TV Pilot Season 2015: Hollywood Gets Lost in Translation (and sometimes, Translations Get Lost in Hollywood)


Re-purposing series, both scripted and unscripted, from other countries is nothing new in Hollywood, but there is an art to it in order to re-create the success of the original versions.  This season, someone’s been hanging out in Istanbul and watching television, as there’s not one but two Turkish series hoping to not get Lost in Translation.

Whether it’s just a re-make like The Office (from the original British version) on NBC or a re-imagining like Homeland (from the original Israeli version) on Showtime, both of those series translations found success here in the States.

However, that’s not always the case.

Case-in-point:  Resurrection on ABC is a re-interpretation from the French version, Les Revenants, however, it has failed to sustain here in the states after a promising debut.  Perhaps, the A&E version, The Returned, will have better luck. Meanwhile, the original is available on Sundance Channel.

Sometimes, ya got to re-imagine, re-format, or just say “inspired by” in order to recapture the winning formula of a successful series imported to the US market.  (Sorry, Canada.)

Recently premiered The Slap on NBC originated in Australia.  The jury is still out on whether it succeeds or not following a weak premiere, however, the subject matter is pretty interesting.

Unscripted series  Dancing With the Stars on ABC started out in the UK as did American Idol on Fox (as Pop Idol).

Ugly Betty has had numerous incarnations around the world but began in Colombia as La Fea Mas Bella.

This Pilot Season, here are the series imported by the networks that may or may not make it on the air depending whether or not they get lost in translation:


  • RUNNER (Turkey) on ABC was originally developed at Fox and is based on the Turkish series, Son.  A one-hour drama about the life of an arms dealer as seen through the eyes of a woman.
  • VALENTINA (Venezuela) on ABC Family is a telenovela that is described as Revenge meets Ugly Betty.  Aaron Kaplan, this season’s Uber-salesman, produces.
  • CONNECTED (Israel) on AOL (yes, AOL), is a half-hour reality series about New Yorkers armed with camcorders.  Jonathan Bricklin and Susan Sarandon are featured in this 20-episode digital order.
  • GAME OF SILENCE (Turkey) on NBC is based on the Turkish series, Suskunlar, and centers on a rising attorney with a secret past.  David Lyons stars.
  • THE DECALOGUE on NBC re-imagines the 1989 10-part Polish series inspired by one of the Ten Commandments each episode.  The new version is set in Boston.  Great idea.  Former ABC chief Stephen McPherson produces.
  • MAD DOGS (UK) on Amazon is a one-hour ensemble dramedy adapted from the UK version about the twisted reunion of under-achieving 40-somethings.  Steve Zahn, Billy Zane, Ben Chaplin, and Michael Imperoli star.  Shawn Ryan executive produces.
  • TAXI-22 (France) on CBS is a single-camera comedy based on the French comedy about a politically incorrect NYC cab driver.  John Leguizamo stars.
  • CORDON (Belgium) on The CW is a remake of the Belgian series about a quarantined city.  Now, it’s Atlanta.  David Nutter directs.
  • DATES (UK) 9-episode online romance comedy (acquisition).
  • LUTHER (UK) on Fox is based on the BBC drama that starred Idris Elba as a genius homicide detective.  Pilot is cast-contingent as Elba is not attached to star but only as an EP.  Former News Corp. chief Peter Chernin produces.
  • CUCKOO (UK) on NBC is based on the British series.  Andy Samberg is attached.
  • STRANGE CALLS (Australia) on NBC centers on an affable but down-on-his-luck cop who moves to a bizarre rural town.
  • BROTHERS IN CRIME (Sweden) on USA is a re-imagining of the Swedish series, Tusenbroder, which centers on three friends in a construction business who resort to crime.  Gale Anne Hurd produces.  Nick Cassavetes directs.
  • SEX BOX on WeTV (UK) is a reality series, wherein, a couple has sex in a box, then comes onstage, post-coital, to discuss their respective feelings with a relationship expert. Oy vey!  Premiered Feb. 28th to good ratings, tho.

About Surfing Hollywood

Steve La Rue is an internationally recognized leader in Film & Television with 20+ years experience as a Development Executive championing such series as Buffy The Vampire Slayer, The X-Files, The Simpsons, King of the Hill, Battlestar Galactica, and Farscape. He writes, blogs, and consults on All Things Entertainment from his home at the beach in Santa Monica, CA, where he balances his life by surfing every damn day.
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