6 failed American remakes of British TV comedies

The American version of The Office is a classic example of a remake done right.

The show managed to carve out its own identity, while retaining similarities to the BBC original, and it ran for nine seasons, receiving a lot of acclaim along the way.

But this is a rare example, as American remakes of British comedies have a habit of flopping, with many not even making it past a single pilot episode.

Let’s take a look at some of the worst efforts…

 

The IT Crowd

The IT Crowd US

In 2007, NBC was set to make an American version of The IT Crowd, with Richard Ayoade reprising his role as Moss and Joel McHale, who would later go on to star in Community, as Roy.

A pilot episode was shot, which makes uncomfortable viewing for fans of the Channel 4 original, since it’s an almost identical copy of the show’s first episode. Richard Ayoade himself has described the experience of making the pilot as “deeply weird”.

 

Red Dwarf

REd Dwarf US

This BBC sci-fi sitcom received the American remake treatment not once but twice, with two different pilots being made in 1992, but a full series was never commissioned.

Rob Grant and Doug Naylor, creators of the original Red Dwarf, were heavily involved in the remake process and haven’t held back from speaking about how frustrating it was.

The first pilot featured Robert Llewellyn reprising his role as Kryten and Jane Leeves (best known as Daphne from Frasier) as Holly, while some unusual casting meant that the character of Lister went from being a scruffy Scouser to a handsome Han Solo type. The second pilot had a similar cast, although a bizarre decision was made to turn the Cat into a female character.

 

Peep Show

Peep Show US

In 2005, a pilot was made for an American version of Channel 4’s Peep Show, starring Johnny Galecki (Leonard from The Big Bang Theory) as Mark Corrigan.

The remake never went any further than that and creators of the original have made it clear that they weren’t involved in it, both of which are understandable if you take a look at the unaired episode for yourself.

The message that Mark leaves on Sophie’s answer machine (14 minutes into the video above) perfectly demonstrates what so often goes wrong in the process of remaking a comedy show, i.e. something that was funny in the first place gets rewritten for no real reason and ends up paling in comparison to the original.

 

Spaced

Spaced US

Anyone could have predicted that this unique Channel 4 comedy, created by Simon Pegg and Jessica Hynes, wouldn’t translate well into a remake across the pond. Nevertheless, an American pilot was made, with no involvement from the original’s creators.

Simon Pegg has criticised the team behind the remake for “appropriating our ideas without even letting us know” and using his name, as well as that of Spaced’s director Edgar Wright, in order to promote it.

 

The Inbetweeners

the inbetweeners US

Here’s a rare example of an American comedy remake that actually made it past the pilot stage and aired a full season. That doesn’t mean it was any good though.

From the moment MTV released the first trailer for their version of Channel 4’s The Inbetweeners, the public were against it, and the show never made it to a second season.

 

Absolutely Fabulous

Absolutely Fabulous US

Back in 2009, photos emerged of a potential American remake of Absolutely Fabulous, set in Los Angeles. A pilot episode was allegedly shot, which has yet to make an appearance online, but plans for a full series were cancelled.

The cast would have included Kristen Johnston (3rd Rock from the Sun) as Patsy and Kathryn Hahn (Parks and Recreation) as Edina.

 

Which British sitcoms do you think could be successfully remade in the US? Let us know below…

  • Scott Campbell

    You forgot the infamous Dad’s Army remake

  • Christopher Roxby

    “The Office” is one of the successes? I truly hope not because I hated The Office.

    • mrfroo

      There were many American remakes that were successful – personally my favorite is “Three’s Company.” I think the front runners now are crime dramas, reality programs, and game shows.

  • da

    What about “Coupling”?

    • Michael Murray

      Coupling was remade on NBC and lasted maybe three episodes. They tried to copy the pilot episode “Flushed” word for word, but NBC got skittish about the bi-female character and changed her lines, making her totally unfunny. I had high hopes because I LOVED Coupling, but NBC’s version was terrible.

      • rnigma

        Obviously NBC was trying to find another “Friends” (which was in its last season) and thought “Coupling” was it. Wrong.

  • Stephen Michel

    They forgot “Coupling” Brit Vers Brilliant. U.S. Vers. ….? the Hindenburg comes to
    mind as an appropriate analogy.

  • Samantha McCready

    All in the Family was a pretty decent remake of Till Death Us Do Part. Not so sure about the ones that Followed. The American Man About the House, Three’s Company, was pretty dreadful.

    • nettlehart

      I didn’t know that Three’s Company was a knock off, but it was truly horrible!

    • rnigma

      And “Sanford & Son” was based on “Steptoe & Son.”

  • Michael Murray

    I always thought that “Cybill” was a remake of AbFab. There are a lot of similarities, especially Christine Baranski’s takeoff of Patsy.

  • Michael Murray

    I don’t know if “Only Fools and Horses” could be remade, there’s just nothing in America that could capture that much heart.

    • Barbara Kirk

      Mash & Peas (Matt Lucas & David Walliams pre-Rock Profiles, Little Britain) did a spoof called ‘Only Jerks On Horses’.

  • mrfroo

    On the flip side, the Brit remake of “That 70s Show” was pretty awful, and online if you’re looking for something to heckle.

    • rnigma

      I recall a British version of “Married…with Children” that was quite dire.

  • Deceptitech

    Don’t forget the many many MANY attempts to make Fawlty Towers.

    • rnigma

      Oh yeah… “Chateau Snavely” (with Harvey Korman), “Amanda’s” (Bea Arthur) and “Payne” (John Larroquette).
      And there was an attempt to Americanize “Are You Being Served?” – an unsold pilot called “Beane’s of Boston” with John Hillerman as Capt. Peacock, Charlotte Rae ans Mrs. Slocombe, and Alan Sues as Mr. Humphries.

  • Dayna

    I sat through one episode (yes I know not a comedy) of America’s version of Being Human and it was awful. The British version was WAY better. The Brits know how to make tv.

  • Asher Zeiger

    I can’t believe you left Coupling off of the list. The original British version was absolutely hysterical and the American version was one of the worst shows I have ever seene

  • Raymond Davis

    I seem to remember a attempt at making an American Ab Fab starring Jean Smart ( Charlene from Designing Women ) It appeared very briefly and was gone.

  • Barbara Kirk

    The hero of the US Shameless looked more like Peter Noone (Herman’s Hermits) than Frank Gallagher in the UK version!

  • Barbara Kirk

    Re: the US Peep Show – I can’t see Johnny Galecki as Mark Corrigan somehow.

  • Dayna

    I’m not a fan of ALL The Law and Order Shows, but the Law and Order UK is AWESOME!!! Maybe because Freema Agyeman and Ben Daniels are in it. Gotta hunt down more of those eps.