US versus UK

Our TV relationship with America may seem to be all one way traffic (their way), but good ol’ Blighty has been known to provide fodder for the US Networks. Take the BBC’s Till Death Us Do Part. Well, the Yanks certainly did. The 1960s/70s comedy classic featuring the iconic Alf Garnett was reworked in the US as All In The Family. Alf turned into Archie Bunker and Spinal Tap/When Harry Met Sally’s Rob Reiner played the liberal son-in-law (played by Tony Blair’s father-in-law Tony Booth in the British version). Very popular it was too.
Then there was Sanford and Son (a US 1970s version of our Steptoe and Son) starring comedy legend Redd Foxx, one of the men who inspired Richard Pryor. Two other acclaimed shows with American versions include Queer As Folk and The Office. Take a trip over the pond and you’ll find the likes of: Celebrity Fit Club, Supernanny, What Not To Wear, Strictly Come Dancing (entitled Dancing With The Stars in the US), Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, Whose Line Is It Anyway?, Faking It and Wife Swap (Trading Spouses is the American version).
But it doesn’t always work out. The US version of Cracker, starring the late character actor Robert Pastorelli, was less successful. That’s what you get when you water down everything that makes Cracker so great in the first place. Also barely making an impact were the likes of Men Behaving Badly and The Ropers (based on George & Mildred). But doggone it, if our cousins aren’t trying again. This time with a retooling of Life On Mars. Dublin-born, US-based actor Colm Meaney has been in final talks to star in the pilot episode. He’d take the role played by the brilliant Philip Glenister in the original BBC series. Irish actor Jason O’Mara has already signed up to take on the fantastic John Simm’s character Sam Tyler, the modern-day detective who finds himself back in 1972.
I’d be very interested to watch the resulting US series and I really hope one of our channels picks it up. It is being produced by David E. Kelley, the man who gave us L.A. Law, Chicago Hope, Boston Legal and Ally McBeal, to name a few. The ABC network will screen it stateside, which doesn’t bode well for the grittier elements so synonymous with Life On Mars. Will they allow ‘good’ characters to smoke? Will they screen the racial abuse of fellow police officers, in addition to that of criminals? Will there be misogyny? In other words, will they have the balls to do the show justice on Network TV? We’ll see…I hope.
Got a comment or opinion? Leave one – I always answer back.
Today I am mostly lovin’ – ITV4 for their reruns of The Professionals ("Cover me!"). Bodie and Doyle running around in their Capris, eyeing up the ‘birds’ and smashing the life out of their enemies. Why don’t we make shows like this anymore?
Today I am mostly hatin’ –  The X Factor’s inclusion of contestants who are clearly a sandwich or two short of a picnic. Uncomfortable viewing; who’s selecting these people?
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21 Responses to US versus UK

  1. KEVIN says:

     hello tv is not has good now. when we had fake phone in rip-off and too many u.s show. but wose is I start be not like the X factor\’s because the winner will end up will a short lived music. but you got a point.
    keep bloging bye bye.

  2. Amanda says:

    the americans keep copying our shows like the list above and also red dwarf they tried to do a copy of it i have seen it it\’s rubbish they might  not even dare to do life on mars copy and you are right 

  3. Ben says:

    U.S. Shows either fall into two places a) Genuis b) !*&$. For every The West Wing or Dexter or 24 you get Hope and Faith or Lil\’ Bush or Rodney. It\’s an uneven state of matters, where poor ratings see your show dropped in seconds. So why is it rare in England to see a TV show as good as the USA\’s offering? Life on Mars is the exception and are comdey has always been a cut above, but nothing can rival the top US shows, even the medicore offerings like Harsh Realm are still miles ahead of the boring Midsomer Murders.

  4. Douglas says:

    The only show I\’ve ever seen that\’s worse than The Office, is the American version of The Office… Steve Carell is a great actor but by God he\’s crap in that. Maybe the fact that I found the UK version so grating and over rated (apart from the relationship between Martin Freeman and Mackenzie Crook which was funny and brilliantly played out by the actors and the only reason to EVER watch an episode) skewed my view, I don\’t know but it does make me want to hurt myself…

  5. Unknown says:

     I can\’t recall any American shows we copy, we simply import them lock stock – why do these short sighted American TV company\’s insist on trying to take what makes the programmes so successful in the first place and completely ruin them by watering them down so as not to offend middle America. Makes my blood boil.

  6. Coops - says:

     Guys, thanks for your comments. It\’s an emotive subject this one. I love certain aspects of British telly – we\’re up there with the Yanks when we get it right: Life On Mars is a case in point. And we still do period dramas better than anyone else in the world. As to the question of US shows that have been anglicised? Game shows are easiest: The Price Is Right, Blind Date (The Dating Game in the US), Gladiators (American Gladiators) etc. Outside of that category, twee British sitcom The Upper Hand was based on American sitcom Who\’s The Boss? which starred Taxi\’s Tony Danza. Cast member Katherine Helmond (of Soap fame) even made an appearance in the UK version. But we do usually import wholesale rather than make over.

  7. Nicole says:

    I think uk oice is way better thn american ofce coz the us one haz tht dude frm evan allmity and i\’m sick of seein him he\’s everywhere i thought he waz funny in 40 yr old virgin but i\’m want sum time to see other comedians over there

  8. Coops - says:

    On the subject of UK shows based on US programmes, apparently ITV\’s Days Like These was an attempt to Anglicise the hugely popular That 70s Show. Needless to say, it failed. Dismally. Typical. 

  9. Chris says:

    ITV! Jesus what kinda of blind journalist are you! You cheap sun newspaper brainless piece of sludge! Get some awareness and stop writing like internet users are a bunch of right wing fools. 

