ABC premiered the American version of Just for Laughs Gags tonight (there it’s just called Just for Laughs).
I’d heard all sort of rumours about this show. It was going to be re-shot with Americans. It was going to have Bob Saget-like voice-over stupidity.
Fortunately, none of these things happened. In fact, other than the ABC logo in the corner of the screen, it’s indistinguishable from the CBC version. The same cheesy music, same familiar locations (Dorchester Square, St. Louis Square, among others), same fake cops. The TV version doesn’t make it explicit that this is filmed in Montreal, which is kinda sad because there’ll probably be quite a lot of people confused at the French signs, red mailboxes and other things that make us not look like them. The website mentions that it’s a Canadian-made series, though the name of our fair city can’t be found (why is a goldmine of free publicity for our city not being pounced upon?).
If anything, it’s how little effort they put into changing the show that concerns me. They did a short graphic (with the familiar JFL logo) for before and after commercials, and they have this guy Rick Miller (yeah, I’d never heard of him either, but apparently he’s a Montrealer) introduce the show and say goodbye at the end. That’s it. I mean, the CBC show was bare-bones as it is. I’m not sure ABC can get away with just repackaging such a show, even over the summer.
From that and their website, which is about as bare-bones as you can get, I get the feeling ABC doesn’t expect this show to last through fall.
We’ll see. Maybe this can pick up an audience that thinks Punk’d and all its ilk are too aggressive or have too much dialogue or something.
UPDATE: Response from the blogosphere so far is not encouraging. The few media who mentioned it in advance gave it “something called” treatment. Blogger response fit that pretty well. “Disappointed.” “Not impressed.” “Beyond absurd” (from someone convinced it was shot in Mexico or Sao Paulo). “Desperately unfunny.” “Bland.” “The lamest.” And my favourite: “Absolute bullshit crap.” On the other side, as far as I can see, just one offhand “great” and one (albeit enthusiastic) “funny.”
LOST 2 this is not. And it’s hard to disagree. I would have rather seen gala stand-ups on U.S. television than a low-budget hidden camera gag show that, as far as they’re concerned, is a bad copy of all the other ones they’ve seen over the past half-decade.
What’s sad is this might give networks pause about importing other (good) Canadian television programming in the future.
UPDATED AGAIN: Overnight ratings for the show weren’t as bad as I thought they might be. They actually went up between shows, which shows it wasn’t advertised properly and viewers came in and stayed more than they left. Overall, it lost to America’s Got Talent, came in about tied with CBS’s NCIS repeat, and beat FOX’s On The Lot.
Could be I’ve written its obituary too soon.