June 21, 2024

The comedy “Colin from Accounts” tends to surprise viewers who tune in expecting one thing, and realizing it’s something else altogether. It’s a romantic comedy with a most unusual name (read on if you want to find out who “Colin” actually is) and has become a phenomenon first in Australia, then on the BBC in the U.K., followed by the Nordic region and now in the U.S. via Paramount+, where it premiered earlier this month.

“Colin from Accounts” is written by and stars a married actors Harriet Dyer and Patrick Brammall, who are Australian but live in Los Angeles. It’s co-produced by CBS Studios, which means it’s eligible for the U.S. Primetime Emmys — but it was filmed Down Under and has become an international awards juggernaut, including nominations at the Venice TV Awards, the European Broadcasting Union’s Rose D’Or awards, Content London’s C21 International Awards and major wins at Australia’s Logie Awards. It remains “certified fresh” at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, despite not boasting any familiar I.P. or major stars.

For CBS Studios president David Stapf, who has become a bit of an evangelist for all things “Colin from Accounts,” the show serves as a prime example for why he’s looking to do more series and co-productions overseas. Just this month from Australia, besides “Colin,” he also has “NCIS: Sydney,” the first international edition of the popular procedural franchise.

“It’s just coincidental that they’re both from Australia,” says Stapf, while noting that it helps that studio parent Paramount Global operates Network 10 and Paramount+ Australia in the region. “That said, the talent pool and the crews and the extraordinary professionalism of everyone that we’ve dealt with, it’s been a really good working relationship with everybody down there.”

Producing a show about the Navy like “NCIS: Sydney” made sense for the island continent, and the series proved valuable to import the show to the U.S. as strike-contingent fare for CBS. (“NCIS: Sydney” has also opened to strong numbers for the Eye net.) “Colin” was more of a flyer: Stapf says CBS Studios signed on to produce as a bit of a low-risk investment, and he credits comedy execs Kate Alder and Alec Botnick with pushing to make it happen.

Dyer (“American Auto”) and Brammall (“Evil”) had a strong pitch for “Colin” and had been working in U.S., so they were already on CBS Studios’ radar. “Colin” could have easily been set in L.A., but the couple wanted to do the show in their homeland.

“Ultimately, we felt that the characters that people the world of ‘Colin’ are people that we know, people we’ve experienced, people we grew up with,” Brammall says. “And the Australian vernacular and the way Australians express themselves is something that’s obviously in our DNA. So, we felt that we really needed to do it there.”

Adds Dyer: “I think we could have written a fine comedy in America of this version, but we don’t know truly what a Midwest woman is. We didn’t grow up with that. But we know what a Queensland woman is, we know what a North Shore Sydney one is. We know those people. And so we thought, let’s just go home and make it in the voices that we know.”

At the same time, the show’s concept is universal: Dyer and Brammall play strangers who meet when they cause an accident that injuries a cute border terrier. The dog lives — but now he has special needs. The duo don’t have a lot in common (there’s an 12-year age gap between them), and yet they both share guilt over what happened to the pooch. From there, they slowly bond through a reluctant shared custody of the dog (whom they cheekily name “Colin From Accounts”).

“I expected to get something that was going to be fine, because they’re talented people,” Stapf says of the show’s early scripts. “But didn’t expect it to be as incredible as it was. When a comedy has reflective human emotion in it and pathos and doesn’t always just go for the joke, it sort of resonates with people. It just struck a chord of the best of all things that make up a show. And it has the dog. I was just blown away by it. As was our distribution team, who now was in the catbird seat of having this fantastic show that they could sell worldwide, outside of Australia.”

Until recently, CBS probably would have adapted “Colin from Accounts” with a new cast and setting for U.S. audiences — which has generally been the case with Aussie shows like “Rake,” “Kath and Kim,” “The Moodys” and “The Slap.” (And actually, with most UK shows as well, including CBS’ recent U.S. version of the BBC’s “Ghosts.”) Brammall, for example, starred in the Australian series “No Activity,” and also wound up in the cast on CBS All Access’ U.S. version.

But “Colin from Accounts” sparks from the chemistry between Dyer and Brammall — something that’s hard to replicate. Besides, with streaming, international fare has become much more a part of mainstream viewers’ diets in the U.S., as series with unique voices like “Fleabag” are imported here to great success.

“The world is changing rapidly,” notes exec producer Rob Gibson, whose Easy Tiger Prods. is the show’s Australian-based producer. “This show transcends borders and doesn’t isn’t constrained by its territorial origins. It’s come at the right time, because people have been watching more and more content from all over the world thanks to the streamers. Particularly with the downturn in the market over the last year and the strikes, and everything that’s been going on, people are hungry for content. It used to be the case that you would hear, ‘Look, it’s great. We love it, but the accents. No one likes the accents.’ But no one’s talking about the accents with the show. Everywhere that we go, as soon as you mention you’re the producer of ‘Colin,’ it brings a smile on people’s faces. It’s a conversation starter.”

Dyer and Brammall are now back in Australia, preparing to shoot the second season of “Colin from Accounts.” “They have no business being together,” Dyer says of the characters they play on the series. But just like the real-life couple, Ashley and Gordon are drawn to each other, and “that crackle kept them interested. They chose to share the dog because of that. In working on Season 2, we’ve just got to make sure that crackle stays alive.”

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