Transatlantic: Shows That Travelled and Shows That Went Down Like The Titanic

December 11, 2012 by  
Filed under Features

There are certain institutions that, no matter how popular in the UK, do not survive a transatlantic transition to the US. Cheryl Cole, (proper) football and irony are just a few to have come a cropper when pitched at our American cousins.

Despite the obvious pitfalls, over the years this hasn’t stopped US television executives attempting to appropriate British hits for their audiences, with wildly varying results. Since the turn of the century things have got a lot better, and with Gavin and Stacey, Getting On and Rev the latest to be refashioned stateside, OTB assesses some of the more recent flyers and failures.

The Office

The US version of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s seminal comedy may well be the most successful remake ever. Nine seasons in, it is still one of NBC’s highest rated shows and has won four Emmy Awards.

Despite a rocky start, The Office quickly became more than just a facsimile of the original under the helmsman-ship of veteran Saturday Night Live and The Simpsons writer Greg Daniels. The ensemble cast are the equal of their British cousins, with the always fabulous Steve Carrell inspired in the Gervais/David Brent role.

Verdict: Simply the best. Fact.

The Inbetweeners

An after the watershed British show that is essentially a collection of knob jokes was always going to be a hard sell for an American audience. Fans of the original weren’t buying the idea, and howls of derision flooded Twitter when the US version aired on E4 this week.

The problem: whichever side of the Atlantic you view it from, the remake isn’t funny enough. Although it was actually far sweeter and sentimental, today’s target audience really do just want the knob jokes), and abysmal ratings convinced MTV that one season was more than enough.

Verdict: Barely ankle-deep in clunge.

Veep

Armando Iannucci had already worked on an American version of The Thick Of It in 2006, but the subsequent pilot was an omnishambles. Fortunately, renowned network HBO gave him a second crack of the whip, resulting in this year’s Veep.

Iannucci’s film In The Loop proved the US political system was equally rife for his brand of biting satire, and even without an obvious Malcolm Tucker figure Veep brilliantly exposes the chaos behind its surface sheen. Giving Seinfeld’s Julia Louis-Dreyfus a long-awaited second chance to shine, Veep has been given the go ahead for a second campaign.

Verdict: F***ing great, thank f***!

The IT Crowd

When an American network decides to remake a British show, they always do it with an all-American cast. Somewhat inexplicably, when NBC tried to remake The IT Crowd in 2007, they decide to recast everyone except Richard Ayoade as uber-geek Moss.

Therein lay the problem. Although he was still the funniest thing in it, alongside the rest of the US cast Ayoade’s Moss stuck out like a sore thumb. NBC chairman Ben Silverman clearly thought his viewers would be baffled and the pilot never even made it to air.

Verdict: Don’t even try turning it off and on.

Elementary

Never mind that Elementary’s makers denied it was a remake of Sherlock; internet forums lit up when they revealed Lucy Liu was to star as Dr. ‘Joan’ Watson alongside Jonny Lee Miller’s Holmes. Despite the controversy, Elementary is actually exceedingly watchable, with the odd-couple relationship between the two leads reminiscent of a certain Mulder and Scully.

Like Sherlock, the show does a fine job of bringing Conan-Doyle’s creation into the twenty-first century, and despite his move from London to New York, Holmes seems perfectly placed amongst Manhattan’s inhabitants. With an average audience of 14.2 million, Elementary has clearly won over American hearts, so much so that it has been chosen by CBS for the prime post-Super Bowl slot in February 2013.

Verdict: The game’s most definitely afoot.

Spaced

Fox’s cynical attempt to pilfer one of our televisual greats was made even worse by the decision to bypass Simon Pegg, Jessica Hynes and Edgar Wright completely and instead install Charlie’s Angels director McG as executive producer. What followed was a lesson in why you never anger disciples of a cult classic.

Pegg, Hynes and Wright took to the internet to blog about their horror at the idea of what was dubbed ‘McSpaced’, and Fox duly skipped to the end, ditching the pilot. Instead, American fans were treated to a Region 1 DVD release of the original.

Verdict: (Loading hand pistol in slow motion) “Noooooooo!