Ten American TV Shows Remade for the UK
Having already prostrated myself before the anti-muse of unoriginality with last week’s ten British shows remade for the US it seems only fair and equitable that I follow that with ten American TV shows that were remade for the UK. I know reader, bestill your beating heart.
10. THIS IS YOUR LIFE (US version 1952-61, 71-72, 83; UK version 1955-1964, 1969-2003, 2007)
Possibly (and I’m certainly willing to be corrected on this as I’ve done absolutely zero research) the first example of a US show being remade for the UK. While successful in the US, the show proved not to be as long-lasting as the UK version which over the course of 30-plus years became part of the nation’s television’s landscape with first Eamonn Andrews and then Michael Aspel. Each show began with a celebrity guest being ambushed by the host, told “this is your life!” and then being whisked off to a television studio for a retrospective look at their life. Indeed, Aspel appeared to perfect the art of stealthily stalking celebrities. For instance, you might have an unsuspecting Bonnie Langford in the middle of a panto performance giving it her all as Peter Pan and – BAM! – Aspel, like a lion taking down an antelope, was there. He had pounced. Sneaked up on her blind side. Poor Bonnie, despite her swiftness of feet, didn’t stand a chance. Michael Apsel: might have been a second-rate TV presenter, but he’d have been a first-rate mugger.
9. FAMILY FORTUNES (US version 1976-present; UK version 1980-2002, 06-present)
When preparing to remake the US quiz show Family Feud for the UK, Bob Monkhouse who was to host the show felt the American title sounded a little too aggressive and so the UK version was retitled as the far more anodyne Family Fortunes. Until recently the American version was hosted by John O’Hurley (J. Peterman from Seinfeld) while the Brits have to endure gurning man-child Vernon Kay and a gaggle of z-listers as contestants as the show hhas been morphed into “All Star” Family Fortunes. And yes, I do think the fact that Brits gets stuck with Kay rather than J. Peterman is precisely the sort of issue we should be writing to our MPs to complain about.
8. BRIGHTON BELLES (US version 1985-1992; UK version 1993)
The late 80s and early 90s saw British network Channel 4 have significant success showing US sitcoms Cheers and The Golden Girls. With great casts, gags-a-plenty scripts and critical acclaim these sitcoms gained a loyal following and significant ratings (well, by Channel 4’s standards, at least). The Tarquins at ITV certainly noticed. And, hey, why bother trying to think up original ideas when you can just nick other people’s. And so the British version of The Golden Girls was born – Brighton Belles.
Except the Tarquins were wrong, and we really didn’t want a British version of a show we could already watch. We didn’t want it at all. Shame really as the cast of Sheila Hancock, Wendy Craig and Sheila Gish was certainly not the problem.
7. THE APPRENTICE (US version 2004 – present; UK version 2005 – present)
6. BLOCKBUSTERS (US version 1980-82, 87; UK version (1983-93, 94-95, 97, 2000-01)
I was a little heartbroken to discover that Blockbusters was not, in fact, a UK original. I had thought it was as British as Douglas Jardine wearing a pair of Union Jack boxer-shorts while eating fish and chips, but no, it’s based off an American show. Still the British version did have a much better theme tune as well as being hosted by – and how cool is this? – none other than James Bond (The host, Bob Holness, had played Bond on South African radio back in the 50s so predated Connery in the role). Also, unlike the American version in which adults were contestants, the UK version had Sixth Form students (16-18 year olds) competing. Well, it did under its heyday when Holness was presenting. I’m still bitter that version of the show was axed before I got to be in the Sixth Form thus denying me a shot at the gold run.
5. THE UPPER HAND (US version 1984-92; UK version 1990-95)
Featuring one of the lesser McGann brothers (Joe) and Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman), The Upper Hand was a remake of Who’s The Boss. As with other sitcoms on this list, the common denominator is that they were made for ITV a channel that has long (well since Rising Damp ended in 1978) forgotten how to make an original and amusing sitcom.
4. THE PRICE IS RIGHT (US version 1956-65, 72 – present; 1984-07)
This list could just been made up of game shows. Out of all imports they seem to be the really long-lasting successes with the likes of The Price is Right and Wheel of Fortune. The problem (or perhaps the charm) with a lot of the British versions of these shows is that, unlike the American originals, for a long time they lacked the ability to give the big money prizes. Shows like Blankety Blank (itself a remake of the American show Match Game) made a virtue of the crappiness of its prizes. The Independent Broadcasting Authority placed limits on how much money could be given away on television. So while Bob Barker might be giving away Cadillacs and jet-boats on his version of The Price is Right, the best you could hope for from Leslie Crowther on the British version was a trouser press. In the mid-90s, the Independent Broadcasting Authority abolished the limits on prize money, a move that paved the way for the later excesses of Who Wants to be Millionaire.
3. UNIVERSITY CHALLENGE (US version 1959-70; UK version 1962-87, 94-present)
College Bowl is probably now only remembered by baby boomers, though the actual quiz competition carried on until 2008 despite being untelevised. It’s UK remake University Challenge is still going strong after a successful relaunch in the mid-90s. It’s also the only game show I’ve ever applied to be on. My team didn’t get chosen (we didn’t have a natural sciences expert and, my God, we were dull), but one day I WILL be sneered at by Jeremy Paxman.
2. MARRIED FOR LIFE (US version 1987-97; UK version 1996)
What’s that? Another failed ITV sitcom? That’s right. Nothing reeks of desperation as much as an ITV sitcom…well, apart from a comic analogy on this blog. Having had some minor success showing Married…with Children, the Tarquins at ITV thought they should try doing a British version entitled Married for Life starring inoffensive funnyman Russ Abbott. The whole thing can be summed up best as…blah!.
1. THE SPRINGER SHOW (US version 1991-present; UK version 2004)
Yes, there was an actual British version of The Jerry Springer Show imaginatively titled The Springer Show. This was the moment that TV began eating itself. For years, we had our own poor facsimiles of The Jerry Springer Show – they’d been Kilroy, Vanessa and Trisha (I believe the collective term for these three is “a shower of bastards”). When Trisha Goddard left ITV for rival network Five, ITV were left up a creek without a paddle. They had nobody to host their bad copy of The Jerry Springer Show. But then one of their Tarquins had the bright (or meta) idea to just get Jerry Springer. So, for a few months, Jerry did a bad copy of a show that was, in turn, a bad copy of his own show. Poor Jerry, years of being circus master to a procession of chair-throwing rednecks proved poor training for having to deal with and understand Ben Sherman-wearing drunks and their Kappa Slappa girlfriends. Once his contractual obligation was over, Jerry scarpered back to Chicago and we were left with the always angry and always disgusted Jeremy Kyle. Whether that makes Kyle’s show a bad copy of a bad copy of a bad copy of something that was just bad to begin with – I’ll let you decide.
Darn it, like Brighton Belles I can’t find any of The Springer Show online so instead here’s some of Jeremy Kyle – oh, lucky you!