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The Best... and Worst of UK/US Crossovers

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In honour of the American reboot of the Inbetweeners, we look back at the best... and worst transatlantic crossovers.

Skins' Sofia Black D'EliaThe Best... 

5) Not Necessarily the News

Airdate: 1983-1990

Fate: Cancelled after eight series

Original: Not the Nine O’clock News (BBC)

Why it rocks: Not the Nine O’clock News was the last great hope for British satire and launched the careers of Rowan Atkinson and Griff Rhys Jones. HBO’s reworked Not Necessarily the News followed the same ethos, delivering incisive, off-beat interpretations of current events.

Like South Park today, no target was off-limits. NNTN provided something for fulminating right-wingers and piously PC liberals to get outraged about – before adroitly converting their outrage into publicity.

This formula worked, for a while. But, success came at a price. Ratings ebbed and flowed. And the programme routinely came under fire for trivializing global issues, such as the conflict in the Middle East. Ultimately, they were unable to draw audiences away from ratings giant Saturday Night Live and the show was cancelled.

Its legacy lives on in the Daily Show –arguably the most successful programme to use the news format as a vehicle for satire.

Best Moment: Yasser Arafat on the telephone to his estranged mother

 


4) Outnumbered

Airdate: TBA

Original: Outnumbered (BBC)

Why it rocks: OK, we know this hasn’t technically been released yet (it was only picked up by Fox in 2008), but we have no doubt it will turn out a hit. Creators Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin are overseeing the pilot, which is slated for a fall release.

There are a couple of reasons why we think U.S. audiences will respond to Outnumbered. The family-based sitcom is possibly the most universal TV concept around. Americans are also familiar with the improvised format, thanks to HBO’s award-winning Curb Your Enthusiasm. Furthermore, the high-profile bidding war between major networks is a good sign FOX wanted the franchise badly – so it seems unlikely they’re going to misuse it.

Given that most British television in the states is confined to PBS or airbrushed HBO mini-series, it’s refreshing to see some decent remakes on the cards.

Chances of Survival: Good

 

Ali G in Da USAiii

3) Ali G in Da USAiii

Airdate: 2003-2004

Fate: Cancelled

Original: Da Ali G Show (Channel 4)

Why it rocks: Sasha Baron Cohen’s deft handling of his characters was the key to the show’s success. Each week, millions tuned into to watch the obtuse MC lead unsuspecting celebrities and statesmen up the garden path. Cohen’s routines were razor-sharp satire, but the strength of the format lay in his keen eye for questioning which encouraged self-revealing mockery in his subjects.

Did you know?: Cohen got his big break alongside Natasha “Legs” Kaplinsky on a Granada talk show F2F.

Best moments: Borat in a Tucson bar singing In 'My Country There is Problem (Throw the Jew Down the Well)' – a honkey-tonk number about a pogrom. Slate magazine described it as the “perfect distillation of Borat's satirical attack, designed to offend and indict just about everyone”. Damn right.

 

2) Life On Mars

Airdate: 2008-9

Fate: Cancelled due to WGA writers’ strike

Original: Life on Mars (BBC)

Why it rocks: The Guardian tried to bury this excellent US reboot after a matter of episodes, claiming ABC had “ruined” the British franchise. Don’t believe it. If anything, the export is better. Harvey Keitel is perfectly cast as “Lieutenant” Gene Hunt. So is Gretchen Mol as the embattled Annie Morris, a hard-nosed policewoman trying to get ahead in a man’s world.

Forget the critics. Life On Mars doesn’t disappoint.

Best Moment: Det. Sam Tyler predicts the Watergate Scandal.

 

Steve Carrel in the US Office


1) The Office

Airdate: 2005-present

Fate: Unstoppable ratings juggernaut

Original: The Office (BBC)

Why it rocks: After a false start on the 11 o’clock Show, Ricky Gervais teamed up with Stephen Merchant to produce this ground breaking British sitcom back in 2000. Filmed in a cinéma vérité style with a cast of unknowns, The Office captured perfectly the monotony of white-collar existence.

