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Crossing the Pond

The news that one of the UK’s most celebrated sitcoms, Only Fools and Horses, is to be remade in the US, has generated some immediate chin scratching.

How on earth do the yanks intend to recreate one of the most intrinsically and quintessentially British television programmes ever made? And is there any chance of success? Contractor Weekly takes a look at other similar plans by American executives to put their own spin on British classics.

Some programmes have made the transition across the pond seamlessly, attracting as much interest in the USA if not more than in the UK.

The Office: An American Workplace is the well-known reworking of the Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant British Original The Office, and has been widely praised and had large viewing by American and British viewers alike.

However, one has to go back a little further in time to find as successful a transition as The Office, and it is often shows based more conceptually on British productions that stand the test of time in America.

For example, Sanford and Son was very popular in the 70’s and was based on the British original Steptoe and Son. The American version was more concerned with race than class like the original, and Sanford and Son was named in Time magazines list of the 100 best TV Shows of all time in 2007.

And rather amazingly, Cosby, featuring the one and only Bill Cosby,was loosely based on British classic One Foot in the Grave. 95 episodes and 4 seasons were made, before its final season ended in 2000.

However, some have not made the US transition quite so successfully.

Two pilots of Absolutely Fabulous were made in the US, one starring Roseanne Barr of Roseanne fame, and one by the original star Jennifer Saunders. Neither took off and they were not made into series, but the original Absolutely Fabulous episodes were popular for a time and were shown on ABC.

Detective Show Cracker was commissioned for a 16-part series set to be set in Los Angeles rather than glamorous Manchester, with Robert Pastorelli taking up the role of Eddie ‘Fitz’ Fitzgerald, played originally by Robbie Coltrane. No second series was ever made in the US.

There were an amazing three attempts to transfer the wacky and witty comedy of Fawlty Towers to American shores, none of which made it past the first series (and some not even that far). Chateau Snavely, Amanda’s and Payne all failed to recreate the comedy, let alone the legacy, of the original John Cleese classic.

Successful British drama Life on Mars was remade in 2008 for American television, but after initial praise and good viewing figures, a second series was never commissioned due to a decrease in the number of people tuning in.

How much of a success Only Fools and Horses will be stateside remains to be seen. History shows that there is no guarantee of any British show becoming an American sensation, but what is certain is that it will have a hard time living up to the original!


By Sean Dudley


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