﬁve years (and counting). But for New Zealand television and the folks this show employs, I am glad it has.
Like all good shows (Life on Mars, State of Play, Cracker)—and a few bad ones (Pop Idol)—it was eyed up for a remake.
The British, who have never been that great at remaking shows usually (remember the Russ Abbot sitcom Married for Life, based on Married with Children? Or the remake of Who’s the Boss?, called The Upper Hand?), decided it would see how well West Auckland transplanted to London. Cue Amanda Redman instead of Robyn Malcolm, and a rebrand to Honest for ITV:
No, it didn’t work. According to some expat Kiwis whose comments I read, the pilot was virtually a shot-by-shot remake that added nothing to the original. I do not know about the remainder of the series, but the fact that it was not renewed by ITV says something.
The Americans, who have never been that great at remaking shows usually (Sanford & Son, Life on Mars, Coupling, Cosby, Ugly Betty, Three’s a Crowd, Eleventh Hour, Too Close for Comfort, The Ofﬁce, Viva Laughlin, Kath & Kim, Payne, Amanda’s, The Prisoner, In Treatment, Worst Week, All in the Family, State of Play, etc.; Shameless and Gavin & Stacey are on the cards), decided to give this a shot. Getting in the chap who made Veronica Mars and Catherine O’Hara (the Home Alone Mum, after Rene Russo turned it down), Cheryl West became Jackie West and the show was renamed Good Behavior.
Only the pilot was made. I never saw it, but indications were that it was not good.
Still, you have to admire the Americans for not giving up. The show’s been retooled, Virginia Madsen and David James Elliott (whom I know you ladies like) have been hired, and, as Scoundrels, it débuts on ABC on June 20. A series has been commissioned.
The publicity touts this as an ‘original’ ABC series (yeah, right), but I actually hope it goes well for them. Why? Because the Kiwis who created Outrageous Fortune, I believe, will earn royalties on each episode. We might pooh-pooh it because we are purists, but I’d rather the money ﬂowed inwards. While we haven’t exactly exported Kiwi culture in a Flight of the Conchords way—because the show has been Americanized—I’d still rather a decent Kiwi concept got there and, in its small way, reverse the tide of the reality TV junk that so often comes westward across the Paciﬁc.
Like Scorsese’s The Departed, a remake that sparked interest in the original Infernal Affairs (無間道), we might see Americans track down the original Outrageous Fortune on DVD. That, too, can only be a good thing.