How will the US adaptation of No Activity fare?

Angus Kidman 3 August 2017 NEWS

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Stan's epic local comedy is getting an American remake from Will Ferrell.

Can you name the most successful US adaptation of an Australian TV comedy? For my money, that's easy: man-in-a-dog-suit laffer Wilfred.

The original SBS series ran for 16 episodes, while the American remake (with Jason Gann continuing in the dog costume) racked up 49 shows.

So when it works it's great, but there's always a risk. For every Wilfred, there's an abomination like the US attempt at Kath & Kim. In Australia we got 32 episodes across four seasons, a telemovie and a movie. The US managed just 17 episodes, and most viewers would argue that was 17 too many.

I mention all this because Stan has just announced that its amazingly good local original comedy No Activity is getting an American remake. The show is being produced for CBS All Access (the online-only arm of CBS, one of the main free-to-air TV networks in the USA). It's being handled by Will Ferrell's production company Gary Sanchez, with eight episodes due to shoot later this year.

Stan's having a corker week, having announced new series based on Romper Stomper and Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams. Rumour also has it that it has scored the Australian rights to the Will and Grace reboot, which definitely beats having it languish on a free-to-air channel.

But I'm still a little worried. Yes, local production company Jungle remains involved, with series creator/director/writer Trent O'Donnell and star Patrick Brammall on board as executive producers. But Aussie talent alone may not help. Gina Riley and Jane Turner helped out with the US Kath & Kim, and that didn't save it.

Probably the biggest lesson is not to ape the original too heavily. The US adaptation of The Office only soared once it stopped trying to remake the UK original and forged its own path. If No Activity takes that approach, we could be in for a treat. The fact that it's on a streaming channel, rather than broadcast TV, should also help, since there's a lot less pressure to perform immediately in overnight ratings.

Anyway, we'll find out fast: Stan has the Australian rights to the show, and I'm sure we'll get a day-and-date airing when it appears next year.

Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears regularly on finder.com.au.

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