Following on from our scepticism at the success of a US version of Charlie Brooker’s dystopian TV series Black Mirror, we bring you the nine worst US remakes of British TV shows where the originality, spark, and, crucially, the humour, were lost in the journey across the Atlantic.
A perfect example of how context can struggle to translate across the pond. The loveable alcoholic Frank is a completely different animal in a Manchester council estate, compared to a Chicago neighbourhood. And the American cast are all too good-looking. The show is currently scheduled to come back for a sixth series, so clearly it has gone down well with US audiences, but we’re sticking to our guns. The US version lost the rawness and uniqueness at the core of Paul Abbott’s original.
2. Red Dwarf
Perhaps the biggest flop to date, NBC ordered an American pilot of UK hit show Red Dwarf in 1992. And that was as far as it ever went. Although the first version of the pilot didn’t make the grade, the live studio audience responded well and so TV bosses ordered a re-shoot with a new cast. Robert Llewellyn aka Kryten was involved and everything. However, the charm of the classic BBC series was lost and that was that.
3. The Inbetweeners
The US version of The Inbetweeners was a comedic tragedy really. The first episode aired in August 2012, and the last in November 2012. MTV just didn’t quite get the “bus wanker” humour of Will, Simon, Neil and Jay and their awkward, sarcastic friendships. It was embarrassing to watch. And not the least bit funny.
4. The IT Crowd
After a failed attempt at an American IT Crowd in 2007, they’re apparently at it again. The first time round never made it past the pilot as the producers just weren’t able to capture the hilariously subversive essence of Graham Linehan’s sitcom in a US context. The original series hinges around characters who are simply miles ahead of the ‘geeky’ stereotypes featured in US shows like The Big Bang Theory. Have a look at the brilliant split screen video above, which shows how closely the American version followed the UK original. It’s exactly the same. And it’s never going to be as funny the second time round, is it?
Another one that never made it past the pilot stage is the US version of Simon Pegg and Jessica Stevenson’s Spaced. And judging by the clip of the pilot above, it was a blessing. Simon Pegg agrees, having said that he wasn’t happy with the way that the remake had been approached:
“My main problem with the notion of a Spaced remake is the sheer lack of respect that Granada/ Wonderland/Warner Bros have displayed in respectively selling out and appropriating our ideas without even letting us know… made all the more heinous by the fact that the press release neglected to mention the show’s co-creator and female voice, Jessica Hynes (nee Stevenson).”
6. Fawlty Towers
Several remakes of this BBC classic were attempted, all of which failed spectacularly. The 1978 American remake of Fawlty Towers went by the name Chateau Snavely and was cancelled after the pilot. Then there was the 1983 Amanda’s which barely even merits a mention. In 1999 Payne made it to the grand total of nine episodes while Over The Top re-attempted it in 1997, with three episodes airing out of a total 12. That’s enough now guys, give it a rest. You’re not as funny as us, OK?
7. Blackpool / Viva Laughlin
The remake of UK comedy Blackpool came in the form of Viva Laughlin. Unfortunately, the American network tradition of a likeable protagonist transformed lead character Ripley Holden into a loveable loser, miles away from the ruthless original played by David Morrissey. Coupled with the fact that dreaming of making it to Vegas from dreary Blackpool has a little bit more about it than dreaming of making it to Vegas from Laughlin – a town just outside Vegas – this changed the dynamic of the show and the series was met with negative response.
8. The Thick of It
It shouldn’t come as a massive surprise that the foul-mouthed characters and typically British cynicism of The Thick of It wasn’t received with open arms by American TV execs and, despite Mitch Hurwitz of Arrested Development being involved, the US remake was cleaned up so much that the essence of the comedy was completely lost.
After the pilot was rejected, creator Armando Iannucci was quick to air his views:
“It was terrible…they took the idea and chucked out all the style. It was all conventionally shot and there was no improvisation or swearing. It didn’t get picked up, thank God.”
As with The Inbetweeners, MTV just weren’t able to recreate the UK teen magic. Or at least not without an official investigation or two. Turns out the Americans are a lot more uptight than us when it comes to teen sex scenes. Forty-two references to drugs and alcohol in the first episode and concerns over violating under-age pornography laws did not go down well with audiences. The American Skins quickly lost sponsors and viewers due to the controversial nature and it never returned for a second series.