“The trailer looks fabulous,” said Jones, talking to RadioTimes.com during a break in filming for the third series of her Sky1 comedy drama Stella. “It shows the American version’s own quirk and personality but retains little twinklings of the British version. A couple of our lines are in there!”
Jones counselled against fans of her series slamming the US version before they’ve seen it properly: “People are always ready to put a downer on re-formatted shows. They decide they’re not going to work before they’ve even hit the screen. They’re very funny about it. They get cross that it’s happening!
“I read a comment about Us & Them on a message board today – big mistake I know, but it did actually make me laugh. They said, ‘I would rather be waterboarded than be made to sit through this.’ Really? Would you really rather be waterboarded?
“But seriously, contempt prior to investigation doesn’t do anyone any favours. From what I’ve seen so far, and from what I know of the team working on it, Us & Them could be fantastic.”
Us & Them is the third attempt by American TV to adapt Gavin & Stacey, a show written by Jones and her co-star James Corden that ran for three series on BBC3 and BBC1 and is one of British television’s most popular comedies of the past ten years. NBC commissioned a script in 2008 that made extensive changes to the original and was described by Jones as “not that great”, with ABC taking over the project in 2010. Neither channel progressed their remake to the pilot stage.
Fox, however, have ordered a full series of Us & Them, starring Jason Ritter as Gavin and Alexis Bledel as Stacey – the roles played in the UK by Mathew Horne and Joanna Page. “James and I were both so excited when the pilot was green-lit and completely over the moon when the series got picked up,” Jones said. “After its slightly rocky start with NBC and ABC, I’d sort of given up on it ever happening!”
Us & Them will debut in midseason, ie early 2014 – and as the trailer shows, writer David Rosen has stayed very close to the first episode of the UK original.
“David’s fabulous script does have quite a few similarities in the storyline and the names are the same, with the exception of Bryn/Brian and Smithy/Archie,” Jones said. “The narrative is pretty much the same as our episode one. I think that’s a good thing, though. If it’s not broken and all that. But it’s not shot-for-shot the same.
“We read the script early on and saw the casting tapes. I thought I’d feel really strange seeing the American Nessa [Ashlie Atkinson] – but I loved it. It was like discovering a long-lost twin sister!”
Jones and Corden are – along with Steve Coogan and Henry Normal from the British series’ production company, Baby Cow – credited as executive producers on the American series. Jones described a generally hands-off arrangement, but one that might develop.
“James and I aren’t au fait with the sensitivities and nuances of what Fox is looking for, so we leave that to the experts: Jane Tranter and Julie Gardner at [co-producers] BBC Worldwide. They keep us up to speed on everything. We can sit back and watch it all come together without having the same level of responsibility as we did with the British version, so the pressure’s off! BBC Worldwide let us have as much or as little involvement as we want.
“They’ve invited us over to the writers’ room, which would be incredible. If I can get time off filming Stella, I’m there!”
All the mooted remakes of G&S have faced one particular problem: which areas of the States to choose as Gavin and Stacey’s family homes. The British show’s contrast between Wales and Essex is one that doesn’t have an exact American equivalent. Us & Them has plumped for New York as Gavin’s home town, with Stacey hailing from quieter, more rural Pennsylvania.
“Yeah, it’s a difficult one, that,” Jones admitted. “The Wales/England situation is pretty unique. Remember when the Welsh contingent visited Essex and they discussed the fact that they were Welsh, but didn’t speak Welsh? Where else would you find that situation? There were so many different possibilities considered that, logistically, wouldn’t work, eg east coast-west coast.
“But I rather like what they came up with, in particular that Gavin is trying to be a trendy New Yorker and failing.” The setting might partly explain the hiring of the relatively unknown David Rosen as head writer: his previous project, I Just Want My Pants Back, was an MTV series based on his novel that was set among twentysomethings in Brooklyn, NYC.
Jones concluded: “I have no idea how the series will pan out, whether they’ll follow the same storyline as ours. It’s exciting, though. Watch this Atlantic-sized space…”