Adapting a format to a different audience is not an easy task. The expectations differ, the humour differs, and what may work in one country is unlikely to translate well in another. The same is true for many things today, from new casinos to new foods and beverages, clothes, and especially TV shows. One area where American producers fail repeatedly is to adapt UK television shows in a way to appeal to the American audience. But this doesn’t seem to stop them from trying – and failing repeatedly. Like in the case of the shows below.
The first series of Broadchurch has received almost universal praise from critics and audiences alike. It was nominated for seven BAFTA awards, including the “Best Drama Series”, and won several others (it lost the BAFTA Audience Award to “Day of the Doctor”, with David Tennant returning to the screen). Its success was resounding enough for it to spark the interest of American producers at FOX. Thus, a US version of the series, called Gracepoint, was born.
And it failed, not least because it was compared – and rightly so – to the UK original. Its reception was “mixed to positive”, with critics considering it a stylish, sophisticated, and engrossing crime drama that still suffers when compared to the original. Needless to say, it never returned for a second season.
Before taking over Doctor Who, Stephen Moffat showed his worth in many other shows, including 2000’s “Coupling”. The sitcom depicts the dating and sexual (mis)adventures of three men and three women, telling the same story from their own perspective. The show was often compared to sitcoms like Friends and Seinfeld, and it lived for four seasons with a total of 28 episodes.
Despite getting a lot of publicity, the NBC remake of the show was cancelled after just six episodes, with the remaining six not even being aired by the channel. Viewers and critics deemed it a “poor imitation of the original”. As Moffat, who wrote the series for NBC, said, “The network f*cked it up because they intervened endlessly.”
Red Dwarf (Red Dwarf USA)
One of BBC Two’s cult science fiction comedy shows – basically, a character-driven comedy show against a science fiction backdrop. The show tells the story of Dave, a low-ranking technician on board the mining vessel Red Dwarf, who is kept in suspended animation until the radiation resulting from an accident disperses. It takes millions of years, though, and when he returns to life, he is the last human in the universe. He is accompanied by a hologram and a “Felis sapiens”, a sentient humanoid cat evolved from the pregnant feline Frankenstein caught in the ship’s cargo hold.
An American remake of the show was filmed by Universal to be broadcast on NBC in 1992. It had the same premise and story as the original, only with American actors playing the main roles. What followed was a series of bad decisions when casting, writing, and shooting the pilot of the proposed show, which ended with it not being picked up as a series at all. Probably for the better.