Are American remakes of our favourite shows ever better than the original?
The UK has produced some amazing TV shows over the years, steeped in our unique sense of humour and cultural touchstones, so it’s only natural that studios across the pond would want to try and recreate our favourite programmes for an American audience.
The problem is, these remakes don’t always translate quite as well on American screens! But are US remakes always worse than the original?
Or do they sometimes get it right and actually improve upon the homegrown version? And what about shows that move in the opposite direction, starting out life in the States before having a British remake?
We’re going to settle these questions using IMDb ratings in the Big Telly Debate!
We analysed 132 British exports from across the board, including sitcoms, dramas, game shows and more and found that just 29% were better received than the original, with 64% being worse.
However, despite the fact that the majority of remakes were less successful, the average US remake only had a rating score of 0.9 less than their British counterparts, suggesting that the majority weren’t complete disasters.
By far the US remake with the biggest ratings drop off is Spaced, with the original scoring 8.5 on IMDb, compared to just 1.4 for the US remake, which was dubbed ‘McSpaced’ by fans. The creators of the original quickly distanced themselves from the remake, which never got further than an unaired pilot episode.
In hindsight, it’s quite clear that a series such as The Inbetweeners would fail to land with an American audience and that was clearly the case, with the US version of the classic sitcom holding a rating of just 3.1 compared to 8.4 for the original.
Viva Laughlin took its name from the sequel to the musical drama serial Blackpool, which you may not remember but was actually a big hit during the early 2000s. With Hugh Jackman starring and acting as executive producer, expectations were high, but the show was cancelled after just two episodes.
However, sometimes a remake does actually surpass the original, which was the case for classic game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. While the Chris Tarrant-fronted original was a success here in the UK (and recently made a comeback), the US version has been running for 22 continuous years now and has won multiple Daytime Emmys as well as being one of the highest-rated US game shows of all time.
The Jeremy Kyle Show isn’t exactly regarded as a classic on either side of the Atlantic, with a rating of just 5.1 for its US remake, but that’s notably still 1.8 points higher than the UK original! It’s fair to say that Kyle’s confrontational style was more suited to an American audience!
Two shows were tied in second place and you may be surprised to hear that the first is actually a remake of a very successful British show: Gogglebox. While the UK version is highly rated at 7.4, the US version stands at 8.6! The other show with a similar increase is a throwback to the late 90s, the Chris Evans-presented Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush, which enjoyed a US adaptation.
8.9 out of 10
The original version of The Office is heralded as one of the greatest TV shows of all time, so it’s impressive that the US version managed not only to match it but in the eyes of many, even surpass it. After a bumpy first season, The Office quickly diverged from its source material and flourished on its own two feet.
8.7 out of 10
A 1990 BBC miniseries might have seemed an odd choice for Netflix to remake for their first-ever original series, but House of Cards was hugely popular, with the political thriller receiving positive reviews, as well as many award nominations.
8.6 out of 10
The UK version of Shameless ended in 2013, but its US counterpart is still going strong ahead of its 11th series. Moving from Manchester’s Chatsworth estate to the South Side of Chicago, it’s a rare example of a US import staying true to the roots of the original but making it work for a US audience.
There is one area that America has the advantage though: talk shows. Talks shows were the only genre where US remakes had a higher IMDb rating than the originals and it’s easy to see explosive shows like Jeremy Kyle perform better in the states.
On the other hand, the genre where American remakes failed to capture the magic of originals was comedy.
British humour can be acquired taste for non-natives, which is why it’s no surprise that American versions of the likes of The Inbetweeners, Gavin & Stacey and Red Dwarf all fell flat.
It’s much rarer for American shows to make their way to our shores, which often come in the form of game shows, but are they more successful than shows going the other way?
We analysed 40 shows here, with just 32% being rated better than their American originals, which is better than UK to US remakes, but only by 3%!
The average US to UK remake scored 0.5 lower than the programme it was based on, which was again, slightly better than shows going the other way.
Married for Life was a 1996 sitcom that was adapted from the hit US show Married... with Children. However, it largely went under the radar, with just seven episodes airing, although it is notable as one of the first acting credits of a certain Rob Brydon!
Ever wondered how That 70’s Show would have looked if it was set in Luton? Nope, us neither, but that was exactly what British audiences were treated to with Days Like These, which aired on ITV in 1999.
Another hit US sitcom which didn’t quite have the same success on these shores was The Golden Girls, which was reworked as The Brighton Belles in 1993. The sitcom managed to secure a second series, although this was pulled halfway through its run after savage reviews from critics.
Before turning his hand to politics, Donald Trump produced and starred in The Apprentice, and never one to miss a deal, sold the format right around the world and the British version has been a staple part of British TV for over 15 years now.
This one’s a little bit deceptive because even though the British version of Teen Mum (crucially spelt with a “u” rather than an “o”) did perform a lot better than its US original, it still only received an IMDb score of 5.4 out of 10. Perhaps Brits are just a bit more partial to some trashy reality telly!
Another perfect example of Brits taking a US reality show and running with it is Geordie Shore, which is, of course, based on Jersey Shore. Again, it wasn’t exactly a critical hit, but there must be something that we love about the antics of our favourite Geordies, which is still going after 21 series.
8.9 out of 10
This one came as a bit of a surprise, but the highest-rated US to UK adaptation is a 2003 reality show called The Murder Game, which blended reality, game show and mystery drama, based on the American show, Murder in Small Town X. It might not be the answer we were expecting, but perhaps it’s one to try and look up!
8.2 out of 10
Saturday Night Live is one of the most iconic programmes in the US, having been on the air for over 45 years and feels like it would be very hard to do justice to in the UK. However, Saturday Live (later known as Friday Night Live) attempted just that, and judging by the IMDb reviews, did a pretty good job! Much like its US counterpart, the live comedy show launched the careers of multiple future stars, such as Ben Elton, Harry Enfield, Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie.
7.9 out of 10
While the American version of So You Think You Can Dance is hugely successful, currently on its 16th season, it’s actually the UK version that has the higher IMDb rating. Both versions were hosted by Cat Deeley and had Nigel Lythgoe as a judge, but while it only lasted for two series, apparently it was a hit with viewers!
When it comes to genres, there was one stand out type of show which performed better on British tellies than in the US and that was reality TV, which on average, scored 1.2 points higher than their original programmes.
But, as we saw with UK to US adaptations, comedy really doesn’t travel well, with British remakes usually scoring 1.5 points less compared to American originals.
Taking into account all of the shows on either side, whether remake or original, American shows had an average IMDb score of 6.5, which is a respectable enough figure considering some of the horrendous remakes we’ve seen!
However, British programmes take the crown, with an average score of 7.0 across each of the country’s remakes and originals.
Note that the amount of reworking between the two versions varies, from those which use the same script verbatim to others that completely rework the original premise.