Thursday, 12 August 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #574: Spooks Going American?

Welcome to the show folks...

It's a slow day for news that blows up my kilt with excitement, so I have to take what I can get. I just saw on Deadline that ABC-TV is interested in adapting Spooks with Kudos (a part of Elizabeth Murdoch's Shine Group). If that name doesn't ring any bells you may have seen it when it aired on A&E under the name

The premise of the show is fairly simple. It follows the work of an elite unit of counter-terrorism / counter-espionage agent for Britain's domestic security service, otherwise known as MI-5.

Now Americanising the show will take the burning of a few creative calories. The USA doesn't really have the equivalent of MI-5*, leaving those duties to specialist sections of the FBI who treat such operations with a more law enforcement as opposed to counter-intelligence style.

It's not that big a deal though, 24 had their fictional CTU, so it's not hard to toss a few more letters into Washington's alphabet soup.

So let's take a gander at what can help it and what can hurt it--


1. The original, at least the seasons I watched on A&E had a very high quality in the story and character department. You got to know the people involved and care about them.

2. The premise has great potential for suspense and adventure dealing with terrorists, both foreign and domestic, as well as spies and betrayal, both foreign and domestic.

3. The unpredictability. The original is notoriously ruthless with its characters, regularly offing regulars on a regular basis.... wha? Often doing it as a complete surprise out of the blue for maximum dramatic impact.


1. The high quality may not survive an American network. There is a very good chance that the producers of Spooks USA may end up hiring writers who don't really feel the passion about the material as the original's writers.

2. Comparisons to 24. These will be inevitable, and folks may enter expecting action, action, action, instead of the slow burn of building dread the original specialized in.

3. Political correctness. There's a very good possibility that a new Spooks USA show will completely ignore the radical Islamic terrorism we see in the news, in favor of plot-lines where every story ends with some middle aged American guy in a suit being behind everything.

4. The ruthlessness of the original may not be copied in the American version. The idea of casually knocking off the show's star is terrifying to an American TV executive. Though I must say that it's a great tool to have when it's contract renegotiation time.

5. I'm not sure any spy series could really match the gritty and grim realism of The Sandbaggers from the late 1970s.

The show, created by naval officer turned writer Ian Mackintosh captured the paranoia, fear, and almost overwhelming stress faced by intelligence officers during the dark days of the Cold War. While I liked the first 2 seasons of Spooks/MI-5, it just didn't stick with me the way The Sandbaggers still does, and I haven't seen that show in 25 years.

I wish the people behind the new show luck. I'm just not sure that a mainstream broadcast network is the right home for this kind of show.

*That we know of.... and by that I mean that they haven't had their existence leaked yet.

No comments:

Post a Comment