Aug 12, 2010

Tradecraft: Spooks (aka MI-5) Gets A US Remake

Huh.  This is kind of weird... but potentially cool.  Deadline is reporting that "ABC Studios has closed a deal [with UK production company Kudos] for the rights to Spooks, known in the U.S. as MI-5."  Michael Seitzman, whose screenwriting credits include North Country and–in a more relevant vein–the long-percolating Robert Ludlum adaptation The Chancellor Manuscript (last seen in the clutches of Quantum of Solace director Marc Forster) will write and executive produce the adaptation. 

I'm sure most readers are familiar with Spooks (or MI-5), but for the uninitiated it follows the originally very down-to-earth but increasingly preposterous exploits of a small team of MI-5 agents and analysts under the even-handed leadership of Harry Pearce (Peter Firth).  Its hallmarks are slick production values, (generally) intelligent scripts and a very high mortality rate among the leads.  (Some of the character deaths have been shocking and profound.)  It's a great show, but not really one so patently original that it screams out for a Stateside remake.  In fact, I'm kind of perplexed as to exactly what ABC hopes to gain from shelling out for the rights rather than just creating their own brand new spy show.  Presumably they won't use the great title, Spooks, since A&E (who first aired the British version here in America) already rejected it out of an idiotic fear that it conjured up a rediculous racist epithet so archaic and obscure (today) as to run zero risk of misinterpretation among this generation of television viewers.  The title Americans actually know, MI-5, refers by name to the British domestic Security Service, and therefore has little use to the network unless they plan on setting their remake in Britain... which would kind of defeat the purpose of a remake! 

So the benefit of name recognition is out.  Which leaves, basically, the concept of a curmudgeonly but honorable spymaster quarterbacking for a stable of agents with various issues.  In the early seasons, there was a focus on said agents' attempts to balance relatively ordinary home lives with their secret lives, but that focus has diminished over the years.  In any case, none of that is anything particularly original that we haven't seen on numerous other spy series over the years–including ABC's own hit show Alias.  Don't get me wrong; Spooks does such a great job with its premise that it rises to the top of the pack, but a new version won't benefit from its actors or creative talent.  Furthermore, America has no direct analogue of MI-5 (no domestic security service), so either you're left with just another FBI show (how many have there been?), you're fudging it so that the CIA operates on US soil (like Covert Affairs) or you're making up a fictional service (essentially CTU), which has been done on 24, an inferior show to Spooks that Spooks for some reason attempted to emulate in later seasons.  So I can't help but feel that ABC got hoodwinked.  That said, of course I'll follow the development of the resulting series eagerly, and hope for the best!

Read my review of MI-5: Volume 1
Read my review of MI-5: Volume 2
Read my review of MI-5: Volume 3
Read my review of MI-5: Volume 4
Read my review of MI-5: Volume 5.

1 comment:

Rebecca said...

I've been waiting to see if you have anything more to say about Covert Affairs now that there's been more than one episode. I'm still not entirely hooked like I am with the rest of USA's shows, but I really like the opening titles.