  10. Coops - says:

    (no name), In response to your diatribe below – I\’m a great deal of things, but cheap isn\’t one of them. Anyway, thanks for your comment – it had me rolling on the floor laughing. Soooooooo funny!

  11. Paul - since 1982 says:

    the US export good shows like 24 and the sopranos, but the UK makes good ones too. spooks for instance?? 

  12. pam says:

    The best shows on TV at the moment (cos everything else is repeated over and over again) is the new import of Brothers and Sisters (Channel 4) which is brilliantly written and witty as it reminds me so much of my own disfunctional family it\’s right on the button. I enjoyed "Thirtysomething" all those years ago for it\’s compelling viewing and the makers have got another hit show. An hour of this is not enough I\’m always wanting more!. Also the new season of Greys Anatomy (Living) and of course the great comeback of The Sopranos Channel 4. I think without these programmes TV is not worth looking at as all these relentless reality shows i.e. XFactor is very predictable, the new "Dumped" is very disappointing too. I wish I had NBC and ABC TV channels because I would not watch any others. When I went over to NY I found they have channels for everything that you have interest in. You can watch the Law and Order up to date series (also one of my favourites) all day if you wish. British TV is gone down the pan as the only good British viewing you may get are the really good "one off" hour and half programmes and of course who can deny David Attenborough.

  13. peter says:

    have none of you watched rescue me? one can hardly call that show \’PC\’. its one of the most original shows around. my girlfriend and I are from south africa, and we generally make it a point to avoid british shows, purely because they are all the same. low budget and daft or dreary. what with all the soaps and \’celebrity\’   programmes. apart from \’never mind the buzzcocks, topgear,and skins\’
    why would america or anywhere else want to import english programmes full of people who cant speak english properly? just take a look at some of the previous comment above and you should see my point.

  14. Blu says:

    True that the US keeps recreating UK shows but you have to admit that the US is the one getting shows over to the UK in its original form because they\’re good enough to be enjoyed there as well.I do have to admit though that the US audience is just stupid sometimes. Some shows that should stay on like Studio 60 are cancelled… and some shows such are kept like the abominable "Search for the Next Pussycat Doll". And the US doesn\’t take well to imports… One practice that I find annoying beyond measure is the practice of putting subtitles when characters are speaking English… but they just have a British accent… -_-

  15. Lucy says:

    I must admit I do tend to watch far more American tv than British and there are some excellent American tv shows such as Law & Order, Dexter, Dirt and the odd smattering of comedies such as Frasier. However I absolutely despise most of the remakes of British tv shows, which seem to be dliuted into something far more resembling what I call the American dichotomy of both dumb and arrogant at the same time. Having said that just watch Britains Next Top Model, living proof that we dont do glamour and glitz as well as they do, but they could never understand much less recreate subtlty and irony they way we can and do. So I guess all\’s fair in love and tv. 

  16. Paul says:

    yeah but look at the fact the yanks cant get original british movies right let alone tv (ok so we wont mention the British version of Golden Girls  ) but any Eiling comedy  America gets their grubby mitts on they screw up, every film they get hold of has to be resituated in America, even a simple film like the Italian Job (explains alot in the title) had most of the modern version film in L.A ( and therefore resubtitled L.A heist  and dont get me started on the fact that the recent "British" film Casino Royale replaced Baccarat with Texas hold em so that it would probably suit America more and how is it that every Film that is based on Classic British books has to have an American Actor/ess in the lead is there not enough british talent or are they in the states putting on american accents to get seen who knows

  17. simon says:

    why are the main actors Irish? are they going to base the remake series in Ireland? 

  18. Unknown says:

    I\’m sorry I was reading your blog very carefully and enjoying every single word until I hit the bit about America remaking Life on Mars?! I live there–well I suppose that would be here wouldn\’ it?–now and have tried desperately to sit through the remakes (I mean credit for at least trying I suppose?) but NNOO! Life on Mars and Doctor Who I had taken refuge to believe would be untouched–mostly because Time Travel in any shape or form is not a concept that sits well with Americans at all–let alone now this stupid ban their trying to pass not allowing anyone any where ever on screen to smoke.I agree that some good shows have managed to slip through–someone said Rescue Me, Nip/Tuck before it got retarded to name very very few–but I fear I may loose hope in all things good if they botch this one up. Is there anyway someone can petition or something of the like to get the execs to stop being lazy, pay the bloody rights and just ship the show over?

  19. Coops - says:

    Hello no name in America – how\’s it going? Delighted to see that my blog is being read over the pond (how did you find it? lol). Are you an expat or an American? Let me know. Anyway to the question of Life On Mars and other shows that have been remade (such as The Office, Little Britain etc). Yes, it definitely would be cheaper for the US Networks to import shows and screen them in their original state, as we do here in Blighty. However, for the most part, the Networks appear to be more comfortable with importing and reworking UK ideas. In some ways, it\’s understandable. Here in the UK, we\’re used to watching American films and American shows: we grow up with it so we\’re aware of some of the customs, the slang, the street talk and the politics. That simply isn\’t the case in America. Lest we forget – a couple of US executives for TV show House were completely unaware of Hugh Laurie\’s great body of small screen work on this side of the Atlantic. They thought he was an unknown American actor. That says it all…

  20. U.T. says:

    Why do you Brits care so much about what we Americans think about you, because we spend very little if any time thinking about you. Keep "PUPPETING" our political causes and your LITTLE island will be safe. LOSERS 

  21. Coops - says:

    Yanks Rule – come back and talk to us when you start growing pubic hair and can handle an adult conversation.

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