Proving that they learned absolutely nothing from Gracepoint, the inferior and low-rated remake of the terrific ITV miniseries Broadchurch, Fox is developing an American remake of the BBC crime drama Luther. To help with the project, Fox has brought in original creator Neil Cross to write and star Idris Elba to exec-produce.
Now, Luther is one of my favorite television series of all time, so I’m not going to pretend to be impartial here – there is absolutely no reason to remake Luther for American audiences, especially with the original series readily available on Netflix. American remakes are almost always inferior to the series they’re based upon, and Luther in particular is a show that worked so well only because of a highly specific mixture that no American remake will be able to recreate. Early news about the remake indicates that Elba won’t reprise his role, which is an immediate death sentence for the American take. Elba is Luther, it’s a simple as that. Remove him, and you’re left with a show that isn’t even operating on the same level.
The supporting characters, like Ruth Wilson’s wily Alice and Warren Brown’s Justin Ripley, helped to make Luther what it was. Elba’s incredible chemistry with both was electric to watch. Luther is also irrevocably tied to one location: London. It’s hard to imagine an American remake leaving the setting as is, but even if it attempted to do so, there’s no way to truly recreate it without an entirely British cast.
That Cross and Elba are at least involved is one small silver lining. But you can bet Fox won’t maintain the miniseries structure that the original series had, and without that, it’s easy to envision Luther‘s quality dipping fast. The short series orders (the three existing seasons of Luther only add up to 14 episodes) allowed Cross to focus on crafting perfectly dark, twisted and compelling cases for the titular detective to solve. We saw with Crossbones this past summer what happens when Cross is forced to draw a simple story out for longer than it needs, and it wasn’t pretty.
On another note, Fox also doesn’t seem like an ideal home for a series as grim and disturbing as Luther. If the network tries to tone things down, an essential facet of Luther would be sacrificed.
One also has to wonder what this new series means for Cross and Elba’s plans to bring Luther to the big screen. Will an American take, and more exposure for the character, improve chances of a film? Or does the fact that a new Luther is taking shape without Elba wearing the character’s iconic big coat mean that the movie fans had hoped for is further away than ever?