When US remakes of British TV series go wrong
Americans, bless them, like to fashion original creations from various parts of the world into their own image. And that’s why, when US TV execs feast their eyes on a successful British show, they can’t wait to rename, remodel and remake. Unfortunately, British humour, irony and dramatic sensibilities more often than not don’t translate across the pond: two nations divided by a common language and all that. Of course, there are the exceptions – those that are at least as good and sometimes better than the original. But these, sadly, are rare.
US REMAKES THAT DIDN’T EVEN MAKE IT TO THE TV SCREEN
There have been plans for US remakes of British shows that were such a bad idea, or were so poorly executed, that they didn’t even make it to a single airing. BBC comedy favourite Gavin and Stacey was a good example. It was renamed Us & Them and scheduled to show on Fox, but never even got to the broadcast stage. IT Crowd’s US version was similarly shelved.
US REMAKES THAT WERE POSSIBLY A BAD IDEA FROM THE START
Of those that did make it to viewers’ television screens, most didn’t last too long. ITV’s smash hit Broadchurch, for instance – starring David Tennant and Olivia Coleman – was remade under new name Gracepoint for American audiences. It lasted for one season on Fox, despite also starring David Tennant – with an American accent.
Two teen-focused hits, Channel 4’s The Inbetweeners and Skins, were remade in the US – and failed for almost identical reasons. Both took out what had made the originals so successful in the first place. Both toned things down, removing crude jokes and any sense of edginess until the new versions were mere pale shadows of their sources.
Skins did at least attempt to recreate certain aspects of the British original, but constant taming and neutering of teenage partying and raunchy scenes left the show grasping around for ideas. The American “The Inbetweeners”, meanwhile, tempered the language and characters, leading to a lack of chemistry – and audience. It lasted for just one season.
US REMAKES THAT DIDN’T FORCE VIEWERS TO REACH FOR THE ‘OFF’ BUTTON
One show that most agree has been, on the whole, a successful US remake is House of Cards. The original is a nineties British TV classic, full of wry humour and dodgy political shenanigans. The American version, naturally bigger in scope, stars the brilliant Kevin Spacey as the sociopathic-yet-charming Frank Underwood on his journey to White House supremacy.
Another show that was not only at least as good as the original but also managed to run for a whopping nine seasons was the US version of The Office. Starring Steve Carrell, this had as many famous guest stars – including Idris Elba, Will Ferrell and Catherine Tate – as you could fit into the average award ceremony. Carrell’s Michael Scott was the American equivalent of Gervais’s David Brent, and was just as hilarious.