Rake, starring Australia’s Richard Roxburgh, is being adapted for US audiences.Remakes may be television’s flavour of the month in the four corners of the globe, but not at the straight-laced, upright British national broadcaster, the BBC.

As the American channel FX prepares to launch its remake of the Danish drama The Bridge and Australia’s Foxtel has hit the drama jackpot with its Prisoner remake, titled Wentworth, Aunty Beeb has declared remakes, revivals and sequels verboten.

This is bad news for those of us sitting by the TV set in the vain hope that Are You Still Being Served? might turn up soon. Or ‘Allo ‘Allo Again. Or Steptoe and Grandson and that as-yet-unproduced classic, Great Great Grandad’s Army.

The extraordinary claim comes from television scriptwriter Laurence Marks, who is behind the revival of his own 1990s hit British comedy, Birds of a Feather. Marks has told British media that the iconic BBC passed on a revival of that show, because of the “no remakes” policy. For a decade Birds of a Feather was a mainstay of the BBC’s flagship channel, BBC One.

As a result, the planned revival of Birds of a Feather will now screen on the commercial network ITV instead. Eight new half-hour episodes will air in 2014.

Marks decided to bring back the TV series, which ran from 1989 to 1998, after a stage adaptation turned into an unexpected hit. “Theatres were full to bursting. It was at this moment that we thought perhaps we should bring it back into the nation’s sitting rooms,” Marks said. “What we could not have foreseen was that the BBC, not nearly so brave as they were in 1989, had developed a policy not to make ‘revivals’.”

The most interesting thing about the BBC’s position is that while it deserves applause for allowing original ideas to blossom, rather than focusing on remakes, reboots and “re-imaginings”, it flies against prevailing business practice in television.

Networks, particularly commercial networks, suffer from a deep-rooted fear of innovation, because it represents the riskiest form of program development.

The new US television season, for example, includes almost 50 new series. Almost all of them are remakes, reboots or adaptations, either based on pre-existing TV programs, or adapted from international series, films or books.

Some ideas are imported – there are seven British, three Israeli, one Argentinian and one Australian remake (the US version of the ABC hit Rake). Others come from books (including two comic books) and films. One is based on a play, one on a blog and another is a TV adaptation of a theme-park ride, Disneyland’s Big Thunder, which was eventually binned.

The international success of The Killing has put Danish television’s best ideas on the international remake circuit, with versions of The Bridge, Borgen and other shows being rolled out.

Rake is Australia’s big-ticket US remake, but a number of Australian titles are in play, including Wilfred, which has become a hit for the channel FX.

Other ABC comedies, such as Laid and The Strange Calls, have been discussed for US remakes, and another, A Moody Christmas, is close to inking a US deal.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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