Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Torchwood Goes Stateside?

Check this out, reported today at "The Hollywood reporter"...

Exclusive: Huge news for sci-fi fans: Fox is developing a stateside version of the U.K. hit series “Torchwood.”

The project is from BBC Worldwide Prods., with original series creator Russell Davies writing the script.

A more straight-faced spinoff of “Doctor Who,” “Torchwood” is about a covert group that investigates and fights alien activity. Two series aired domestically on BBC America as well as last year’s well reviewed stand-alone miniseries, “Children of Earth,” which broke all ratings records for the network. (If you're a fan of serious sci fi such as "Battlestar Galatica" and haven't seen "Children of Earth," rent it. You don't need to know anything about the series. And I know the previews for "Torchwood" can look silly. Trust me, it's terrific. Like "24" with aliens).

Unlike U.S. adaptations that have gone awry, “Torchwood” fans can take comfort that the original producing team is on board. In addition to Davies, exec producers include Davies’ producing partner Julie Gardner (former head of drama at BBC Wales for the show’s first season) and Jane Tranter (another BBC vet, now exec VP programming and production at BBC Worldwide Prods. in the U.S.).

Also, some of the current cast — most likely John Barrowman, who plays the immortal Capt. Jack Harkness — might star if Fox orders “Torchwood” to pilot.

As for the new show’s plot, the U.S. version will contain a global story line compared to the more localized sensibility of the first two BBC seasons.

Tranter might try to reboot “Doctor Who” for U.S. audiences while departing “Doctor Who” star David Tennant stars in NBC’s pilot “Rex Is Not Your Lawyer.” “Torchwood” (which is an anagram of “Doctor Who”) debuted in 2006 on BBC 3 and set ratings records, then was moved to BBC 1. Russell also reinvented “Doctor Who” in 2003 and was writer-creator of the series “Queer as Folk.”

So what do we make of this? News on Torchwood's future has been in short supply these last few months but the rumour mill has been working on overdrive for some time. Following the huge international success of the five-part 'Children of Earth' mini-series last year (nearly 7 million viewers in the UK and a massive numbers on BBC America) it seemed odd that the BBC didn't rush to announce the commissioning of further episodes of Dr Who's it-got-there-in-the-end adult spin-off. I mean, not many drama shows on BBC1 get 7 million viewers at all, particularly not in the height of the summer months. John Barrowman himself recently let slip on Radio 2 that a fourth series of 13 episodes had been planned and Russell T Davies has also been dropping hints here and there when the subject's been raised. But rebooting the show totally in America? It makes a sort of sense.

Following the events of 'Children of Earth' it was always going to be difficult to accept that Torchwood could just reset itself and bring Captain Jack back to Cardiff for more Rift-based shenanigans; the show just seems to have left that rather prosaic and cutesy setting behind. 'CoE' made the show seem broader, grander, more real. With Davies, Julie Gardner and Jane Tranter now over in the USA trying to build a BBC presence overseas, it seems a fairly wise move to try and make inroads with an established and well-liked franchise, one with an inbuilt familiarity. The curveball is the suggestion that the Fox network is interested in the show; Fox are notorously impatient with their genre shows - if they don't get big numbers straight away they get chopped fairly swiftly. And Fox have a habit of dumping their genre shows in the 'death slots' on Friday night when, it seems, hardly anyone in America watched TV. However with a bit of smart and sassy retooling - and with Barrowman's twinkling eye and languid drawl - it's not impossible to see the show refocussed along more traditional American TV lines - think a 21st century 'X Files' and you could do a lot worse. Importing Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) might not be easy or sensible and it'd be a shame to lose what's left of the Torchwood family of characters - Gwen, Rhys, PC Andy - although it has to be said 'CoE' was clearly written to wrap the whole show up if necessary or at least close one particular Welsh chapter. Jack returning to Cardiff would just seem contrived and, with the whole Universe at his disposal, a bit unlikely, regardless of what friends he feels he has left in the city. The whole point of Jack basing hismelf in Cardiff was the fact that he was waiting for "the right kind of doctor" to come along - which he's done and loose ends in the Doctor/Jack story have been tied up. Jack's a free agent now and I suppose he might as well pitch up in LA as Llandaff.

An interesting development, nonetheless and we'll have to wait and see which way this goes. Certainly at the moment BBC Wales, preparing to move into a £25 million new studio complex in Cardiff, is expecting to take Dr Who, Torchwood, Sarah Jane on board as well as the relocated Casualty and Being Human. But if these rumours are true Torchwood will be losing its Cardiff roots and becoming something rather more international. Stay tuned...what do you think about these rumoured plans for Captain Jack? You know where the comment box is...

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