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Fall TV Pilot Trends: British Imports

It's TV pilot season, when hopeful writers, directors, and actors give the networks glimpses of what could be their next big hits. Few pilots will ever make it to air, and the odds might be especially long over on ABC, which has already renewed many of its current shows. Over the next few weeks, I'll be looking at the pilots and trying to spot the trends that could be coming soon to a TV near you. I've already told you about shows focusing on tough working women and the supernatural, and today I'm looking at British imports.

Many successful U.S. reality shows originated on the BBC ("Who Wants to be a Millionaire" and "What Not to Wear" among them), but the success of adaptations of British scripted shows has been a little less certain. The American version of "The Office" has evolved into a hit, but NBC's attempt at adapting the quirky "Coupling" tanked after just a few episodes.

This season, networks are shipping over a new load of scripted shows to adapt for U.S. audiences, and some sound like they could be great — if they're done right. Here are a few that caught my eye:

  • "The IT Crowd": The plot of this NBC pilot sounds like something out of a Douglas Coupland book: A couple of socially awkward IT nerds tucked away deep in the bowels of a large corporation come face-to-face with their technophobic but socially savvy new manager, Jen, who sounds like she could be the first woman these guys have seen in years. It sounds like a show GeekSugar would love: The British series apparently features tons of geeky references. I'm most impressed with the cast of strong comic actors, including "The Soup" host Joel McHale (left) and Best Week Ever alum Jessica St. Clair. If the show gets picked up, Richard Ayoade would reprise his role from the British series. Here are some scenes from the British show, including the awesome title sequence.

  • "The Thick of It": I'm incredibly hopeful about this show, which is an "Office"-style faux-documentary into the workings of a blundering congressman and his staffers. "Arrested Development" creator Mitchell Hurwitz is writing and producing the show, with Christopher Guest of Best in Show and Waiting for Guffman set to direct the pilot for ABC. John Michael Higgins, an alum of both "Development" and several of Guest's films, stars as the inept congressman, with a supporting cast including Alex Borstein and Oliver Platt. Here's a clip of the first few minutes of the BBC series.

Two more, so

  • "The Minister of Divine": Based on the BBC series "The Vicar of Dibley," this Fox pilot centers on a woman known for her wild past who winds up as the minister of the church in her tiny, conservative hometown. The show was named Britain's third favorite sitcom of all time in a BBC poll, but I'm not sure how well its sensibilities will translate to an American audience — especially with Kirstie Alley (at right) in the starring role. Here's a clip from the BBC show.
  • "Football Wives": This ABC remake of the "Footballers Wives" will be about the wives of NFL players, not pro soccer stars, but otherwise it sounds just as campy as the BBC original. The network is calling it a cross between "Desperate Housewives" and "The Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous," with the young wife of a new football pro learning the ins and outs of expensive cars, crazy shopping sprees and obsessive fans. Gabrielle Union, James Van Der Beek and Lucy Lawless are among the stars. Here's a promo for the BBC series.


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