Everything Brit Is Yank Again

Today's cuppa: Science experiment -- in the big mug, take one bag Barry's Classic Blend Irish tea, add one bag pomegranate-raspberry green tea, steep, taste. Not bad.

Strike in the SAG? The Screen Actors Guild contract runs out at midnight tonight. As of today, no new contract, but no call for a strike. For more info, click here or here.

Meanwhile, the TV cross-pollination between the British (and Irish) Isles and the U.S. continues ... as a rather one-sided affair. They send us reality, drama and comedy concepts -- and lots of lead actors -- we send them productions, like Showtime's "The Tudors" (created and written by Englishman Michael Hirst; shot in Ireland).

Sometimes it works out very well ("The Office"), sometimes not so much ("Coupling," "Cold Feet"), and sometimes the jury is still out ("Life on Mars").

One of the higher-profile disappointments was ABC's 1997 adaptation of the 1993-'96 Brit crime drama "Cracker," with Robert Pastorelli taking over from Scottish star Robbie Coltrane as Eddie "Fitz" Fitzgerald, a criminal psychologist who "cracks" crimes and suspects.

In his U.K. incarnation, Fitz was loud, loutish, hard-drinking, hard-smoking, misanthropic, sharp-tongued and utterly dismissive of authority -- all of which was forgiven because he was brilliant. The American Fitz, played by Robert Pastorelli (who looked the part, at least), was a much nicer guy, which managed to drain out most of the show's lifeblood.

Undaunted, TNT is giving it another go, with Robert Duvall and Robert Carliner's Butchers Run Films as executive producers for Granada America, the U.S. arm of the original U.K. producer.

Jason Horwich ("Medical Investigation") is writer and executive producer, leaving out the show's original creator, extravagantly talented and idiosyncratic British writer Jimmy McGovern.

There's also no word on who is playing Fitz.

For people with a reputation for afternoon tea, manners and stiff upper lips, the Brits are historically much more tolerant than American viewers of unlovable characteristics in their TV protagonists. But that may have changed. ABC's "Cracker" came before such beloved U.S. antiheroes as Tony Soprano in HBO's "The Sopranos," Vic Mackey in FX's "The Shield" and Tommy Gavin in FX's "Rescue Me."

So, it's just possible that Fitz could now let his freak flag fly. We shall see.

Also, AMC, basking in the big love for "Mad Men," today announced that it's adapting the late-1960s British series "The Prisoner" into a six-part miniseries, set to air in 2009.

The original -- which was pretty trippy even for the psychedelic Summer of Love that just preceded it -- starred its creator, Patrick McGoohan, as a British Cold War spy who tries to quit and is subsequently forcibly removed to an idyllic seaside "Village" (actually the Hotel Portmeirion in Wales).

There, he's trapped, stripped of his identity and dubbed Number Six. And a big, bouncing white ball prevents him from leaving. And there's a penny-farthing bicycle.

Oh, just get the DVDs.

Anyway, AMC has a star for its production, Jim Caviezel ("The Passion of the Christ"), who's playing Number Six. Ian McKellen (the "Lord of the Rings" and "X-Men" movie cycles) plays Number Two, administrator of The Village.

Also, AMC says that writer Bill Gallagher will update the original show's Cold War themes to something more suited to the 21st-century Age of Terror.

Asked by e-mail whether the 80-year-old McGoohan would make a cameo appearance, Theano Apostolou, AMC's vice-president, communications, replied, "One would hope ... I think you personally need to campaign him!"

Well, I don't know if McGoohan sips the Cuppa, but if he's out there, he can consider himself campaigned. And we'd be happy to treat him to a hot cuppa of whatever he likes if he finds himself in Los Angeles. We might even spring for scones and Devonshire cream.