Why does American tv ruin British shows?

American tv execs see great English tv shows, so buy the rights to them to be shown in America… but instead of actually showing the shows, they decide to re-make them with an all American cast, change the scripts and practically everything that made the show funny or good in the first place (with the exception of “You Again” (1980s show with John Stamos), which I cant remember the English show`s name it was based on).

Other than that I can`t think of one good English > American tv show, but plenty of bad ones which lose all meaning.

No-one takes good American shows and morphes them into something else… why do the yanks have to? I cant imagine Cheers with English accents, but Im sure if it ever was done then the English would keep it funny.

http://www.phill.co.uk/comedy/index.html (English tv site)

All in the Family was based on an English show called *'Til Death Do Us Part.

Sanford and Son* was based on an English show called Steptoe and Son.

There have been a couple. “That 70s Show” and “The Golden Girls” are the two that spring to mind immediately. Oh, and you brought in your own Steve for your own “Blue’s Clues.” But true, we make our versions much more often then you make your versions.

I wouldn’t be surprised if control is a major issue. The the execs prefer it when they can have control over where the show goes. That they can send note telling the producer to tone down the penis jokes but play up the sexual tension. Some of us believe they like control so much they’ll destroy shows (like “Futurama”) which they don’t have control over.

And the probably a bigger issue would be the perception that American’s don’t watch things that aren’t about them. Shame really, if they advertised properly I’d bet we’d watch. It’s just very expensive to try that.

Just look at their versions of Fawlty Towers and Are You Being Served? Apparently,they’ll be redoing The Office with American actors.I can’t see it working. Part of the appeal is the fact that it’s so typically English. Where they gonna set it?Chicago?NY? Doesn’t have half the appeal of Slough does it?

… and which forum should this thread be in? Cafe Society? IMHO? The BBQ Pit? I don’t think Great Debates, and as I can’t see it having a factual answer it probably should not be here in GQ.

Nothings sexier than Slough youre right :smiley:

Some say the reason they change it all is because of

a) Americans dont get English humour/sarcasm/innuendo. Rubbish, with similar great humour used in Sex & The City, Friends, Will & Grace etc.

b) Americans dont understand the English accent(s) or inferences. Fair enough on some of the inferences, but Im sure they can learn (like we did with American Pie), and I hope Americans arent so stupid they can understand most of the English accents (Geordies excepted, like) without having to resort to subtitles.

I think its time you all voted with your wallets and spread the word about the BBC USA cable channel, where you can get Coupling, The Office, Fawlty Towers, Porridge etc in all its British glory. Please tell me they didnt Americanise Red Dwarf` though…

I chose this forum because there must be a valid reason for it, and would like to know the answer.

Also, Three’s Company was based on Man About the House.

Funny how these are all older shows…

I think what happens is that network execs see a great foreign show, and recognize the aspects that a U.S. audience wouldn’t understand/tolerate, but when they try to ‘American-ize’ it they lose whatever made the show great to begin with. The American version of Coupling is my favorite example: they tried to be as close to the UK version as possible, but some jokes just don’t work when set in the U.S. and delivered with an American accent. We may never know the reason why this is true, but I think it is.

I’m an American who used to live in the UK (and who appreciates both kinds of programming, and misses British adverts terribly), and this is not “rubbish:” the humour used in the American shows you mention is different from that used in many British shows. I’m not sophisticated enough to be able to explain the difference to you, I just know it’s there.

I think that British humour is often more subtle than American humour: U.S. shows will be popular in the UK because nearly everyone can ‘get’ the comedy, but the reverse is not true. (Note ‘often,’ not ‘always!’)

This kind of follows on my previous theory: if many Americans don’t ‘get’ the British comedy to begin with, an even smaller number of viewers will be willing to slog through the accents (and vocabulary). Throw Scots and Irish accents into the mix, and many people become hopelessly confused. (I’m a John Hannah addict, but even I had a little trouble understanding some of the supporting characters in the Rebus series.)

We’re not stupid, we’re lazy. Big difference (and one the network execs recognize). :wink:

Because England is great and we suck? :confused:

:smiley: Recognizing the problem is the first step to dealing with it…

  1. Hollywood is excellent at ruining everything. They can take the best script/play/book/existing TV show from anywhere and turn it into muck in no time flat. And no one gets fired for doing this. (Which is the core of the problem.) No studio exec will get fired for “Catwoman.” It has nothing to do with the UK or TV in specific.

The people both in charge and even those at lower levels have absolutely no sense of taste. They can’t tell septic tank residue from gold.

Look at the recent Emmy nominations. For Best Actor in a Comedy you have one decent actor and 4 “what were these clowns thinking” (although one of those is a dead-guy-pity-nomination). The decent actor has no chance of winning (last year’s win is considered a fluke).

  1. See point 1.

But the question itself is a fallacy of the same type as “Have you stopped beating your wife?”. You have not established that American TV does indeed ruin British shows, and in fact you cannot because such things are not objectively qualifiable. It is therefore a solicitation of opinion about a Cafe Society topic.


