Thanks to the availability of more foreign programming through streaming services, American audiences have been able to enjoy quality programming from around the world. As more foreign programs gain international fans, American production companies are trying to cash in on their success with their own versions.
Most fans shudder when they hear the word “remake” used in reference to their favorite foreign TV shows. In most cases, the remake fails to capture the essence of the original and just turns out to be a financial failure. Unfortunately, many production companies rely on either shot-for-shot remakes or make huge changes that destroy the framework of the original show.
However, not all remakes have been failures. Based on the British show The Office, the American counterpart became quite successful and managed to create its own style and humor suited for its audience. Other successful remakes include House of Cards, Veep, and Jane the Virgin.
In this article, we will review several American remakes that were incapable of matching the success of their predecessors. These shows suffered from poor casting choices, huge plot changes, and even poor scriptwriting. And to be very honest, we hope to not see many of these attempted remakes ever again.
Here are the 16 Worst American Remakes Of Foreign TV Shows.
16. The Returned
After the success of the 2012 French supernatural drama Les Revenants, fans were highly anticipating the same level of success with the American remake. With its creepy premise of the dead mysteriously returning to life, its popularity even caught the attention of famed mystery writer Stephen King.
Premiering in 2015 on A&E, the remake The Returned, though not completely terrible, simply did not live up to its predecessor. Even with an average score of 62% from Top Critics on Rotten Tomatoes, audiences chose not to tune in. Not only was the viewership lacking but so was the connection with the audience. Even the original French cast could not bring themselves to support the remake.
According to Digital Spy, actor Pierre Perrier stated “I saw ten minutes of it,” Perrier admitted. “It was the same shots. But… bad. So I stopped it.” Actress Jenna Thiam, who played Lena in the original, also added “I’ve seen it very briefly. But there’s no artistic movement behind it. It’s just, ‘Oh this was a big hit, let’s copy it’. – it’s a different way of thinking.”
15. Low Winter Sun
Many American remakes feel that a unique way to connect the foreign original with the new version is to include the same actors and actresses. If you loved the foreign series, seeing one of the same lead stars should help you be more accepting of the remake.
This was the plan behind involving actor Mark Strong in the remake of his original series Low Winter Summer. He reprised his role as Detective Frank Agnew in the A&E version. Sadly, his performance was vastly different from the UK version due to adaptation changes.
In an article from Vulture, they stated, “The AMC remake is so devoid of cultural specificity that it might as well be a missing episode from Sin City. Where (Strong’s) performance in the original had an easygoing, beefy naturalism, Strong’s work here is professional yet oddly hollow and vague, as ‘American’ performances by Brits often are.”
14. Life on Mars
The time-traveling police drama Life on Mars became a huge hit in the UK in 2006. The series followed a policeman named Sam Tyler who got into a car accident in 2006 and woke to find himself stuck in 1973. Wildly popular with fans, the series went on to win numerous awards including two International Emmy Awards for Best Drama Series.
Hoping to duplicate that same success in the United States, ABC hired David E. Kelley (Ally McBeal, The Practice) as a writer and executive producer of the pilot. However, after initial viewing of the pilot, the show went through a complete overhaul with actors, crew, and even location changes for the show.
When the show premiered in October 2008, fans and critics liked it initially. However, after a two-month hiatus, viewership dropped, and the show’s popularity swiftly declined. Life on Mars was not renewed for a second season and aired its finale on April 2009.
13. Men Behaving Badly
The British comedy Men Behaving Badly series focused on the lives of two man-child friends. Committed to their irresponsible and beer-infused lifestyle, the show follows these slackers’ exploits at dead-end jobs, unstable relationships, and life in general. Airing from 1992 – 1998 with 42 episodes total, this comedy helped launch the careers of its stars.
The American remake, however, did not fair quite as well. Led by Rob Schneider, Ron Eldard, and Justine Bateman, the show never quite hit the popularity of the original. Once Bateman and Eldard both left after the first season in 1997, the show quickly declined with its new cast. In fact, only six of the 13 episodes of season 2 even aired. Deemed too risqué for audiences, the show was canceled by December 1997.
12. The Ex List
Actress Elizabeth Rease garnered many fans after starring in as Ava/Rebecca Pope on the medical drama Grey’s Anatomy. When her character was written off the show after 18 episodes, she was hired by CBS to star as the lead in their new comedy The Ex List.
Based on the Israeli show The Mythological X, the plot followed Bella Bloom as she searched through her list of exes for her true love (as predicted by a psychic). However, fans and critics did not take to the storyline and ratings dropped drastically after two episodes.
