New and Improved? Why The US Shouldn't Mess With Brit Hits

By Adam Beresford

Jun 01, 2010

John Cleese summed it up best, when recently discussing a failed Fawlty Towers remake by US TV execs: "They said to me 'We've made one change – we've written Basil out.'" The moral of the story? We can't trust Americans to adapt our best shows.

We admit they did a great job with The Office--the Steve Carrell version has already notched up six seasons (with another on the way). And Queer As Folk was expanded from a short-run Brit success into a complex and well-received five-season cult hit. (But that was a Canadian co-production, so it doesn't count).

But what rankles, along with the ongoing mania for trampling over the memories of us 80's kids (see the Knight Rider remake), is the American's voracious appetite for plundering our archive. They say there are no new ideas: well, a look at the upcoming adaptation schedule confirms it...

Exhibit A: Being Human
This CANNOT happen. The whole charm of the show is its dry British subtlety and, of course, its humour. Our flippant style, key to making Being Human believable, will be impossible to translate because of the strict restrictions imposed on Stateside producers. Besides, the Americans are already fans of the original: why fix something that's not broken?

Exhibit B: The X Factor
Now we know the clammy hands of Cowell are all over this, but how can the bombastic excess of our version be topped? US viewers already have American Idol so this remake just feels unnecessary.

Exhibit C: The Inbetweeners
The British pastime of mocking your mates is partly what fuels this sitcom success. The quirky tone just won't translate. And haven't we all seen enough US high-school shows to last a lifetime?

Exhibit D: Skins
There's no way an international remake can capture the core of our rebellious teens. No American broadcaster, not even MTV--the home of Jersey Shore and Jackass--could get away with the controversial levels of sex, drugs and debauchery that make our version so captivatingly over-dramatised.

Thankfully a planned US remake of Torchwood has hit the buffers, but word is that Russell T. Davies is still pursuing it. Surely the Cardiff setting and the sheer BBC-ness of the show are what gives Captain Jack’s adventures their appeal? It's unlikely Torchwood's gay undertones will resonate well over there either.

Top Gear was not quite so lucky. After years of discussion, the US History Channel have only gone and commissioned their own version! NBC and the Discovery Channel had the right idea when they decided to avoid a remake. The need for advertising in America will likely sway the show's brutal honesty. Millions of people love Clarkson and his petrolhead chums. Why dilute the brand?

You know that priorities are skewed when proposed remakes of Footballers' Wives and Bad Girls fail to make it off the ground. If ever there were two shows that could be taken in new directions by a US revamp, it was them. A high-gloss Stateside take on the tale of Tanya Turner would be immense, while the success of Lady Gaga's Telephone video showed that the old “women in prison” catfights and lesbianism routine never gets tired! America, we’ll take it all back if you give these shows the kiss of life...

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  • Badfluffy Jun 02, 2010

    Thankfully it seems some projects die on their own without making it to the screen, like the ludicrous Ab Fab remake.
    it won't save us from all of them but there's hope.

  • slumbergod Jun 01, 2010

    I'll never understand why they even need to remake them in the first place. Is it that the American public just can't handle actors who don't have glowing white teeth and look like Ken and Barbie? Is it they are too lazy to decipher and accent in their head? Or is it the execs who just want to sanitise the shows with the aims of milking more money from a remake?

  • mermayd Jun 01, 2010

    The US version of Life on Mars was an absolute travesty. We didn't get a British version of Friends. Why don't they just show our programmes.

  • simondoyle1988 Jun 01, 2010

    and they tried ruining coupling as well thank god that fell true

  • Peet42 Jun 01, 2010

    If you're talking remakes, "Knight Rider" was a masterpiece compared to "The Bionic Woman". "The Prisoner" was pretty crap too - they made the mistake of crowbarring in a "love interest".

  • whochairs Jun 01, 2010

    and don't forget about the potentially also horribly redone version of The IT Crowd, where the plays on the standard sitcom formula will surely be shaved off leaving just another standard formula sitcom starring 2 guys and a girl unless they get a big name to play the boss and have to inject them into every other scene destroying the thing entirely (which it looks like the original has already done).... is it too early to flip the channel in disgust?

  • AmandaMcLeod Jun 01, 2010

    Let us not forget the Horrible Horrible Horrible US remake of the brilliant UK show Life on Mars.