UK vs American TV Shows

There have been a number of shows that have started out as British series and then been remade for an American audience. While the most famous one of these (The Office) has obviously been wildly successful, I can’t help but wonder why in the world the bulk of them happen. I suppose the wild success of the Office makes it feel to some like anything’s worth a shot. (And for that matter, House of Cards also started as a UK show and was doing great until everything blew up with Kevin Spacey.)

The fam and I have been watching the UK version of Ghosts, which we’ve had a lot of fun with. I knew there was an American version, and Paramount+ apparently thought since we’ve been watching the original, we really ought to see the American. Something about seeing a promo reel that’s chock full of almost exactly the same things, just done with American accents . . . really didn’t work in the moment. It almost felt like an SNL skit. I remember feeling the same way about the American remake of the IT Crowd. It was like a dream where all the same things are happening, but with different people in those roles.

Overall, I just don’t understand the thinking behind the remakes. I mean, if they took Doctor Who and made an American version . . . why? What about a Winnie the Pooh American version, or Mary Poppins for an American audience? Monty Python? Like, what is the thinking behind the attempts? Is it an assumption that Americans don’t like British accents? Or don’t like British humor? I mean, there have been enough successful shows that are British that make it clear such an assumption is off base.

In many instances, the very fact that the show is British is some of what makes it appealing to me. The Great British Baking Show (or Bake Off, depending on what side of the Atlantic you’re on) is charming. Yes, there’s an American version, but . . . I just haven’t seen the need to watch it. Then again, American Idol started as Pop Island in the UK . . .

I don’t know. It seems as more and more shows get watched on streaming regardless of their language, the need for remaking a show for an American audience just becomes more and more questionable. I see no need for an American Squid Game, for example. But then again, it sounds like one’s in the works. (Though granted, it’s a version that’s more an extension of the Squid Game universe, which actually sounds intriguing.)

Maybe it all boils down to the same essentials as any adaptation. If all you’re doing is putting a new coat of paint on something in an effort to make more money, then why even bother? Money grabs are seldom worthwhile from a creative perspective. If you really want to remake something, then take the time to actually do something different with it, and be doing it for a different reason than money. Like, if you see something and feel like you could do something great with it, then go for it.

But doing a simple paint-by-numbers color swap? No thanks.

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