Mar. 21st, 2011


Mar. 21st, 2011 05:31 pm
talktooloose: (Saints in Love)
We just discovered the British comedy-drama, "Shameless." I found it while doing one of my YouTube searches for shows with recurring gay characters. The show, about a family living in a subsidized housing estate in Manchester, dates back to 2004 and is now in its 8th season.

I hadn't realized at that point that an American reboot of the show had started back in January starring the wonderful character actor William H. Macy. I downloaded the first ep of the American version and we watched it on Saturday. Uh... great actors and design and scenes. But something was really wrong. YouTube had the entire first ep of the UK series, so we compared it. The American pilot was almost identical, scene for scene (even some dialogue) but it just didn't work, whereas the UK version totally sparkled.

I think the problem is that a show about the poor in the UK is fundamentally different than one in America. First of all, any cultural translation must be rethought from the ground up, not just transplanted. But what are the differences? Perhaps it is the long-standing, acknowledged class system in Britain. The family in Manchester and their friends and neighbours have a unique sense of pride in their working class identity. American urban poverty is much more steeped in a sense of cultural shame, partly because of the myth of America as a classless society. If you're poor, it's because you're lazy or not taking advantage of all the amazing opportunities. Any little boy can grow up to be POTUS, etc.

Nothing in the American pilot rung true; which is a shame, since a lot of hard work clearly went into it. Meanwhile, even though Snake can only understand about 60% of the UK version with its thick Mancunian dialect (I get about 85%!), we're going to rent the rest of season 1.

Here's the first ep.

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