Old Coupling, New Coupling, Red Coupling, Blue Coupling

I rarely watch any particular show regularly as most lose any cleverness they may have had by the end of the first season. (Current shows worth watching: Simpsons, South Park, Scrubs (though this may jump the shark any episode now as NBC is compelled to remove the com out of all their sitcoms; Seinfeld being the exception), I’m With Busey, Coupling.) That is not to say I do not watch other shows when they are on (Long live the Croc Hunter), but I make no point of watching them regularly. Side note: I know many of you are still watching Friends. Stop this immediately. May I never have to endure another Friends commercial prominently featuring that Enya song and excessive slow motion clips to help underscore Rachel’s latest woes. When Chandler gets pregnant, I’ll start watching again.

So for sometime now I’ve been religiously watching this sitcom on BBC America called “Coupling”. (If you are a British reader, you may have seen the same program on The BBC sans America.) Coupling is nothing short of brilliant; it is genius. This has not gone unnoticed by the wigs that are big at NBC. This television season NBC is producing an Americanized version of Coupling cleverly called “Coupling”. Though from what I’ve read they are actually working from original BBC scripts and just removing/replacing the British references. This is terrible. This may be worse than Gus Van Sant remaking “Psycho” shot for shot.

I am not against remakes no matter the medium, but I think there are certain guidelines that should be followed:

1. Grace Period. If you are going to remake a song, movie, project… you must give the original its respectable grace period. This is not a definite period of time, but rather quite depends on the grandness of the original and the stature of the re-creator. For example, let’s say you are Dashboard Confessional and you want to perform “In My Life” on your new album. This is right out. I accept the fact that Dashboard is an up-and-comming, quasi-respectable band, however until the “emo” fad has passed and they are still a viable musical act they may not even consider re-making a Beatles classic. Seriously, where are all the ska and swing bands of five years ago, Mr. Confessional? Better to aim for the likes of The Electric Light Orchestra. Conversely, Alien Ant Farm’s rendition of “Smooth Crimial” – top notch and totally acceptable.

2. Reason for Re-do. Have a reason for re-working old material. If all you intend to do is make a carbon copy of the original, don’t. “Look, Bill, I invented the wheel!” (some time later) “Look, Henry, I invented the wheel, too.” “Why, Bill, why? Why not improve upon my wheel, or present an alternative to the wheel? Give it treads for channeling water or perhaps make it out of rubber instead of stone.” “Jeez, Henry, I don’t rightly know what I was thinking, now that you mention it.” Example of poor judgement: Randy Travis re-making “She Thinks I Still Care”. I heard Mr. Travis is working on a new song called “The Wheel”. Best example of a good reason for a re-make – “Fifth of Beethoven”. (That also is a good example of giving a respectable grace period.)

This American “Coupling” obeys neither of those guidelines. As such I can only assume the single reason NBC is choosing this course of programming is cash. Now, I am not insensitive to the fact that networks need to make money, but for the love of Jack Lord, have at least a smidgen of integrity. If the original needs so little tweaking, just show that and save gobs of cash on production costs. I will go one further. By so closely resembling the original Coupling, NBC is acknowledging that the original is quite good, yet still asking the viewer to watch this other version instead. Let’s say you are in the super market shopping for ice cream. When you open the freezer you see your favorite pint (Ben and Jerry’s “Heath Toffee Coffee Crunch”) and a pint right next to it reading “Just like Ben and Jerry’s ‘Heath Toffee Coffee Crunch'” for the same price. Which do you choose?

And if you still aren’t on board here with me on the watch-the-original-and-avoid-the-re-make-at-all-costs tip, I offer you this: There is, and always will be, only one Jeff Murdock.

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