I had heard that this wasn't uncommon. I just hadn't realised how uncommon. According to figures from the US State Department in January 2011, the number of US citizens who own a passport is 114,464,041. Sounds a lot doesn't it? However, the country’s population is around 307,006,550, so the percentage of people with passports is about 37%. That's nearly two out of three Americans without a passport. A recent innovation has been the introduction of a 'Passport Card' that allows travel to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean and Bermuda, but they can't be used for international air travel. Even with 3.5 million of these cards in circulation, that's still only around 1% of the population.
In recent years, studios have become obsessed with re-making British films and TV shows as American versions and I just cannot fathom why. Death at a funeral was a perfectly respectable and funny film and did not need a re-boot in an all American style. Americans are not stupid. They would have laughed at the gags in the British original. They might even have enjoyed some of the uniquely British nuances to the film. After all, the US TV companies make no concessions in their shows and films before exporting them. They quite often contain cultural references - the names of products or TV personalities - that I don't recognise but that doesn't stop me enjoying the movie or show. And, guess what? If I really want to know what a Twinky is or who Dan Rather is, I can look them up on the internet. We didn't need a British version of Friends or Frasier or Dexter or The Wire in order to enjoy them. Can you imagine a British Die Hard or Wall Street? Good grief, no. So why do it? The differences between Britons and Americans are not that pronounced.
It seems to me that the act of remaking a British TV series for US audiences shows a kind of parochial contempt for the audience. Aren't the studios essentially saying, 'Listen America ... we've seen this great British show called XXX. It's really good. But you won't get it. Hell, you don't even have a passport. So we'll remake it for you in nice, easy Yank-O-Vision and pack it with pretty people with splendid teeth and all will be well.' It's insulting and condescending. Presumably the studios must have loved the original Brit versions enough to stump up the cash for a remake ... so why do they think the American public would like it any less? To add even more weight to my argument, I should point out that most American re-boots fail dismally. Sci-Fi comedy Red Dwarf was hugely popular in the UK and on BBC America. When the BBC cancelled it here, the fans demanded more and a new series is now being made by digital TV Channel Dave. However, in 1992, for reasons best known to themselves, Universal Studios decided to make a US Red Dwarf. And it failed dismally. The reason why? Because it was no longer British. Let me explain ... Red Dwarf UK worked because of the interplay between the characters. There was almost no special effects budget and the show was meant to feel claustrophobic as these were the last living remnants of humankind adrift on a ship millions of miles and years from Earth. It was all about the players: Lister, the slobby Scouser who believed that he was God's gift to women; Rimmer the anal, procedure-obsessed loser who was resurrected as a hologram to keep Lister sane; Cat, a ridiculous, continually preening, shallow lifeform that evolved from Lister's pet; Kryten the uppity android; and Holly, the ship's computer driven mad by time and isolation. The formula worked so well. But the US version got it so wrong. Lister was now a good looking hunk. The Cat (played by Deep Space Nine's Terry Farrell) was gorgeous. When Danny John Jules looks in a mirror and says 'How am I looking? I'm looking good!' we laugh at his silly costume, gurning face and lack of self-awareness. When Farrell does it, we think 'Yup. You so are'. It was a disaster and never made it past the pilot.