Veep, The Office, and the 7 Best American Remakes of British TV Shows
With the 64th Emmy Awards nominations announced yesterday, I’ve been hearing a lot of people giving praise to new show Veep starring the talented Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the vice-president of the United States. She has gotten herself a nomination for Best Actress in a Comedy Series, as well the show itself for Best Comedy Series. However, would it surprise American audiences to know that despite its American setting and plotline, the show is actually a remake of a British TV show, The Thick of It?
Now before I start getting any haters, I am actually a huge fan of American TV and a huge fan of the remake. People joke that the best way to torture a Brit is to make them watch the American remake of a British TV show and there have been some horrible remakes that thankfully didn’t make it past the pilot stage.
Along with Veep here is a selection of other good (and not so good) American remakes of British shows.
1. Veep (HBO 2012 – present) remake of The Thick of It (BBC3, 2005 – present)
Veep’s British predecessor utilized the same cinéma-vérité style as the American show and followed the comedic actions of a fictional British government department. Its critical success led to the making of the 2009 Anglo-American feature length film In the Loop, which saw the characters visit Washington, D.C., and satirized the Iraq War. ABC originally tried to adapt the show for American audiences in 2007. A more direct copy of the original featuring a factitious U.S. government department; however, the ABC remake never made it beyond a pilot and the rights to the concept eventually transferred to HBO.
Which is better: Still too early to say, but the two shows are very different and any comparison would be unfair.
The Thick of It trailer
2. Being Human (Syfy, 2011 – present) remake of Being Human (BBC4, 2008 – present)
With all things vampire and werewolf in vogue, it’s no surprise that this British supernatural comedy/drama has found itself remade across the pond. Featuring a vampire, a werewolf, and a ghost trying to live "normal human lives" as roommates was a huge hit in the UK. In its first season, the American remake pretty much copied all the same characters and plotlines of the British show. ut But now in its second season, the show is adding original characters and storylines.
Which is better: The American version is getting better by developing its own storylines, but I still have to go with the British version for its originality.
Being Human (U.S.) trailer
Being Human (UK) trailer
3. Shameless (Showtime, 2011 – present) remake of Shameless (Channel 4, 2004 – present)
These two shows are almost identical with the same characters and plotlines. The main difference is the U.S. version in set in Chicago’s Southside and the British version set in Manchester’s Chatsworth estate. The comedy-drama follows the lives of a working class family and the things they do to not just get by, but also survive as a family. The show was lauded in Britain for its portrayal of the British underclass, but I’ve not heard much about how well it has been received stateside.
Which is better: Despite being very similar shows, I have to go with the American version. The incredible acting of William H. Macy, Emmy Rossum and Joan Cusack makes me feel more sympathy for the characters, while in the British version I felt more horror at the characters actions.
Shameless (U.S.) trailer
Shameless (UK) trailer
4. Cosby (CBS, 1996 – 2000) remake of One Foot in the Grave (BBC1, 1990 – 2000)
The cult American classic sitcom Cosby was actually a loosely based remake of this British sitcom about a grumpy pensioner, his personal war with the world and his long-suffering wife. CBS didn’t think a show about a grumpy old white man would fly in America so they cast an African American and added a family.
Which is better: Have to firmly say the British version. Yes, they are very different, but what the American version needed a full cast to achieve, the British version with just two central characters.
5. One Foot in the Grave clip
6. Queer as Folk (Showtime, 2000 – 2005) remake of Queer as Folk (Channel 4, 1999 – 2000)
When first released in the UK in 1999, the show about a group of gay men in England’s Northern city of Manchester caused a sensation in the UK as its largely straight audience caught the first real glimpse into gay British life. There was plenty of out cry as well as the first episode featured a very graphic gay sex act being performed on British national TV and many said the straight actors were committing professional suicide. This was happily proven wrong with Charlie Hunman finding success stateside in Sons of Anarchy and Aidan Gillen starring in Game of Thrones. The American remake had a large LGBT following and didn’t cause too much outrage as it was relegated to cable TV. Although many of the characters were direct copies of the British show and the first seasons were virtually identical, the British version only lasted 2 seasons, whilst the U.S. version went on to have 5 full seasons with more original characters and storylines.
Which is better: It’s a tough call. The British version sparked huge social commentary on LGBT rights and everyday lives of gay people. However, if we judge this solely on how good of a show it was I’d have to say the US version, because it went onto be much more then it’s original.
Queer as Folk (U.S.) trailer
Queer as Folk (UK) trailer
This hugely successfully British comedy has spawned a franchise of remakes in France, Germany, Chile, Israel and Sweden, as well as the U.S. The British version helped launched the international career of Ricky Gervais and its comedic commentary of such an everydaysetting has connected with audience the world over. Since the comedy is so culturally specific, I’m not a huge fan of the U.S. version despite the brilliant performances of Rainn Wilson and Steve Carell .
Which is better: I have to go with the original, but that shouldn’t take away from the U.S. version. I think The Office is the type of comedy that anybody from any culture will prefer their version as it is more relatable.
The Office (U.S.) trailer
The Office (UK) trailer