According to the Hollywood Reporter, the FOX network is considering a U.S. version of the BBC’s Torchwood, the successful spinoff from Doctor Who about a covert government agency that tackles alien and paranormal activities. However, should genre fans get too excited about this? Consider FOX’s notoriously itchy trigger finger when it comes to zapping other science fiction/fantasy series. Dollhouse, which airs its finale on January 29, is the latest in a list that includes Firefly, Drive, Wonderfalls, and The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Would Torchwood be similarly torched?
Two things could make the projected U.S. Torchwood series different:
- Series creator Russell T. Davies is reportedly involved in the discussions with FOX.
- Unlike the majority of U.S. series that originated in the U.K. (stretching from All in the Family to The Office), Torchwood will not be a remake. There’s even buzz that current cast members such as the group’s charismatic leader, the pansexual Captain Jack Harkness, would make an appearance if FOX gave a green light to the pilot. In that sense, “Torchwood USA” would be part of a franchise, much like the various CSI and Law & Order series. Only this franchise would be trans-Atlantic.
Certainly, FOX must be hoping that a U.S. Torchwood series would replicate the water-cooler buzz that the original has enjoyed in Britain. Last year’s miniseries, “Children of Earth,” shattered ratings records for BBC America during its U.S. premiere. That said, some obstacles quickly come to mind. For instance, while producer/creator Davies was able to leverage the success of last decade’s Doctor Who reboot and fashion Torchwood with minimal BBC resistance, he likely won’t have that much leeway with FOX executives in Los Angeles. (Interestingly, FOX took its own stab at bringing Doctor Who to U.S. audiences back in 1996.)
Also, Captain Jack Harkness’ willingness to have sex with any species with two legs — and the controversy occasionally surrounding that — has been part of the U.K. series’ great appeal and high ratings, and the actor who plays Captain Jack, John Barrowman, is openly gay and is active in promoting gay rights. How much those factors will play into FOX’s decision-making process remains to be seen.
Lastly, the “Children of Earth” miniseries went in a much darker direction than previous Torchwood episodes, and it was hailed by critics on both shores for taking chances. Will FOX shed its traditional conservative nature and allow a U.S. version to take similar chances, or will it “dumb down” the series, believing that U.S. audiences wouldn’t like that direction? Stay tuned for more information as it develops.