A U.S. remake was commissioned by NBC with Gervais and Merchant as executive producers. It has gone from strength to strength, pulling in massive ratings for the network and has turned bossman Steve Carell from a small-time SNL contributor to an international comic powerhouse.

Did you know?: David Brent has appeared in the US Office twice, in episodes “The Seminar” and “Search Committee”

Best Moment: Michael Scott: I would like your undivided attention. / Dwight: You couldn't handle my undivided attention."

 

...And Worst

 

4) The Jeremy Kyle Show

Airdate: 2011-present

Fate: Moderate success

Original: The Jeremy Kyle Show (ITV)

Why it sucks:  Described by a Manchester District Judge as the closest thing to “human bear-baiting”, The Jeremy Kyle Show has successfully elevated exploitation of the working classes to a national past-time.

So, it came as no real surprise when ITV announced in 2010 that Jeremy would be making a step into the American market, home to veteran trash merchants Jerry Springer and Maury Povich.

The Reading-born entertainer said in anticipation of the show’s release, “I am particularly looking forward to meeting ordinary American people and hearing about their extraordinary lives."

However, critics have speculated whether Kyle’s confrontational style would sit well with U.S. audiences. Nat Hentoff for the Village Voice writes, “Americans don’t like being talked at. Fact. That’s why Springer is popular here. You have a few laughs, but you’ve not learnt anything.”

In spite of this, the Jeremy Kyle Show continues to draw a fair share of the daytime ratings. In November, NBCUniversal Television announced they were renewing the show for an additional season, so it seems we’ll be seeing a lot more of Jezza in the coming months.

Best moment: Ugly guest reveals to researchers “I might not be an oil painting, but I’m hung like a donkey”.

 

3) American Idol

Airdate: 2002-present

Fate: Astronomically successful – As of 2011, holds the distinction of being the only program to have been number one for seven consecutive seasons. Not bad, eh?

Original: Pop Idol (ITV)

Why it sucks: Pop Idol may have come first, but this was the show that marked Simon Cowell’s first steps toward global domination.

Executive producer Simon Fueller sold the show to FOX Broadcasting as the ultimate embodiment of the American Dream. They forget to mention the show was a saturnalia of cruelty and stupidity, designed to bait contestants into the direst form of public humiliation. Millions tuned in for the audition stages to see buck-toothed losers and delusional head-cases get skewered by Cowell’s sneering putdowns.

Worst Moment: William Hung’s tone-deaf rendition of “She Bangs” (Season 3)

 

Red Dwarf

2) Red Dwarf

Airdate: N/A

Fate: Dead on Arrival

Original: Red Dwarf (BBC)

Comment: Red Dwarf UK was offbeat and edgy. Red Dwarf USA missed the point. Most of its shortcomings don’t warrant repeating. It was apparently so bad that NBC Exec Bob Wright ordered for the pilot to be “thrown to the dogs”.

Did you know: This legendary misfire included featured a pre-Frasier Jane Leeves as Holly.

Worst moment: We can only speculate. The show was never broadcast in any country. However, it has been said that the actor playing Lister was particularly poor and that UK and US footage was spliced together to save funds. Oh, dear.

1) Skins

Airdate: January-March 2011

Original: Skins (E4)

Fate: Cancelled. Despite MTV’s efforts to keep content as anodyne as possible, Skins USA attracted major controversy for its depiction of casual sex and drug use. A trumped-up child pornography charge (!) issued by the right-wing Parent’s Television Council impelled advertisers to pull out and led to the show’s demise.

Why it sucks: The combination of a charmless cast and uninspired writing did little to prop up this ill-fated reboot.  

Did you know?: After it’s cancellation, the President of BBC America announced that Skins UK obtained higher ratings than its US adaption in syndication, proving that British shows may not necessarily need reworking for a decent share of the American market.

Worst moment: Gay character Maxxie being replaced by a photogenic lipstick lesbian.

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