Tuesday, January 08, 2008

[Not] In Front of the Children

There's a new phenomenon about to burst across broadcast TV called child-safe repurposing. [Ugh, what an ugly phrase that is.] The first case in Britain is Torchwood. The first series of this Doctor Who spin-off was full of swearing and sex, banishing it to life beyond the watershed [i.e. only safe for broadcast after 9pm]. There were some grumblings about creating an adults-only spin-off from a hugely popular family drama, but there will always be people grumbling about something.

The second series of Torchwood starts next week and is still aimed at adult viewers. However, midway through the 13 episodes the cast will be joined by Martha Jones, a former companion of the Doctor and role model for small girls. If you vastly exaggerate the facts for fun, it's a bit like transplanting Tinkie-Winkie from the Tellytubbies into Sex and the City [with Prada supplying a new magical handbag, no doubt]. Give eight year olds enough reason to watch Torchwood and they will.

So a solution has been found - a edited, child-safe version of Torchwood will be broadcast at 7pm several days after the post-watershed incarnation. The BBC gets to recycle the material and satisfy any crusading moralist who might be getting on their high horse. Across the Atlantic [where the term repurposing was coined], another adults-only drama is also getting the sex and swearing removed for a wider audience.

Dexter is a gripping thriller about a serial killer who works as a blood forensics expert in Miaimi [curiously, he never bumps into Horatio Caine or anybody else from CSI: Miami]. First broadcast on the cable network Showtime, it featuring sex, swearing and no shortage of violence. With the Writers' Guild strike having burned through most broadcast networks' stocks of new drama, the likes of CBS are casting around for quality drama to fill their schedules.

Step forward Dexter, cut and pasted into a more family-friendly package for broadcast from February 17. Two other cable drama series, Monk and Psych, are also going mainstream, although neither of them is likely to upset any moralists. Indeed, Monk is so family-friendly BBC2 often broadcasts it on Sunday afternoons [and most entertaining it is, too].

Any other candidates for clean-up and crossover appeal? The Sopranos is already getting a lesser extreme airing on A&E in America. Thankfully, the days when British broadcasters attempted to show films like The Taxi Driver or Beverly Hills Cop without swearing, sex or violence are behind us. Grud forbid anybody every tried to broadcast Reservoir Dogs in a child-friendly form; it would only last five minutes.


AndyDecker said...

As reprehensible this is, cementing the notion that adult is only sex and violence - for which of course every nation has a different standard -, it is also a brillant marketing strategy. Now you can also sell two or more different versions of tv-stuff on the dvd, not only the latest Tarrantino or Saw or whatever.

I wonder when the same censorship - ups, age-advised customizing - will apply for the book market. On the other hand, there is already such a thing if you see the different moviebooks of current hollywood blockbusters.

Tiim said...

Hello there

I have never seen any of the TV programmes you mention, but I am amused by the contradiction. Only programmes that are broadcast in mid-evening could ever gain large audiences. So why bother to make programmess that could only be shown much later?
Putting it another way, if the BBC wanted a "Torchwood" for 7 o'clock showing, why did they ever intruct the programme-makers to film a version that contained lots of sex and swearing? In the case of "Torchwood" especially, it seems the s and s have been put in merely so that it could be described as "adult".
A bit shallow, isn't it?

Tiim said...

A further thought ...
In Britain, no commercial broadcaster would make "Torchwood" - it just couldn't turn a profit.
So what is the BBC's rationale for making it. The trailers I have seem were risible. The programme looks like the result of someone being GIVEN a huge amount of money and told "do whatever you like". Rather different to the American TV that you love so much, isn't it?

Pete Kempshall said...

Hmmm. Dexter with all the violent, sweary or sexual material removed ... Five minute episodes, then.

Or are we talking lots of poor dubbing, melon-farmer?