There are far more TV show adaptations than most realize. Shows like The Office, Veep, and many others have become widely successful on American television, yet these were first produced for British viewers. Of course, that doesn’t mean all have been well received, as a few didn’t find the same success once they crossed the pond.
The reason for these series’ failures is varied and can come down to either bad reviews from critics or audiences just not finding that the humor or drama translates as well in the U.S. Overall, it may be surprising for some to see how many American TV shows were originally British series and the reasons for their success or lack of it.
10 Getting On
This HBO comedy series adaptation of the U.K. show with the same name stars Laurie Metcalf as a doctor in a down-and-out medical unit. The humor comes from the lead character’s lack of social skills that get her and her nurses frequently into trouble.
The show’s greatest success has come from its critical acclaim, achieving a rare 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and garnering Emmy nominations for Metcalf and the supporting cast. The U.K. series ran for three seasons and the American adaptation continued with as many seasons before coming to a close.
9 Whose Line Is It Anyway?
It was always going to be difficult to match the 10-season run of the British version, yet the American incarnation now has 17 seasons and is still going strong. Whose Line Is It Anyway? has featured some big-time guests, although is best noted for the chemistry between comedians Colin Mochrie, Ryan Stiles, and Wayne Brady.
In fact, Mochrie and Stiles were regulars in the original series, with the two transferring to this adaptation. The show has improved further by adding hilarious skits with singing, dancing, and impressions.
8 All In The Family
The concept behind a working-class family led by a narrow-minded and out-of-touch patriarch in All in the Family worked wonders for the sitcom. Lasting eight years, the show spawned an equally successful spin-off, The Jeffersons. But the template for this success came from the British sitcom, Till Death Us Do Part.
The original series was about Alf Garnett, the lead character who held stereotypical views about everyone. The adaptation had Archie Bunker, who had a similar mindset but from a skewed American perspective. All in the Family’s tackling of issues like racism and women’s liberation made it a progressive show at the time, leading to the sitcom winning the Emmy Award for best series multiple times and every lead actor also bagging the award.
Shameless was a highly successful British series about the exploits of the dysfunctional Gallagher family, with the U.S. version going about it the same way. Shameless’ 11-season run had its ups and downs, but the series has been a big success for Showtime, with William H. Macy garnering a number of Best Actor nominations.
The comedy series was also noted for its gross-out humor that meant nothing was off the table, and over-the-top moments were par for the course. Both versions of the series had decade-long runs, and the American version is seen as a worthy adaptation.
6 American Idol
The American Idol series has run for two decades and is among the most successful U.S. shows of all time. And yet, it’s not an original show since it’s adapted from UK’s Pop Idol, although that series only lasted for two years.
American Idol has delivered sensations like Kelly Clarkson, Jordin Sparks, and Carrie Underwood, with the singing reality series placing as the most-watched show in its heyday. But the format and presentation of Pop Idol should be credited, as judge Simon Cowell transitioned to the U.S. version and made it the success it is today.
5 Dancing With The Stars
Dancing with the Stars has become one of the must-see competition series on American television, with a number of celebrities, like Zendaya and Alfonso Ribeiro, showing up to dazzle viewers with their dance movies. However, it’s actually an adaptation of Strictly Come Dancing, which took Britain by storm much earlier.
Like its parent series, the U.S. version features well-known names vying for dancing supremacy that includes a number of different styles and themes. The U.K. incarnation may carry a different name, but its influence has successfully landed in this adaptation.
4 Queer As Folk
This Showtime series follows the lives of LGBTQ+ characters in Pittsburgh, with the leads as five gay men and a lesbian couple who navigate things like relationship drama and their careers. The show is based on the UK series of the same name and ran for five years.
The original only produced 10 episodes, but the American version lasted for 83 episodes and a complete series finale. It’s also notable for being among the first series to depict an entirely LGBTQ+ set of characters in lead roles, and for its self-referential humor.
3 House Of Cards
Most viewers consider this series among the best TV shows to feature movie stars, including Robin Wright and Kevin Spacey. However, House of Cards is also an adaptation of the 1990 UK series of the same name. The series details politician couple Frank and Claire Underwood’s dangerous venture into politics, resulting in the pair using ruthless tactics to ascend toward the presidency.
House of Cards ended up as one of the longest-running shows in Netlfix’s history, with both leads winning the Golden Globe Awards for Best Actor. While the British version ran for only four episodes, the American adaptation lasted for as many as 73.
While known mainly for Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ incredible awards season success, Veep is altogether a highly acclaimed series that won three successive Emmy awards. Focusing on Vice President Selina Meyer, the series is a satirical take on office politics.
The original British series, The Thick of It, is even more out there in terms of its outrageousness, as Peter Capaldi’s Malcolm Tucker’s potty mouth is the stuff of highlight reels. The American version was also successful in being its own thing, as Veep carved out its own storylines and style while retaining the thematic quality of the original.
1 The Office
This adaptation of the British series of the same name focuses on the employees of the Dunder Mifflin Company. Like the original, the show features a single-camera setup in the form of a mockumentary, where each character’s quirky personality shines through.
Running for nine years and featuring an all-star cast, The Office has many heartwarming moments and episodes that its popularity has only increased after its conclusion, thanks to its presence on streaming services. The American version outlasted the British incarnation by many years and even had a few crossovers with the latter.
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