My friends, I'm here to tell you about an important national issue that, inexplicably, neither of our presidential candidates has bothered to address in their windy stump speeches: America's growing dependency on foreign TV production.

What started as a trickle a few years ago is now a full-fledged gusher. A slew of new prime-time shows are international imports, most of which come to us from Britain ("Life on Mars," "Eleventh Hour," "Worst Week"). There's also one from Australia ("Kath & Kim") and another from Israel ("The Ex List").

So, we ask: Where is the outrage? Where are the angry calls for legislation against this insidious form of outsourcing?

The trend might not be so alarming if we didn't already have so many other programs with offshore ties. But behold "The Office," "Ugly Betty" and "Flashpoint," to name just a few. Moreover, our nation's most cherished reality shows -- "American Idol," "Dancing With the Stars" and "Survivor" -- all sprang from foreign soil.

If you're a red-blooded, apple-pie-eating, remote-control-wielding American, this should be cause for distress -- and not because we advocate cultural imperialism or are down on foreigners. Obviously, some of our all-time TV classics, including "All in the Family," came to us from across the pond. And if you tried robbing "The Office" from me, there would be a blood bath.

No, it should be distressing because it seems that America -- or at least American television -- is creatively bankrupt. Just what, exactly, has happened to our sense of artistic adventure? Where are all the great bright ideas? And, no, remakes of "Beverly Hills, 90210" and "Knight Rider" do not qualify.

America's pop-cultural mojo has long been one of our most precious natural resources. When it comes to entertainment, we've always exported substantially more than we imported. And that's because we absolutely rock when it comes to bold, offbeat fare. (Could "The Simpsons" have originated anywhere other than America?)

But now there are signs that, creatively, we may no longer be the home of the brave. Network programmers are engaged in a costly and risky game, one in which approximately 70 percent of new shows crash and burn. Thus, there is a troubling tendency to play it safe.

Adapting a foreign concept is a relatively safe endeavor. Not only is it usually cheaper than developing a show from scratch, but it also comes with the comforting reassurance that the concept, at least, enjoyed substantial success somewhere on the planet. What worked over there could work here.

And so Hollywood embraces foreign shows and then usually tinkers with the themes, adjusts the pace and even dumbs them down to make them palatable for a mass American audience. Sometimes the process goes over big ("American Idol"). Sometimes it produces big stink bombs ("Coupling").

It should be pointed out that in some cases, home-grown television continues to earn its stars and stripes. The big Emmy winners "Mad Men" and "30 Rock" are the products of good ol' American ingenuity. But then again, no one really watches those shows.

Meanwhile, the foreign invasion is shifting into overdrive. Among the shows soon to arrive is Fox's "Secret Millionaire," a reality series that has wealthy people going undercover in poor neighborhoods and awarding money to unsuspecting residents. Of course, it comes from the Brits, and it prompts a sad analogy as they bestow their TV riches upon us as if we're some needy charity case.

Could it be that they want to avenge that little uprising in the late 1700s by taking command of our airwaves? If so, they seem determined to mock us along the way. To wit: The cable network BBC America has begun airing Sunday marathons of shows, in their original form, that they gift-wrapped for our consumption. And the network is deploying a slogan that declares the BBC to be "the birthplace" of American TV.

Ouch. Talk about a blow to Yankee pride.

So maybe it's time to do our patriotic duty, cut the TV umbilical cord and issue a declaration of our creative independence. And if our presidential candidates are too busy to deal with this disheartening trade imbalance, maybe we can find some other charismatic, eloquent person to do so.

Someone like, say, Tony Blair.