So the obvious question is whether an American adaptation will might also be on its way. Has American television ever seen a character like John Luther – as played by Idris Elba in the hit BBC One series? The genius, emotionally-impulsive detective tormented by humanity’s darker side, complicatedly-drawn and incisively brought to life on screen by Mr Elba.
I can’t think of anything close to what Luther brings – what those of us who are fans of the series (especially here in the USA), really appreciate about it, since that kind of a complex character in a detective series like Luther (who also happens to be of African descent) is painfully lacking on American television, and has been for a long time. And we have to look across the pond for him.
Granted, Luther wasn’t originally scripted as a black man. Luther could’ve been any race, color, ethnicity, etc. Idris just happens to be black, and his *blackness* doesn’t really have any influence on the individual story strands of the series, and each of its episodes – something that I think also adds to its appeal.
At least, that hasn’t happened thus far – where skin color becomes a character, or a deliberate focus on the series; and I don’t think that’ll change in the upcoming feature film adaptation that’s been talked about for about 2 years now, and which is planned for a 2014 production start date.
But I digress… a bit.
During Luther’s 3rd and final season last fall, there were rumors that an American TV network might be looking to pick it up and continue the series, likely with Luther as a black American character.
So far, those rumors haven’t resulted in anything concrete. Maybe if the feature film is realized, and is a hit, an American TV company might be coaxed into adapting the TV series for USA audiences, with an African American lead – especially as there seems to be interest in some TV networks to reach black audiences with shows starring black characters.
One might automatically assume that IF an American TV network (whether cable TV or broadcast) were interested in adapting the show for American audiences, that Idris would star. Unfortunately, Idris has already pretty much said that he won’t be returning for another season of the BBC series, so, if your first instinct was to suggest that he should play the character in the American adaptation (if it were to happen), forget it! Why? Because, first, he’s made it clear that he really wants to take the character from the small screen to the big screen next, producing and starring in a Luther feature film. And secondly, he wants to do other things.
It’s actually a perfect set-up if you ponder it. Luther season 3 (its final season on the BBC) ended last fall; the Luther feature is packaged and financed for a 2014 shoot; it debuts in 2015; and right around that time, some TV network (hopefully a cable TV network like HBO, Showtime, AMC, FX, etc) announce that they’ve ordered an American version of the series, taking advantage of all the ongoing publicity, and feeding into fan frenzy, as the feature film opens in theaters. Or maybe the announcement is made at around the same time that the feature project is.
Of course, again, all of this is completely hypothetical, based on rumors, so just humor me and play along!
I recall when the first trailer for Blair Underwood’s Ironside reboot surfaced, some suggested that Ironside as a black man may have been in reaction to the success of Luther in the USA. I don’t really know about that actually. But maybe. Underwood has had a first-look deal with NBCUniversal since The Event, which included an item stating that they would create at least one series around him. So the Ironside reboot (which was rather quickly canceled) was one attempt. I just can’t say that it’s reason for being was indeed influenced by Luther’s success.
Keep in mind that, even though many of us are fans of Luther, and have been following the series since its first season a couple of years ago, it’s still not as popular a show as you’d think. A lot of us haven’t even heard of it. And I mean black people specifically. So there’s still room for it to grow as more folks discover it, streaming on Netflix, for example. But my point is that, I’m not sure if it’s been a popular enough show, with impressive ratings, that it would inspire an American TV studio exec to want to mimic its success, since they seem to love to do that – copy something that’s already been successful.
So really, unless you live in Russia, the only adaptation the rest of us can look forward to, realistically, is a feature film. Last we wrote about it, series creator Neil Cross revealed at the Edinburgh International TV Festival in 2013 that a script had been written, and they were planning for a 2014 production start date. But nothing more since then.
“It will follow his career in the earlier days, when he is still married to Zoe, and the final scene in the film is the first of the initial TV series.”