The United Kingdom is colonizing the American television industry. British TV shows, either in their original format or remade by American networks, have become a staple of U.S. viewing.
The American Version
Many television shows that are popular in Britain have been remade for American television. “American television networks know that if they take successful shows and then make their own version they might get the same reviews,” said sophomore Nikki Segulin.
The critically acclaimed British sitcom The Office followed the day-to-day troubles and experiences of employees at the Wernham Hogg paper company in a documentary-like format. NBC created an adaptation of The Office in 2005 starring Steve Carell. The American version of The Office followed the same storyline and filming format, but the paper company’s name is Dunder Mifflin. The show was extrememly popular, running for nine seasons and receiving critical acclaim.
House of Cards, a four-episode serial produced by BBC in 1990, has been brought back in the U.S. The storylines of Britain’s House of Cards and its American remake are nearly identical; the main differences reflect the disparities between the British and American systems of government. The original House of Cards is based on Chief Whip for the Conservative Party Francis Urquhart and his scheme to become the Prime Minister.
Netflix’s House of Cards is about a cutthroat U.S. Congressman, Majority Whip for the Democratic Party Francis Underwood, and his ruthless rise to power in Washington D.C. “The original British version of House of Cards was great,” said junior Elise Mann. “However, the current U.S. version brings more light to the sleaze and negativity of the government, which is more realistic and more entertaining.”
Skins, a racy teen drama, premiered on MTV in 2011. The U.K.’s version of Skins is known for its promiscuous content, often using profanity and displaying nudity and the use of alcohol and illicit drugs by minors. MTV’s adpatation did not receive positive reviews due to its controversial content, and therefore Skins was not renewed for a second season. However, the U.K.’s Skins is available for viewing on Netflix.
Remakes are not the only British content that can be seen in the U.S. Some original British shows appear intact on American screens. Doctor Who, the longest-airing science fiction show in the world, first aired in 1963 and has been on the BBC channel in the U. S. since 1972; it is also available on Netflix.
The show features a character called “the Doctor” who is a time-traveling, crime-fighting humanoid alien. The show boasts mainstream popularity in the U.K. as well as a large cult following in the U.S. Fans call themselves “Whovians” and follow the show religiously. “I think Doctor Who is so popular because its story is different from anything else on TV,” said freshman Kaitlyn Wilson. “It draws you in and really makes you care about the characters.”
A period drama set in the early 1900s, Downton Abbey began airing on PBS a year after it first began in the U.K. American audiences see the same shows almost a year after the Brits. Downton Abbey echoes an ear lier import from the 1970s, Upstairs Downstairs. Both series follow the lives of an aristocratic British family and the serving staff who live downstairs.