The show ran in October 2008 only and ended after airing only four episodes. This cancellation did not hurt Rease’s career at all as she later starred in The Twilight Saga movies.
Before becoming the showrunner, writer and executive producer of the wickedly popular British shows Doctor Who and Sherlock, Steven Moffat’s began his career with various comedy-drama TV series. Prior to these cult favorites, Moffat wrote the now classic series Coupling.
Following the lives of six friends, as the struggled through work, love, and family, Coupling has since been compared to ensemble comedies like Friends and Seinfeld. Garnering a devoted fan base around the world, the series was praised for its witty dialogue and character portrayals. However, even with Moffat onboard as one of the executive producers, the American remake fell flat.
Planned as a replacement for the soon ending Friends, the scripts from the original were reused and edited for American audiences. After only four episodes, the series was canceled due to poor reviews, citing the show was a cheap copy of the original. To this day, six additional episodes have gone unaired.
10. The Inbetweeners
Girls, sex, school, sex, annoying family, and sex. That pretty much sums up the major themes in the coming-of-age British comedy The Inbetweeners. The crazy antics of these four teenage friends made for some hilarious mishaps and a few rather disgusting moments.
With its raunchy plots and frat boy humor, the series aired for two years and led to two motion picture sequels. The ever-daring MTV tried to cash in on this success and produce its own version of the show after ABC failed to bring the British comedy to the States. Even with comedy writer Brad Copeland (Arrested Development, My Name is Earl) on the project, the series just never connected with the audience and was canceled its first season.
Noted for its gripping suspense and excellent cast, the 2013 Israeli TV series Hostages (or Bnei Aruba) garnered praise from fans and critics worldwide.
Interestingly enough, before the series even aired in Israel, the rights were sold to CBS for its own version. The American remake of Hostages even aired a month before the original. However, reactions to the show were vastly different. With a lead cast that included talented actors including Toni Collette, Tate Donovan, and Dylan McDermott, the series premiered to, at best, lukewarm reviews. Scoring a 57% on Rotten Tomatoes, the site reported that the critics consensus was that, “Hostages has an intriguing premise and handsome production values, but its twisty plot sometimes strains credulity.”
Known for his role as the 10th Doctor on the British sci-fi classic Doctor Who, David Tennant starred in the lead role in the riveting crime drama Broadchurch. Playing Detective Alec Hardy, he and his partner Detective Ellie Miller (played by Hot Fuzz actress Olivia Colman), investigate the murder of a young boy. With a storyline filled with misdirection, suspense, and a few surprises, the series aired from March 2013 until April 2017.
For the American remake Gracepoint, the series made the mistake of bringing Tennant over to play the lead – but as American Detective Emmett Carver. Many fans were baffled by Tennant’s strange American accent, a change that, ultimately, was unnecessary.
Titled as a “limited series,” the remake lost the edge that made the original so memorable. Even with Breaking Bad alum Anna Gunn as Ellie Miller, the series failed to capture the interest of Fox’s viewers.
7. Kath & Kim
The dysfunctional relationship between the two leads of Kath & Kim made the show enduring to its audience. The Australian situation comedy followed the antics of 50-year old mother Kath and her self-indulgent 25-year-old daughter Kim. The show gained millions of viewers each week and maintained its success for over five years.
Hoping to score a hit in the U.S. also, show creators Jane Turner and Gina Riley (who also starred in the lead roles of the original) served as executive producers for the remake. NBC even hired director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, Ghostbusters) to direct the pilot. Saturday Night Live alum Molly Shannon took on the role of Kath with former Hellboy star Selma Blair as her selfish daughter. Additional stars included Justina Machado (Netflix’s One Day at a Time) and Melissa Rauch (The Big Bang Theory).
After its premiere in 2008, critics panned the show for its casting and lack of humor. Despite the bad reviews, the show continued for one full season, though its total episodes were reduced from 22 to 17. The show eventually aired in Australia but after the first two episodes aired, networks pulled the show in response to viewers’ demand for the original.
British teen drama Skins was notorious for its controversial storylines and genuine exploration of the issues faced by many teenagers. In keeping the show’s characters (and actors themselves) relevant to its audience, the cast was changed every two years over its six-year run.
Considering the tendency for many US programs to walk the line between salacious and obscene, the Skins remake should have worked. However, the MTV remake proved to be too controversial for audiences and was plagued with complaints about its content. Several complaints centered around its underage cast and their depiction of casual which was being likened to child pornography.
