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.
5. Whose Line Is It Anyway?
The improvisational sketch show debuted as a U.K. radio program in 1988 before being adapted for TV, where it ran for 10 years. Two of the British version’s regulars, Colin Mochrie and Ryan Stiles, made the trip overseas to star in the American adaptation.
4. Sanford and Son
The U.S. ‘70s sitcom Sanford and Son was inspired by the BBC sitcom Steptoe and Son. Steptoe ran for four seasons from 1962-1965.
The BBC ran a poll to findBritain’s Best Sitcom; Steptoe and Son fell in at No. 15.
Coincidentally, Time Magazine gave it the No. 14 spot in the N-S category for The 100 Best TV Shows of All-TIME.
3. Three’s Company
The American adaptation is nearly identical to the original British version, titled Man About The House. The latter ran from 1973-1976 on ITV; it followed a student chef, who pretended to be gay so the landlord wouldn’t object to him living with two single women.
The American adaptation was helped immensely by John Ritter, who unfortunately passed away a few years ago. His ability to make even the most clichéd sitcom tropes entertaining is what made the show truly memorable.
2. All In The Family
This American staple derives from a British show called Till Death Do Us Part that aired on BBC1 from 1965-1968, 1970 and 1972-1975. ITV continued it from 1985-1992 under the title Till Death….
Johnny Speight created the series, which focused on the Garnett family from the East End. The leader of the family, Alf Garnett, held anti-socialist views.
The American version, produced by Norman Lear, continued in the same controversial vein by tackling topics like racism, women’s liberation issues the Vietnam war. It ran on CBS from 1972-1979.
1. The Office
Rick Gervais and Stephen Merchant created The Office for the British television station BBC Two. The series premiered in 2001. Only two six-episode seasons aired before the show was canceled due to low ratings.
However, that didn’t stop American writer Greg Daniels (SNL, The Simpsons) from adapting it. NBC debuted the American version in 2005, with Steve Carell playing Gervais’ part of the socially awkward boss alongside other highly talented cast members.