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The US has a history of lifting successful comedy formats from the UK, some of which have proved as successful - and occasional more so - than the original templates. Steptoe & Son became Sanford & Son, Till Death Us Do Part begat All in the Family, Man About the House mutated into Three's Company. Payne is not one of those shows.
Much as the US version of Coupling appears to have surgically sliced out the sex and sarcasm which made the original so funny, the team behind Payne seems unable to grasp that none of the characters in Fawlty Towers are meant to be likable, with the possible exception of Polly. Basil acts superior but has deep insecurities; Sybil is a self-centred bitch; Manuel is an idiot; even the guests are barely coherent.
But that's what makes them human. And funny. And whilst we bemoan the fact that Cleese & Booth produced only a dozen episodes of Fawlty Towers, we can sit agog that Payne made it as far as nine.
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