Tonight at 9 AMC premieres its latest acclaimed drama, The Killing, a remake of another acclaimed drama, the Danish series Forbrydelsen (It’s a procedural drama about a single case spread out over a season, with a Veronica Mars/Twin Peaks type of murder plot, but taking place in a major city — Copenhagen in the original, Seattle in the remake. With the added twist that the season takes place in a compressed amount of time and each episode is similarly compressed).
But here’s an interesting side note to this, especially in view of the timing: while AMC was preparing its U.S. remake, the BBC started showing the original version, with subtitles, in the UK — and it became a big hit (by BBC4 standards, at least), with more viewers than Mad Men. The article talks about how original-language shows from continental Europe, with subtitles, have become more accepted in England in the last few years. And in a little dig at the U.S.’s continued need for remakes, a BBC executive says that they have no plans to buy the U.S. version:
“I don’t think we will acquire it,” said Sue Deeks, the BBC’s head of acquisitions. “It seems very close to the original version. I don’t think we’d get the same response twice.”
I don’t point this out to berate AMC for making a new version; it’s simply a fact that they’ll get more viewers for their new version than they would if they showed the original — plus, of course, they and the original producers alike stand to make a lot of money if the new version is a hit. English-language remakes of movies and TV are a longstanding tradition and there’s no point in getting huffy about it. It’s just fun that as AMC prepares to see whether viewers in the U.S. and Canada will embrace the new The Killing, the old version has been embraced by another English-language country, without even the necessity of dubbing it.
Of course, most countries still do dub TV shows (and movies), and I sometimes think it’s healthier for a country to embrace dubbing. It’s very unnatural to watch a film or TV show with subtitles, not picking up the dialogue as we hear it, and not connecting the sounds of the words to their meaning. What a show loses from dubbing it gains in immediacy. But, of course, in countries where dubbing is fully accepted, it’s serious business — a lot of work is done on it. (Not just countries, either; some Quebec dubs are very good.) English language countries have never really accepted dubbing, and it’s mostly been second-rate.
Anyway, here’s a preview of the original The Killing as it was seen in Germany: dubbed, of course, into German.