Americans can rarely ever make a good sitcom from British source material. Don’t agree with me? Well, this article will prove otherwise.
For those that don’t know, Great Britain is the king of comedy. We’ve made so many classics over the years that are adored by pretty much everyone. Fawlty Towers, Father Ted, Peep Show and more recently Friday Night Dinner are all hits produced by Britain. I’m not saying that America haven’t made good comedies, of course they have. Seinfeld, Friends and The Simpsons are all classics in their own right.
But what happens when America tries to remake a British Show? Well, terrible, terrible things happen in most cases. We’ll get to those later. There are certain shows that have been adapted successfully, and this articles takes a look at the good and the bad.
Good examples of British to American Comedies
The Office – The Office
I think this may just be me personally, but this is the only US show I prefer over the UK version. The only reason for that is because of Steve Carrel as Michael Scott. What made the US show work so well is that it was penned and produced by Gervais and Merchant, the people behind the UK version. It’s definitely the best example of a US adaptation, but it’s only because the two people who made the original material came back to do it again.
Hell, Gervais even had a cameo in one episode as David Brent. It confirms a number of things, such as Dunder Mifflin and Wernham Hogg Paper Company existing in the same world. Great work thanks to the original creators.
Little Britain – Little Britain USA
Okay so it’s technically a success. I would call it a success anyways. Again, Matt Lucas and David Walliams (the original creators.) came back to do a season in the USA for HBO. Only one season was made, six episodes completed. The USA wanted more, Lucas and Walliams refused, that was the end of Little Britain USA.
A shame really, they brought back some of the original characters but also created brand new ones also so it was different. I’ve always been a fan of sketch shows and I was a fan of this too. The show was well received and that’s definitely a success in my eyes.
That Was The Week That Was – Last Week Tonight
John Oliver is a British comedian. UK wins again. Just kidding, sort of. Anyways, this show is sort of an adaptation of an old fifties show called “That Was The Week That Was”. That show also had “Not the 9 O’Clock News” as a spin off type thing, and then this came along.
It’s a very similar format to “TW3”, Oliver will sit at a desk and be funny. Luckily John Oliver is a very funny man so you’re in good hands. Especially since he’s a British comedian. There’s often been the argument that Americans don’t understand British humour and John Oliver is a definite example that they do indeed understand us somewhat.
Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares – Kitchen Nightmares
Again, another example of a great adaptation. But to be fair, it’s literally just the exact same show. Of course, to spice up the show a bit, a lot of dramatisation has been added to the American show. The comparison between Kitchen Nightmares and Kitchen Nightmares US is insanely different.
The biggest different is that the drama is a lot less obvious in the UK version. Dramatic music and so on has been added in the American version to give it that certain “flair”. By flair I mean Americanise it so people are attentive to what is going on. Without that, nobody would watch it.
The Thick of It – Veep
Another example of a show done well because the same guy made both. Armando Iannucci has stated that Veep is definitely an American adaptation of Veep. Unlike The Thick of It, Veep has six seasons. The Thick of It only has four. But America likes more seasons and more episodes and I’ve never understood why.
I’ve not actually seen Veep, it’s on Sky right now but I don’t have the time to watch so many episodes. Similar to The Office, it’s critically acclaimed because it’s Armando Iannucci again making the show. If it were made by anyone else I would hazard a guess and say it wouldn’t have worked at all.
Whose Line is It Anyway – Whose Line is It Anyway
Again it’s a matter of grabbing people from the original source material and developing on the show. Judging that nearly every member of the UK version has featured on the US show it’s safe to say that this show merely expands on the UK version.
Not gonna lie, I do prefer the US version, mainly because of Drew Carey. And everyone else. It’s a much more relaxed vibe, the US seem to do that a lot better than the UK. The UK version feels like a strict gameshow, this one just feels like friends having a good time.
But what goes up, must come down. We’ll take a look at some bad US adaptations and then compare, contrast and all that jazz.
Bad examples of British to American comedies
The Inbetweeners – The Inbetweeners
Look at those dumb shits. Yes surprisingly trying to Americanise The Inbetweeners didn’t quite work out the way people wanted it to. It ran for only one season and after that nobody has mentioned it since. For those that have seen the original Inbetweeners, we all know that the charm of the show is from how the comedy is presented to us. It builds up to the comedy, rather than just throwing it in our faces, unlike this.
When it does try and borrow jokes and lines from the show the performance and delivery is flat and dreadful. The “actors” in it clearly can’t act and it baffles me why they cast them. Seriously, what did they do to Neil and Jay? The problem with this is that they create repugnant characteristics for everyone. The UK version understood the characters still needed to be relatable.
Gavin and Stacey – Us and Them
Yet another dreary and horrible adaptation. Us and Them was supposed to be thirteen episodes but completely failed in its adaptation of Gavin and Stacey. I’ll give credit though, Gavin and Stacey would be very difficult to adapt, mainly because the best part of the show was the writing. Corden and Jones are bloody good writers and if you’ve read my article on Gavin and Stacey you’ll know why.
Bad Education – An American Education
I don’t even think An American Education got past the pilot episode. Again it’s down to the source material and who originally made the show. There’s little to no detail on who was to star in the show and I can’t really be bothered to find out. Well, I am bothered, I just couldn’t find anything.
Actually, no, nevermind, I did find some information. Alfie Wickers would be present and reprised by Jack Whitehall which is surprising. On top of that, it did have some fairly capable hands behind it in the form of Alex Gregory and Peter Huyck, who notably worked on Fraiser and King of the Hill.
Fawlty Towers – Amanda’s and Payne
This one is a bit more interesting as there have been two or three failed adaptations of Fawlty Towers for the US market. Most notably is Payne, which John Cleese gave his blessing to. Even more, he agreed to take a recurring role in the show if it was renewed for a second season. It was not, it ran for eight episodes, with the ninth episode not being broadcast and was quickly canned.
The second adaptation was Amanda’s. Oddly enough I’m writing about this after mentioning Payne even though Amanda’s was the first adaptation. The main thing to remember about Amanda’s is that they made one sole change. They removed Basil and Sybil Fawlty, a strange and useless move that ended the show entirely.
Most surprisingly is an adaptation I accidentally stumbled across called Over the Top. It stars Tim Curry, Annie Potts and Steve Carell. I’m not going to write about it all here because we don’t have time, but it’s interesting as to how the show was cancelled and what went on behind the scenes. I’ve left a link to the wiki page below for you all.
The IT Crowd – The IT Crowd
Oh dear, oh dear. The IT Crowd was an immensely popular sitcom written and directed by Graham Linehan. It was phenomenal comedy and it ran for five very strong seasons. But of course, America does what it wants and this was the result.
I’ve left the pilot down below to explain why this show didn’t make it past said pilot. Richard Ayoade was the only actor to be in both the UK and US show which is something to keep in mind. I’d say he does a fairly okay job of making it through the pilot found below.
Peep Show – Peep Show
The idea of an American Peep Show is an absurd one and not something I wish to dwell on for very long. Much like The IT Crowd, I’ll leave a link to the pilot they made, the only footage actually available for the show. It’s terrible audio quality, but the show is terrible quality overall.
You may recognise Johnny Galeki, who stars in The Big Bang Theory, the funniest show on earth. If you can detect the hint of sarcasm you’re pretty bright aren’t you.
So there you have it, six good examples and six bad examples. If you have a thought about this article or I left anything out, leave a comment! It’s great to talk to people every now and then, beats watching this shit.