How Network TV Became Australia in Disguise

So, I love TV. It’s no lie, I watch it a lot. Maybe too much. These days it’s popular to be “over” television or only into certain programs– Scandal obsessives and Game of Thrones devotees– you know who I’m talking about. I’m a bit of a snob so I’m not saying that I’m going to watch just anything but then again there are only 24 hours in the day. My love for television is a bit of a calling, really, and two of this year’s mid-season replacements got me about ready to declare myself an Aussie.

I’ve always been pretty devoted to network television and follow the season’s series lineups like they’re NBA draft picks. I’m an NBC devotee by birth and have an impressive track record of predicting mid-season cancellations simply based on their pilots. (The Playboy Club never stood a chance; I’m baffled that Deception made it through an entire season.) This season, I was rooting hard against The Slap. I didn’t have access to a pilot sizzler so I based my hatred off of the promos. From what I could tell, it seemed to be an overwrought drama, improbably based entirely on a grown man smacking the soul out of a little kid.

I was DEEPLY intrigued by the cast, though– Peter Skasgaard? Thandie Newton?! Ema Thurman?! — so I made my appointment to hate-watch. But my God, was I wrong. Not only did I NOT hate it, I watched the pilot episode AGAIN the next day. I’m inclined to be a teensy bit “dedicated” when it comes to my shows, so, immediately, I went into research mode. The Slap— the original, that it is an Australian import and was streaming on Hulu in it’s full Australian goodness. So I weighed my options. I could let the NBC series play out and let it mellow, letting the story take me by surprise or I could watch the Aussie cut– ALL of it– before the next episode aired so that I could know exactly what to expect.

I watched the entire series in 3 days. I don’t regret it.

NBC isn’t the only network scraping up last season’s winners from down under. ABC has come in with Secrets and Lies starring a surprisingly old Ryan Phillippe. (Seriously. I was horrified to acknowledge that he was now eligible to be cast as “Dad to teenager”. Have you seen my childhood?) Well,American Secrets and Lies is no The Slap. Our version of Secrets and Lies is pure camp soI ended up watching the entire Australia version to see if it too was mind-numbingly stupid. (It wasn’t. Hella good.)

The trip around the world worked for NBC– the material translated well to America and maintained the integrity and storyline of the original, taking sandpaper to some of the Australian version’s hard edges. (Profanity. Rape accusations. Racism. Domestic abuse.) ABC took a tightly scripted Secrets and Lies and turned it into a farcical tale about the unraveling of the world’s dumbest suspect. Though the split is 50/50, I say, “Australia, keep it coming.” I going to keep watching.

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