Saturday, February 12, 2011

America dumbs down Downton Abbey

While I'm on the cultural vibe, I've read news that Downton Abbey [my favorite period TV drama to date] will be edited in order for the American audience to have a better grasp on the plot. I find it quite startling, when an article [on Digital Spy] opens with the following:

"TV executives in the US have simplified the central storyline in ITV's hit period drama Downton Abbey due to fears that it will not be understood by American audiences.

The programme's plot - in which a distant relative stands to inherit the estate - will be downplayed and the series running time cut from eight to six hours when it airs in the US next week.

Downton Abbey focuses on the inner workings of the English aristocracy, specifically a legal device called the 'entail', which determines how an estate should be divided up."

REALLY? This is my question. Personally, I don't know anything about British nobility and how the law treats their estate, but I've watched the show. It's pretty obvious: the title of Lord along with the estate and money goes to the closest male relative [in this case, cousin Matthew], while the current Lord's progeny [three sisters] are left with nothing. Even without having to google the 'entail', it is clearly defined in the context of the plot and dialogue.

However, 'it is not a concept people in the US are very familiar with' AND 'American audiences are used to a different speed when it comes to television drama and you need to get into a story very quickly.'

Basically, America managed to ruin another quality story WITHOUT re-booting, re-making or commissioning a sequel. A big round of applause, please. What I'm mostly bitter about is that the American TV executives underestimate the audience without giving it a chance to see for itself, whether it can get the references or not. Plus, it's a minor challenge, really. One which could very well inspire more viewers to become interested in other cultures and really, Britain is fascinating with its history of power shifts and nobility.

It's sad, really.


Charles Gramlich said...

I barely watch American TV, much less British. My wife likes some british comedy sitcoms. I did think I might like that Primeval. Have only caught an episode and a half and it was pretty good.

Harry Markov said...

There's a lot to learn from TV series in general. You just need the right shows. For instance Downton Abbey is a fascinating resource for intrigue and interlacing subplots.

Amber Cuadra said...

What the heck? That is annoying. It's British, for goodness sake. It's going to be different than American story telling, and if Americans don't appreciate it, then they can watch something American made. Personally, I prefer British TV to American, and I have no trouble understanding it.

Leona said...

That's beyond insane. Really? I know lots of people who write about that issue! More that read books containing it. And I don't mean my UK friends either.

I hate it when things are dumbed down. Will have to have my UK frineds send me a REAL copy if it ever comes out on DVD. Sigh.