I was not trying to be snarky. The point I was trying to make is that “ruin” is a somewhat pejorative term. It makes assumptions about people’s tastes, which might be broadly valid, but are nonetheless matters of opinion.

“Why does American tv remake British shows?” would make no such assumptions and might garner more factual answers.


Trading Spaces was originally British, and while the US version is different and perhaps not as good, it was also very popular and not ruined. So that’s a counter-example.

As far as why American remakes of British shows usually don’t work: remakes almost never work, anywhere. American remakes of American movies are usually junk, even when the original was a classic. The magic in a successful show wasn’t planned or calculated in the first place, so it’s nearly impossible to replicate in a remake.

I think is probably true that more Americans will give a show with an all American cast a try than a British import. Its not like the British shows aren’t available on American TV and they are not very highly rated. Two main reasons why most of the remakes suck (of course my opinion): the people behind the series were not talented enough to come up with a good idea on their own so why do you think they are good enough to make a good remake? Also on British TV it is generally acceptable to do a season of 10 good episodes as opposed to 25 crappy ones. The economics in Hollywood are much different and they don’t accept this concept.
I could have erased this whole post and simply said money.

no offence taken Invidious, and you make a valid point, I should have re-phrased the title. Maybe it should be in the cafe anyway though Liberal, so an op can feel free to move the thread if they want.

Just for the record I`m Australian (living in UK), and work in the tv industry (broadcast). Hopefully this makes me a reasonable judge of tv programme quality around the world (all subjective to tastes I know).

Loopydude dont be so paranoid. Some great American programmes have also been mentioned. Theres a fair amount of crap tv in every country.

SmackFu, I think the 2nd “King Kong” was better than the first? Same for “The Blob” and er, that`s all I can think of atm, so mostly I agree with you.

Loach is right about the money… you have so many more episodes per season in the USA, so as you have to write another 15 or so episodes, maybe they think they may as well re-jig the whole thing. With series like Friends, ER, Scrubs etc etc surely they might prove that US writers are much more consistent than UK ones who only have to write 8 or so quality episodes. Scrubs is my fave comedy atm btw… totally twisted and the essence of British humour imo.

As for Hollywood… dont even get me started. Apart from the re-makes, Hollywood tries its best to rewrite history and glorify the USA as much as possible in so-called true stories. U-571 was a true story, except in the real world it was the British Navy who captured the Germans. I can`t name one movie about Vietnam that even mentions Australians being there fighting alongside the USA and South Vietnamese… or mentioning Aussies in WW1, WW2 or Korea. Sore point with me, sorry for rambling.

But those movies are the exception.... I think the USA has the best movie making machine in the world, UK 2nd (maybe)..... but FAR behind. Australia is far in the distance on crutches, we dont produce any decent tv progs and not that many decent movie`s.

Oh, they tried. Thankfully, the project never got past a 10 minute test video. Robert Llewelyn was brought over as Kryten. Interestingly, though, Terry “Jadzia Dax” Farrell was the Cat.

I don’t usually do this, but actually it’s Til Death Us Do Part :slight_smile:

Terry Farrell as the “Cat”? Although I was a big fan of the original Cat (even though I can’t remember his name) if you’re going to replace him then I could definitely live with Terry Farrell …mmmmm…

Because they have the money. Other countries would probably do the same if they had the same resources.

Every country has slightly different humour and cultural references that a remake can be better tuned for. Whether the remake ‘ruins’ it or not is a matter of opinion. The difficulty that US remakes have, at least to UK perceptions, is that in the fine-tuning they remove a vital aspect of what made it funny in the first place. So it’s never going to work. But that’s usually down to TV Executive stupidity and lack of courage to vary from a accepted domestic formula, and the US doesn’t have any monopoly on that.

I’d like to put in my two cents as well. As mentioned above, british producers usually only have to worry about producing a small amount of shows; they can take the time to craft good shows. American television executives mostly care about producing enough shows to work in syndication and they’re ruthless about canning quirky, off-beat shows that are slow to capture an audience. With very few exceptions, when you have to produce a lot of shows, after a while you start to regard the show as product rather than as a well-written, well-acted show. That’s when the writers start running out of fresh ideas and start churning out re-treads of earlier shows and hope no one notices.

This is why I love this message board. My eyes have been opened to new possibilities and my horizons have been expanded. One of my favorite movies this year was Dirty, Pretty Things, which I wouldn’t have thought to go see except for recommendations from this board. I can finally return the favor because I just got back from seeing Harry and Kumar go to White Castle. It’s a stoner comedy that stars, yes STARS a Korean actor and an Indian actor. It’s got a lot of rude, disgusting yet hilarious bits and they deal with racial stereotyping in a funny way.

Anyway, if you don’t agree with me, just realize that I’m an idiot and this is just my opinion.