The UK and the USA have had a special relationship for years now – and not just in a political sense! The entertainment industries of these two countries are pretty closely linked, leading to a lot of ideas being shared or ‘borrowed.’ You know the drill: if a TV show is successful in one country, a remake is likely to crop up in the other. From the British perspective, a lot of our best shows have often found themselves moving Stateside – for better or worse.
While some of these remakes have undoubtedly been incredibly successful, some crashed and burned within a season. Others were so atrocious that they didn’t make it past the pilot stage! Clearly, not everything that we Brits enjoy is quite as well-received in the USA. Some of these new versions are worth watching. Others should seriously be avoided at all costs…
18. The Inbetweeners
Teen comedy The Inbetweeners was one of the many British shows that simply didn’t translate well into an American setting. The original followed the often questionable and always cringe-worthy exploits of four teenage boys. Nerdy Will, sleazy Jay, grumpy Simon, and cheerful Neil entertained British teens everywhere for three TV seasons and in two feature-length movies. In 2012, MTV tried to capitalize on the show’s UK success by bringing it to the States. The characters were recast, although they remained exactly the same in name and personality. Future Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi was brought on board to direct most of the episodes, and the first season of 12 episodes was commissioned. Unfortunately, The Inbetweeners: US was a total flop. It was canceled pretty much as soon as the first episodes had aired, and never really spoken of again.
17. Being Human
This supernatural drama series began life as a popular BBC 3 show over in Britain. Being Human followed three roommates trying to stumble their way through life – so far, so normal, right? Well, turns out these three are actually a werewolf, a ghost, and a vampire. Existing in the modern world isn’t always easy for this motley group of friends, and they face danger, heartbreak, and some pretty major challenges. Trying to live with humans when you want to suck their blood or turn them into hairy beasts isn’t exactly easy! The U.S. version of the show was pretty much identical to its original incarnation, and was just as popular too! It ran for four successful seasons in North America, just one short of its British counterpart.
16. Hell’s Kitchen
Gordon Ramsay’s long-running cooking reality show Hell’s Kitchen has been based in the U.S. for so long that it’s easy to forget it began over in Britain! The premise is simple: two teams of aspiring cooks compete for one dream job as head chef at a restaurant. Ramsay hosted just one of the original four UK seasons of the show before bringing his winning format to America. 12 years, 17 seasons, and a whole lot of drama later, Hell’s Kitchen is still going strong! Who knew that watching a really angry chef yell at people for episode after episode could be so entertaining? Oh, and the challenges are exciting too. And the whole competition part. But mostly, it’s Chef Ramsay keeping us watching, let’s be real.
15. Pop Idol
The Idol format may have started off in the UK, but it really came into its own when it made the trans-Atlantic shift. Pop Idol ran for just two seasons in the early 2000s, spawning a couple of stars along the way. Its first winner, Will Young, is still going strong in the music business to this day! However, the show was quickly axed in favor of the far more popular series The X Factor. In comparison, American Idol ran for almost fifteen years, giving dozens of wannabe stars the chance to show off their skills. It gave us Kelly Clarkson, Adam Lambert, Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Hudson… The list goes on! With the show starting once again very shortly on ABC, it looks like Idol will provide us with entertainment for years to come yet!
Skins is another teen drama that made its way to the US after a successful run in the UK. It became something of a cult classic in Britain, running for seven shocking and addictive seasons. It gave numerous young British stars the traction they needed to go further in the acting industry: Nicolas Hoult, Daniel Kaluuya, Dev Patel and Dakota Blue Richards all had stints in one season or more. While the show’s often controversial content was just about acceptable to British audiences, it didn’t fare so well in the US of A. The scandal surrounding the cast’s young age but very adult scenes led to Skins being canceled after just one season on North American television.
