(or, how REV. may have dodged a bullet)
by Cara Winter
In doing a wee bit o’ research for my article about the British show REV., I read (here, and here) that creators Tom Hollander and James Wood had been in talks with ABC about turning their BAFTA-award winning show into an American sitcom. The American version would feature a doe-eyed pastor from the woods of Wisconsin, thrust into an inner-city parish in Chicago, yuddah, yudda… but since 2012, I can’t find anything about it in the trades. Googled it; nada, nuthin’. Not a G-D thing.
So, what’s up with that?! I suppose it could still be in development hell; lord knows there’s always that possibility. Maybe ABC is having issues with scripts, or casting, or finding it a spot in their lineup. Or maybe the person championing it at ABC now works for The Food Network.
Or maybe, just maybe, showrunner Bob Daily and/or Wood and/or Hollander happened to catch Showtime’s EPISODES… and thought better of the whole endeavor.
If you haven’t seen it yet, Showtimes’s EPISODES is penned by evil geniuses David Crane (FRIENDS) and Jeffrey Klarik (MAD ABOUT YOU). Sean and Beverly Lincoln (played with razor sharp wit by Stephen Mangan and Tamsin Greig) are British writing-team-slash-married couple whose BAFTA-award winning show is brought to America and subsequently ruined. The rubber-necking begins when, instead of hiring the renowned, elderly gentleman who made the show a hit in the UK, the network wants Matt LeBlanc (who plays himself – or, one would hope, a fun-house mirror version of himself). As their “baby” is slowly destroyed bit by horrifying bit, Sean and Beverly start to lose it — and by “it” I mean their connection to the show, their connection to each other, and all ties to Sanity itself.
EPISODES is a rare thing in American sitcoms, right now. It’s smart. It’s dark. It’s right on the money. And it has heart — you actually do feel for LeBlanc, despite his douche-baggery, when he starts to worry that he’s becoming fat, or irrelevant, or that maybe not all the other Friends would attend his funeral. And watching Sean and Bev attempting to Keep Calm and Carry On around network boss Merc (John Pankow) and his #2, Carol (Kathleen Rose Perkins) is a little like watching a kitten trying to get a plastic 6-pack holder off it’s neck: you feel for the poor creature, you really do, but it’s also way too hilarious to even consider putting an end to it.
EPISODES has been nominated for Emmys, BAFTAs, and Golden Globes, but has only won once (LeBlanc, for Best Actor). In light of how brilliant it is… this makes one wonder if the lack of wins is a message from Hollywood. Maybe the powers that be are a tad bit annoyed about a show where they’re depicted as dysfunctional, warped and twisted. Or, maybe they’re so dysfunctional, warped and twisted… they don’t actually get the joke? Think on that, for a nano-second. (Do it. You’ll either start to feel like Kierkegaard, or like you need some tequila.)
In the end, the show is a cautionary tale about the lengths even perfectly smart, sane people will go to for a little recognition, a little fame, a little fortune. Suddenly “success” becomes the aim, even if it means nuking the most beautiful thing you’ve ever made. This makes the show a tragedy, at bottom; a really, really funny tragedy. One worth watching. Now. GO. NOW.
Seriously, now is a great time to catch up EPISODES, as Season 4 starts in January 2015 (which is much, much sooner than you probably realize). (If you don’t have Showtime… go ahead, you know you want to…)
Cara Winter is a Contributing Editor to TVWriter™. You can learn more about her HERE.