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ITV gets ‘Cracker’-ing

Net lands U.K. rights to Granada version of show

LONDON — ITV, which in 1993 launched the critically acclaimed TV series “Cracker,” has purchased the British rights to the Granada-Kushner Locke version of the show, due to debut on ABC this fall.

There had been speculation that Blighty’s new terrestrial station, Channel 5, had clinched the show, hailed as one of the better offerings when it debuted at the L.A. Screenings in May.

But sources confirmed Tuesday that the 13 ordered episodes of the series would be shown in Britain on ITV in the New Year, with an earlier screening on Granada Sky Broadcasting, the struggling satellite station.

ITV’s original “Cracker” starred Robbie Coltrane as the degenerate maverick psychologist Fitz, back in 1993.

“Cracker,” created by Jimmy McGovern, went on to win a fistful of awards on both sides of the Atlantic.

Sources denied that ITV had been embarrassed into buying the American version of “Cracker.”

“ITV is very impressed by the new ‘Cracker’ and we’re prepared to outbid Channel 5 for the rights,” said one ITV source.

Yet there is no doubt that the net would have looked foolish had a rival station, particularly Channel 5, which badly needs to improve its standing with critics, scored with the new version of “Cracker.”

Reviewers at Sunday’s Edinburgh Festival who saw the first episode of the American “Cracker,” starring Robert Pastorelli, generally liked the show.

Some, however, wondered how it would fare in the U.S. The opening episode contains a scene featuring a sado-masochistic sexual encounter, and Fitz’s language may offend some viewers.

Pastorelli plays Fitz as a more sympathetic character than Coltrane’s portrayal. There is much less emphasis on his drinking and Fitz’s family life is not as dysfunctional as depicted in the original show.

The U.S. version of the series is believed to have become the fastest-selling program in Granada’s history. More than 70 territories have bought it.

Granada would not say how much ITV paid for “Cracker.”

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