Law & Order: Unsafe vs American Dream & Buried vs. In Memory Of…

Two further comparisons, and I’m ready to reach a verdict.

One thing that is evident is that the pace of the UK episodes is verging on the slothful. In Unsafe, while Stone is trying to persuade the judge to deny the  appeal, the camera cuts rapidly throughout, with reactions conveyed in a couple of seconds.  When Steel conducts the counterpart argument, the camera lingers on a long shot at the end of the argument to underline the strength of his emotion.  And in Buried there was even an establishing shot (of the Thames).  The folks behind the BBC’s Bleak House  understood the Law & Order style far better than Kudos does.

In the UK version, both cops and lawyers are irritatingly unimpeachable.  The empathsise, constantly.  Steel sends flowers annually to the victim of a man he failed to prosecute.  Brooks loses sleep over a mothers’ distress at the lack of resolution to a case.  The UK cops take time to denounce a former cop’s bigotted attitude.  But in the US versions, the protagonists are allowed their own prejudices; though rarely without being challenged within the script.  Debate is a regular feature, especially in the DA’s office, and the cops’ black humour helps them deal with the daily trauma.  The lawyers daily balance the life changing decisions they make for victims and defendants with their chances of success.  Cynical, perhaps; but their compassion is still evident.

The performances in the US version are exceptionally strong. While in the UK version, when facing down his “nemesis”, Daniels has to throw a box down in the street to show his anger, Moriarty gives such a contained performance he can convey ten times the emotion by barely appearing to lose control at all.  The UK version is blessed with great actors, but the performances are mediocre to poor.

It isn’t working. Let’s hope it’s not renewed.

But for ITV whether it continues will depend on whether the changes they have made appeal to the audience that they are seeking.  They clearly have a strong vision of the audience they are appealing to: they think they are morons.  In comparison to the US version, the UK scripts are dumbed down melodrama and the performances lack all of the strength and subtlety of the original.  Wherever the US version requires the viewers attention, the UK version makes especially sure to spell everything out SLOWLY.  Oh yes, and Brits?Acting is NOT the same as overacting.

Series Verdict: The court finds that the original Law & Order is being copied without merit.  Why watch the new versions when the episodes made 15 years earlier are so much better? 

About Simon Wood

E-learning officer, lapsed mathematician, Doctor Who fan and garden railway builder. See simonwood.info for more…

8 thoughts on “Law & Order: Unsafe vs American Dream & Buried vs. In Memory Of…

  1. Chris Chibnall strikes again then?

    The first episode of this seemed workmanlike and a bit disappointing — with a decade or so worth of stories they decided to launch with one about dodgy heating. I’ve got the other four waiting on my PVR and I’ve not heard anything which would make me want to watch them.

    Actually the only thing which would probably make me want to watch another episode would be a Munch cameo — it happened in the German version I think.

    It seems to me that it would have been a much better option to keep the structure but write original scripts covering topics that are specific to UK law and courts. Sounds as though so much effort is being made to convert the original script inevitably leading to something being lost in translation.

  2. Chris Chibnall strikes again then?

    The first episode of this seemed workmanlike and a bit disappointing — with a decade or so worth of stories they decided to launch with one about dodgy heating. I’ve got the other four waiting on my PVR and I’ve not heard anything which would make me want to watch them.

    Actually the only thing which would probably make me want to watch another episode would be a Munch cameo — it happened in the German version I think.

    It seems to me that it would have been a much better option to keep the structure but write original scripts covering topics that are specific to UK law and courts. Sounds as though so much effort is being made to convert the original script inevitably leading to something being lost in translation.

  3. You really have to wonder why programs are re-made or re-envisioned. Similar to what you’re describing here, there was a recent )now mercifully cancelled) US version of Life on Mars which was completely without the benefit of anything that could recommend it over the original.

    (And do not get me going on the 2002 BBC version of Hound of the Baskervilles with Richard Roxburgh. What were they thinking?! 🙂 )

  4. You really have to wonder why programs are re-made or re-envisioned. Similar to what you’re describing here, there was a recent )now mercifully cancelled) US version of Life on Mars which was completely without the benefit of anything that could recommend it over the original.

    (And do not get me going on the 2002 BBC version of Hound of the Baskervilles with Richard Roxburgh. What were they thinking?! 🙂 )

  5. Hi Stuart. I totally agree with you; I’d have liked a series in the L&O universe, using the L&O style, but with original London stories. Remaking just invites (unfavourable) comparison (an invitation I couldn’t resist, too). And it would have been nice to have cross-overs.

    Curious about the German version, though. I didn’t know they’d tried doing spin-offs in other countries too. Any details? Did they remake scripts there, or create originals?

    Love Feeling Listless, by the way.

  6. Hi Stuart. I totally agree with you; I’d have liked a series in the L&O universe, using the L&O style, but with original London stories. Remaking just invites (unfavourable) comparison (an invitation I couldn’t resist, too). And it would have been nice to have cross-overs.

    Curious about the German version, though. I didn’t know they’d tried doing spin-offs in other countries too. Any details? Did they remake scripts there, or create originals?

    Love Feeling Listless, by the way.

  7. @Gridman There seems to be a mania for re-envisioning right now. Anything that can be described as a reboot or reimagining (anything but a remake, basically), from Batman and Bond to Star Trek etc. I guess it’s easier than thinking of something new.

    I don’t have a problem with it if it adds something. But as you say there has to be a benefit over watching the original (and not just because it’s in colour/in your own language/set in your own country, either!)

    L&O has, I’m sure, been described by Wolf as a “brand”. It’s not a description I like (I’d rather be a viewer than a consumer) but if the qualities are great performances and great writing as well as the destinctive storytelling style, then L&O UK was always destined to be somewhat watered down since the writing could only echo what had already been done, better, fifteen years before.

  8. @Gridman There seems to be a mania for re-envisioning right now. Anything that can be described as a reboot or reimagining (anything but a remake, basically), from Batman and Bond to Star Trek etc. I guess it’s easier than thinking of something new.

    I don’t have a problem with it if it adds something. But as you say there has to be a benefit over watching the original (and not just because it’s in colour/in your own language/set in your own country, either!)

    L&O has, I’m sure, been described by Wolf as a “brand”. It’s not a description I like (I’d rather be a viewer than a consumer) but if the qualities are great performances and great writing as well as the destinctive storytelling style, then L&O UK was always destined to be somewhat watered down since the writing could only echo what had already been done, better, fifteen years before.

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