On the Air, Out There: A Look at Some TV Hits From Around the World That Could Be Headed Our Way



Hollywood is remaking British TV shows faster than our royalty-ruled friends can create new ones. In true American fashion, when one region’s resources are thoroughly depleted, we simply find a new spot to suck dry. Concepts from Israel, Denmark and Australia are already on major networks in the States. Smaller cable outlets are nabbing Canadian and Aussie hits as they are, offering nice little windows into other (pop) cultures. Here’s a look at what else could be coming our way.

AUSTRALIA
The steering wheel’s on the wrong side of the car and Queen Elizabeth reigns, but (in our albeit limited experience — we’re going by YouTube clips here) Australia’s TV sensibility is closer to America’s than Britain’s. The attitude is more down-to-earth, the humor broader, the drama grittier. They seem to share our love for man-children. Expect to hear “mate” and “bloke” from male characters. If it’s set in Sydney, the opera house will frequently appear in the background.

» Rake
A self-destructive barrister (that means “lawyer” in British-ese) takes on hopeless-sounding cases, such as a cannibal accused of murder. Despite his bad habits (drinking, prostitutes, gambling, etc.), he wows juries, all while wearing one of those silly wigs.
Should America Remake It? Who doesn’t love a train-wreck attorney?

» The Librarians
For all we said about Aussie and British TV not being all that alike, this sitcom is very much in the vein of the original “Office.” You’ve got the unsympathetic boss who offends all with cringe-y remarks, and the array of put-upon employees.
Should America Remake It? Our “Office” was a success, and lightning doesn’t strike twice. So, no.

» Spirited
Accomplished, wealthy dentist Suzy leaves her dirtbag husband and moves into a fancy apartment with her two kids. The place is haunted by a dead British rock star who disappeared mysteriously after years of erratic, drug-fueled misbehavior. They fall in love.
Should America Remake It? It’s a cute idea with potential. Yes.

» East West 101
In this Sydney-based police drama, Muslim detective Zane Malik and his fellow officers navigate all manner of politically charged situations. The third season will explore how the consequences of war in the Middle East manifest in Australia.
Should America Remake It? We’d like to see someone try — our well of police material is running dry.

» Cloudstreet
This miniseries’ sprawling plot and high production values are a match for any HBO affair. The story of two rural families who move to Perth in the 1940s is based on a popular novel by Tim Winton.
Should America Remake It? Gorgeous. Period. Drama. A premium channel should just buy it outright. If not, PBS needs to get in the game.

» Outland
This sitcom launches later this year. According to an alluring press release, it “orbits around a gay science-fiction fan club, and the lives, loves and never-ending dramas of its members.”
Should America Remake It? It’s being heralded by the Aussie press as “the gay ‘Big Bang Theory.’” If it’s a hit, we bet there will be interest.

» Wilfred
“Wilfred” is a bizarre comedy whose U.S. remake will soon debut (see above). Both star Jason Gann as the title character, a dog. In the original, he torments his owner’s hapless boyfriend. She is unaware that her pet talks, smokes weed via his beloved bong and drinks heavily.
See It Now: Independent Film Channel, Amazon Instant, iTunes

CANADA
So many American series are shot in our neighboring nation that there’s no sense of displacement when watching a Canadian-made show. Indeed, visitors who know New York City only from TV must be shocked when they see how dirty it is in reality. (Toronto, we hear, is much cleaner.) Even that’s changing — the police dramas “Rookie Blue” on ABC and “Flashpoint” on CBS are both Canadian productions that don’t hide their Toronto settings.

» Being Erica
Erica Strange (Erin Karpluk, left) is pretty and smart, but her life’s at a standstill. After she nearly dies, Dr. Tom shows up and offers to send her back in time to rewrite her greatest regrets. Her older self enters her younger body, “Quantum Leap”-style, and since this is a realistic show, avoiding a tryst with a sleazebag doesn’t result in Germany winning World War II.
Should America Remake It? America IS remaking it — but why? There’s no accent barrier (they all sound Midwestern) and Karpluk is an impossible act to follow.
See It Now: Soapnet, Amazon Instant, Hulu, iTunes

» ReGenesis
Attractive government scientists investigate hardcore threats such as disease outbreaks, bioterrorism, human cloning and amoral drug companies in this brainy procedural.
Should America Remake It? We may not be ready for a show that doesn’t skimp on terms such as siRNA and bacteriophage.
See It Now: Halogen and Hulu Plus

» Endgame
Russian chess champion Arkady Balagan solves crimes from a Vancouver hotel. (He’s too traumatized to leave after his fiancee is murdered outside.) The handsome shut-in’s pals — a hotel maid and a rabid chess fan — do his legwork.
Should America Remake It? It shares some DNA with “Monk,” but Balagan is much sexier. Yes.

