TV Shows that Didn't Cut it Across the Pond
Last week we looked at a few Britcoms that had been successfully co-opted by U.S. television producers. As many alert readers noted, there have also been some series that we've imported from across the Pond that fell as flat as a whoopee cushion at a clown convention. Here are just a few of the Brit-bombs:
1. From Fawlty to Payne-ful
Fawlty Towers, which starred Monty Python's John Cleese, only ran for 12 episodes, but it still placed first on the list of 100 Greatest British Television Programmes by the British Film Institute. The first attempt at Americanizing this series was 1978's Snavely, starring Harvey Korman and Betty White. It never progressed past the pilot episode. In 1983 Bea Arthur was cast in the John Cleese role (!) in Amanda's. But she didn't have a spouse with whom she could trade caustic put-downs, nor was she capable of the slapstick comedy that Cleese performed with ease.
Americans took one last stab at recreating Fawlty Towers in 1999, with John Larroquette playing hotel owner Royal Payne in the series Payne. Larroquette even hoped to get Cleese to guest star as the ultra-nice, hotel owner of a successful business down the road, but the series was canceled before producers could make it happen.
2. Same Script, Different Ratings
Coupling was often described as the UK version of Friends, only with more sex (and funnier dialog). NBC used scripts from the British series almost verbatim for the American version of Coupling, which proved to be the downfall of the series. BBC America was still airing the original show, so who wanted to sit through the same episodes a second time?
3. The Lowest Rated Show Ever
Cold Feet was another British series that was likened to Friends, but a more appropriate comparison would probably be the "dramedy" thirtysomething. Cold Feet alternated between side-splitting laughs and serious issues such as infertility and alcoholism. NBC's version of Cold Feet starred the Gilmore Girls' David Sutcliffe and was canned after charting the lowest ratings ever in the network's Friday 10PM time slot.
4. Curbing the AbFab Invasion
Roseanne Barr purchased the U.S. rights to the British hit Absolutely Fabulous in 1995. She attempted to assemble a pilot for the series starring Carrie Fisher, but the project never got off the ground. Roseanne did, however, manage to persuade Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley to reprise their AbFab roles on a "post-lottery" episode of her own sitcom.
5. Bad Timing for First Years
This Life was a British series that followed the lives of five recent law school graduates who shared a house in London and were adjusting to life as working barristers. NBC's version of the series, First Years, received positive reviews, but the Peacock Network made the mistake of scheduling the show in the same timeslot as Fox's Ally McBeal, an established hit that also featured young attorneys.
The British Duds
Of course, stealing ideas for shows has been a two-way street. U.K. producers have also tried their hand at Anglicizing some American hits, with varying degrees of success:
1. Who's the Boss, now with a Bond Girl!
The Upper Hand was the British version of Who's the Boss. The male housekeeper in this case was a former soccer (er, football) player/widowed dad who wanted to raise his daughter in a better place than his south London neighborhood. Goldfinger's "Pussy Galore," Honor Blackman, played the saucy character originated by Katherine Helmond.
2. The Queen Mother Loves the Golden Girls?
The Golden Girls was a UK hit in its own right (the show's stars even performed a stage version of some classic GG skits at a Royal Variety Show per the request of the Queen Mother.) Brighton Belles, a homegrown version of GG, lasted only six episodes before getting the axe; apparently St. Olaf stories that use kippers instead of herring just don't work as well.
3. Mad About You Gets out of the City
Loved by You debuted on ITV in 1997 and ran for two seasons. Other than changing A) some of the colloquialisms and 2) the geography, it was a word-for-word remake of Mad about You.
Did we miss any of your favorites (or favorites to complain about)? Drop 'em in the comments... we'd love to hear from you!