5. Viva Laughlin
Musical-based shows have never boded well with US audiences in the past. Though musical-themed episodes have become a strange trend in many shows (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Grey’s Anatomy, The Flash,), very few shows have actually made a connection with audiences.
For the remake of the British musical comedy drama Blackpool, CBS invested in both the writers and cast for the show. With a cast that included Hugh Jackman and Melanie Griffith, the Viva Laughlin pilot still bombed upon its airing. The show received mostly negative reviews with the most biting coming from critic Alessandra Stanley for The New York Times. Her article actually began with the line, ‘Viva Laughlin’ on CBS may well be the worst new show of the season, but is it the worst show in the history of television?”
4. Red Dwarf
The British sci-fi sitcom Red Dwarf became a cult classic and is still considered one of the best programs of its kind. The show focused more on character development than the actual science fiction aspects of the series, which helped to make it a standout in its genre. Premiering in 1988, the show ran for 11 series with 67 episodes total.
Despite the original airing regularly on PBS in the United States, Universal Studios still felt the need to try to create a remake. Intended to premiere on NBC, the producers used a predominately American cast. English actor Robert Llewellyn was brought over to reprise his role as Kryten.
After viewing the pilot, studio executives called for an overhaul of the cast and script. They even used clips from the original in both pilots, but to no avail. The second pilot was simply not good enough compared to the original and was again scrapped.
3. Absolutely Fabulous
The phrase “drunk and disorderly” seems to be the perfect description for the lives of Eddie and Patsy on the British comedy Absolutely Fabulous. Known for their overindulgence for drinking, drugs, shopping and swearing, these best friends won the hearts of British viewers for from 1992 – 1996. In fact, the series was so popular, it received a revival from 2001 – 2004 and a special 20th anniversary series from 2011 – 2012. The series even continued into 2016 with the premiere of its feature-length movie Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie.
U.S. audiences have not only seen the episodes on channels such as Comedy Central and Logo, but the original cast even had guest appearances on Roseanne. In fact, Roseanne Bar originally pushed for an American remake years ago that would have starred Carrie Fisher and Barbara Carrera. Unfortunately, the project never found adequate support.
In 2008, an official remake was put into the works for Fox. A pilot was created for the show starring Kathryn Hahn (Crossing Jordan, Step Brothers) and Kristen Johnston (3rd Rock from the Sun, The Exes). However, the pilot failed to duplicate the charmingly overindulgent behavior of the two friends, and Fox passed on it.
2. The IT Crowd
Anyone that responds to the phrase “Have you tried turning it off and on again?” with stifled laughter is probably a fan of the British comedy The IT Crowd.
The show follows the mishaps of three habitually lazy IT professionals (well, two professionals and their non-IT boss) working at the fictional Reynholm Industries. With their insane bosses and one rarely seen Gothic employee, the plots usually revolved around their awkwardness at work and in romance. The original show ran from 2006 – 2010 with a special broadcast in 2013.
NBC tried to duplicate its success by literally replicating the show. The pilot, produced in 2007, ended up being a shot-by-shot remake of the original show. Starring Joel McHale (Community), Jessica St. Clair (Playing House), and a return of British actor Richard Ayoade reprising his role of Moss, the pilot was turned down.
According to BBCAmerica.com, even Ayoade regretted being in involved in the project stating “I was the only one dumb enough to do it. It was deeply weird.” Since then, rumors have circulated that another attempt at a remake was in the works for the U.S. but no updates have been given.
We are usually encouraged to keep trying even after we fail at tasks. However, this proved to be the wrong advice when it can to the many failed attempts to remake the British comedy classic Fawlty Towers.
So far, there has been a total of three other tries to remake this show prior to the final remake called Payne. The two previous remakes that made it to airing included Chateau Snavely in 1978 and Amanda’s in 1983. With numerous casting and production changes, both series were canceled early on.
Despite definitive evidence that a remake was not a good idea, CBS decided to give it a try (the previous attempts were made by ABC). Casting actor John Larroquette (Night Court, The John Larroquette Show) to play the lead role, the show premiered to mildly positive reviews. Even Fawlty Tower’s original lead actor, John Cleese, approved of the remake and promised to make an appearance on the show if it was renewed.
Unfortunately, the show failed to entertain its audience and was canceled after airing only 8 of its nine episodes. We beg of you, don’t try to remake this show ever again!
Are there other terrible remakes of foreign TV shows that we forgot? Sound off in the comments!
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