Advertisement

KILLINGS, daily columns and blog —

2014 columns, Pop Culture

The Tunnel vs The Bridge: The ethics of TV remakes

by Julia Tulloh , August 27, 20142 Comments

The Tunnel TV review

A body is found in the Eurotunnel, neatly laid across the border between France and England. When police attempt to move the body, it splits in two with the top half in France and lower half in England, and DNA tests soon discover that each half belongs to a different victim. French and British police team up to find the murderer, who soon anonymously proclaims that he’s a ‘truth terrorist’, and proceeds to murder or threaten people in service of his political ideals. All this occurs in the opening few episodes of French/UK crime drama The Tunnel, the first season of which just finished airing in Australia.

If you don’t normally watch European detective shows, this storyline could fall anywhere on the scale from unremarkable to mildly interesting. If you do normally watch Euro crime, then The Tunnel probably sounds both riveting and suspiciously familiar. And that’s because it’s both. The Tunnel is a French/British remake of Danish/Swedish TV series The Bridge, which began in 2011 and opened with the discovery of a body laid across the Sweden/Denmark border in the middle of the Øresund Bridge. Two body halves, two victims, two detectives, a truth terrorist and loads of dead people.

The similarities don’t stop there. Both female detectives are young, blonde, and extremely asocial; both male detectives are charming, middle-aged philanderers (thankfully, though, there’s no romance between the detectives). There’s Daniel the journalist in The Bridge, who becomes Danny in The Tunnel; the French police bosses in both series have long, shaggy brown hair. Even much of the dialogue is the same, and the first episode of The Tunnel seems to mirror The Bridge almost shot for shot, though the series’ plots diverge a little as they progress.

As with all remakes, some fans have debated how well or badly the new show adheres to the original, whether or not it should have adhered to the original, and whether The Tunnel should have been made at all. Debates around the ethics of adaptation are not new, but in online TV review culture, such discussions are often still roughly divided into two camps: those who argue against adaptations on principle, desiring to protect the so-called authenticity and integrity of the original, and those who believe that adapting anything is fine because adaptations are not copies of the original, but rather points of departure, and hence always new.

What is often missing from these debates is discussion around who profits from remakes. TV series are remade all the time (think Kath & Kim, The Office and Shameless in the US) and in most cases, the writers and/or producers of the original are involved in the production of the remake. Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant produced the US remake of The Office, for example – a venture that turned out to be extremely lucrative, since the US version ran for nine seasons. Their original British version only ran for two. Jane Featherstone, producer of The Tunnel and adaptor of The Bridge, has just reproduced her previous British crime drama Broadchurch for US audiences, under the new name Gracepoint. Furthermore, the original Scandinavian producers of The Bridge had already franchised their series to the US well before The Tunnel was conceived, in an American/Mexican version also called The Bridge, about a body found on the border between El Paso and Juarez.

We can’t talk about ‘originality’ without acknowledging that producers often willingly sell and adapt their own work. Nor can we necessarily speak of remakes as bastardisations of original works, since the same people are often involved in creating both the new and old series. From a production perspective, it makes a lot of sense to remake a series like The Bridge. Its premise – a body found on a border – is a rich starting point for exploring themes around international relations and homicide policy. Simply choose your political context of choice, add star power that will attract the desired audience (The Tunnel stars Stephen Dillane, better known as Stannis Baratheon, and Clémence Poésy, who you may know as Fleur Delacour), and you’ve got a series almost guaranteed to attract attention.

The politics in The Tunnel, and the testy banter between the French and British detectives, made more sense to me than the Danish/Swedish tension in The Bridge, since I’m more familiar with the relationship between England and France. This doesn’t mean that The Bridge wasn’t interesting:on the contrary, the series was fascinating precisely because it demonstrated the differences and similarities between Scandinavian culture and the West. Its producers were savvy enough to change context and content for different audiences. They might be doing it for the money, but its hard to argue when this results in the creation of another excellent crime show.

Julia Tulloh is a writer in Melbourne, and is working on a PhD in American literature. She tweets at @jtul and blogs at juliatulloh.com.

ACO logo




  • Scarlett Harris

    The premise of The Tunnel/The Bridge is interesting primarily because that shit could never happen in Australia. A body found on either side of a state line would be as exotic as it could get.

22454066

Jacinta Halloran

Medicine as Art: An interview with Terrence Holt

Internal Medicine turns on its head the commonly-held wisdom of power and control in the doctor-patient relationship. Holt’s doctor-narrator is conflicted and questioning, often exhausted and confused. His writing aims for something less slick than the sanitised television offerings of medical melodramas, where ‘what entertains usually falsifies.’ Read more »

2303400407_d25f8d8b8a_o

James Tierney

What Australian Literary Conversation?

