10 American TV adaptations that went horribly wrong

Odd List Nina Sordi
2 Dec 2009 - 12:57

The Office is an example of a British show that's also had immense success with its US version. Here are 10 that didn't fare as well, though...

On the heels of the American remake of British thriller The Prisoner and in the wake of many more UK/American TV adaptations coming our way (including the confirmed MTV remake of Skins), we are reminded how foreign adaptations of television shows can really go one way or the other. And for every Office, there's a...well, that's what this list is for!

So as Americans like myself are feasting on leftover turkey and forgetting what we were thankful for, let's all give thanks that every one of these American television knockoffs are no longer on the air. And because many of these gems never even made it to our living rooms, it is difficult to rank them against those that did, so there is no particular order to this list.

The Eleventh Hour

Now it would be wrong of me to comment on this series because I have neither seen the remake nor the original, but I'm going to anyway. Patrick Stewart? C'mon, guys. You can't beat that. Plus, from the trailers I saw when the show was still on and ones I've looked up, the American version was cheesy and formulaic. It also must be extremely difficult to create a 22 episode per season show based on a program that was only four parts long. So why try?

The Young Ones

Discovering that this classic was remade for the States didn't shock me. Discovering that an original cast member, Nigel Planer, reprised his role as Neil had me seriously doubting the wisdom of The Great and Powerful Internet. Entitled, Oh, No! Not THEM!, this US version of the much loved British comedy didn't make it past the pilot and Planer allegedly hated every minute of his experience on the show. Imagining how Fox would have twisted the unique style and sense of humor of The Young Ones and what it would have become, I can see where he was coming from.

Blackpool/Viva Laughlin

Listen, I'm pretty sure that Glee is the only musical American TV show (at least in recent memory) that has really garnered an audience in the states. Blackpool proved to be successful enough for a sequel while Viva Laughlin was cancelled after two episodes aired.

As it is with most of the selections on this list, certain tones, themes, and moods of one culture's entertainment cannot always be translated effectively to another culture. Now, that is not to say that if an American was to sit down and watch Blackpool they would immediately detest and dismiss it in some xenophobic rage. Chances are quite a few would enjoy it. But some shows are distinctly British, some shows are distinctly American, some shows are distinctly Canadian, etc. Just like the 1939 version of The Women did not translate well in its 2008 adaptation (Or, as I like to call it: Why, God? Just why?).

From what it looks like, it seems that Viva Laughlin rang more like Broadway than BBC, and that aspect of the show was certainly a turn off for quite a few viewers west of the Atlantic.

Men Behaving Badly

So let me get this straight. Someone, someone out there, thought it was a good idea to take a beloved, long-running, award winning British sitcom and remake it for the US starring Rob Schneider. Really? I mean, I don't have anything against Rob Schneider, but...well...really? It just doesn't fit. And the other stars, Ron Eldard and Justine Bateman, aren't bad, but they left after the first season. Now I know what you're thinking: there was more than one season?! Why, yes, there were two, but the second was cut short. Mercifully.

Absolutely Fabulous

Here is an example of a UK series that also had a large cult following in the US. I consider it one of my favorite shows. Understandably, producers looked at that success, and thought they could benefit from it by making their own Ab Fab. Even though talented people like Kathryn Hahn and Kristen Johnston were involved, the only true saving grace for this project was that Jennifer Saunders was brought on as an executive producer, so she would have had a hand in it somehow. Fortunately or unfortunately, whichever way you lean, Fox did not pick up the show and it never saw the light of day.

Kath And Kim

The shenanigans of this mother-daughter pair originated down under. Kath And Kim was an extremely well received and loved show in its native Australia, and in all honesty, the NBC remake with Molly Shannon and Selma Blair didn't look too terrible. The actresses alone were a good enough reason to give it a shot. Even they, however, could not save this show. Again, it lacked the chemistry of the actors/characters and spark of the original and either relied too heavily on the esteem of the actors involved (also including the hilarious John Michael Higgins) or assumed that with the network's success with The Office, Kath And Kim would also accrue a similarly sized audience. Like Ab Fab, the creators and stars, Jane Turner and Gina Riley, came aboard as executive producers, but that didn't help the show move past its first season.

Fawlty Towers

They tried three times. Three times to remake Fawlty Towers in the US. Chateau Snavely (Betty White and Harvey Korman), Amanda's (Bea Arthur), and Payne (John Larroquette) were all pulled very early in production, if they even made it that far. There really isn't much else to say, is there? The fact that it failed three times, even with talents like White and Arthur involved, says everything.

Life On Mars

While the remake of this sci-fi drama received some critical praise, what really doomed this show was its inability to keep the attention of its audience. Its ratings dropped significantly over its seventeen episode run. The original Life On Mars did only last two seasons, but what it did have over the American version was a dedicated fanbase. When the remake surfaced, many of the comments I saw on message boards and trailer videos were exclamations of how it could never match up to the UK version. Overall, it was pretty clear that the original had a lot more going for it, including a cult following and critical acclaim.


This one might irk me more than any of the others. Besides the fact that Spaced is a personal favorite of mine, there was quite a bit of controversy surrounding the American remake. Apparently, none of the brains behind the series, Simon Pegg, Jessica Hynes, and Edgar Wright, were asked by the director McG, or anyone else working on the project, to be involved, but it was advertised as if they were. It was all downhill after Wright dubbed the show "McSpaced". Fortunately for all of us, the pilot was not picked up and McSpaced will never be.


Coupling is not Friends, Coupling is not Friends, Coupling is not Friends...I'm pretty sure that's what every fan of the original Coupling was thinking when NBC made their own version of the hugely popular sitcom. While I'm not particularly a fan of the show, I can completely understand how fans would be up in arms at the idea of an American remake. The comparisons to Friends probably worried fans that the US version would totally Americanize the tone of the show, which would ruin it without question. Not surprisingly, this show was pulled in the middle of its first season.

There was an itching sensation in the back of my brain as I made this list which tells me that it is very likely that I missed some other painfully inadequate TV remakes. So clue me in! And let me know if I missed the mark!

For more from Nina, check out her blog at Perks of Quirk or follow her on Twitter.

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