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''Nighty'' No? (Or Has ''The Office'' Changed the Rules?)

By RD Heldenfels Published: June 14, 2006

Over the weekend I was talking to my cousin, who lives in London, and the issue of TV came up. (I know, I know, wherever I am, the issue of TV comes up.) We were talking about what he watched and he mentioned ''Nighty Night.''

''I LOVE 'Nighty Night,' '' I said, probably scaring people with my enthusiasm. But I do love the British comedy, which Oxygen has aired here, and delight in following its relentlessly nasty main character, played by Julia Davis, who also writes the show.

So much do I love the show that, when making my regular stroll through TV Tattle, I was distressed to see a link to a Variety story that Darren Star is planning an American version of ''Nighty Night.'' Heresy, I thought. There's no way that a good American version can be made of the show.

And then I thought of ''The Office.'' Yes, there had been adaptations of British shows for American TV before that (''All in the Family,'' ''Sanford and Son'') but there was a much longer list of shows that either failed or could not capture the flavor of the overseas originals, or both. But ''The Office'' -- passionately loved in its British form -- found a way to be American, uniquely itself (notably in the development of the supporting cast) and still faithful to its predecessor. So if ''The Office'' can do it, why not ''Nighty Night''?

Because it's really difficult, that's why. You have to find writers who not only understand the original but know how to match the tone. You have to get just the right actors -- Steve Carell for Ricky Gervais was inspired. And you have to hope that no one at a studio or a network messes you up along the way.

At this point, I'm not convinced that Darren Star can match what Davis did. But I'll be interested to see him try, and more willing to give an American ''Nighty Night'' a look because ''The Office'' turned out so well.

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