NBC’s “The Office” is a remake of BBC’s “The Office.” It feels howlingly stupid to write this because it is assumed (rightly) that everyone knows this already. The reason everyone knows this has a lot to do with things that would probably take too much time to unpack in a Seriously Random List, like the heightened awareness among today’s TV watchers of how their sausage is made as well as the surge in popularity and accessibility of foreign television thanks to DVDs and online streaming. But the takeaway is that there are and have been plenty of series that have found success here in the U.S. that were based on British shows, which is how this list came together. If you never knew that some of these shows were remakes, now you can impress and potentially bore people at parties. (If you already knew that each of these was a remake, good for you; if you feel inclined to snidely share said knowledge in the comments section in an attempt to appear superior, well, hopefully something bad will happen to you later today.) Onward!
No, not “The Cosby Show.” “Cosby,” which ran on CBS from 1996-2000. It was inspired by the British series “One Foot in the Grave,” about a man forced into early retirement and the various hijinks that do inevitably ensue. The sitcom fell by the wayside when CBS started gaining traction with “Everybody Loves Raymond.”
“Queer as Folk”
Showtime’s series ran for five seasons and was based on a show of the same name that aired on Channel 4 from 1999-2000. Early stories mirrored the British series before branching out into original territory.
“Sanford and Son”
Turk’s love for it notwithstanding, “Sanford and Son” is a redo of “Steptoe and Son,” which ran in the U.K. from 1962-1965 and from 1970-1974. Between this and “All in the Family,” I’m starting to think of Norman Lear less as a pioneer and more as a combination gifted writer/shrewd producer.
“All in the Family”
Based on “Till Death Do Us Part,” which ran from 1965-1975. Yes, the classic American sitcom that made racism lovable was a reworked import from Mother England. Some more weird trivia: “All in the Family” begat “Maude,” which begat “Good Times,” and both of those shows were later remade in England, though they weren’t related to the original “Till Death Do Us Part.” This is a little like being in Tommy Westphall’s brain.
“Not Necessarily the News”
The HBO comedy-news show that ran from 1983-1990 was based on “Not the Nine O’Clock News,” which aired on BBC 2 from 1979-1982. The British version led to “Blackadder”; the American one gave us sniglets. Judge accordingly.
There have actually been several U.S. reality series based on British ones — “Wife Swap” and “Supernanny” among them — but this is the least annoying. Two couples switch houses and use designers to remake rooms. Based on “Changing Rooms,” this is the harmless show your girlfriend watched in college. “Trading Spaces” ended its eight-year run in 2008.
This was a pretty straight-ahead remake, a la “The Office,” right down to using the original show’s name. In both, a middle-aged teacher gets a “Dear John” letter from his wife dumping him, after which he joins a singles’ club. The NBC edition aired from 1988-1992.
“Three’s Company” / “Three’s a Crowd” / “The Ropers”
Scratch what I said earlier; this is the one that feels like an alternate universe. The British series “Man About the House” inspired “Three’s Company.” Its spin-off “Robin’s Nest” was turned into “Three’s a Crowd.” And finally, “George and Mildred” was turned into “The Ropers.” Yes, every single part of the shit empire that was “Three’s Company” was based on something else. It’s not just the plots that are derivative, but the show’s entire reason for being.