I am concerned about the absence of a performative aspect of criticism in the public domain, which doesn’t necessarily assume specialised knowledge or recognised allegiances, but is prepared to discuss what criticism is. Read more »

9781847086273

What We’re Reading: Readings staff share their picks

Is your to-read pile looking particularly uninspiring at the moment? Or maybe you’ve just finished a novel and aren’t quite sure what to read next. Never fear! The staff from Readings bookshop have your back. Here they share what they’ve been reading this month. Read more »

gbbo

Rebecca Shaw

Crumbling the Great Wall of Heteronormative Assumption

You are just there to see a doctor, or have a haircut, when all of a sudden you are reminded that you are different. You are forced to come out to strangers over and over again. You are required to either refute their assumptions and risk having an awkward or unpleasant discussion with a stranger about your personal life, or you are forced to lie. Read more »

6314976-3x2-940x627

Rebecca Shaw

Out of Alignment: Religion, politics and priorities

Throughout your (hopefully long) life, you will often be forced to prioritise one thing over another thing.
Because we make these decisions based on what we personally think is important or morally right, the things other people choose to prioritise can be confusing or upsetting to us. I find this happens regularly when bearing witness to what some religious people or religious groups choose to place importance on. Read more »

Rebecca Shaw

TERF War: Transphobia in the LGBTQI community

I started to realise that I was ‘not like other girls’ about the time I hit puberty. From that point on I underwent an extensive and daunting process to emerge from my closeted cocoon into the beautiful lesbian butterfly I am today. An important part of that development was realising – mostly via the Internet (or very occasionally through people I met in real life) – that there were people like me all over the world. Read more »

anne-dorval-and-antoine-olivier-pilon-in-xavier-dolans-mommy

Joanna Di Mattia

All About His Mother: Xavier Dolan’s fierce women

Xavier Dolan has created an exuberant body of cinema that privileges women (and others on the margins) as complex, chaotic beings. Dolan’s fierce mothers are cleaved from the pedestal that so much of cinema places them on, so that they may dig around in the dirt that is life. Read more »

every-day-2012-005_cmyk

Anwen Crawford

Being Boring: Passing time with the films of Michael Winterbottom

What does it mean to film the same performers over the course of years, to have them age in front of the camera? Everyday pays careful attention to boredom, and at moments it manages to capture a sense of time that is both elusive and profound. Read more »

flock_roof

Anwen Crawford

Don’t be Sheepish: Why Ewe Should See Shaun the Sheep Movie

Shaun the Sheep Movie is the latest feature-length production from Aardman Animations (the folk who brought us Chicken Run), and it is a delight. Borrow a young relative for cover if you must, but believe me, you are not too cool for a kid’s movie when it’s this much fun. Read more »

TheSlap_Show

Genevieve Wood

The Slap: What’s lost when a cricket bat becomes a baseball bat?

‘A cricket bat wouldn’t make sense in an American context’, says Tony Ayres, executive producer of the US adaptation of Christos Tsiolkas’ The Slap. He’s right, of course – it wouldn’t. But when, in US playwright Jon Robin Baitz’s version, the eponymous slap occurs as the result of a swinging baseball bat, something’s not quite right. Read more »

empire-tv-review-fox

Anwen Crawford

Rise of an Empire

Watching Empire, I wondered why there haven’t been more television shows about record labels, the music industry being the cesspit of venality that it is. Forget TV dramas about police departments and hospital wards – a show about a record label comes with all that conflict, plus outfits, plus songs. Read more »

video-undefined-22D54AFA00000578-784_636x358

Matilda Dixon-Smith

Insufferable assholes and grown up Girls

Yes, our girls are growing, learning, discovering. But all they’re really discovering is how toxic and unheroic they are, and how to use that to their advantage. They’re not going to grow out of their asshole tendencies, because they are actually assholes. Read more »

DUKMRUTRHLU31425064919799

Katie Williams

The Currency of Games: The real world cost of in-game purchases

A new item introduced in World of Warcraft lets players purchase a month of playing time for the real-life price of $20, which they can then sell to other players in-game in exchange for virtual currency. It’s an exchange of real money for a virtual currency that has in-game value but none in the physical, ‘real’ world – and it makes me incredibly uneasy. Read more »

2011 Jesse Knish Photography

Katie Williams

Pilgrimage to San Francisco: Power and Privilege at the Game Developers Conference

Attendees talk about the annual pilgrimage to the Game Developer’s Conference with the same reverence as a child’s first trip to Disney World. It’s the Magic Kingdom for adult nerds. The weeks leading up to the conference are full of discussion about which parties to attend, and how best to make an impression on people who could be useful in furthering your game development career. Read more »

jakobson0052

Katie Williams

Storytelling vs. interactivity: What makes a highbrow game?

What makes a game ‘highbrow’? We don’t have solid criteria for deciding conclusively which games are masterpieces, and which are just dumb, explosive fun. Read more »

2909252617_1f456d0c81_b

Jane Howard

A Working-Class Mythology: Ironing boards at the theatre

In theatre, there is perhaps no prop piece more mythologised than the ironing board, which came to signify the birth of contemporary British theatre. Read more »

ForceM6609

Jane Howard

Witness and Connection at Melbourne’s Dance Massive

In a city where it feels not a day goes by without an arts festival, or three, happening, Melbourne’s Dance Massive is resolutely unique. Australia’s largest dance festival is by necessity heavily reliant on Melbourne-based companies and shows that will go on to tour independently of the festival. The festival is undeniably of, and for, the dance sector in Melbourne. Read more »

16475519129_bb489cf4ce_o

Jane Howard

Creative Space: The secret power of community theatres

Theatre is inextricably tied to space, and the best theatre spaces become more than buildings. They become communities of like-minded people: of artists and of audience members, intermingling their ideas and their lives. Read more »