'The Lion King' Musical Sets Worldwide Box Office Record

British Invasion: UK Shows Coming To America

Kris King Kris King
August 26th, 2008 9:03am EDT
Life On MarsWith the American version of "The Office" still leading NBC's fall line-up, remakes of successful British shows have become a hot commodity. Picking up on this success, several networks have snatched up the rights to remake some of the most popular British shows. It's a process that has obviously worked in the past, at least in the world of reality television. "Dancing with the Stars," "Big Brother," and "Celebrity Fit Club" all had their start in the Fallen Empire, but remakes of drama and comedy haven't been nearly as successful. For better of for worse, here's a list of shows that will inevitably be called "The next 'Office'" at least a dozen times before they premiere.

Little Britain

Little BritainWhen "Little Britain" bum rushed onto British television in 2003, creators Matt Lucas and David Walliams's became as popular in Great Britan as Jaffa Cakes. The sketches involving the characters Lou and Andy, a good natured friend who takes care of a man faking paraplegia, even trumped Monty Python's parrot sketch in a television countdown. At home the sketch show already airs on BBC America and has sold well on DVD, but now Lucas and Walliams's bizarre world is coming to the colonies in the form of "Little Britain USA" on HBO. Fans of the original have nothing to fear from American meddling as both Lucas and Walliams will stay on as the show's primary stars and writers. Many of their most popular characters will come over as well, along with several new characters tailored for American audiences. Fans can look forward to "Little Britain USA" on HBO in September.

Life on Mars

Life on MarsA solid mixture of science fiction and police drama, "Life on Mars" follows police detective Sam Tyler who wakes up in the year 1973 after being struck down by a car. Despite being rocketed back over 30 years, Sam still has a position on the local police force. Throughout the series he has to cope with his department's gruff, rudimentary style of police work while trying to piece together how he winded up in the past. The show went on very well with British viewers, won armfuls of awards, and even went on to birth a spin-off series called "Ashes to Ashes."

Recognizing the success of the original, ABC commissioned a complete remake of the show for a fall 2008 release. The show's creators moved the setting form Manchester to New York and have apparently retooled Sam's story to take away some of the mystery behind his predicament. Executive producer Josh Applebaum reportedly found the original explanation of Sam's time travel unsatisfying (in the original you don't know if Sam is dreaming, has gone insane, or if he is in some sort of comatose hallucination). Applebaum has added an element of mythology to Sam's story hoping to give the show more substance. Despite this change, it seems that Applebaum and crew intend to stay as close to formula as possible - ABC even approached both leads of the original to star in the new series. The U.S. version of "Life on Mars" premierse in September on ABC and will star Jason O'Mara as Det. Tyler, and feature Colm Meaney and Harvey Keitel in supporting roles.

Top Gear

You wouldn't think that a show for car geeks would be the highest rated show on British television, but for eleven seasons "Top Gear" has dominated the tea drinking air waves. The show has a simple format: three eccentric yet knowledgeable gear-heads talk about and drive a wide spectrum of cars that range from the $700,000 Ascari A10 to a $2 Volvo 760 GLE. Every episode features several beautifully shot reviews, news segments, and outlandish competitions. Here's a hint on just how elaborate we're talking: for the sake of an hour-long special, hosts Jeremy Clarkson and James May became the first people to ever drive to the North Pole. While cars make up the very core of the show, most of its viewers come to see Clarkson, May, and Richard Hammond act silly:





"Top Gear" already has several versions on foreign airwaves. There's a version in Australia appropriately titled "Top Gear Australia," and the Germans have a show with a similar format. Here in America, our own version of "Top Gear" is in the works for NBC with former "Man Show" host Adam Carolla taking Jeremy Clarkson's place as host. In order to ward off any concern about putting "Top Gear" in the hands of a former "Man Show" co-host, Carolla has reassured fans that he is a certifiable car nut in recent interviews and he has even met with Clarkson to discuss his plans for the show. The pilot for "Top Gear America" was shot in July, and has already been met with favorable reviews.

Peep Show

"Peep Show" may be the single funniest thing on television anywhere. The BAFTA award-winning show follows the lives of Mark and Jeremy (played brilliantly by popular comic duo David Mitchell and Robert Webb), two 30-something roommates who continually dig themselves deeper into the relentless pit of embarrassment and despair that they call their lives. "Peep Show" manages to be outrageous in a world that's seen everything. The show relies on first person perspective and the inner commentary from the show's leads, which gives amazing insight to the tortured, cynical and depressed nature of your average male. For example, here's what Mark thinks after telling his new fiancé that he loves her: "It's okay, everyone says it. I say I love Haagen-Dazs and my broadband provider, and I like Sophie more than them. In most respects." Despite the cynicism, these sad people come off as charming.





"Peep Show" already had the American treatment in the form of a failed Fox pilot from 2005. The pilot starred "MadTV" alum Josh Meyers as Jeremy, and "Big Bang Theory" lead Johnny Galeki as Mark. It also reportedly dropped the inner dialogue and first person format of the original, so it comes to no surprise that the pilot didn't get picked up. In 2007, the show caught the attention of Robert Weide, executive producer of "Curb Your Enthusiasm." Weide told Variety that he first saw "Peep Show" on a transatlantic flight and fell in love with it immediately. Weide continued "A lot of British comedy feels foreign rather than feeling universal… I think you can put these guys in England, you can put them in New York, you can put them anywhere and the stories are the same." He has since invited the show's writing team of Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong to pen a version for SpikeTV.

Spaced

Before Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz came along, director Edgar Wright and the creative team of Simon Pegg and Jessica Hynes were synonymous with "Spaced." Unlike a show like "Friends," "Spaced" presents young people as they truly are: confused, pop-culture savvy, and eager find their way in a world they don't understand. Pegg and Hynes play roommates Tim and Daisy, who pose as a young couple in order to get the perfect London apartment. "Spaced" ran for two series on UK's Channel 4 and captured the hearts of pop culture junkies instantly with its loving spoofs of dozens of films and TV shows. The references go from the obvious like Pulp Fiction and Star Wars to more obscure geek-centric allusions like nods to The Evil Dead or cult-comic "Preacher."





Despite gaining a massive cult following in the UK, a third season of the show never surfaced, leaving fans of the show clamoring for more. In 2007 their rabble formed into something rather unexpected: a US version headed up by Fox. Outraged, fans of the show rejected the idea, and even Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg seemed openly embittered towards the project. Lucky, the pilot failed to gain any interest and left the future prospects of "Spaced" in limbo. Still, Wright often mentions the potential for a "McSpaced" on the newly released American DVD of the show and almost treats an Americanized version as a disheartening inevitability. It seems that, for the moment at least, "Spaced" lives safely in our DVD players.


Kris King
Story by Kris King
Starpulse contributing writer