Battle of the TV Remakes: UK vs. US
What do you do when there are no more original ideas for scripted television? You borrow those from across the pond! Lately more and more TV producers are choosing to “borrow” an already successful idea from their British counterparts and turn it into a hopefully equally successfully American show. At first, we had the reality shows and contests like X Factor, Top Gear or Hell’s Kitchen, who brought the same ratings in the US, and now we get so see remakes of popular British scripted TV shows. Here are six well known such TV shows, who took a shot at the Brits’ fame.
1. The Office
The show who made Ricky Gervais and Steve Carell a house old name, The Office didn’t become a cult from the moment the British version hit the screen on BBC Two. Ricky Gervais plays the manager of an office that faces foreclosure while a documentary film crew follows the employers of the office.
When the show first premiered in 2001, it had such low ratings that it was nearly cancelled. But, by the time the second season premiered, the show was a huge international success. A few years later, the American version premiered with just as much success. Steve Carell plays Ricky Gervais’ character, while Gervais is actually an executive producer of the American show. Eight seasons later, the US version is still a huge hit, and doesn’t seem to be slowing down.
The long running British drama got a complete makeover at the beginning of 2011, when Showtime decided to remake the show. The dysfunctional Manchaster based family moved to Chicago’s South Side, and the main characters are played by William H. Macy and Emmy Rossum. While the pilot is quite similar to the British version, after that, the producer decided to go on a slightly different way. However, the poor, dysfunctional family of Frank Gallagher and his six kids managed to draw more than a million of Americans each week.
Probably one of the best teenager shows out there Skins revolutionized the genre when it first premiered in 2007 on E4. Following a group of troubled teens from Bristol, the show tackled different subjects like drug abuse, alcoholism, anorexia or racism. After the first two seasons, the majority of the cast was completely changed, bringing a new batch of teenagers with their own problems.
MTV US tried to remake the show, but it only lasted one season, with poor ratings. While the American version didn’t brig the desired succes, the UK version not only is still running, but also was a great launch for actors like Slumdog Millionaire’s Dev Patel, A Single Man’s Nicholas Hoult and Wuthering Heights’s Kaya Scodelario.
4. Free Agents
The short lived British comedy was remade into an even shorter lived American sitcom. The UK version premiered on 2009 on Channel 4 and was advertised as a romantic black comedy. The show showed the lives of two coworkers at a talent agency, Alex and Helen, who become friends with benefits after Alex gets into a very messy divorce and Helen’s fiance suddenly dies. Their boss, Steaphen, played by Anthony Head, completes the cast as a crazy, sex-obsessed egomaniac.
NBC remade the starnge comedy, with Hank Azzira playing Alex and Kathryn Hahn as Helen, two coworkers at a PR firm. What is more, Anthony Head was brought in to play Stephen, the same character he played in the UK version. Since the ratings were not as high as anticipated, NBC cancelled the sitcom after only four episodes.
5. Prime Suspect
The UK version of this show made Helen Mirren known world wide, in the ’90s, after the show earned several BAFTA awards for best actress and best drama serial. Mirren plays Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennison, the only woman in a division of the Scotland Yard. She has to prove her worth in a male dominated office.
In 2011, NBC remade the successful show with Maria Bello as Detective Jane Timoney. Though it doesn’t follow exactly the same script as the UK show, the main subjects are the same and just as important.
And, if you want to see a comical version of the process of remaking a British television show in Hollywood, just watch Episodes, with Matt Le Blanc brilliantly playing himself.
So, what do you think? British or US? Which of these shows are the best?
Featured Image from The Office UK Facebook page
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About Ada: Ada runs on coffee, sugar, internet and books, and usually likes to multitask. TV shows and movies are her favorite pass time but occasionally she’ll take time off from it all and travel somewhere amazing and preferably far, far away. She also loves writing about everything she sees and experiences; however, behind a camera is where she feels the most comfortable.