» Heartland
Two sisters run the family horse ranch in Alberta after their mom dies. The duo specialize in healing abused and wounded horses. They have a lovable grandpa, a reformed deadbeat dad and various male love interests.
Should America Remake It? Not necessary, as it’s syndicated here. In D.C., it airs on WDCA.

» InSecurity
A silly but reportedly charming trifle, this sitcom parodies secret agent fare like “24″ and “Alias,” and forensic franchises like “CSI.”
Should America Remake It? Statesiders likely won’t catch jokes made at the French-Canadian character’s expense. The U.S. cast would need another target. Perhaps a Canadian.

» Little Mosque on the Prairie
In its fifth season, the Saskatchewan-set comedy follows the Muslim community and its Christian neighbors in a small prairie town.
Should America Remake It? The show’s risky concept fascinated the American press when it premiered in 2007. Fox showed interest in a remake in 2008, but nothing’s developed. Man up, Fox.



NEW ZEALAND
Here are some vocabulary words we learned whilst researching the Kiwi television landscape: “Bog-standard,” a British term for ordinary. “Stroppy,” British for being easily irritated or offended. “Bogan,” Australian/New Zealand slang for lower-class. (It’s not a polite thing to call someone.) “Rooting,” a Down Under way of saying “having sex.” (It’s not super-polite either.) Now, we shall use them all in context to describe shows from New Zealand.

» The Almighty Johnsons
This superhero-ish series wins today’s award for Show Most Clearly the Product of a Random Plot Generator. Four seemingly bog-standard brothers and their cousin are incarnations of Norse gods who decided to live in N.Z. There is rooting.
Should America Remake It? It has elements of the supernatural yet is not about vampires. Score.

» Outrageous Fortune
A long-running dramedy about a boganic crime family whose matriarch decides to go legit after Dad gets a lengthy prison sentence. The stroppy Cheryl wrangles her four misbehaving offspring as she starts a lingerie business. There is rooting.
Should America Remake It? It was, as 2010′s “Scoundrels” on ABC. It was not renewed.

» Go Girls
Three young women, in response to quarter-life crises, pledge that they’ll meet their goals in one year. They do it again at the beginning of the second and third seasons. Career challenges, romances and life milestones ensue. There is rooting.
Should America Remake It? Reportedly, a loose adaptation is in development.

SOUTH AFRICA

» Home Affairs
Nine women’s lives and plotlines intersect in spite of their diverse backgrounds. Katleho (Lerato Moloisane, left) is a drama student who meets Thandeka, an NGO executive whose organization helps Vuyokazi, an athlete, and so on.
Should America Remake It? It’s billed as “by women for women” but deserves better than Lifetime.

» Intersextions
Each of the 25 episodes is a stand-alone story; all are stops on an HIV infection chain. The series quickly amassed viewers, and hype is high for the finale on April 5. A second season hasn’t been announced yet.
Should America Remake It? It’s an original concept that makes tough material relatable. Does any U.S. network have the cojones?

ARGENTINA

» Botineras/WAGs
This soccer-themed telenovela chronicles rogueish athletes and their brushes with both romance and the law. (A “botinera” is a woman who dates footballers.) It features cameos by celebs from the Argentine football world.

FRANCE

» Fort Boyard
Before we had “Survivor,” France had “Fort Boyard,” a reality competition that ends with a showdown against live tigers. Filmed inside a fort built by Napoleon, it’s been adapted by more than 30 countries. All are shot at Fort Boyard.

» Plus Belle La Vie
Set in the fictional Marseilles neighborhood of Mistral, this weeknight soap delves into the personal lives of Mistral’s residents. The requisite juicy shenanigans are present: faked deaths, mob dealings, illicit affairs and cases of confused sexuality.

GERMANY

» Kommissar Rex
American dogs eat inappropriate objects and expel room-clearing farts. Rex is a German dog, so he fights crime. The star is a German shepherd who goes after bad guys with the help of his human handler. “Rex” has been on since 1994.

MEXICO

» Los Simuladores
A Mexican remake of an Argentine series, this drama focuses on a group of kind-of private detectives who set up stings to catch cheating husbands and corrupt CEOs. It’s like “The A-Team,” but smarter and with fewer explosions.

SPAIN

» Fama! A Bailar
Dance is the universal language! So are exclamation points! A popular dance-competition series reigns in Spain! It’s on five days a week! There are pairs of dancers and also group dances! You can see some clips on YouTube!

PORTUGAL

» Meu Amor
Three women, whose fates are crossed after a plane crash, live and love in Lisbon. In 2010, “My Love” earned Portugal its first-ever International Emmy in the Telenovela category.

Holly J. Morris is Express' managing editor for features.
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Clinton Yates · March 30, 2011