Quirky comedy Shameless became a fairly unexpected hit when it was remade for US television. In fact, it’s probably now surpassed the popularity of its UK predecessor! The original show followed the antics of the Gallagher and Maguire families, an interesting bunch of people who were neighbors on the same Manchester council estate. The bizarre and often worrying antics of Gallagher family patriarch Frank left viewers both laughing and a little bit concerned. Since much of the show’s humor tended to be quintessentially “British,” fans were a bit dubious when the US remake was announced. However, it turns out the show is just as funny when it’s set in Chicago. The US Shameless has just been renewed for a ninth season, making it the longest-running original scripted show that Showtime has ever produced. Nice!
When the first season of Broadchurch aired in the UK back in 2013, it was hailed as the best thing on TV all year. It won universal acclaim from critics and audiences! Airing for three seasons in total, this compelling drama saw Doctor Who star David Tennant and future The Crown leading lady Olivia Colman solving a series of nasty crimes in a quiet seaside village. The partnership was perfect and the mysteries genuinely had us all hooked. In the US, Fox saw the success of Broadchurch and decided to produce a remake, Gracepoint. They even drafted David Tennant in to play basically the same role. However, the US version just didn’t have the magic of the original and is generally seen as its less-exciting younger sibling. Oh, dear.
If you’ve never heard of Coupling, it’s probably because you were only a young child when it first aired. It was an early-2000s British sitcom that was all about the romantic encounters of a group of friends. It’s basically Friends but with fewer jokes and a lot more tea than coffee. Anyway, when the original Coupling first aired in the U.S., it quickly gained a huge following. NBC decided that the best reaction to this would be to speed-produce an American remake of the show. Needless to say, this did not go well for them. The new Coupling almost immediately drew negative comparisons to the original series. It was basically universally panned, and was quickly canceled.
10. Life on Mars
Life on Mars was a slightly odd combination of a time travel series, a cop drama, and a 1970s nostalgia piece. The show followed Sam Tyler, a modern-day police officer who’s transported back in time after being in a serious car accident. Tyler was understandably very confused by this and spent the series both trying to get home and helping his 1970s colleagues to solve crimes. Life on Mars only ran for one season, much to the annoyance of everyone! However, it made enough of a splash on the TV scene to warrant a U.S. remake. In a way, the U.S. version was a great show that was ruined by poor scheduling. It was forced to go on a long hiatus shortly after it premiered, and it never quite recovered. Shame – it was a great effort from ABC!
9. Queer As Folk
Both the UK and U.S. versions of Queer As Folk were both entertaining and groundbreaking television. The original UK series aired at the turn of the Millennium, starring Aiden Gillen of Littlefinger fame as one of three gay friends living in Manchester. Although it only aired for two seasons, it went a long way to address gay stereotypes and actually provide LGBT representation on primetime TV. While its often raunchy content was toned down when the show crossed the Atlantic, the U.S. Queer as Folk actually addressed more social issues than the original. Topics like the AIDS epidemic, gay marriage, and gay parental rights were all covered. The show remained on North American television for five seasons, breaking numerous boundaries along the way.
8. The Thick of It / Veep
Okay, so Veep isn’t technically a direct remake of The Thick Of It. However, the two shows are so inextricably linked that they deserve a place on this list. The Thick Of It was a cutting black comedy show that followed the antics of a barely fictionalized version of the British government. It starred Peter Capaldi as the foul-mouthed but ultimately indispensable spin doctor Malcolm Tucker. Based on the strength of Capaldi’s performance alone, the show was always going to be a hit. However, it became such a sensation that its writer, Armando Iannucci, decided to take the show’s concept Stateside. Veep was born, an equally cutting political satire about a fictional Vice President and her team of aides. The two shows are set in the same universe, and frankly, a crossover would give us life.
7. Changing Rooms / Trading Spaces
The show that American viewers know as Trading Spaces started life as Changing Rooms over in Britain. The format is simple yet hilarious. Two sets of neighbors redecorate a room in the other’s house. While they try their best to make it tasteful, disaster often ensues. The episode of the British show in which a woman’s entire antique teapot collection was destroyed was a particularly low point. Turns out, what you think your neighbor might like is probably what they hate the most. The original Changing Rooms was sadly canceled almost 15 years ago now. However, if you’re into watching people ruin other people’s houses, a Trading Spaces revival is starting next month on TLC! Get hyped!
