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10 Great American Adaptations of British TV Shows

April 9, 2011  |  9:20am
10 Great American Adaptations of British TV Shows

Some people may be surprised by how many successful American TV shows originated in the U.K. One example: The Office, whose star Steve Carell is leaving the show after this season. In somewhat of a tribute to that terrific adaptation, we’re here to take a look at some of the better American adaptations of British television shows.

10. Touching Evil

The American version on USA was canceled early on after only 13 episodes. Its plot deviated from the U.K. version. Instead of main character, Creegan, being able to sense criminals, he recovers from a gunshot wound to the head, which removes his impulsive nature and sense of shame. Critics heralded the series, but its ratings suffered, so USA opted not to renew it.

Coincidentally, the main character was played by Jeffrey Donovan, who now stars in Burn Notice for USA.

9. Life On Mars

Both adaptations of science-fiction/crime drama Life On Mars didn’t survive very long. The U.K. series of the same name aired between January 2006 and April 2007 on BBC One. It followed Sam Tyler, a police officer who served the Greater Manchester Police.

The ABC adaptation aired from October ’08 to April ’09 and followed the same basic premise.

Critics saw it as a worthy adaptation; audiences apparently didn’t.

8. American Idol

Simon Cowell’s American Idol is still a gigantic American success, and it was also large in the U.K. under the title Pop Idol (Cowell was part of the judging process there as well).

Both versions adhere to the same basic format, which follows contestants through three stages: the audition, Hollywood (or the Criterion Theater in the U.K.), and live television competitions.

7. Queer As Folk

“Queer as folk” comes from an old Northern English expression “there’s nawt so queer as folk,” according to Wikipedia, which means “there’s nothing as strange as people.”

The U.K.’s Channel 4 ran the show in 1999. It told the tale of gay men living in Manchester, England, but only focused on three members.

The American adaptation for Showtime increased the cast from three to five guys, living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (although the show was shot in Toronto) and focused more on controversial issues like sam-sex marriage, hard drug use and underage prostitution.

6. Who Wants To Be A Millionare?

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire had admirable levels of success in the U.K. and even more when it hit the States. With the affable and energetic Regis Philbin hosting the U.S. version, starting in 1999 on ABC, its ratings rapidly increased and became a major hit, airing five nights a week. Of course, just as with most majorly famous shows, ratings quickly declined; the original States incarnation of the show dissolved in 2002.

Meredith Viera currently hosts syndicated versions.

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