6. The I.T. Crowd
Beloved sitcom The I.T. Crowd was a witty, snarky masterpiece of British TV. It ran for just 25 episodes in total but became a cult classic within a very short space of time. Centering on a group of misfits who work in the IT department of a huge company, it was a critically acclaimed hit with a huge fanbase. Eventually, its lead actors Chris O’Dowd and Richard Ayoade became more in-demand due to the show’s success, leading to its cancellation. However, numerous U.S. adaptations have almost come to fruition. The first of these emerged back in 2007 when NBC commissioned a pilot that very nearly got picked up. However, the show’s humor just didn’t translate well for U.S. audiences. Another failed adaptation was attempted in 2014, and there’s another in the works as we speak. Maybe it’ll be third time lucky? Or maybe this one should just stay in the U.K.?!
5. Who Do You Think You Are?
Who doesn’t love a good celebrity genealogy show? It’s basically watching people with cooler lives than you find out they had ancestors cooler than yours! In all seriousness, Who Do You Think You Are? has produced some emotional and heartwarming television. It first aired in the UK in 2004 and is still going strong! Various British national treasures have discovered that they’re descended from scoundrels, heroes, and even royalty. The show’s US remake has had a slightly more fraught history. It first aired in 2010 but was canceled by NBC after just two years on the air. However, TLC picked up the show and has been broadcasting it ever since. With three Emmy nominations under its belt, this remake has definitely been a success!
4. Man About the House / Three’s Company
British TV shows getting U.S. remakes isn’t a new thing, you know! All the way back in the 1970s, popular UK sitcom Man About The House was reincarnated for the US as Three’s Company. The two shows had exactly the same premise: two single women and a single man all living together as platonic roommates. At the time, this was considered a daring and almost risque prospect. Unmarried women, living with a man?! How inappropriate! Regardless, both shows became huge hits. Three’s Company gave future Eight Simple Rules star John Ritter his big break. He was the only actor to star in every episode of the show’s eight seasons! While Man About The House was successful, it wasn’t quite as popular or enduring as Three’s Company. This remake turned out to be better than the original!
3. Strictly Come Dancing / Dancing With The Stars
While Dancing In The Stars is a pretty popular show in the US, Strictly Come Dancing is practically a religion to the British people. These two shows have co-existed for over a decade now, with Strictly heading Stateside just a year after it premiered in the UK. There are only a few key differences between the show. The first is that British viewers only get Strictly once a year, while the U.S. gets DWTS twice. How unfair is that?! The two shows are so similar that they’ve even shared judges! Bruno Tonioli still features on both shows, while Len Goodman recently retired from Strictly to focus on DWTS. Whatever side of the Atlantic you’re on, who doesn’t love a good celebrity dance contest? This is one US remake we’re definitely behind.
2. The Office
The American version of The Office is one of those rare examples of a remake that’s even better than its source material. Sure, the British Office was pretty funny. Ricky Gervais gave a memorable performance as David Brent – an even sleazier version of Michael Scott, would you believe! Stars like Martin Freeman and Stephen Merchant used the show to boost their then-fledgling careers, and two seasons of hilarity followed. However, an even bigger cultural phenomenon followed when The Office made its way across the pond. Who didn’t follow Jim and Pam’s love story with bated breath, or cringe at Dwight’s lack of social skills? The U.S. version must have done something right – it ended up lasting for seven seasons more than the original!
1. House of Cards
Yep, that’s right – American political drama House of Cards is actually a remake of a British show! The current version has become so popular that most people forget about the 1990 original. Admittedly, it was an incredibly limited series: it was just one season of four episodes, set immediately after Margaret Thatcher was voted out of government. It had a short but sweet run, gaining critical acclaim and leaving audiences begging for more. They did get it in the end, in a way, but in the form of the US version! The new House of Cards has arguably surpassed the fame of the British original. Despite the recent scandal involving its former lead actor Kevin Spacey, its next (and final) season is sure to be a hit with him not taking part in it.